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Science Fiction Adventure Drama

It’s been quiet here.

I don’t mean the sounds. It’s just - all so clean,

airtight,

vacuum-packed and controlled.

So careful.

We with our treadmills, working our legs each day

so we don’t forget what it is to walk

while we float through the star-drenched heavens -

incredible thing, 

to land on rock again

and know you’ve returned to a world that flows.


- diary aboard Odysseus I, day 1 of contact


(this is shit. i know it’s shit. i’ll edit it later. they’re really counting on me to turn out some god-tier poetry - everyone else here is a hardcore math nerd and couldn’t string a verse together to save their life. half don’t even know who emily dickinson is. disgraceful. whatever. just means i have to be the one to commemorate this moment for all humankind, alone, which isn’t a lot of pressure at all and which i’m definitely qualified for just because that stupid book of mine won a prize. 


it’s utter shit but at least i’ve got something written. i’ll come back to this. figure it out.) 


_____


Will it ever not feel like a dream?

The whispered dream passed from mother to son

since we first struck stone to stone

on Earth -

one day, child,

we’ll reach the stars 

and we’ll know them by name when we do.

Can it ever feel real

to set feet down on pale blue grass,

to remove aloof helmets

and breathe -

in a world so long away,

to taste air that tastes like home?


 - diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 2 of contact


(what kind of an ending line is that? used the word taste twice. i’m losing it. it was just nice to be out of the ship, all right, nice to have gravity again. nice to really, actually stretch my legs. but after this long without that our blood flows are all off and we have to spend most of our time resting. stupid. 


where we’ve landed is gorgeous though. the blue grass. i didn’t do it justice. it’s softer than grass on earth, it feels like the super thin kind of noodles. and the blue is bright glowy blue like luke’s lightsaber. that’s not poetic enough to include in the collection. need to find some higher-brow metaphors. and there are these mounds that look like anthills, probably support some kind of life. who knows if they’re the sapient species or if there’s more than one sapient species or what the hell’s going on. that’s for them to figure out and me to fail to write about. 


i’m going to sleep now.) 


_____


The world exists without boundaries,

without outlines. No sound is understandable

but all are saturated with potential.

Who’s there? Do they see us? Can they know how far we’ve come?

Can we?


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 5 of contact


(not particularly astute, but it does capture how i’m feeling, at least. how am i supposed to describe any of this in words?) 


_____


We await with infinite patience

the responding call of our sisters and brothers.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 6 of contact


(patience is not running infinite over here.) 


_____


Time stretches like spiderweb thread.

The days are longer here,

and we despair of counting them.

There are no measurements equal to this new time.

We have not spent a single hour here.

“Hour” is too pedestrian a term,

too tied up in clocks and lunchtimes,

work shifts and classes.

We skate atop a time

we understand too little to plunge into.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 17 of contact


(this one’s just a fancy way to say nothing’s happening and we’re bored. we go a little farther from the ship every day, but they make us be super careful and document every inch of ground we cover with all these calculations. i’m along for all of it, but it’s not like i can participate. and although they’re all falling over themselves about the unique leaf structures on the weird flowy trees and shit, nothing actually exciting has happened. still no word from whatever sentient life-forms might live here. if they’re trying to contact us, we’re not getting the message.


hope we’re not stepping on them or something. hope they’re not about to step on us.


they warned us about this before we left. warned us that spending five years on an alien planet was just as likely to be boring and frustrating and lonely as it was to be exciting. but there’s the feeling among all of us that, honestly, no one on earth had any idea how it was going to feel. none of them can imagine what this is like.)


_____


We don’t dream of the stars here.

How strange, 

how unlike our ancestors.

When we dream we dream of earth.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 22 of contact


(we’re starting to get homesick. over our vacuum-packed dinner last night we told stories of stuff we did in high school. which teachers we had crushes on. turns out we all had things for our eleventh-grade history teachers, and we had a good laugh about that. that was three hours. then someone started crying.)


_____


The fear is not, anymore, of hostile aliens.

Large creatures with hungry jaws

or intelligent creatures with foreign-fearing minds

are things we know and can prepare for.

What we fear

is that the air itself is not for us.

Though breathable,

that it is boring into us,

reaching its fingers inside to pull us apart.

We fear this world is swallowing us.

That when it’s done,

there will be nothing left

of our ship or our footsteps or our dreams,

nothing but a stain on star-drenched space

and then, later, nothing. 


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 27 of contact


(how do i put this into poetry? how do i write for a million years’ posterity that we’re the best and brightest of the world and we’re all just confused and scared up here? that we have no idea what we’re doing, just making it up as we go along? it’s all shit. none of this poetry comes close to describing anything real. i’m reading it over and all i see is pretentious garbage and i can’t believe this is what i have to come back to earth with. assuming we survive.


they approached me about this, said it’d be the opportunity of a lifetime. my name was in the news a lot then because of that prize my book won and i guess they thought, what better name to attach to our project. they said i’d bring the human aspect to the scientific mission. make people feel like they were in space.


well, this is what it’s like - morale is low, we’re exhausted and miserable and we’re sick of blue grass. i want to sit in a coffee shop and type out my poetry while sunlight filters onto my back through city smoke. i want to go to a movie theater and watch a cheap-cgi action movie. i want to scream.) 


_____


Nothing can be understood about the beyond

until all is understood about the here and now.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 29 of contact


(i think i might have an idea.) 


_____


Step around the punch bowl,

make small talk.

Keep your eyes on the faces of the crowd.

He’ll arrive any minute now

if he hasn’t;

stay attentive, watch for that old smile.

You haven’t spoken since you were children

and he must have grown,

up and away and apart.

But there was a time you knew each other.

When he speaks to you now

if you’re paying attention, you’ll know.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 31 of contact


(something dropped from the top of a tree today during our exploration. we couldn’t find what dropped it, but it looks like carved wood, and we think there are symbols on it. it might be the first real contact. this might be the beginning.)


_____


Lead with a joke; it’ll put them at ease.

Let them see you smile

unless your teeth are crooked.

Ask them a question,

listen to the answer -

absorb more than you speak

and show you care.

Come in with trumpets blaring

with brags or pleas or speeches of any sort,

and you’ll only scare your chance away.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 35 of contact


(we saw them. they’re a little like ants, six-legged, but big as dogs and softer and the color of plums. they came out of the ground to look at us, and we were careful to seem friendly. 


the scientists have to do all sorts of experiments to try and communicate with them, to test if they’re sapient. but i’m a poet, not a scientist. i really think they know us. it’s the look in their eyes, the way they came out all together, the way they stared at us and then stared at each other and stayed quiet while we spoke. i think we might have found them. i really think - god, i really think it might be possible.)


_____


What is it like? How to describe?

when you see the bouquet of flowers offered to you,

or the wedding ring,

or the simple “yes,” the confirmation

and the smile,

how to describe the joy? 

When you open your hand

and another finds yours,

easy, free and loving,

and you feel your heart leaping out

to connect with another -

the hope, oh,

is incomparable.


- diary aboard Odysseus 1, day 48 of contact


(it’s true! it’s really real! we’re not alone!!!!!)

April 11, 2020 03:46

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15 comments

Laiba M
13:52 May 12, 2020

Fabulous story, Phoebe :D

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Phoebe Barr
01:52 May 19, 2020

Thank you :D

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Laiba M
16:52 May 19, 2020

You're welcome!!

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18:45 Apr 22, 2020

Loved the contrast between the poetry (my favorite was day 29) and the prose. It was interesting to watch the the writer swap between 'real life' and 'poetic life,' to show how amazing and yet how difficult an endeavor like this is

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Phoebe Barr
01:53 May 19, 2020

Thanks! I absolutely wanted to show that contrast and the swap between writing styles so I'm glad you saw that!

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Elizabeth Blake
05:18 Apr 16, 2020

I liked the picture you painted of a writer's take on a new world; how trying to romanticize it became increasingly more difficult. Well done!

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Phoebe Barr
01:54 May 19, 2020

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

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Des Feller
18:50 Apr 15, 2020

This was so amazing! I loved how the poet's genuine thoughts seemed more poetic and human then the actual poems they were writing. An amazing representation of what humanity is like haha

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Phoebe Barr
20:16 Apr 15, 2020

Yes, that's definitely what I was going for! I'm glad you liked it! :)

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Metaxia Tzimouli
17:50 Apr 14, 2020

Genius!

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Phoebe Barr
20:16 Apr 15, 2020

Thank you!

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Kate Rucker
14:08 Apr 17, 2020

Wow! Blue grass and ant-aliens, poetry underneath the poetry, and 48 days of science fiction!!!!! How did you read my mind on what kind of story I wanted to read?? You are an inspiration! Thank you for writing this! ♥️♥️

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Phoebe Barr
01:54 May 19, 2020

That's a very specific niche of fiction to like! I'm glad you and I are on the same wavelength :)

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Young Gun
11:25 Sep 10, 2021

SWAGGER STORY PHOEBE

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Young Gun
12:10 Apr 16, 2021

I liked day 1!

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