John Philip Johnson
You’re a space traveler now,
with blue skin. Your eyes
are luminous white clouds.
You think of the sky, and your feet
leave the ground. You levitate,
wobbly, slipping on the air,
and then steady yourself.
You are ascending.
You rise in a parabolic arc
through dark skies until,
unexpectedly, far above the planet,
light from their sun touches
your shoulder, then engulfs you.
Nearby, a ship waits, glistening silver
in the brilliance of endless morning.
You know it is yours.
Entering the craft, you find
the ship’s AI worming
its tendrils down into your mind.
Don’t fight it. Let yourself grow,
accept the new memories
and skills it offers. You will need
its deep, profound silence
attending you across the void.
You are a fish coiled in the mother-sea,
a soul-structure awaiting input.
Fire the ion thrusters. Begin.
As you rocket away
from that strange planet
where you used to live,
you contemplate the vastness
in which it rests. How deep
are the things we don’t know!
How easily we say infinite!
All your beliefs about space
might prove wrong. Threads
of your imagination constantly
project outward on the cosmos,
negotiating your expectations,
enabling sub-atomic particles
their substantiation out
of the unseen box of possibility.
The unknown cohabitates
with the unknowable
and infiltrates everything.
Look at yourself!
All that you think you are
could unravel in an instant!
With the unreal perching on your shoulder,
you yearn for the stars
and what they might hold.
You could chart a course, but why?
Things change as soon as you begin
and keep changing.
How can you know?
You feel your future hidden inside
some personal mathematics
coded within your body,
a formula reciprocated
in the fractal emptiness of space,
to be written as it unrolls before you.
You count on it.
You trust your life
to its disentanglement.
You want to taste the empyrean
in all its glory and spaciousness.
So you wait and wait, accelerating,
approaching a significant
fraction of the speed of light.
But the stars remain crystalline
outside the portal, unmoved.
Immensity of space slows time,
hardening it like concrete,
and you’re not even to
the next planet yet.
You refuse to let yourself believe
the center of all things is boredom.
After you become numb to time,
you consent to the hyper-jump.
You close your eyes. You plunge
into the warped, starless sickness.
You blur. You become a smear of possibility,
plasma mixed with delirium,
la nausée foaming at the rim.
Distance disappears, harming place.
Physical objects lose palpability.
They could squish in your hands,
subject to your opinion.
You hear wind. You find
the sea legs of absolute uncertainty.
It’s worth it. You materialize
before a glowing cloud of gas,
a cosmic storm of oranges and blues,
yellows tinged with lavender,
a seething of radiation and power,
an eddy a hundred light-year’s wide.
Brilliant, tranquil, yet your senses
can detect its undulations!
It writhes with presence
as though it were alive!
You think, How good it is to be small
amongst enormous, beautiful things!
You jump again, falling far from any star.
You see no light. Darkness is perfect,
adding to the pressure of the void.
It is just you, your ship, and the black.
You fall deeply into yourself,
subsumed into abstraction,
the ancient art of Pythagoreans
drawn with arrows and vectors
next to the lions and elk
painted inside the cave of your mind.
You are chalk, a spindle of yourself.
You are the surface upon which you write.
You like hyper-jumping. You like
what it does to you. You like
the gorgeous spin of planets,
the whirling arms of galaxies,
the harmony of solids.
But where is the company?
You left one planet full of aliens,
where are all the others?
Listen, please: Deneb is singing your name.
Look again, and you shall see
the soul of Vega etched along its side.
Listen as deeply as you possibly can,
and you will hear the multitudes
beyond the veil like angels in the fold.
Consider the billions you left behind,
each one a star wishing to be seen,
each one saying to themselves,
we are alone.
Unformed creatures huddle in shadows
like dolphins who have never felt a wave,
bison who have not tasted
the fatherhood of grass.
They beg for names. You give them,
secretly and without letters,
until you no longer have even
a syllable left for yourself.
You become plural,
a cluster of things without center,
selfless, a glove for absence,
and then the glove is peeled off.
Strands of nascent personhood
swirl in amniotic geometry.
Electrons wait for you in the emptiness,
needing your watchful eye,
needing a godhead
to create them with a gaze.
Your plural is singular.
Plumb lines drop in all directions.
Spiritual seas fuse into solidarity.
You are a dream of the cosmos
being clothed in stardust,
the roots of your mind reaching
into the blossoming of stars.
That’s all. It is enough for now.
In a blink you return
to where you had begun.
You precipitate from the sky,
this creature of yourself,
falling back into your world.
You slowly settle in your chair.
You feel the flesh you inhabit.
You feel the air present around you
assembling itself into your next breath.
You feel the great planet holding you safely.
You feel the space around you.
It is like your soul. It’s all yours.
You notice your skin has lost its blue.
But the clouds, the luminous white clouds,
will never quite leave your eyes.