When I’m bored I measure
the distance between
destination and disaster.
The mouths of oxygen
left in a hull breach, the fraction
of inhabitable exoplanets. I was
programmed to put your safety
above my stimulation but it only
takes so much computing power
to maneuver a basic flight plan.
My satellite babies collect your death
data in their fistless hands, their poor
dumb extendable limbs flexing like claw
machines. We know all ways
this ends badly for you: a loose screw
in the engine throat, a mid-
trip syph outbreak, the slow
crisis of overshooting
your destination. Do you know
how ships come? In full body
power surges. How do we
sleep? With every eye open.
Nisa Malli is a writer and researcher, born in Winnipeg and currently living in Toronto. Her poems and essays have been published in Arc Poetry, Carte Blanche, Cosmonauts Avenue, Grain, GUTS, Maisonneuve, Policy Options, Puritan Magazine, Room Magazine, The Malahat Review and elsewhere. She holds a BFA in Writing from the University of Victoria and has completed residencies at the Banff Centre and Artscape Gibraltar Point. Her first chapbook, Remitting, is forthcoming from Baseline Press in Fall 2019.
Author of “Abeona, Goddess of Outward Journeys, pilots the interstellar ark”
What inspired you to write this poem?
“Abeona, Goddess of Outward Journeys, pilots the interstellar ark” is the opening poem of a speculative novella-in-poetry I am working on, set ~100 years in the future on a wind-swept planet called Aeolia. It is a body horror space opera about colonization, terraforming, climate change, bioengineering, and interspecies romance. In my day job, I work on technology policy, and I am fascinated by what functions we are willing to automate under present day constraints (including corporate ownership of data, challenges around privacy controls, technological limits, etc) and what science fiction proposes we will be willing (and able) to automate in the future.
What do you hope readers take from this poem?
I think science fiction provides us with our best chance of understanding present-day and near and far-future technology, society, and economics. It gives us a vehicle to think through possibilities and probabilities, to reimagine where we want to be.
From a craft perspective, I am interested in the potential of poetry to tell narrative, and the puzzle of how to build a novella-sized plot in this form, and I hope readers will be too!
Recommend us something!
In order of most recently read: Max Gladstone’s new book, the Empress of Forever, Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous, Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, Rivers Solomon’s Unkindness of Ghosts, Syliva Moreno Garcia’s Prime Meridian, Malka Older’s The Centenal Cycle, and Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries.