‘Not Far Enough’, Paige Elizabeth Smith

Illustration © 2019 Fluffgar

 [ Never looked back, © 2019, Fluffgar ] I left my home planet ten years ago
      and never looked back.
            (couldn’t, anyway, no portholes
                  in economy class).

I meet folk at the bar and I always know:
      they’ve got red-orange pigment like me
            cooling fins on their neck, adapted for a scorched world,
                  chatting in the old tongue.

“I just really miss the gravity of home,
      everywhere else I feel like a whale.”

I say nothing, remembering the hushed hell,
      my neighbor threatening to buy me as his wife
            every time I knocked over his watercatchers —

the ever-salted air, the bent figures of my parents,
      who spent their working lives in the quarnium mines
            and still dream of their lottery holiday, offplanet.

Even weirder when I get someone
      from my own small shithole continent,
            “Wow you used to go to M. Rozel’s restaurant?
                  Did M. McCarthy teach you history too?”

I discover she’s married to my high school sweetheart,
      and wants me to stay and get slammed on fizzdrinks —
            but I say, “Sorry, got work in the morning,”

thinking (as I sit on the airbus home
      whizzing stealthily over neon ads
            and interplanetary housing
                  dressed in a sweater!)

Ten goddamn lightyears
      is not far enough.

© 2019 Paige Elizabeth Smith

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