• Naamah Station

    Warp & Weave — 3rd Place Prose Spring 2019

    every 122 minutes
    florida comes into view of the downward cupola,
    a ruddy patchwork of smoky, stygian cities
    sandwiched between the azure ocean and viridescent marshes.
    (i learned those words from the computer.
    i like all the color words,
    but momma wants to make me learn boring ones,
    like intermodulation and adjacent channel interference.)


    i often trace the shape of the peninsula with my hand,
    careful to keep my finger off the glass,
    because momma says if i poke it too hard
    then the cupola will break and we'll all be sucked out
    and our eyes will explode
    and our faces will turn blue
    and we’ll all die pretty quick.


    maybe she says it because it's true,
    but i think she just says it
    so that i don't leave marks shaped like home,
    like the place where i was born but don't remember
    because we had to get away so fast.


    momma told me she was pretty when she lived down there,
    said she wore her hair all long and let it tumble past her shoulder blades,
    and she'd paint her face and go on long drives
    through the everglades with daddy.
    he would keep a hand on her belly with me inside it,
    the moon reflecting on the hood of their cadillac.
    i don’t know what a lot of those words mean,
    but they sound pretty,
    and i like it when momma says them.


    her hair is short now,
    it makes things easier, she says.
    but i still wish she had a russet mane flowing about her
    (russet is another one of those color words i learned.
    maybe momma won’t get mad at me
    for using the computer the wrong way
    if i tell her how pretty her hair looks.)


    i don’t have momma’s hair,
    i have hair that looks like daddy,
    at least that’s what momma tells me.
    he lives downward, somewhere.
    i asked momma if he was in florida and she said she didn’t know,
    and that i needed to get back to recycling the water.


    momma says i ask too much about the downward place as it is,
    she says i’m never gonna go down there anyway.
    i ask why.
    she says i’ve been up in the sky house for so long
    where there isn’t any ground that pulls me,
    and that my body is used to walls all around me,
    and none of them are the ground.
    if we went down there,
    she says,
    my insides would get all squished up
    and i’d die pretty quick.


    but what if i don’t die?
    i ask.
    the downward people would hate us,
    momma says,
    and they’d still kill us.
    she says the downward people like to kill each other.


    but i think it’s because momma’s scared of the downward place,
    of all the blues and greens and reds all over it,
    and all the black, burnt up miles and miles
    where all the cities used to be.
    i think she’s scared that if we landed,
    and found daddy,
    that he wouldn’t love her anymore.


    but it’s momma that forgot how to love daddy.
    she doesn’t tell stories of him anymore,
    her eyes don’t light up when i ask about him,
    she deleted all the pictures off her memory stick,
    and stares at the walls of her sleeping bay
    when she isn’t yelling at me for eating more than my fair share of rations.


    momma stopped loving him the day the lights went out
    in all the places that were bright and jaundiced,
    (that one’s about yellow,
    but it’s also a baby sickness,
    which is a little sad)
    the places she called cities.


    i could see tiny speedy bullets
    dashing from place to place,
    with white little tails left behind them.
    they all seemed eager to get where they were going,
    like happy little messengers.


    when they dropped into the cities,
    crimson, ochre, and every shade of blood
    burst up into little clouds,
    the patchworks of yellow giving way to vibrant mushrooms.
    the entire surface of the downward place
    was so,
    bright, and it was so,


    i wanted momma to see all the new, pretty colors,
    so i shouted her name and she came quick.
    she broke her own rule as she pressed her hands
    against the cupola’s glass,
    her eyes sorrowful,
    pointing occasionally as new clouds of color were born.


    she said a lot of words,
    i think they were names,
    i can remember a few:


    i told her it was beautiful,
    but she didn’t say anything.
    she just went back into her sleeping bay
    and asked me to wake her up when we passed miami.


    when we did,
    all the colors were over,
    and the downward place was covered in dark,
    and i couldn’t find it.


    i haven’t seen florida at night since;
    the new lights took the old ones with them.


    this morning i heard mama crying,
    and i had to remind her
    that we aren’t allowed to cry.
    the tears would get into the buttons and wires
    and there would be a lot of sparks
    and we would get electrocuted
    and we’d all die pretty quick.


    she stopped,
    and looked out at the downward place.
    where the sapphire ocean
    cradled an emerald peninsula,
    its cities scorched black.

    i said.
    she said.