poem27 Apr 2020 08:14 am
NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); credit for CTIO Image: N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley) and NOAO/AURA/NSF – http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/16/image/a/

Katherine Inskip

The sounds, the lights, the circles on the plinth,
the holographic sparkles in the pause
between destructive read-out's start and send?
They're there for no-one's benefit but yours.
A sleight-of-mind that draws the eye away --
like oxygen on tap to calm the doomed --
they do their work efficiently and well,
and no-one thinks to question what I do.

Coordinates are programmed in advance.
The airlock doors are tested on the hour,
and climate, pressure, atmospheric mix,
the vents and drains, the maser-beam array.
You trust the databanks that store your soul,
that lase you through the mazed and empty dark,
then from those exabytes of vacuum, weave
your new and unadulterated self.

Behind my screen, I wave you on and in
and reassure the rookies as I can.
It’s safe, well tried and tested. Then, the lie:
you shall not feel the moment when you die.

The sounds, the lights, the circles on the plinth,
my hollow-hearted witness through the cams,
between constructive write-out's start and end:
the souls that wear your bodies are not yours....

I make the call, unleash the lethal flames
that cleanse abhorrent spirits from our realm.
They do my work efficiently and well
and no one asks what happens in their death.
Redundancy is programmed at the core.
Another airlock test is scheduled in.
The vents are flushed, the atmosphere restored,
and once it’s all reset we'll try again.

Across the frothing turbulence of space
you trust your soul to ride coherent light
and hope the quantum noise of all your dreams
will be enough to bring you back to life.

Behind the scenes, we plausibly deny
our tech-speak claiming 'normal, small delays'.
Though all's scoured clean where corpses used to lie,
I can't un-see the moments when you die.
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