What if you saw a starship?
If you went to a window and there she was.
The countless lights on her.
The endless night behind her.
The world dwarfed. You as well.
Well you do see her.
You imagine the people on the ship
as people because that’s easiest.
You imagine the people on the ship floating
because you want to.
You would say she is above something
except she is above everything.
You know there must be an outline
to her shadow and that comforts you.
If you could just get far enough away
you could trace her as a child would.
If you could just get far enough away
then you wouldn’t be here anymore.
A few days later your husband runs away.
He tries to take you with him
but you can see it's not much of a plan.
You can see how small he is,
the edge of the starship
in the window behind him as he tells you
which way he will drive the car.
When he can't convince you he asks
if he can take all the food bars.
Yes, you tell him.
A few days after that
people still aren't leaving their homes
so the knock at the door startles you.
It's your neighbor.
When you look at him out the peephole,
he is looking at the starship.
You begin sleeping together.
It's easy to say fear
had something to do with it.
End times. Fleeting-ness.
After a few weeks go by
people go back to their jobs.
(There never would have been
an interruption in the local news
except that no one wanted to go in.)
You go to the supermarket and CVS
and people are still filling their carts
with water but all you can think is
how your husband will undoubtedly
The plants in your yard are struggling
because of the shadow.
You drive out to the edge of it
and lie down with your body half in,
half out. And every ten minutes or so
you move a bit.
And when night comes it's a kind of relief.
And then you drive home.
You tell your neighbor how now
is the time to run away. Not before.
All things aren't back to normal
just because you can go to stores again
and people aren't crying in the street.
You can't sell your house.
You can't put it on the market.
You wonder how your husband
has made it this long.
If he doesn't return soon, you
will have to go to the bank
and decide how much money to keep.
Tonight you decide to enjoy it.
You make a margarita, go out back,
sit in a lounge chair, and watch the lights,
which are constant. This is how
you know they are not human.
At some point we need the dark.
When you used to talk to yourself,
now you talk to the ship. You sing her
little songs. Gonna cook some chicken.
Gonna remember the oil is heating
on the stove. A little less room for error,
living alone. No one but the ship to ask
if you can be hurt by the smell of burning.
Her response, I can smell your house from here.
The starship talks back more than you'd like.
I heard humans were more brittle, after you trip
and curse. You ask your neighbor if he imagines
her talking. He says he draws pictures of the aliens.
You say they might be humans from the future.
He says, What would I do with all these tentacles?
You see a headline about where
new cars go to die, to control supply
with regard to demand, and you like the word
demand, and you like the phrase where blank
goes to die, and you wonder if the starship
came here to die. Like a Jeopardy answer—
What is Earth? What is Earth?
Your neighbor's wife left your neighbor
long before the starship. She wanted children.
When he proposed to a woman who wanted children,
he thought that feeling would come with age.
He was embarrassed he was wrong.
You used to talk to his wife when you caught
each other in the yard, coming home from work.
More privately, you used to hear her yell about lost years.
Your neighbor's wife probably has a child now.
You wonder how she feels about that with
alien invasion in every news broadcast. They keep
showing pictures of the ship taken with the best
telescopes and there's never movement. You dig
your childhood telescope out of the basement
and try to get a better look for yourself. But when
you've been watching for an hour, you know
you just like watching. Like having a beer in a museum.
Because you have nothing to lose.
More recently the news is about world leaders
meeting to discuss if we should go to the starship.
What could get to her. What we might say
and how. You picture a fighter jet
painted with flowers and smiling stick figures.
You know smiling is a sign of aggression to
chimpanzees or gorillas, right? Maybe
just the flowers then. Or maybe
we should leave well enough alone.
Keep signaling with Beatles songs on radiowaves
and light shows and our continuing lives.
You wonder if they've already sent jets up to her.
Why would they broadcast something so
unpredictable? They must have at least
tested small rockets to see if they would
burn up, reaching a forcefield. Maybe the FBI is
destroying footage right now. Maybe
they're shooting different wavelengths at her
to catch a glimpse of her shields. See if they can
make them shimmer like a splashed puddle.
They're thinking so narrowly again.
You buy a sun lamp. You set it on the table
between you and your neighbor
and you laugh. You're so bright! You are!
Should we grow marijuana in my living room?
No, that's with heat lamps. Oh.
But I have some weed if you want. Yes!
And he leaves and you realize
your eyes are already used to it.
You lie on a big blanket in the back yard
and smoke and eat cookies and stare at her.
Your neighbor says he can feel the light
from her. Your neighbor brings up
the twinkling of stars. In a moment of clarity,
you figure out why the ship has come,
why the ship is empty. It's for you. It's for
everyone. It's an evacuation of your planet,
but she won't take you unwillingly.
You roll over to tell your neighbor,
and he’s asleep. You tell him anyway,
or you tell the starship, or just, you say it aloud—
I’ll go. I’ll do it. I don’t think I’d mind.
You hear a car pull up to the house,
and you know your husband is home.
You don’t know how long it takes him to find you
in the back, but now he’s here. He lies down
next to you, but not between you
and your sleeping neighbor. He says, I’m not mad.
He says, I can tell. As if he knew you were thinking,
This could be platonic. And you roll over and wrap
your arms around him. You’ve missed him
so you say, I’ve missed you.