SPACE IS THE PLACE
James Stanciell, Dami Spain, Jared Brown and Ruth Gebreyesus
By James Stanciell
the Grand Celestial Orchestra decided
“Sound is what you shall be”
&held in perfect resonance,
“Sound is to which you shall return.”
gas, stardust, atoms are just
billions of sound waves vibrating perfectly
together to create universes.
language was formed to communicate it
be moved by it.
Instruments were created to explore it
to connect with it.
&in the end, which never ends,
“Sound is to which you shall return.”
INTERVIEW WITH AN ALIEN
By Dami Spain
I remember the first time that my mind was truly blown. The sensation was physical, like sparklers were being lit inside my skull. It was in the 2nd grade and I was doing a report on why stars twinkle. While doing the research, I remember being utterly awestruck. The pretty little dots in the sky were much more than I had anticipated. And for the first time, I was confronted with just how small I am. My mind could barely grasp the concept that something so to my eyes was actually ginormous. To this day I find it hard to comprehend the vastness of space. The unending expanse. The ever-growing horizon. Somehow though, through time my mind has tricked itself into thinking that I am much bigger than I actually am. — “There’s no way that I’m merely a speck trapped on a spinning rock! I myself am a vast expanse of possibility!” — Yet, when I reflect on this precious memory, I am comforted by the youngness of my ego. The humbleness to accept how small I am. To say the least, this report was a defining moment for me. It ignited my obsession with outer space.
The real dilemma now, is whether or not I would actually go to outer space, if given the chance. A conundrum I spend a good amount of time pondering. On one hand, I believe that as humans we were meant to live and die on planet Earth. Our bodies have an intrinsic relationship to this planet that is both material and spiritual. Mother Earth is our home. We protect her and she provides for us. To leave and die elsewhere, would be to turn our backs on that ancient symbiosis. What then would happen to humanity? To our bodies? What will happen to us when we stop protecting her? When will she turn her back on us? What of those born of planet? Would they even be humans anymore?
On the other hand, I can’t fucking wait to get off of this ghetto ass planet. Yes, Mother Earth is sacred, but the way that humans (mainly white people) have this shit set up, is not the vibe. Let’s get one thing straight though. I would never go to outer space to work for Jeff Bezos. There’s no way in hell that I would go to Mars just to be an indentured servant to the technocracy. I’d rather stay and burn with the remnants of human civilization. The only way I would go is if aliens came and provided a way. If life were an Octavia Butler novel, I’d be the one in cahoots with the aliens, giving them full control of my body. I often fantasize about what I would say to get them to let me go with them. I imagine it like an interview:
An alien and a woman stand in a massive chamber that seems endless, the ceiling looks like a night sky glittering with starlight. The woman grasps her own hands, she’s nervous. The alien speaks to her through a floating translation device.
ALIEN: Thank you for meeting with us.
WOMAN: Thank you for having me! I’m super excited.
ALIEN: Yes, well your human life profile stood out to us.
WOMAN: (tucks her hair behind her ear) Really?
ALIEN: Yes. We are intrigued by the experiments you’ve conducted on your own body.
WOMAN: Oh? Yeah…I guess you can call it that.
ALIEN: We detect surprise in your voice.
WOMAN: Yeah I mean, who I am, or what I’ve done to my body, isn’t always celebrated
by other humans.
ALIEN: We know. Humans have many social systems that do not make sense to us.
WOMAN: You’re tellin’ me.
ALIEN: We admire that you had the strength to do what you’ve done.
WOMAN: Thank you…that means a lot.
ALIEN: Now, how comfortable are you with us conducting our own experiments on you?
WOMAN: I meeeeean, as long as the pain is minimal, I’m down.
ALIEN: You won’t feel any pain, in fact, it will be quite pleasurable for you.
WOMAN: Oooh okay.
ALIEN: Last question: What other attributes make you an ideal candidate for us?
WOMAN: Hm…great question. Well, by human standards, I’m quite talented, and fun to be around. I love to sing and I’m pretty good at it so I can provide you with entertainment, if you’d like that. And I love to learn, so if you’re willing to teach me new things, I would be a great student. Oh! Also, I love sci-fi. Like I’m obsessed. I watch it all the time and have even written my own, soooo yeah I think I’m pretty well primed for life onboard your ship.
ALIEN: We shall take that into consideration. Do you have any questions for us?
WOMAN: Yeah…um…is that…nevermind.
ALIEN: What were you going to ask?
WOMAN: I don’t want to be offensive.
ALIEN: We quite literally cannot be offended.
WOMAN: Oh. Okay then, is that really what you look like? I was expecting something…different.
ALIEN: No. This is the form we’ve adopted to make humans feel more comfortable.
WOMAN: Huh. Well it’s working.
ALIEN: Anything else?
WOMAN: Yeah. Is that a giant star map? (she points to the ceiling)
ALIEN: Correct. It is a projection of all known stars. Past, present and future.
By Jared Brown
How much clearance does it take to cobble a dispirited bond /A ruptured sisterhood /A cosmic hurt? It’s my chance to be the malefic star, to mangle the banner of the zodiac, and extort the unknown. I’m afraid I’ll never feel the gravity of my actions, so I’ll lay here with Ceres in the sand until the windy night sky envelopes me whole.
Homesick for a place
I’ve never been before, how?
Stars protect my peace!
Aquila twinkles in manner of a melody I’d swear was produced by the Dream. How many times will I fall for man-made satellites mimicking consecrated constellations? Astronauts orbit around Mercury, the prayers sent up by hopeful little children, Vesta, dark matter, the Moon, and aliens. Tears must flow upstream at this altitude. Space feels like the bittersweet combination of longing and the quickening of awareness. This can’t be where God sleeps.
Lady Miss Kier. “Lady Miss Kier Live at ENIT Festival 1996.” Philadelphia, PA. via Michael Magnan
Beyoncé, and The Dream. “XO.” Beyonce, Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
Gerald, Guy Called. “Black Secret Technology.” A Guy Called Gerald Music.
Lonsdale, Ellias. Inside Degrees: Developing Your Soul Biography Using the Chandra Symbols. North Atlantic Books, 1997.
Nelson, Maggie. Bluets, Wave Books, Seattle, WA, 2019.
By Ruth Gebreyesus
Let us not forget we are traveling through space always. Right now, yesterday, tomorrow too. By our own will or by strange winds, we are forever moving across dimensions of time and place.
In Addis at a certain hour, I used to play hide and seek with the sun by running the length of the house to find her on both sides. At another hour, I swung on our swing set in the front yard with my eyes closed. My chest would fold onto itself on my downswing and open towards the sun when I came up. I’d feel closer to, then further from the sun. The red of my closed eyelids would brighten and dim. The heat on my skin would confirm my travel through space. Another way to travel across space and time through forced displacement. I would end up doing just that.
California was a confluence of time and space that grew my body to have a new and foreign charge. I felt deeply alienated from my environment. Addis had presented isolation too but the weight of my body felt heavier in California. It was as if gravity had strengthened. I couldn’t slip its grip the way I remembered doing in Addis. I couldn’t sprint alongside the house to find the same sun. Physical alienation is a way to occupy one dimension while intently observing another.
If I wanted to be a child again, all I’d have to do is mind the gap between what is said and what is done. Noticing that jagged crack bends time for me. I’m stunned and naive again like I was before. When I trace my fingers along that line, I end up at a lie, slipping out of the crooked mouth of a lover, or petrified as the uneven foundation of a nation. If I soften my gaze then focus it again, there are cracks everywhere. Time slips, space splits and chasms appear. We all fall through them and sometimes the fissures are of our own making.
If I always watch the clock, I’d never be able to tell there are moments that stretch longer than they measure or fly fast as the light. On some occasions both happen at once. Heartbreak can distort space in all sorts of ways. Cold and hot. Still and moving. Contradictions of space travel are so frequent but still they can turn me upside down. If I can befriend ambivalence long enough, then a contradiction’s duality doesn’t confirm a mutually exclusive binary but a plurality. At my best, I suspect duality is the stasis.
For a long while I understood places in opposition to each other. Here was Addis and there was elsewhere until Addis became there. Now I’m in California while in Addis and in Addis when I turn on a street in Marseille. Lying still in my warm bed, I can taste the salty sea my body floated in last month. I feel intertwined but I am not trapped. I think peace is where time and place collapse. I wish I knew back then but I suspect I did. It’s all been here at once and forever. Space is everywhere we are and we are everywhere.