— Shira Erlichman

You nearly kissed us. I was eating a grilled cheese
flecked in basil when I felt the hair on my neck rise. I didn’t
know it was you, but in some sense it’s always you,
messenger from the distant past reaching out
with metallic-soil fingers to touch us, remind us:
no matter how many barbecues we throw, we’re going
to die. In the Hubble photographs you race like a New Yorker,
a noncommittal dot blurring between other noncommittal dots.
In one artist rendering you’re a spooky tooth, a traveling hallway.
It’s said you’re the first known interstellar mass to pass into
our solar system—celestial driftwood. I felt you
pick our lock and enter. And though you disappear, you are here. Lodged
in my throat, a red-black bone flung from who-knows-where, a glistenberry
turning in the dark pocket of God. Though lets not kid ourselves,
you are God. You spy on our restless marble. The back
of my neck knows there’s heaven, and then there’s heaven.
An hourglass minus the hours. You tumble-dry through a web
of zeroes, remind us. Remind us. I was sinking
my teeth into a cheesy, basil-peppered sandwich,
the likes of which you’ll never know, while a million long lost brother
ʻOumuamuas moved in stealth—can-opening the atmosphere.
Wherever you come from is beyond the monosyllabic dark.
When I close my eyes and imagine your home, I see a mudslick
calf wailing motherless. Like all good questions, its belly is black.
Remind me, my indecipherable nomad, my return-to-no-sender,
my alien, friend. Like you, I came from somewhere. I’m spinning
off-course, perfectly on course. In this kitchen dented
by shadow, spatula in hand, flipping a second grilled cheese
for the woman in my living room—how will I tell
her? As we sloppily dance our teeth across melted butter,
her hands understanding my hair, my hands a bowl
at her face, curled in each other we obsess
until sunrise. We grow rich spending the currency
of our breath. ʻOumuamua, you’re out of sightline now, no
astronomer knows your ecstatic thievery of heaven. But I do.

Read more from Issue No. 26 or share on Twitter.