All the Stars Above the Sea

All the stars are closer now than
they have ever been. If you
were still beside me you’d reach up
on tiptoes, fingers spread to touch the
brightest one. But you’re not here,
gone deep below for far too long to
ever let me think you’re coming back.
If you could open up your eyes and
blink into the blinding sky, your lips
would tremble like they did the day
you told me what you’d done and
where you’d go and what you’d find
below the sea.
Your eyes would shine reflected light
(so long it’s been since you’ve seen sun
I wonder if you can recall the
way it felt on both our skins
the day you promised that
you’d never leave me all alone).

All the stars are closer now, they’re getting
closer every night, and punching
holes through daylight so the
days are brighter. Is there light at all
where you have gone? Do you have
bioluminescent algae woven through
the cracks that thread the underside of
bedrock arching overhead? Perhaps
you lie awake at night and let yourself
believe you’re counting stars. But you
could never count the stars up here,
I know you’d try I know you’d tilt
your chin up toward the shining sky and
close your eyes and count until your
throat was raw, and I would bring you tea
with honey and a blanket, drape my warmth
across your shoulders so you’d shiver
less, so you could count them all,
I said you couldn’t but you could, I know
you could, I know.

All the stars are closer and they move
too fast to track. All the constellations
ruined by the way the stars are closing
in: you found the thing you wanted
(left me for, you left me
here beneath the stars
to find it, was it worth the way
you broke me open when you left?).
You found the thing you left me for
and turned it on, I think, or else you
woke it up, enormous sleep-fogged eye
and hunger rising like the tide.
So hungry it could eat the space
between us, maybe, or could fit
the way I even now still want you
in between its teeth, and swallow
all the ways I hate the empty
place beside me in our bed.

All the stars are closer and the
earthquakes, worse each day and
high the sea, the rising sea and all the
birds have fled the cities, how I wish
that you could see them, clustered
spirals, clouds of crows and pigeons gathered close like
schools of fish, and falcons
picking off the weak and slow before
they vanish past the skyline.
Where they go, I’m sure the trees
turn starlight into dappled shade
the nights, less bright so maybe
they can tuck their heads beneath their wings
(like you, the lab you’ve built
tucked deep below the bottom
of the sea) and sleep the way they slept
before the cities turned to hives
of fear. You haven’t seen a bird
save your canaries for at least a year, you
used to wear binoculars and now
you live (are you alive? I’d surely know, I’d
surely feel it in my bones if
you had died) too deep below
for cageless birds. So you and I
are closer—
now that all the birds are gone, our
lives are something like the same.

All the stars are closer now, you
haven’t written me in months, the cracks
they found just off the coast are wide enough to
see the shadows moving underneath. The things
are rising up to meet the stars are coming
down to meet the things and all my friends are
asking when I’ll pack away your clothes and
sell my ring. I thought I saw you in
the store when I was buying bottled water,
powdered milk and bullets, cans of ravioli
frozen peas and generator fuel, I thought
I saw you in the line adjacent but I
touched your shoulder with my open hand and
no, of course it wasn’t you at all, the man who
flinched so hard you’d think I stabbed him.
I apologized and paid the clerk and left before
I started crying. In my car I pressed my
face against the steering wheel and missed you,
missed the way you used to sing when you
were shaving, missed the way you ran
your fingers through my hair and missed
a you I never met, the you who would have known
just how we might escape the stars.
I missed you and I wondered if you
saw them coming, if you left
to save yourself, if you decided
not to save me, too, decided it was better
to condemn me to the starlight.

The stars are closer now, the sea is
just below my window, things are
moving through the city, things we
can’t look at directly. The sky is bright and blinding
and I threw away my wedding dress, I threw it
off the roof into the water where it
sank into the open mouth of something
you’d have studied. I don’t miss you, I don’t
want you back beside me, I don’t want
to have to ask you what you’ve done. The
stars are almost here and there’s
a hungry kind of singing, songs that rattle
all my windows, singing coming from the sea. I tied
my bedsheets into netting and I caught
a fish and turned to tell you Look, I Did It.
(Look, you did it, I can’t help but feel
a flash of pride at every shadow in the
water rising up to meet the sky, I want
to grow a bitter pearl of anger at your work but
no, it’s pride, you did it, look). The stars
are closer now, and you are still
so far away, and all we have is
in the water, and I wish on every too-close star
that you would come back home
before the end.

(Editors’ Note: “All the Stars Above the Sea” is read by Stephanie Malia Morris on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 24A.)

Sarah Gailey

Hugo Award winner and Campbell Award finalist Sarah Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and they are a regular contributor for Tor.com and Barnes & Noble. Their most recent fiction credits include Mothership Zeta, Fireside Fiction, and the Speculative Bookshop Anthology. Their debut novella duology, River of Teeth, was published in 2017 via Tor.com. They have a novel forthcoming from Tor Books in Spring 2019. Gailey lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with their two scrappy dogs. You can find links to their work at sarahgailey.com; find them on social media @gaileyfrey.

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