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After they blasted your home planet to shrapnel

By P. H. Low in Issue Fourteen, March 2024

you could still pretend for a while. Perhaps it wasn’t even pretend—your body still remembered home as a pause between your third and fourth ribs; remembered an absence of walking across a bridge, in this city you’ve chosen as refuge, and keening the surface tension of water. But recently an opera of yours premiered, about a singer whose throat is wasting away, and it got its sprinkle of cloudfeed write-ups but few who seemed to resonate. Not compared to what you wrote before: heroes of old republics, girl-warriors with flaming swords, fighter pilots whose spinships crashed empires to their knees. Weakness doesn’t sell. You used to understand this, down to your marrow: that no one will love your bleeding core if it isn’t first hammered into armor. But sometimes the broken bone doesn’t heal right, and you have to snap it again to set it proper—or smash it to pieces, start over in a body not your own. And so you teeter, on a sidewalk slanted by asylum-star light. Breathe inside a blank space, a small room slit open by the lyric. A feeling like you could destroy your life again if you wanted to. Like maybe all you need is control. Like you could tear away this city before it strangles you or is torn from you—keep pretending you only ever had yourself to lose.

© 2024 P. H. Low

P. H. Low

P. H. Low is a Rhysling- and Locus-nominated Malaysian American writer and poet whose debut novel, These Deathless Shores, is forthcoming in July from Orbit Books (US) and Angry Robot (UK). Their shorter work is published in Strange Horizons, Reactor, Fantasy Magazine, and Diabolical Plots, among others, and they can be found online at ph-low.com and @_lowpH on Twitter/X and Instagram.

Poetry by P. H. Low
  • After they blasted your home planet to shrapnel