Siren Breath

by Angela Acosta
The Siren

John William Waterhouse, “The Siren” (1900)

Siren Breath

Upon her birth on land,
a siren enchanted a newborn human being.
Cheeks blue like the sea,
she would never take a full breath of air
for as long as she lives.

Among the waves,
her legs meld into a tail,
diving headfirst into friendly waters,
wishing gills could propel her
across low gravity oceans.

Is there an oxygen rich seaweed
she can eat to escape the merfolk?
Or shall she become accustomed to a different orbit,
seeking air bubbles like a fish out of water
while other children dance along the shoreline?

She wishes to see the stars,
yet the sirens keep her earthbound.
Unable to ascend on chemical rockets,
she creates a breathing apparatus to explore
the seven seas, charting a course to the stars
for future enchanted progeny.

She may never break the spell,
try as she might to capture the siren,
so she trains the next generations
for the challenges that await them on land,
for the chance to be half human, half siren:
differently abled with an adventurous spirit.


Spaceport Ethnography

It was the gentle whirring of the terminal, the rush of flurried rockets coupling to docking bays that lulled me into a restful sleep. Warm-blooded space faring peoples keep the temperature comfortable, perfect for an hour in a nap pod to wash down this layover with natural sleep before chemicals drown out the fifty-light-year voyage. I stir as the vacation sim ads emblazoning the walls chime obnoxious tunes for weary travelers, and frequent flyers shuffle towards their destinations. In training they said that this would become mundane. I would, in time, become accustomed to nanobots, intravenous impulses, and the toys of the twenty-fifth century. What they should have told me before hopping three centuries was that boredom is universal after enough sleepless nights. I’ve seen enough teary goodbyes for two lifetimes and heard enough groans when shuttles are delayed. Before boarding, I see Agent Lambda still as bleary-eyed as before and I know it has hit him too. Maybe next stop we’ll catch the latest holo vid and settle into the time for a change. Until then, I write these notes for the ancestors still scared of losing our humanity to spaceflight, not realizing that they are the ones weaving a web between our FTL lives, a true gift of the ancestors sent upstream.

About the author

Angela Acosta

Angela Acosta (she/her) is a bilingual Latina poet who holds a Ph.D. in Iberian Studies from The Ohio State University. She is a Rhysling finalist with speculative poems in Shoreline of Infinity, Apparition Lit, Radon Journal, and Space & Time. She is the author of the Elgin nominated speculative poetry collection Summoning Space Travelers (Hiraeth Publishing, 2022) and forthcoming chapbook Fourth Generation Chicana Unicorn (Dancing Girl Press, 2023).

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