Captain Picard lets the dull roaring of the engines
settle into his joints, his stomach, his lungs,
the smell of exhaust makes him sleepy and calm.
He stirs his coffee clockwise three times,
letting the last of the bourbon dissolve before he takes a sip.
The plane hovers above neatly identical farmlands,
only the sluggish red-brown rivers of this planet snaking across the surface
break up the uniform landscape.
Picard sips his coffee, feeling it warm the back of his head,
fuzzy and soft, the fingers of whiskey
soothe his throat on the way down.
Finally his hands relax and he rests one gently
on his lap, feeling the not shaking of it.
He reads the letter again, pausing to check the progress
of the flight path, still more red-brown horizon,
still more rivers cutting through neat rectangular fields.
The letter is crumpled and stained,
a brief dismissal, written in professional tones, relieving him of duty.
That was six months ago. Six months of a consultation job.
Six months on a world of endless sunrises,
six months of watching those damn suns hover on the horizon as they
danced a heavy gravitational waltz with the planet,
six months of telling closed faced, reluctant, farmers
with delicate tattoos on their arms and necks how to
recycle their guns, plow their land and water their crop of fruited vines
like they cared whether or not the root systems would fail.
Six months of bones that ached to dissolve and
reappear one more time, maybe somewhere tropical,
with humid nights full of calling insects
and a pyramid to climb underneath the milky
exhalation of stars above.
On this plane above this dry place his skin is a prison;
like a healing scab, something itching below the surface.
Picard sips his coffee, licking the drops on the side of the cup
as he dreams of endless blackness slipping past
the edge of the windshield of his starship. He feels
the wind that wasn’t really wind caress his face
and sees stars and planets spinning off into nothingness
as he travels forever and forever towards the edge of everything.
He closes his eyes and as the chair cuts into
his lower back, and the stewardesses walk by to pick up trash,
he turns up the doo-wop song playing in his headphones and dreams
of the edge of space, a thick line of light, like a flashlight underneath a door,
reaching up and over a dark blue-black moon.