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we stole death

(This poem is best viewed on a PC)

I built a space shuttle and named it the Whale.

in zero gravity I won’t have to walk on knives

like the little mermaid when she

became human, or like the time

we stole death from the badlands

back when we were human, too.

when I board the Whale, I remember

us all in the prairie, sheltered under drilling

rigs, their arms bowing like giraffes

drinking from mirages. we stood in murmured

oxygen fumes of white sage. and I remember

how we enshrined dragonfly kings

on the riverbank, after love

went extinct and it gave birth

to something else.

at last, we breathe

and for a moment

magpies took me home—

after all, magpies take

most things which glimmer, and lately

I haven’t looked back. on the run

across the milky way, I learn to navigate

by stars instead of turkey and deer.

I land the Whale at a jupiter rest stop

looking for somewhere to scream

like we used to in the carwash—

nonetheless, there is no sound in space,

no water on jupiter. swept away by

the great dragonfly migration, I reach

into pools of hydrogen gas for

all the things that were lost

in the long cosmic hum of shuttle fleets.

when I feel a cold, smooth touch

in my palm, I wonder if

I could be returning something

instead of losing it.

I finally look back.

instead of magpies

the trail of stars is still there,

the stars are still there,

the stars are still.

Jona L. Pedersen is a recent graduate from the University of North Dakota, with a B.A. in English and B.Sc. in Fisheries & Wildlife Biology. With one foot in the arts and one in the sciences, their interest in biology often seeps into their writing. Their work appears in North Dakota Quarterly, The Allegheny Review, Roi Fainéant Press, and others. Find them on Twitter (@JonaLPedersen) or their website (

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