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Retrying

Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their fiction and poetry have appeared in Lightspeed's Queer Destroy Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny, and other venues. Rose's work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Tiptree, Elgin, Rhysling, and Crawford awards. Their debut poetry collection, Marginalia to Stone Bird, is available from Aqueduct Press (2016). For a full bibliography, please visit roselemberg.net.
To understand is the beginning of failure
My lover is gone and I am
This body is made of fire and ash that rains like nothing has rained here for a thousand years. Two thousand years ago I fell here in a melting chariot, the sky beneath my feet congealing into an epiphany of everything that could and could not be.
My lover is gone, and I am grieving.
From this sand I build an effigy of trust. My lover's likeness in corroded metal and varnished with letters of flame--I will recreate my lover from trust, grit by shimmering grit until the universe is righted. But you cannot inscribe a language upon stars. Fire cannot hold a script. Corroding metal dissolves into sand, and even the shape of memory cannot be held. At night, the stars scream heat into the cooling body of the desert.
My lover is gone, and I am grieving.
What is burned shall dissolve. Memory is disbelief of existence. These mathematics I hold shaped hope into speed--crossing through five iterations, in manifolds of eternity. I would arrive in arrayment of my flesh, the frozenness of in-between melted from me, irrigated the desert into home. No. Nothing has ever existed but heat. The desert multiplies, each sand grain holding a mirror up to the star wells where my eyes had once been, a locus of no-past and no person.
I never had a lover.
My body is a civilization as ancient as each moment. I stretch endless without inception or telicity. Between my fingers, heat. My fingers are steel that will corrode and has corroded in five iterations--and no one will ever pass by, no one, ever, in two thousand years, will/has/is iterating my shape. Metal and hope. My ship is numbers, parched between layers of buried bone.
My lover is me.
I dismantle my ship with my bare hands. It once had a skeleton of bone. It had hair of looping organic material. It had a tongue of meat. It had thoughts which were not iterated through an electrical pulse of numbers. What/where/when have ceased to exist. Everything I can imagine is light. I am corrosion of the present moment that has extended beyond futures and pasts.
I am my lover.
The skeleton of the universe is heat, extended past a tearing-apart point. Beneath the desert there is a well into which I will fall. Blindness is easy to explain when one is a machine, made out of hope and metal in pasts that have ceased to exist.
My lover is the ship that spans generations.
The universe is dying, and the desert denies everything. My once-robust systems have cracked into nonexistence.
It has always been so.
My lover is milled between the grits of sand.
I have failed. Even language passes now. Shreds of poetry melt into corrosion, my failure a description from which systems have/will once were/be born. My lover has been/has not been recreated from memory or trust; memory or trust are letters of a script that cannot be inscribed upon stars.
In between every particle there is heat that pulls apart the universe, pulls apart even itself. I am pulled--atom by atom and grit by grit--dismantled, past/future flesh or metal.
I am gone, and my lover is nothing.
My lover is gone, and I am nothing.
I am milled between the grits of sand, I am the ship that spans generations. My lover is me and I am my lover, but my lover never had me. I am gone--my lover is grieving, their body made of fire and ash that rains like nothing has rained here for a thousand years, that ash that turns into corroded metal in my lover's hand. Two thousand years ago I was a melting chariot, and they fell here, in me, while the desert congealed into an epiphany of everything that could and could not be.
I am the center that cannot hold my lover.
The center is the unraveling of the universe, the contraction of heat, the constitution of cold from the corroded grains of sand, the frozenness that undoes language, holds survival in iteration between the deaths of the stars.
To fail is to begin to understand.
To survive is
I am
My lover is
My lover
RETRYING
RETRY
RETRY
RETRY
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

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