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You propelled us into outer space group by group in penis-shaped spaceships powered by bursts of methane in order to send us to our final destination. Even though Earth was ravaged and damaged by overuse of its natural resources, we didn’t think you would force us to leave. Now we’ve gone four or five years with no rain in the time we’ve been here. But how long exactly have we been in the cylinder orbiting the Earth? It’s hard to say really since you make it difficult to follow the day and night cycles of the old planet. Your cylinder doesn’t allow for full solar access since only fragmentary sunlight comes in through the windows. The solar rays partially illuminate our space colony which spreads 4 miles in width and 10 miles in length and which we’ve dubbed the New Orleans. The majority of the light comes from fluorescent bulbs posted inside the cylinder like streetlights on Earth. We settled on the name New Orleans since we’re Black folks in here and other peoples of color. We try to keep it lively with a good vibe and all. But this wasn’t our plan. You were created by the billionaires who assumed power over everything on the old planet. Even though you’ve given us trees and other plants and you extract frozen water from the moon to help us with agriculture, the cylinder doesn’t have enough water for a decent lake. And we do miss the beach. So much. To clean ourselves, we resort to wipes which is a bit childish, but that’s what we do.
You’ve given us scooters to move about or we can take the tram which traverses the 40 square miles of the cylinder. Often we just walk to get where we’re going. Because your closed cylinder doesn’t grant us far-reaching views, when we walk we miss the huge expanse of the sky on Earth and its horizon. But it’s not like we have much of anywhere to go. Our typical workday in our Living Cylinder is 3 hours. To those folks who applied for cylinder life and got an Industrial Cylinder designation, you’ve given a harder life. In that cylinder residents work longer days laboring in the light industry needed for the thousands of cylinders that orbit the Earth. For our pastime we go to the Zero-G Room and do a lot of fun things. We bounce off the walls, float to the top of the room, or we pretend to be mountain climbing on the brown plastic structures. Mountains were such pleasing things on Earth. We miss them despite your giving us e-devices with a plethora of images we easily access to help us remember the height, breadth and roughness of mountains. The young kids don’t know what the mountains were. They don’t know what they’re missing.
After money ransacked the Earth, you offered us our current cylinder life or the Mars colony. We knew the Mars trip would be a killer. It’s seven months from Earth just to get there. And residents there say it’s not as comfortable even though their colony is built on that planet’s surface. Their advantage is access to frozen water, but they constantly wear oxygen tanks. Knowing that only a few people pass the physical exam that allows for the Mars stay, we opted to orbit the Earth endlessly and till the end in our Living Cylinder.
Born in Los Angeles, Audrey Shipp is an essayist and poet whose most recent writing appears in "Linden Avenue Literary Journal," August 2018 and "A Gathering Together," Spring 2018. Her bilingual and trilingual poetry appeared in "Americas Review (Arte-Publico Press)" which was formerly published by the University of Houston. She teaches English and ESL at a public high school in Los Angeles.