“Unbelonging” by Oliver Smith

Our hearts have grown too-stealthy in their tread, and wait
like assassins in the hallway;
the love that held us here has turned desiccated and dusty.

When the houselights flicker and the bulbs fail us at last
we are left in the long night with just the roar of waves
breaking on a lonely shore, and there is no way away,

but to take passage on the boat that blows her lonely horn.
The engine spills black smoke, bitter in the wind. Her master
leans hard on the tiller as we motor out upon the storm.

Our hull is a phosphorescent trace burning in the darkness
of the black river that flows though midnight seas;
beneath, the wave-reflected cosmos is burning at our blades.

At last we are put ashore, disembarked on an island walled,
buttressed, and towered with concrete and rusted steel.
The beach is an endless circle of black sand and volcanic ash.

We bid farewell to our ferryman. Beyond the peak and trough
we grateful ones will wait patiently; until the shadow opens
wide the gates of oblivion and welcomes us, “step within.”

Oliver Smith is a poet and short story writer from Cheltenham, UK. He is inspired by the landscapes of Max Ernst, by frenzied rocks towering in the air above the silent swamp, by the strange poetry of machines, by unlikely collisions between place and myth and memory His poetry can be found at Abyss & Apex, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Strange Horizons, and Sylvia Magazine. In 2020 Oliver was awarded a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies by the University of Gloucestershire. His website is at: oliversimonsmithwriter.wordpress.com.