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I was entertained by voyagers

by James Graham 

Posted: 15 November 2010
Word Count: 447
Summary: This is the first poem of a series. There's probably a 'to be continued' air about it. Another two are under construction.

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I was entertained by voyagers


Abducted by aliens, some would say, but
entertained, I’d call it. Their ‘ship’
was not so much a saucer, more
a flying casserole. They took me in,
and sat me down, gave me a little bracelet,
a copper wrist-band that received their speech,
translated it to mine, and mine to theirs.

Well, yes, I was naive, I took a risk,
but neither more nor less than if I’d joined
a group of Malagasy or Chinese; should I assume
they’d all be killers or enslavers? People
from across whatever sea, are what they are.

They’re not six-armed, or green. They’re not
intelligent amphibians, or chickens. It’s the apes
that crack it, everywhere it seems.

They’re very pale, and have big ears
- not Mickey Mouse or even Mr Spock,
but noticeably big. Enough for some
to label them the Luggies or the Shells
and shove them in a mental holding-camp.

I heard some youth, some higher-level shooter
who had been zapping aliens all night,
away from his console for a pack of fags,
had seen a voyager and shot at him and missed.


They gave me a bowl of fruit like lychees,
and a sweet drink, and talked and listened.

So much to say, much more to learn. I have to
write it, write it all, leave nothing out. But I must
begin with this: for though we talked about our wars,
our gods, our science and theirs, our arts and theirs,
it was the ‘showing’ of their homeworld (more
than ‘film’, I was surrounded with it, I was there)
that got me going. I regret what afterwards I said,
but what they said then, that sobered me,

I have since accepted. Fired up with the romance
of space, and sci-fi odysseys, I got lyrical. ‘I look

at the night sky’, I said. ‘I see the fires. There are worlds
too close to the fire, and worlds too far away.
But there are worlds in just the proper place,
their years three-fifty to three-eighty days,
their atmosphere as warm as a hatching egg.

In time we will set sail, and cross the archipelago.
Some islands there are bleak, no castaway,
no palm tree, but others - we shall visit them,
and we will breathe there, talk and listen’.

But will you go, a voyager said,
for blood and metals? Your death-doers,
your kill-makers, will go.
The notion
translated strangely, as if they had
no word for it. Another said:

Do not go there. By all means go
to the dead Moon, dead Mars, but
do not go where there is other life.

You do not know
how to live with others.

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Comments by other Members

clyroroberts at 12:05 on 19 November 2010  Report this post
Hello James - I really like this one. There seems to be a widespread projection amongst many people that we will be travelling the archipelago's of the universe some day. I think there's no chance of it at all personally. But imagining space encounters with superior beings is a great way to explore our own nature.

I like the way the poem switches in the two parts between human ideas of alien life and its assumed hostility to the fact of our own violence and exploitation at the end and the fact its preferable (for aliens) that we stick to the dead planets.

I loved the lines from "‘I look at the night sky’," to the end.

I wasn't sure about the stanza about the alien shooter - does this fit with the last stanza - aren't they supposed to be above our wars and violence? Or maybe I'm reading this too superficially.

And I wasn't sure about comparing them to amphibians - is this a reference to a film? I'm not up on the latest films.

I liked Death-doer but I thought death-maker would be even more potent. Not sure how you would change Kill-maker though. Kill-doer doesn't sound right does it.

Just some initial thoughts really. I'll read it more and get back with more useless comments . . .


Nella at 16:46 on 19 November 2010  Report this post
This is fun, James. I'm not a sci-fi fan, but I can get into this. I like the conversational tone and especially like the way you compare meeting aliens to meeting someone from China. Very open-minded.

James Graham at 14:27 on 20 November 2010  Report this post
Thanks, James and Robin. James, the shooter is meant to be a young Earthman, a player of computer 'shoot-'em-up' games who is on a high level in some game involving an alien invasion - evil aliens of course. He spots one of the poem's not-at-all evil aliens and shoots for real. He's American, presumably, if he carries a gun. He's meant to illustrate the fact that at least some of us humans 'do not know how to live with others'. I wasn't sure about these lines anyway, and think the poem could probably do without them.

Also the voyagers are not actually compared to amphibians. These lines mean to say the 'aliens' are not the kind portrayed in second-rate sci-fi, creatures with several pairs of arms, or highly-evolved lizards. They're human, evolved from some kind of ape. Science fiction (though not the work of the best sci-fi writers) often demonises extra-terrestrial life, or portrays it as grotesque, and I think that's a kind of extension of xenophobia and racism.

I'll have to play around with death-doers and kill-makers. They're intended to be awkward expressions because the voyagers have no vocabulary of war and make clumsy attempts to express these concepts.

I'd be interested in any more comments you want to make.


clyroroberts at 16:05 on 22 November 2010  Report this post
Ah yes - silly me - amphibians makes perfect sense. I read it wrong. Sorry.

And the death-doers too. This does sound like another race using another language trying to grapple with our own.

FelixBenson at 12:24 on 26 November 2010  Report this post
HI James

This is an interesting beginning - it definitely felt like an opener. The overall impression is of turning things on their heads - the humans are the aliens here. Being viewed from the outside as those who cannot, or should not live with others.

Those last lines resound. But the sentiment is echoed throughout. How easy it is for us to demonise - how quickly we can be xenaphobic:
They’re very pale, and have big ears
- not Mickey Mouse or even Mr Spock,
but noticeably big. Enough for some
to label them the Luggies or the Shells
and shove them in a mental holding-camp.

As a way to shine a light on what the human race is capable of, this works well. I look forward to the next instalment.

SarahT at 09:55 on 27 November 2010  Report this post
Hi James,

I enjoyed this as the beginning of a longer part. This...
It’s the apes
that crack it, everywhere it seems.

...made me laugh out loud.

I thought the second stanza of part two felt a bit heavy. Not sure why but I think my problem was with:
it was the ‘showing’ of their homeworld (more
than ‘film’, I was surrounded with it, I was there)
that got me going.

For some reason that felt more story/prosaic than poetry. If I was to try to explain why possibly too much 'tell'? Possibly it's just the bracketed bit I don't like? Not sure that makes sense but I'll mull it over and see if I can be more useful later on.

I am looking forward to the next episodes.


James Graham at 16:40 on 28 November 2010  Report this post
You're right, Sarah, those lines you quote are really ham-fisted. They refer clumsily to something in the second 'episode' and all it does is set up a kind of log-jam. I think I can see ways of improving this part of the poem, which will probably be easier to do once the second episode is finished. Thanks for pointing that out.


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