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by Chuck Sebian-Lander

the troposphere feels like the ground,
except your parents are yelling and the dog is barking
both more than usual

okay, you think, this is neat, though;
you’ve never seen anyone else float before
or wiggle their toes above their head
as they rise

you move to text your boyfriend about it, until you realize
you've left your phone on earth. oh well

your neighbor, standing next to your parents
asks "where does she think she's going"

he's always been a bit slow, and creepy.
even now he's just staring at you. hasn't he ever seen
an upside-down girl before

whatever - soon you'll reach the clouds.
you loved clouds, back when you memorized their names
from a poster on the wall of second grade homeroom.

cumulonimbus. nimbostratus. great names for indie bands,
all of them

a chattering flock of robins cascades along your ribs
and you spread your arms and wonder
if, when you inhale, the clouds will snake into your nostrils
a hit off the celestial vape

and a fun visual for a snapchat post.
or, at least, it could have been. oh well

or maybe the wisps will encircle your ears instead,
you think, as pressure intensifies at your temples
and silence layers upon itself, a rainbow-cake void,
deader as the planet gets smaller

but when you do hit a cloud, it’s a half-formed cirrus
cleared in a blink of crummy fog. life is a sequence
of disappointments, you think, sagely

fifty kilometers high and an hour later, in the mesosphere,
the air cracks and chills to curdle your veins
and thicken your blood;

if you could tweet right now, you'd tell everyone
never to try this: "floating is boring" would be the caption,
below an image of the blank black

an irritable sigh escapes you and slashes at your lungs
like a rock skipped over shallow water; instead of breathing
you busy yourself counting meteorites that tumble past,
downward as they catch silent flame

and disintegrate. oh well

oceans and mountains lie flat before you
like elementary-school cardboard dioramas. 
so small yet so great, how wondrous

you just want a blanket

at the mesopause it is lonely, one hundred kilometers above
your confused parents and their half-blind corgi
lonely as everywhere else in stupid space, you think;
you've learned so much so quickly

your fingers are numb and bloated
you couldn’t text even if you had your phone

your intestines have unraveled,
flapping like the limbs
of advertising balloon dancers
atop car dealerships

earth is a watercolor smear; you want some tylenol
and a nap.
the thin air’s making you delirious,
but not enough to cause trippy hallucinations:

no angels or ghosts,
no hunky astronauts,

this, you say through lips inflated to elephant trunks, is lame

when you hit one-hundred-twenty kilometers,
barely a third through the thermosphere
(jesus, who cares which sphere anyway),
the low pressure stretches and pops you like a long blister

and the slimy remainder of you hurtles back to earth
as a clump of heavenly bird droppings
thank god


Chuck Sebian-Lander is a former M.F.A. student, now living and working outside of Washington D.C. Writes like he tweets, actually, at least for the first drafts: with little regard for whether anyone cares but the assumption that no one does. So it goes. You can find more of his work at

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August 2019

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