The Poetry Project

Lou Cornum

Sodden Scraps

I would ride the cruiser for as long as it felt good.

Or until my grip slipped one last time. Or until I fell asleep and woke up past the last post. Or until my guts turned inside out from spore dust settling into flask rot.

They’d be coming for me soon. For the bits in my suit pockets and the stash between the bed and the wall back in my training pod. For the cruiser itself. Not that it belonged to anybody. So maybe nobody would care and it would just be me chasing myself out here til me or the cruiser expired. Figured I could spend the night in the outpost, get some grub, catch some time with the girls. There was always that job listed for the outer outer... who knows.

Things got icy around the Tulle elbow. I was half-watching the cruiser meters but mostly lost in the ruins of an abandoned school project. The bod started shivering around that last bend and I was thought-stuck on a night huddled with you on a sagging couch with split sides. It was the first night I didn’t check back into rek after work. You said you knew someone on labor op, that it’d be okay. I didn’t really believe you and didn’t want to anyway. What I wanted: to break a rule for you.

Your shirt was pressed against me, rife with the smell of you like the slick of stew under the two black jackets I’d stuffed insulation shts into. Kept me warm enough most of the time plus the emergency blanket I’d patched into a hat with lichen ear flaps. I missed that hat too. Shaken out of the school yard recall by an ice skirting, I eased up on the throttle and resisted a sip before signaling to entry.

The girls that night were trading words around the mess hall. It looked like they were done up getting ready for the weekend. Everyone had dyed their veins different colors. Indz, talking now, had a golden hue, effect of burnt orange tinted blood illuminating her underskin. I took out my flask and counted three sips. That left three more for the whole rest of the night. I settled back with a din pac and perked up to the conversation. After a few minutes, I started collecting as many words as I could from all their different dialectics. I’d try to look them up later when I was missing people, their ways, the sounds of the names of other people’s homelands.

“No no no it’s manuk that word you’re thinking of. The expanse be more like manook.”

“Oh you say manook in the seas dialect? You mean for the space between the stars? That’s b’nuk for us.”

“Yeah your kind always make it all sound short and hard don ya.” Cluck cluck, she went after.

Her friend slapped her slightly. “I saw yr little thing from last year, that scrapper—think you don’t mind the short and hard so much.”

They cackled and it cracked a smirk on my face too.

Where are the girls going? I wanted to ask but I just stood there with a stupid smile sitting off a bit. Before long they were stacking trays, a little late already again, clamoring back into their suits to get ready for work on the morning ships that stop by before deep space. Manook. B’nuk.

One of the girls walks by me, ruffles my hair, and asks me to zip up her boots. It can be a little tricky to bend over with the top half of the suit on. I smile, place my pac aside, and bend over to bring her foot into my lap.

“How long you been making the circuits?” She has a vap raspy voice.

“Oh hm, since I got out trainers school just after second change I guess.”

“Different times now init.”


Her friend is standing there, eyebrow arched as the second foot swings up into my hands.

“You know I remember circling the major routes then seeing the satellites with the multi levels that rise up at you all sudden from the manook. I used to look up at them and wonder what all was going on all at once all around me. That felt more like infinity to me than the star plains I passed through.”

“Sure. I remember that. Seeing all the space stacked on itself. Like a glittery shadowy wall. And then one day someone hooks you in, takes you to one of those lights on the wall and you wind through all the levels and airlocks to a room you could have never imagined from the outside.”

“All that infinity becomes quite small.”

I might have grunted. I knew what she meant. They were so sweet with each other it pressed the bruise that had become my inhabitance. Maybe it was that hidden away feeling that got her to try to bring me out. Boots tied she just lingered looking at me, soft like. She was a few inches taller than me. Her suit was green and had mica implants along the seams. The same color marked the tongue tat I could see when she spoke.

“Thanks sweet, you take care of yourself.”

“Of course. Anytime.”

The girls walk out and I take three more sips. Later wake up with my mouth open and the mess hall half full again. I’ve been dreaming of that room…the rain. Speckles on your collar bone that glisten different when you heave. My breath is marking yours.

How you sunk into the sofa, your ass spilling between the cushions and your clit erect. You hard, me sopping. Always. Your thighs were open and I was in between.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, awake now fully again… did I say your name? I felt the warmth flush up my neck and cheeks. A few people noticed I was awake and looked away. My groans suspended in the air like heavy black smoke.

There was power blasting happening outside. It felt cruel. I’d had that job a while back, operating on the school face. After a while, with the ear clasps engaged, it all became a pleasing full body numbness starting with the head working to each toe, however many you had. It sounded like a hell of jittery and gnashing teeth from outside the machine though. Especially in the span between three sips. But if they didn’t start clearing early all the buildings on this quad of the rock would be shut down in no time. NO radiation power could pierce the powder. I opened the dev and started scrolling for a suck. I see first those I’ve seen before. Look up and nod a couple times. Jo smirks and it’s still a cute one. But that thought of catch up, couldn’t stand it. I needed to narrate myself to someone new. We could write something familiar in form but different in shape. There was a new line cook working the morning shifts it seemed. Breakfast was almost over. They looked short, wide, faggy.

The contact told me to meet in the WC unit down the side hallway. Deep breath, deep slug of water and I’m on my feet. I ruffle my own hair and remember the girl who did last night. She’s probably thousands of rocks away by now. I hiked up my loose denies and set my eyes. In the WC I see a pair of boots beneath the last stall. “Lo?”

“Yeah, come in.”

First things my hands on Lo’s chest. Under the buttons and strings of a cooks suit into small curlicues of tight dark hairs. Lo has muscles and a belly that sticks over like a snout above the band of underwear.

The band slips down easily under my other hand. Lo has a soft moan. But everywhere else they are hard.

Tensed up and pulsing. I want to tease all that bristle even more.

It’s easy to make Lo moan. Their second snout is nearly howling. The down up of the thickest part of my tongue laps unrelenting. Sometimes slow but always down up. They let one last low growl and my lips turn warm.

The sudden quiet of the bathroom. Far off the jackhammer.

“Come have a vape with me. Out back.”


I wasn’t so though. Vape might get me all screwy. We turned our backs on the whole scene back at the station. Looking up the haze of our galaxy looks like a palmful of my own cum, smeared as a scattering of stars and space matter.

“What you use? She asked.”


“Mm. That’s one of those neoolds? Don’t know it too well. Sorry.”

Ze had come back on the circuits a few years ago in a resurgence of a bunch of old language. Like the parts of the cruiser I’d refurbished from junk piles across the two belts, the words got picked up and put back to use. Sometimes in a different configuration that before. I felt foolish being as old as I am taking it on. Neolds, the language of kids mostly off belt. What use did it have for me? This junk mishmash body and all the odd parts it’d plug into. But mostly nothing ever felt like mine anyway. Always approximating. Why not this word to get a job done?

And a good time to lose count. I was coming up on my six cyc fast period—no booze for a while. I didn’t know if I could make it this time.

What the fuck was I supposed to do with four cycles in. Roy was in the community center going through suspro for their habit of hoarding units from job sites. They weren’t even talking to me all that much before they started the pro. Might be my turn next with these spores. Nobody would be noticing for a while and it wasn’t as bad as Roy, pilfering the essentials during a harsh ration period on the outer belt. But it couldn’t go forever. I’d have to go back to central. The spore piles would be there. And once it was over, the job op two stretches over. Not even the girls come around there. It’d just be me in a smoke cocoon. I’d sit there barely useful and alone counting out sips like it even mattered.

Would this always be my shitpac life?

By the time they built the school back up, I’d be too far gone. I could see it from the cruiser seat. The edge of the edge. There were a few men I always thought I might end up like—feared it as much as a I also wanted it. No not my father’s kinds of lives. I saw a path for me forming up like those men unfit for common living and somewhat functionally anti-social. I had met a couple in my life, notably always in a desert. These men’s lives were small but sprawling, usually cooped up on the outskirts of wherever in some modified mov. They usually had a hustle, maybe two or three. Rots all of them. If they still bothered to ration sips the threshold was a lot higher than my current three per cyc. Traded a lot in stories but didn’t open up to many passing through. And not many passed through. The point was to be alone, away from all the spiraling nights and occasions for disappointment, for destruction.

The sup wouldn’t be around til the next rise. In the meantime, I was meant to make a nest in this room of wires. E-lines were hanging all over the surface of the pod. Some frayed. Some plugged into the vitals.

Chargers all wrapped around themselves ending like unspooled tongues with nothing left to say and nobody to listen.

Like the way you opened your mouth that day, fists already wound around my lapels. Stare for stare, I don’t know if we even breathed all that time. I’d read your ass out letter and never sent a half-assed one back. You’d said I should call you and we’d go on a ride together. I remember when I wanted to break a rule for you. I tell myself now it’s just that I love life too much to quit the flask habit. Besides I’d be in the outer outer for a while. For as long as it didn’t feel too bad.

Issue 17