top of page


Lily Shen

a poem by Lily Shen

I am a wanderer.

I am familiar with how the Milky Way sets

on the horizon, the way the universe dies,

the language of the stars.

Seen the world-top

from pink clouds and sipped

from stardust.

Flirted with comets.

I know that time is temporary. Yet

the reminder burns as I

place my fingers to the torrid dust,

breathe the decay.

The ground recoils at my touch.


of my footfalls reverberate through the planet

as if hollow.

This is what they used

to call Earth.

I can tell it is lonely.

Others like me have no desire to pay visit

to this once blue-green pellet that sits in oblivion.

A corner of its forgotten heliocentric system.


Its crevices

barren land and looming monsters that

brokenly splutter black smoke.

Never ending dunes of debris

soft between my toes.

This is a place God has abandoned.


is foreign to me. Yet

I am filled with it

at the sight of these armageddon red skies and

unabated sandstorms.

Walking in solitude

I explore slowly the sense of


Upon the one hundred and eighty fifth dune I


the silence dies.

I feel it instantly.


Minuscule. Deafening.


Sun catches silver, watch as a little creature

emerges from the yellow.

It is metallic, a box on four wheels.


Creature holds a flower.

I greet it.

Creature tilts its crane

as if it were a child.

“Robot.” It beeps hesitantly. “Robot.”

Sand shifts under its wheels.

Robot contemplates, then plants the rose

into the ashes.

“It will die,” I tell it.

“No,” Robot replies.

And after, I follow its trail.


As we cross the

corpses, husks

Of cities.

Over hills

Weathered rib cages

of Earth.

Robot keeps on planting.


Four letters engraved

into its shell

I learn that its name is H O P E.

H O P E is the legacy of mankind.

Of an era

now dead and buried.

Charged with the adornment of an empty shell,

tending to a sleeping garden.


With the await of a new age.

“Why?” I ask.

Why try?

Life is dead. It will not come back.

“One day.” H O P E replies.

It continues to say this for fifty decades.

One night, H O P E makes Fire.

From night till dawn, I sit.

Listening to its hiss,

feeling its burn.

I have not seen Fire before.

Stings my insides as I breathe, bears a tang

of poison and pure heat.

It smells like life.

Shadows against the walls of the cave,

I am encapsulated in its dance.

“Tell me about the humans.” I whisper.

And it does.

It spins me a history.

Not of demise, misery, of their fall from grace.

Not black fumes and broken glass on which

we tread.

But of


It tells me of the beginning.

The discovery of fire, the first man to see his reflection

in these flames.

Empires that rise and fall, the only thing

they leave behind--their tales of


It tells me of the humans’


The yearning for a friend

in the great big world outside.


to explore their tiny wedge of the universe.

Featherlight innocence.


It tells me of the battle they fought

against themselves and


How they assembled a box on four wheels and named it


allowed it to inherit the future.

Cleanse Earth of their bones

so that they may one day come home.

H O P E waits for another century.

Dutifully follows the


Everyday, lays a flower down. And

everynight, pretends to watch the stars.

But the stars do not shine for us, not here.

Not through these walls of smoke, miles and miles.

Not for this insignificant little robot.

Some days, the ruins whisper to us.

“Soon.” H O P E echoes.

We arrive in a valley, once.

What used to be a great, deep,

raging river.

Now stark, windswept jaws of stone

open in a snarl at the ashen sky.

H O P E falters for the first time.



And so I do.

The field of flowers seem

out of place

among the knife edge rocks and malicious gravel.

But there it is.

They wave at us.

Yellow, pink, red. Too much color.

Defiant under the eternal summer scorch,

crawling up the ragged prison walls.

Gently in the wind. Brilliant.

“It is your garden,” I tell H O P E.


It sets a yellow blossom into the ground.

It is hard to understand the rules

in a world like this.

A world that is

Trial and error.


rinse and repeat.

I do not understand H O P E

but I begin to believe in it.

When I leave, I take eight buds with me.

I am a wanderer.


But wherever the wind and

the stars take me,

I will plant these seeds

of Hope.

And I know that

one day

I will return. And I will see Earth


Cover Photo Source:

bottom of page