Ken Poyner has lately been seen in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Café Irreal, Cream City Review, The Journal of Microliterature, and many other wonderful places. His latest book of short fiction, Constant Animals, is available from his web, www.kpoyner.com, and from amazon.com. He is married to Karen Poyner, one of the world’s premier power lifters, and holder of more than a dozen current world power lifting records. He is also the animal parent of four rescue cats and assorted self-satisfied fish.
Go straight until you reach the twig castle.
Turn there and count one hundred
Fifty meters. To the right will be
The straw horse cemetery, to the left
The last measure of fig preserves. You
Are not yet deployed, not by a long shot; but you are,
By then, in-country, in-theatre,
At the backend of engagement. Go
Follow the sound of the iridium river
Until you can feel the monstrosity
Of the quartz falls quivering through
The soles of your cat skin boots.
Turn inland just at the tree line,
Following the protective sorties ashen birds
Make along the threshold of the forest.
You will be around these before you
Are ready. The elevation leads
A path of small protesting stones,
And by dusk you will be on the floor
Of the copper striped canyon. In
The distance you will hear men
And merchants and outfitters,
Their glacial voices reflecting
The last of the lazy light –
Enriched by it, but muffled, too:
The sound of too many and without
Distinctive chromatics. How will you know
If these are yours, or if these are ours;
Whether this is companionship and supper,
Or whether this is sedimentation and death;
Whether you go forward in the last of the fantastic,
Or climb into the branches of the golem tree,
Buying personal safekeeping,
Hoping not to fall?
You should seize the opportunity.
All opportunity is mesmerizing.
All opportunity lies at the back of a man’s throat;
Wonderfully coarse and full, like the dulled tapping
Of a blind man’s cane on a woman’s naked body;
Like the seizures of a child:
Black and white, nothing more. And now yours.
The Last American Decade
My feathered boots on the pavement
Are an anachronism of passion, a plea
For direction. So many birds, and no thought
Of flight. I see you are going, too.
The morning is passing like a keeper
In the city zoo ladling out breakfast:
Cheery, certain all will be well by afternoon,
That the crowds will come in time.
Now is the time.
We are the army of sense and order.
The signs of our impending journey
Are as subtle as democracy in a nation
With a ten second attention span.
We will travel together, you
And I, as thin as gratitude.
I have kidnapped someone with a map.
Let me introduce you. She has
A knowledge it is our right to steal.
Her hope for service is like our tropics of sex:
Furious and blindly one-way, bestially quaint.
You will join me?
The three of us will leave,
The unwilling leading the way,
The vengeful following, our feathered boots
In the thick morning air growling and secure,
Certain the crowds will come in time,
Making sense at some lonely point in some lonely history.
The battered holder of the map looks back at us,
Cocking her head like the hammer of a gun,
And says from the depths of her teething understanding
My love, you are here.
The elongated man waits on the corner
Assuming there will be wolves, or
Lemmings in lockstep. The sun
Collapses in the trees and prepares
To wait out of sight, at the edge
Of hearing. Its workday is done.
Now to enjoy.
The night of singular sounds and round
Forests presently jogs on the treadmill, the night's gym
Empty except for itself, and maddeningly the channel
On the big screen has been left to a cooking show.
This event could use suspicion.
The elongated man dimly begins to imagine
He is this night's sacrifice, not
This night's contest —that all physics
Is not betting, it is watching. His new fear
Is like the taste of copper in a penny's mouth.
And then, almost as silently as cold,
A sacred sacrificial virgin goes by
Untested, unrated for voltage, paint by number,
With her coat hanger walk
And firefly eyes fitting the bill.
And the elongated man thinks I can change
I can change I can change.
You are not having that glass tonight.
Put away its broken pieces;
Break off the relatively complete
Stem. Pack it away in your
League bowling case, alongside your
Superhero cape and twelve pack of condoms.
You will not need it tonight;
Its song of shattering will not be
The spotted lettuce to seduce your gluttony.
Instead, I have knives and
Scissors and a fresh wicker of saw blades.
Look, I’ve boiled them al dente
In a salt water. See how they drag
Across the fork; imagine them
Smothered in mercury. It makes
The roof of the mouth go staggering
Like a clothesline of indicted recipes.
It makes me clutch myself in my most feral of places
And say oh, the steam! You could
Enjoy this despite our insistence;
You could be the gentle lips of dullness.