Not great physical feats:
No leaping tall buildings, no
Bending iron girders around his back,
No out-racing the sun at dusk.
He does not see through brick and stone,
Nor can he stop with just his look
The mad scientist’s mad tyrannosaur.
He stands with his hands in his pockets,
Most humble for a hero, largely background.
He can, of course, murder his enemy’s
Children in their sleep, re-educate
Entire societies, round up all the passable
Women in a village to create a forced labor brothel.
He has a will of iron
And an imagination to match.
He can evaporate entire families
From thirty thousand feet in the air,
Project from safety death into school yards
And government barbed wire cotillions alike.
He is our hero.
As far and wide as you can look
You can find no better.
And I know to the last of my critical hope
You could find far worse.
Once they were just old wobbly dogs,
Let loose or escaped, or left in town
When the owning families moved out: baggage.
For years they used the county dump as a food source,
Nosing through the mounds of muddled trash
For the occasional edible discard. Well kept house dogs
Get fewer table scraps at home. Of late
They have seemed more of a pack and less of a rabble:
Becoming organized into a proper hierarchy, and aware of it.
The story is they killed a goat two weeks ago. Some
Townsfolk want to prune the numbers; others
Harbor memories of these dogs as pets.
These are no one’s pets. Last week
At the edge of my gate I heard one defiant dog howl
And get his reply, two units of their constabulary
Communicating, articulate in their heritage,
Exact in their purpose. I know
How far they have come from detritus.
I look at the power they might be
At the edge of town, at the edge of our
Plans and daily mistakes: an opportunity
To compete, to say that our shared order
Is not certain, not settled. They have the hope
That imagines itself the core of what even I could be -
Of what, given freedom, I might be:
The superiority of evolved methods,
The length of un-evolved want.
Ken Poyner’s collections of short fiction, Constant Animals and Avenging Cartography, and his latest collections of speculative poetry, Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot, can be obtained from Barking Moose Press. He serves as bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs, where she continues to set world raw powerlifting records. His poetry lately has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore; and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, Café Irreal. New books annoying potential publishers: Gravity’s Children, speculative poetry; The Revenge of the House Hurlers, brief fiction. www.kpoyner.com.