He was given the task
Of designing the amoeba.
He thought it a lucky draw.
Others were given tigers
Or octopi or varied editions
Of hominids. All complex things
That could go horribly wrong,
Systems within systems, interconnections
And dependencies. How could anyone
Get those right? But he
And his amoeba! There is
A thin chance he might
Get it properly done and end up
With a rare perfection. Oh, there are
Still complex parts and compromises,
But he can imagine delivering to the world
An amoeba that no one could put together
Better – and it would be enough.
All those other creations, with
Their inevitable flaws: so what
If they have more potential?
Do one thing right, he has been taught.
This amoeba will have what none
Of the others can achieve:
Simplicity. And that is the heel
Of everything in a constructed life.
I want to see what might have been
Attached to the small leather wings
I found this night when walking home
From the stunted convenience store.
I studied them for a while without
Touching – but, it was raining slightly,
So, I picked them up carefully and put them
Folded but not creased into
The bag with my two-liter
Cola and two canisters of chips,
One original flavor and one barbecue.
Home, I cautiously spread the wings out
On the couch and considered while
I was eating the first can of chips
What sort of creature would own
Such a set of wings, how much weight
Might the wings carry, would the
Creature be thin and tall,
Or compressed, with a bird
Beak or billed or a flat, angelic
Face with thin, disposable lips?
Fur or leather or skin or feathers?
A screech or a laugh, a growl or
Protolanguage? What reducible
Calamity would cause it to
Abandon its wings, and was it now
Searching the convenience store lot,
Running out to the sidewalk when it could
Evade oncoming car headlights, fingering
Nearby dumpsters? I wonder
What is it thinking now, just
Now, wingless and more different
From itself than ever it was before,
And still yet itself. And I decide
That second can of chips is not going
To make it through the night intact.
I’ve been sold down the river before.
I’ve learned the best reaction to it
Is imagining an enjoyable boat ride.
Once I’ve memorized the scenery
Available on both sides, ahead
And back – all being in all directions
Mind-numbingly the same – I bent
Into the mechanics of the trip, not
The supposed substance. In the end
Through some commonly ordinary
Physics, I will land where
I started. I’ve embraced expecting
No more, no less. But those who sold
Me down the river - the boatman,
The dock guards, the purser
And all the people invested
In the trip – think that, by selling
Me down the river, they will be getting
They are sold down the river.
And likely they have yet to learn
The trick of enjoying the boat ride.
Ken Poyner’s four collections of brief fictions and four collections of poetry can be found at Amazon and most online booksellers. He spent 33 years in information system management, is married to a world record holding female power lifter, and has a family of several cats and betta fish. Individual works have appeared in Café Irreal, Analog, Danse Macabre, The Cincinnati Review, and several hundred other places. Check out www.kpoyner.com.