"Reservations," "The Bombing of Interstate 64," and "Customs"


“What happens when all the songs are sung?”
Is the question passed patron to patron
On clear and rainy nights, while in the background
The songs march along, never repeating.
The vast repertoire has gone on for years.
The aliens have been singing long enough
That students have done master’s theses
On multiple aspects of the songs,
The singing, the singers.  Theories
Pile up in the ash heap of human insensibility.
Trouble is, once a song is sung
It’s gone.  The next stumbles right behind it.
Perhaps, there is no end; perhaps,
The aliens are making their songs with the singing,
Text and performance in one.  Or maybe
The songs are a civilization that at some point
Collapses, the singing dissipates
Into noise, the aliens grow thin
And blow out of our lives with the next thunderstorm.
What would the night’s patrons speculate about
Then?  The odor of the quiet?
If there are more intergalactic sideshows
Loose in the infinite space and talent expanse?
Or perhaps when the last song is sung
We will be expected to return in kind.
All could come to an existential question:
What might our gifts be and for whom
Are they reserved?  For a troupe of aliens
Soldiering along song after song for no
Reason we have yet been made to understand?
Sadly, some species have disappeared for less.



The Bombing of Interstate 64

On the way to a suicide bombing
The terrorist has a flat tire.
He would not mind running on the rim
Except no doubt he would be stopped,
All sorts of officials and even common folk
Thinking it odd and asking
Why?  He fumbles at the roadside
Trying to steady the jack he has pulled
From under uncharted pounds of explosives, balancing
The spare that, thankfully in this model,
Is only a doughnut tire.  He squats
In nondescript penny loafers, jeans
And a flannel shirt.  This was not
A part of his plan.  Cars
Pass, beyond the speed limit on the Interstate,
Blurs of families looking back at the man huddled
In the road’s emergency lane, frustrated with a tire.
His schedule will be off.  He can no longer
Arrive at the best time to maximize damage.
The hour that he has been training months for
Will now be two hours -- maybe three,
If he cannot finish before rush.
He thanks God for the opportunity to persevere.
A few minutes, and a small Ford pulls up.
A man gets out while his wife and uncontrollable
Daughter watch from the car.  He walks
Slowly towards the angry calm man and says
Can I help, looking at the doughnut tire
And noticing the jack is not quite assembled right.
I once had a flat, too.  And the road was this crowded.




It is nine o’clock
And you know soon there will be
The usual knock, the simple
Pleasantries, the idle small talk
That leads from nothing to nowhere.
You will let the wolf in.  Here,
You will say, have a sniff
At the pretzels, let me turn off
The television.  Oh no, just a rerun
Of a variety show.  Please
Pull that old pillow out
From the green chair, curl up,
Make yourself comfortable.
And the wolf, as he has
A thousand previous nights,
Will do all this.  At every
Rehearsed move you will search
For a sign in his breathing,
Look for a new lack of economy
In his motions.  The wolf
Will sigh, tell you this is not a land
For wolves anymore, that your kind
Has stitched certainty dawn to dawn,
The suddenness of unsettled conflict
Has crept beaten into settled history.
There is no longer a place for his kind.
You will pretend to hear nothing
As the pack unlatches the door
To the chicken coop, one more night
As every night, noses amongst your chickens
For the best.  Just one to share,
So the cost is not too great to bear.
The wolf notes it is getting late,
Has finished only half his beer,
Taken none of the pretzels,
Unwinds himself from the chair
And offers a paw, a slight nod.
Waiting next door for the wolf’s visitation,
Your neighbor is rocking on his porch,
Lemonade and two glasses on a table beside.
All about town, in every instance, there is a difference.



Ken Poyner

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.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, November 18, 2019 - 22:21