Size / / /

The train slides toward the hill-concealed horizon,

a mammoth serpent winding through the tall grass,

its strange steel-skeletal cars stacked with stranger cargo,

men and women, naked as newborns, crisscrossed eight high

in neat columns, interlocking puzzle towers of flesh.

Car thrown into park, I step out, squint down, but I'm

too far yet to tell whether I'm staring at slick synthetics

or true skin; they're perfect: trim and muscular, no

birthmarks to see, no moles, a eugenicist's wet dream;

yet sexless, static, faces blank as brain death,

a promenade of empty shells, automatons,

an android shipment, enough to fill a city, etch

personalities, watch a culture come to life. I wonder

what doctrines, what dogma, what commands

are waiting to be written on their minds?

A rich demagogue's androgynous harem, perhaps,

swarming their master like bees on their queen?

Or an instant cult, ready-made worshipers,

undying faithful to light torches in the catacombs?

Impervious soldiers, trained with a download,

storming distant deserts or jungle against others

of their own kind, or even others of mine?

Underwater miners or void-bound farmers

unafflicted by a need to breathe, raising air-filled

domes to make more space for their makers?

Pitiful, beautiful slaves, bound

for existence (hardly a life)

without choice; no one would want

to be one of you, no; but then why

do I feel such envy?




Mike Allen is president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and editor of the speculative poetry journal Mythic Delirium. With Roger Dutcher, Mike is also editor of The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, which for the first time collects the Rhysling Award-winning poems from 1978 to 2004 in one volume. His newest poetry collection, Disturbing Muses, is out from Prime Books, with a second collection, Strange Wisdoms of the Dead, soon to follow. Mike's poems can also be found in Nebula Awards Showcase 2005, both editions of The 2005 Rhysling Anthology, and the Strange Horizons archives.
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