Size / / /

The Gate said "Abandon All Hope."

I thought I'd tossed all my hope away,

but when I stepped through the Gate, it still pinged.

One of the guards slithered out of its seat,

snarling as it drew forth a wand.

C'mere, it hissed,

it seems you're still holding out hope.

Its crusted hide was a Venus landscape up close.

It brushed that cold black wand all over my skin,

put it in places I don't want to talk about.

Snaggle fangs huffed in my face:

Sir, step over here, please.

Then the strip search began.

My flesh rolled up & tossed aside for mushy sifting.

Bones X-rayed, stacked in narrow rows, marrow

sucked out, tested, spit back in.

They made me open mind, heart, soul, shook them out

like sacks of flour, panned the contents

for every nugget of twinkling hope, glistening courage;

applying lethal aerosol

to any motion that could be ascribed to love or will

or malingering dreams—

sparing only a few squirming morsels

for later snacking.

Once they were done

they made me pick up my own pieces

(I did the best I could without a mirror),

then my guard kicked me out—

with a literal kick—

sent me rolling down the path to my final destination.

I'll be honest with you, it's no picnic here.

But, my friends, I still have hope. I do.

I'm not going to tell you

where I hid it.




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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