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There are things besides coyotes to watch for out here,
there are things besides buzzards that flap off for cover,
or scurry away when the train rumbles by in a hurry.
I’ve ranged on this land over decades now,
know all the creatures that man’s given name:
from the curve of the snake to the lizard half-hid,
every beaver and groundhog and musk rat.
Then things there are, too, that don’t match with them—
stare at your throat, not your boots or your hands.
When you catch one atop of the carrion
they first size you up for a fight,
maybe weigh you for living or dead, too.
They like for their meals to be dead; it’s less work but
they sometimes won’t wait for that long.
So keep bolts on your doors if you're sick
so no thing comes to gather you early.
I range this broad land in a saddle now
so the beasts of the dark that aren’t possum
or coon, armadillo, can’t roam without check,
without fences or foe on these plains.
But I’m older as well as cannier now, and won’t be around for much longer.
If you see something strange from a distance—
a creature that looks somehow wrong to you—
trust in your eyes, son, do trust your eyes.
I have seen and have fought these things, too.

Bethany Powell stumbled into speculative verse on the scrubby plains of Oklahoma and has been in a fateful relationship ever since. The products have appeared in Asimov's, Liminality, and the solarpunk anthology Sunvault. More are forthcoming, and all can be found at
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17 Jun 2024

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