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The gray veered around a stump that crackled with flame

and pointed his muzzle into the smoke-filled wind

probing for pockets of fresher air along the ridge top

he yelped directions to the others as they ran blindly

he could not turn them back against the inferno

let his brothers and sisters fend for themselves but

if they swept to the bottom so close to the lights

they might enter that other world and the gray knew

no beast that crossed the invisible barrier ever returned

Yet when the pack breeched the edge of a mud slide

and a pup slipped backward toward the valley below

the gray didn't hesitate to leap in and push her free then

made sure that no other stragglers became mired

his hindlegs began to lose strength so he thrashed

with his forelegs and crouched to stop his momentum

gravity sucked him to the very edge of a precipice and

then the night air ballooned his matted fur as he

slammed into a shallow pool along a highway

engines of noise and destruction rushing by in a blur

Adrenalin drained from the gray leaving only ache

artificial daylight streaked about him and he

let consciousness slip away knowing

that a senseless new course

of events and the phases

of the true moon would

now dictate his way

he tried to howl but

could only muster

two weak grunts:

release me




Robert Frazier is the author of eight previous books of poetry, and a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry. He has won an Asimov's Reader Award and been on the final ballot for a Nebula Award for fiction. His books include Perception BarriersThe Daily Chernobyl, and Phantom Navigation (2012). His 2002 poem "A Crash Course in Lemon Physics" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Recent works have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dreams & Nightmares, and Strange Horizons. His long poem "Wreck-Diving the Starship" was a runner-up for a 2011 Rhysling Award. He can be reached by email at raf@nantucket.net.
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