by Ken Anderson

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about the author: Ken Anderson is listed on some back cover of the Review as a humanities professor in the south. This is from Volume 2, issue one of the Review and an early favorite of mine, I believe I read it at a reading we held for the Review. -gcb


The Mariners


_ Like gulls, we hunkered on a dune, crying.
Shy, the fish-forms surfaced to stare, then dove.
When they spotted us, a squadron of pterodactyloids
would swoop down, shrieking like obsolete jets.
Purple clouds sifted a snow of ash.
Our sooty mouths looked just like holes burned in.
_ After stripping the strange corn growing near the shore,
we tracked down a herd of three-horned cattle-apes.
They stampeded less fast than the wolf in us pursued.
I'd chuck my bronze-shod javeln, letting it find
the shrugged shoulders where the thick heart drummed.
snagging a cow at the hot springs of its life.
We'd slit its throat, then gulp down handfuls of blood.
We'd flay it, then slice it up, wrapping the meat
in its cheesy fat to roast on our fire in the cave.
_ Some days we'd board the module, now rigged with a sail,
to fish the astonished bay, but all in vain.
Once, in the brown of dusk, we beached it high,
then piled our clattering against the rocks.
We touched: were we still sleeping back on earth?


_ Then the hard land no longer succored us.
The spent herd, like lemmings, trekked due north
to a desert pocked with vitriolic pools.
A sudden blight next shriveled up the corn
as if our misadventure in the sky
had somehow soured the subtle scheme of things,
spelling the end for this poor planet, too.
For three long years the heavens sifted ash,
a steady, bruise-colored snow on a sea of ink.
For three long years we fanned the fire within
when other embers faded in the dark.
_ One night our hunger blazed to a savage lust,
but a lust that whipped us on to forge the barb
that would pierce the jaundiced stare of the one-eyed fish.
We planted kernels of some corn I uncovered
beneath the lair of our skewbald bed of hides.
We worked them till they pricked up their flesh-pink ears.


_ The strong red wine of health now flushed his cheeks.
The first down on his lips had bristled to a beard.
The ash had charred his chest to a brace of coals.
I held out a trembling hand in longing for
some way to reach across both space and time.
I stoked the fire in him, and he in me.
We warmed each other that way through the nights.
_ On the hunt we had tracked down trust; on the hides, love.
And love would bag the unsought quarry, death,
for marooned on this desolate rock in space, we had not
endured a ring of hell, but a genesis!
Who can refuse, despite a world, if Love
will sleep with him only in the guise of a man?


_ I hunker on a dune, crying for him
snatched from my side mid-stride of his shambling grace.
I work the corn, I fish the bay by day,
counting the years in embers late at night,
I stir the fire, then lie back on the hides,
dreaming of how his first beard smudged his face.
Our love burns on. It flares up in my dreams.
How reckless he was, lynx-quick, chasing a herd.
Or home, spruced u in fleece-white pelts, how proud.
When he sloughed the pelts, how his creamy buttocks glowed.
_ The staring eye-fish blink from a velvet sea.
A breeze rattles the corn rows in the dunes.
The pterodactyls glimmer on the cliff,
and yet I couldn't quit this planet now,
not even if by chance, or miracle,
a rescue ship should trace our path through the stars.
I'll chisel KAMA into the module's prow
for the astronauts who next set foot down here.
I'll live as long as any man should live.
He'll live as long as I hold out, and more.

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