By Steven Utley


I met the woman I love
in a prehistoric swamp
where she studied slime and moss,
pond scum and fungoid fibers.

She admired their mindless
determination as they
grappled feebly for purchase
on the unwelcoming shore
to drag themselves from the sea.

I studied rocks, hot and cold,
and could not have distinguished
daisies from dandelions,
roses from rutabagas;
I barely knew grass from trees,
not that grass and trees grew here
or would grow here till hundreds
of millions of years passed.

Come evening, our passion
for each other satisfied
momentarily, she would
share her other passion, her
love for the ur-citizens
of the nascent Plant Kingdom,
and call them by their first names:
Cooksonia, Psilotum,

Over reconstituted
dinners -- soy protein and such --
conversation would turn to
cucumbers and tomatoes
and other good things to eat.


They eulogized me,
four hundred million years
before I was born,
as the expedition’s
first casualty -- victim,
it appeared, of a
theretofore unknown,
unsuspected condition:
an anomaly
existing inside
another anomaly;
a hole in a hole.

Whatever it was,
I didn’t see it coming,
never felt a thing;
there were no remains,
just particles (they reasoned)
scattered along some
spacetime axis around which
Now and Then rotate.

Though I knew no more
science than your average
accountant -- I was
a business-school
graduate, come to count beans! --
they called me “martyr
to science” and gave
me footnotes in books hardly
anybody read.

Yes, and four hundred
million years ago they
carved my name in stone
that weathered away
in no time at all, long
before I was born.


It was a mistake to come here.
The accommodations are wretched,
and the light is overrated.
Anti-red! Anti-white! Bah!
Not that I can work at all:
my pigments boil in their tubes,
my canvas catches fire,
and I am cooked through.
Damn this airless rock!
Double damn its double suns!


Conan imbibes, flings
The tankard aside,
And wipes his mouth with
The back of his hand.
(Barbarian! Think
the other patrons.)
“Life,” he roars, “is good!”
He surveys the room.
“Time now,” he says, “to
kick some hobbit ass.”

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