Chalcedony, a distant and unfriendly planet,
orbits an old-fashioned chartreuse sun
in an unsociable spiral galaxy.
It’s a centimeter or two away from earth
on a standard map of the universe,
Mercator Projection.

In a café on the planet’s surface,
it’s Monday morning, neither late nor early,
and Manique, of humanoid appearance,
is sipping a humanoid coffee.

At a nearby table, a stranger dressed in clocks
is playing patience on a screen.
He addresses no-one in particular.

I am Kronos, demi-god of the temporal.
My fingers type your lives,
yet all your tears can’t find the backspace key.

It’s a common Chalcedonian custom to speak
frequently and at random, although the wise are
often silent or asleep, but now
the cacophony fades and all is quiet.
Kronos sighs.

Everyone talks and no-one listens.
I’ve pressed pause and time has stopped,
a special effect.

He turns to his colleague Anubis.

I’m supposed to be inexorable, continuous, yet my desire
is a momentary peace.
Would you lend a hand, Anu? We’ll stack
the bodies in a corner and invite the other gods
for a trivia night.

Distracted by an itch, the lithe Anubis
is paying scant attention.
He scratches a furry ear.

I never wanted to personify death. I saw myself
as more of
a Chalcedonian’s best friend.

Outside the windows, the cityscape dissolves
in clouds of dust. Floccules form
and aggregate to birds that swoop and soar.

A whispering stranger beside Manique
comments on the scene.

Although winged concrete seems unlikely,
on days like these it’s better to pretend
and not to question, not to disavow
the facts of fantasy.

Manique is puzzled.

Even fantasy has rules. We’re not deities,
yet we can speak.

Have you forgotten?
Though their preference is yelling,
are telepathic.

Outside, everything is birds,
even the odd dodo.
The stranger sips her coffee

This planet’s an aberration
that soon enough will fly away.
I expect it’s for the best.

Anubis, ancient Egypt’s canine god of the afterlife; Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám (1859).

the evolution of fossils

17 thoughts on “chalcedony

  1. Perfectly wonderful poem except for telepathic coffee. It must burn the mouth in order to be savored. The mind just can’t reproduce that 🙂 Great artwork!

    • Thanks, it was a mad rush yesterday, but I enjoyed writing it. I agree about the coffee, and being me, I have a made-up explanation. 🙂 The senses of smell and taste are chemical, the most ancient senses we have. Unlike sight and sound, our brains aren’t really wired to remember/reproduce them. A consequence is that when we encounter various smells/tastes they can trigger powerful memories.

    • Yeah, you’re right about triggering memory. I’m 10 years old and back in my mother’s kitchen every time I smell chicken stew 🙂

  2. “Even fantasy has rules.” Was listening to physicist Brian Greene this morning on the radio. He said the same thing. More or less.

    Your last stanza is a prophetic warning to us all. Especially the odd dodo in the White House. But dodos are extinct, so I guess that analogy only works up to a point. I’ll say no more. Perhaps I’m reading too much of my own angst into it.

    • I agree, BG, even if only because for us humans to have an interest in it, fantasy has to have rules and restrictions on what is possible, and they have to relate closely to the real world. On the other side of the coin, if you suddenly discovered something completely fantastic actually happening in the real world (like my talented ducks) that would be a major problem, because, although there’s a lot we don’t know, day-to-day laws of nature are pretty well established, and if we break any one of them, the whole edifice would crumble.
      I share your concerns about where we’re headed, and what it means for the next generation, which is one reason I write fantasy. I fear there may be dodos, cuckoos, peacocks, and vultures in positions of power, to name a few species (no offense to our feathered friends). Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

      PS: Just noticed I managed five conjunctions in a row

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