The Captain Speaks

The computer reports the date and fills his glass.
It’s the future, but he’s too tired for it.
There were hardly any worlds
left to conquer,
he moans. The computer
does not care. I stabbed flags into empty deserts
all my life. Then they were bulldozed, I guess.
Become a spaceman! they said. Adventure! Sex!
But no one says: oh, there aren’t actually
any alien civilizations to battle, didn’t we tell you?
No blue-scaled trollops to woo, or phosphorescent jaguars to shoot
with a heavy and beautiful laser gun. There is nothing
out here.

But once, some little thing
ran out of the sand. It was
clear and beautiful, like a ship of glass,
like a hermit crab—that size and
made of a million balanced pieces.
It was ornate. It was impossible.

I lowered my shaking pistol
and fired three shots into the ground
and it ran and ran …

—Leslie J. Anderson