k e n    p o y n e r



Jason wanted to slaughter the hogs.

Jason had run away to the circus, deciding early on to be a circus lion, to spend his days roaring as if on queue, waiting for the crack of the whip before leaping through the hoop held by the scantily clad older-than-she-looks tamerís aide. He had learned the grassland stare, the unambiguous disinterested hunch of the shoulders.

Other boys ran away to the circus and became monkeys and lower primates and one became an elephant. The elephant would stand outside the main tent and swing his trunk in a joy that simply organized ordinary sun, and was to be seen by any dancing necromancer as no place to go looking for unworthiness.

Nights, the cages would be abuzz with the conversation of how each had been an unassuming boy and each had changed his own expectations. Always, though, there was the understanding that while all of them had been boys, each now was a different animal. Never again could they stand together as boys. Always in the circus they would be fed differently, washed differently, entertained differently, housed separately, and taught different tricks. Boys could be like other boys, but across species uniformity was seditious.

Jason went out to perform his first night at the circus and found he was not the only lion. While the other lions — who had been boys in towns the circus had visited miles before they came upon Jasonís town — sat on platforms, Jason sat in the dust. All the first show he was not asked to leap through any hoops, and the bedazzling grandmother, with her whip and hoop and feathered headdress, paid no attention to him at all.

And, when he got back to the cage, dinner was a case of dominance. The older, more experienced lions — who had started as boys but would by now have in their home towns become complete if lackluster men — edged all the newer lions aside, leaving only scraps and offal. These grander, lusted lions had seen the roles passed down to the recent additions, their inept existence as part of the backdrop, as one of many lions when a few lions would do. They knew themselves to be the master cherries of the cattle car.

So, when the circus made its run back through the same outlandish land of credulity where Jason had signed up, Jason decided being a boy on a working farm compared favorably with waiting to move up in a lion hierarchy, just to leap through hoops and sit on a fine plywood platform.

So Jason came home. He looked about at the farm animals exulting in their ease and confidence of place. His own place was not so settled, and certainly not as fixed as in the circus. In his absence, many of his duties had been taken over by his younger sister. His family had come to see her not simply as bait for marriage, but as a worker in and of herself, not as strong as Jason, but smarter, and given to leverage. She could even wear Jasonís coveralls, with a bit of tailoring.

But, as a boy, Jason still had more that he could do at home than at the circus to make his place, to create an understanding of his talents and the relation of those talents to the circumstances of all the other animals. He had a breadth to extend beyond oversized nonhuman notions and importance. He could wrangle nothing and in the wrangling it would be something sweet and loblolly and stunningly simple.

Jason wanted to slaughter the hogs.



KEN POYNER has published during the last forty years perhaps three hundred poems and stories in sixty or so venues, with his latest chapbook being Sciences, Social. He is currently working on a series of poems he might entitle ďHaving Your Robot and Eating Him, TooĒ if his wife lets him. She seldom likes his titles. Work for the summer is coming out in PANK, Asimovís Science Fiction, Fear of Monkeys, Full of Crow, A Clockwise Cat, and here and there like overdone muffins dropped from thirty thousand feet into the wind.

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