“Diplomatic Incident” David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Flight of the Silver Horse

When Earth cracked open,
some few of us flew fast,
ahead of wavefronts, debris,
even the dazzle of pure energy.
We dozed in our steel womb,
between blue stars and red,
till supplies ran low,
even spare parts wore thin,
we decelerated for lifetimes.

We found a world,
a Cinderellish beauty,
oxygen, water, a biosphere,
it had everything,
including tall and graceful cities,
stately warriors with cool voices.

Season of the Virgin Queens

Hard-fought negotiations:
we need a temporary home,
but what can we offer?
Next to their colonies,
ours needs another name,
something like…shack.

Linguistic progress:
we offer luxuries, tools,
no weapons, of course,
toys, though we’ve seen no young.
They are fascinated with paper,
honey, velcro.

Mating season

The Ambassador plays hooky
from our meetings,
all flights are grounded,
except those powered by wings,
it takes two genders to quicken eggs,
two fly out to the Generative Hills,
only one comes back.

Birthing season

Long days and bright nights,
we renegotiate everything,
with the Ambassador’s daughter,
speaking through her mother’s
crumbling flesh,
staring through her milky eyes.

Our children fidget by the ports,
they need fresh air,
but we aren’t sure what the natives eat,
there is some taboo—
we fear misunderstanding.
Some men fidget too, by gunports,
this MUST become our home,
we can’t go back
into the long night of space.


David C. Kopaska-Merkel edited Star*line in the late ’90s, served as SFPA President, won the Rhysling award (long poem) in 2006 for “The Tin Men” (a collaboration with Kendall Evans), has edited two Rhysling anthologies, and was voted SFPA Grand Master in 2017. His poetry has been published in venues including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Polu Texni, Illumen, & Night Cry. He has written 31 books; the newest is The Ambassador Takes One for the Team. He edits Dreams and Nightmares magazine; @DavidKM on Twitter.


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