Lengthy Poem Contest

begin with the stone
by EA Kane

a. stone

you are a stone at the bottom of a river. you
are smooth and lightless and perfectly un-
manufactured. like a cricket, you stridulate
against other stones, rasping bluntly below
the current. your goal is to evolve. 


((you will become the cricket you so resemble)) go to b
((you are interested in the oysters which form the jagged reefs)) go to c
((you decide you would rather remain a stone)) go to s


b. cricket

the change from stone to cricket is
excruciating. you become jagged and bent,
spring-loaded. your insides puddle, jellied
compared to your previous form. your
stridulation becomes sharp and keening on
the bank of the river. the responses of the
cannot reach you anymore. you feel hunger.
you fear the shadows of birds.


((so you shall become the swallow on the branch)) go to d
((the cricket is your forever calling)) go to t
((can you return to the stone?)) go to p


c. oyster

the oyster, so like the stone, requires only
an opening up, a taking of breath. your
belly fills with the wonderful insides, so
soft and precious. you are a cradle for the
brackish water filtering through your gills.
you and dozens of your friends clutch
together. the slip of current like hands
through hair. 


((to feel that current…)) go to f
((you are satisfied in the oyster reefs)) go to t


d. swallow

you must go on. becoming the bird is a
more subtle transition, your wings fluffing
and elongating, your bones retreating to
your soft interior. your long legs talon. your
cry becomes sweet. your wings take you to
the sound of your former brethren, the
cricket, and you swallow him. you feed and
gather sticks in tandem. the desire to
consume wars with the desire to nest. 


((you need more, more teeth to eat)) go to h
((you need more, more teeth to protect)) go to j
((you are glad to have only the responsibility
of the swallow)) go to t
((why is your goal to evolve?)) go to q


e. sunflower

you crest the wave and become the seed,
floating along the gulf winds, delicate and
searching. you nestle in the turned earth
beside a tall wooden fence, propped
between two homes in a vain attempt at
privacy. you blink and you are a certain sun,
peering over the fence. your hunger turns
your face skyward, into the harsh bright of
the true sun, staring back. and the spears of
sunlight in your chest sate you, suckle you. 


((you want to give the sun more of what it deserves,
not merely feeding)) go to n 
((you are satisfied, worshipping)) go to t
((but what better to be the one worshipped?)) go to o


f. salmon

you lose your tough shell to the thin
whispers of bones hidden beneath your
scaly skin, fins strong and guiding you
down the current toward the sea. the sea is
a mother to you as always and you find her
in solace and wildness. the strength of your
muscles bouncing beneath your skin
propels you, commands you first into the
sea, soon back again, up the river through
the teeming waters in a torrent of
procreative desire, no time to count the
stones lining the bottom of the river. you
can’t fight.


((why would you? this is life)) go to t
((you miss the bottom of the sea, and the gentle walking among it)) go to l
((even this desire is not enough, you want to be purely undone)) go to i


g. bat

a fist of your material grows mottled and
molten and bursts in a flutter of leathery
wings through your chest. you are in that
flutter now, flapping to the darkest cave
wall to rest. you are tired and the desire
cannot follow you when you sleep, so you
allow the tired as your hooked feet clamp
onto the stony overhang and your body
goes limp, your ears pointed to the ground. 


((and you are satisfied)) go to t
((is that the only way to escape hunger? sleep?)) go to i


h. snake

you chimera out, lengthening to a thick
ribbon of scales and muscle. two needle
fangs sharpen out of your mouth, silken
against your palate, wicked with your jaw
so flexible and jarring. like this, you devour
the bird of your past, your long body
heaving the dense clump of feathers down
your throat. you hunger and eat until you
are lumpy as a candy necklace. in the heat
of the yellow grasses along the edge of the
forest, you huddle like a tape in a cassette. 


((is there is a way to eat more, to eat everything?)) go to k 
((your shape is satisfied, digesting and frightening)) go to t


i. queen bee

you shrink, minisculing down in horrible
pain as your skeleton returns to the outside,
wrapping around you in crisp, glossy skin,
your silvery wings folded over your long,
striped thorax. the scent of pheromones
jerks you toward the sound of buzzing,
toward a hive in lemon scent smelling of
home, toward the warm smell of sex a
dozen meters off. you prepare to fuck the
lives out of fifteen drones, a menagerie that
would kill most other bodies of yours. you
feel your thorax ache for it, your body
entirely arranged for it, your existence
meaning nothing more than it. the craving
commands you.


((that’s perfect to you)) go to t
((must you hand yourself over like this?
must your one job be this?)) go to m


j. wolf

the scent of the forest blows through your
mind. your beak becomes a snout,
wrinkling in the onslaught. the freshness of
the water like the feeling of wind ripping
through wings, the ichor of the dirt, the
waxy ripeness of the winterberries. the
desire for melody compels you, and you
hear your new throat howl, your paws
scrape the earth. your feathers bristle into
thick, rooted fur. you smell others like you.
they come to your call, sneaking in a line
through the brush. they recognize you, it
seems. recognize the blood of the bird on
your chin. they are your partners, and these
are your teeth to protect them.


((and protect them you will do, as long as you can)) go to t
((but is that all you can do?
protect those whom your teeth may touch?)) go to o 
((but there is more to the roil of your body than protection))  go to h


k. bear

you plump, fur rustling. all about you
thickens, becomes ursine and dangerous,
claws wicked, teeth both sharpening and
blunting. you click your canines together,
grind your molars. your hunger manifests
like a morbid, rotund god, stalking you at
all times. you eat the berry, the root, the
grass, the bug, but also the flesh, the bone,
the sinew, fish, carrion, child. but the task
is never done, the desire never sated, and
you crawl viscous with craving.


((and you accept it)) go to t
((and you plead for relief)) go to m  


l. lobster

you wash down the river into the ocean,
your carapice folding over you, salt water
catching your gills and the spaces between
your armor.  you form thick claws for
crushing and seizing. you float in your body,
like a candy in its wrapper. you know you
will only grow larger, and shed your shell,
and grow and shed, until you are caught
hungry and monstrous in the salted water.
in theory, you may live forever. you may
become the next mystery of the deep. you
may dream of sunlight green and blue
beneath the glass bars of the waves. 


((and that is enough)) go to t
((but you know that the sunlight is golden? that it shines hot?)) go to e


m. machine

your heart stops, but you remain alive.
consciousness continues, narrowing like
the tip of a pin. your blood pauses and your
skin stiffens with a snap, becomes rigid
around you like callous. you shine with a
polished light, steel skin wrapping the
twisted wire veins and circuitboard organs.
fans whirr where your lungs should be. you
have wrapped backwards around to the
stone, in a way, become a lump of
consciousness with a beautifully
articulated carbon-fiber skeleton. yet no
longer are you the simple, unneeding spirit
of the stone, which wants nothing but the
inevitable change. you feel desire still, like
a phantom limb, and have no way to satiate


((but the frustration is satisfying)) go to t
((anything to make the craving stop)) go to g 
((how is this different from the constant ache
of the bear or the swallow?)) go to r 


n. human

the desire for what you cannot have–and
only this desire, like seagulls around a
locked garbage bin–lances through you as
you experience finally that falsified form,
those smooth, articulated fingers which
skipped you once across the current of the
river when you were but a stone. what is
green and simple of you becomes the soft,
multi-colored flesh, becomes the fibrous
muscle beneath, becomes the osseous core.
you are a wicked, craving heart and you are
beating. you want everything now, not only
that which is past or that which is future,
that which belongs to others or to the earth,
but even, desperately, the earth itself, and
its satellites, and its stars–and you say that
you worship them, these desires. you say
the sun is above you, how could you reach
it? you say the earth is your tightrope, you
would fall without it. but your hunger is
patient, of all the kingdoms somehow your
hunger has patience, your most disturbing
of hungers, and deep in your soft, furless
belly, you believe all must become yours.
that it is the way.


((that is true, and what you stand by, and what satisfies you)) go to u
((that is cruel, please, you only want to eat)) go to k
((that is cruel, please, you only want pleasure)) go to i
((that is cruel, please, you only want to sleep)) go to g 
((that is cruel, please, you only want to protect)) go to o


o. sky

your form dissolves. you lose it to light, to
pure color, soft gradient blues and wispy
whites in the daytime air. wind tugs your
clouds along, playing with you. you shelter
everything. your roof is the original roof of
all creatures. sometimes, your clouds
bundle up, dark and pouting, and rain, but
even that is a communion deep upon the
rolling plains which gives them life.
sometimes the creatures are angry for this,
but even the sweetest child will rebel. you
will merely give to them with your clouds
what has been demanded by the wind and
the sea, and the dust and the heat, and
shelter them all the while. 


((this is the way you love to exist, to aid the world)) go to t
((this is too much responsibility,
is it not enough to eat and be eaten?)) go to h


p. the impossible

you cannot. there is no reverse button on
evolution. you may continue into the
uncertain land of the next step in your
journey, but the path is gated with iron and
holly behind you. once you choose desire,
you must reckon with it. 


((yet you truly cannot go on)) go to d
((but the desire to go back is of a particular creed)) go to n


q. purpose 1

the frenzy of your desire leaves you feeling
empty. what is the purpose of your
evolution? the keen of your desire? is there
mud on you? should there be?


((do you desire to eat more and different things?)) go to k 

is that enough?  

((can it be base desire that drives you?)) go to i

what more is this than the stone, which
feels nothing? which is not hungry or tired?
which craves only to be worn down by the
river, until none but sand is left? 

((is to continue forever enough,
and never feel the sting of apathy?)) go to l
((or is desire the wrong game for you?)) go to m


r. purpose 2

perhaps you have asked for the first time or
perhaps you have asked a thousand times.
how does one desire trump the others? how
does one obey a king? defend a castle? kill
for an idea? what is precious to you? have
you asked yourself? 

no one is telling you not to kill. only to be
sure. to feel so ferociously no one would
dare approach the breadth of your bite. 

so perhaps you are a machine in a metal
casing. perhaps you are the bear beside the
tent flaps at night. perhaps you are the
queen bee and all the title entails. or
perhaps you are beneath the current of the
river waiting to stridulate. 


s. end 1

where is the end of evolution? the question
frightens even the wicked stone of your
heart. once, you rested further up the river
in the sunlight and a human held you in his
hand, the oil on his fingertips wearing at
your slick surface. you almost spoke to


t. end 2

you are the creature of your desire. but
what is desire?


u. fire

you believe that all must become yours.
that it is the way. you believe in the pale
seashell of night that you were created by
evolution to consume what you desire. your
skin roses in the air, becomes red and hot
and bursts into the sky like diamonds. you
ignite the sunflowers and the crickets. you
consume the bears and the bees, the snakes
and the swallows. you boil the river which
cradles the oyster and salmon. you melt the
metal. you blacken the sky. you want it all.
even if it is ash? 





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