Ken Poyner

Advances in Mining


There is nothing in that nebula.

From the chromatics, an average surveyor
Can tell there is no money to be made:
All the mineral wealth too dispersed,
The mining needed too intensive –
And, with union wages to be paid,
Margins fall flat.  With one hard equipment loss
Any profitability drops into the black hole
And the memos from corporate
Start piling up at Ganymede way-station.

If we could cut some corners – go single
On the airlocks instead of double,
Keep the food rations to adequate nutrition alone,
Drop off the hazard pay,
And bring everyone in no matter their experience
At novice wages:  then it might work.

Less automation, more pick axes.

Maybe a tarnished safety record,
But what would be the loss
Of a few ordinary workers, set against
The backdrop of mineral for a useful Universe?
Closer to home we can create
The model worksite, a place where pressure
Suits don’t have to hold for as many hours,
Where the hops between clusters of ore
Are shorter and as thin as paper:  predictable. 

If we put out a call to the desperate,
The expendable will reply, and no one
Will know any better.  We can make
Getting money out this galactic anomaly minimally profitable,
Meet modest quotas, and collect hard won bonuses.
Our brilliant spectrum of star burst industry
Could run the periodic table and something
Might actually be made out of this stellar graveyard.

Just don’t get too close to the hired help.


Emergency Repairs


Imagine all the inhabitants
Floating at the ends of their safety tethers:
Many of them will be clinging
To the hand rails at the windows,
Looking to see if they can catch you
In your magnetic sled
Riding the exterior rails to their
Restoration of gravity.  Someone
Will offer a joke about the electric
Going unpaid.  One teenager, male,
Will ask another teenager, female,
The only question that ever really matters:
Have you ever done it with the gravity down?
A child marvels that his toys can fly
And cries like a flatlander when they fly away.
A wife will tell her husband he should
Have used the cornering magnets and he
Will say but my love it has been
Two years since the gravity last went glitch.
Couples that have only known the spin
Will hold each other like water in a polarized
Bottle, crossing tethers,
And hoping not to hang themselves
When the gravity comes sniffling back.
You sit straight in your regal sled
And know the key to gravity
Is this grumpy controller or the next.
Tools plugged into sockets, access codes
Flashing on your wrists, a hundred eyes
Swim their blurred vision around
You and your magnificent
Workman’s gestures.  This,
Living brother of all the machines that sustain,
Is your moment.

      return to poetry

Ken Poyner lives in the lower right hand corner of Virginia with his power-lifter wife and a number of house animals.  His 2013 e-book, Constant Animals, 42 brief but unruly fictions, is available at all the various e-book sites, and you should go buy it so he does not have to haunt you.  Recent work is out in Corium, Analog Science Fiction, Spittoon, Poet Lore, Mobius and many other places. He webs at