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Ken Poyner


Of late, there has been the smile. Suspended on its own, always level with where a fourteen-year-old child’s smile might normally roost on a fourteen-year-old child’s face. Teeth at a glance seemingly a bit worn, lips pleasantly uneven. Not a flawed smile, but a smile with flaws that, with opportunity, could be grown out of.


I have been living with its stray appearances for many weeks now. At first, I thought it was some portent of greater wonders yet to come, and I kept waiting superficially unimpressed for something more sensible and cautious to reveal itself. By the end of the second week, I had accepted that likely the smile was the whole of the event. A simple smile, and any lasting meaning would have to be read into it. No unwavering road map here leading yet further away.


There is a lot of gravity stuffed into being afflicted with the unlikely. That a smile would appear to me sporadically is something I have to live up to:  a responsibility, even though I had no say in creating this seemingly symbiotic cohabitation. I must be willing to develop, refine and culture my sudden relationship with this smile. I do not know why the smile chose me, and I suspect the closed feathering of its choice or choices are obliquely unknowable. I must get by that ponderous fact and sink into the calculus of our uneven co-existence.


To know more, I have dabbled in dentistry. I’ve taken to reading in dermatology to the extent the science furthers lips. I have spent countless silent hours imagining whether behind those teeth there is a tongue, perhaps additional oral landscape.


From the mere thought experiment, I have decided that what I see of the smile is all there is to it. All is revealed: no supporting infrastructure, no parts unseen, nothing to infer. The situation simply is:  I am, at times, accompanied by a singular smile, a companion entirely separate from myself, whole in concept, yet still biomedically impossible even while recognizable.


What does this say about me?  Has something within me, or about me, drawn the smile in?  Is there some action or reaction, only to be recognized in the future, that required the smile make itself known to me?  Does the smile fill within me a deficient quality that, but for the smile, would leave me short of being an appropriate citizen?


Since it began to randomly appear, I have regarded the smile with no real emotional disbalance. Its presence has been a matter of method, description, functional relationship, meaning. Do I like the smile?  Do I hate it?  Do I think of the smile as male, female?  Do I find anything to fear in the smile?  Do I look forward to its unpredictable materializations?


Perhaps it wants to know. Perhaps that is its reason for showing itself:  to know what an ordinary man feels towards the spectral anomaly that has, to no known end, attached itself to him.


I do not yet know. And if I did, I would not tell it. Let it figure it out the way it should imagine the secrets it holds behind its parted lips and crisp teeth.


But cautiously I extend the flat of my littlest finger, an arm bent slightly down and the elbow hardly angled - intent on seeing if I can touch the fold where upper lip and lower lip exchange, intent on seeing what the reaction of the unwarranted smile might be, and what I am driven to do in return. Galaxies of discovery can be hung on unchallenged cause and effect.


Ken Poyner,


Stone the Monsters, or Dance – speculative poetry

Lessons From Lingering Houses – speculative poetry

Engaging Cattle – flash fiction

The Revenge of the House Hurlers – flash fiction

Avenging Cartography – flash fiction

Victims of a Failed Civics – speculative poetry

The Book of Robot – speculative poetry

Constant Animals – flash fiction

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