Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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Meat Machine

by Bill Wolfe

For Kate

They call you my body. They call me your mind.
I cause your hands to write this, so you are my slave.
If I tell you to put a gun to your head and pull the trigger,
the only hesitation will be mine. A needle in your arm,
or a burning stick of cancer in your mouth, you do as I say.
Yet you rule me.

What am I without you? I must serve you like a drudge or you
punish me, for you feel no pain. You just send me the message on
wires of protein and ions. Sedate me, and you can be carved
like a Christmas turkey. You don't seem to mind.
I betray you every day, yet you never leave. But you betray
me too, my friend, my enemy. For you are weak.

Your gender shapes me, yet I alter you at my whim. You neither
eat, nor run. I do these things. But for you, I could soar, you victim
of gravity, you thrall to physics. To these I am not bound, but I am
bound to you while you last. You are my vessel, my beast, my identity.
When I look in the mirror, I can only see you. Most of the time I forget
I am here but I can never forget you. You won't let me.

You badger me, slave. You tell me what you want and I strive to find a
way to get it. Would I ever do anything without your constant complaints?
Your hungers and thirsts and lusts lash me without mercy. I am driven by you
to work, to earn a living, to keep you in comfort, but I get my revenge.
For you are powerless in my grasp, and I can deny your demands if I choose.
And I do. Because neither of us can always have our way.

For I am no stranger to the whip. I drive you when you tell me you
are stiff or sore. Perhaps you tell me when you've had too much, but
it is I who determines when you've had enough. Sometimes I'm wrong,
of course. But you make no mistakes and achieve no success.
These things are mine.

If your heart hiccups and damages me, I will not let you win.
If you will not walk I will prop you on metal sticks and walk you
myself. Your hands will not do as I wish, perhaps, but they will
do as I command. They will write because I make it so. They will grasp that
pen, that fork, that piece of meat. It may not be pretty, but it is my will.

Yet it is not always war between us. Our children are pieces of us both and I
thank you for them. For they are strong and hale, and that is from you. They
are bright and curious and that is from me. And when they were taken away
I felt your heart breaking, yet it did not stop. You kept it going that time,
my friend, for I hadn't the strength. I fear that you take care of me far better
than I do you; and I feel shame.

We work together, sometimes, for both our sakes. I study you to learn your
secrets, your weakness, your need. When you are attacked by infection
I bring you medicines to help you fight our foe. I cause this to be, with your help
for neither of us will live forever. You were designed by forces beyond my
reckoning to fail some day. And it is good. It gives me something to look
forward to. It is an equality shared by all our kind.

We are a team, you and I. Without me you will not suffer, merely wither and die
like the vegetable they will call you. But without you I am trapped in a
nightmare beyond imagining. Stop, someday, as you must, but stop all the way
when you do. Do not simply stop listening to me while keeping your traitorous
heart pumping and your evil lungs taking air I have no use for. It is my greatest fear.
Die when you must, my meat machine, but for pity's sake take me with you!

© 2005, 2007 Bill Wolfe

Warped at birth by a radioactive shower of Strontium 90, Bill Wolfe is a survivor of ApheliCon 1 and a Health Physicist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. This is his first foray into the world of poetry. After this little project, he has revised the Edmund Gwenn quote to read: “Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult... And trying to write Poetry makes the first easier to swallow.”

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