Zero Standard — Gregory Kimbrell

The eyes of carved pterodactyls shed tears of
acid that eat away at their stone contours and
bore holes through the marble floor tiles that
reflect the cold light of the supernova. Inside
the amber globe, the imprisoned insects hum.

But here, there are no ears made of flesh and
cartilage to perceive sound. Under the arches
stand electric automata that have received no
instruction in centuries. The copper plates of
their armor have fused into inalterable bonds.

No one knew then, and nobody is living now
to speculate, when the legendary, transparent
wyrm that foretells the obliteration will come
and the minerals that make up this lost world
will break from their patterns and turn to gas.

The black smoke of the everlasting fires stain
the vault of the fortress built in the pink sand
of a desert at the end of which is nothing but
another, emptier waste of manmade boulders
from aborted, previous cycles of colonization.

The winds lift the dust of the gray courtyards
into short-lived spirals among the fatal jewels
embedded in the stones of the fountains that,
long ago, ran dry. Meanwhile, on the outcrop,
the last of the basilisks enters its eternal sleep.


Gregory Kimbrell is the author of The Primitive Observatory (Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Manticore—Hybrid Writing from Hybrid Identities, Alcyone, Whatever Our Souls, Parentheses, Blackbird, and other publications. He is the events and programs coordinator for Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. More of his writing, including his magnetic sci-fi/horror haiku, can be found at