The Contest

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And found and lost again—scanning the faintest Signal, immaterial in origin, A chance effect or glitch which graphed would look Like crosstalk from internal microphones Recorded by a fluke of circumstance. His balance seemed off. The contest went on. It was seasonably cold. A warship scanned The distance as pink cloud-bars cooled to ash High above. Not another ship in sight. He cleared his mind of the old flux and passed The road to the abandoned camp: no hope Of hospitality there, nor pent lair To keep the quester from his quest. In ruins, It lay. Like his own premises, it lay. The contest and the clock determined him, His freedom being to conduct close thoughts That marched in order through the drumming pass. A small redoubt of trees fired overhead: A shot of starlings whose dense patterns wove Black tapestries. The cruiser disappeared, Enveloped in night’s planetary arc. The birds froze. But a focus was unfolding— Eyes the color of ice sparked into fire. They meant to hold him subject to their state. Against this play of will and ripe to yield He stood. He stood between the sky and water. He stood in doubt, like time’s last silhouette. Then night sealed up all. The contest went on.