The Regal Penguin


As it so happens, I don’t have a lot of short stories that I’d consider worth publishing; but I do have one more that’s actually a poem in prose form.

I wrote this for the 2000 National Youth Poetry Slam Competition in San Francisco, CA.  It’s the only poem that I’ve performed in front of what I’d consider a “large” audience: around 2,000 people at the final show.

The nature of this poem/story is highly metaphorical, with a political bent.  I hope you all enjoy it.

The Regal Penguin

A regal penguin sat on the lower beach of his iceberg, watching the frozen sea, like it must be on the rest of the world, bumping lethargically against his primordial salt-sand crescent.

He wrinkled his nose and sniffed the cold salty wind. Wind from the sea, he thought, could never be sweet.

He lay down spread-eagle over soft snow and gazed up into the fuzzy dusk-dawn sky. Stars still shown brightly, but why shouldn’t they? The night has just begun. Calm, quiet night.

He dozed off, watching Hercules kill Hydra while the sea glittered up contentedly.

–And awoke to a rudely screaming sea, churning beneath him.

“Penguin, fraud!” it barked across a sand-filled larynx. “You told us Hercules would kill the hydra and behold! We are but mocked followers of blatant lies.”

But the penguin was unmoved. “I wear a suit, but I cannot fly.”

“Fraud, we say! Change these stars or we will torment you. We can force your hand, lay your career to waste; you must move the stars, or do you challenge us?”

The penguin laughed and replied, “Silly wave, I was president once.”

Churn away the floating iceberg and continue forever the sloshing tides.

But it was not his place. They could never believe him, they wanted freedom.—whose iceberg is flat and eroded.

The great penguin shook his head and wept to read the weather.

“A duck has an excuse, but not I;

And I come to save them, the waters, so vindictive—since I realize that they’re at their own peril they are wroth to listen to me when I tell them that the cold fronts they create do still make hurricanes—which never do they cease, but now who takes the blame?”

The penguin no longer watched the sky. Instead, he fasted atop the iceberg, waiting to be cremated for his ineptitude in dealing with a stubborn sea.

BUT NO! He couldn’t have done better.

How could he be expected to regulate a population who’s primary concern is that of removing him?

Melt the iceberg to loose the penguin and hold your breath forever.

He wept bitterly through eyes which had hardened into graying marble slits, unseeing beyond the walls he had built around him to keep out the meaningless movements of the hateful sea. They wouldn’t make a fool of him again. It was their world now; while it lasted, he was free.

By Dane Mutters, 2000

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