[IMPRINTING by Terry McGarry]
He was the first moving thing they saw
as one by one they birthed themselves;
the old goose, badly burned, had limped
to the nearby cannery and laid them
in the machinery's warmth, and died.

In emergency mode he had held the fire
extinguishers, oblivious of the fading screams,
and when the barn flames had died, returned
to press gummed labels to the curves of cans,
silent, with no ears to hear their peeping.

Then the cans stopped coming down the belt.
Thus paused, he noticed movement underneath,
and bent to see the small white spheres
break open and release five tumbling lives.
He watched them as he waited for new orders,

but no one ever came. His batteries are weak,
but these little creatures need refueling more,
so he straightens up and rolls into the empty
yard, followed by a ragged yellow line.
For now, they seem content to peck the ground,

and he, with a labeler's soft touch,
to stroke their fluffy wings
and wonder when his turn will come to hatch.

Copyright © 1989 Terry McGarry.
Originally appeared in Aboriginal Science Fiction, March/April 1989.
Winner of that year's Boomerang Award for Best Poem.

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