Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry Issue 30

by John C. Mannone

johnm1Welcome to Issue 30 of Silver Blade. One thing you will notice is the wide variety of voices and styles of presentation, let alone speculative texture. At the last minute, we lost a couple poems that provided better bridges for the rest of the collection, but you will not be disappointed with this unusual collage of poetry. The complementary artwork was found using the Advance Google Image search. Images might have been enhanced and/or combined with simple applications (PowerPoint, iPhoto, Word).

We open with Margaret Wack’s dark post apocalyptic poem, “Conflagration,” and quickly move into Mary Soon Lee’s poem rendered as a 2-minute play, “First Lesson.” Ash Krafton’s poem may have physics and astronomy flavors, but the physical is transcended to the metaphysical in “Temporally Illuminate.” This segues nicely into John W. Sexton’s well-crafted “Seeming Space.” And this is followed by yet more astronomy-based scifi work of John Philip Johnson, “Lesser Lunar Geese.” Wendy S. Delmater’s “fan fiction” fantasy poem, “Fëanor,” is based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s character. Finally, in the spirit of a speculative poem in translation, Ef Deal translates this poem into French.

John C. Mannone

Conflagration

Margaret Wack_swarm of gargoyles in hellLike hungry birds we circled destruction,
eyes wide and glittering: we were eighteen,
starving for fire. We drove the narrow strip
of street again and watched the buildings blaze
outrageously and were appeased. A brief
augur of ruination sweetened in our open
mouths: we were in love, we slipped a smile
between our lips tasting the blood
and honey there. World without end they said
but even then they knew the call
of conflagration, knew the eagerness
for sirens and for bloody, burning screams
and thirsted for the still silence,
the smoky, hollow dawn that follows fire.
Soot in our hair, we wake bare and bereft
and taste the mist, and praise the sun, and roll
naked and lovely over the scorched earth,
and we sing.

 

–Margaret Wack

 

Margaret Wack has had her work previously published in ditch, Eclectica, and Strange Horizons, among others. She lives in Massachusetts.
 
Editor’s Image Note: The image is a combine of a swarm of gargoyles (gargoyle queen) with a classical painting of the Lake of Fire (artist could not be identified)

First Lesson

                        Scene: Prince Keng sitting on a rock.
                        The dragon enters, flying down.
 
DRAGON Good morning, Princeling. Have you come to
           admire my magnificence?
 
KENG    My father sent me. He said you would teach me
           to be king.
 
DRAGON Your father? Your father is your greatest
           threat aside from me.
 
                        The dragon menaces the boy, who holds his place.
 
DRAGON Good. You’re brave. You’ll make a fine king.
           Now go away.
 
KENG    That’s all? Don’t you have advice for me?
           I thought….
 
DRAGON An excellent habit for a king, thinking.
           You should try it more often.
 
KENG    [Kneeling] Please. Teach me what a king
           should know.
 
DRAGON A king should know that he cannot know
           all he should know. Men’s lives are
           too short.
 
KENG    Then teach me what I most need to know.
 
DRAGON I tried to do so. Perhaps you weren’t
           paying attention.
 
KENG    You said men’s lives are short. That my
           father is my greatest threat–why? Why is
           he a threat?
 
DRAGON Because men will measure you against him,
           and find you lacking. No matter how hard
           you try, his reputation will outmatch you
           as the tiger outmatches the rabbit.
 
KENG    That would be true of anybody you chose as
           king. No one can equal him.
 
DRAGON No one? As for you, if you ever take the
           throne, I advise you to begin badly.
           Quickly quash people’s hopes. Then any
           mistakes you make will be no more than they
           expect, and any successes will appear the
           greater.
 
KENG   No.
 
DRAGON No?
 
KENG    If I am king, I will do the best I can.
           From the beginning.
 
DRAGON Good.
 
KENG    But you just said I should begin badly–
 
Mary Soon Lee_prince and the dragon
DRAGON Indeed. And I may argue the merits of that
           at a later date. What pleased me is that
           you didn’t blindly agree. However wise his
           advisors, a king should weigh their words
           for himself. And so ends your first lesson.
           You may come back tomorrow.
 
                        Keng bows, turns to leave, turns back.
 
KENG    What would you have done if I’d left when
           you first told me to go?
 
DRAGON Eaten you.
 
 
–Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but now lives in Pittsburgh. She is working on an epic fantasy in verse, the first book of which has been nominated for the Elgin Award (“Crowned,” Dark Renaissance Books, 2015). The opening poem, “Interregnum,” won the 2014 Rhysling Award for best long poem.
 
Editor’s Image Note: Picture courtesy tumblr.com (artist unknown)

Temporally Illuminate

Ash Krafton_eye in the universeTime began, born
with a big bang
that flung fire and dust
into nothingness
Time slows as we
accelerate and
approach
the speed of light
Time travelers, we see
into the past
so easy that rocket
scientists do it without even thinking
Stars, the footprints
of time’s endless march,
cast thin light
but it is light
enough to see

 

— Ash Krafton
Ash Krafton (@AshKrafton) writes speculative fiction and poetry. She’s also the author of novel-length fiction, including the Demimonde trilogy and The Heartbeat Thief (under the pen name AJ Krafton). Krafton is a member of SFPA and Pennwriters and writes for the QueryTracker blog. She lurks in the heart of the Pennsylvania coal region but can be spotted at www.ashkrafton.com.

Editor’s Image Note: Eye inside the universe, the merging of two images: a visualization created from an Enzo adaptive-mesh simulation* of a cube of universe two billion light years on each edge—revealing a large-scale structure of galaxy clusters—is combined with an image of the human eye (galaxy-eye) created by Dyarchy (https://dyarchy.wordpress.com/author/dyarchy/)

*The simulation ran over one million CPU-hours on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Thunder supercomputer. The data analysis and visualization were run on SDSC’s Data Star and NCSA’s Cobalt.) Science credit: Michael Norman (UCSD), Image credit: M. Hall (NCSA)

Seeming Space

John W Sexton_Quintuplet clusterwhere silence lies heavy …
           blackbird’s beak a keepsake
           deep in her spacesuit

some kind of interference
“… rodents thread
my persuade shoes …”

           scab by scab Dr Anjellig
           moves Undone Bridge
           to Loss Hinges

in their blue sinstripe suits
with vulva
pockets

           the snorting meadows …
           tip-toe
           through the pigslips

they’ll be forever children
till their cryosleep
ends

           not a word
           from Voltaire and Swift
           since taking up on Deimos

fill your mind
to ride
the telepathic horse

           after eating the pie chart …
           silence descends
           over the need for need

in each follicle
billions
of souls

           the stars so spaced
                      seeming
           space so dark

 

— John W. Sexton

 
John W. Sexton was born in 1958 and lives in the Republic of Ireland. His fifth poetry collection, The Offspring of the Moon, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2013. His poem The Green Owl was awarded the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007 for best single poem, and in that same year he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. His speculative poems are widely published and some have appeared in Apex, The Edinburgh Review, The Irish Times, Mirror Dance, The Pedestal Magazine, Rose Red Review, Silver Blade, Star*Line and Strange Horizons.
 
Editor’s Image Note: Hubble Uncovering the Secrets of the Quintuplet Cluster (Credit: ESA/NASA)

Lesser Lunar Geese

John Philip Johnson_anser and the moon

Smaller, pale as skim milk,
sometimes they fade to translucence,
almost vanishing, especially
in the powdered light
on the surface of the moon.
Unlike their robust cousins,
they don’t migrate every year.
When weak, or in unsynchronized breeding,
they find some remote place on earth—
a windswept arctic island,
a rocky, ice-clenched mountain top—
where they fall deep into themselves,
letting their metabolisms approach zero.
Of all the lunar migrants, their torpor
is the most profound, yet on the moon
their glassy stares seem to grip
all the more tightly
the blue disc of Earth.

They often cut themselves,
landing in jagged, isolated craters,
and bleed a colorless fluid
which freezes in patches on their down.
Many of them succumb to stillness.
Time almost stops for them all.
Suddenly, after a season,
at some twitch inside,
they rise from the near-dead,
their wings push against the next-to-nothing,
and the polarized light of the moon
helps pour them back to earth.
Left behind are the tiny, bright spots
of those among them turned
most completely into light.

— John Philip Johnson

 

John Philip Johnson has had recent poems in or forthcoming from Rattle, Pedestal, Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, F&SF, Apex, Mythic Delirium, and elsewhere, including Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry.”
 
Editor’s Image Note: A 19th-century illustration of how the moon’s surface would look to a visitor from Earth. From the book The Moon by Nasmyth and Carpenter ( 1874). The B&W artwork was rendered in sepia to match a page out of Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis (1753) depicting an obsolete constellation, Anser, The Goose, in the jaws of Vulpecula, The Fox. 

Fëanor

Your embryonic lust for light,
Nascent, formless blaze;
Pride, catalyst of consequence,
Doomed despot of bleak phantasms,
Twisting soulless internment.
Prison of radiance.

Words spoken, pulsing ruin,
Transcending pustule of twisted fury:
Elemental passion,
Entropic damnation.

Loath to follow, bound by blood,
The followers of your labyrinthine promise
Bitter crossing to abeyant doom.

Beggared by your flowering ego
Weary, rambling, frayed, forlorn

They sought your jewels of vengeance
And found your natal star.

— Wendy S. Delmater

 

 

 

Votre convoitise embryonique pour la lumière
Éclat sans forme, naissant
L’orgueil, catalyseur de consequence
Despote condamné des fantasmes sombres
Internement sans âme, tordue.
Prison de rayonnement

Paroles prononcés, pulsation de la ruine
Pustule transcendant de déchaînement torsade
Passion élémentaire
Damnation entropique

Réticents à suivre, liés par le sang
Les adhérents à votre promesse labyrinthique
Passage pénible au destin dormant.

Appauvris par votre arrogance grandissant
Épuisés, vagabonds, abattus, délaissés

Ils ont cherché à vos joyaux de la vengeance
et trouvé votre étoile natale.

— Ef Deal (Translator)

Ef Deal teaches French and English in South Jersey, and writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror in very short doses. Her work has been published in The Fortean Bureau, Flashshots, and Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine.

In translating this work, I sought a vocabulary that not only recalled the consonance of the original work but also evoked the epic nature of the story itself. I majored in classic French literature, studying Baudelaire in France, and I tried to draw on his nightmare vision to portray the tragic despair of The Silmarillion.

Editor’s Notes: (Cited from Wikipedia) Fëanor (IPA: [ˈfɛ.anɔr]) is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendarium who plays an important part in The Silmarillion. He was the eldest son of Finwë, the High King of the Noldor, and his first wife Míriel Serindë. Fëanor’s mother, Míriel, died shortly after giving birth, having given all her strength and essence to him. Finwë remarried, and had two more sons, Fëanor’s half-brothers Fingolfin and Finarfin, and two daughters, Findis and Írimë.

Fëanor is best known as the creator of three gems, the Silmarils, which figure prominently in The Silmarillion and are mentioned briefly in The Lord of the Rings. His name is a compromise between Faenor (in Tolkien’s fictional language of Sindarin) and Fëanáro, meaning “Spirit of fire” (in Quenya, another of Tolkien’s invented languages). He was originally named Finwë or Finwion after his father and later Curufinwë (“Skilful (son of) Finwë”). Fëanor wedded Nerdanel daughter of Mahtan, who bore him seven sons: Maedhros, Maglor, Celegorm, Curufin, Caranthir, Amras, and Amrod.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%ABanor

Editor’s Image Note: Fëanor and Fingolfin from J. R. R. Tolkien’s work (cited from Wikipedia)