Many poems have stellar allusions, whether the stars are in the edge of creation, in a bowl, in a pocket, in a well or in the eye of a cat. The series begins with creation and ends with destruction, but there is interesting life in between. Image information is included in the Editor’s Notes at the end of each poem. Please enjoy.
Once there was a potent, erratic
particle that contained everything.
And because it contained everything,
it was entirely, acutely self-aware.
It wobbled around massively, creating
space and destroying time, preserving
momentum and reversing entropy.
It played with the speed of light,
just for giggles, and let it run
at a million wavelengths of orange
peel per 9 billion dragonfly flaps.
That was a hoot. Then it fiddled
with vacuum impedance and
the polyester suit electron charges
for a while longer, just because it could.
It got bored, it got excited, it got
forgetful, it recovered. It split, it
combined, it undulated lasciviously.
Eventually, it decided to die, just to
see what would happen. So, it created
and jumped off the edge, falling
at variable speeds until it found one it liked.
Its bottom hit the bottom while its top
was still at the top, and it squirted fragments
of matter that became stars and coffee and
dogs and–oddly, in only two places–unicorns
and flying monkeys. Humans came later,
and because the clever ones liked fireworks,
they grossly misnamed the Big Squirt. That
was ok. Eventually the octopi will wise up
and get their shot at physics; then we’ll see
a thing or eight.
— Michael Kulp
Michael Kulp is a writer and father of two mostly grown children who have survived his shenanigans through smarts they inherited from their mother.
His creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry have appeared in consumer magazines, newspapers, and literary journals. His first book, Random Stones: A book of poetry was published in 2016.
His work has been included in the following venues: Adventure Racing Magazine, Ancient Paths Literary Magazine, The Backwoodsman, Barrow County (GA) News, Blink-Ink, Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine (UK), Firefly Magazine*, Friday Flash, Fiction, Gravel, Gyroscope Review, Haiku Journal, Ink, Sweat & Tears*, KEROSENE 2012—Burning Man in New York City, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Micropoets Society, Stripped Lit 500*, Three Line Poetry (anthology), Travel Thru History, We Said Go Travel, Where the Mind Dwells (anthology), Yellow Chair Review.
Editor’s Notes: To complement “How It All Started,” the image was chosen from the paper, “Observation of a New Particle with a Mass of 125 GeV.” The event was recorded with the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) detector* in 2012 at a proton-proton center of mass energy of 8 TeV. The event shows characteristics expected from the decay of the SM Higgs boson to a pair of Z bosons, one of which subsequently decays to a pair of electrons (green lines and green towers) and the other Z decays to a pair of muons (red lines). The event could also be due to known standard model background processes.
*The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) smashes groups of protons together at close to the speed of light: 40 million times per second and with seven times the energy of the most powerful accelerators built up to now. Many of these will just be glancing blows but some will be head on collisions and very energetic. When this happens some of the energy of the collision is turned into mass and previously unobserved, short-lived particles – which could give clues about how Nature behaves at a fundamental level – fly out and into the detector.
CMS is a particle detector that is designed to see a wide range of particles and phenomena produced in high-energy collisions in the LHC. Like a cylindrical onion, different layers of detectors measure the different particles, and use this key data to build up a picture of events at the heart of the collision.
Scientists then use this data to search for new phenomena that will help to answer questions such as: What is the Universe really made of and what forces act within it? And what gives everything substance? CMS will also measure the properties of previously discovered particles with unprecedented precision, and be on the lookout for completely new, unpredicted phenomena. (Citation source: http://cms.web.cern.ch/)
‘It will be as if, in the place of the stars, I had given you a great
number of little bells that knew how to laugh . . . I, too, shall
look at the stars. All the stars will be wells with a rusty pulley.
All the stars will pour out fresh water for me to drink . . . What
makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that
somewhere it hides a well . . .’
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry, translated from the French by Katherine Woods
Every day I try to speak. I used to know
How to move lips and gums and teeth, tongue striking hard
To shape a sentence—or a smile. Signs recognized,
Though wordless, fail me too: I think I dream, sometimes,
By the window, watching cars, waiting, willing you home.
You don’t notice the longing in my eyes—green
Like the sea, the green you drank deep
Each time we stayed at the old house by the lake,
Pumping the well first thing every morning,
Black iron handle giving a sharp creak. The last time
We tasted that mossy, stone-soaked water, you fell asleep
Reading, dreaming in the sun. Pyewacket slipped her leash,
Ran down the beach, paws taking in tiny stones,
Siamese fur a blur at dusk, eyes gleaming bright
Green like the lights across the shore. Time was
We’d sit on the green bench all night, heads
On each other’s shoulders, watching stars,
Glassy-eyed Pyewacket winking as she purred
her own rumbling rhythm on our laps.
That evening she ran free, she never came home.
She had slept with me since a kitten, so familiar, yet
She’d come to me a mystery; tamed me with feline magic,
Her chirps a witch’s charms that only I understood.
When you woke up, I was out walking, and you crawled,
Frantic, calling, under the house, your trousers muddy,
Your lime shirt sprinkled with cobwebs. She wasn’t trapped
Under the boat. She didn’t bob against the dock,
Caught in your fishing lines like a magical carp.
She was gone, her vanishing act as mysterious
As her arrival. I cried bitter water.
Two days later, I went rowing without you
Around the dangerous bluff, missing her,
Blaming you. The currents tore an oar away.
Waves smashed a log into the boat.
I love the water but never learned to swim.
Drowning, I looked up toward heaven, the deep
Green weeds tangling my feet, green water rippling overhead,
Green leaves framing a sky so far away. At least the stars
Twinkled to me, purring with furry light, while I lay waiting
In a deep as dark as sleep, listening to their voices
Singing like tiny Siamese meows,
Enraptured, snared by dreams, drinking our story.
Now I sit curled beside your feet,
Struggling to say your name. You read my
Anxious look as a cat’s plea for affection.
We talk of nothing, but share a bed
As warm, as close, as lonely as before.
— Adele Gardner
With a master’s in English literature, Adele Gardner has twice won third place in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Her publications include a poetry collection (Dreaming of Days in Astophel) as well as 225 poems and 40 stories in venues such as Legends of the Pendragon, The Doom of Camelot, Strange Horizons, American Arts Quarterly, Silver Blade, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Adele also serves as literary executor for her father and mentor, Delbert R. Gardner. Learn more at www.gardnercastle.com.
Editor’s Notes: The free wallpaper image (Gambar Bintang – Pemandangan Luar Angkasa/Star Pictures – View Space) of a nebula is matted by a stock photo of beautiful clear pool water reflecting in the sun (Fedor Selivanov).
an ancient sun
one of the first to will itself out of dust and darkness
i meet a man
who carries his spark
in his bottom left molar
we drink tea on the banks of the Nile
and trade memories of our stars
and wish one another well
until we meet again
in a great wheel of metal and ceramic
spinning high above a cloudy world
i meet a being with no eyes and twelve tentacles
who carries its splendor
in the lining of its fourth stomach
and another of shining vapor and song
whose radiance creates a rainbow in its heart
we trade memories of our stars
and wish one another well
until we meet again
beneath a sky of rich purple and red
i sit on the high slope of an elderly mountain
whose brightness is buried deep among its stony roots
we trade memories of our stars
and wish one another well
until we meet again
and in the final dark
when the stars are no more
and the galaxies have fallen to dust
we will gather
and the last embers of suns long dead
scraps of hope against the night
will come together
and it will all
— Rebecca Buchanan
Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. She has worked previously published, or forthcoming, in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Faerie Magazine, The Future Fire, Gingerbread House, Luna Station Quarterly, New Realm, and other venues.
Editor’s Notes: The lines “beneath a sky of rich purple and red/i sit on the high slope of an elderly mountain” stimulated a pairing with The North American Nebula, NGC 7000. It is one of the well-known nebulae in Cygnus. This image is from Cygnus’s Wall, a term for the “Mexico and Central America part” of the North America Nebula. The Cygnus Wall exhibits the most concentrated star formations in the nebula.
I keep a little sun in my pocket, a little
ball of warmth, a little light for days
stuck inside staring out the window
dripping with self-doubt and frustration
to burn a hole through the walls
melting shower curtains to run naked
into the fading rain, climb the red side
of a full rainbow stretching into black
holes waiting like a secret path
where gumdrop forests breed ruckuses
of dragons flapping wantonly
among the moss under ancient
trees sprouted from starlight borrowed
from the stash Prometheus stole
from the sun, hidden in pockets
he sewed himself onto his socks
where no god would think to look
so that even chained at the mercy
of eagles one glance down to his feet
ignited fireworks in his heart
— John Reinhart
An arsonist by trade, John Reinhart lives on a farmlette in Colorado with his wife and children. He is a Frequent Contributor at the Songs of Eretz and his chapbook, encircled, is available from Prolific Press. More of his work is available at http://www.patreon.com/johnreinhart
Editor’s Notes: The image of Prometheus is from an Italian article MITI GRECI | PROMETEO, IL GIGANTE CHE AMAVA L’UMANITÀ (GREEK MYTHS | PROMETHEUS, THE GIANT WHO LOVED HUMANITY):
La mitologia greca è ricca di storie bellissime: battaglie, eroi, magie, tradimenti. La nostra cultura è cresciuta su queste leggende. Come quella di Prometeo, il titano ribelle che rubò il fuoco per donarlo agli uomini e…
Greek mythology is full of beautiful stories: battles, heroes, spells, betrayals. Our culture has grown out of these legends. Like that of Prometheus, the rebellious Titan who stole fire and gave it to men and …
Noldor women, elven men
in the slow, sonorous music of stone
learned from the dwarrow
of the halls of Khazad-dûm?
In the moonlight you coax,
the precious fumes of molten mithril
slowly, so slowly,
out of moonlit, starlit mist
with words of thrumming power.
So much effort for so little!
But the artisans require it
for a project worthy of Fëanor himself.
And over several misty evenings
the small basin fills.
The weather clears.
The forge-fire dies.
When Celebrimbor inspects their basin,
And passes his hand above the harvested ithildin
It causes the contents of the bowl to shine like stars,
reflecting Elbereth’s glory,
glow as if moonlight shimmered on water.
“What word will unlock its power, my lord?”
Asks a smelter-singer, with a respectful bow.
Celebrimbor’s eyes lift to the lambent snows
above the dwarrowdelf, and he smiles.
“Friend. The inlay is for a door to our friends.”
— Wendy S. Delmater
Wendy S. Delmater is a writer, poet, and the long-time editor of Hugo-nominated Abyss & Apex Magazine. Recent publication credits include short stories and poetry in *Star Line*, Silver Blade, The Singularity magazine, and Illumen. Her new poetry chapbook Plant a Garden Around Your Life can be found on Amazon.
Authors’ Notes: J.R.R. Tolkien drew heavily on Nordic myths in his mythology of elves. So it felt fitting to have a Nordic translation of an origins story for the Doors of Mordor from the happier time when Hollin (Eregion, in elvish) was under the dominion of the high elves who had come from Elvenhome to Middle Earth. The linguistic challenge of writing this poem in a similar style to Tolkien’s verse while staying within the confines of Norwegian, which has very few words, were considerable, but we believe that the results are worth it.
Margrét Helgadóttir (translated into Norwegian)
den langsomme, dype musikken i sten
lært fra dwarrowene
i Khazad-dûms haller?
I måneskinnet lokker du,
de dyrebare partiklene fra smeltet mithril
sakte, så sakte,
ut av månelys, stjerneklar skodde
med ord av trommende styrke.
Så mye kraft for så lite!
Men håndverkerne krever det
for et prosjekt verdig selveste Fëanor.
Og over flere tåkefulle kvelder
fylles de små bollene.
Når Celebrimbor undersøker deres balje,
Og lar sin hånd gli over den høstede ithildin
Får det innholdet i bollen til å skinne som stjerner,
gjenspeiling av Elbereth’s herlighet,
glødende som månelysets skimmer på vann.
“Hvilket ord vil låse opp dets makt, min herre?”
Spør en smelter sanger med et respektfullt bukk.
Celebrimbors øyne løftes til den hvitstrålende snøen
over Dwarrowdelf og han smiler
«Venn. Innstøpningen er for en dør til våre venner.»
— Margrét Helgadóttir
Margrét Helgadóttir is a Norwegian-Icelandic writer and anthology editor (African Monsters, Asian Monsters) living in Oslo. Her stories have appeared in a number of both magazines and print anthologies such as In flight literary magazine, Gone Lawn, Luna Station Quarterly, Tales of Fox and Fae and Girl at the End of the World. Her debut book The Stars Seem So Far Away was published by UK-based Fox Spirit Books in 2015 and was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award in 2016. http://margrethelgadottir.wordpress.com/
Editor’s Notes: Ithildin was a substance made by the Elves out of the metal mithril and used by the Gwaith-i-Mírdain in constructions such as gateways. Ithildin could only be seen by the reflected light of the Moon and stars, and even then remained hidden until a “magic” word was said. The designs on the Doors of Durin were made from this substance. In the legendarium, Gandalf translated ithildin as “starmoon”.
Tolkien stated that ithildin is a Sindarin name, meaning “moon-star(light)”, “moonlight” or “starlight.” The word contains the elements Ithil (“moon”) + tin/tîn (“spark; star; twinkle of stars”). He noted that the correct Sindarin form should be ithildim .
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, “A Journey in the Dark”
 J.R.R. Tolkien, “Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings”, in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), pp. 39, 66
(Cited from Tolkien Gateway)
The composite image was stimulated by the line, “bowl to shine like stars”: a crystal bowl superimposed with an abstract radiant light source.
Most nights, you mention him,
the ghosts rise from the cypress
come back to wail and moan.
Haints all look the same,
can’t tell the whites from the Brothers,
‘cause the war took every one alike,
and some still stick around.
It’s been nigh fifty years, Granpappy say,
back when it was the Civil War,
and that man with crazy eyes came through—
old General Sherman and his men
took our food, our mules,
even our women along the way,
burning and blazing every field,
cotton or corn or sugar cane,
telling us we join up
so’s we’d be free, that’s what they said.
Granpappy almost starved,
beings how the soldiers got the food
and only scraps for the Brothers that survived;
still more drowned at Ebeneezer Creek
trying so hard to keep up,
a-marching straight to hell,
all the while still being slaves,
no better than the Reb’s to them.
But them haints, General Sherman,
they all look the same.
— Marge Simon
Marge Simon has won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award, the Bram Stoker Award™ (2008, 2012, 2013), the Rhysling Award and the Dwarf Stars Award. More at margesimon.com
Editor’s Notes: The superposition of solider statues on the base of the William T. Sherman Memorial in President’s Park (Washington, DC) in silhouette on a photograph of cypress trees (by blackmagic), all rendered in a ghostly sepia, complements the poem.
I know it is only a synthetic shell:
False skin grown in a sterile plasma farm, sold
By the yard, shipped cold, pathogen-free, and
Uniform. Beneath it, there is an ordered consistency
Of gel pre-molded, and mechanistic mysteries
Indifferently coiled and calibrated
Against the entire range of tolerances
The present gravity and rhythm can stew up.
Deeper, there is a nano-carbon chassis,
Micro-motors, and anabiotic pulleys; with a battery
Compartment smack in the middle
Of that oh so wonderful abdomen.
I’ve seen them coming off the production
Line: each private run of dozens to hundreds
Meticulously customized to the purchaser’s core need.
Imagine what stories there might be
If that sex-slinging gyndroid were fashioned
Of real, sweating, sinfully sugared flesh:
If her back could truly counter twist like that;
And if her cutthroat breasts had come with evolution,
And not simply been disgorged
From a frustrated engineer’s late night fantasy.
Imagine: the orgasmic gymnastics
She and I as a fighting pair might accomplish,
Making any not-as-lucky ordinary man in sympathy
Glow sadism green and blue electric envious—
Eyes bruised beyond simple focus and his tongue
Acid-flat against a uselessly unclasped jaw.
When she’s done with me, I might find
My soul stuck in neutral, my condition brother to that of
Ordinary robots—robots terminally returned, once their wickedly
Thin effective service life has drearily expired:
Obedient, uncaring, and willingly scrapped for reusable parts.
— Ken Poyner
Ken Poyner’s latest collection of short, wiry fiction, Constant Animals, can be obtained from Barking Moose Press, at www.barkingmoosepress.com, or Amazon at www.amazon.com. He often serves as strange, bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs, where she is one of the most celebrated female power lifters of all time. His poetry of late has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore, The Kentucky Review; and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, and Café Irreal, Bellows American Review.
Editor’s Notes: The image, “Android Legacy,” was created by Oliver Wetter / Ars Fantasio (Deviant Art) in collaboration with photographer Louis Konstantinou and model Gianna Vlachou. (Copyright notice and disclaimer: You are welcome to share my work or repost it.)
The right kind of night for
a theatre of the dark absurd,
an enchanted evening’s folly
of murder most foul.
Shadows were gathering,
in the salon, the greenhouse,
the library of countless shelves,
dread passions soon released
in the night, voices raised
in anger, three screams,
the barking of a dog.
Morning would find
blood in the back garden,
a scimitar discarded
on the study floor,
the stoked remnants
of belladonna dreams
in the sunlit haze
of the unaired rooms.
On the screened porch
the chairs and tables
tossed this way and that,
broken glass and the
residue of spilt drinks
scattered across the tiles.
Bodies would be
trucked to the morgue
in the county meat wagon,
thick with the scents
of death and horror.
By noon of the next day
the slaughter and wreckage
will have streamed away,
furniture properly placed,
dead bodies resurrected,
shifting shadows restored,
prepared for one more
dark enchanted evening
of murder most foul.
— Bruce Boston
Bruce Boston is the author of more than fifty books and chapbooks. His writing has received the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov’s Readers Award, a Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling and Grandmaster Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. His latest collection, Resonance Dark and Light, is available from most online booksellers. bruceboston.com
Editor’s Notes: Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (The Theatre of the Great Puppet was a theatre in the Pigalle area of Paris (1897 -1962) specializing in naturalistic horror shows, often graphic and amoral popular from Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. (See Wikipedia for more discussion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Guignol
Not from heaven
but from hell above us,
yellow snow falls. Pieces
of brown sugar, so sweet,
but my hot chocolate is not.
I need a teaspoonful.
“But uranium is not tasty.”
“Yes, but it can kill me
then I can complain to god
about hot chocolate.”
The next day, I wake up in my bathtub
with my nose bleeding.
I need to clean it up, I need carbohydrate
but the cafeteria only sells yellow cakes
today, day and night.
“Smells like vomited brown sugar,
made with saccharin instead of bananas.”
My roommate tells me.
From outside the bathroom window
a tree gives me her finger, a little ruby bud.
I touch it, so cold and firm. Then she asks me:
“How can my child and I survive?”
“Donate 10 dollars to the church”
I write on the mirror.
Above the slender shadows of trees
clumps of deserted bicycles lay rusted
everywhere, as if melted together.
“Where are their owners?
Above or below us?”
It’s so unfortunate,
Prometheus brought us fire
and that bomb.
— Chengyu Liu
Chengyu Liu came from China seven years ago and is currently living in San Diego. He loves poetry and doing research on biomolecules. His poems are published or forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Aphelion and Grievous Angel.
Editor’s Notes: A yellow-rendered bright snow starlight background and an atomic bomb explosion suggest a nuclear winter