You think you had a bad day:
I hit the wrong key, wiped out
Three finished star systems,
A single hyperbolic orbit that I had worked on
For the better part of an hour,
And one sentient species. In this
Quadrant, that sets Creation back
An entire day, and all the texts
Will have to be changed to read
That rest had to wait
For the Eighth day. There was
Quite a to-do, and I thought for a while
I might be let go.
But in the end, I got some office tape
And penned a sign that reads
“Not until the Big Guy says so,”
And covered the button all the way
Around. Of course
The overtime I worked
To get new stars and planets and
And a substitute evolvable species set up
Was all off the books,
But it was a close one:
I thought I would be kicked back
To polishing haloes, feathering wings,
Encouraging unicellular organisms.
No one wants to lose a job
On the front lines like this:
I have so many creatures yet
To test out, so many plans
To put to the Boss. One
Miss-pressed key and my dreams
Shrink up like they were knocked free-fall
Into a gravity well. But,
With management’s reputation for Forgiveness,
And my skill at looking uncommonly repentant,
I’m back again to smoothing the residual anger out
Of crisp, new planetary systems, fixing the drive
In custom made dominant species.
Soon, I’ll have another fresh hyperbolic
Orbit running about in my imagination, bound
With the warmest celestial mathematics
And surfaced like wickedly loose light—
And with this one, I could just get an approval
For the angels of calculus that might divinely support it.
— Ken Poyner
Ken Poyner’s latest collection of short, wiry fiction, Constant Animals, and his latest collections of poetry—Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot—-can be obtained from Barking Moose Press at www.barkingmoosepress.com, or www.amazon.com, or Sundial Books at www.sundialbooks.net. He often serves as strange, bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs. 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, Café Irreal, Bellows American Review. www.kpoyner.com.
Editor’s Notes: Artwork is an oil painting by Sascha Grusche (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0) of conic sections, which describe possible orbits/trajectories of small objects around the Earth. A projection of these orbits (yellow) onto the gravitational potential (blue) of the Earth makes it possible to determine the orbital energy at each point in space. Isaac Newton, who proved that orbits were conic sections, is shown next to the Milky Way, our galaxy. The spectral colors symbolize different energy values, in analogy to the frequencies of light.
To be honest, when you gave your trollish
roar last night, I wanted to place my fingers
over yours on the ignition and remove the
keys. When you doused the house with water,
spraying the walls of our kitchen and the
floors of the bathroom, I wanted to help you
down into the puddles and offer a nudge, as if
you might want to swim away. When you
tore all the old shingles from our roof and
kept going, opening our bedroom to moon
and sky, I left you up there and started
walking, your ancient song crooning through
the boughs. From our neighborhood through
the roads and trails, I cut across farmland
where the first green knuckles pushed from
soil. I walked and walked, then I found the
entrance to Trolland, the theme park of my
girlhood. I followed the blacktop to the train
station of candy, the boat ride that swayed as
if on swells, the log ride on aqua-dyed water,
and that spinning ride which stuck everyone
to the walls. I kept going, looking for roller
coasters, the sky lift, the striped pole that rose
to the night. Everywhere, were trolls. Trolls
sat on benches in lamplight, filled the tables,
and crowded the lines. Even if I wanted to
buy astronaut ice cream, the trolls stood
dozens deep with crisscrossed arms. I got in
line anyway. Then, a troll charged at me, one
with filigree tattoos. I backed against the faux
barbershop that sold rock candy. Sing bitch,
the troll said or maybe it was, Climb. I don’t
know. I found the pole and climbed the blue
rungs to the top—I’ve wanted to do this since
I was girl. There I found the firetruck ship, its
maiden face, and a moon with doll arms
holding the reins. She said, Join me, but there
wasn’t any place to sit. I must’ve jumped,
because when I land, I’m in bed beside you
again, your hand clasping my ankle. Above
us, the night flickers orange.
— Laura Madeline Wiseman
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 25 books and chapbooks, include Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink), twice nominated for the Elgin Award. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, Silver Blade, and elsewhere. Her latest book is Velocipede. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com
tor’s Notes: The dreamy image of a girl praying in the clouds (static pexels, CC0) is enhanced by adding the moon and a surrealistic troll.
“I cannot linger long”
First words my selkie said to me,
Fierce eyes black as obsidian
“Lest I strangle you with seaweed
Or drown you like a sailor
Shipwrecked far out at sea.”
We made love in breaking waves;
Afterwards, I lured her home with me,
Tempting her into my bed,
Our new love slowly quickening
Three months she stayed with me . . .
A season all our own.
We embraced by the ghost-white moon;
Upon the beach in sun-struck sand
Or beneath warm, comforting covers
In my rough-timbered fisherman’s hovel—
Her passion sometimes frightening
One night it stormed, and on a rocky strand
We listened to the thunderous ocean roar—
As if the storm within her were without.
Gentler times we swam together
In a calm sheltered cove
On the leeward side of the island
The wives and mothers of our village shunned her . . .
One day her demented eyes met mine,
Black as black obsidian:
“I dare not stay another day,
Else I’ll take your breath away forever—
Bury you in the coral sand of my underwater garden
Beneath orange ornamental shells;
And turn your eyes into milky pearls
Staring blindly up from the ocean’s floor
“I must leave now; forsake your love—“
Last words my selkie said to me,
“For, as you see, I am quite mad—
As mad as the mist and the sea.”
The wind caught her words
And broke them on the rocks,
And hurled the scattered sounds
Like salt-spray on an ocean’s shore
. . . And I am torn asunder,
Mad as the mist and sea
As mad as the mist and the sea
— Kendall Evans
Kendall Evans’ stories and poems have appeared in nearly all the major science fiction and fantasy magazines, including Asimov’s SF, Analog, Abyss &Apex, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Weirdbook, Mythic Delirium, and many others. He is the author of the novel The Rings of Ganymede and a number of chapbooks, including Poetry Red-Shifted in the Eyes of a Dragon; Separate Destinations and The Tin Men (both written in collaboration with David C. Kopaska-Merkel), I Feel So Schizophrenic, the Starship’s Aft-Brain Said and In Deepspace Shadows.
Editor’s Notes: The painting, Selkie, is by Nicole Welch, created using watercolors on Arches 140lb cold press paper (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). I was inspired by the legend “about a lovely seal that shed her skin as she came upon the shore. She transformed into a beautiful woman and became a delight to the eyes of fishermen in those parts. One day a man took her seal skin as she was bathing in the shallow waters and she soon became the wife of the lonely fisherman. She spent her days as a good and loyal companion to the man until one day she found her skin and she returned to the sea as seal once again. For this was her destiny, to fill the heart of a lonely man with love and service until she was called back to the sea.”
Black beetles crackle
Beneath my tan, sandaled feet
My life marked like ink
Rules of the Rodeo
Rough dusty cowboys
Ants topple black carcasses
fighting for the prize
Laws of Nature
whirling through branch obstacles
dodge the lizard net
We desire sweat and buzz
Work to be noticed and not
Hail our queen…and die
— Kathleen A. Lawrence
Kathleen A. Lawrence has recent poems appearing in Eye to the Telescope, Altered Reality Magazine, Popcorn Press’s Lupine Lunes anthology, Rattle (online), Crow Hollow 19, haikuniverse, and other venues. She won third place in the Short Form division of the 2016 Science Fiction Poetry Association contest. Kathleen was Poet of the Week at Poetry Super Highway during January 2017.
Editor’s Notes: The image is a collage of a scarab beetle, black ants (shutterstock), and a dragonfly (Pixabay).
It’s the queen he needs to appease,
stridulations scraping on his carapace.
Death might reward his gentle overtures
as he advances through her silken web.
Stridulations scraping on his carapace
make no plangent tunes for human ears
as he advances through her silken web—
his flesh a gift for children he won’t know.
Though no plangent tunes for human ears,
he sings desire to his eight-legged queen.
His flesh a gift for children he will never know,
yet he dreams of more than sacrifice.
He sings desire to his eight-legged queen,
it is she whom he needs most to appease,
yet he dreams of more than sacrifice—
death might reward his gentle overtures.
— Deborah L. Davitt
Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Reno, Nevada, but received her MA in English from Penn State, where she taught rhetoric and composition before becoming a technical writer in industries including nuclear submarines, NASA, and computer manufacturing. She had poems published in Silver Blade, Star*Line, and many other venues. Her short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show and Compelling Science Fiction, and her Edda-Earth novels are available on Amazon. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son, and has a history of writing affectionately about spiders, in spite of her arachnophobia. For more information, please see www.edda-earth.com.
Editor’s Notes: The brown recluse is also known as the “violin spider” because of the shape of its body. The Pantoum is accompanied with Linda Tanner’s photograph (CC 2.0) about these spiders in a mating ritual. She says, “Not unlike human females, brown recluse females require a male to impress her before he is allowed to mate with her. A male spider can do this in a few different ways. For example, during mating season, a male brown recluse usually starts its attempt at wooing a female by performing a dance. If this is not enough, the male might also bring its female of choice some food as a gift. If the female accepts the food and softens up toward the male, the start of a new family has begun. If not, the broken-hearted male takes off to find a different female.”
Horsemen in black boots shine
against the dead streets, peering in each window,
smashing in every door.
The house begins to smolder;
smoke like thick liquid rises silently and fast,
closing our ears with a flood of dark.
The yellowing stars go out
like theatergoers after a disturbing performance
stumbling in the aisles, whispering angrily.
Zeppelin angels drift overhead,
each arcing sword a roar of blue flame,
their robes ballooning with hot air.
Somnambulant, we lose our way
in baroque murals, trompe-l’oeil gardens,
a flaking fresco of falsehood and denial
whose far horizon holds an ancient ridge
of mountains, crumbling like a fossil spine.
We will cross them safely into another country.
— F.J. Bergmann F.J. Bergmann edits poetry for Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (sfpoetry.com) and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. Her chapbook A Catalogue of the Further Suns recently won the Gold Line Press manuscript competition.
Editor’s Notes: From publicdomainpictures.net, the fiery “lord of darkness” is combined with saucers and stormtroopers.
Wedged in the captain’s chair, our thighs pressed together, the scream of klaxons making my wife’s words impossible to hear (our lips move I love you I love you) the arm of the chair digging into my side, my hands clenched on the transmitter . . . – – – . . . SOS . . . – – – . . . her hands white-knuckled on the yoke, pulling, pulling. The crash is a tooth-jarring jolt, a sudden stop to flight, then smoke, darkness, more smoke. Two inter-solar spies climbing out of the twisted wreck, becoming like two women happy to be alive. Lucky, kissing her over and over, holding each other. Laughter. Breathable atmosphere, green mountains, white beaches, blue water. The information we stole from the enemy was still intact, encrypted under our SOS for Command to find us on this out-of-the-way paradise world, with trees like palms, heavy with something like coconuts, and a sea teaming with something like fish. My wife, restless, always building, salvaging, discussing enemy plans, until I wrap her hands in mine and tell her to look around us. For the first time in our marriage, danger is far away, life does not seem so short and desperate, and we are surrounded by peace and beauty. So we lay down our burdens of duty for a little while, eat charred flesh and lick the grease from our fingers, make love in the sand, and start to really know each other, waiting for a rescue neither of us is quite sure we want. When Command arrives to fly us back into war, my wife takes my shaking hands in hers and tells me as long as we remember to pause, and look around, we will always find this place together. And she is right.
— Karen Bovenmyer
Karen Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and serves as the Assistant Editor of Escape Artists’ Mothership Zeta Magazine. She is the 2016 recipient of the Horror Writers Association Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship and her poems have been nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s (SFPA) Dwarf Star (short form) and Rhysling (long form) awards. Her fiction and poetry appears in more than 40 publications and her first novel, Swift for the Sun, will be available from Dreamspinner Press on March 27, 2017. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Abyss and Apex Magazine, Off the Coast: Maine’s International Poetry Journal, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Remixt Magazine, Strange Horizons Magazine, The Were-Traveler E-Zine, ZingaraPoet.com, as well as the SFPA’s Eye to the Telescope Magazine, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling Award anthologies, Amour: Love PoemsAnthology, Corpse Roads Horror Poetry Anthology (Folk Horror Revival), My Cruel Invention: A Contmporary Poetry Anthology (Meerkat Press) and the Shortest Day, Longest NightAnthology (Arachne Press). She can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter through her website, http://karenbovenmyer.com/
Editor’s Notes: A spaceship (Pixabay 1839722_1280), crash landed on an alien world, creates that sense of desolation in this love prose poem.
The Sandman’s Children “[W]ho is this naughty Sandman, who always drives us away from Papa?” “He is a wicked man who comes to children when they won’t go to bed… He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children…” —E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Sandman
The moon is full of eyes,
coated with delicate
dust, a thin crust
of sifted snow.
gifts from Father
and his white canvas sack
that would rupture with a flourish,
in each of our beaks.
And while we fed,
he’d retell the story of sight:
the source of illusion,
of desire, of sin
its portals once thought
to emit their own light.
spun sugar and fire
stretching from our stomachs,
forming webs some creature
with its apertured organs.
A traveling conjecture: our lives,
our dreams, our joy!
But no more. Daddy vanished
in alien water, a stockpile
of soft spheres left behind
in every crater,
of our fear.
What powers forged
such wretched objects?
Once sweet, now they’re odium
with blades in their bellies,
that never sleep.
— Melissa Frederick
Melissa Frederick is a writer and freelance medical editor from suburban Philadelphia. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, including Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM,Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, Spectral Realms, Mid-American Review, Mithila Review, Heron Tree and is forthcoming in Oxford Poetry. Her chapbook, She, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Follow her on Twitter at @msficklereader.
Editor’s Notes: The associated image by Johanna Öst (http://www.johannaost.com)
used with permission, “speaks” to German story by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822). He wrote an inverse depiction in 1816 of the lovable character in a story called Der Sandmann, which showed how sinister such a character could be made. According to the protagonist’s nurse, he threw sand in the eyes of children who wouldn’t sleep, with the result of those eyes falling out and being collected by the Sandman, who then takes the eyes to his iron nest on the Moon, and uses them to feed his children. The protagonist of the story grows to associate this nightmarish creature with the genuinely sinister figure of his father’s associate Coppelius. In Romanian folklore there is a similar character, Mos Ene (Ene the Elder). (Cited from Wikipedia.)