Edited by Alzo David-West; Translated by Natsumi Ando
formed of clay—
the people of edo
out of wood
their noses in the air
they put a resistor
into a circuit and
made it resistant
the industrial robots
have been born
drunk on dreams of
perpetual motion machines
the ages of
the iron race
are coming fast
cannot take over
where pilotless tanks
iu sunasei no
edo no hito
ki de haguruma o
kairo ni irete
sangyo robo o
yume ni you
tetsujin tachi no
Amase Hiroyasu (Author: penname of Susumu Watanabe, b. 1931) is a writer, critic, and physician from Hiroshima, Japan. His works in Japanese include After Fifty Years of Anti-Nuclear War (1998), The Literary Space of Kajiyama Toshiyuki (2009), A Dream of the Past Is Still a Dream (2010), Robots (2013), and Science-Fiction/Science-Fantasy Haiku (2016).
Alzo David-West (Editor) is a writer, poet, and academic. He is published in the areas aesthetics, language, literature, philosophy, politics, and social psychology. His creative writing appears in Antimatter, Cha, Eastlit, Missing Slate, Offcourse, Step Away Magazine, Tower Journal, and Transnational Literature.
Natsumi Ando (Translator) is a freelance Japanese<>English translator. She majored in foreign studies with a specialization in English at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan. Her translation interests include poetry, literature, graphic novels, and comics. She is the translator of several edited scifaiku in Star*Line.
Translator’s Note: When I was first commissioned to select and translate works of Japanese science-fiction poetry, I actually did not know such a genre existed in Japan. Nevertheless, the project sounded interesting to me since I am a reader of science-fiction novels and comics. I searched for science-fiction poems written in Japanese. Eventually, I found the anthology Science-Fiction/Science-Fantasy Haiku (Esuefu-kagaku fantajī kushū, 2016) edited by Hiroyasu Amase. After I contacted the editor for permission to translate some of his poems, he kindly sent me more of his work, including a grouped haiku series about robots.
As I read the haiku series, I found it quite different from traditional one-line nature haiku. Amase told a fictional past and future history about robots in linked-verse haiku form. I was compelled to select and translate the work. After I submitted my translation to the project editor, Alzo David-West, I realized my draft was too descriptive. Alzo edited the title and incorporated poetic effects that gave my translation and transliteration more literary presence. I thought the edits worked, and I approved them.
“The Robots: A Narrative Scifaiku” was first published as “Grouped Haiku on the Subject of Robots” (Robotto ga shudai no gun saku) in the 2014 issue of Tanshes-f. Hiroyasu Amase’s poem is appearing in English for the first time.
Misery loves company,
dining in elegant restaurants, and long walks
on the beach, silvery in moonlight.
She carries motes of light
in the sieve she uses to strain them
from the cycling skin of waves.
Summers in the mountains,
she pours the light she saved over the edge
of high precipices, into valleys so deep
they believe in only the dark.
Sometimes she thinks of following
after it, of jumping.
— F.J. Bergmann
F.J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. A Catalogue of the Further Suns won the 2017 Gold Line Press chapbook contest.
Editor’s Note: The artwork, The Gleaming Lights of Souls by Yayoi-Kusama, is combined with a woman in silhouette.
In the moon’s shadow, find the mortar and pestle, the rabbit getaway. The house is the poison. Exhale the air. Stop drinking. Leave. Some say silly. No elixir of life here. Some say we’re more pest than pet, more cake than rice, more dust than vain. Some say pet-peeve. Others stewed. Some call us dog, hair of the dog, rude. Grab heels. Roll on crown. Feel the weight. Follow the flow of twist, lunge, plank, then nap on the floor like a rock. They gave us a name, invented us.
They want us to throw ourselves into the fire. Run.
— Laura Madeline Wiseman
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 26 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, Rose Red Review, Star*Line, Silver Blade, and elsewhere. Her latest book is Through a Certain Forest (BlazeVOX [books] 2017).
Editor’s Note: The image is of a wolf howling after the pack from a wallpaper site: https://wallpapercave.com/wp/jUr21IZ.jpg
Around the stalk a village grew.
Despite the perils from falling debris,
A steady trade in magic beans developed
(Though barter was bigger than outright sales),
Soup made from them, widely supposed
To make children grow tall and strong
Sold briskly, even though
It did neither, but it was tasty and nutritious.
Jack’s mother lived alone in her small hut,
Ensnared by the bean’s gigantic roots;
Jack had never returned from his fabled climb.
Every year a few boys, and once a girl,
Climbed up the twisted-cable stalks and disappeared,
None came back from the clouds.
A child ran into town square,
“Tim’s falling!” she screamed, pointing up,
(Her brother Tim had been the last
To assay the heights),
“Not Tim,” the Mayor said;
The whole town watched.
A shadow grew
“Run!” one shouted.
The giant crushed half the town,
In a few days it stank up the other half,
The Mayor traded the last few beans
In the next village for a bowl of stew and a pint,
She stayed a while, but couldn’t sleep well,
So she didn’t settle there:
“Some day that stalk is gonna fall.”
— David C Kopaska-Merkel
David C. Kopaska-Merkel has been writing SF and fantasy since the 70s. He edited Star*line [journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA)] in the late ‘90s, and later served as SFPA President. Many of his poems have received Rhysling nominations, and he won the Rhysling award for best long poem in 2006 for “The Tin Men,” a collaboration with Kendall Evans. He was voted SFPA Grand Master in 2017. His poetry has been published in scores of venues, including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and Night Cry. He edits and publishes Dreams and Nightmares, a genre poetry zine in its 31st year of publication. Blog at http://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/ featuring a daily poem. @DavidKM on Twitter. He lives in a centuried farmhouse that has been engulfed, but not digested, by a city.
Editor’s Note: About the “Jack in the Beanstalk” story, the author said, “I’ve always loved this story. I’ve played with it several times, but never quite like this. What happened in cloud land, when Jack reached the top of the stalk?”
Long silent, the grandfather clock awakes
to strike a full twelve bells at midnight.
On a glass topped table, five candles light
without the need for human hands, chairs
with flawless satin seats await the guests.
Dr. Mengele passes through the door
with a box of spectral chocolates,
the same he gave to Jewish twins
when their train arrived in Auschwitz,
prized subjects for his surgeries.
Ilse Koch, Red Witch of Buchenwald,
appears in fashion, with a fancy purse
of Jewish prisoners’ tattooed skins.
Himmler brings his book on the occult
and racist jokes to share, but is ignored.
Adolph and Eva are fashionably late,
she with her two terriers, he with
his German Shepherd, Blondi,
all wagging tails and licking hands,
just like things used to be,
before the last few days,
when Blondi took the cyanide
to assure her master that it worked,
and Eva’s terriers were shot, along
with Blondi’s newborn pups.
This night, they gather to forget,
with fictive wine and phantom tea,
to joke and jest and reminisce
the histories of their wartime lives
until at dawn, the clock ticks cease.
— Marge Simon
Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees. She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF &F Association with a Grand Master Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Urban Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, YOU, HUMAN, CHIRAL MAD 2,3 and SCARY OUT THERE, to name a few.
Editor’s Note: The image is credited to NBC’s Roger Mudd and Dennis Murphy: In 1985, U.S. forensic scientists working with authorities in Brazil confirm that remains exhumed from a grave in Brazil are those of fugitive Nazi fugitive Josef Mengele, known at Auschwitz as the “Angel of Death.” Positive I.D. is made by measuring and analyzing bones and matching teeth in a skull to Mengele’s German dental records. https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/flatview?cuecard=47692
The walls of the house are bleeding today;
I’d better call the exorcist again.
We’ve called in experts in a dozen fields—
bats, rats, roaches, cracked foundation, and mold.
I’d better call the exorcist again . . .
(last time!) He said the house was haunted, cursed.
Bats, rats, roaches, cracked foundation, and mold:
the hidden half of a cut-rate mortgage.
Last time, he said the house was haunted, cursed—
we didn’t know murder had been done here.
The hidden half of a cut-rate mortgage:
unfair stain that can’t just be scrubbed away.
We didn’t know murder had been done here;
we’ve called in experts in a dozen fields.
Unfair stain that can’t just be scrubbed away!
. . . the walls of the house are bleeding today.
— Deborah L. Davitt
Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Reno, Nevada, but received her MA in English from Penn State. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. Her poetry has garnered two Rhysling nominations and has appeared in over twenty journals; her short fiction has appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Compelling Science Fiction, Altered Europa, and The Fantasist. For more about her work, please see www.edda-earth.com.
Now, out here where the prairies brush against the sky,
When moonlight strokes the sagebrush-covered hill,
Coyotes raise their voices in their ancient cry
To howl about the news both good and ill.
But one coyote never seemed to have the knack,
Could never seem to bark or yip or bay.
His eyes upon the moon, he’d breathe and arch his back—
And he’d yodel the night away.
His neighbors always used to give him sideways stares;
They’d disappear when evening rolled around.
He’d hear them in the distance howling, groups and pairs,
And curse this strange disease that held him bound.
Declaring with a solemn vow to bite his tongue,
He’d creep into a hole and try to stay.
The moon would drag him out, demand her song be sung,
And he’d yodel the night away.
That final dawn, he simply couldn’t face the rest,
Afraid at last his lonely heart would burst.
He turned and ran, his shadow dark and stretching west,
Through summer sun, through hunger, and through thirst.
What tripped him up as darkness fell, he never knew,
But sprawling on the desert sand he lay.
And panting there, he heard a sound that grew and grew:
A she-coyote yodeling away.
He found her by her silhouette against the moon,
Her silver fur a beacon in the night.
Renewed, he roused his voice to quickly join her tune,
And never had his warbles felt so right.
They’ve been together all these years, come dry or damp.
And if within that desert land you stray,
Their family cry will fill the sky above your camp
As they yodel the night away.
— Michael H. Payne
Michael H. Payne‘s short fiction has appeared in places like Asimov’s SF magazine, the Writers of the Future collection, and the last ten volumes of the annual Sword and Sorceress anthology, and his novels have been published by Tor Book and Sofawolf Press. He’s posted at least 11 pages of webcomics every week to various sites for over a dozen years even though he doesn’t draw very well, and he curates My Little Pony fanfiction on the web for Equestria Daily and the Royal Canterlot Library.
Editor’s Note: The author said that the original poem’s structure was inspired by a country/western song, which contained a bridge, but the uniformity of the prevailing alternating hexameter/pentameter lines won out.
The Harvest Moon over Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas taken at the South Leyva Campsite (Jcllorca, Wikipedia) was combined with a photograph of two coyotes (Matt Knoth).