I hate the sound of the robots in the back room
Making love: the clang of metal on metal,
The squeal of furniture moving about the walls,
The straining of hooks, the embrace of cables,
The blue hiss of static charge building up:
Followed amiably by the harrowing crack of its sudden discharge.
I know about the mutual mapping of memory locations,
The synchronization of register paging.
These are not unsubtle robots:
They understand that replacement units
Come whole from the production line, ship
In a protective molding foam. They know
That in robot terms there is no him, there is no her.
My friends and I, sometimes a few beers toward
An agreeable stupor, wonder why they do it,
What motive there is in this act. Mostly we take bets
On how long the next session will last;
Whether, yet one more time, the walls
Can contain their mechanically overwrought electric attempts.
I have stopped buffing out the carnal
Scratches they make on each other.
I still sweep the metal shavings off the floor,
Put the room’s furniture back in place, fix
As best I can whatever is bent too close to busted.
Robots can be as maddening as they are useful,
As fascinating as they are diligent. And repetitive.
Soon I will have one of the new polymer models;
With the metal and nano-carbon frame filled in;
The access ports in very discreet places;
A skin that looks and feels and hums
Half-way human, seeming almost to breathe and sweat.
With pre-ordering, there is the option for male or female
Appearance. And appliance. They are all the rage and
Everyone is planning their own secret upgrades.
Maybe then I might find out what these elastic
Cybernauts, in their protected, persistent,
Hormone-less and dry memory cores,
Believe their issueless mating match is all about,
How the purposeless and pleasure-less pleases them.
— Ken Poyner
Ken Poyner’s collections of short fiction, Constant Animals and Avenging Cartography, and his latest collections of poetry, Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot, can be obtained from Barking Moose Press, www.barkingmoosepress.com. He serves as bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs. His poetry lately 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. www.kpoyner.com.
Editor’s Notes: The image to complement the innovative robot sex poem is from Discovery Magazine, http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/lovesick-cyborg/2015/09/17/a-call-to-ban-sex-robots/#.WnVNfpM-fow
That’s what they called us:
Skunk-apes with exoskeletons
Quickly detachable for easy assembly
(Until they learned that the electronica
Was optional but well worth the extra cost)
But all the organic matter (including the smell)
Came with the original packaging,
Ready for the children to enjoy
On backwater planets—real tech
Just a memory; play-acting, really easy.
Batteries, unfortunately, are not included, and
We never tell them in advance
That the fuel we operate on
— Denise Dumars
Denise Dumars is the author of Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, nominated for an Elgin Award. She also has been nominated for Rhysling, Dwarf Stars, and the Best of the Net awards for individual poems. She writes short fiction and metaphysical nonfiction. A novel that she wrote with Corrine DeWinter is currently seeking publication. She teaches college English in the Los Angeles area.
Editor’s Notes: “Skunk-apes with exoskeletons” stimulated the enhanced effects of an ape image in Darth Vader garb.
I follow the stream into the greenwood,
Old Dozer knows the way, I smile as he
veers off, going deeper into the foliage where
a last burst of sunset falls on the brick hut,
the same I’d built alone decades ago,
crumbling now, the whitewash almost gone.
How pleased I’d been that day to add that sign,
KEEP OUT, now buried in a pile of leaves.
I should complete my mission before dark,
for the bastard’s sake, as he’ll be waiting.
At first at odds, I determine to convey
the truth, not guise it all in falsehoods.
“There’s been enough bad blood between us.
I’ll set you free, if you promise to forgive.”
From inside I hear a croak of assent.
But Dozer growls, looks at me. Whines.
“Mother hated you, she believed my lies.
The mine we co-owned was worthless,
I sold the deed to our land years ago,
and I killed that whore you fancied.”
The latch is rusted, but the lock still holds.
My key won’t work, I smash it with my torch.
With trembling hands, I free the chain.
Impossibly thin fingers claw around the door,
pushing it open a crack at a time …
— Marge Simon
Marge Simon lives in Ocala, Florida and is married to Bruce Boston. Her stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, The Pedestal Magazine, Morpheus Tales and many more. She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award 2010, the Bram Stoker Award ® three times for Poetry, the Rhysling Award and the Grand Master Award from the SF Poetry Association, 2015. She has work in Chiral Mad 3 and Scary Out There, You Human. Upcoming fiction: Chiral Mad 4 2017, The Beauty of Death, 2017. www.margesimon.com
Editor’s Notes: Superimposed images of a bony hand and a rusted lock accent the tension in the poem.
Dying comes fast or slow—an ice pick
in the back or a chronic headache. Quick
or dawdling, still a thief in soft-souled shoes.
Lips part, torque into a scream
but where is the sound? We are deaf
to death, gulping like a fish swallowing
Jonah whole, eaten alive by fear.
I decode the language of silence,
conjugating time to the pluperfect past.
We give up this existence with keening
like a wolf moved by the moon
to bay a love song in the key of C minor,
every note a eulogy to yesterday.
— Ann Thornfield-Long
Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (edited by Crawford and Smiley, 2013), has poetry appearing/forthcoming in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Silver Blade, Abyss & Apex, The Tennessee Magazine, Wordgathering, Liquid Imagination andother publications. She won the Patricia Boatner Fiction Award (Tennessee Mountain Writers, 2017) for her novel excerpt “The Crying Room” and was a finalist for her fiction in the 2017 Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Spring Contest. She was nominated for the Pushcart and Rhysling awards, and awarded a 2017 Weymouth residency. She edited and published a weekly newspaper for six years. She’s a retired nurse and medical first responder.
Editor’s Notes: The painting by Munch depicts visual horror, which goes well with “Howl.” even the distorted scream can be imagined as a howl.
I remember the silence of the sky
when people looked up at the buzz
of a low-flying four-seater airplane.
Everyone lived in four dimensions,
drove four wheels,
had four faces.
My job-face was an ox.
I plowed through the day, curbing
my urge to run to the lake.
My love-face was a lion,
loyal and fierce, hard hunger
swelling below my ribs.
My self-face was only part human.
Sometimes I was a humble witch,
sometimes a black-winged angel.
My spirit-face confronted me beak-first
with a brown-eyed, dirt-feathered eagle.
I still dream in bird’s-eye view.
As the sky grew louder, our faces faded.
We became one-faced and two-mouthed,
filling the air with fumes and chatter.
I remember the sky, almost
quiet enough to hear clouds breathe,
shattered by church bells.
— Sara Backer
Sara Backer is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Bicycle Lotus, which won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award, and Scavenger Hunt forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Her poems have appeared in Abyss & Apex, Asimov’s, Eye to the Telescope, Illumens, Into the Void, The Pedestal, Shooter, and Strange Horizons, with new ones forthcoming in Star*Line. www.sarabacker.com
Editor’s Notes: The Denderah Stone depicted here is discussed in Wikipedia and other places. The poem also makes a clear reference to the (zodiac) wheel within a wheel in Ezekiel 1. Some people think this is a reference to UFOs, but I like the astronomical interpretation, as well as a linguistic approach, which alludes to cycles of life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdWBApimiRA_)
war waged from darkness
the invaders’ tentacles
reaching out for blood
now purple mottles
rising along the whip stings
and vision blurs
after the conquest
our diaspora scattered
to the spiral’s arm
falling out of time
we turn toward emptiness
searching for new stars
— John Hawkhead
Qua’a is a fictional name of a place/civilization
John Hawkhead’s scifaiku have been published previously in Urban Fantasist and SciFaikuest. He’s a a writer/illustrator whose work has been published all over the world. is twitter account is @HawkheadJohn
Editor’s Notes: Image is that of a surreal octopus on the globular cluster in Hercules, M13
Artist’s impression of the interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua
It was after the passing.
Things began to change.
Slowly at first,
but from that year on
evil yielded to empathy.
No more lying, cheating,
stealing. No more rapes,
murders, massacres, war.
Earth became peaceful.
No one could agree
on how it happened.
But everyone agreed that
the interstellar asteroid
was heaven sent.
Inspired by recent news of the first-ever detected interstellar asteroid, A/2017 U1, officially named Oumuamua.
Lauren McBride finds inspiration in faith, nature, science and membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the SFPA’s Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards, her work has appeared in dozens of publications including recently Eye to the Telescope, Songs of Eretz and the Kepler’s Cowboys anthology. She shares a love of laughter and the ocean with her husband and two grown children.
Editor’s Notes: This interstellar meteor is the first known interstellar object to pass through the Solar System. Discovered through a telescope in Hawaii on October 19, 2017, 40 days after perihelion, Oumuamua, an elongated tumbling object (230 by 35 meters) was 21 million miles from Earth heading back out toward deep space.
Because its shape was reminiscent of an alien spaceship, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction novel Rendezvous with Rama, discovered in the story under similar circumstances, it was tentatively named Rama. However, it was named ʻOumuamua, which is translated from Hawaiian as scout or messenger (from ʻou, meaning reach out for, and mua, reduplicated for emphasis, meaning first, in advance of); it reflects the idea that this object is like a messenger sent from the distant past reaching out to us. [Wikipedia].
Listen to a 3-minute documentary from the New York Times:
The queen is murdered as she walks alone in the garden.
Her assailant is in the secret employ of her husband, the king.
An angel, invisible, is in the garden at that same moment,
deadheading ghosts from wilted roses. He pulls
the heart from the dead queen’s chest. At the angel’s
touch, the heart transforms into a scarlet crown. As arranged,
the murderer reports to the king; the king slays him. In cunning
sleight, the king sends guards to protect the queen.
The queen’s ghost rises from her body and the angel
places the crown upon her spectral head.
The spirits of roses flitter about her like scented flames.
The garden path opens downwards, slotted with steps.
The queen descends through the crust of the Earth
to her destination, where she is elevated into the Earth’s core.
She is now enthroned as the Queen of the Eternal Heart—
forever beating, forever aching, forever betrayed.
The king, pleased with his deception, is unaware that new
borders are being drawn, that blood is condensing in the clouds.
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. A sixth collection, Futures Pass, is forthcoming from Salmon in May 2018. 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 Abyss & Apex, The Edinburgh Review, The Irish Times, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mirror Dance, The Pedestal Magazine, Silver Blade, Star*Line and Strange Horizons.
Editor’s Notes: Image of a ghostly fairy queen embellished with a crown and a bleeding heart captures, at least symbolically, the emotional truth of the poem.