Perseids


It is late summer. August leaves and grasses are tinged
with the overcooked brown of the season’s heat.

In thick underbrush, copperheads prowl, fattening
themselves on mice and lizards for the coming hibernation.

The glinting in the snakes’ eyes, as they slither
through meadows in the night, through Perseus’ hands,
 
are St. Lawrence’s tears, the pain of the sky breaking
in glimmering shards of light, skidding on a velvet canopy.
 
We lie on warm boulder in the James River, not feeling
the speed of our passage through Swift-Tuttle’s wake,
 
only aware of the texture of stones sparking above
and beneath us, our smooth skins, like the serpents’,
 
taking our fill of each other now, that will sustain us
through the chill of the Geminids—meteors that will reflect
 
their light off snow and our hoary heads when we can no longer
wade in the river to sleep on the warm breast of earth.
 
— Ann Thornfield-Long
 
 
____________________________________________________________________________
Author’s Note: The constellation, Perseus, where the radiant of the Perseids originates, has the mythological figure holding the severed head of Medusa whose hair is made of long writhing snakes.
 
Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (edited by Crawford and Smiley, 2013), has poetry appearing in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Silver Blade, Abyss & Apex, The Tennessee Magazine, Wordgathering, Liquid Imagination and other 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 Note: Raining Perseids* is combined with silhouette of a woman watching over water.
 
*Astronomy Picture of the Day, Aug 12, 2007, Credit & Copyright: Fred Bruenjes: “Tonight is a good night to see meteors. Comet dust will rain down on planet Earth, streaking through dark skies in the annual Perseid meteor shower. While enjoying the anticipated space weather, astronomer Fred Bruenjes recorded a series of many 30 second long exposures spanning about six hours on the night of 2004 August 11/12 using a wide angle lens. Combining those frames, which captured meteor flashes, he produced this dramatic view of the Perseids of summer. Although the comet dust particles are traveling parallel to each other, the resulting shower meteors clearly seem to radiate from a single point on the sky in the eponymous constellation Perseus. The radiant effect is due to perspective, as the parallel tracks appear to converge at a distance. Bruenjes notes that there are 51 Perseid meteors in the composite image, including one seen nearly head-on. This year, the Perseids Meteor Shower is expected to peak in the moonless early morning hours of August 12.

The Eagles’ Songs


The woman who knows
the eagles’ songs
doesn’t need a mare between her legs
to taste speed.
She rides the wind past cliff and spire,
beyond gray shore, where waves’ hiss
plays harp to curlews’ cry.
 
The woman who knows
the eagles’ songs
will not wait for you,
though she may let you
fly beside her for a while.
She will not bend like iron
in the blacksmith’s fire of your desires.
Her ululations seed the clouds.
If her music grasps you in its talons
she will not let you go.
 
— Sandi Leibowitz
 
 
Sandi Leibowitz, author of The Bone-Joiner and Eurydice Sings, writes speculative fiction and poems that may be found in Devilfish Review, Metaphorosis, Liminality, Mythic Delirium, Kaleidotrope and other magazines and anthologies. Her poetry has won second and third place Dwarf Stars awards, and has been nominated for the Rhysling, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net awards. She recently created Sycorax Press, a micropress devoted to speculative poetry focusing on fantasy, and is working on the first issue of the related online magazine, Sycorax Journal. An elementary-school librarian, she also sings classical and early music. She lives in a raven’s wood, next door to bogles, in New York City. Sandi invites you to visit her online at www.sandileibowitz.com.
 
Editor’s Note: The poet said “The blacksmith’s line is…meant it to be the very antithesis of the nature imagery of the woman. It’s manufactured and hard in addition to being literally bent out of shape.”
 
The image of an eagle flying through music notes is symbolic.

I had once built a birdhouse


Hacked away at tree bark
Broke its limbs to sever them
From the rest of its body

I shredded and peeled the skin
Beat its flesh endlessly
Finally I drove nails into it

And then the heart of the tree
Was resurrected as a birdhouse
Just to become human
 
— Nikhita Kokkirala
 
 
Nikhita Kokkirala is currently a computer science student who is on her way to graduating two years early. She spends her time reading as many books as she can, and geeking out about various coding languages. This is her first publication and aspires one day to have her own, published novel.
 
Editor’s Note: This complex image is made from rustic birdhouse made from reclaimed barn wood, a cross & tree image, and a heart & dove image—together they carry the symbolism alluded to in the poem. Congratulations to Nikhita: this being her first publication, and for giving us the honor of publishing it!

Night Reef

There is only one love here.
Water becomes air.
Light is only a blue dream.
I am not moved.
I am complete, without eyes,
without touch,
with music I cannot share.
I will hold my symphony,
shallow without shell
or bone or memory—
bound in the silence of a sea,
rippling through the Earth’s
floor of fire.
 
— Meg Smith
 
 
Meg Smith is a poet, journalist, dancer and events producer living in Lowell, MA. Her poems have appeared in The Cafe Review, Poetry Bay, Astropoetica, Illumen, Dreams & Nightmares, the Dwarf Stars anthology of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, and many more. She is a past Board member of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! and produces the Edgar Allan Poe Show, honoring Poe’s presence in Lowell, MA. She recently published a second book of poetry, Dear Deepest Ghost, available on Amazon. She welcomes visits to megsmithwriter.net, as well as to Facebook and Twitter (@MegSmith_Writer).
 
Editor’s Note: The fractal design from pilgrimage of the heart yoga online (Sri Chinmoy Archives, fractal-292057_1280) captures the evoked images in the poem in a surrealistic way.

Live, Laugh, Love, Loop


My time machine is geared for me alone.
I don’t meet stars, make presidents, stop wars.
Fantastic times hold folks I’ve loved and known.
 
Jazz clubs with Uncle, Dad, Young’s saxophone.
Visits at Grandma’s, bunking with Dad’s snores—
My time machine is geared for me alone.
 
Unlike Our Town, give me the daily drone—
Like favorite songs and books, I love encores
Of times spent with the folks I’ve loved and known.
 
A traveler must endure the pain foreknown—
Worth it to see the people she adores.
My time machine takes tolls from me alone.
 
For Grandpa’s jokes, I’d give up all I own—
For family boating, Dad’s hands on the oars—
I cherish times with folks I’ve loved and known.
 
This is my heaven—stopped by no gravestone,
I’ll loop my life and visit you in yours.
My time machine is geared for me alone,
But best times hold you folks I’ve loved and known.
 
— Adele Gardner
 
 
With master’s degrees in English literature and library science, Adele Gardner (www.gardnercastle.com) has a poetry book (Dreaming of Days in Astophel) and poems, stories, articles, and illustrations in American Arts Quarterly, The Cape Rock, Pedestal MagazineDaily Science FictionLegends of the PendragonNewMyths.comStrange Horizons, and more. Gardner is a two-time third-place winner in SFPA’s Rhysling Awards and a third-place winner in the Balticon Poetry Contest of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. She lives and writes under her middle name to honor her father, mentor, and namesake, Delbert R. Gardner, for whom she serves as literary executor.
 
Editor’s Notes: For this Villanelle (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/villanelle-poetic-form), though tempting to use a Victorian time machine, a more abstract representation of time travel was chosen with the collage overlays and color adjustments, and of course, the graveyard/stone is a significant “initiator” of the place and time set.

Reflections of You

I was in a coma,
I dreamed a world much like this one,
in it, we were married,
we had eight kids,
we lived in a house so big
we had to post maps
with arrows showing You are here
so the children could find their way,
in this dream world,
sometimes you got so drunk,
you were lost for days.
 
We had a dinner party with 100 guests,
only 80 made it home that night,
two were never seen again,
no one ever visited after that.
 
Finally, I came out of the coma,
you are not my wife,
we don’t have any children,
we live in a two-bedroom apartment
above a Chinese laundry,
with only our pet zebra (a pygmy variety)
for company,
just as before my injury.
 
And yet, some things seem off,
didn’t I have an old Mustang,
and you a sewing hobby?
and the park across the street,
smaller than I remember,
sometimes I wonder
if I am still in a coma,
so tonight I propose to you,
I’ll tell you I want six or eight kids,
that we’ll have to move,
but you can keep the zebra.
 
We’ll see what happens,
oh, but I hope you say yes.
 
— David C. Kopaska-Merkel
 
 
David C. Kopaska-Merkel edited Star*line in the late ‘90s, and later served as SFPA President. His 29th book, a speculative-poetry collection entitled Metastable Systems, has been nominated for the Elgin award. Kopaska-Merkel edits and publishes Dreams and Nightmares, a genre poetry zine in its 32nd year of publication.
 
Editor’s Notes: About the poem, the author said, “How do you know this is reality? This poem doesn’t answer that question, but it takes a stab at it.” For the image, Demiart and a zebra are worked in together.

Redcap Days


On a Pullman train
in the olden times,
a dark-skinned man
with immaculate white gloves
and a beautiful smile
helps a woman on board.
 
She wears a ratty fox stole,
eyebrows plucked and penciled
on a powdered canvas of wrinkles.
Through lips firmly pursed
in perpetual scowl,
she calls him boy.
 
In the dining car
with white tablecloths
and shining cutlery,
there is an extensive menu
with elegant service
by a dark-skinned man.
 
But none of it is to her liking:
the knives and forks aren’t clean enough,
there are crumbs on the carpet,
her soup is too hot, her tea
too weak; and in a strident voice
she calls the waiter boy.
 
In the smoking car
where passengers engage
in convivial conversations,
she intrudes her opinions,
drinks too many martinis
and calls the barman boy.
 
When she chokes on an olive
no one comes rushing to her aid;
a voodoo spell, a magic curse?
There’s no evidence to tell,
but her time upon this mortal soil
most thankfully expires.
 
A Redcap lays her body in a berth,
buttons up the heavy curtains,
respectful of the dead—
her soul left to forever dreams
of serving nasty passengers
with unaccustomed smiles.
 
— Marge Simon
 
 
Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the Horror Writers Association Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees. She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award. She has won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.
 
Editor’s Notes: A Pullman porter helping a woman is blurred with an image of a creepy old woman, all colorized red, and made haunting

The Anguish


I know you were with him through all the chambers of the night. His six legs one by one enfolded you, stunning you with surgical precision, while you drummed passion into the sternness of his exoskeleton. His antennae, each as though alive, slipped/probed about your eager shoulders, and your breath rasped across his compound eyes, driving clouds of grieving water vapor along the stuttering surface of his sight. The chattering of his mandibles drew pure iridescence into your engorged heart, and your skin surely grew hot and threaded, and to his every move you were an echo, blind in your release, deaf to all but the hive of your own symphony. In the end, his wings unfolded proudly to give him greater art in balance; and the night was wounded by the quickness of your stinging, meaningless murmurs. All this, the entire bridgeless infidelity, I could forgive had you turned at the moment of measure and with one last mammalian moment, bitten his head off. But no, my love, you did not. And I will not be next.

 
— Ken Poyner
 
 
Ken Poyner’s current books–Constant Animals (mini-fictions), The Book of Robot (speculative poetry), Victims of a Failed Civics (poetry) and Avenging Cartography (mini-fictions)–are available at the vending sites of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. He is a retired Information Systems Security Manager, who now cheers his wife at her powerlifting affairs, and has long conversations with their four cats and betta fish.
 
Editor’s Notes: A green fly’s shadow is merged with a woman’s silhouette

Issue 39 Poetry

Perseids

Perseids

It is late summer. August leaves and grasses are tinged with the overcooked brown of the season’s heat.

Read more

The Eagles’ Songs

The Eagles’ Songs

The woman who knows the eagles’ songs doesn’t need a mare between her legs to taste speed.

Read more

I had once built a birdhouse

I had once built a birdhouse

Hacked away at tree bark Broke its limbs to sever them From the rest of its body

Read more

Night Reef

Night Reef

There is only one love here. Water becomes air. Light is only a blue dream.

Read more

Live, Laugh, Love, Loop

Live, Laugh, Love, Loop

My time machine is geared for me alone. I don’t meet stars, make presidents, stop wars. Fantastic times hold folks I’ve loved and known.

Read more

Reflections of You

Reflections of You

I dreamed a world much like this one, in it, we were married, we had eight kids, we lived in a house so big we had to post maps

Read more

Redcap Days

Redcap Days

On a Pullman train in the olden times, a dark-skinned man with immaculate white gloves and a beautiful smile helps a woman on board.

Read more

The Anguish

The Anguish

I know you were with him through all the chambers of the night. His six legs one by one enfolded you, stunning you with surgical precision

Read more