Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry Issue 41

I am delighted in broadcasting to the world these seasoned poetic voices. A variety of styles and topics grace these pages: Walt Disney fantasy references which serve as metaphors (Underwood), the cataloging of human evolution from an alien perspective (McBride), the mathematical nature of being (Davitt), alien interrogation (Dunn),

the ghosts after a Scottish massacre (Simon), the ghosts after the great flu epidemic (Thornfield-Long), a life-death transition (MacRae), a horror tale (Trimm). A few comments, especially about the artwork chosen/created by me to represent the poems, appear after the author bios.

 

Please enjoy these poets’ contributions.

 

John C. Mannone

Poetry Editor

Mid-Life Crisis

At forty-one I pluck whiskers from my chin
gold as Rapunzel’s hair,
shiny as the fire Gretel threw the witch into.

 

Once upon a time I imagined
the thrill of being such a brave girl.
Not the easy one some fool’s kiss could rescue.
I was capable of saving my own self,
outfitted with wits enough
to best the wartiest witches, all the little, ugly men.

 

Older, I made a wish that I could be
the princess, charmed and pleasing to all.
One slight shift in what’s-his-name and his needs,
and I could be fitted to any glass slipper.
In my sweetest breath, I’d promise I was worth
every peril that fine prince might face.
I’d be exquisitely sensitive to the pea beneath
the suggestive mattress.
Pure and beautiful enough,
I wouldn’t have to save myself.

 

I hardly remember now
what I dreamed I saved myself from, or for.
The obvious, lone walking wolf
whose favorite color is always predictably red?
The mythic white wedding night?

 

My identity never had a legend to stand on.

 

Even now, I can’t find myself
nestled comfortably on any page.
I am no one’s awful stepmother
or know-it-all godmother,
no kind of mother at all, with no children of my own.
I suppose it can be said of me
that I am currently living as happily ever after
as living to a certain age allows,
if not for all the stories that begin to tell themselves
in random, deep whispers,
about the possibilities that were and are no more,
the shockingly brief tales of days and years
vanished like breadcrumbs on the path,
and no way back.

 

In the middle of deep woods, I retrace
wrong turns and missteps and find
there is nothing here any less lost than at the start.
Long hours I spend nursing all my dear,
darling might-have-beens.
Bad days I linger with my face
pressed to the dark mirror
like the witch, devoted to my flaws.

 

— Susan O’Dell Underwood

 

Susan O’Dell Underwood directs the creative writing program at Carson-Newman University. Besides two chapbooks of poetry, she has one full-length collection, THE BOOK OF AWE (Iris). Her poems, essays, and short fiction have been published or are forthcoming in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Oxford American, Crab Orchard Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Tar River Poetry, and A Literary Field Guide to Appalachia. She and her husband David Underwood run Sapling Grove Press, devoted to underserved poets, photographers, and writers in Appalachia.

 

 

Editor’s Notes:  Supporting image is a collage of Disney Princess (by Kevin Dooley in Flickr) and a flying witch (Kisspng).

HUMAN: Native of Earth in the Sol System

Homo sapiens

Identification: Adults average 5-6 feet. Live birth.
Color varies. Form: Head, trunk, protrusions
at shoulders and hips called arms and legs.

Similar Species: Nothing on Homeworld.

Voice: Wide range of inflection, limited hissing.

Range: Entire planet although not naturally aquatic.

Comments: Apex sentient. Exterior covered in skin
with patches of hair; no protective scales.
Legs restricted to locomotion;
useless for sitting, unlike coils.
Arms used for carrying and eating, although
our mouth tentacles function better for both.

Note: Planet also supports a beautiful
creature of sleek and elegant design
that can swim, crawl and fly effortlessly.
They call it snake.

 

— Lauren McBride

 

Lauren McBride finds inspiration in faith, family, nature, science and membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). Nominated for the Best of the Net, Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards, her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in dozens of publications including Asimov’s, Dreams & Nightmares and The Grievous Angel. She enjoys swimming, gardening, baking, reading, writing and knitting scarves for troops.

 

Editor’s Note: This catalog poem—a field guide of sorts—is symbolized by a Hominoidea lineage tree (Dbachmann) and silhouettes of the evolution of man (clipart max) and a snake (kisspng).

 

Tessellation

Bounding a finite space
with an infinite line,
the pattern repeats itself,
regularly, predictably,
endlessly;

the same ratio between divisions,
the same angles
proceed from the macro
to the micro;

the corrugations of a brain,
the shape of synapses
coiling within the skull,
the fragile fractal shape
of nerves swaying
in a serotonin storm
the way that tree limbs
dance in a hurricane.

Each life is tessellated,
curved and arced and planed
to fit snugly beside another
like jigsaw tiles;
each piece a part of the other,
a part of the whole
chaotic system—

none of us can stand
far enough outside
the fractal boundary
to see the patterns to it all,
to see that
we are the tree in the storm,
we are the raw and aching nerve,
we are each other,
pieces in a mosaic,
only whole when we’re together
in this world.

 


— Deborah L. Davitt

 

Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Nevada, but currently lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and son. Her poetry has received Rhysling and Pushcart nominations; her short fiction has earned a finalist showing for the Jim Baen Adventure Fantasy Award (2018) and has appeared in InterGalactic Medicine ShowCompelling Science Fiction, and Galaxy’s Edge. For more about her work, including her Edda-Earth novels, please see www.edda-earth.com.

 

 

Editor’s Notes: Tessellate: from a late 17th century Latin verb tessellare meaning to decorate (a floor) with mosaics. And in mathematics, it’s to cover (a plane surface) by repeated use of a single shape, without gaps or overlapping. The accompanying image is that of Hippocampal neurons (green) and glial cells (red). Scale approximately 90 microns. (Image courtesy of Paul de Koninck, Universite Laval) from Fractals in Nature (https://fractalfoundation.org/OFC/OFC-1-6.html): Our brains are full of fractals and couldn’t function were it not for fractal geometry. The human brain has 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses possible only because of the fractal nature of neurons.

tell me the reason for the theft

tell me the reason for the theft
stolen hours, days, and centuries
bubbling underneath your cauldron

 

what is it in the blood that you desire
that you couldn’t find in your own?

 

what kind of thief is it who lives inside?
tell me how to separate us:
head from body, spirit from flesh

 

so we can burn you into powder and cast you into space

 

— Robin Wyatt Dunn

 

Robin Wyatt Dunn was born in Wyoming in 1979. He is a graduate student in creative writing at the University of New Brunswick, Canada. You can read more of his work at robindunn.com.

 

Editor’s Notes: The abstract artwork, “Blood And Tears” by Anyzamarah.deviantart.com (Patricia Maschke is a German fractal artist), has texture that goes with the poem.

The Ghosts of Culloden: 1746

Can you hear them, can you see them
Marching proudly across the moor,
Hear the wind blow thru the drifting snow,
Tell me can you see them, the ghosts of Culloden.
—Lines from “The Ghosts of Culloden” by Isla Grant

A savage lot, you say,
wearing kilts their women wove,
the dyes set by their lasses’ piss.
Look close to see the weave
their tartans fine as any noble’s vest.

Can you see them rising up again
with their claymores dipped in red,
but when the smoke of battle clears
they fade into the mist.

And all to unify the clans,
return the Stuart line
to England’s throne.
Such a waste of lives—
their Bonnie Prince Charles
was a fucking arse.

Climb to the Highlands
to find the standing stones,
make passage back in time,
then feel the thunderous entry
of their passing souls—
and you can worship down.

There is a bloodied page
in this history tome I hold.
I am a daughter
among the many daughters.
We’d have fought too,
if such were allowed.

We carry the weight
of suppressed rain,
the loss of lands,
the seasons of death
etched in the planes
of our faces.

You may on this page
scribe your many lies,
but no pen can change
nor words rearrange
what happened at Culloden.

 

— 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:  “The Battle of Culloden (Scottish Gaelic: Blàr Chùil Lodair) (16 April 1746) was the final clash between the French-supported Jacobites and the Hanoverian British Government in the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Culloden dealt the Jacobite cause—to restore the House of Stuart to the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain—a decisive defeat.” Read more here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btJzi8_GrUE and listen to Isla Grant sing The Ghosts of Culloden. More information can be found here: https://clan.com/blog/folklore-thursday-the-ghosts-of-culloden-battlefield and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Culloden#/

 

 

The image is a Woodcut painting by David Morier of the Battle of Culloden first published just six months after the battle in October 1746.

The Closing of St. Aloysius Hospital

One by one the doctors let their leases
expire at this cathedral of the hurt.
Hallways spider like mazes. Addition
after addition. Sisters of Mercy
begging to the blessed, Please we need more room.
Who’d resist them? Their pure, white uniforms,
their rosary prayers said over victims
of The Great Flu Epidemic. Warm cloths
laid on children’s legs, on soldiers blinded
by numeral’d wars. Sirens were silenced.

 

I stand beside the Patron Saint of Children

 

behind a chained door never locked before.
We’re obsolete, Aloysius and I.
George Thomas, the first baby born here, died
of old age a decade ago. My heels
echo down the polished hall, and I whirl
to groans and cries: chorus of agony,
a choir of praise. Thousands left this launch
headed for worlds far away. I am left
to empty rooms, hear the last rites of ghosts.
My bones now lie in corners, specks of dust.

 

— 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 in Artemis Journal, Riddled with Arrows, Silver BladeAbyss & 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, Best of the Net 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: Though not immediately apparent, the two 10-line verses are structured with decasyllabic lines, while the one-line central verse has 11 syllables, and is pivotal in the poem. An image of Creedmoor State Hospital’s Building 25 (founded in 1912) is overlaid with a rusted chain (Jooin) and a woman ghost (pngimg). The great influenza pandemic in 1918 killed over 50 million: https://www.cdc.gov/features/1918-flu-pandemic/index.html

The One Who Was Lost

They found him on the riverbank,
full of holes, full of dark spaces.
They found him on a Sunday morning,
rolling in the arms of Jesus,
a husk being absorbed back into earth,
a shell the soul discarded.

 

Angels hovered in the morning light.
They bathed his unquenchable wounds.
They ran their fingers through his hair.
They pressed the good light upon him–
the one who walked away from life,
who joined in the sleep of the once living.
Who shut his eyes and saw everything.

 

— Bruce McRae

 

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with well over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy (Cawing Crow Press) and Like As If (Pskis Porch), and Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

 

 

Editor’s Notes: The image is from the Spiritual Inspiration blog (spiritual-awakening.net). The poem is arguably a highly subverted sonnet.

Lambswool Tea

 

Yes miss please and thank ye. Lovely plate if I do say so myself, the missus would die if she saw me dirtying this with my greasy fingers, she’d give me a fair rump of it, but if you say all’s fine, then who am I to say naught against it?

 

The biscuits are lovely, mum, baked them yourself, now did ye, ah well, that’s too much kindness for the likes of me, my wife takes good care of me, despite the grousing, so I’d not want you to think I’m wanting anything as far as that goes.

 

The tea? Well, mum, I must say I’ve had nary a taste of something what made my mouth go quite as edgewise as this, I mean to say I love the taste, but my lips want to give a quiver once it’s past, if you pardon my meaning. It’s very good. I think I might need a quaff more, though, to judge its true quality.

 

Begging your pardon if I don’t hold the teacup rightly, I’m a rough man, mum, with flat fingers, comes from shearing the sheep, not fit for finer things, my pardon, pray forgive me, the missus says I’m not fit for proper conversation, but we seem to be getting on all right, what with my roughness and all.

 

Haven’t seen the Mister around lately, mum, and that worries me, what with the loss of that lamb last week, and the howls of the wolves lately. Bad business for the sheep, mum, even with me carrying my rifle into the hills every night. My missus hardly sees me at all these days. Not that she complains, mum, not that she complains.

 

A bit more tea, if I’m not being forward. Thankee, mum, but seems there’s something missing in the taste, not that I’m blaming you, mum, you know your tea, you and your people, but there’s something not right here, let’s try this, again begging your pardon, but the missus makes a fine tea herself, I carry some with me for the times when I’m tending the sheep and the Mister forgets I’m there. It happens, mum, but I’ll never say a word against him, he’s a very busy man.

 

Just a touch, missus, there you go, sip slowly, ah!  No, don’t take a sip of your own brew, just let this play about your mouth, let it linger. We call it lambswool tea, the missus and me, just a laugh for us when we look at the fields and flocks and remember that they once belonged to us and now we can’t even afford enough fleece for a sweater.

 

Lambswool tea. Big laugh, mum. We can’t afford tea, and we can’t keep the wool. So we make the tea out of whatever’s handy. And free, mum, and free. Oh, but nothing’s free now, is it, no, its all part and parcel, all bought and sold, all bartered or battered or stolen.

 

Your mister loved lambswool tea, mum. He told me so himself, right after his first taste of it. Did I mention the missing lamb, and the wolves?  Sure I done so, mum, you must remember. Only they weren’t so much wolves as big dogs, I’d guess. Hungry dogs what would never touch a lamb. We trained them that way, have done for centuries, mum.

 

How’s the tea, love? Bit too much of the Irish in it, is there?  Oh, you look all tuckered of a sudden, mum. Begging your pardon, though, but before you go to napping, tell me—can you hear the dogs howling? They sound right near to me. Very, very near.

 

— Mikal Trimm

 

Mikal Trimm has sold over 50 short stories and 100 poems to numerous venues including Postscripts, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

Editor’s Notes: The symbolic collage of teapot and wolf seems to fit the flash-poem, a delightfully horrific tale.

Winter 2019 Poetry

Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry Issue 41

Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry Issue 41

I am delighted in broadcasting to the world these seasoned poetic voices.

Read more

Mid-Life Crisis

Mid-Life Crisis

At forty-one I pluck whiskers from my chingold as Rapunzel’s hair

Read more

HUMAN: Native of Earth in the Sol System

HUMAN: Native of Earth in the Sol System

Identification: Adults average 5-6 feet. Live birth.Color varies. Form: Head, trunk, protrusions at shoulders and hips called arms and legs.

Read more

Tessellation

Tessellation

Bounding a finite space with an infinite line, the pattern repeats itself,regularly, predictably,endlessly

Read more

tell me the reason for the theft

tell me the reason for the theft

tell me the reason for the theft stolen hours, days, and centuries

Read more

The Ghosts of Culloden: 1746

The Ghosts of Culloden: 1746

A savage lot, you say,wearing kilts their women wove,the dyes set by their lasses’ piss.

Read more

The Closing of St. Aloysius Hospital

The Closing of St. Aloysius Hospital

One by one the doctors let their leases expire at this cathedral of the hurt.

Read more

The One Who Was Lost

The One Who Was Lost

They found him on the riverbank,full of holes, full of dark spaces.

Read more

Lambswool Tea

Lambswool Tea

Yes miss please and thank ye. Lovely plate if I do say so myself

Read more