The slate of poets in this issue maintains the level of excellence you have come to expect and enjoy. They come from several regions of the USA (Mid Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast, Upper Midwest, West) and the UK:
This body of literary quality work is varied in style, voice, and subgenre. A brief editor’s note after each poem speaks mostly to the images prepared by the poetry editor. The arrangement of the poems, as usual, follow some kind of arc, whether narrative, mood/emotional, daisy-chained, or whatever. Please enjoy!
At marriage knell, my hair thickens and I no more scissor at the mirror, my barber grandfather shadowed in bas-relief. I no more chop and snip nearly to the bone, going by pure feel. My hair
honeysuckles the fencepost, too much wah-wah to notice how it twines and silvers. My hair fabled and regaled, retold by firelight, braided by tribal mothers until it grows in largesse, encircles
wolves and black swans, a blood moon. In the village square, rung wide and far, great awakening at the embattled gate: no more waiting for the prince to ascend the fool’s ladder, no more fairytale end. My hair
the enchantress, her forbidden rampion, skein of silk more precious than birdsong, all I own high in the tower, my warbling onliness loose in the straw winds over river and creek that calls nightly in plea and release:
Let it down, let it down.
— Linda Parsons
Linda Parsons coordinates WordStream, WDVX-FM’s weekly reading series, with Stellasue Lee. She is the reviews editor at Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel andhas contributed poetry to The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Shenandoah, and Ted Kooser’s syndicated column, American Life in Poetry, among many other journals and anthologies. Her fifth poetry collection, Candescent, is forthcoming from Iris Press. Parsons is also playwright-in-residence for The Hammer Ensemble, the social justice wing of Flying Anvil Theatre in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Editor’s Note: Rapunzel’s hair let down from the tower engulfing the forest below is from Disney’s game, Tangled.
“A true, successful monster reaches here”— Medusa tapped her scaly, shapely chest— “Attacks the heart, instilling honest fear!”
Naïve, they called her, feckless, weak, the rest Of all the angry epithets they knew Before they stalked away. “It’s for the best,”
Medusa mumbled, thinking it was true, But swift as sparks, the spinning decades flew.
Poetic stories twice declared her slain. In midnight fields of mud, she coiled and wept, Her sisters bloody, mangled, soaked with rain.
As mortal cities spread, Medusa crept, Enchanted, torn by wonder, grief, and hate. Within their midst, she lived and ate and slept
And ran a scheme that let her aggregate Sufficient funds to live in quietude: She’d turn a random stranger into slate,
Then sell the statue, innocent or lewd. Suspicious accusations came and went, The Middle Ages moldy, dark, and rude—
Except the architecture, heaven sent But breeding still a certain discontent.
Cathedral stone would send her half-insane, Ecstatic, moaning, crawling end to end, Incredulous to think the human brain
For all its rush to blame and condescend, Had harnessed such techniques, producing art! She kept locating more to recommend,
Enraptured, finding statues full of heart, Alive in ways she knew she couldn’t match. She vowed she’d learn to carve, to make a start.
The decades passed again, and batch by batch, Medusa grew to love the secret shape A rock contained, awaiting strike and scratch,
Exposing truth with each revealing scrape, Emotions frozen, longing to escape.
Her hair begins to cough. She climbs the stairs, Another dusk enveloping the sky As lights illumine all the city’s squares.
The bistro down the block has pizza pie And conversation: artists, writers, songs, A panoply to fill and fortify.
Medusa rarely talks among the throngs But nods to those whose faces through the years Have made her understand that she belongs.
They ebb and flow, but still, she calls them peers, Ephemeral but lasting, air and fire, Creating joys and torments, hopes and fears.
Apart but still a part, she won’t retire As long as mortals seethe with such desire.
— Michael H. Payne
Michael H. Payne’s poems have appeared in places like Silver Blade, Gathering Storm, the Civilized Beasts collection, and the Rhysling Award anthology. His short stories have appeared in places like Asimov’s SF, the Sword and Sorceress anthology, and the Writers of the Future contest collections. His novels have been published by Tor Books and Sofawolf Press. He updates his webcomics Monday through Friday, hosts a Sunday afternoon radio program at the local university, and both writes and helps curate My Little Pony fanfiction for Equestria Daily and the Royal Canterlot Library. He would also like to thank the community at writeoff.me without whom this poem would not exist.
Editor’s Note: The terza rima is an Italian rhyming form of interlocked tercets (aba, bcb, cdc…zz) quite suitable for narrative poems. It’s a form first used by Dante Alighieri. Typical Medussa images are gruesome, here, a more seductive version fits this poem. It is from Medusa wallpaper by Jooomshaper (WDF-68709).
Five sex changes. You could call me indecisive. I keep all the old parts in big hand-blown glass jars in the bay window of the breakfast nook, overlooking the river (such a pretty blue!) Sea horses regularly waft by, six of them hitched to each floating pumpkin. I’ve always loved onion domes; not content with the 17 ornamenting the roof, turrets, and gardening shed, I had two more installed, on each side of the front door, facing outward. Of course, painted pink, with cherry-tinted nipples, nicely complementing the color scheme of the rest of the place (mauve with chartreuse trim and orange accents). On even Sundays, one can tour the grounds and the interior of the house for a nominal fee; unfortunately, all Sundays for the foreseeable future are a bit odd. When the summer days are too hot, I immerse myself in a deep cistern buried under the roses where the septic tank used to be, first making sure to schedule daily ice-cream deliveries. Raspberry, mango, & spinach are my favorite flavors, to match the décor of the house. Violet light shines out of my conch- shaped ears, and when I ambulate in the moon garden, I wear a halo of moths, signaling the praises of the night with their alphabet wings.
— F.J. Bergmann
F.J. Bergmann manifests in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov’s, and elsewhere in the alphabet; functions, so to speak, as poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change; and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. A Catalogue of the Further Suns, a collection of dystopian first-contact reports, won the 2017 Gold Line Press chapbook contest and the 2018 SFPA Elgin Award.
Editor’s Note: Image is a collage of a color palate (Open-Xchange), a seahorse (kisspng) and a recolorized pumpkin to complement the surreal poe
We follow footprints disappearing Into the wet alien sand That shimmers beneath three moons’ sheen
One of our party wonders Where the owner of these feet is running Except slowly but surely out of time
We all look off at the ragged horizon As the sea writhes beside us Like leviathan’s ink
Our robot leader crouches Dips a circuit in a footprint Says this is the one we’re looking for
Then it lifts the dipped circuit To its permanent smile And says quietly it smells like desperation
‘Don’t we all?’ mutters a man at the back In a voice coming out of the shadow That has stolen his face away
It’s a darkness thrown down by the huge black hat That’s the only thing left of his old life He told us over shivering breakfast
But we can’t waste time thinking about someone Who smells like us, who is running from us Not if we ever want to get paid
— J.E.A. Wallace
J.E.A. Wallace has been a hotel night porter, an abattoir security guard, and a barman in The House of Lords. Born and raised in England, he now lives and writes in America. His debut full-length poetry collection Are You Hurtling Towards God Knows What? is available from Unsolicited Press.
Editor’s Note: Human footprints (kisspng) are colorized black and superimposed on an alien landscape with 3 moons (Amazon: azutura Alien Landscape Wall Mural Planets Space Photo) was chosen to echo the opening verse and capture its tension.
the NHK guy comes through the electric security fence that hovers around my door—
(they have access like that)
—and tramples across the tatami of my dining room
he taps at the dynacurtain that i have my holoprojector hidden under
“get rid of that” he says and i comply with a nod seeing the social taser he has set
i can’t lose my peer-credibility value—i need to refinance this tiny 1DK of a cubbyhole next month
i draw the dynacurtain open and reveal a glimmering set of holos
magnificent and glorious with stereo-display and dual destabilizing reflective image compressors
he neither cares nor awes, his mustache straight his eyes neutral
he counts the voxels rote, impassive
and deducts the fare from my cred account
with a ding
there is no love for the holoprojector it is not a thing of beauty as i see it to be, as impressive as my deluxe selfdriver or chrome vertebrae drone
to him, it’s just another bit to count, a numerical figure attached to a ledger
— D.A. Xiaolin Spires
D.A. Xiaolin Spires is a female writer of color conducting research in Asian anthropology funded by a National Science Foundation fellowship. Some of her poems feature Japanese cultural elements understood by her having lived, and conducted research, in Japan. Her work appears in publications such as Liquid Imagination, Star*Line and Eye to the Telescope.
Editor’s Note: The 1DK image, Asian lingo for a Japanese traditional home—“Take Your Shoes Off Minka, or typical Japanese homes, are defined by tatami floor covering flooring, gliding doors, and wooden engawa outdoor patios. Another aspect that lingers also in Western-style…” (ApecEdu apecaccelerator.org) is combined with an abstract image of a robo-entity and its aircraft on its investigation of the narrator in the poem. An mp3 recording of Spires’ poem is performed by Dafydd McKimm:
Dafydd McKimm was born and grew up in the glove-shaped valleys of South Wales but now lives in the East Asian metropolis of Taipei, Taiwan. His short fiction has appeared in publications such as Deep Magic, Daily Science Fiction, Syntax & Salt, and Flash Fiction Online. You can out more about him and his work at www.dafyddmckimm.com.
I was born with a thick head of black hair: my father’s.
It survived the pulls, cuts, styling, dyes, creams, oils and gels throughout my teens.
Now it’s falling out in clumps along with my faith: the chemo is failing.
Who knew They would arrive in my lifetime? Who knew They could hold the answer to ridding us of it once and for all?
Now my hair is thinning, falling out in life’s natural cycle, as I tell my grandchild of the day They landed and changed our lives forever.
His eyes grow wide as he listens, and when the story ends, I ruffle up his thick head of black hair.
— L.P. Melling
L.P. Melling has prose poetry in ARTPOSTmagazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and L’Éphémère Review. He won the short story contest ran by the Russell Group of universities while completing a BA in English, and was a finalist for the Writers of the Future contest. When not writing, he works for a legal charity that advises and supports victims of crime.
When the last religion confesses its atrocities through the ages and shuts down shop for good,
when the fiery preachers and arrogant prophets of the last religion step down from their pulpits, cough up their crimes, cop to their hypocrisies, not be heard from again,
when the jeremiahs and end-of-the-worlders of the last religion trash their placards, throw off their robes, and dance naked through sprinklers in the park,
when the militant fanatics of the last religion surrender their arms and defuse their bombs and abandon their rhetoric to embrace life over death,
when the archaic rituals of the last religion are never performed except as reenactments in historical dramas,
we may inhabit a world where humanity and the sure light of reason illuminate the dark.
— Bruce Boston
Bruce Boston’s poems have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Analog, Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, Daily Science Fiction, Pedestal, Strange Horizons, the Nebula Awards Showcase and Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. His poetry has received the Bram Stoker Award, the Asimov’s Readers Award, and the Rhysling and Grand Master Awards of the SFPA. His 40th poetry collection, Artifacts, is available at Amazon and other online booksellers. His fiction has received a Pushcart Prize and twice been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award (novel, short story). http://bruceboston.com/
Though new data now suggests snowstorms may rage on Mars
at night, microbursts of fluffed-up ice particles
rarely survive, subliming before they hit the ground,
draining away into equally invisible canals of Schiaparelli.
They leave behind only the unborn ghosts of snow angels never meant to be.
— Robert Borski
Robert Borski did not start writing poetry until he was in his middle 50s, but since then has had well over three hundred poems published and in such venues as Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Dreams and Nightmares, and Star*Line, garnering along the way 14 Rhysling Award nominations. As a lifelong native of Wisconsin with its prolonged winters, he’s often fantasized about living offworld, on a planet where there is no snow. Unfortunately, as recent observations have demonstrated (see poem), it appears Mars will no longer be an option.