Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry, Issue 42 (May 2019)

John C. Mannone

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!

 

John C. Mannone

Poetry Editor

Rapunzel Decides

 


                                     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 and has contributed poetry to The Georgia ReviewIowa ReviewPrairie SchoonerSouthern Poetry ReviewThe Chattahoochee Review, Shenandoah, and Ted Kooser’s syndicated column, American Life in Poetry, among many other journals and anthologiesHer 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.

Ode to the Artistic Temperament

 

I

Awake at dawn, Medusa feeds her hair
With mice she raises specially beneath
The kitchen sink, her landlord unaware.

She sips her coffee, dons the mystic wreath
That keeps her form and features well disguised,
Ignites the spell, and goes to brush her teeth.

The mirror shows her plain and middle-sized,
A simple mortal hardly worth a glance.
Success, in other words. She’s unsurprised.

For magic always works, its lying dance
Detestable. It leaves her feeling stained,
Constricted, itchy, trapped by circumstance.

She slithers down the stairs, her self restrained,
And knows her true integrity’s maintained.


II

The cellar-level space she rents to work
Is cramped with statues—carved, she’s proud to say.
She hasn’t petrified a single jerk

In centuries, prefers the harder way,
The honesty it forces through the stone:
A slip, and all her effort’s gone astray.

She’s done with cheating, simply won’t condone
Abusive ways she formerly allowed
Although the choice has left her here alone.

Remembering, she blinks away the cloud
Across her vision, breathes and tries to shake
The thoughts that wrap her tight as any shroud.

Her sisters’ shouting, sure of her mistake,
Will ever echo, ever burn and ache.


III

It seems a hundred thousand years ago
That Euryale spat her sheer contempt
While Stheno grumbled, poisonous and low:

“Humanity’s a crutch, and we’re exempt
From all its false morality! Arise!
Embrace the curse! We’re meant to live unkempt!

“Destroy your shackles! Smash the yoke that tries
To grind the individual to dust!
If we’re the monsters, show the term applies!

“For every stab they aim at us, we must
Return the favor, practice what we preach,
And stoke their anger, gluttony, and lust!”

Her sisters flared their claws with every screech.
Medusa sneered and rose to hiss her speech:


IV

“Enough with all this stupid, useless talk!
It’s three against a billion mortal souls!
Our efforts won’t create the slightest shock!

“A true, successful monster harbors goals—
Attainable, deliberate, sincere—
And uses tools humanity controls!

“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.


V

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.


VI

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.


VII

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).

Mendacity with Colored Sprinkles

 

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

Troubled Times are Turning

 

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.

*

 

At the end this sand coming by
covers you with soft flowers
that long ago dried as footsteps

still treading inside some shallow grave
smothered as afterward and dust
–you loved her the way the Earth

keeps warm and between two suns
place to place what’s left
you walk without looking down

though your arms are closing
have grown together a single fingertip
touching these shells and pebbles.

 

— Simon Perchik

 

Simon Perchik also has poetry appearing in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker and elsewhere.

 

Editor’s note: This imagistic and surreal poem might have many interpretations. One of them is suggested here with an image of a mysterious cross encrusted with marine sediment and organisms that was washed up on a Ft. Lauderdale beach (https://www.travelandleisure.com/syndication/fort-lauderdale-beach-cross-washed-up ) bordered by roses from clip art—life contrasting death.

the NHK guy

 

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.

 

 

They brought us the cure for H-loss

 

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 ARTPOST magazine, 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.

 

Editor’s Note: A lady contemplates the effects of radiation exposure (https://www.self.com/story/chemotherapy-side-effects-to-know/an); an atomic bomb image (from Printrest) is superimposed outside the window in the near distance.

When the Last Religion


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/

 

Editor’s Note: The irreverent cartoon by M80 captures the spirit of the poem http://www.rantlets.com/rant/stupid-people-and-hypocrites/

Martian Snow


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 HorizonsDreams 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.

 

Editor’s Note:  The image of a snow crystal and snow angel represents the poem. Snow crystals have actually been discovered on Mars, but of course, the snow angel is imagined. https://www.iflscience.com/space/we-just-discovered-snow-on-mars/all/

Spring 2019 Poetry

Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry, Issue 42 (May 2019)

Introduction to Silver Blade Poetry, Issue 42 (May 2019)

The slate of poets in this issue maintain the level of excellence you have come to expect and enjoy.

Read more

Rapunzel Decides

Rapunzel Decides

At marriage knell, my hair thickens and I no more scissor at the mirror, my barber grandfather

Read more

Ode to the Artistic Temperament

Ode to the Artistic Temperament

Awake at dawn, Medusa feeds her hair With mice she raises specially beneath The kitchen sink, her landlord unaware.

Read more

Mendacity with Colored Sprinkles

Mendacity with Colored Sprinkles

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

Read more

Troubled Times are Turning

Troubled Times are Turning

We follow footprints disappearing Into the wet alien sand That shimmers beneath three moons’ sheen

Read more

*

*

At the end this sand coming by covers you with soft flowers that long ago dried as footsteps

Read more

the NHK guy

the NHK guy

the NHK guy comes through the electric security fence that hovers around my door

Read more

They brought us the cure for H-loss

They brought us the cure for H-loss

I was born with a thick head of black hair: my father’s.

Read more

When the Last Religion

When the Last Religion

When the last religion confesses its atrocities through the ages and shuts down shop for good,

Read more

Martian Snow

Martian Snow

Though new data now suggests snowstorms may rage on Mars

Read more