Nothing’s afraid of him.
Look at the blue jay stealing
his straw for the nest.
No reason to be scared of tomorrow
while today grows sky high.
Then they mow his field.
Set fire to his forest.
Disappear down a maze of streets
hidden in the haze.
Now the mountain looms
beyond charcoal trees
and time unwinds tomorrow’s ties.
Crying with laughter he stands,
walks, jogs through the blister.
Vanishes in the smog.
I want to call out to him
but my voice is tinder.
I want to give chase
but my limbs would catch fire.
Maybe his tears will save him.
Paul Sherman is a recluse living in the mountains of western North Carolina. He reads his poetry to the forest that creeps close to his house. He carries binoculars to view the warblers that sometimes appear in the trees to listen. His work has yet to be found.
Editor’s Note: A scarecrow (pngtree)is combined with an apocalyptic scene from a French site: L’apocalypse. La fin du monde.
I can’t see too far past my own broken nose without my glasses,
but I know exactly who pulls up in the driveway,
The bud of my Marlboro Ultra Light 100
wheezes into my lap,
makin’ the other holes in my jeans look like a pattern.
I don’t mind.
They’re not the only genes of mine
that come with holes and ashes in ’em.
Barkley’s work boots slap dirt down
on the porch that he knows I’ve swept, today,
as he grunts “Supper done?” in my direction.
Would he come home if it wasn’t?
The shutters on the outside of the windows need a new coat
of magnolia-colored paint.
There’re chips sneaking down the wood,
and baring our poor to every vacuum and carpet cleaner salesman
that makes the mistake of picking our porch.
By this time at night,
Mama’s already in bed
in her faded pink muumuu
and praying that her daughter comes to her senses.
She’s optimistic that one day
I won’t love a man whose licks sting less
than the silver spittle on his chin,
that one day I’ll kick my smoking habit in the ass,
and hold my Tesla lighter to Barkley’s greasy flesh.
But she knows me better.
She knows that the second my flame took,
I’d throw my body on top of him
like a smother blanket
hugging the heat to death
to save a man who would gladly
barbecue his meals on my bones.
The screen door jitters shut
as he leaves me with my coping cloud.
Desperate, I drag out my last glow
and place the remains in the flea market, crystal ashtray.
My battered body stands and turns me towards the door,
towards the kidney bean filled chili I made for supper,
towards the dinner party that I throw, nightly, for silence,
towards cleaning plates and pans as quietly as possible
because the clinking gives him a “goddamn headache,”
towards one more cold night next to a mistake
next to a choice
next to the temptation to light up another Marlboro
and tap the ashes
onto the “highly flammable” warning label sewn into his pillow.
— Alecz Yeager
Alecz Yeager is a 22-year-old writer from South Carolina. She is currently finishing a BA of English at Winthrop University. She has previously had a prose piece published by Soft Cartel. Her poetry style is often narrative and tells some sort of short story. Her passion for writing stems from her belief that stories are what guide every new generation. Stories are what carry on the memories of the past.
Editor’s Note: I had photographed the flames in a fire ring on Halloween night (at a local microbrew in Knoxville, TN). The image I imagine in the fire, pareidolia, is spooky, a demon-angel on fire, or some other sinister creature aflame. It is fitting for the piece.
And Galileo’s seismic moon conveys
Our keen belief that children’s traits align
With names their sires assign. If with one phrase
Your namesake set a Greek god’s heart ablaze
And reigned as Jove’s volcanic satellite,
We know her name will likewise raise
You toward unparalleled allure and might.
May magma stir your blood and gadflies never bite.
— Mindy Watson
Mindy Watson is a Washington, DC/Northern Virginia-based formal verse poet who holds an MA in Nonfiction Writing from The Johns Hopkins University. Her poems have appeared in venues including Eastern Structures, Quarterday Review, Poetry Porch, Snakeskin, Star*Line, Think Journal, and many others. You may read her work at: https://mindywatson.wixsite.com/poetryprosesite
Editor’s Note: This homage to the Galilean moon, Io, is written as a Spenserian stanza (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spenserian_stanza). The accompanying image is a superposition of an active volcano and Jupiter as viewed from Io (with some artistic license), both from Pinterest. Io is the most volcanically active body in our solar system.
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 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.
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!
There is only one love here.
Water becomes air.
Light is only a blue dream.
I am not moved.
I am complete, without eyes,
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.
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)
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.
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
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