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
I tell you temptation was cool
As a string of pearls in my hands.
It wasn’t the apple, peach,
Or apricot (the color of flesh & mouths)
It was the prospect of touch
That caused me to reach out.
But what did I, fresh-born,
Fallen from the realm of mythology,
My feet still sunk in silvery clay,
Know about desire?
Only that the word seed
Stemmed from it,
That all of nature
Seemed to be ripe with it.
It’s alive inside you,
An entity with a will of its own—
Who are you when desire
Steps into you
But its own vision?
Eyes polished by the sun,
Hands ready to touch a newness
Familiar as your own heartbeat.
It’s skin hunger.
For although we are whole as beings
We are half of something always
And crave the mystery of that other side.
You must dance with Desire.
All the while
Trying hard to concentrate on other things.
I tell you it was tender.
It was patient and soft,
Asking for direction.
A strange place it brought me to
With kind music
And colors out of a dream.
And He, although a stranger
Whose rib I’d departed from,
Was my shelter.
Mouth and hands I wanted to return to.
How could it be otherwise
With the clear God-pattern
Drawn on our palms
Like crib notes.
It wasn’t the new world and everything in it,
The winged leaves and colored sky,
The animals in all their curiosity.
Nor the serpent with the slow groove
Of persuasion moving in the branches.
It wasn’t the new world
That called to me—
It was Him.
And out of temptation,
That young disease,
The first touch was sharp,
Foreign inside me.
It was the color of warmth,
Stained me like blood on white cloth.
The cotton-white doves
Trying to deliver peace
Had told me about this,
But they were mute about the burning,
The feeling of fire setting in the belly.
No voice spoke out about this.
I was first—
The one pushed out in front of it all
To navigate in the dark,
To taste but not be filled.
I was the initiator, initiated.
It was easier
To reach out, to grasp
Something solid, whole, sweet.
And because of me
They gave these palpitations a name.
And this was the curse,
The prickly womb-nest,
The uncleanliness pinned to women—
That She could lead you into dirty waters
Blindfolded, stain your hands
With blood—that She
And could turn a man to seawater
In her hands, let him scatter
If she chose him to.
She could deafen you with silence.
She could make you devour
Your whole existence
She could make you go mad
To eat out of her hand.
— Corrine De Winter
Corrine De Winter is an author and Stoker Award Winner for her poetry collection The Women at the Funeral. Her inspirational writings have been published in many journals, (her poems “Bless The Day”, “Bedside Prayers,” “The Language of Prayer,” “Teen Sunshine,” etc., continue to be used in traditional church services, ceremonies, and on many websites). She has won numerous awards for her writing from the New York Quarterly, Triton College of Arts & Sciences, and The Rhysling Science Fiction Award. Her work has been applauded by such luminaries as William Peter Blatty (The Excorcist), Tom Monteleone, Thomas Ligotti, Nick Cave, Stanley Wiater, Heather Graham, and others. William Packard, former editor of the New York Quarterly, was a mentor publishing De Winter’s work early on and inviting her to write “The Present State of American Poetry,” a regular feature in the journal. At Packard’s invitation, she read her poetry at the New School in NYC, and continued a rapport with Packard until his passing. Packard was a big supporter of Charles Bukowski, and De Winter was published with him several times in his last years. A naturalist, philanthropist, metaphysical seeker, artist and the founder of “Small World Fund For Children,” Radio Host for SUPERNATURAL RADIO, on the Blogtalkradio.com website, De Winter lives between this world and the next.
You are dream etched in lipstick
written in the curls of black rubber
blowing across the burnt asphalt outside. You have become a part
of an imaginary phonograph collection, something to listen to
while I dig epitaphs out of marble
one letter at a time.
I will pound these mountains down until they are
knee-high tombstones, irregular doorstops, bags of gravel fit only for
garden paths and country roads. My plans sound like gunfire
in my sleep, I am determined
to obliterate this cartography of love
damn myself to illiteracy and ice.
— Holly Day
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Big Muddy, The Cape Rock, New Ohio Review, and Gargoyle, and her published books include Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies, Ugly Girl, and The Yellow Dot of a Daisy. She has been a featured presenter at Write On, Door County (WI), North Coast Redwoods Writers’ Conference (CA), and the Spirit Lake Poetry Series (MN). Her newest poetry collections, A Perfect Day for Semaphore (Finishing Line Press) and I’m in a Place Where Reason Went Missing (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.) will be out late 2018.
Image Notes: Visual Artist Frank Bonilla “Red Swirl” is combined with a CC2.0 image of a heart and a silhouette of a tree and tombstone.
Dream a memory of clouds that chase the moon, of winds outside a house that knew a devastating war.
On the second floor, a window lights, silhouetting a seated woman in a long dress. Her head bowed low, her hands clasped as if in prayer. A tree bough bends and breaks. Soon it’s swept by gusts to rest against a tombstone in the family plot.
The inscription on the stone is weathered and pockmarked by Minié balls. From this grave, a phantom rises in the wind. Not of this world, the wind does not affect its composition—a Confederate soldier missing an arm, his uniform in shreds.
Above, the woman’s shadow rises and looks out the window. She touches her lips as she waves a handkerchief before floating down to join him.
— Marge Simon
Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees. She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF&F Association with a Grand Master Award. She has won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.
Image Notes: From a news article “Man Arrested for Pretending to be Ghost at Cemetery,” the cemetery is combined with a ghostly image from The Minds Journal.