“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).
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.
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.
On midnight shadows he floats with the loons, pitching and casting his baited hook overboard, a bobber twitching as catfish nibble his mind, fiddle strung under his chin, a fishtailing grin in the ripples, he warbles maniacally. The sky drips moonshine into the pools in his eyes as he casts, spinning, flying on the spool, twisting as he loses grip and flutters away on currents, jigging in the depths while I weigh anchor. I smile as we laugh and reel down the river and he winks until only a grin remains in the stars.
— Alex Pickens
Alex Pickens has lived over 20 years in southern Appalachia, where he spends much of his time hiking, reading the Classics, and fingerpicking the blues. His work has recently been accepted by The Inkwell Journal, Maudlin House, Mad Scientist Journal (4 times), Gone Lawn, Pretty Owl Poetry, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Eastern Iowa Review, Jersey Devil Press, Crack the Spine, and Moonpark Review, while his flash fiction has been nominated for a Best Microfiction, 2018 anthology. He is a direct descendent of a Revolutionary War general nicknamed “The Wizard Owl.”
Editor’s Note: The silhouette of a man with his son in a boat fishing (pngtree) on the lake/moonlit waters (flyclip art).
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.
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.
From a dense blue jungle
the seed from which I grew
was transported by a wandering bird
to a place where I could be, alone.
Stones continually roll from above
creating with the rustle of my leaves
a false sound of voices.
I imagine another, brothersister,
with me here on the steep edge of winter.
But storm and snow break my branches;
my leaning and reaching are unrequited,
and my flowers die sterile.
I wait for each sunrise
on a cliff whose cracks are widening.
Every gust of wind deconstructs
my departure and the hunger of roots
thins toward an impenetrable cistern
of dreams. I come nearer
to the abyss.
J. Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. She has competed at National Poetry Slam as a member of the Madison, WI, Urban Spoken Word team. Her work appears irregularly in Abyss & Apex, Analog, Asimov’s SF, and elsewhere in the alphabet. A Catalogue of the Further Suns won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest and the 2018 SFPA Elgin Chapbook Award.
Editor’s Note: Image of blue forest is from Desktop Nexus.
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.
Our last star went out so long ago.
The night sky misses her diamonds.
We huddle around the gnawing
radiation of a dying black hole,
final relics of life, spindly sentinels
to stand vigil over the corpse
of the universe
There is only enough fuel
to light our furnace once.
All the fire that remains in the universe
can ignite a single star for a little while,
or burn our escape from pitiless night.
The pearls all begin to glow
along our necklace of 500 million miles.
And as one, the lasers fire from every link.
Gold chains all come together
at a single point in the center
of the black velvet—
all the beams growing so hot and so bright
that no wall can withstand
our final breath.
Zero clicks to one
and we are born again
as whispers in a new universe
filled with light.
— Vanessa Kittle
Vanessa Kittle is a former chef and lawyer, who now teaches English. She lives in New York with her partner and two cats. Vanessa recently was published by Akashic Books, and has two collections with the March Street Press. She has appeared in magazines such as the Rhysling Anthology, Abyss and Apex, Contemporary American Voices, Dreams and Nightmares, Star*Line, and Silver Blade.
Vanessa edits the Abramelin Poetry Journal. She enjoys watching cheesy movies, cooking, gardening, and Star Trek!