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!
You think you had a bad day:
I hit the wrong key, wiped out
Three finished star systems,
A single hyperbolic orbit that I had worked on
For the better part of an hour,
And one sentient species. In this
Quadrant, that sets Creation back
An entire day, and all the texts
Will have to be changed to read
That rest had to wait
For the Eighth day. There was
Quite a to-do, and I thought for a while
I might be let go.
But in the end, I got some office tape
And penned a sign that reads
“Not until the Big Guy says so,”
And covered the button all the way
Around. Of course
The overtime I worked
To get new stars and planets and
And a substitute evolvable species set up
Was all off the books,
But it was a close one:
I thought I would be kicked back
To polishing haloes, feathering wings,
Encouraging unicellular organisms.
No one wants to lose a job
On the front lines like this:
I have so many creatures yet
To test out, so many plans
To put to the Boss. One
Miss-pressed key and my dreams
Shrink up like they were knocked free-fall
Into a gravity well. But,
With management’s reputation for Forgiveness,
And my skill at looking uncommonly repentant,
I’m back again to smoothing the residual anger out
Of crisp, new planetary systems, fixing the drive
In custom made dominant species.
Soon, I’ll have another fresh hyperbolic
Orbit running about in my imagination, bound
With the warmest celestial mathematics
And surfaced like wickedly loose light—
And with this one, I could just get an approval
For the angels of calculus that might divinely support it.
— Ken Poyner
Ken Poyner’s latest collection of short, wiry fiction, Constant Animals, and his latest collections of poetry—Victims of a Failed Civics and The Book of Robot—-can be obtained from Barking Moose Press at www.barkingmoosepress.com, or www.amazon.com, or Sundial Books at www.sundialbooks.net. He often serves as strange, bewildering eye-candy at his wife’s power lifting affairs. His poetry of late has been sunning in Analog, Asimov’s, Poet Lore, The Kentucky Review; and his fiction has yowled in Spank the Carp, Red Truck, Café Irreal, Bellows American Review. www.kpoyner.com.
Editor’s Notes: Artwork is an oil painting by Sascha Grusche (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0) of conic sections, which describe possible orbits/trajectories of small objects around the Earth. A projection of these orbits (yellow) onto the gravitational potential (blue) of the Earth makes it possible to determine the orbital energy at each point in space. Isaac Newton, who proved that orbits were conic sections, is shown next to the Milky Way, our galaxy. The spectral colors symbolize different energy values, in analogy to the frequencies of light.
“I cannot linger long”
First words my selkie said to me,
Fierce eyes black as obsidian
“Lest I strangle you with seaweed
Or drown you like a sailor
Shipwrecked far out at sea.”
We made love in breaking waves;
Afterwards, I lured her home with me,
Tempting her into my bed,
Our new love slowly quickening
Three months she stayed with me . . .
A season all our own.
We embraced by the ghost-white moon;
Upon the beach in sun-struck sand
Or beneath warm, comforting covers
In my rough-timbered fisherman’s hovel—
Her passion sometimes frightening
One night it stormed, and on a rocky strand
We listened to the thunderous ocean roar—
As if the storm within her were without.
Gentler times we swam together
In a calm sheltered cove
On the leeward side of the island
The wives and mothers of our village shunned her . . .
One day her demented eyes met mine,
Black as black obsidian:
“I dare not stay another day,
Else I’ll take your breath away forever—
Bury you in the coral sand of my underwater garden
Beneath orange ornamental shells;
And turn your eyes into milky pearls
Staring blindly up from the ocean’s floor
“I must leave now; forsake your love—“
Last words my selkie said to me,
“For, as you see, I am quite mad—
As mad as the mist and the sea.”
The wind caught her words
And broke them on the rocks,
And hurled the scattered sounds
Like salt-spray on an ocean’s shore
. . . And I am torn asunder,
Mad as the mist and sea
As mad as the mist and the sea
— Kendall Evans
Kendall Evans’ stories and poems have appeared in nearly all the major science fiction and fantasy magazines, including Asimov’s SF, Analog, Abyss &Apex, Weird Tales, Strange Horizons, Weirdbook, Mythic Delirium, and many others. He is the author of the novel The Rings of Ganymede and a number of chapbooks, including Poetry Red-Shifted in the Eyes of a Dragon; Separate Destinations and The Tin Men (both written in collaboration with David C. Kopaska-Merkel), I Feel So Schizophrenic, the Starship’s Aft-Brain Said and In Deepspace Shadows.
Editor’s Notes: The painting, Selkie, is by Nicole Welch, created using watercolors on Arches 140lb cold press paper (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). I was inspired by the legend “about a lovely seal that shed her skin as she came upon the shore. She transformed into a beautiful woman and became a delight to the eyes of fishermen in those parts. One day a man took her seal skin as she was bathing in the shallow waters and she soon became the wife of the lonely fisherman. She spent her days as a good and loyal companion to the man until one day she found her skin and she returned to the sea as seal once again. For this was her destiny, to fill the heart of a lonely man with love and service until she was called back to the sea.”
It’s the queen he needs to appease,
stridulations scraping on his carapace.
Death might reward his gentle overtures
as he advances through her silken web.
Stridulations scraping on his carapace
make no plangent tunes for human ears
as he advances through her silken web—
his flesh a gift for children he won’t know.
Though no plangent tunes for human ears,
he sings desire to his eight-legged queen.
His flesh a gift for children he will never know,
yet he dreams of more than sacrifice.
He sings desire to his eight-legged queen,
it is she whom he needs most to appease,
yet he dreams of more than sacrifice—
death might reward his gentle overtures.
— Deborah L. Davitt
Deborah L. Davitt was raised in Reno, Nevada, but received her MA in English from Penn State, where she taught rhetoric and composition before becoming a technical writer in industries including nuclear submarines, NASA, and computer manufacturing. She had poems published in Silver Blade, Star*Line, and many other venues. Her short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show and Compelling Science Fiction, and her Edda-Earth novels are available on Amazon. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son, and has a history of writing affectionately about spiders, in spite of her arachnophobia. For more information, please see www.edda-earth.com.
Editor’s Notes: The brown recluse is also known as the “violin spider” because of the shape of its body. The Pantoum is accompanied with Linda Tanner’s photograph (CC 2.0) about these spiders in a mating ritual. She says, “Not unlike human females, brown recluse females require a male to impress her before he is allowed to mate with her. A male spider can do this in a few different ways. For example, during mating season, a male brown recluse usually starts its attempt at wooing a female by performing a dance. If this is not enough, the male might also bring its female of choice some food as a gift. If the female accepts the food and softens up toward the male, the start of a new family has begun. If not, the broken-hearted male takes off to find a different female.”
Horsemen in black boots shine
against the dead streets, peering in each window,
smashing in every door.
The house begins to smolder;
smoke like thick liquid rises silently and fast,
closing our ears with a flood of dark.
The yellowing stars go out
like theatergoers after a disturbing performance
stumbling in the aisles, whispering angrily.
Zeppelin angels drift overhead,
each arcing sword a roar of blue flame,
their robes ballooning with hot air.
Somnambulant, we lose our way
in baroque murals, trompe-l’oeil gardens,
a flaking fresco of falsehood and denial
whose far horizon holds an ancient ridge
of mountains, crumbling like a fossil spine.
We will cross them safely into another country.
— F.J. Bergmann F.J. Bergmann edits poetry for Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (sfpoetry.com) and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change (mobiusmagazine.com), and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. Her chapbook A Catalogue of the Further Suns recently won the Gold Line Press manuscript competition.
Editor’s Notes: From publicdomainpictures.net, the fiery “lord of darkness” is combined with saucers and stormtroopers.
The Sandman’s Children “[W]ho is this naughty Sandman, who always drives us away from Papa?” “He is a wicked man who comes to children when they won’t go to bed… He puts their eyes in a bag and carries them to the crescent moon to feed his own children…” —E.T.A. Hoffmann, The Sandman
The moon is full of eyes,
coated with delicate
dust, a thin crust
of sifted snow.
gifts from Father
and his white canvas sack
that would rupture with a flourish,
in each of our beaks.
And while we fed,
he’d retell the story of sight:
the source of illusion,
of desire, of sin
its portals once thought
to emit their own light.
spun sugar and fire
stretching from our stomachs,
forming webs some creature
with its apertured organs.
A traveling conjecture: our lives,
our dreams, our joy!
But no more. Daddy vanished
in alien water, a stockpile
of soft spheres left behind
in every crater,
of our fear.
What powers forged
such wretched objects?
Once sweet, now they’re odium
with blades in their bellies,
that never sleep.
— Melissa Frederick
Melissa Frederick is a writer and freelance medical editor from suburban Philadelphia. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, including Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM,Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, Spectral Realms, Mid-American Review, Mithila Review, Heron Tree and is forthcoming in Oxford Poetry. Her chapbook, She, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2008. Follow her on Twitter at @msficklereader.
Editor’s Notes: The associated image by Johanna Öst (http://www.johannaost.com)
used with permission, “speaks” to German story by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822). He wrote an inverse depiction in 1816 of the lovable character in a story called Der Sandmann, which showed how sinister such a character could be made. According to the protagonist’s nurse, he threw sand in the eyes of children who wouldn’t sleep, with the result of those eyes falling out and being collected by the Sandman, who then takes the eyes to his iron nest on the Moon, and uses them to feed his children. The protagonist of the story grows to associate this nightmarish creature with the genuinely sinister figure of his father’s associate Coppelius. In Romanian folklore there is a similar character, Mos Ene (Ene the Elder). (Cited from Wikipedia.)
‘It will be as if, in the place of the stars, I had given you a great
number of little bells that knew how to laugh . . . I, too, shall
look at the stars. All the stars will be wells with a rusty pulley.
All the stars will pour out fresh water for me to drink . . . What
makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that
somewhere it hides a well . . .’
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry, translated from the French by Katherine Woods
Every day I try to speak. I used to know
How to move lips and gums and teeth, tongue striking hard
To shape a sentence—or a smile. Signs recognized,
Though wordless, fail me too: I think I dream, sometimes,
By the window, watching cars, waiting, willing you home.
You don’t notice the longing in my eyes—green
Like the sea, the green you drank deep
Each time we stayed at the old house by the lake,
Pumping the well first thing every morning,
Black iron handle giving a sharp creak. The last time
We tasted that mossy, stone-soaked water, you fell asleep
Reading, dreaming in the sun. Pyewacket slipped her leash,
Ran down the beach, paws taking in tiny stones,
Siamese fur a blur at dusk, eyes gleaming bright
Green like the lights across the shore. Time was
We’d sit on the green bench all night, heads
On each other’s shoulders, watching stars,
Glassy-eyed Pyewacket winking as she purred
her own rumbling rhythm on our laps.
That evening she ran free, she never came home.
She had slept with me since a kitten, so familiar, yet
She’d come to me a mystery; tamed me with feline magic,
Her chirps a witch’s charms that only I understood.
When you woke up, I was out walking, and you crawled,
Frantic, calling, under the house, your trousers muddy,
Your lime shirt sprinkled with cobwebs. She wasn’t trapped
Under the boat. She didn’t bob against the dock,
Caught in your fishing lines like a magical carp.
She was gone, her vanishing act as mysterious
As her arrival. I cried bitter water.
Two days later, I went rowing without you
Around the dangerous bluff, missing her,
Blaming you. The currents tore an oar away.
Waves smashed a log into the boat.
I love the water but never learned to swim.
Drowning, I looked up toward heaven, the deep
Green weeds tangling my feet, green water rippling overhead,
Green leaves framing a sky so far away. At least the stars
Twinkled to me, purring with furry light, while I lay waiting
In a deep as dark as sleep, listening to their voices
Singing like tiny Siamese meows,
Enraptured, snared by dreams, drinking our story.
Now I sit curled beside your feet,
Struggling to say your name. You read my
Anxious look as a cat’s plea for affection.
We talk of nothing, but share a bed
As warm, as close, as lonely as before.
— Adele Gardner
With a master’s in English literature, Adele Gardner has twice won third place in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Her publications include a poetry collection (Dreaming of Days in Astophel) as well as 225 poems and 40 stories in venues such as Legends of the Pendragon, The Doom of Camelot, Strange Horizons, American Arts Quarterly, Silver Blade, Daily Science Fiction, and more. Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Adele also serves as literary executor for her father and mentor, Delbert R. Gardner. Learn more at www.gardnercastle.com.
Editor’s Notes: The free wallpaper image (Gambar Bintang – Pemandangan Luar Angkasa/Star Pictures – View Space) of a nebula is matted by a stock photo of beautiful clear pool water reflecting in the sun (Fedor Selivanov).