poem17 Jul 2017 08:00 am

Her bones vibrate with song.
She is the lute strung with flesh.
You would have to touch her to hear.
You would have to touch her to understand

I am descended from a line of witches
stretching all the way back to the age of fires.
We never burned, but oh, we own the heat.
Coals are ice in our hands, and hearts
not brittle fantastical things that break,
but bloody muscle that fits in our hands.

Her hands are always lined with sand, earth.
She is a pilgrim looking for pearls in a desert.
You would have to follow her to know what she really wants.
You would have to stop looking at her to really see.

I am like the wandering wind, nothing
like all these brave women before me. They
owned the earth they were born on, and I
have forgotten the place where my mother gave me life
and left her own to sing with shadows.
And if Death is my home, I choose not to want it.

Her coat is the sky made from starlight and ice.
She never hungers even if her mouth is always dry.
You would have to think up the well
deep enough to slake her thirst.

I am no longer without shadow.
I am no longer star-hidden, ice-cowled.
Once they feel your flesh, once they really see you,
all they want is bind you to their earth, home they call it.
Shadows form when you stop moving with the stars,
when you bow your head to the sun.

Her bones glow like molten gold,
Her heart as if caught by the lute’s string.
She will take the fruit from your hand and eat.
You would have to catch her shadow in a well to make her drink.

Illustration is Hexen by Hans Baldung, 1508
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poem10 Jul 2017 08:37 am

Who painted the sky
with brushes of fire? In streaks
of cometious flame?
That artist moved
on to another canvas
long before his creation
could be witnessed, seen, admired

Everything we see above
belongs to dusty past
Those splots of light scattered
like Pollock’s drips—chaos
or order? Only aficionados
and art critics will debate

while a student sees points
of light and imagines the lines
between, makes connections,
draws shapes, scrys symbols
Divining the dimensions of destiny

Only a student possesses
such confidence in the face
of monumental impossibility. And only
a master realizes the futility

of over-simplifying the stars
knowing each one isn’t a drip—
it’s a galaxy, crammed with worlds

where destiny is dwarfed by possibilities
too numerous to imagine

and pauses to admire the artist, instead

Sunset By Félix Vallotton, 1913 – http://impressionistsgallery.co.uk/artists/Artists/tuv/Vallotton/19-25.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55156972
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poem03 Jul 2017 08:21 am

                            The years
pass and pass, and still she feeds
the snakes in her hair
one by one, wary of bites.
She has forgotten the names
she first gave them, forgotten
just how many bites,
but not her scars,
hard as bronze,
rough as sand.

                            The days
pass and pass, and still she can’t
stop studying the wind-churned foam.
She dons sandals,
sunglasses, a large grey hat
steps quietly into the sun,
steps quietly in to the crowds.

                            So hard
to see the monsters here.
She sips a coke, nibbles pizza,
mourns that fruit doesn’t taste as sweet
when not stolen from the gods.
Children shriek against the waves.
The snakes hiss in her ear.

                            She lifts
her hand to the hat.
Later she will find some living food.
Later she will sing to them.
For now she watches the shifting sea,
lets the salt fall on her lips.
She is only skin and stone.

Monsters Exhibition (Palazzo Massimo, Rome, 2014)‎, photo by Sailko
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poem26 Jun 2017 11:39 am

mirror, mirror
you needn’t be shattered
to slice into my flesh, my bone
who is fairest? never me
look how you twist the light
it’s not mere age, no
this nose is mine, same as ever
bulbous and broad
hair, lackluster as straw
after a day on the stable floor
skin wearing a sheen of oil
near reflective as glass
and downward
this dumpling body
my ogre thighs
their friction could spark fires
their quakes, level cities

if I could blame a curse
claim some dark geas
has distorted my beauty
made me into a beast–if only!
no, the plain truth stares me down
reminds me of why I stay locked
within this tower among clouds
where word by word
I have laid these bricks
to hide my ugliness from the world
never myself

Portrait of a Lady (Plastic Drawing) (Lyubov Popova, 1915)
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poem19 Jun 2017 08:00 am

The River soothes,
the River strangles,
it rushes beneath the moon
unstoppable.

At the River’s edge,
the funeral pyre rises above
our sweat stained shirts,
our calloused hands.

We drink,
we sing,
we wait
for the procession to arrive.

I cast a glance.
The River rises,
the River falls.
I know what’s out there:

The River Monster,
beneath the rushing water,
with eyes of onyx,
patient as the coming dawn.

The procession approaches,
mourners cry,
prayers are spoken,
we position the corpse,

feet pointed southward,
downstream.
The River Monster
gurgles with delight.

Its odor is masked
by the scent of basil,
rose and jasmine,
sandalwood.

The chief mourner
sprinkles water,
three times he circles the pyre,
before lowering the torch.

Flames rise,
the corpse roasts and crackles.
Water splashes in the dark,
the River Monster nears.

The pyre warms the night.
We bake and bask,
we drink and sing,
thankful.

Soon the pyre crumbles,
ash and charcoal
enter the water,
hissing.

We stand back
as the River Monster
crawls ashore,
swallows the smoke

then disappears
into the River’s depths,
where it will wait,
patient as the coming dawn.

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poem04 Jun 2017 08:00 am


On a world where alcohol
kills the natives with the inevitability
of a bullet through the head,
it takes a special sort of bartender
to pay the rent each month.

Finding thrill-seekers,
the young and the foolish,
who don’t have the sense
evolution gave a gibber bug,
finding them night after night
after night after night,
wears a body down,
dulls an agile tongue.

Finding the depressed,
the suicidal and near-,
those tired of life, ready
for one last experience
that can rouse a flicker of interest
in a jaded cephalothorax.

Too, the impulse buyers, the
I’m-tough-enough crowd
(they’re not),
and if you get enough trade
to keep the doors open….

So many bodies!
Takes a strong back
(even with power tools,
back hoes, et cetera)
a young back, too,
working long hours,
or the dead stack up.

Lax laws on this planet,
but do-gooders from off-world
(humans, the Sirius, the Thalxa, many more),
they keep getting in your face
like you’re doing something wrong.
But, you have a solution.
Quick or dead, know what I mean?
And you have helpers, young and strong,
a backhoe, power tools.

Still there are times it gets you down:
dawn after a slow night, the rent overdue,
midday in the pouring rain,
your birthday spent alone,
and you think,
I coulda picked something easy,
plenty of jobs with less stress,
better hours and better benefits,
and no one trying to lynch you,
but hell, you fill a void,
you’d have no custom
if you weren’t needed,
right? And so you live,
to kill another day,
in humble service.

image: CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2969474
Absinthe Paul Beucler à Bart (25 France) par M. Ringel
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poem29 May 2017 08:00 am

As you are devoured,
your thoughts and memories are replaced
by a succotash of former victims,
by memories of other meals,
of boat trips you never took,
of hockey games you never saw,
of first love, last love
of betrayal, the doing and receiving of it,
of sights and sounds you’ve never known,
and other memories:
initial penetration of the skull,
the vicarious thrill of consuming another’s
most intimate thoughts and perceptions,
of being at once violator and violated.
But soon the inexorable diminution takes over,
memory after memory, belief after purpose,
the you lost as the not-you expands,
until you are nothing at all,
save images and impressions,
remembered by someone else.

Ohne Titel by Wassily Kandinsky, 1923, watercolor, pen and ink on paper laid down on board
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poem22 May 2017 08:33 am


She’d have walked through more walls,
Spent more time at rock concerts
so loud she fluttered in their breeze,
Hesitated less, danced more,
Cared less about her looks,
Butted in where she wasn’t wanted,
Haunted Big Tony within an inch.

But she’d always have told him no,
Especially that last, terrible time;
When she wasn’t yet a ghost.

 

Image Female Ghost, painting on paper by Kawanabe Kyōsai, Meiji period, Cincinnati Art Museum
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poem15 May 2017 12:59 pm

Before they encountered us
the Fomalhauts
possessed no concept of self-indulgence
worker bees, folk called them
the proverbial dull boy
never mind the head appendages
or the scales
or how they reproduce through the mail
(they had no spam).

Before we met them
they had no vigilante justice
they found our pornography
appealing, and soon invented
their own, which usually arrived postage due.

We introduced credit cards,
bank loans, compound interest;
they found these novel concepts.
We took them on tours
of our marketplaces
where every price, it appeared,
had been reduced.
Amazing the debt these aliens accrued.

It was direct-mail advertizing
that really did them in–
at first the spots were, well, naïve
but as the ads race intensified
the Fomarketers learned that sex sells.

Fomals sporting overlarge
sense-enhancing gear in black plastic
tore open packages claiming to contain
freeze-dried mail-order brides
(really just powdered food products).

Winsome young Fomies were
tearing open their mail too
receiving proposals of marriage
from princes
wrongfully deposed
handsome
generous.

A few months later – captivated
by artificial insemination
and our hi-tech DNA manipulation,
Fomies were popping larvae all over:
Twins!
Triplets!
By the broodsac!
The boatload!
while the non-brooding fomals
postal donors of GM gametes
(not one of them a prince
or even a duke)
took no responsibility at all.

Most of these unnatural offspring
were grievously flawed–
injured by experimental methods
that would never have been allowed on humans–
although they were available in a variety of colors
and with naturally perfumed excreta

We converted them to our religions
(no matter which, so long
as they selected one or another).
We gave them nihilism, narcissism,
solipsism, existentialism
(not to mention pessimism).
We sold them anti-depressants,
antioxidants, anti-coagulants,
then we upped the anti.

The Fomalhauts have recently been
reclassified as a vanished species,
unfortunately extinct. Their culture
and civilization, so many millennia old,
suddenly defunct. A sad coincidence,
so soon after encountering us.
They will be missed.

Image By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/07/c0/a5d1fb011c297b84fc9be592c41f.jpgGallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0040470.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36096354

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author profile08 May 2017 11:34 am

David Kopaska-Merkel has appeared in Polu Texni many times over the years. He has recently been named a Grand Master by the SFPA. We will run poems by him over the next four weeks.

1) Are you primarily a poet, or do you write in other forms as well?

I am primarily a poet, if you go by number of pieces written (close to 2000). However, I wrote fiction first (I still write some), and in terms of total words written, fiction garners first place. Or it would, except I’ve written more than 100 scientific articles, and two science books (a college textbook and a popular-science book, both with co-authors).

2) Tell us about your other writing projects. What are you working on now?

I am working on collaborative poems with a couple of folks I’ve written with before (Ann K. Schwader, Kendall Evans). And I’m working with several poets on a project I can’t say anything about just now. As for solo writing, I am always writing something. And I try to write at least one short poem a day, just to keep my hand in. I post them on my blog: http://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/

Geologically, I’m writing about trace fossils and fossil reefs.

3) Who are your favorite authors? In particular, do you have a favorite who is under appreciated that we should check out?

I have no favorites, cos I like too many, but, Roger Zelazny was a genius. Lord of Light juxtaposed the Hindu pantheon, aliens, and future tech with delicious humor. He was a poet, too. Tim Powers is another genius, and a poet. The Anubis Gates combined time travel with Egyptian gods in an enchanting way (and it’s about a poet!). P. C. Hodgell is, I think, greatly underappreciated. God Stalk is the first of a fantasy series, but it can stand alone. The god-filled world is fascinating, and the young protagonist is both adorable and unexpectedly dangerous. Kim Harrison’s “Hollows” books are paranormal romance, but they are superlative. A similar protagonist, in a way. Hard SF? Jack McDevitt is also underappreciated. Read Chindi, even though it’s part of a series (near-future exploration). You probably meant favorite poets, but I am even less able to answer that question.

4) What are you reading now?

I am rereading Rudy Rucker’s collection The 57th Franz Kafka. Some of the best SF that was ever written around unfamiliar math and physics concepts. Alternate worlds, the 4th dimension, what we think we know about time, and so on. 15 more books on my to-read pile, but the topmost is the 2017 Rhysling Anthology.

5) Do you do any other creative work (music, visual arts, etc)?

I have been publishing genre poetry since 1986. I started Dreams and Nightmares because I couldn’t find enough venues for speculative poetry. They existed, but it was hard to find them before the internet. Issue 106 of DN is coming out imminently. Over the years I have bought more than a few “first sales,” which is fun for both parties.

I like drawing, but I’m the only one in my family who utterly lacks talent for it. Even worse at music, though both of my kids are talented there, too.

6) What is your latest big discovery (art, lifestyle, anything really.)

I hoped to raise at least one scientist, but have failed miserably. I am a geologist, and recently discovered a new fossil species. What is it? No one really knows. Many ancient critters have no close living relatives. We know a bit about them, but experts don’t agree whether some fossil species were animal, vegetable, or other. So that’s pretty cool. I have inadvertently specialized in unknown critters, as a matter of fact. The previous project concerned a fat crustacean known only from its burrows.

I was recently named Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Ass’n. I’m still excited about it: I have joined a select group, which includes Ray Bradbury and Jane Yolen.

7) Basic old biographical details? (family, work, why do all writers seem to have two cats, etc?)

Spouse, two grown children (all good artists); 1 dog, two cats (I hate being predictable); live in a 117-year-old house, which once was located out in the countryside. Boards in the closet wall still have bark attached. Have lived in 6 US states plus Canada. I study geology for the people of Alabama.

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