poem15 Apr 2019 08:00 am
Nicolas-Louis-François Gosse Description English: Passage on the river Styx,1819 

Marcie Lynn Tentchoff

I used to make the trip for free,
gave guidance to the young,
the weak, the frightened travelers
who had really no precise idea
where they should go,
or what came next.

It was my calling, my attempt
to lend a touch of reassurance
to the transformative journey
that might mark the end of pain,
and open entry to
a land of otherness.

They loved me then. Their poets spoke
my name so kindly, painted me as handsome,
even godly in my looks, till somewhere
someone thought to send
a thank you gift —
one copper coin.

Then came more coins, my pay some said,
while others spoke of sustenance,
provisions for the newly dead.
What need had I for metal bits?
What need had they
for food or goods?

But their perception of me changed,
a skeleton, a money-grubbing,
clawing fiend, who’d eat their souls
should those who loved them
not afford, or just forget
to leave my fee.

And now I steer my darkened craft,
my oars smeared with the blood and gore
that they imagine I now crave
while falling copper obols fill
the bleached bone sockets of my eyes
like tears.

poem08 Apr 2019 08:00 am
Euridice recedes into the Underworld , Enrico Scuri

John W. Sexton

She remembered the first time
her mother had told her that the soul
could leave its fossil in the air.
She had been a child of seven
when her mother had taken her
to the door in the lake.
The door was set three miles
beyond the island of reeds,
just above the deepest part.
There her mother had made flat shoes
of woven reeds for both of them;
and they had trod out
across the lapping surface
of the blackening water. On arrival
her mother had tapped seven times,
seven slapping taps
against the lapping wavelets
with a laurel stick;
and the door had opened, a slash
of opening. As they stood at its threshold,
careful at her mother’s caution
not to step beyond it,
a dark column of shadow
rose out of the door.
This is the murky light
of the downworld, said her mother.
Look through it and you’ll glimpse
the fossils of souls.
But now her mother was long dead
And she had come out to this spot again.
She had tapped seven times
Against the lapping water
And the door had opened.
When the column of dim light
rose out of the lake
she had stepped through the threshold
of the door.
And that is how your grandmother left,
in search of her own dead mother.
Because she had crossed the door alive,
and because we have never seen her soul
fossilized in the air, we expect her to return.
They say there is a spiral of stairs
that leaves the ground at the touch
of moonlight. We have never seen
these stairs, but we wait for them
to unscrew through the yielding earth,
and for your grandmother and her mother
to step amongst us again.
On that day you’ll see your great-grandmother
in her filaments of light
and will realise for yourself
how the dead can summon the living
through the door in the lake.

poem01 Apr 2019 06:21 am
Medusa by Jacek Malczewski

by Deborah Davitt

She found him on the shore, ship-wrecked, sea-wracked—
his eyes had lost their light, travail-blinded.
Fever shook him like a wind-tossed aspen,
her cool, dry fingers, his only respite.
Yet he never knew her face or her name—
refused to tell him whom he owed her due.
Every love’s a journey into darkness,
and his was all uncertainty—he begged
to touch her hand, her face, to know her truth.
She relented, letting his fingers trace
the forms of her lips, her cheeks, and her eyes,
But his hands jerked back when he found her hair
coiling cool, lithesome, and alive around
his hand. She recoiled as if struck, but he leaned
forward, offering himself to his fears.
Every love’s a journey into darkness,
and she felt as much fear as he, as they
lay together in her cave, as she’d not
dared with any other, staring into
his blind eyes as her serpentine locks twined
around him, supple, sleek, and scaled. And she
who’d known only death, celebrated life.
Every love’s a journey into darkness,
but some kindle their own light on the way.

poem18 Mar 2019 07:50 am
Anonymous – Camille FlammarionL’Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163

David C. Kopaska-Merkel

We slept for centuries in metal tubes,
10,000 dreams of waking in the ship,
To find a planet we could make our home,
A ring of rocks that could have been a world,
Or outpost of an empire old as time,
Whose warriors were armed with weapons strange,
Or empty human colonies and dust
Of countless years since people last walked there.

At last we wake in orbit round a sun,
We find a world the blue of salty seas,
Its moons are small, no cities anywhere,
Bright green its hills, its valleys, and its plains,
But many of us stand in troubled thought,
And wonder when we’ll think we wake again.

poem11 Mar 2019 08:00 am

Deborah L. Davitt

A giant loomed in their sky, swollen,
striped, and possessed of white-staring eyes;
the children of the trees paid homage to their titan
with bark-strip baskets filled with fungal cakes
each time he stole and ate the sun,
hoping to fill him up enough with sacrifice,
that he’d vomit her back up again,
release his hostage,
as they huddled in their homes.
In the long dark, the cold came,
and strange things flew upon the air,
screeching creatures who swooped down
and stole the unwary, who strayed too far
from the safety of the Tree’s mazy branches,
inward-turned and crooked into a labyrinth
that only the children could follow.
When the sun peered over the horizon,
staining the air with bronze, the youngest gamboled
in the maze, leaping and gliding, branch to branch,
finding leaves and fruits to eat, stockpiling mushrooms
against the titan’s appetite, and drank sweet sap
from under the bark that they stripped away,
while their elders hunted the huge and clacking beetles
that bored into the Tree’s heart;
they traded those shining carapaces,
those iridescent wings,
to the maddened children who’d forsaken their Trees
for lives of stone and metal in the mountains
or lives spent wresting crops from the ground in the plains.
The mad ones told the children that a house of stone
was proof against the nightflyer’s rage;
that if you traveled long and far, there were lands
in which the titan never ate the sun;
the children laughed to hear such tales,
proof of the mad ones’ insanity.
But when their crop of fungus failed,
they wept, for they knew the titan’s hunger;
to ensure that the sun would rise once more,
they prepared for him a greater feast,
selecting the youngest of their number.
To their dismay, he fled the honor
of being sacrificed to the swollen monster in the sky;
he fled to the mountains before night fell,
and found to his surprise,
more welcome in a house of stone
than he’d ever felt within his Tree.
Three hundred cycles of light and dark passed
before he returned to his ancestral Tree,
carrying blades of blackened earthblood
and with stories and truths to tell.
But when he arrived, he found that his Tree
of all the forest, stood withered and sere;
the tribes who lived in other branches,
claimed that all those who had dwelled within,
had set upon each other two hundred cycles past;
some had fled to other Trees and other tribes—
the rest had fallen to lie among its roots.
He found their skulls and vertebrae
tangled among the lowest vines—
he asked them softly, what had passed,
if the titan had indeed punished them,
if their deaths were, in some way, his fault.
The wind soughed in the branches,
but the dead ceded him no answers.
And looking up at the titan above,
he left his ancestral tree once more,
never to return.

illustration is Megalith Grave in Winter by Johan Christian Dahl 1824
poem04 Mar 2019 08:00 pm

Bruce Boston

Wind from the blast
ripped half the roof
off the venerable
building and broke
most of its windows.
Shelves have fallen.
Others are leaning.
Books have toppled
to the floor, spilling
their cargo of words
to an indifferent sky.
Snow, rain, and wind
have entered freely,
and the dampness
has invaded all.
Even deep in the
stacks a faint stench
of mildew prevails.
Wild mushrooms
sprout in the dark.
Librarians have long
since fled this shattered
ruin in the shattered city.
There are no students
hunched over their studies,
no old men leafing through
newspapers from cities
where they once lived,
no bored wives searching
out romance novels.
Yet the deserted library
still has many patrons.
Creatures small and pale
come in great numbers
to tunnel through one
volume after another,
devouring one letter
at a time until they
have the last word.

poem11 Feb 2019 08:14 pm

Marsheila Rockwell

The statue of the selkie in Mikladalurm, photo by Siegfried Rabanser

The clouds roll in
Soot and silver
As he sets the table
For two
Candlesticks and roses
Their subtle perfume lost
Beneath the scent
Of impending rain

It’s their pearl anniversary
Thirty years
Since he met her
On a tempest-tossed sea
The grey-green waves
Reflected in her eyes
Her long, dark tresses
Mocking their fury

He pulls the chair back for her
And waits
As she makes her way slowly
Across the kitchen
Leaning heavily
On a driftwood cane

She is about to sit
When the storm breaks
Lightning flashes
Once distant
Shaking their seaside home

The power goes out
And suddenly he sees her
As he had
Once before
In all her feral
Otherworldly beauty

Limned with electricity
Night-black locks
And sea-hued eyes
Shot through with sparks
Commanding the elements
To turn aside
From his crippled vessel

Then the lights blink back on
Her image resolves
And she is herself
Hunched and wrinkled
Her eyes bright with wit
But nothing more
Her white hair captured
In an untidy bun

He adjusts his glasses
“I think
I need to get
My prescription checked,”
He says
Shaking his head
In bemusement

“Yes,” his wife
The earthbound
Storm goddess
With a gentle
Secret smile
“Yes, you really do.”

poem04 Feb 2019 08:00 am
photo of statues at Suissa, By Amitabha Gupta – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64364171

Lisa Bradley

Chipping gems from the eyes of angels
Leona ransacks the sacred statuary.
The night guard was easy to overcome.
On the ceremonial brazier halfway through
his circuit of the gardens
Leona lobbed a handful
of sweet-smelling pellets.
When he warmed his face and hands
wrinkled as walnuts
the resin laid him out.
Anyone who finds him will assume
he's been felled by sleeping sickness
leaving Leona free to flit idol to idol
prying with chisel and knife
until the collection of precious irises
clicks in her pouch like chatty insects.
Ever testing the limits of colleagues,
Desi tries to change the terms:
Will Leona consider a trade instead?
On offer, a vial of powdered
unicorn hoof and horn said to heal
sleeping sickness if sprinkled
on the sleeper’s tongue.
No doubt the powder is real;
Desi is wily enough to source
commodities others kill for.
But Leona demands coin to buy
bread needle thread, ale millet meat,
knowing Desi haggles out of habit
(forgiving him is her own)
and the Entrepreneur of Illegality
might even think he’s doing her a favor.
Coins chiming like bells in her pouch
Leona crosses the cemetery.
No one dares follow after dark.
On the other side, on cobblestone streets
Leona trails millet from her pocket,
awaiting a crackle under other boots,
a shadow flushed to the corner of her eye.
Once home, she leaves her boots on.
Mama won’t mind the mud.
Mama’s sleeping and has been for months.
Even so, Mama’s eyes shine, moonlight
glinting off the mirror shards
Leona, laughing, lodged under each brow.
Why would she want Desi’s cure?
For the first time in Leona’s life
Mama looks happy to see her.
poem07 Jan 2019 08:00 am

echo of thunder and those
seaside sirens going off
and you and I will have to talk
since past misdeeds are too often
buried in shallow graves

I should’ve known
and I should’ve guessed
I’ve known you too long
to play at ignorance

you grew those flowers out of old bones, didn’t you?
old bones and rotting flesh
it all makes good, black earth
until they bring out their spades
and start digging

illustration is a street mural by Alexis Diaz and Chilean artist INTI
poem24 Dec 2018 08:02 am

She once was
Winter’s bride to be,
but she gave her heart
to Autumn.

She knows
Winter’s wrath,
his bitter-cold breath,
knows she is bound.

Winter was not pleased
to hear of her betrayal.
So with one icy blast,
he tore a hole in her throat
& then blew out her eyes.

She longs for
sweet September mornings,
sleeping lazy, sleeping late,
the smell of Autumn’s skin,
his dear touch just before
he entered her
with the bounty of
all his knowing.

illustration by Enrique Meseguer, darksouls1 on Pixabay.

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