poem04 May 2020 06:14 am
painting by Waraguru Waithira

Solomon Uhiara

Her eyes were looking up carrying 
yellow salt and brown water

Her Ankara gown was shredded 
by the sticks that pointed to another country
And as the red flowers were growing on her body
the daisies pursued her, springing out of the ground like
underground angels in disguise, under white capes
brandishing invisible political weapons

A door swung open, not by force, just slowly,
quietly, as if it was a living thing
A long light tip-toed in. It wasn’t too bright
for inside it stood a man, his face having different sides,
different colors and proportions
He was wearing two long beads around his neck, almost naked
As if inside of him lived a higher power, 
a superior manufacturer of dreams

When he walked out, his face started to change
The trees around started to reduce, their dead leaves started 
going up and becoming alive
The earth started singing, as the air was dancing,
the forest was vanishing small, small

She saw his face turn into an Okonko spirit,Then into an Egungun mask, into a faceless man,
then into a man she used to know, her first husband, 
his green beards, his long ancient staff that was dabbed in
sacred diabolic rituals

She called out his name: 
Bintu !
And butterflies came out of her mouth
She cried and a storm overflowed the streams
the salt in her eyes folded her tears. When she fell silent, darkness 
came out from the ground and suddenly shrouded her face

When next she spoke, her misty voice pushed back the darkness
Invisible fingers started touching her body, his face started glowing,
an apparition, invisible hands started working the talking drums
Shinning eyes started growing out of the bushes,
revealing their hiding places. Silence could now speak
The voices that were speaking started to clap,
waiting for the scent of new marriage,
a new ceremony that will emancipate our kingdom
before we are all lost 
upside down inside this labyrinth.
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poem27 Apr 2020 08:14 am
NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); credit for CTIO Image: N. Smith (University of California, Berkeley) and NOAO/AURA/NSF – http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/16/image/a/

Katherine Inskip

The sounds, the lights, the circles on the plinth,
the holographic sparkles in the pause
between destructive read-out's start and send?
They're there for no-one's benefit but yours.
A sleight-of-mind that draws the eye away --
like oxygen on tap to calm the doomed --
they do their work efficiently and well,
and no-one thinks to question what I do.

Coordinates are programmed in advance.
The airlock doors are tested on the hour,
and climate, pressure, atmospheric mix,
the vents and drains, the maser-beam array.
You trust the databanks that store your soul,
that lase you through the mazed and empty dark,
then from those exabytes of vacuum, weave
your new and unadulterated self.

Behind my screen, I wave you on and in
and reassure the rookies as I can.
It’s safe, well tried and tested. Then, the lie:
you shall not feel the moment when you die.

The sounds, the lights, the circles on the plinth,
my hollow-hearted witness through the cams,
between constructive write-out's start and end:
the souls that wear your bodies are not yours....

I make the call, unleash the lethal flames
that cleanse abhorrent spirits from our realm.
They do my work efficiently and well
and no one asks what happens in their death.
Redundancy is programmed at the core.
Another airlock test is scheduled in.
The vents are flushed, the atmosphere restored,
and once it’s all reset we'll try again.

Across the frothing turbulence of space
you trust your soul to ride coherent light
and hope the quantum noise of all your dreams
will be enough to bring you back to life.

Behind the scenes, we plausibly deny
our tech-speak claiming 'normal, small delays'.
Though all's scoured clean where corpses used to lie,
I can't un-see the moments when you die.
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poem14 Apr 2020 02:55 pm
Apple Tree with Red Fruit by Paul Ranson

Colleen Anderson

 A bulimic knows
 there are two ways to consume
 one is not to eat at all
 the other, take the world 
 into yourself sins, joys, pains
 the full sensory experience
 not grow fat on it but purge again 
 and again... for balance, feel despair 
 so that joy is all the richer
 when devoured guiltlessly again
 
 Starved for love or a word of praise
 Snow White sought out something to fulfill
 took the path of runaways, of precocity
 of survivors from broken homes
 not all girls who run endure or find peace
 she managed lodgings with men of splintery mien
 striving to be gentlemen all the same
 but good intentions and preordained destinies 
 can still go astray
 
 In hunger to fill a need, hide her shame
 Snow White was tempted by an apple
 the oldest crop seeded in memory 
 a blush of thought on the tree of life 
 or abundant knowledge of good and evil
 she saw in the mirror, the roseate lie
 herself a hybrid queen filled with envy
 who tried to join the halves together
 obliterate the exposed bruised side
 
 Those apples had special weight
 ever since time began
 the first fruit a sweet tease leaving
 the bitter aftertaste from the core
 a weighty illicit craving, a dark desire
 for savoring a beginning neverending
 for going beyond safe borders
 
 How could she resist
 in the end her wish bloomed true
 the desire of all who seek eternity
 an apple poisoned with all of time
 Snow White bit and chewed and choked
 then fell into a suspended world
 that her predecessor had long known
 a goddess once, who may have dropped
 just as windfall apples do 
 from the wind's lecherous touch
 
 Idunn of the golden apples won hard
 harvester’s knowledge and full of power
 she never punished, only rewarded the gift
 that kept on giving, endless life, youth, beauty
 Gods grow bored when millennia pass
 Idunn and the Norse sailed onto other realms
 leaving a distillation, an elixir
 a breath of remembering in the apples of Midgard
 
 Fairy tales are the memories of gods long gone
 wishes of mortals for what can never be
 Snow White frozen in her world of in-between 
 received the eternal gift but not as it once had been
 She was stuck between the realms
 neither dead nor alive, preserved for all time
 until the day some random prince
 heimliched her back to life
 
 She has spent an eternity sandwiched
 into film and print, but wanting neither
 immortalized yet seeking always seeking
 an apple that will give her a taste 
 of a love that’s not foreseen
 that destiny cannot touch, something natural
 that happens on a whim
 like apples falling from a tree 
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poem30 Mar 2020 06:23 am
By Seitei (Shotei) Watanabe 1851-1918

F. J. Bergmann

There is always some madness
in love. But there is also always
some reason in madness. There
is some reason in the universes—
there must be—which brings me
to you, sweetheart, my princess
of pure and untrammeled reason,
I can almost feel you beside me,
denunciation membranes pulsing,
as I write this letter, and I even
dare to imagine the pleasant yet
hazardous scent of your lurker
perfume bombarding me with
mixed signals. Last night in my
dreams I saw you convulse on
the dimensional launching pier.
The aether wind was blowing
long shards of obsidian through
the intricate jacquard of your hair,
and your multitude of eyes held
the fading, actinic sunlight. I was
speechless, deliquescing slowly
as I watched your twelve auxiliary
monitors looking somewhere far
away, perhaps back into the mad
reality from which you claimed
to have come. You are a remarkably
elegant contrivance, I thought as
I saw you, onslaught of a vision
that I could never find in anyone
or anything else. In a paroxysm of
unseemly compulsion, I slowly
began to walk toward you, and then
you finally turned to me, lurching
as you revolved like some single-
sun system where all the orbits
are decaying. I noticed that others
had been watching you as well
as they could, given their awkward
weapons of contravention and
the radioactive glare emanating
from your slim and girlish figure.
“Do you know her?” they asked me,
pointing at you with their tendrils
of office and repeating hot gossip
about your mating practices,
gleaned from the yellow journalism
of an adjacent spiral arm, in jealous
whispers. Then you smiled at me,
incidentally bedazzling them
with the sheer resplendence
of the array of crystalline teeth
lining your primary feeding maw
that have long captivated me,
as you swiftly disabled their entire
planetary defense array, all the while
ignoring their ineffectual protests,
and I simply answered with the even-
simpler expedient of pointing out
that you were, as we chatted, biting
their heads off. The truth is that I
have always known you (“Better than
I know myself,” as a platitude goes),
known you perfectly, since you
are one of my many—nay, infinite—
incarnations. I am waiting for you
to devour me, here at the end of time,
that we may begin the dance
of eternal renewal and decay again.


Fondly,
Annihilated
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Uncategorized22 Mar 2020 03:44 pm

Sorry we were down for so long. There were some technical issues that required updates, and it took me a little while to get it all working. Next week we’ll be back publishing regularly.

Some good news — a number of poems we published were nominated for Rhysling awards, the main speculative poetry awards. Congratulations to the poets!

• “Stormbound” by Marsheila Rockwell

• “Envoy” by F. J. Bergmann 

• “Bright Record” by John W. Sexton 

• “The Snow Globe” by Marge Simon 

• “The Journey” by Deborah L. Davitt 

• “The Certainty of Seeing” by Michelle Muenzler 

• “Blood Moon” by Sara Backer 

• “Witch” by Mary Soon Lee 

• “children of the trees” by Deborah L. Davitt 

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Uncategorized17 Feb 2020 10:50 am
Dulle Griet by Pieter Breugel the Elder

Lorraine Schein

On my way to the next Millennium
I passed Christ blessing a witches' coven,
circle-dancing in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The hordes of the dead had risen up,
shielding their multi-clustered eyes
from further genetic warfare.

I saw the Dark Goddess, Kali
and Green Tara, the Compassionate One,
locked in battle, many-handed,
each hand wielding a sword
that fought the others senselessly.

My eyes stung from the dirty red wind
blowing nuclear waste
through our glow-tainted cities,
burning with designer plagues.

I heard the muted prophecies of Prozac,
the new Cassandra rescorned.

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poem02 Feb 2020 07:15 pm

Michael Fosburg

He comes when the light turns sour 
as through a throb of starlings 
or bruised clouds hunched with rain,  
 
Clad in shapes that twist the eye 
like wind-bent smoke. 
He seeds the honeyed madness. 
Centaur stink, cloven wanderer, 
hump of dappled shadow. 
 
You breathe him in— 
 
(the remembered terror
claws constricted veins,
scored eyes search
through darkened trees,
teeth like spears 
tear innards strewn 
across ancient dust)
 
and you are no longer. 
What remains are just shapes
the blood remembers.
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Uncategorized13 Jan 2020 08:01 am
Mosaic at Belgrade Zoo

John Grey

Yes, he’s a butterfly.
drank the nectar,
thinking he’d
evolve into a giant wasp
once the chemicals kicked in.
 
He’d sting the naysayers,
the ones who doubted him,
the fools who kicked him
out of the government laboratory,
who labeled his experiments
as “science fantasy”,
who even laughed
when he approached the subject
of inter-species hybridization.
 
But he’s grown fluttering fairy wings,
not buzz-saw pinions.
He’s flamboyant, pretty almost,
far from threatening
And there’s no sting to his fury,
just a desire to suckle on rosebuds.
 
He seeks revenge
but his enemies merely
point and say, “How pretty.”
His experiment failed
but his color scheme triumphed.
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poem06 Jan 2020 07:15 am
Cropped and edited lobby card for Lost Continent (Lippert Pictures, 1951)

David C. Kopaska-Merkel  and Kendall Evans

I doubt the dinosaur will notice us,
Said Kyle but he could not have been more wrong,
Tyrannowhatsit’s nostrils flared; it turned,
And fixed us with a huge slit-pupiled eye,
It took a dainty step and then one more,
I longingly remembered Uncle Dan,
His case of dynamite, his gun, his axe,
His foot and entrails strewn across
This Mesozoic era, what a mess.

I’d only had to outrun Kyle and Sue,
I spun the dial and punched the button: go!
But, oops, I’d meant to follow time's arrow
The other way; I've traveled
Deeper in the past, not back toward my own future Now.
Too late, I saw my journey’s final end,
4 billion years before Christ’s fabled birth,
There’d be no oxygen for me to breathe,
I’d have to hold my breath, re-jump, and hope!

Problem is,
My re-jump efforts failed,
I'm stuck in this eternal moment:
Bare earth and lifeless sea,
It'll take long hours before
The solar batteries recharge,
I'm pretty sure I cannot hold my breath
that long….
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poem30 Dec 2019 08:00 am
By Boris Kustodiev – http://www.zeller.de, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15720327

Christina Sng

“There’s always a price to be paid
For everything a man gives you.”
My mother told me when
I was old enough to listen.

But of course, I was foolish
Like most girls in love,
Never noticing the jaded faces
Of those long-suffering wives

Of the elders in the village,
Trying to muster a smile
When they heard
I was to be married.

I regaled them with stories
Of his time as a Beast and
How my love changed him
Back into a Prince.

They bowed their heads
And bit their lips,
Telling me a child
Would be my life’s blessing

And truly, she is,
My beloved daughter,
Beside me here in the tower,
The same age as I was

When my mother
First warned me
Of what I know now
To be true,

For my Prince
Is once again a Beast
Despite his human face,
Snarling and slashing

With his once-clawed paws,
Throwing me across rooms
If I ever dared to be brave,
Standing up to his angry tirades,

Defending our daughter
From his scorn, 
And comforting her in my arms
When he was done and gone.

I realize now there was a reason 
Why he had been cursed:
To show the world 
The Beast really was his true face,

For nature does not simply
Conjure beasts out of thin air. 
The monster could never
Have been summoned

If he wasn’t already there.
Too late for me now, trapped
And caged at the mercy
And whim of a mad king.

No long thick braid 
Or a dragon to escape,
But an endless fall
Down the tower.

But perhaps… wait.
One day,
We might be able
To flee this place.

My daughter’s hair
Has now reached her waist.
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