poem26 Dec 2016 07:18 am


On the first day, after the appropriate sacrifices
(hare and tortoise, several calamari, and a brace of snails)
we watched our hero Hippias in the discus race.
The rolling discus squashed the toes of half a dozen men,
and he was one. Maybe next time.

At noon, the Spartan women hosted
a magnificent display of competitive callisthenics.
Eye-gouging was not permitted;
all else was fair. Almost all survived the fray.
It will go down in legend.

After lunch, the chariot hurling! Incorruptible judges
down from Thrace ensured that every chariot was standard weight.
More than half the field was disqualified. Our hero Philippos
passed that hurdle, but any of the Spartan girls
could have thrown the chariot twice as far as him.

At sunset, in the Olympian Lake, our hero Gorgias
will compete in the octopus wrestling.
He’s several arms and legs behind his giant foe,
but we’re hoping the philosophy he’s studied will give him the edge
against a mere beast, though it counts past eight with ease.

The javelin hunt will top off a perfect day.
We’ll hunt the elusive javelin across the wooded hills
by the thin light of the crescent moon.
The shy creatures never prowl until full dark.
A jolly night for all (except perhaps the javelins).

Image of kylix in British Museum, photo by © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5
poem19 Dec 2016 08:00 am


We were a colony of the broken,
a colony of famished sorrow,
our eyes branded with the searing tongues

that licked away the life we knew,
tongues that lapped our loved ones
into a throat that swallowed

with the immensity of an endless shadow,
and the hunger of our huntress whale
stalking her krill throughout this flaming sea.

Wherever we looked,
it was all the same:
we tried to blink away

the horrors in hopeless flutters,
but the smoke of writhing bodies
will never leave our eyes.

So we march
into the dreaded hills
like a line of melted ants

detached from the hive mind,
brains disoriented
like a jumble of squirming worms.

We build our huts in latticework,
unconventional honeycombs
as if to build away our old way of life,

but now we are just the parasites
lost in a world no longer ours.
And so here we huddle,

here we nest,
the oscillations of our cries
phasing into broadcasts

at long-range frequency,
the vibrations of our shared lament
humming static throughout the night.

illustration By unknown master (book scan) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
poem12 Dec 2016 11:20 am


12 stories above the drowned Cathedral grounds
on the ledge, just under the spire’s roof
my back against the wall, under the gargoyle
his front talons outstretched, darkly angelic, he’d hardly save me
spewing ice-cold rainwater, he seems indifferent to my life and death

while the choir of their passage, the Valkyrie
circle in the blood-red sky
pick out the heroes and villains from the battle still raging below
their souls aglow
whether to Valhalla or to Folkvangr (their judgment)

I remain invisible, beyond help or harm
a ghost, simply
convulsive with cold
shackled to the ledge and to the side of the wall
by sheer terror
my fear of heights, and of falling
an observer

if only I still wore those wings of canvas and bamboo
I wore in the mountains of Shangri-La!
to my own undoing, I admit

Would that I could still do battle, and be judged
would that I could fall into the fray
to change the tide
to cry my cry of ecstasy
as rage and blood filled my senses with power and might
squandered on a cause I could not know

so I am bound

and in my own selfish vanity I cried–
’tis well I cry nothing, I’ve nothing to say

illustration By Peter Paul Rubens – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5899524
the arts21 Nov 2016 08:06 am

harris1John Harris has produced book covers for many science fiction authors including famous names such as John Scalzi, Ben Bova, and Orson Scott Card. In fact, Scalzi himself, calls the artist’s work highly iconic, the phrase he uses is “Bookstore Iconic – which is to say it can be seen from across the bookstore.” (Harris p4) It is bold, striking, intense art that guarantees a good read. John Harris has also illustrated online fiction and produced artwork for NASA.

Harris is one of the few commercial artists working today who dislikes the nature of computer enhanced art (he calls it a bloodless medium) yet he has, however, produced some pieces in this manner. By taking the richly coloured roughness of his pastel sketches as starting points, so that the full bodied nature of his tangible pieces shines through, he develops them digitally by only a little. He is particularly fond of pastels as a medium, due to their hazy, atmospheric quality, which is, in fact, one of the key aspects of his art – the heightened sense of atmosphere his pictures evoke.

harris2In the forward to a recent book on his work The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon, the Author John Scalzi, whom the artist had painted book covers for, comments that: “quintessential John Harris art [is]: vibrantly coloured, impressionistic, yet technical, implying a whole universe outside the borders of the cover.” (Harris p4) In fact one of the most powerful aspects of the artist’s work is its obvious impressionistic influence “recalling, oddly, the romantic tradition of the 19th Century artists.” (Harris p4) John Harris is, perhaps, what Turner might have become, had he lived in the space age, or some future world.

The artist is particularly interested in the depiction of mass and in capturing the sensation of “floating yet having weight.” (Harris p16) This can be produced in many different ways; by a juxtaposition of motifs, such as lines of steam escaping from a spaceship which implies a sense of falling, or by using a background of ‘hanging’ curtain-like nebula, in front of which a spaceship may a appear to rise (its nose tilted up).

Yet, the believability of his paintings of massive objects hanging in space “are not simply the result of knowing about the lack of gravity in space, but are the result of actual bodily experiences of weightlessness in transcendental meditation…[other images] were provoked by things witnessed in lucid dreaming.” (Harris p8) In fact John Harris studied meditation for six years after graduating from art school in Exeter. (Eldred)

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poem14 Nov 2016 08:00 am

V0042744 Heliotrope (Heliotropium sp.): entire Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org 1 print : etching, with watercolour ; platemark 36.7 x 22.7 cm. Heliotrope (Heliotropium sp.): entire flowering plant. Coloured etching by M. Bouchard, 1774. {Romae (Rome) : Bouchard et Gravier, 1774} 1 print : etching, with watercolour ; platemark 36.7 x 22.7 cm. 36.9 x 22.9 cm. BOUCHARD, MAGDALENA Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Better that he came to me
     than his mother. Her soul
     threadbared by grief
     could not have carried the miracle.

The girlfriends have all
     moved away or moved on
     and that one boy (“Why not?
     A mouth’s a mouth,” and he was
     so wrong, embouchure and enthusiasm
     leagues beyond any bad girl’s)
     now he’s a star who hates to talk
     about his hick hometown.

Better that he came to me
     the girl next door
     ten years younger than he
     and unburdened by memory or

I inherited this house
     with the overgrown hedges.

I inherited him too
     I guess.

Hidden by towering boxwood
     he sits on my back deck
     low to the ground, legs
     sprawled and hands spread wide
     behind him as he absorbs
     the honeyed hours.

And wherever he was before
     (“With the angels now,” my mom said
     eyes teary at the tragedy
     and she was so wrong)

I know it wasn’t heaven
     not the way he lifts his face to the sun
     not the way he hungers for the light.

poem07 Nov 2016 08:02 am

By Nils Dardel (1888-1943) (dardel.info) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

our dad could produce five thousand starlings from a folded bus ticket
once he even pulled forth a dragon made entirely of silk from his top pocket
in the summer when the grass grew long he would weave it into a coat
and we would climb into the pockets of the lawn and sleep beneath the stars
once he leant a ladder against the moon and we climbed all the way to an ice landing
from there we threw coins from our mother’s purse and ruined several cities below
he showed us how to float to the top of Mount Everest by overfilling the bath
how to collect the individual flames from eleven matchsticks to make a football team
who would then challenge the national team of the republic of click beetles
once we all climbed into the held breath of a whale and travelled through the ocean
and mum was mad at us because we missed our supper by seven weeks
but not as mad as she was at us when dad made us suits from elastic bands
and we all bounced to the moon and back down again and were late for October
and dad invented Table-Football-Chess and Elephants-and-Elevators and Terrible-Pursuit
and he showed us how to remove the shadow of a scissors from a scissors
and then we could cut loose our own shadows with the scissors and set them free
and we went to the zoo and freed the shadows of the lions and the leopards
and the hippos and the bison and the monkeys and the emus and the camels
and we took them home and had a zoo against the wall and our zoo never got hungry
and never got angry and lasted all day until the sun went down
and dad and mum grew tired and sleepy and slept and their hair went grey
and grew into the clouds and then it rained and rained and rained them away

picture by Nils Dardel (1888-1943) (dardel.info) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
poem31 Oct 2016 08:33 am


Death said she had something to show me;
What? I wondered—
Pornographic centerfolds of the Dead?
The lost piece of petrified wood
Once mounted in my grandfather’s favorite ring?

It was neither of these things,
Though, in a sense, all and more
And it wasn’t for my eyes
At least not these organic ones
Which perceive in the usual spectrum—

Not for these mortal eyes of mine.

She came to me again
Once I was robotic, a cyborg,
Still possessing a human mind
And tattered strips of flesh
Here and there
With eyes of glass like a camera’s lens;
And only then did lovely Death
Reveal her final offering:

A jittering map of sorts,
Glowing and pulsing with infras and ultras,
Dreamlike, nightmarish;
She showed me a blueprint of my soul—
Demented dreams concealed inside
Erasures of memories long denied

So many revelations I did not wish to know.
Broken pathways of indecisions,
Lies and secrets best not told—
Inept choices, foolish revisions
Delineated lines of neural flow—
Nor could I overcome
The horrorshow

And then Death said
She had no regard
For me, whatsoever

poem24 Oct 2016 08:00 am


Summer in the exclusion zone,
days spent exploring the forgotten city,
hiking among new timbers growing
wild among abandoned buildings,
camped out each night
in a different derelict place.

Those soft and quiet Chernobyl nights,
spent together in our little canvas tent,
all hot breath and sweaty sleeping bags.

I’d expected a mutant wilderness
and was proven wrong each day
by roe deer, spotted eagle,
and endless pine & larch
to where it was easy to forget
there was a world out there
beyond the forest.

Some two hundred people
live here year-round,
a sparse few having migrating
in since the accident,
but most simply having never left
the shadow of the old reactor.

Once, we traded a group of
German hikers the last of our
peanut butter for two thin joints,
and stayed up all night long
looking at art books and laughing
on the floor of the cultural center,
you smiled and said something like,
“H.R. Geiger Counter”
and I knew I was in love.

But there is a certain
kind of stillness here,
with time not exactly forgot
but held to a looser second,
causing minutes to unravel
into days into weeks into
the first russets of autumn.

And when I ask if you’ll come back,
to the yellow-rusted ferris wheel
and little elephant slide,
to the empty public pool
and tore up library,
you simply shrug and look
off towards the sunset.

They are beautiful here,
despite the desolation
–and because of it.

Photo by Shanomag (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
poem17 Oct 2016 08:00 am



A jovial drunk, my father…
His verbosity
expanded diametrically
to his sobriety—
not so unusual in his early cups
from other alcoholics I have known:
careful elocution and
high-brow multisyllabics to distract the audience
(he thought)
from that slow slip-slide into inebriation.
But as each occasion wore on,
the liquor let trip from his tongue
every gimcrack archaism hoarded by lexophiles,
so much so that I sometimes wondered
if he was speaking English or
some long-lost language known only
to cabalists of peculiar arts.
On and on his articulation unraveled
for also-tipsy companions until I—
cornered with a sippy cup of warm cider
that tasted suspiciously of cough syrup—
doubted his elaborate syntax
corresponded to any human dialect,
living or dead.
Yet still he soliloquized,
cadences and inflections consistent
as they were mysterious,
as if he recited a labyrinthine spell
no less enchanting for being impenetrable.
And never did he wax so loquacious
as the night of my sixteenth birthday,
when he drank so profoundly and orated
with such unintelligible conviction that,
holding court before the fireplace,
first his loafered feet then all the way up
to his gesticulating cigarette,
my father transformed to
one long helix of opaque smoke
that slipped up the chimney
and into the star-flecked night.
Those who ran outside insist
he dissipated amidst the Milky Way
but that explanation is neither officially
nor socially acceptable—
no bureaucratically endorsed acronym exists,
for child abandonment via sublimation.
Thus I simply say,
“My father and I are estranged.”

art by By Humberto Antonio Muniz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22851878
poem10 Oct 2016 08:53 am


The plates have shifted again
And mana from the surface
Drifts languidly down the ocean,

Bringing sustenance
To the hibernating creatures below;
Bringing new life to the gravid ones.

Soon the babies are born,
Mouths wide, searching for nourishment
From their mother,

Who lies prone
On the ocean bed, dying–
Her life’s purpose complete.

When she is gone,
The nurselings are fully grown,
Pairing up to mate, a tradition

Since their species first evolved
Five eons ago.
For generations,

This has not changed.
Till one curious female
Resolves to rewrite her fate.

She parts from the tribe,
Determined to find adventure
On the mysterious surface,

The place they call
The Source,
Where all food comes from.

She swims,
Up the unending sea,

Against gravity,
Till she finally
Reaches the top.

Sunlight pierces through the ice
To warm her face, a sensation
She has never felt in her life.

She marvels at how bright
The world above is–
The countless silver white lights,

The boundless sky beyond.
What other seas does it possess
In the vast world above?

Are there more creatures
Like her, bound in
This life and death cycle?

She wonders and dreams,
Takes a deep breath
And passes her head

Through the membrane
Separating the ocean
And the black.

She cannot draw a breath,
The vacuum swiftly
Turning her into frost.

She must quickly submerge
Or die an icy death.
Yet she takes a moment

To gaze at the wondrous sight,
Too magnificent to fathom, till
Her lungs swell beyond endurance.

She dives back down
In a fraction of an instant,
Her eyes almost glazed over,

Bright star lights
At the back of her mind.

Adrenaline drives her home
To the ocean’s abyss,
Where it is safe,

Her comforting place.
Vivid memories of
Being held close

Against her mother,
And her sisters
And brothers,

Milk warming her insides
As she slumbers
And dreams.

Surrounded by her brethren,
Her body worn and broken,

She sings the tale
Of the immeasurable

The silver white stars,
The swirling orange giant,
The rings on the pearled diamond.

What wonders do they possess,
What creatures do they hold?
Will you follow my path?

Uncover the world above?
Let us explore and learn,
Instead of having offspring

Without giving them something
To dream of. A life foregone,
Just like our mother’s.

We can endure the hard swim
If we go together. Discover
New meanings to our existence

Past our vast ocean.
The world beyond is so brilliant
And bright. O the light…

Joy brimming in her heart,
She replays that final image
Of the sky

And holds it tenderly
In her mind’s eye
As she dies,

Flying now
Amongst the stars,
In the place she loves.

Above, the surface rumbles
And creaks, shifting again
To close the breach.


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