Poetry

Training: Endurance

by on Aug 4, 2015 in Poetry | 0 comments

In humid heat, up and down a low hill along a goat track, carrying shield and sword, sweating, ran King Xau, his guard Li at his side. Another town burnt. Nothing Xau could do. Stationed along the way, his other seven guards and twenty of his cavalrymen (horseless, standing guard). Another town burnt— How many heeded the warnings and left? How many stayed and burned? Up and down the hill; Tsung, captain of his guards, watched from the summit, gave Xau and Li water each time they crested the hill. Demon signs left on stonework. Demon fire sighted from afar, indigo flame leaping like lightning. People gathered on the hillside, wide hats shading their heads, casting circles like demon signs onto the short grass. They bowed as Xau passed, a swaying wave of men and women. Men and women who looked to him to save them, who trusted him, who thought him more than he was. An hour and a half in, sweaty, sweltering, smelly, his arm chafed raw by the shield straps, his calves protesting each stride, Tsung said to him, “Stop if you wish.” Xau shook his head, ran on, Li at his side, past the growing crowd. Would have run until he fell if it would help, but he couldn’t fight demons, couldn’t even find the demons, couldn’t find anyone who had seen a demon and survived. Men and women stretched in continuous lines either side of the goat track, bowing as he passed, their shadows slowly lengthening. The demons woken out of story, out of nightmare. A hundred dark legends, but no mention of how to defeat demons, of what Xau could do. Or try to do. Up and down the hill, Li at his side, sweating, but Li’s gait, Li’s breath as easy as when they began. (Xau gasping.) Another town burnt. Xau’s soldiers, Xau’s people, Donal’s people all looking to Xau as if he were King Nariz himself come with a hundred dragons to save them— A dragon— Maybe. He glanced at Li, saw Li’s steady gaze on him. “Better?” asked Li, the first word he had said all that afternoon. “Maybe,” said Xau. Li touched him lightly on the shoulder as they reached the top of the hill, as Xau stopped, bowed to Tsung. Stretched. Drank. Considered. Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but now lives in Pittsburgh. Crowned, the first book in her epic fantasy in verse, was published by Dark Renaissance Books in June 2015. “Training: Endurance” is part of the same epic, but takes place later in the story. Several poems from the tale may be read at...

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The Owl Child

by on Aug 4, 2015 in Poetry | 0 comments

Her dark eyes shine As skin slips off And feathers sprout like grass Familiar wings protrude for flight She dips and dives in darkness Her flesh, feet, and fingers Are claimed at first light She walks toward home With the taste of mice Still dancing on her tongue Jennifer Ruth Jackson’s work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Liquid Imagination, and more. She, her husband, and her houseplant live in an apartment in Wisconsin where two out of three play video games. Jennifer has yet to beat her plant in any gaming...

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In the Day After the World Stopped Being

by on Aug 4, 2015 in Poetry | 0 comments

Bleached sky drapes over charred branches— her bare feet cut imprints in the ash layers. Echoes double back on each other until there’s only silence. She sorts through debris— chains of coal, frail blackened bones, slivers of teeth— always on the hunt for the lost pieces, the path. She’s got a hole in her cheek where the last kiss rested. A gap in her hair where the wind once teased. Pried open ribs where hunger was known to dwell. (food, affection, anger, longing—all hungers, all valid) When the skies screamed, broke, toppled— she was in her garden, sewing herbs into bird stomachs to send messages to her lover under the Hill. The air burned and the earth shattered like a tea saucer on a tiled floor. All the birds snuffed out—a puff of feathers, cracked apart songs— and her neighbors drifted up in clouds of dust. (except her) Even the Hill—timeless, ethereal, serene— is lost somewhere in the rubble of the old woods and tattered myths unwoven in the dust. She doesn’t believe her lover is vapor because one chickadee hopped wingless into her palm and spat out a string of fractured words: come…find…me… So she hunts in the places the Hill has been, where the airless sky twined ‘round bone trees and tiny alien flowers grow from blistered soil. She sent the chickadee back, unable to follow birds herself, (that’s not her magic) with the words on strands of her hair: I—will—find—you—love A. Merc Rustad is a queer non-binary writer and filmmaker who lives in the Midwest, United States. Favorite things include: robots, dinosaurs, monsters, and tea—most of which are present in their work to some degree. Their stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, Inscription Magazine, Scigentasy, and Vitality Magazine, and forthcoming in Lightspeed, Fireside Fiction, and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. When not buried in homework, Merc likes to play video games, watch movies, read comics, and wear awesome hats. You can find Merc on Twitter@Merc_Rustad or their website:...

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Monsters We Create, Woozles We Become

by on Aug 4, 2015 in Poetry | 0 comments

I can still feel the heat from your hair, rough and brown like autumn grass against my cheek as I read to you, Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting And Nearly Catch a Woozle. You’re nearly asleep when I finish, your fever flush burnt into my skin. We bury you a month later. Your hair is combed and cold in the casket. Your cheeks are powder pink, our first snowflakes sticking to them and your grave dirt. You rise in spring with the snowdrops and tulips, more colorful than a makeup palatte pushing the dirt from your gravestone, its edges still jagged and fresh You rise in spring with your father’s eyes, your mother’s ears, a winter’s hunger on your lips, and mud beneath your nails clinging to the cream base still smeared across your skin You are horrible But the narrow expanse of your shoulders, your face burrowing, nose pressed between my ribs, your clinging fingers all roots to dirt so cold brings me to life again You rise in spring and you feast on my flesh. I know this story. I will follow you, my son And together, we will be forever. At 10, Levi Sable was told that he’d never make it as a writer because his penmanship was so terrible. Since then, he’s worked hard to become a troublemaker, a parent, an editor, a gardener, and, of course, a writer. His speculative fiction has been recently published in THEMLit, Spellbound, and the Journal of Unlikely Cryptography. He is also a regular contributor to VillageQ.com. He resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his partner, child, sister, basset hound, and chickens. His handwriting is still terrible....

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How the World was Made—a Super Crown

by on Jul 7, 2015 in Poetry | 0 comments

[Note from poetry editor Bianca Spriggs] Because of its uniqueness, this month’s poetry selection, “How the World Was Made—A Super Crown” by Roger Bonair-Agard, requires some context in terms of content and form. I have a soft spot for a handful of devices in literature, and this work harnesses three of my favorites: tricksters, creation myths, and the sonnet. This work revolves around Anansi, a character best known in West African and Caribbean folklore. True to quintessential trickster characteristics, Anansi is most recognized as a spider but can shape-shift, adopting the appearance and behavior of a man. In Bonair-Agard’s telling, Anansi (the man) is his own creator—he literally creates a world for himself through sight and song and laughter and dance, coming slowly to recognize himself and his place through improvisation, through experimentation, through risk. Thematically, the piece is already a triumph, but made even more memorable by being corralled into a staggering “super crown” of sonnets. The standard sonnet crown uses the fourteen-line sonnet form (in this case, Bonair-Agard does away with rhyme-scheme) to create a story-cycle through a combination of twelve sonnets that each begin with the final line of the preceding sonnet. A super crown consists of twenty-four sonnets which follow the same pattern. “How the World was Made” is a vibrant narrative that boasts lush imagery, a fresh, resonant voice, and is an overall astonishing take on a classic piece of Afrospeculative folklore. It is an absolute treat to present this work to you as July’s selection. 1. Anansi see a whole ceiling of spiders come down. The medicine man laugh his no-teeth laugh again and tell him Write! And that’s how Anansi know he was safe. He feel the creeping and crawling all over him, the thousand legs, the eyes, the fine fur like they was weaving a coat for him, and is so Anansi come to realize he was turning. Is when Anansi feel the tick tick ticking of webbing down his back, up around him like a collar, that he understand what was inside him was now outside him. What was prophesied was now making manifest. So he hear what the doctor say, and he write. 2. The doctor say write and day 3 Anansi feel something catchin his throat and he move his new hand to make it stop, and know is the throat self had to move. So he move throat. He move it the way a man might open a envelope and push it from the bottom out and over to empty the guts of it. So the throat move, and so Anansi start to sing. First, it was just a noise but he follow that first noise with a next one, and then a next one, and all the coat makers stop, and Anansi self learn a new word—Music—so he write that down and the medicine man laugh his no-teeth laugh, and Anansi laugh back. 3. And Anansi laugh back and that was the second sound Anansi make. Soon Anansi moving the throat like all the time. Is like the envelope making origami, how he learn to fold and unfold the throat for different sounds to come. He learn he could close the envelope and still make a constant hum. He was writing everything he know from the world before this one, humming as he go and the medicine man laugh and laugh at Anansi humming, and turn round in a circle, arms open, spinning. He nod at Anansi, so Anansi get up and spin too; all the coat-makers getting up with him; and their movement, as he move was like a low drum. 4. Move like a low drum Anansi! and Anansi spin in time to the low drum, and his own hum, and soon Anansi dance. Man, if you see how Anansi dance. What is? The medicine man ask. What isn’t? Anansi ask in response What is? The medicine man ask again; and Anansi stop dancing to see if he could see what else was dancing. He was sure now he was not the coat makers....

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Entrance

by on Jun 2, 2015 in Poetry | 0 comments

We were looking for mold, but found the door. I didn’t want to open it. You didn’t want to open it, so it opened itself for us. When I looked in I saw blue-green soft, organ-like shapes growing from the walls, a footpath that curved into darkness. The room breathed, gill-like and I swore a thousand bluish eyes shifted and focused. When you looked in, you wouldn’t tell me what you saw. I tried to insist you saw the blue-green organs, the path, monsters, death—what mattered. You held my foot as I said, I’m going in. I’ve been there. I can come back. You said, We don’t have to decide this now. I got on my hands and knees to wiggle through the wooden beams that held up the remaining drywall. I felt humidity move like a breath of air. Stay with me, you said, I’m not letting go. I sat back in a squat and looked at your hands, thinking, Well, okay. That’s good. The door shut all by itself. We turned to watch it lock. Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of twenty books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press). Her recent books are Drink (BlazeVOX Books), Wake (Aldrich Press), The Bottle Opener (Red Dashboard), and the collaborative book The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters (Les Femmes Folles) with artist Lauren Rinaldi. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Ploughshares, and Calyx. Visit her online at...

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