Speculative Poetry in Form
edited by Lester Smith
Table of Contents
Editor’s Introduction • Lester Smith
PLUTO • LeRoy Gorman
“red between your toes,” • Sandi Sartorelli
“a phoenix feather” • Sandi Sartorelli
“one small step,” • Sandi Sartorelli
“speeding through nothing” • Melissa Frederick
“red goo in the bathtub” • Deborah Walker
Haiku No. 55 • Juan Manuel Perez
“bacchanal—” • Darrell Lindsey
“reading by flashlight” • Darrell Lindsey
“all the faint black holes” • Darrell Lindsey
A New Home • Dennis M Lane
Dream House • Melissa Frederick
Aftertaste • David Sklar
“There once was a werewolf named Dinah” • P. Andrew Miller
“so sad” • LeRoy Gorman
“dog-eared” • LeRoy Gorman
Red • Barbara Lucas
Rue of the Great Red Sun Invasion • Ashley M. Baldon
When Zombies Go Steady • Elissa Malcohn
Vietnamese luc bat
The Bot’s Dilemma, Upon the Death of Earth • Elissa Malcohn
The first mother after apocalypse • David Wong Hsien Ming
At Journey’s End • Dennis M Lane
The World • Martin Elster
Lullaby for Arachnophobes • Ann K. Schwader
The Shattering Queen’s Secret Wish • Ashley M. Baldon
Alphabetic Morph Rhyme
Leaving • F.J. Bergmann
Giving Up the Ghost • Ann K. Schwader
A Sonnet for the Gorgon • David Sklar
Rocket Gone Awry • Martin Elster
Alien Diplomacy • F.J. Bergmann
Bringer of Light • Don Thackrey
To Live in Hell • Geoffrey A. Landis
Blind Obedience • Dennis M Lane
A Daemon’s Lament • Dennis M Lane
Never Met a Stranger • Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas
Naked Song • Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas
The Greater Threat • Robert Laughlin
A Reply from His Changeling Mistress • Melissa Frederick
Overheard • Don Thackrey
Lossy Translation • F.J. Bergmann
Mermaids Are Waiting For You! • Martin Elster
Malfunction • Martin Elster
When Frankie was in uniform • Robert Laughlin
red between your toes,
out of the closet
reaching journey’s end
an emerald egg
icy forms awake
lifepods pierce the sky
hatches pop open
Back home again. A three-
room bungalow, deserted
block of West Philly.
Two frat boys here for a score.
I think they’re ghosts. The morons.
A gal who could travel through time
had a passion for cannibal crime
’til she learned that her dinner
had previously been her—
and harvested still in her prime.
There once was a werewolf named Dinah
Who hailed from North Carolina
She said, and I quote,
“I’ll rip out your throat
if you end with the obvious rhyme.”
of cherry tarts
clings to her cape, her skin.
He licks his lips as dark hunger
his belly with
its delicious ache. Wait
a little longer. Let patience
He shivers as she comes close, closer,
a sweeter treat
than any hidden in
her ribboned basket. He breathes deep,
the first tickle
of her fear. What big hands
you have. What broad shoulders. She bites
as he bares his
teeth in a feral smile.
He pulls his knife from the wolf’s corpse,
from the curved blade.
She whimpers as she backs
into the cottage wall, her eyes
as any fawn
when the huntsman draws close,
closer, keen and eager to claim
Rue of the Great Red Sun Invasion
disappearing into the dark
the sun bleeds once more
more bright where
When Zombies Go Steady
Read my palm.
Peel back my thumb.
Pocket my fingers
one digit at a time.
For you, I have slit my wrist,
twisted it free of clustered bones.
I feel your heart beating in my chest.
Let the others stare, darling; I don’t care.
for more on the form: ticket2write.tripod.com/id73.html
The Bot’s Dilemma, Upon the Death of Earth
“I’m sorry.” Did I say
that right? Did I convey the same
effect that stoops your frame,
the ache you cannot name, that wild
look in your eye I’ve filed
as grief? But then you smiled, as though
approving the dim glow
of shattered Earth below. And I’m
perplexed. This can’t be time
for mirth, can it? Sublime laughter,
your gentle pat, a purr.
Should I instead infer some joy
(and, if so, why?). Employ
new rules? But how? “Oh, boy,” I sigh:
my learned response to high
uncertainty. For I don’t know
why you don’t just cry. “Go
away!” you scream. Your blow dents steel.
My metal chest looks real
now, somehow. The appeal of pain?
“I’m sorry.” And again,
“Sorry.” Am I inane? Tell me.
You howl with laughter, free
of all control, yet we have lost
everything. Has that cost
addled you? Have we crossed a line
my program can’t define?
Beyond you, empty wine flasks float,
zero gee in our boat,
your face a drunken bloat. To bed,
then. Rest your weary head.
Sensors say you’ve been fed. Your needs
are met. Tragedy leads
you astray. Your heart bleeds. I have
no heart. I’ll be your salve.
On autopilot nav, we jog.
I shall still catalog
the mission through your fog, your numb
emotive soup. I’m dumb,
no subroutines to plumb your soul.
I can’t perceive the toll,
Nothing to do but roll away.
for more on the form: thepoetsgarret.com/orient.html#luc
The first mother after apocalypse
After these years he is born to her;
she is convicted
as a mother is doomed
She is convicted
as his right hand
the things he commands
(as his right hand
forgets the meaning of
the things he commands
Forgetting the meaning of
her tales of the old world,
he names his satellite after her:
for her tales of the old world
cannot index new planets;
so he names his discoveries after her,
as digits and letters that follow her name.
To index new planets
she disperses herself into the cosmos
with digits and letters following her
as atmosphere, as second skin.
She disperses into the cosmos
as a mother, doomed
to atmosphere, to second skin.
After these years, he is born to her.
At Journey’s End
An old man, fading but still spry and far from welcoming death
I stare at distant stars and sigh for all that lived while I flew
of you, your new love, your children, all have turned to dust
And remember how you would cry with fear every time I flew
I could not
turn my face from the horizon, from destiny
Each new test, no matter how high, reminding me why I flew
futile, pointless, I sit on ochre sand, alone
None know I live, or how I’ll die; does Earth still recall I flew?
Unlike the azure that protects the world,
the sky-dome’s plexiglass reflects the world.
A spherical lab experiments for eons.
Slowly, the life it bears perfects the world.
Billions of bits of sparkle whirling, whirling.
Something’s alive among these specks: the world.
A robed astronomer sees a curious glow
light up his globe as he dissects the world.
You shut the greenhouse windows one by one,
then wonder who it is that wrecks the world.
With a writ of attachment in its curved appendage,
the alien says it must annex the world.
Amphibians, mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, insects—
two by two a ship collects the world.
“Farewell,” she said, and fled to a new planet.
He shrugs when queried, “Was your ex the world?”
Tumefied into a scarlet monster:
the sun. Nobody resurrects the world.
The astronaut, though warned she’ll turn to salt,
glances back and recollects the world.
A cosmic magpie spies a blue-white marble,
then, comet-like, swoops down and pecks the world.
first appeared in The Chimaera
Lullaby for Arachnophobes
Remember, children: spiders never sleep.
Conspicuous among the attic beams,
Their webs stretch wide; & what they catch, they keep.
Some drift on silken chutes. Some even leap
Upon their prey to suffocate their screams.
Remember, children: spiders never sleep—
Their eyes are multiple, their thoughts are deep
Beyond the boundaries of human schemes.
Their webs stretch wide; & what they catch, they keep
Wrapped mummy-tight. You’d never make a peep
Although your bones were softening to cream.
Remember, children: spiders never sleep
The way we do, which gives them time to creep
Inside our drowsy minds in search of dreams.
Their webs stretch wide; & what they catch, they keep
No matter how it struggles or it weeps …
So please don’t. It’s much later than it seems.
Remember, children: spiders never sleep.
Their webs stretch wide; & what they catch, they keep.
The Shattering Queen’s Secret Wish
Mirror, mirror …
Who is fairest?
The glass-like eyes stare …
Her dreaming of kingdoms
in perfect beauty.
Snow White fractures my dreaming
hiding beyond perfect eyes …
Your eyes perfect beyond hiding
dreaming my fractures
white snow beauty...
perfect in kingdoms of dreaming
Her stare! Eyes like glass …
The fairest is … who?
The barred window display holds a jewelfern. Even a single leaf
is worth a sultan’s ransom. They glowed in the dark jungles she left
long ago and has almost forgotten. Peridot-frosted fiddleheads loft
and splay like green ostrich plumules, trembling as if they laugh
or argue over invisible ideologies. She watches a frond unfurl, lift,
and float down to the floor of the velvet-lined case, its immortal life
pulsing in a slowly oscillating waveform that is tracing omega-to-aleph
through a constellation of coruscating green stars. She can believe
in nothing that stems from human invention except the heel of a loaf
of bread, the soured dregs of a wine flask. She holds herself aloof
from wealthy wives who mutter as they pass. The lock’s spell is a glyph
whose curves she knew well before she became a nameless draft-slave
in a merciless culture where she would never have been allowed to live
if they’d found out she could read, let alone.… The edicts of the Caliph
are pellucid. But the fern is an invitation, and the dusty years slough
away as she drops her burden and draws on memory like a glove
made of morning, and her tongue whispers sibilants that leave
her lips as a flock of phosphorescent birds, emerald feathers alive
with light. The lock twists and flies open; the window-glass leaf-
veins and shatters. She raises her arms, letting her filthy robe luff
like a black spinnaker, and calls on spirits of the air to bear her aloft,
tucking the fern between her breasts as if a letter from a lost love.
A cyclone whirls her toward her heart’s home like a windblown leaf.
Giving Up the Ghost
It’s habit-forming, being haunted. Nights
just aren’t the same without that dragging chain
like Marley on your stairs, or some refrain
of wailing in the rafters. Mundane frights
fall short of frisson when such rare delights
as these abide, reminding us how pain
or longing long years ended may sustain
itself by shadows at the edge of sight.
But haunts aren’t modern. No one has the time
for spectral frivols now, so it seems best
to go cold raven: just refuse to host
more paranormal boarders. In their prime,
their company was hardly worth your rest;
so little’s lost by giving up the ghost.
A Sonnet for the Gorgon
The instant that you look at her, alone,
her eyes lock in, take hold of you, and so
your body, made of flesh, is made of stone.
There is no charm against it that I know
because she does not try to change your name:
she knows she cannot alter what you are
and that there is no need: you stay the same,
but when she makes your half-shut eyes aware
of windows where you’ve never looked inside
and veils you’ve never ventured peeking through,
the shell you wear is split, and opened wide,
and so reveals the stone. The stone is you.
For this, there’s no defense against her eyes
except for one: yourself, without disguise.
Rocket Gone Awry
Just six of us left after we crash-landed
on a wasteland where we searched for an oasis,
while bone-dry mesas threatened to erase us
with coats of desert varnish. Lost and stranded
on some forsaken planet, dunes as high
as mountains, trudging in an angry sun
hot as the atoms in a laser gun,
my rations gone, I had two choices: die
or kill the others for their water. Well,
I was the sole survivor. Shambling
along for what seemed years, then scrambling
up endless slopes, death-tired in every cell,
I came upon a wonder, widely known—
power lines, a road—and wept. Alone.
We apologize for the misunderstanding:
the orbiting nuclear-missile placements
were for your protection only. “Last man standing”
is so hostile. You can come out of your basements
now. Alliances that form between our planets
will lead to better mingling—what we call “diverse.”
We hope you’ll be contented with this plan—it’s
significantly less intrusive than the first,
regrettable agreement we proposed.
You claimed to apprehend a certain reticence
regarding purpose in the talks; we re-composed
our recipes the treaties to your specs. We even jettisoned our ritual feasts observances to which you made objection
(we misconstrued your faith in resurrection).
Bringer of Light
Maligned, misunderstood, from Heaven cast
Into a hellish dark vortex where light
Imprisoned shrinks before unyielding might,
Archangel Lucifer ponders the past
And his rebellion. Proud iconoclast,
He’d sinned in teaching doubt as man’s birthright,
The way to knowledge, to a god’s insight;
He broods on light eclipsed that once was vast.
Time now to hurl aloft, again traverse
Creation’s unimaginable space.
He takes the route where he has daily gone
At speed of thought across the universe.
Approaching earth, he pauses, turns his face,
Becomes the Morning Star, promising dawn.
To Live in Hell
With sun too bright, beneath the acrid haze
the rocky plain, the evil poison sky
not fit for man, in thousand subtle ways
no land for life, yet here it is we’ll die.
The planet shakes with cataclysmic blasts
as blow by blow, we peel the atmosphere.
Sun’s heat untrapped, the planet cools, at last
a place to seed the life that we hold dear.
Green plants, to turn carbonic sky to air,
nitrogen fixed, to turn hard rock to soil.
No easy task, a new world to prepare:
we’ll never see the end of all our toil.
What we call hell, outside this cramped steel dome
Our children’s children’s children will call home.
Beneath metal towers technicians toil;
A race glassborn, created for their Lord.
Each action preordained by program’s word;
Hidden away, a life spent drowned in oil.
Dreams rise up within a memory coil;
Of battles won, an Angel’s fiery sword.
Soon to be crushed and with the trash interred,
A hoped for elevation left to spoil.
New programs writ, the drone begins again;
Once more it joins with all the other gears.
Reset, the servant returns to its fate.
Ideas bring such sweet exquisite pain;
But cannot break the programming of years.
They also serve who only stand and wait.
A Daemon’s Lament
By man’s hand formed, by man’s tongue roundly cursed,
I roam wastelands too cold to permit tears,
Daring dark skies, heaven must do its worst,
Come arctic snow to smother my last years,
While hoping for the treasure of a smile,
Hand of a friend laid gentle on mine arm,
I still desire a measure of that guile,
With which my creator engendered harm,
Yet as frigid air slows my hateful blood,
My mind returns to the old man’s blind eyes,
A friendship torn and cast into the mud,
By offspring deaf to all of heaven’s cries,
Echoes of his laugh, and of that calm voice,
Convince that icy death be the right choice.
Never Met a Stranger
I’ve never met a stranger, but I’ve been
one to myself at moments when the mirror
was an image on the wall; a portrait
of an absent girl becoming queerer
with assessment, like some vacant mannequin.
I’d love to tell her how I hate that far-off stare;
the way she looses something of herself
each day that passes by, yet unaware
there’s distance kept between us, though the likeness
is astounding when reflection is the test.
It’s sad to see those empty eyes disguise
what used to look like me, yet I guess
that girl who wears my face is not the same─
an unfamiliar person wears my name.
Forgive me, bloodless fetus, so ill-fated
you were never really born. Dead embryo—
because the death-god came when we were torn
and severed. You laid silent on the throw,
yet I was there to love you while the breath
expired, within a silent drum-roll through
the sky. Inside a tragedy prevailed
while white magnolias laced about the blue
outside my window. As I bowed to see
your little being rumpled, just a flower
devoid of proper sustenance. My womb
incapable, inbeing; your last hour—
forevermore among a billion burning stars,
but do you peek through time at what was ours?
The Greater Threat
Van Allen scared us white.
His belts were thought a blight
To men in space, and NASA’s plans were temporarily upset.
But cosmic rays will yield
If only you’ve a shield
Of leaden foil. Too bad that solid objects are a greater threat.
Each artifact in space
Has shed a lethal trace;
In size, they range from chipped-off bit of paint to cast-off booster jet.
Like cannonballs, you see,
This orbiting debris,
And now our astronauts must play at spin-the-cylinder roulette.
So, nature’s less a trap
Than Homo Sap’s own crap.
A Reply from His Changeling Mistress
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.…
—Sir Thomas Wyatt
I flee from thee that now seeks to commit
My fluent body to a parchment tomb.
You lured me once with song and gentle wit,
A draught of Lethe’s water to consume;
Thus for your ready pleasure I assumed
The shapes of creatures rare, sleek, small and strange.
Yet now you wonder at my need to range.
Dear heart, how little you yourself remember
When my gaunt figure crept along the floor,
Collecting crusts half-eaten while you slumbered,
Your taste for me full sated long before,
My conquered self too soft, boiled bland, a bore.
Those lips, that only foreign fruit placates,
The humble cherry rarely fascinates.
So I depart to chase newfangleness
While you, the proud forsaken, me upbraid,
With caustic lines decry my faithlessness,
And for your suff’ring ask how I am paid.
Poor man, what use is mercy to a maid?
Like sea-born gyres, we spin far from your reach,
No ink to stain your poem’s bankrupt speech.
God and Satan squatted cheek by jowl
Behind the ashes pile
To watch Job scrape his boils, grieve, curse, and howl
As he endured his trial.
A hidden soul there heard one of the two
Snicker, “You devil you!”
The aliens only wished to serve
mankind: a conclusion we inferred
from their proselytizing verve.
Church-mission linguists had averred
that their bible’s title, To Serve Man,
meant, "We’ll help you out as best we can."
They were duly directed toward the light
of the Milky Way and solar system.
"Third planet; smallish, blue and white
with swirling clouds—you can’t miss ’em."
Now it seems that all their holy books
are merely manuals for cooks!
They made potage à la reine
with actual chunks of the British queen!
And diced some poor Italian
for Carbonara Florentine.
Some Texan cowboys, or vaqueros,
went into their huevos rancheros.
Each culinary treat prepared to eat
by the aliens were deviant versions:
ladyfingers were savory, not sweet;
virgin olive oil—pressed from virgins.
Please have the decency not to ask
how they made pasta puttanesca.
As to the gist of their next tome,
one famous translator asserts
that the second text, an epic poem,
bears the title, "Just Desserts."
But hidden risks of gourmandise
may manifest as a disease.…
We need brave volunteers to carry
illnesses back to their home planet.
If you have AIDS or dysentery,
sign up right here—we may save Man yet!
Mermaids Are Waiting For You!
It sat there on the strand that day,
A day that viewed strange meetings.
He picked it up from where it lay
On grit and pebbles, wet from spray,
Bruised by the breakers’ beatings.
He held it up against an ear,
An ear drenched by the thunder
Of muted oceans, far and near—
A pink-lipped conch, a souvenir
He thought, until from under
Its briny, salmon-colored sound,
A sound unlike the ocean:
A voice that told him it was bound
To whale and seal, and never drowned,
Except in strong emotion.
“Let’s meet beyond the reef,” it purred,
Those purring tones erotic
As Amphitrite’s, every word
Exotic as a coral-bird,
Each sea-lynx growl hypnotic.
The bathers, boats, the heavens’ eye
(An eye half-closed and Titian),
Rendering the western sky
So roseate, its hues would vie
With a Turner exhibition,
To him were distant as the flight,
The flight of a shearwater.
“I am a mermaid of the night,
Whose tail is fashioned to excite.
I frisk with eel and otter.”
Waves drummed, but he just heard that arch,
That arch, coquettish timbre.
He thought he heard the wedding march
by Mendelssohn. No hint of starch
In that coy voice. “I’m Amber.”
While plovers piped and seagulls squawked —
Squawked like the world’s noisemakers —
And other seabirds plunged or flocked,
He chucked that ornate shell and walked
Straight into the breakers.
Out past the reef he met his fate,
A fate with flowing tresses.
The sea-beast didn’t hesitate
To wrap her tail around her date
And drown him in caresses.
first appeared in Scarlet Literary Magazine
Her skin smelled like a distant field of flowers
and silicone combined.
Her hair gleamed like the showers
of meteors Earth rushes through. What mind
directed her green eyes, her smile, her voice
to lure me to move toward her?
I really had no choice,
the way she worked! Yet I could not afford her.
I’d won her at a raffle years ago.
She kept me company
and loved me like a pro.
The drawback was she had no warranty.
I sensed something amiss with her last Monday:
We were sitting on the couch
sharing a hot-fudge sundae
when, ouch!— she kicked me, then began to grouch
that she was craving a bananas Foster,
tears spilling down her cheeks.
That’s when I knew I’d lost her.
Already weeks before I’d heard faint creaks
and squeaks when she would pick things up or walk
around the block. I knew
the end was near. The clock
inside her robot heart was overdue
to be replaced. But being in a state
of penury, I hurled
that marvel of a mate
to the curb as if I’d tossed away the world!
It’s not so bad—I still have my warm spouse,
who seldom shares her heat.
Yet she’ll remove her blouse
for another in this house who she calls Pete.
Right now my wife is cuddling with her droid.
Tonight must be as cold
as ice on an asteroid!
It’s not so bad—there’s still the dog to hold.
first appeared in Verse Wisconsin
When Frankie was in uniform
When Frankie was in uniform
And needed spare parts in a flash,
They fixed him up in just a jiffy
At his unit’s Monster M*A*S*H.