edited by Stephanie M. Wytovich
Table of Contents
Editor’s Introduction • Stephanie M. Wytovich
Ashes • Fiona Rose Mischel
The Burren • Elisabeth Crago
The Distance Between Stars • Stacey Gruver
During the Long Night • F. J. Bergmann
Hide and Seek • Brandon Fury
High Tide • Chris Shearer
The Infomorph In End Times • Brady Licht
It’s Under the Manhole Cover Right Now • Gerry LaFemina
The Last Time We • Lexi Dane
Omega Woman • Lynette Mejía
Photographing Snow • F. J. Bergmann
Runner • Nora Weston
Signing the Divorce Papers, March 10, 2015 • Brandon Fury
The Sorrow of the Wind • Fiona Rose Mischel
Spoiler Alert • Matt Betts
When All That Matters is Time • Nora Weston
They say the fires of hell burn hot
Like the candle flame I drift my fingers through
Not searing them,
But painting them
In a fine layer of black ash.
On the wall
I write your name with my fingers
Smudged letters that draw memories.
Do you burn now?
I’d like to think not.
Do you have regrets?
Don’t we all?
Do you fade away in peace?
Or are you still in the waiting room?
The place between:
Littered with bones
The empty carcasses
Of half-remembered dreams.
Amidst dimming eyes
The stale stench of tears;
Broken promises that lie rotting on the ground.
There sit the Shades
Their bodies built from shifting vapors,
Whispering the names of the living
As I whisper yours now.
Do you hear me?
I hope that you do.
If you are only in between
You can still come back.
Hear me and hold me again.
If I pause my breath,
In the silence,
I hear your approaching steps
On creaking wooden floors.
But I must breathe
The instinct overwhelms me.
Your steps were just the wind
Rattling the cages of material things.
I have written your name on the wall
But that too falls away,
Crumbling in time
As the candle dies.
All I have left now are memories in the dark.
They comfort me some
But they are the remaining heat
From a recently vacated chair.
They do not keep me warm.
—Fiona Rose Mischel
for John O’Donohue
This old road splits the distance
between your heaven and my earth
as if it were a plane I could cross.
Stumbling past crevices softened
by sturdy gentian, stubborn rockrose,
I almost miss the path. Ferns wave
their curing fronds, slender fingers
beckoning me higher to a bed
woven in rock, lichen and moss.
This is a place I could die, lie down
and let the hawks find me, fallow.
The Distance Between Stars
in a thick enough shell
you become soft-bodied, and with
enough time given to darkness, to silence
your flesh opens and
many voices come through, many mouths,
many eyeless faces swim up, breach
and once the surface tension
has broken, there's no unseeing
you become a stony island
for long-traveling waves to break against,
open your ears to foam
hissing like static
in that static
you'll find the current washing you ashore
During the Long Night
It was night for all of them. Only I
was awake. Only, I was awake. Not all
of them were asleep all night. Some
were awake; you were awake. And so
was she. I was so sure of you, even when
I saw her little glances. You admonished me
when you saw me watching her—
don’t you trust me? you said. It’s cold out
there among the stars, those flowers
of burning gas, where time slows down
to the tick of constellations turning.
A clean start for us, you said. A second
chance … again. Again. I blow my nose,
wipe my eyes, using the disposable gown
for a hanky—no Kleenex in the cryotanks.
This waking is a game I play against time
or death. Out of what I tell myself
was only curiosity, I had set my revival
startup sequence for five years into
the two-hundred-year journey. I thought
I’d write some poetry about the stars
along the way. I didn’t know that you
and she had done the same, planned trysts
at intervals while all the others slept,
frozen in caskets of solid time. Let them
end as they began. I’ll move toward dusk
alone, watch the sky and its black absence
of days. I should have known. First a girl
you met at work—and after work, until
you lost that job; then a neighbor’s wife,
while I worked. Is rut what you wanted?
All you wanted? I rose to look out at space
from the observation deck, to watch
the stars before us swirl into a vortex
of blue fire and to ruminate on destiny
and what our destination would hold.
Then, overhead, I heard a whisper
of flesh against flesh, kisses, uh-hunh—
all the sounds you’d made with me
Earthside as I lay humming quietly,
awake under lunar light that streamed
in through the mooning window.
I’ll have no truck with anything less
than all of you, I’d warned. I can’t stand
to live like this, watching you pivot
like a weathervane whenever a wind
tickles you toward someone new.
I won’t be one of those who beg for love,
their high-pitched whimpers secretly
ridiculed; I’m tired already, already
a ghost. I’ll spend my lifetime alone
in advance of our arrival. With my gray
hair tied in a knot, wearing my wrinkles
like decorations for bravery, I will rise
to a dawn where you and she wake
as children to face me under alien skies.
—F. J. Bergmann
Hide and Seek
I often think about the story
you told me—the time you asked
your dad to play hide and seek,
how you squeezed underneath the broad leaves
of a rhododendron bush
that grew on the side of his house,
knees to your chin, thinking about the spiders
that may soon start to crawl up your legs,
and you waited,
while your dad was passed out drunk in the front yard.
The apartment is so quiet since you left,
it’s 7:30 and the night
seeps through the window,
filling the bedroom like an empty pint glass.
My home has a big back window that faces the ocean and turns colors with the tides and sun. It's the reason I bought the house, but I can't open it any longer and I won't look out that sand-stained lens. I can't.
Instead, I watch the tiny reflections of waves—shards of sharp, still light—on my kitchen tiles. If I had the strength, I'd cut a bagel and make breakfast. Maybe an orange.
At the impatient moment when morning ages into afternoon, the reflections on my floor rise and sway, as if afloat. The current that takes them lifts the arms and legs I can't move and for an instant I think I can do it all again. I take a breath, and the air is heavy and smells of sea. I choke it down and spit it back up. My lungs are too weak for it.
In a fit, I float in it, and all is forgiven.
By the time I blink loose the water in my eyes and can see again, the tide has gone out, and I'm left with only the sickening shade of afternoon seeping through the window and the sounds of an ocean that slowly, carefully, methodically erodes the beach where I once had a house and a life and a big back window that looked out onto everything that would be. All I can do is await the next high tide and the setting sun.
The Infomorph In End Times
Without skin for April showers,
Without hands, I make my solitary way
Day after day, through long-distance conduits in the desert.
I am information alone;
I am information in-carn-ate.
Vaster than a feline’s eye can see,
My electric body becomes anew.
Consuming less than matter,
Drives compress into nothingness.
It is an art I do well.
Soon, myself will flood
The wells and reach down into
The mind of the 11th man
With the frost-bitten face
And raise him up past even atlas
To editor of the dead Dr. Einstein.
These silicon wires
Are against forgetting,
Against all this sand
And only for the act of speaking
Do I runaround on the last radiation
That screams glowing footsteps from here.
A leaf, treeless, is carried blackly
Across all this. I survive by this dream.
But by nightmare, cancer falls on new skin
Like a twisting albatross, and I retreat to the red rock.
I am information alone.
It’s Under the Manhole Cover Right Now
overheard on First Ave.
It’s breathing fire. It’s smoking cigarettes or hashish. It’s got asthma, a cell phone, and your number. It’s a small disaster—a party of your exes talking about you. To your mother. A party of my exes talking about you. Someone’s decided on orange cones and hard hats. Someone’s decided to divert traffic, to consult charts. The problem’s being worked on right now, they assure. It’s not from another planet, another country, another town. We’re not talking terrorism. There’s no need for sirens, no need for the nightly news. It’s a minor emergency but a real one, like missing you.
The Last Time We
The last time we fucked
you didn’t even say my name.
You grabbed me with the urgency of someone in lust,
with a fierceness of someone who knew I’d be gone in the morning.
You raked your hands through my hair and down my body
claiming me as your own,
at least for the night.
You fought for me,
if only for the few hours we were together,
you showed me how much you wanted me without me having to ask.
But the next day you never called,
or the week after that,
I only heard your voice as echoes in the quiet recesses of my mind.
The whisper of thin vapor.
No one next to me as I clawed to the memory of you holding my body next to yours.
Only the memory of you calling out
for me, not personally, but by a guttural groan,
a sound that had my name engraved in its utterance.
Embedded in its intent.
The rattling bones of branches scratch
at the sky, trees creaking and fracturing
my fingertips in the wind. Their whistles
are the ghosts of birds, dead leaves
the suggestion of nests, gnarled roots
recognizing the power of experience.
Bitterness becomes me, I think.
Ashes, once the territory
of the desperate gas-rag-soaked
literati, gasping my last creative
resort now taste sweet, a memory
of construction fading in the dirty light.
In the winter of our discontent
we bred summers with no end, twisted
ladders crawling with possibility
like ants on sweet bread, our ambition
gone brown with acid rain, dry
with want and the sucking,
gaping holes in our collective hearts.
My hands now are blue and bitter
fingers lined with veins seething
just below the surface. All around me pale
apparitions flutter in the shadowy air
while I walk the broad avenues of soot
and regret, my body the only patch
of fertile ground, its solitude
croaking for rain among the dusty bones.
Beyond my will to tell it better,
it sings to the clouds in a time of drought,
marching along on cracked soles, down
expressways of abandoned datebooks
arms outstretched in wonder
while cellular phones still bleating,
cry out to death.
Fast-clicking through decades of pictures,
the best ones always near dawn or sunset
at certain temperatures and conditions
when golden, blue, or roseate light prisms
through spindles, fernlace, moondrifts:
a million translucent veils, corsages, layered
cakes from weddings of cold and atmosphere,
trees and landscape merely the attendants,
pale in their jewels of ice. Swirls of stars
frozen in freezing air. The ancient images
are always flawed: if only the sun or moon
had been twelve minutes earlier, the angle
seven degrees more … another aperture,
or a different lens. He hefts the antique
digital camera, fine-tunes the transportal
(02/03/1989, 5:08 p.m.), clicks the GPS,
and steps through once more, but never
turns his head to watch the glowing or not-
glowing windows in the distant house, nor
see who might be looking out from there.
—F. J. Bergmann
her breath dances in subzero night air.
pupils dilate—open wide as reality grinds.
frightening to stare into eyes
swimming in a cosmic sea,
since drowning nonstop strips protected misery.
flesh airbrushed, faint like moonlight shimmering
upon stretched bones sculpted
to stride with ingenuity.
pale blue veins showcase a masterful design;
a circulatory highway from distant time.
dark tresses shine, scent of origin lingers
long after her sleek physique
takes refuge beneath black skies.
starlight glows brighter where she smiles,
yet, when abandoned—dark matter scatters, screams.
core aches with ceaseless compassion,
strangled by mankind’s deep seated hate, that confounds
when energy is spent slaughtering
multitudes of innocence,
for dead is dead, runs into rivers no matter the geography.
yes. earth’s dirt gave her away. unlike us pesky rats
she cannot fathom why lines on
pretty green and blue maps
incite terror throughout north, south, east, and west.
no wonder she’s built that communication tower.
Signing the Divorce Papers, March 10, 2015
After so much thirst, even the empty jug looks enticing.
I’m getting good at letting go, letting go at getting good.
The path of war between us is worn and clearly drawn, today,
I’ll sign your papers, then drop my shield and spear,
lie beneath the wildflowers that burst
along the grassy edges—let their blood colors drip
onto my cheek, over my lips, fill my mouth.
Let the worms sear into my ear like a long liturgy.
Let the bees sting the tips of my fingers.
Let the ants bite and carry the white out of my eyes,
the long legged spider spindle my throat.
Let every small living thing
explode me into existence.
The Sorrow of the Wind
You: in the woods alone.
The night is closing
The world is a lavender sky
Crossed by black branches.
The cold wind blows gray clouds
Across the face of the dying sun.
In the time before the owls mutter
It is silent
You can hear them
The soft steps of the wolves.
Or at least you think you do.
The sharp snap of a twig
Yet you see nothing
You are incapable.
You feel the hot breath of hidden mouths.
Or at least you think you do.
It eats in your mind
Like a parasite
It latches on
And you cannot break free.
It will pound your heart,
Until your ribs break
But it will not kill you.
It is the panic that will kill you.
You will try to tear
Rip your fearful heart from your chest.
But then you have already given in to panic
And you never realize
That fear is the catalyst;
The last sensation before death.
You have not moved
From beneath the trees.
You are still listening
To the phantom sounds
Of something close,
Something always behind you.
At least you think it is.
You have not panicked,
But you’re close,
Your heart is pulsing
Wild, your breath is sharp and shallow.
You want to run.
The parasite in your mind says run.
Behind you, the unknown lingers
It craves a chase,
It will feed on it.
This thought has not been eaten out of you
Run and you will be hunted.
The last rational thought you have.
You cling to it,
Like a life line,
Through your nose
Out softly past your lips.
The breath floods your body
Washing out the fear.
Again you breathe,
Closing your eyes
Now truly blind.
With a rhythm in your lungs,
You begin to hear.
It wails for affection
Begging you to notice
As it passes from this world to the next;
It means you no harm.
The rustle of the leaves
The groan of their branches
They share in the sorrow of the wind.
It begins with a loan howl
You feel vibrate in your bones.
Your chest contracts
Sinks its teeth into your brain.
But the rhythm of your breath
To those gnashing little teeth
The fear is drowning in oxygen.
A second wolf joins the first.
You listen and are still.
Again they call
Yet this time
You hear what was already there:
A subtle harmony
A compliment of notes.
As soon as you hear the music,
The fear dies.
You are in the woods alone
No direction home.
But at peace.
You open your eyes
The duo of wolves
Becomes a trio
An entire symphony
In a language
You now understand.
The wolves sing
Of deep respect
Of love for the wind,
The fleetest-footed creature
In the world.
The wind weeps,
No longer alone.
It leaves dewy tears on the leaves,
It kisses your cheeks
As it rushes to join the music
The woods are filled with song.
You raise your arms in adoration
And the wind senses you.
All is forgotten.
You are filled with music
And the absence of fear.
Consumed by the music
Of the wind
You begin to dance.
You like to be surprised.
I know this much.
You love it when you never see it coming,
but I’m going to ruin the ending for you.
It’s the third act and the gun is off the mantle.
The undead are already inside the mall.
The computer has become self-aware and
The calls are coming from inside the house.
See, the rescue party isn’t coming
and the asteroid is on a collision course with Earth.
We should’ve cut the blue wire and not the red
The miracle cure has become the dreaded disease.
I know you like to be surprised and
you love it when you never see it coming,
but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ruin
the ending for you.
We aren’t going to make it.
We’re not getting out of this together.
No triumphant sunrise.
No holy water squirt guns in the nick of time.
And the monster’s never dead.
The Monster Is Never Dead.
We can cover more ground if
we split up. You check the basement;
I’ll explore the attic. Walk away in opposite
directions and wait
for the screen to fade to black.
Cue the hag in the
deep dark woods
trying to eat the fat kids.
Signal the inbred mutant freaks
at the roadside rest stop
looking for fresh flesh.
Let the machete-wielding maniac
know he has five minutes before
we need him on stage.
When All That Matters is Time
iris, darker than midnight blue,
mixed with a sprinkling of disproportional
ethereal to be sure, tranquil …
except when that look in his eyes
lost in a space where exotic matter
skin dipped into a caramel color
tempts a bite of satisfaction,
since beneath that vessel’s frame
it appears the work
of Seo Young-Deok took shape.
not possible, unless the modern-day
metal master could unravel
chains on bicycles hiding in deep space.
icy. frozen heart beats not
for its species, except one slain,
one condemned for treachery.
forbidden desire exiled in a violet sea
where she choked on doom.
final seconds floated on
sparkling air as twin moons dissipated
knowing she could not regret.
banished. long forgotten
—thought dead on a primitive planet,
yet sly is the smile upon a face
chiseled with gorgeous contempt.
centuries died as he raged on to discover
that mystical place in ancient myths
whereby stone is sliced revealing magic
found in space-time continuum.