Mundane Speculative Poetry
edited by Roger Dutcher
Table of Contents
Editor’s Introduction • Roger Dutcher
A Performance of The Planets • John Grey
Ghazal • Joshua Gage
Silly Comets • Geoffrey A. Landis
These Final Skies • Ann K. Schwader
Milky Way • Sierra July
Idiolect • P. S. Cottier
Lassoing the Sun • John C. Mannone
Lacus Mortis • Lee Clarke Zumpe
Troubleshooting the Sun • Carol Lynn Grellas
Mars • F. J. Bergmann
A Performance of The Planets
Hugged by knees, a cello
cascades the notes of serene Venus.
Toward the rear, a virulent bass drum
booms the cannon of Mars, the god of War.
Fifty slides of violin bow
rosin Jupiter's jollity.
A French horn sweetens
Mercury's quicksilver moves.
Flighty flutes expose Uranus's sleight of hand.
A solitary trumpet heralds
Saturn's declining years.
And finally, a choir gives woven voice
to numinous Neptune,
from high soprano to guttural moan,
soundly bless his revelations.
I leave the auditorium,
a planetary system ringing in my brain,
the pearls in the sun's necklace
retracing their melodic moods,
sanctioning the whistle
that overrides my tongue.
Sure, Earth is missing from the work
but I already know its songs.
And Holst antedates Pluto
but my breath ad-libs
a trifling piccolo solo,
that softly ropes in Ceres and Eris.
On a cool night street,
hands in pockets, eyes skyward,
I marvel at how far things conceal the nearer,
voluminous stars outshining our dwarfs and giants.
And yet there's the music—
such a chiming solar wind.
Transport shuttles calligraph the sky beneath the dome of Mars.
I count the days, the hours until you arrive beneath the dome of Mars.
I stepped off the Earth on the carpet of your promises. You ask me now
to warm my heart with the fire of your lies beneath the dome of Mars.
In the greenhouse, squirms of tomato vines erupt from compost heaps.
What will grow from the rot when my heart dies beneath the dome of Mars?
I have become a battered satellite orbiting remembrances of you.
At night, I watch Phobos and Deimos rise beneath the dome of Mars.
Har Decher stomps retrograde through Dendarah’s zodiac.
What augury for me is prophesied beneath the dome of Mars?
“Comets are silly dirtballs”
—Diane Turnshek, as misquoted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Comets are silly,
every astronomer knows that:
with their dirt-smudged faces,
wearing all that gaudy make-up,
tangled hair streaming in the solar wind,
and trailing meteor streams behind them
like a six-year-old girl gone wild
with a packet of dollar-store glitter.
—Geoffrey A. Landis
These Final Skies
(for the senior pioneers, Chryse Planitia)
These final skies are not that lost fierce blue
We bartered for the dark: gray years exchanged
For months (perhaps) before the rads win through
To claim this DNA already strange
Past saving. Yet our genes gaze up each night
From children’s children’s eyes to find that dot
Of scarlet called grandparent. Tucked in tight,
They colonize a future that we’ve fought
To offer. When it’s safer. Maybe. Yet
When dust storms blossom pink each shotgun spring
Against our shelter’s insulation foam,
We patch the cracks with photographs & let
Our hearts make do. Whatever summer brings,
These final skies are still the skies of home.
—Ann K. Schwader
Our planets sat isolated
In a cereal bowl so—
God added milk.
Marking one system
punctuating one sky—
thinking it grammar
—P. S. Cottier
Lassoing the Sun
After “Seeing the Eclipse in Maine” by Robert Bly
Last summer my son and I discovered our sun
and how we’d corral it through a pinhole
in a cardboard box. How it cast its bright blur
on the carpet. Swept it up
along with illumined dust kicked-up by the cowboy
moon as if its shadow bronco’d the crescent sun.
I watched him trace the fleeting charcoaled star;
its image racing across
the cloud-white card even as he drew tight circles
around it with a number two lead pencil. Yet the sun fled
all those nooses, escaping the graphite moon,
cindering the dark.
—John C. Mannone
a composition of deep shadow strokes
and ashen gray smiles, marble stone
pixel faces amidst your
capture the radial faulting
that denotes your age, triggered
by a forgotten impact
in an unspoken chronicle
—Lee Clarke Zumpe
Troubleshooting the Sun
I was thinking about the Sun and how it was born
over 4.5 billion years ago and is expected to endure
4.5 billion more, which seems like a lengthy while
unless you do your calculations in human math.
Then the sun is having a midlife crisis with one foot
already in the grave. In fact, it’s about time for a black
balloon party announcing half an existence already
passed and the best days sure to follow. With more
yesteryears than tomorrows, not that any of us will
be around to find out, but it seems significant to me
being at a halfway point myself. I think we should
celebrate the Sun’s midway mark; after all he’s the most
significant celestial body in the solar system. We should
give thanks for stellar glory, pay tribute to nuclear
fusion and astronomical units, declare a holiday of sorts
in honor of sacrificing his younger self for the betterment
of mankind. I mean I know he’s only one of over 100
billion stars, but without him, the earth is doomed.
And maybe the Sun is getting damn tired of his thankless
job, spinning on axis every 26 days, programming
unwilling insomniacs with patterns of sleep and the ongoing
chore of defining Winter from Spring, Summer from Fall,
the exhausting task of keeping his amber light just out
of reach, maintaining order in the midst of chaos
managing all this alone through his golden fever, a life
of solitude and aurora borealis nights, no one there
to stroke his hotness, gaze through his ultraviolet
glow, after long years of corona burning brilliance,
until he implodes from total burnout; the world left iced
over in deadly shadows, suffering through a grisly
death. I fear the Sun’s elderly creep and dwindling rule.
The aging process taking a toll on his under appreciated
powers. I dread his soon-to -be red giant phase, exposing
the Earth to a rickety fate, swallowing us whole,
resentful of his once almighty role, putting an end
to our earthy existence; knowing his days are numbered,
sick of being taken for granted and not properly valued,
too much expected for fiery radiance, devoid
of supernatural sway, just another one among us,
not immune to dying and certainly never a God.
—Carol Lynn Grellas
a found poem from The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
the dry stone no sound
of water. Only […] shadow
under this red rock
—F. J. Bergmann