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Issue 10 • October 2013
Speculative poetry in Translation
edited by Lawrence Schimel

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionLawrence Schimel

The Creature • Andrea Lorenzini
translated from the Italian by Alex Valente

Wonderland • Maria Grech Ganado
translated from the Maltese by Maria Grech Ganado

Ambrosia • Alejandro Cabada Fernández
translated from the Spanish by David Bowles

External and Removable • Mariusz M. Leś
translated from the Polish by Mariusz M. Leś

Quantum Subway • Fedor Svarovsky
translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

The Creature

La Creatura

First layer of skin removed,
the doctors discovered
that the rest of the creature was invisible,
internal organs see-through,
not like glass,
not like water,
not like film you can look through–
it was there like nothing at all
and if something hadn’t squoshed beneath her fingers,
the surgeon could swear there was nothing there.
What it had said
was carved into
the wall, at least until the cleaners removed it.
But after they opened it up, the creature never spoke.

Curious to study that alien composition,
attention all in the digits,
as the eye could not shed light
as usual.
Touch, hands first.
At least the creature showed no
pain, judging from the bioelectric graphs
and its silence.
In any case the surgeon was careful.

Suddenly the creature disappeared.
With a scented puff of smoke
quickly spreading in the air.
The surgeon’s hands sought around with care,
stumbling across the table.
Then they looked at each other.
The one who’d brought it in said: “I knew it,
but not like this”
This … invisible?

Sublime. Sublimation.
As clear as the universe it had come from and returned to, on that night when
stars fell with no one there to notice.
The creature had gone, and the doctors
shuffled, wordless because the cleaners
had removed them.
They could swear there was nothing there.

—Andrea Lorenzini
translated from the Italian by Alex Valente


She answered

Rouse me from this sleep
much longer than a hundred years

Giddy, I took a step backward
where I’d dreamt of the white rabbit
at that instant when we’d fallen
into a black hole (I’d thought)
because I was dazzled

gather the night around you
like an embrace—
stop and reflect

the star which you’ve been chasing
for two thousand years
is obviously a quasar after all

I told her ‘No, I never lost my heart, you know.
All I did was swallow it down like water
when you confused me through the years.
How strange, it was always here in my breast.

Now that I’ve found it once more, come
kiss me and get up—it’s late.
The garden waits’.

—Maria Grech Ganado
translated from the Maltese by Maria Grech Ganado

Appears in her forthcoming collection Taħt il-Kpiepel T’Għajnejja (Under My Eyelids) (Midsea Books, 2014).


As my eyes opened
I found myself covered
with wasps … thousands of deadly wasps
with heads like lynxes and luminous stingers
that they thrust into the sores on my skin
like harpoons thirsty for the salt of my blood.

The pain scaled beyond any human sensation,
a pain that twisted my senses,
a feeling that muffled my ears
so I couldn’t distinguish my own desperate cries;
all I heard was a buzzing thrum, like I’d been shoved
into the guts of some industrial-size electrical transformer.

Inexplicably, my eyes were intact,
as if someone wanted me to witness all that would befall me.
My body was stretched tight while I was devoured cautiously
by the poisonous bugs, delighting in the feast of flesh and bone.

Circling high above I could see a strange bird
keeping watch from a distance as my body was destroyed.
Was it a vulture, ready to scavenge my cadaver?
Unlikely, as its wingspan was too vast …
All I could think of was a furious pterodactyl.
Was I perhaps a sacrifice for the great beast wheeling about me?
The last I remember was the crunch of my torso
and the sight of my beating heart
drifting off into the void within my spacesuit.

The pain suddenly ceased.

I began to curl upward like tendrils of smoke,
and looking down I saw a garden of massive flowers!
Thousands of them, with enormous petals that lolled like tongues
and stems like oak trunks. At the center of each blossom,
upon the phosphorescent pollen, lay a naked man,
paralyzed, being consumed by the perverse blooms.

I spread my wings and flew off
amidst the mocking mouthfuls of the gods.

—Alejandro Cabada Fernández
Translated from the Spanish by David Bowles

First appeared in the author’s poetry Escarlata: Un libro de poemas (Editorial Campamocha, 2010)

External and Removable

Just passing by.
But, after all, this wasn’t a big deal.
So he takes a second look.
Yeah, those he clearly likes!
He pulls out a trembling hand …
“Nice packaging,” he says.
“The Game of Life,” the dealer smiles.
Homo sapiens sapiens. Or compatible.
Clocked with the death of time,
random access memory.
But don’t take it too serious,
the game would be just a bit slower.”
“Oh, I guess it’s not for me.
And down there, what is this?
It looks rare...?”
“Genuine poetic talent, sir.
Again, not so rare. Recently became cheaper.”
“Internal or external?”
“External and removable. We put it
(show me your back) right here.
They can’t see anything.”
“Ah. What about this little groove?
Probably not for decoration…?”
“You have a good eye, sir.
It’s a coprocessor slot,
to simulate a human soul.
But you’re not going to get that
in the starter set.”

—Mariusz M. Leś
ranslated from the Polish by Mariusz M. Leś

First appeared in Polish in the poetry anthology Śniadanie końca wieku (Breakfast at the End of Century) Knyszyn, 2000

Quantum Subway

this is the quantum subway
a quantum transfer
a dangerous matter
venturing under the earth
and stepping into the transmitter
you must distinctly visualize for yourself
the place you are traveling to
of the outmost importance there are no interruptions—
irrelevant thoughts
inadvertent words
ambient music
or a radio program
may divert you to
places of terrifying deconstruction
where your life is
a senseless collection of sensations
there have been instances
of such complete degradation
of subatomic structures

but staying put is no option
in the underground world
a passenger must constantly be on the move
especially wherever macrotransport
is forbidden
there are six of us:
Yura, Vera, Ira, Katya, Arsenii, and I
we’ve been moving about this way for some time
wary of stopovers
and any sudden interruptions
we for the hundredth time
permit ourselves to be transcribed
by automatic transponders
our goal uncertain
and therefore unattainable

I am in love with one of my companions
but each time
standing in the counter
I shoo away the image of this person
so as not to be transported to “the scourging place”
but one of these times
the process will become scrambled
and I will end up there anyway
never having confessed
my feelings for her

among the subway passengers
exists a legend
about an entirely different
place of scourging
where the passengers sometimes find themselves
as a result of a quantum interruption
they say
this place is like a garden
where under the pear and cherry trees
stands a long table laden
as though prepared for a tea party
but not a soul is around
and when you look closer
it turns out that
all the dishes are upended and broken
piled up in a brown puddle of spilled tea
the cups and the saucers upside down
the bowl of jam teetering on the table’s edge
its sweet amber
dripping on the seat of the Viennese chair
crawling on the table various sated insects unknown to science
above the jam sluggishly flutter giant wasps
sweltering heat all around
the doors of the house flung wide open
a stiff draft tearing the curtains off the doorways
at the house’s corner a barrel with dark transparent water
where weeds sprout
inhabited by fat fish
skimmers striding across
besides them
on the trembling surface of the water

you might ask
how I know this
the fact is
I have been there twice already
in reality it is
not so bad there
but how and
why people
end up there due to interference
is known to no one
it just so happens
to me
in the transmitter
I think of you

if you were
to leave the garden
then you would see the fields
and a grove
empty meadows
a huge hill
beyond which also stand gardens
and yet one other hill
beyond which
as I imagine it
the sea stretches away

—Fedor Svarovsky
translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

First appeared in Russian in Ural (2010, No. 4)