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Issue 25 • July 2017
edited by John Reinhart

Table of Contents

Editor’s Intro • GarbageJohn Reinhart

Discarded Remains • Linda Addison
Tessellations • David Feela
Wreck • Devon Balwit
Quantum Socks • R. Gene Turchin
Landfill Fey • Deborah L. Davitt
The Tree Builder • Christina Loraine
Bins • Atar Hadari
The Economics of Starship Engines • Cameron N. Coulter
Naming the Trash Moons • Daniel Ausema
becoming an adult • Nancy Ellis Taylor
The Obsolete Models Divorce • Ken Poyner
Trashy Novels: The Perfect Food of Temperance • Brian Garrison
Rewilding • Robert Borski
Rubber Bones • Soren James
“dust” • LeRoy Gorman
Love Has a Spider’s Eye • Oliver Smith
Tooth Fairy’s Pouch • Colleen Anderson
Dear Shotgun City • Holly Walrath
The Travelers • Mary Soon Lee

Discarded Remains

we grew
in shadows
broken memories
when I was every thing to you
at night, sweet became sour, locked in weeping of wounds
us reduced to ashes, bruised & rotten
nothing recycled
worthless scraps
my soul

—Linda Addison


The electricity wants out
and so it converts to heat,
pushing against the glass
like a prisoner in a bulb.

The bulb, of course, wants out
of its socket and twists with
centrifugal force, the world
turned to its undoing.

Predictably, the socket
wants to be free of its wall
and the wall wants to be done
with the roof it supports.

The house itself wants an end
to its architectural tension
and take the century off,
a structural shrug culminating in dust.

—David Feela


The car will never again drive anywhere,
chassis rusted, engine stripped.

A birch skewers the bumper like a pin
through a beetle.

We tug open doors, tourists entering
its cathedral of want. Urgency

lingers. Hands on the cracked leather
of the wheel, I look out

at forest, cowed by saplings’ bellicose spears.
I hope some future errant,

equally solemn, tells my bones and nods
to my spirit.

Chilled, I reach for your reflection, ghosting
from the still unbroken glass.

(An homage to Peter Lippmann’s photo essay Paradise Parking)

—Devon Balwit

Quantum Socks

Washers don’t eat clothes
Only dryers are hungry.
Socks may act like strings
The pair being the two ends.
Twisted into something
Imagined by a drunk boy scout
Some day or night
Recorded in fine grain
On a street cam
Socks and underwear
Rain down on the street
From another dimension.

—R. Gene Turchin

Landfill Fey

If you believe that every rock and tree
has its own genius, each spring a sprite,
what becomes of them after rezoning
transforms a forest into a landfill,
a grave for plastic and appliances,
guarded by mosquito spray and fences?

They remain, of course, transformed like their land,
wearing gowns of used coffee frills, dyed brown
by the grounds, and caps of rancid eggshells
perch atop hair matted into dreads. They
sleep in hammocks made from garbage bags, and
dance circles around the trash compactor.

What wonder then if some elementals
turn temperamental, or downright grouchy?

—Deborah L. Davitt

The Tree Builder

Weaving crimson
with iron oxide,
I work above our
scorched land
with your throwaways—
your scrap.
Some of us
simply toil in the heat
the unrelenting rays,
while the strongest find ways
of discovering beauty—
visual sonnets.

Welders snatch
any alloy
as long as
it’s light enough,
easy to carry to his perch—
his workstation,
any scrap will do because
he’s got a job to do.
Day Laborer
in a land that suffers
from two
and too
many workers
surrounded by light,
but unable to see
that our jobs are
really Art—
public installations,
elegance commissioned
under the guise of Progress.

I’m a tree builder, yes
but unlike the others
I choose my metals
for their aesthetic appeal,
for their graceful form—
or their existential grit.
Purposefully selected
with a discerning eye
and piggy-backed up,
to my branch
up high.
I fuse it to the last,
this metallic canopy
growing against the sun,
To spite it, you said—
To take it for all it’s worth,
Revenge of the scorched earth.

All of the metal
you stole from the ground
rises up
toward the sky—
growing as we build
after piece,
the twisted forms of trees—
things you said
you read about once.
Parodies of trees
Biological Antichrists—
I weave their branches
and solder their leaves,
One less bit off the ground—
Out of the way, you say.
You’ve found a method
to generate power
from relentless heat,
the land’s
eternal suns
have more to give, you say—
and so
we build upward,
we build out,
levels and layers
branches and leaves—
Trees of Babel.

Have you looked up
to see my work?—
My smooth color
transitions the darkest umber
slowly to
the chromiest of chromes.
Curating your trash
into similar
toned groups,
I’m blind to everything
outside of
Color and Line
as fine-fingered engineers
not far below me—
installing your technology
wiring the trees,
passing among my branches,
the ones I created.
I ask them
if they prefer
Monet over Basquiat—
but they never reply
No one reads science fiction anymore,
except you.

You’ve been scribbling
blueprints of forests
mapping out electrical grids
and mine shafts,
plotting and planning—
No time to stop
once the ground
has been emptied
and the suns
are finally
fully obstructed—
to electricity,
all according to your plan,
Maybe then
you’ll have time
to stop,
pause for a moment
look up
crane your neck
take it all in,
I made it for you—
the reason to see
your forest
for my single tree.

—Christina Loraine


In the gloom
the massed bins
under the trees

look like worshippers
outside some house of prayer

and the sheen of their sides’ silver
fades as you pass
to a stain of neon glare.

No one can see them
pray at night
when no body’s there

but the sides of their aching silver
torsos ripple in the night
and shiver in the wind.

—Atar Hadari

The Economics of Starship Engines

When the Thesoexlian empire
started powering their starships with yuion cores
instead of hypocortialized spaks,
the Popax federation filed a formal complaint.

The exhaust fumes from the spaks
were considered a delicacy among the Popax,
one they were reluctant to do without.

Today, Thesoexlians still use hypocortialized spaks
instead of yuion cores, mega-supremo-efficient they may be.

The Popax federation pays unbelievable prices
for the canned flatulence of starships.

—Cameron N. Coulter

Naming the Trash Moons

The byproduct of the antimatter drive ignition is
a slurry of unusable matter,
of electrons kicked out by positrons,
of protons that fail to form atoms,
of baryonic particles combined in
unworkable chaos. The detritus
clogged up the interplanetary lanes.
So our ancestors restricted the drive,
allowed pilots to ignite only beside certain moons.
Gravity scooped the trash out of sight.
No worries.
Debris snowed onto the moons
forming lattice flakes of uncanny matter,
piles and drifts of compounds for which
we have no name.
We should have given each a name,
should have known, with all our stories
of the importance of nomenclature, of knowing
the fine chain, invisible, that links signified
to signifier.
Now, unnamed, something comes forth,
seeping and creeping upward from the years of
our neglect. Rising without a name.

—Daniel Ausema

becoming an adult

one day
you discover
the rings of saturn
are just more orbiting
plastic grocery bags
filled with billions
and billions of
cups and tiny coffee stirrers

—Nancy Ellis Taylor

The Obsolete Models Divorce

Go, find another lover.

Go. Roll down to the
Second-hand shop, pick out
A model some family
Has turned in after
Their liberating purchase of an upgraded edition.
See what you can get
For the idle credits you have
All these long-united years
Squirreled unevenly away. Let me
Be free. Let me
Hook up with an ATM
Or sandwich vending machine;
Let me find a more compatible series
Of service and support routines.

Go find another lover.

A lover whose number of access ports
Matches your own. A lover who has
Similar memory reserves. A lover
Who is comfortable, even happy,
With your persistently flagging battery capacity.
Find yourself a lover that will not register the fact
That, in your most intimate moments, your intimacy
Spikes as invasive code. Uncover a lover that can
Remain within the reasonableness
Parameters you are so proud of.

Go find another lover.

Let me uncouple our maintenance cycles,
Let me independently test my own backplane,
Let me look all by myself into the recesses
Of my seldom powered, and now dusty, execution registers.

Go find another lover.

I will happily clock for a while alone,
Draw a graphite bath for one, plug
Into a gloriously unshared power outlet, split electricity
With nothing more than my lone semi-conductor heart.

And then let me look for my own new
Companion pile of scrap to commit to forever
Contentedly clock timelessly with.

—Ken Poyner

Trashy Novels: The Perfect Food of Temperance

We increasingly eat junk and make junk while wondering why tomatoes in Europe taste like tomatoes and foreign cars are well engineered.
            —Ursula K. Le Guin

We call them the StoryScientists, the leaders
in this renaissance to Sylvester Graham
whose crackers, with their attenuated flavor,
were baked just right to avoid exciting the senses.

The StoryScientists have their test subjects
under scrutiny of thirty different sensors
to capture gasps, yawns, the twitch of thumb
or eyelid, sweaty palms, the beating heart.

Words are read and bodies recorded. Every word
and every storyline, even characters and events,
must conform to optimal design. Nothing, they make sure,
evokes needless stress or excitement.

Shelves and shelves and stacks of books on tables
and floors tell tales of sneaker-footed characters
who cross the mossy sidewalks on their morning stroll
to room-temperature offices. Conflict will not do.

No climax to make a reader sweat. No cannon fire. No red dress.
No mothers smashing plates. All breaths arrive and exit
at a proper pace for readers. In these top-tested stories,
characters and coworkers share hellos and chatter on about the rain.

There is no watchful law force. Nobody stands guard
to make sure readers stay within the boundaries.
True. StoryScientists had a De-shelving division for a time.
It proved difficult and time-consuming to burn books,

but sinking them in the ocean turned out
to be quite effective indeed. Electronic words
were even easier to manipulate, remove, or drown.
Too much enforcement might spur resistance.

Instead, much like the parents in search of their preschooler’s
first-day outfit, who stand between the walls of blue and pink
forever in the distance, readers never realize
that their indecision rests between two equally bland books,

which is for the best, the SS have concluded. All part
of the well-tempered sentence that is theirs to enforce.

—Brian Garrison


Guided by orbitally-generated maps,
the cleanup has been underway for a while.
Fortunately, with much of the refuse
being vehicular waste, the metal is easy
to retrieve and smelt down, but there are
also oddments of trash, from cloth banners
and backpacks to tools and reflective cataphotes,
to say nothing of wide-ranging footprints
and tire tracks that must be eradicated,
plus strange items turned up by the Artifact Finder
(including a couple of dimpled miniatures
perhaps modeled on the satellite itself—
religious or fetishistic objects called, in the language
of the aboriginal polluters, Titleist). Inevitably,
perhaps, at least six of the sites are also littered
with territorial markers—bags of excreta
and commemorative plaques.

Nevertheless, despite the scattered debris fields,
the array of contrivances assigned to the task
continues to scour the bone-white surface,
working endlessly to clean up the tiny worldlet,
knowing full well it will be much easier to zero out
than its larger, bluer, more blighted, sisterly cousin
just now rising out of the pristine night.

—Robert Borski

Rubber Bones

The invention of the rubber bone, for dogs,
at the time was not deemed significant.
Sitting on a pile of human invention, it lay
largely ignored—even by dogs.

Fifty thousand years later,
rediscovered in a Seam of Synthetic-Debris,
these bones finally found a place
in the human narrative
when this stratum of prehistory was labeled
The Rubber-Bone Age.

—Soren James


the custodian rearranges

—LeRoy Gorman

Love Has a Spider’s Eye

Jack Widder sits among the bric-a-brac;
He spins the thread better than
A thousand spindles on their wheels,
At least he does since his majesty
Had them broken up and stored out back
To burn on the winter fire.

Jack sleeps under the solarium stairs

Wrapped in rancid pelts
Sloughed off by long-dead kings:
Wolf, lion, leopard, and ermine.
Their ministers and servants fled
But Jack Widder stayed on

Among their bent swords, rusted helms,
And battle-flags emblazoned with fantastical menageries:

Now they make his bedding, keep him safe from frosts.
He dresses in the morning before a mirror
Whose wits have shattered
And voice is not what it was.

Jack pours wine from a bottle that’s never empty
But has become slightly corked over the years.
For a cup he uses a little glass-slipper,

Though it is cracked and, sometimes,
He thinks it tastes of old feet.
Jack is nested among the ephemera:

Corn-dolls, thumbscrews, and foot-plasters.
And from them he builds a fairy tale palace,
Making bricks out of gaps, walls of lacuna
And thousand-foot towers

Of gaping holes in the plot.
Jack is hidden well away, bracketed

With a snow-white skull as a candlestick.
Closeted in the spandrel with the spiderlings.
Jack the scholar is capped and clothed in dust,
And cloaked in a grey web.
He ignites a grave-wax candle from the vaults;

For a parchment he unfurls the blank back

Of a long-un-executed death warrant
And considers …
Jack spins a yarn fine as a fox hair,
And threads a needle sharp as a dragon tooth.
He spits green poison on his pen and writes
“Once upon a time.”

—Oliver Smith

Tooth Fairy’s Pouch

Night’s decay is the tooth fairy’s realm
where it’s never seen nor heard
but begrudgingly gathers
the husks of human dentition
into unplumbed depths of its magic pouch

Each enameled piece contains
the root of all things
a whisper of a personality
the taste of potential
for a quarter dollar finder’s fee

The tooth fairy cannot help but hold 
each porcelain prize to the light
checking for cracks, crevices 
where corruption may take hold
or innocence lie like a seed

Rare are the perfect abandoned
teeth no longer needed 
placed on pedestals, perfumed pillows 
and inside Faberge encasement 
for the wholeness they embody

The farther the tooth is pulled
from its cavernous home
the closer the fey collector comes
Each child rewarded for this virtue
learning early how to sell one’s self

All talismans the tooth fairy collects
from the world of sleepy wishes
but those tainted with a vein 
of what’s to come are the teeth
that it loves in an unusual way

No matter how menial
the tooth fairy would not waste 
its time as people’s garbage collector
requiring some recompense 
or trade for a magical bond

Yet anger from the chains that link
the tooth fairy to its job incites
a rant, a temperamental dance 
a staccato beat, a flamenco tirade
that pulverizes each tooth to dust

The powdered form is the fairy’s prize
Bonded to ecstatic inhalations
when snorted, sniffed, inhaled
the fairy lives a world of forbidden fruits
flavors that fey creatures always crave

Hints of games, flowers, comic books
and tears, a kaleidoscope of worlds
the fairy is doomed to continue 
collecting teeth into its sacred pouch
paying a fee to each accidental pusher

—Colleen Anderson

Dear Shotgun City

My sweet bloodshot prince,
broken-gutterall crown,
crisp-fried-fingernail streets,
nuclear-fallout heart.
Your denizens are a million zombies.
They wake up to your alarms from graves
to factories churning, rivers wasted.
The lights are everywhere
like lamp-lit war, flame-tipped destruction
or toxic beauty skylines.
Do they suck the death
from your very fingertips?
This rat race?
Eating up wires
they crave the electric sin of you,
they will curl up in you, bellies full
of a million filaments,
lulled to sleep by the motion of
this falling star.

—Holly Walrath

The Travelers

When first they came,
we stood on the sidewalk all morning,
lined up behind ranks of trash bags,
waiting for our first glimpse
of the future.

I remember the feel of my son’s hand
holding mine, the hot squeeze of it.
I remember the sound of cheers
swelling from the next street over,
a surge of last-minute panic—

And then three of them
walked down our road,
so short, four feet at most,
like miniature astronauts,
heads hidden in mirror-blue helmets—

And they opened the hole,
the black circle into some-when else,
and tossed in our trash bags.
I remember how they pressed against
each other, body to body—

And the news full of it:
reporters quizzing the travelers,
who never answered, not one word,
their negotiations complete.
Our garbage all they wanted.

Now, ten years on,
no one watches them come.
The curtains are drawn,
the streets deserted
on trash day.

I’ve turned into a hoarder,
preserving leftovers, lists,
fingernail clippings,
anything that might tell them
who I am.

—Mary Soon Lee

(First published in the Magazine of Speculative Poetry)