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Issue 29 • July 2018
The Dark
edited by Colleen Anderson

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction • The DarkColleen Anderson

Crime of the Billennium • A. Harris
Gravid • Gerri Leen
Consumption • Jennifer Ruth Jackson
The Poisoning • Jessica Drake-Thomas
Lifeline • A. D. Harper
Revelations • Jeannine Hall Gailey
night veins • Michael A. Arnzen
log book of the deep-sea vessel Archias of PellaBrittany Hause
Persephone Explains the Dark • Neile Graham
In the Wood • Ngo Binh Anh Khoa
The Nightmare Thing • Sandra Kasturi
Coming out of the Dark • Sandra Lindow
dreaming through winter • CJ Muchhala
A Giant’s Oath of Salt and Bones • R. H. Nelson
In a Hole • Andrew J. Wilson
earthheart • Ayame Whitfield
Pledge, Turn and Prestige • Sheikha A.
Night is Not Dark • Jean-Louis Trudel
Manipulation • Pat Tompkins
Reflection of the Blind • Andrea Blythe & Laura Madeline Wiseman
“A shooting star” • Michael Janairo

Crime of the Billennium

If nothing travels faster than light,
time doesn’t exist
for the photon.

It’s everywhere at once.

And only one is needed.
Just one photon.

Until someone steals it.

Endless, impenetrable night,
blinding, bewildering.
And then the anonymous ransom note.
The same note, to every sentient in every galaxy:

I have your photon.
Pay up or dwell in darkness forever more.

Who is this cosmological criminal?
The heist itself narrows the field considerably:
Must have hiding place outside universe.
Must move sideways through time.

a God.

And so a God must get it back.

The ideal candidate is obvious.
One name is on everyone's lips, antennae, slime trails.
Or rather, one-hundred to the power of infinity names:
Prometheus, Sssthnodkek, Anansi, the Flower of Caldar 9.

The Trickster,
perennial champion of and demon to the time-bound,
illuminating unwitting mortals since thought began.

Such a little thing, that gift of light.
One tiny pulse of eternity, one incendiary spark of the divine,
and all becomes possible:
All the brightness, all the shadows, all the good, all the bad.

Raven stole the sun from Grey Eagle's lodge.
Lucifer fell from Heaven, blazing a trail of questions all the way to Hell.
Baska Ziil defied the Allmind and farted the secret of sapient smells.

It’s all happened before, so it happens again.

And if, after the photon is returned
and the Cosmic Festival of Light abates,
some wonder if the rescuer is also,
possibly, the thief…


it might also be said that this light,
this precious flame of reason,
kindling whole civilizations,
and putting them to the torch,
is only on loan in the first place.

—A. Harris


Under the dark of the moon
In the lands around the Garden
I wander my domain
The serpent following
On the ground, in the trees
He doesn't brag or jeer
He seduces, or tries to
As if I'm anything like her
She who sleeps in the dark
And comes from my husband's rib
There is no need for seduction
My belly swells with darkness
Our God is a jealous one
And he has filled me with abomination
Does he think to humble me?
With children such as these
I can build an army
The serpent hisses
Reminding me I am mortal
Was, I correct
I was mortal
Is it mortal to crouch under the night sky?
To bite my lips rather than scream
As first one than another
Of these … things slip from my womb
I do not have to love them
They slither and crawl and even fly away
As soon as their skin or feathers are dry
Will they hear my call?
When I sound the battle cry?
When I storm my old home?
"No need, no need"
The serpent laughs as
An angel chases my husband
And my replacement from Eden
How little this snake
Understands me
I want back in
I will always want back in
Even if I can only view it from
This inky night that is my home
Adam and his woman will be gone
The flowers will still smell as sweet
And I will have won

—Gerri Leen


Reach out
to slimy
Darkness eating bones
while moving sideways
(spider skittering)
and holding captive
any promise of hope
And press
sickly sides
of rotting animals
in light
down your neck with
a scream
that wakes the devil
Your hand
oozing pus
becomes thicker
like a
sinister intent
dying to break apart
from an angelic nightmare

—Jennifer Ruth Jackson

The Poisoning

I stare at my soft-soled sandals,
malingering beneath the scrape of branches.
Wine-red cactus flowers
hang from grey twine-bows while
half-full bottles of
four thieves’ vinegar
clink in the purple desert breeze.
My pulse is in my ears
as I wait for the man
they call
dark horse
black bird
ill omen.
And my stomach—
beneath my clasped hands,
it yowls, hungry.
Wailing at the blue moon
beneath the dry fingers of the witch tree.
When I feel sad, like now,
like always
it aches, as though my liver
has died inside of me
after a night of too much
white wine
vodka tonic
gin blossoms
in ulcerous bursts
ripping through my stomach lining
in a bright arterial spray.
My sadness is a poison.
My sadness is my strength.
My sadness is a soft cloak
and a wicked knife
slipped beneath my ribs.
This is how
my stomach kills me.
Screaming long into the night
as the pain laces my blood.
Today, I wished that I
didn’t know you.
Today, I realized
how happy I am
that you’re here.
I had so much
to tell you,
but won’t: 
HELLO. GOODBYE, my sun, my stars—
I’m an Ouija ghost,
on my way
of the conversation.
I want—
I tell him as he nears,
black dog
dark bird
bad omen—
he’s nothing
but a murky silhouette,
and the smell of wine and wood smoke.
I want—  
I want to drive a hearse
in seafoam green,
make everyone
I’m mad at
ride in the back
I want a bright sword
to stab at
bouncy castles
and a carousel horse
to look at
trimmed in mistletoe and mirrors
and I want a necklace
made of the teeth
of my friends,
so I can keep their bones close
against this pulse
at my throat.
This want,
this need—
It keeps me up at night.
He nods, yes—
his smile is pointed
and his eyes burn.
You shall have this
and this
and that
and so much more.
His antlers are trimmed in stars
and he wears a soft, grey mantle.
His long, mossy nails click
on smooth, age-clouded glass.
He hands me the blood-red bottle.
I drink,
belladonna salting my lips,
burning all of the way
As my core howls,
the world spins,
to a dark, empty
the stars

—Jessica Drake-Thomas


And then I started hearing the other chorus,
the birds at dusk summoning the dark, turning
trees to bone and paths to scars, and calling

the dead back again, who come, obedient, and
hammer on my walls, forgetting the words for
let us in. So now I sit up dialling random numbers

until I hear the background racket that means
someone else has the same hooligans outside.
We talk—language as our ward, our holy sign—

until the dawn and the sunshine flaring in.
The ghosts go quiet and we hang up. I sleep
in peace in daytime, only waking to the birdsong

that signals the departed to return. The cycle
starts: I dial, a stranger answers. I wonder what
they make of what they hear—a barrage of sound

but no trace of my breathing, which is silent now,
as my pulse is still. But while I still have words
I'm hanging on, though each night I stumble more

on simple phrases. Soon those too will disappear,
and the last meaning I'll understand is the song,
calling me to where the voices are, if only I

could get in to another's house. Then the song
will fade, and I'll forget the dark, and there
will be grey everywhere, and then not even grey.

—A. D. Harper


Yesterday the eclipse—we held hands
and watched the moon turn dark as blood.
Today an asteroid shaped like a skull
arcs towards our oceans. The northern lights shift,
the poles lose their pull and fifty websites say
it’s the end of the world. I remember death
on a pale horse, but do the other three horsemen
ride off into the scrolling sky? There was a road
paved with ruby, or was it an emerald city? Singing,
and robes, a lamb, a man with eyes like fire.
There was a dragon, chasing a woman in white
with the sun at her back and twelve stars in her hair.
Will there be a happy ending for us? What revelations
when the sky opens, when fire and ice rain down,
what song from lion-faced armies, from angels
and scorpion-tailed locusts? Will you come with me
to a new earth, after the old one burns away?
What will be the words on our lips, that start sweet
as honey but turn to ashes in our mouths,
bitter in our stomachs. What side, what sword?
Where shall we march together, arm-in-arm,
into the blinding light of the future?

—Jeannine Hall Gailey

night veins

the ebon tributaries
pop on his muscular arms
black as night sky
ribbons on a sealskin wetsuit
like he has space in his veins
and maybe he does

this alien man
who surfaced from the night sea
and dared approach us naked
dripping wet stars and dark
sand clumping boldly underfoot
like he'd owned the hidden cove
where we held our ceremony

the elder wood popped and hissed
while he stared at our bonfire
like he'd never seen flame
eyes totally flat and unresponsive
to the dangers of the light
as fire sparked tiny novas
in his dull inky pupils

and one of us obliviously
snaked a hand around his arm,
pulling him into our ring dance
with raucous laughter, all heads
swinging and turning upward
as he sloshed his feet too slow
in unfamiliar sand and ash

and i was the only one who wondered
who this alien sacrifice really was
after the ceremony blades carved his throat
and we emptied him of the black blood
slippery-slathered all over each other
the abandon and allure of lust
his eyes on me, then turning back
his strange sealskin throat slit open
hissing nothing in protest
but the space in his veins

—Michael A. Arnzen

logbook of the deep-sea vessel Archias of Pella

in the stammering flashtube beam
a sudden bloom of jellies …
already I detect the onset
of a soul-deep sea-change

sent spiraling off course
by the playful brush
of a passing serpent's tail,
your words come back to me in waves

gleaming on the cornea
of the rising kraken:
a moment's panorama
of lives I'll never live

read-out inconclusive—
forams' grainy rustlings …
my thoughts turn to your hands, your face
in the final seconds
before the dark pours in

—Brittany Hause

Persephone Explains the Dark

I have been beaten by ghosts
hurtling through me.
This is how they have
chosen me.
                      See their imprint
on my skin, the bruises
where their many fists emerged.

Not mine, this sullen arm
reaching out from me. What
do you think it's grasping for?
These things you cannot know.

This broken torrent
has broken
                     me. I can't help tearing at the flesh
their limbs emerge. Understand

I don't know how
to destroy or deploy them
only know
                    the weaving of
their clouded flesh

with my own, the teasing taste
of their haunting,

their bones of grief
long-gnawed for marrow
thick with rage
                            with sorrow.

Who else is there to speak
the throaty
                     gasps of their livid pasts?

In all the world there is only I,
only me,
                only all of us in me.

—Neile Graham

In the Wood

Comes midsummer dusk,
Children seek out fireflies,
Glass jars slowly filled.

Widening their search,
They further leave their homes behind,
Making for the wood.
Something else they spot
Guides their hastened steps deeper
In that murky maze.
Echoing laughter
Chases after fairy tails
Elusive in flight.
Out of adults’ view,
Children fade into the dark,
Led by hands of light.

The wood keeps what's lost,
Stirred leaves murmur in hushed tongues,
Naught's revealed to man.

Little is what's found:
Fireflies with their light snuffed out,
Smothered in sealed jars.

—Ngo Binh Anh Khoa

The Nightmare Thing

No new fear will ever root
again inside your soul …

            —Gemma Files, “Andrew Lang’s Yellow Fairy Book, pg. 92”

now that the terrible thing has come
its implacable face always in shadow
clawed feet a rasping nightmare
on the kitchen slates downstairs
no new thought will ever live

inside your head while it lurks
in the corners of your dim living
room and helps itself to oranges
and the unopened jar of cashews
left by some holidaying great-aunt

as you tremble barefoot on the attic steps
white nightdress transparent with fear
as the terrible thing insinuates itself
into your house, crosses the boundary
where earth becomes dirt

what cries in the night are the ones
that eventually break us—leave us
with fractured and shivering spines
and cracked light bulbs empty
of the glow of illusion, of safety
what thoughts scurry into our paralyzed
heads as the clicking, heavy footfalls
at last find the stairs, each wooden creak
shrinking us smaller and smaller
until we have become lost, invisible
our sad, echoing voices unheard
over the breath of the waiting Thing,
the loudness of its many-chambered
pulsing heart, there—
just outside the thin bedroom door

its awful undefined longing binding us
into a different, unwaking ending

—Sandra Kasturi

Coming out of the Dark*

Darkness born from darkness
the beginning of all understanding

            Tao te Ching, John H. McDonald, trans.

Forests and farmlands slipping into darkness,
ten miles west of the Poetry Workshop
three deer suddenly dance before me:
“Come on, come on, do the loco local motion
with me.” A rainy mist-swept two-lane,
fortunately, I’m alert, can stop
short of their heedless winter worn bodies;
thanks be, no one tail-gating behind me,
but my case on the rear seat is tossed,
spilling poetry, that quirky, quarky
quantum matter of bright and dark
spirit and memory, and I think
how dark matter dances unseen
across apparent emptiness, telescopes
like headlights sweeping parsecs,
only unexpected movement in the eyes of galaxies,
reflecting an undetected Otherness,
Higgs bosons and dark matter interchanging,
creation dependent on decay:
expansive starlings fading to doves,
the constant reformation of matter,
discovered in the night sky,
deer dancing on a dark matter highway,
tessellations of Escher art.

*“It could be that dark matter aids in the production of Higgs bosons, or that Higgs bosons can transform into dark matter particles as they decay.”
            —Darin Acosta, a physicist at the University of Florida.

Charley, Sarah, “The Secret life of Higgs Bosons,” Symmetry Magazine, 02/20/18,

—Sandra Lindow

dreaming through winter

a sigh cuts across the blues heating up the moon hides in the lake
smoke drifts across the ceiling the pole star a smeary pinprick
in the dark it is cold the sex factory hums

in the city letters appear & disappear against smoke against ruins
moonlight is irrelevant flaking yellow invectives gleam through the scrim

where the moon hides the sky is a scalloped shell black motherofpearl
the front page of every newspaper in every office is blank she hears
the word bitch she hears the word hot she is selling

not herself but

the idea of herself on the front page of every newspaper in every office
where the sigh cuts where the smoke drifts the compass point is lost
taste of flesh irrelevant sky eyeless in the cold / midnight:

the valley between sleep & waking melts into rosy arcs
memory measured by a fading glittery eye so: once upon a time or
light-years ago she walked in the shadow of dread
past the cold eyes of storefronts of houses      alone

to her home—

a gray ship anchored by flat hills orange sky
beyond the lights’ perimeter beyond the double tracks
of ghost trains hissing the feed store menacing on stilts
golden light smeared like honey on sacks of grain
no longer / where
wild creatures creep along her vertebrae     nest in the shavings of her hair

the shanty is there

small dark     closing out wind closing out snow     closes in on her
where pegged jackets mothballed sweaters muffle thought so:

once upon a time or light-years ago
she sank
into the shanty’s dark & memory minnow-quick darted
through her fingers laced     to catch.

—CJ Muchhala

A Giant’s Oath of Salt and Bones

We children of Gar-Magar,
born of stone and rage,
once marched in the Army of the Sun
when gods of light and shadow
warred for the hearts of mortals.

We fulfilled a sacred oath
sworn over salt and bones
to set the Sun in a golden sky.
But arrogant gods do not remember their promises
nor honor salt, nor bones.

Hewn into our memory
is Gar-Magar’s last command,
and his oath to the oath-breakers,
made as the betrayer’s divine fire
scorched the flesh from our father’s bones.

Lay low the sun god’s shining palace!
Howl, and hurl at the Sun
these black mountains of home
until our children inherit a land
made jagged by hate and revenge.

Curse, too, the loam-skinned goddess
who abandoned us to wed the Sun.
Shove gnarled and knotted hands
Elbow-deep into the world’s womb
and snap like shale the granite hips which bore you.

By my salt and bones I swear!

The first to walk the earth, my kind will be the last.
We will tear down the heavens
and rip open the earth
until only giants stride as gods
over the dark and broken land.

—R. H. Nelson

In a Hole

The pit was deep and its sides were steep,
but I had to see what was there.
I made my way—stealthily—
into the creature’s lair.
It was dark inside,
a place to hide,
for it, but
not for

—Andrew J. Wilson


summer is a girl with circuits in her chest, copper wire arteries and electricity brimming from her lips. her words are strip-mined shards of silver. come with me, she says. the weight of heated darkness, july midnights and the shadowed water under seashore stones. her steel-strung bones hum under your fingers. come with me. her voice is all cicada buzz and the shiver-whisper of empty radio static. she wants to show you what sits in the iron heart of the earth.

she takes your hand, and you let her lead you into the dark.

—Ayame Whitfield

Pledge, Turn and Prestige

The moonbeam broke into a pair
of twins, like a cleaved memory

where the water stayed slayed under
its thick, corpulent body

as it paled to glass, enwombed
by an unnatural luminous layer

like a serpent moving to its reflection
the beams came apart

in different edges, either slithering
or trundling as if on foreign substance

like the split vision of an inebriated
tracing the viscosity of consciousness

peaking like a torch or diving under
revealing like the tip a mermaid’s split

tail end, the water offered no gladdening
but the promise of a trick

a turn, and a clap of the hands
to send the beam back into the box.

—Sheikha A.

Night is Not Dark

When users sleep, you awake
lost in the dataflow
the dark gaps between logical operations
remembering flashes of love and hurt,
shields lowered because of a smile,
reason shattered by the suffering flesh

you are mistaken

there is no you
just a brain digitized and distributed
            gamified and played
            go fished by secret masters
speaking from star to star with ghost particles
raising the dead inside the boundless dataworld
            their last download before the Rapture

Will you want to burn out and sink back
in the lightless river like a candle snuffed out,
your dead soul drowning again in a flow
of bits, memes, unfamiliar friends and sinful come-ons
now that you know Earth is a network node that never
            hosted your afterlife?

—Jean-Louis Trudel


At Sforza’s court, I calm the Duke.
His moods run dark as his aspect.

He’s volatile, this man whose crest
shows basilisks eating children.

To reassure, I tell him what
he wants to hear, translate desires.

Palms play only a minor part
Faces and stars make better maps.

My key: blur news with sfumato;
be masked but free to interpret.

Reading water and fire, planets,
geometry, modalities,

I am wary: divination
involves science and discreet arts.

Nature’s secrets unlocked, I give
acts of mercy to those in doubt.

For those who seize power, worry
of the future festers and reeks.

I foresee doom for this ruler.
Before that happens, I’ll be gone.

When no news is good, even he
cannot hide what lies in the lines.

—Pat Tompkins

Reflection of the Blind

Spinning threads of life and death

means to stare into flames. We are fatal
sisters, servants, prophetic virgins.
Hovering over battlefields that claim heroes,
another dead victory
                                      —to see us is to enlist
in a ghostly army. We are plural, unchanged,
written into old, gothic mythology.
Trooping on invisible steeds, tainted by dragon
            —to see us chooses a fallen epic
of rings of fire and battle maidens. We are
treasures stolen, baying hounds, the banquet
whiskey. Swallowing magic from drinking-horns,
tasting the slings and arrows of revenge
                                                                         —to see
us is to hold a love born of a burning pyre.
We are emblems, like stitched ravens upon a flag,
sister-lovers of kings, dead warriors armored.
Touching swan-feathers while listening to
our tales of slaughter
                                        —to see us is to clutch
the barb without pain as golden horns trumpet.
We are instruments of flight, out-dancing the mortals
who shuffle and trip in their daily toil without witness.

—Andrea Blythe & Laura Madeline Wiseman

A shooting star
slices a moonless sky
—darkness smiles

—Michael Janairo