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Issue 32 • April 2019
Sports and Games
edited by Lisa Timpf

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction • Sports and GamesLisa Timpf

The Briar Witch • Colleen Anderson
The Ashes, 3150 A.D. • PS Cottier
2074 Hall of Fame Game • David E. Cowen
ground-breaking • D. A. Xiaolin Spires
Death Spiral, Korolev Crater • Ann K. Schwader
“Saturn’s rings” • Stewart C. Baker
drag strip drag • Francine P. Lewis
bulletins from the First Intragalactic Peace Games (2443) • Brittany Hause
A Game of Astral Pool • Marge Simon
“stardust” • LeRoy Gorman
Blood and Dominoes • F. J. Bergmann
The Arbiter • John C. Mannone
The Commandant of Mars • Mary Soon Lee
Ten-Card Tarot, Pentacles Wild • F. J. Bergmann
Lost Palace, Lighted Tracks • Oliver Smith
The Third Shoe • David C. Kopaska-Merkel & Ann K. Schwader
Noughts and Double Crosses • Andrew J. Wilson
Hide and Seek on Colony Twelve • Juleigh Howard-Hobson
Coliseum Reborn • Herb Kauderer
Games Wizards Play • Jennifer Crow
The Trophy Room • Andrew J. Wilson
Galactus Sends Regrets to the Earth • David E. Cowen

The Briar Witch

The briar witch is winter bound
and often found on icy paths
lets slip her crackly hiemal laugh
to soften all the snowy drifts

She hunkers harvesting briar thatch
sooty reaching branches snare
the ash-dark winter breath in wait
tear a hole for skulking sun and sky

She wanders widdershins scribing circles
rings around the local skating rink
knife sharp as her honed wit she cuts
and carves gnarled pipes and shafts

Into her pipe goes night-dyed herbs
exhales smoke into her incantation
as she chants Go Manitoba Go
her favorite team for this bonspiel

Thorns are trimmed and saved
for rivals to feel doubt’s icy prickle
her breath a fog of curses, words
as cold and hard as burned stones

She scrutinizes a roll, a skip, the sweep
of meticulously threaded briar twigs
into new brooms, a brush, a token
she bestows upon her champions

These are her cheers, her functional luck
for rocks to ride the cleared frozen track
traditional briar brooms create the slide
and bring the lead into the house

She likes to end each ritual match
with keggers and a briar rose
that soothe worries, give sweet dreams
and bind her team to return vows

She will watch the Brier Cup in spring
amongst the blooms and bracken, then plant
broom and prune teams for clean sweeps
and skills to flourish throughout the year

—Colleen Anderson

The Ashes, 3150 A.D.

It’s a far bigger urn than the one
that marked Australia v England
all those long years ago.
Cricket isn’t cricket,
the purists often say,
but they’ve been saying that
forever, give or take.
The ball still swings or spins,
and there is a wicket,
bails awaiting collision,
and eleven men a side.
Eleven men, or beings.
But a draw is no longer an option,
and then there’s that urn,
that larger urn, to be
filled with the ashes
of the loser’s planet,
proudly displayed in a cabinet
at Lords. (Lords is
an artificial planet,
accessible only to those in ties,
or twinsets fit for a Queen.)
Gravity makes a difference,
as do the umpires,
armed with far more than fingers,
as they adjudicate
on the sweet green fields of fear.

—PS Cottier

2074 Hall of Fame Game

Flag on the play

Sonic shields encroached within twenty yards
The blue halfback now needs therapy
At the near miss
The red quarterback visibly shaken
At almost contacting a human being

Offsetting penalties
Both sides maintaining
A safe distance from the goal

The players call time
For meditation and soma
While the crowd dozes
On soft cushions

—David E. Cowen


the rocket tears through
searing earth’s atmosphere
metals we’ve never witnessed before
glowing in fiery fire
the wonder of alien tech
erect, totem-like

it breaches
a patch of
dirt on a small
island, Pulau Buru
off the Banda Sea

sssss the
sound of escaping
cloud of gas
iridescent and purple
slips through opening seams

we send in drones
their darting sensors
pivot and track
this first contact from
the outer world as
humanity awaits
with breaths held

a deep sound
rumbles from within
the rocket shakes

the drone translates
from Bahasa and several
indigenous languages
all intertwined at once
in octaves too low
for humans to hear



the second message
to cross through space
in dots and dashes
passing radio airwaves
translates to:
“We’re coming over to retrieve our javelin.”
then silence for a few million years
as this monument stands firm
never rustling
never rusting

—D. A. Xiaolin Spires

Death Spiral, Korolev Crater

Shaved stardust kiss against her faceplate. Perfect backwards outside edge. Millimeters above trapped atmosphere, clutching the dead hand of physics, she orbits her partner in this unwinding dream. Ice is water is life but the rads add up. Tosol their relief crew is three hundred twenty sols late.

One point two miles below the rim. Nowhere left to go but around.

almost forgetting their names two moons

—Ann K. Schwader


Saturn’s rings …
I hit another golf ball
into orbit

—Stewart C. Baker

drag strip drag

triumph over gravity
we are ship and racer integrated
engines burning exhilaration
fuelling accelerated backspin
past topology and space
flying beyond speed of thought
and light racing through
looping Mobius unorientable
meeting ourselves
going and coming

going and coming
meeting ourselves
looping Mobius unorientable
and light racing through
flying beyond speed of thought
past topology and space
fuelling accelerated backspin
engines burning exhilaration
we are ship and racer integrated
triumph over gravity


gravity over triumph
integrated racer and ship are we
exhilaration burning engines
backspin accelerated fuelling
space and topology past
thought of speed beyond flying
through racing light and
unorientable Mobius looping
ourselves meeting
coming and going

coming and going
ourselves meeting
unorientable Mobius looping
through racing light and
thought of speed beyond flying
space and topology past
backspin accelerated fuelling
exhilaration burning engines
integrated racer and ship are we
gravity over triumph

—Francine P. Lewis

bulletins from the First Intragalactic Peace Games (2443)

fair play:
athletes to compete
under homeplanet conditions

below flared gills
the high-dive bronze & gold
drip from scaly necks

which limbs should count
today’s hot topic

compound eyes
watch simple eyes
watch the birdie

landcar racing:
a cultural event for kids
& history buffs

on the uneven bars
prehensile feet & tails
snag a perfect ten

kick-off for a new era
in interspecies dialog:
a major win for all

—Brittany Hause

A Game of Astral Pool

Planet Nine is up to play,
all eight within the rack,
her favorite game
of shining spheres,
she’ll run the table clean.

Jupiter hiding behind the Sun,
dispatched with an English spin.
Earth & Neptune snuggling,
Uranus on the side, but
she sinks them easily
with just a shot of one,

sends Mercury off
to a corner hole,
& side pockets Venus and Mars.
Saturn being her eight ball,
she sinks him with a kiss.

—Marge Simon


for a Stetson
the Horsehead Nebula rodeo

—LeRoy Gorman

Blood and Dominoes

All masked and cloaked, the celebrants
descend into the crypt. Its gothic arches
cast strange shadows, frame dim views
that never match what’s on the other side.

The walls are red. For easy cleaning,
the barman says, showing all his teeth.
He pours another goblet of dark wine
from a darker bottle, its label missing.

Over the tables the tiles spread out,
clicking like little hooves or slablike
incisors dotted with cavities. The stakes
are anted up to more than one would care

to pay—but here, stake is a nasty word:
we prefer wager. What’s lost is nothing
that can be regained; its economic value
zero or infinite (depends on whom you ask).

One gambler slams the table with his fist:
he has to buy the next round. Dominoes
rebound, go flying up. The only crucifix
is upside-down. Where’s the damn ::|:::?

—F. J. Bergmann

The Arbiter

Not everything is black and white.

To encourage bipartisan efforts, when politicians are at an impasse, they may resolve their differences by one challenging the other to a game of chess*. The winner will have his policies implemented; the loser will be executed pursuant to Title 5, Part 2635 (Standards of Ethical Conduct) of the Code of Federal Regulations, revised March 15, 2119.

* Rules of Engagement: Standard practices, but some pieces have randomly assigned offensive and defensive weapons unbeknownst to the opponent, and the familiar tactics of lying and cheating are allowed to mitigate their effects.

Not just any chess game, sentient pieces
breathe to fight with fire and smoke to smite
the enemy. Pawns are not expendable.
No simple Pawn to Queen’s Bishop 3
move, no laying victim to other pawns
or stallion with razor hooves set for gambits.
No. Pawns may pack grenades, pull their pins.
A Bishop prays for the vanquished as a Knight
stomps them, his horses, thunder-clad,
snort lightning. They charge the castle
that catapults pots of boiling oil; a moat filled
with alligators for the Queen who struts by,
a dagger hidden beneath her white brocade, poison
on her daring lips, but the King is still a fool.

—John C. Mannone

The Commandant of Mars

The Commandant of Mars
retreats to her red room
at the close of another sol,

each sol only forty minutes
longer than a day on Earth,
yet seemingly interminable—

broadcasting upbeat bulletins
while equipment malfunctions
and her Martian crew tires—

her word the voice of China,
her smile its public face,
her authority absolute,

a weight that stoops her
as if she had marched up
Olympus Mons in one gee,

a weight that falls away
when she sits, cross-legged,
on the mat by her hammock,

the Go board by her knees,
the eternal variations
of its gridded lines,

her father's move highlighted,
relayed fourteen light-minutes,
blinking like a black eye,

forgiving her trespasses,
that she will never come home,
never bring a grandchild,

the distance between them
annulled by the placement
of her answering stone.

—Mary Soon Lee

Ten-Card Tarot, Pentacles Wild

I seen him deal the High Priestess from the bottom of the deck.          —Firesign Theatre, Waiting for the Electrician (Or Someone Like Him)

She wears her dignity like a tarnished crown.
Her velvet gown’s seen better days; her crow’s-feet
eyes are wary—but a girl’s gotta eat.
“Deal me in,” she says, and doubles down.

Ante after ante, they’re neck-and-neck, until
he smirks and plays the Queen of Cups, reversed.
She slams her hand down, yanks open her purse,
scatters a fistful of silver dollars. “Drink your fill,”

she mutters, glaring. He beckons. “Stay a while.”
She sits, unwillingly, noticing he pulls on mesh
gloves before he touches the coins. Is his flesh
sensitive to silver? She watches his smile,

but never sees his teeth. She draws one card:
the Six of Swords. Being broke is hard.

—F. J. Bergmann

Lost Palace, Lighted Tracks

“Lucky to get a table on the train.”
Halted at Bristol Station He unhinges
the antique chessboard he discovered
in the dusty shop down by the Old Dock,
among the curios and strange bric-a-brac.
He says to Her, “another hour until
our destination; just time for a game.”
He offers his fists closed miser-tight
“choose a hand: left or right.” She chooses;
He drops a black Queen in her palm.

“I win already, first move is white.”
She sets her obsidian Queen in place;
he brings a King of ivory to start his war.
She builds an iron skirmish-line across
the chequered field: but She is His Pawn.

She sips her coffee as he considers
his move: a strategy to break the ranks;
to set free a piece to ravage and rage.
Birds fly from broken rookish towers
To battlefields straight as the crow would go.

Outside the fly-specked window distant
flocks of ragged ravens play at hopscotch
over the patchwork fields and piebald hills;
beyond those, turbines whirl white wings:
strung out across the sky like chessmen.

At the Parkway stop crows strut stiff legged
on the platform: scavenging for food scraps,
She commands the lacquered Knight to charge,
to leap the gapless ranks, to break his mirror:
his brother helmed in a skull of pale bone.

Grey Yate townlet squats beside the tracks.
As the Bishop glides across the broken field;
obliquely sweeps, in his crosier and mitre;
a text from Mum arrives on her cell phone
asking, “Deary, what time are you due home?”

She and He rattle past on the steel wheels:
out of the darkness of Wickwar Tunnel.
Between the dead stations with no stop
One by one White’s skeletal soldiers fall
bleaching bones displayed before her darkness.

The Conductor in blue says, “Tickets please,”
and takes it from her dark gloved royal hand.
She scatters the ranks and shatters the sky
as his marble tower tumbles to the ground.
She plays a Queen as dark as dead stars,

“Are you ready to give in yet?” She asks,
but opposite her his body stands mute
in armour pale; implacable in his helm;
and on his head there rests a pallid crown.
“All change,” crackles a tin-can voice.

The King of carved bone upends the board
drops the precious chessmen on the floor;
He retreats through the crowded carriage.
Angry, unlatches the door and steps out
to thirty waiting pieces on the platform.

Behind a Bishop He hides, then a Castle.
Queen’s Knight jumps the platform’s void;
Bishop blocks the gateway by the ticket stall;
The Queen brings down the Castle walls.
By the station cafe the King is caught.

Triumphant she raises a shining blade:
obsidian at his tender throat, She whispers
“check mate,” and steps out of his life
into distant space where she knows between
Bishop and King her obsidian Palace waits.

—Oliver Smith

The Third Shoe

panic spreads
as Coyote bets the farm
dealer licks dry lips

the pack reshuffles
red queen on top again

the Colonel’s sweating
his nose runs faster just
to stay in the game

aces and eights
in the library
dead man's hand
wiped and replaced
dented silver candlestick

shining bullet
the trickster folds
and shifts

—David C. Kopaska-Merkel & Ann K. Schwader

Noughts and Double Crosses

tick-tock tic-tac-toe—
the tactical time-travel
game for all ages

—Andrew J. Wilson

Hide and Seek on Colony Twelve

We use our hands to cover up their eyes,
As we creep up right behind them; death lies
Straight ahead. All around. We are the veil
That divides who will win or not. To fail
Is to die. And each loser always dies
The same exact way. They never learn. Cries.
Shrieks. Thumps. Then silence. None of them will rise
To play against us. There is no avail.
We use our hands
And grab them for the collectors. None tries
Very long to resist. Word to the wise:
People think we play so well; we prevail
Because we cheat. Nonstop. Beyond the pale.
We’re mutants; it should come as no surprise
We use our hands.

—Juleigh Howard-Hobson

Coliseum Reborn

With Coliseum restored
for gene-hacking competitions
gryphon and hippogriff battle
above herds of manticores
charging armed cyclopes, all
feeding bloodthirsty spectators
with splashes and shrieks.
Bestiary journalists
provide commentary
while expert mythologists
offer background on two-level combat.
Scorekeepers consult instant replay
while sponsors hawk services.
And behind the scenes
politicians watch contentedly
secure that the golden age
of distracting the masses
has come again.

—Herb Kauderer

Games Wizards Play

Fireball cast
And caught,
Shivered, splintered
To shards of ice.

Tornado whirls,
A dervish
Circles, sweeping
Challengers aside.

Demon, called,
With sulfurous threats
Of sudden damnation.

Hordes, swarms
Noxious beasts
Crawl across eyes
And into mouths.

Water rises
Earth falls—
They batter
Each other to mud.

In the end,
Silence, two mages
Shouting across
Emptiness, unheard.

—Jennifer Crow

The Trophy Room

Stuffed and mounted on every wall,
          Whose heads hang in the trophy room?
—All our prizes, both great and small,
Stuffed and mounted on every wall,
From ape-man to Neanderthal.

          The time safaris spelled our doom:
—Stuffed and mounted on every wall …
          Whose heads hang in the trophy room?

—Andrew J. Wilson

Galactus Sends Regrets to the Earth

my apologies
for misunderstanding how
Squash is played

Your serve

—David E. Cowen