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Issue 39 • January 2021
edited by Alicia Cole

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionAlicia Cole

I know when a boy has left home • Martins Deep
Swipples • Craig Kurtz
Ballade of Behron's Limbo • J. L. Jones
Tips for Dying in Interstellar Space • Ian Goh
Outcomes of Her Time Travel Efforts to Save Her Husband • Beth Cato
Fernweh • David Barber
In Quest of Yeti • William Heath
Dinner West of the Moon • Elizabeth Scott Tervo
Oxygen Day • Aleksey Porvin; translated from the Russian by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Directions to the Underworld • Mary Soon Lee
[A detail amongst the veins of life] • Margarita Serafimova
As The Tuatha Dé Danann Moves Through Mojave • Wendy A. Howe
Place • Ken Poyner
To Fly and Not Fall • Avra Margariti
World Ship Down • Ann K. Schwader

i know when a boy has left home

on the eve a boy must leave home, he becomes a birdwatcher. in the craw of a bird traversing the blues, you'll find his essence. gleefully, he'll watch the shimmering dance of water when her body is kissed by the breasts of riverbirds. he'll fold a sheet of his school report card into a paper boat to drift away on ripples journeying west. his dark, binocular eyes will sight his other self beckoning on him across the rift. the voice will stuff his ears, that his mother must call him thrice to hear. the night i knew ikenna left home, he sleep-talked, flapping his slender hands. for only in a dream is one weightless to be flown on the back of migratory birds. during mass, from the stained-glass window, he had stolen a halo for his chi; robed it in the feathers of a cattle egret; and the noiseless wings of an owl. when he left home, he removed the wooden pillar of his falling hut, and let it balance on a farewell prayer. ikenna gave to woodpeckers—this pillar to carve him a canoe, and an oar. at the wharf, he craved the sputters of sailors on his face as watercolors to paint again the statue of liberty, snowfall and christmas trees, dolphins, skyscrapers, surfers. when you hear a boy has deserted home, the smoke of burning tyres—necklaced on another boy—was a repellent.

—Martins Deep


You need to get one or you’ll be
the biggest fnool in history;
we’re going to leave no child behind—
a swipple’s better than a mind.
Make sure the frequency is fast—
the warranty’s already passed;
just push a button to reset
the information you’ll forget;
now answer questions 1 through 10—
the data’s meaningless by then;
salute the little spinning wheel
then get yourself a Happy Meal.
You turn it on, you watch it all
and soon enough, you’ve no recall;
we’re taking Myers-Briggs’-type tests
between the pop-up ads of breasts;
bombarding us with lots of crap,
‘diversity’ now means ‘adapt.’
You push a button and stand by,
so buy it now or else you’ll die;
you need a swipple on your lap—
instead of thinking, you just tap;
machines you should depend upon—
they’ll rule the world when we are gone;
it’s time for the commercial break—
when you’re asleep, they’re still awake.

—Craig Kurtz

Ballade of Behron’s Limbo

Will you hear of world within it all:
twisted land, a broken dream and shard
born of madness seeds on Behron's call,
stream of swimmers, song of drunken bard,
vilest semen dealt as ugly card;
Born the lost and painful lives of change,
stuck in flux through oddly endless range,
being all at once but solid not;
Chaos cities ease or aid derange,
caught between becoming more and rot.

Here, a waitress-pilot-driver-doll;
There, a soldier-teacher-peasant-guard,
scraping by while Behron looms so tall,
god colossal skinned as dough or lard,
breathing beasts to life from warg to pard,
creeping things that creep from health to mange,
shirking death as Behron's thoughts exchange
winged claws and more for mix in pot,
building newer jokes and lives arrange,
caught between becoming more and rot.

Land between, a soundless frozen ball,
rolling but unmoved in realms made hard;
Towns and kingdoms rise and rise while fall,
lover's flower blooms and dies a chard,
monster shifts to hero tending yard,
villages full of rambler-settlers strange,
child-adults both gray and not work grange,
spouses wed-divorce in earnest besot,
loving-hating bond deep, estrange,
caught between becoming more and rot.

Behron, time has come for swiftest change,
lawful lives with equal fair exchange,
minds cannot abide the cold mixed hot;
You should know it feels so empty, strange,
caught between becoming more and rot.

—J. L. Jones

Tips for Dying in Interstellar Space

  1. Note: No one can hear your last words. If you find your sanity slipping through the thin walls of your spacecraft, do not panic. Instead, wiggle your toes, whistle an old tune or make the most of your tears by bathing in the slow baptism of silence.

  2. Your friends and family may linger back on Earth, but due to time dilation, they’ll all be dead by the time of this recording. Your face, once plastered across wanted posters, forsaken now by the magnetic pull of planets, turns to the lone company of the Voyager twins beyond the heliosphere.

  3. If it brings you any comfort, recall the worries you no longer have: your head scorched by Sol’s rays on a summer’s afternoon, the sky painted apocalyptic purple before a typhoon makes landfall. Now, there is only the cold stream of black, where all directions blur into one, and all at once.

  4. In the event of an emergency, trap a small sliver of light in a tiny prism (conveniently located under your seat pocket). Keep this precious starlet for the deepest, most dire of days, when the rays of light peek between the gravity of the gas giants and the endless shadow threatens to overwhelm so completely, you’d think yourself blind.

  5. PRESS THE GREEN BUTTON to consent to audio-visual recording. We will study the grooves on your skin, the madness in your eyes. To count down the days, plastic utensils in the overhead locker are quality-assured to mark metal and not puncture skin, sever arteries, or function as make-believe puppets at points of manic depression.

  6. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you PRESS THE RED BUTTON unless you crave sudden decompression of your cabin. You shall implode instantly, make a bloop! sound like how your mother used to tap her finger on the tip of your nose. Your ashes will scatter to the wind, interned forever, at no additional charge.

  7. (a) Lastly, do take into account the length of your sentence: FOR LIFE.
    (b) Conclude: there is no forecast; not here, not there, not in the absence of air; only a horror-scope as you round the next bend of black.
    (c) Changi Prisons Incorporated wishes you the best of luck on your journey towards a good death.

—Ian Goh

Outcomes of Her Time Travel Efforts
to Save Her Husband

he dies of cancer
he dies
he survives but must live in pain
why can't a timeline for them include 
he dies
he dies

going further back in time
he still dies young
going earlier still
he dies, dies, dies

earlier yet
she prevents their meeting
at the old pizza shop
they never move near the laboratory
where she would make the time machine
where toxic byproducts would taint
the groundwater

he lives
she cannot return to the future
nor will she be his creepy stalker

so she moves away
goes back to school
becomes a librarian
a decade later
moves closer to her old home
volunteers at the animal rescue

when he comes in to find a new cat
there are no sparks between
the two of them
no regrets from her

she smiles as he departs
with an affectionate old ginger tom
he lives
she lives
a sweet cat has the perfect home
this timeline is right

—Beth Cato


First, choose ground bare of trees;
a hilltop like this is best.
Climb and wait for night-time.
Let darkness teach your eyes
about stars, until you are
surrounded by stars.

It is not this world’s fault
that you long for somewhere else
without knowing its name.
Have you never watched strangers
setting out on a journey
while you stayed behind?

Your yearning is like that,
a signal faintly received
by souls who also felt
their home was not enough.
Look, there are lights in the sky,
they have come for you at last.

—David Barber

In Quest of Yeti

for Bruce Chatwin

If you’re inclined to look for Yeti,
aka the Abominable Snowman,
Kathmandu is a good place to start.
You’ll need a Sherpa as sirdar (guide),
another to cook for the long trek
in the direction of Mount Everest.
On the way to the village of Thome
(“Way Up”), you’ll pass blue iris,
bare birch trees. Yaks and wild goats
graze on the mountainside. Some say
the Yeti have yellow eyes whose gaze
is lethal. Perhaps the creatures
are a hallucination caused by
the High Himalayan air or they arise
from our Collective Unconscious.
All we see are footprints too large
for any yak, blue bear, snow leopard—
the usual suspects—that the sun
melts before our baffled eyes.
At the top of the mountain we meet
a Scotsman, who scoffs at the notion
of a Loch Ness Monster, but believes,
with all his heart, Yeti is out there.

—William Heath

Dinner West of the Moon

Baldy spilled salt on a dark blue tablecloth
like the deep sky in a midnight fresco.
God created our eyes to see only the stars of our own galaxy 
and one or two bright clusters.
From earth, that's all we needed. 
Out here we saw further: a little octopus of stars, 
wheeling on its own with no need of us
except as the inhabitants might incorporate our own hurricane of stars
into their mythology and campfire tales.

We are in an arrow. Our ship is not a seashell, 
not repeating the pattern, but an invention, a made object, 
a boat not a nautilus, 
like a blind moth traversing that giant lamp of stars
which rotates so slowly we can't perceive it
but radiantly fast to itself, going 
in a circle, rolling and unrolling, curling and crashing
as it goes on its own route somewhere, 
coming and going, like the waves of labor, 
crashing on the wet sand and gone.

The stars look on our fluttery route
like tiny faces in shades of white on a blue tablecloth
their lights glancing off the Professor's face
from their millions of perspectives
and casting blue shadows under his brows and chin. 

—Elizabeth Scott Tervo

Oxygen Day

After the abolition of the concept of "territory,"
we sit among the wreckage of starships
remembering the last coil of human history,
twisted like charred wire.

Glory to the defenders of borders who chase down
any runaway frontier: you can flee into a history
textbook, or into dreams of the future,
but you cannot hide from the defenders, even on a holiday.

From the sky, our chain of bonfires must look
like garlands wound around the foot
of the throne where man once sat
lording it over the woodlands around him.

Today is a great holiday when we celebrate extracting oxygen
from book dust: libraries have become our home,
we breathe in every page, pushing the black bugs
of incomprehensible letters into our bloodstreams.

Today is the beginning of a new year, but that year
doesn’t know we have learned to make time a fuel
for collective thoughtlessness dedicated to time;
our circle is short, like a coil in a faulty garland.

Sometime in the past, in the twenty-first century,
current ran through the wires, the lights burned in orbit,
illuminating the highest point of view
like the top of a Christmas tree.

But now we’ve got memory rolling around our feet,
clanking together like empty insecticide cans
as oblong as the starships
that miraculously created so much by crashing here.

Glory to the defenders of borders, they will always
find work, while we occupy ourselves with plowing
words and surveying silence—it
cracked from the intolerable heat.

—Aleksey Porvin (translated from the Russian by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler)

День Кислорода

После отмены понятия «территория»
мы сидим среди обломков космических кораблей,
вспоминая последний виток истории человечества,
перекрученный, как обгорелый провод.

Слава защитникам границ, которые догонят
любую сбежавшую границу: хоть в учебник
истории сбегай, хоть в мечты о будущем –
не скрыться от защитников даже в праздник.

Вереница наших костров, должно быть,
с неба похожа на гирлянды, обмотавшие подножье
трона, на котором когда-то сидел человек,
попирая все лесные массивы.

Сегодня великий праздник добычи кислорода
из книжной пыли: библиотеки стали нашим домом,
мы дышим каждой страницей, запуская в кровоток
чёрных жуков непонятных букв.

Сегодня начало нового года, но год ещё не знает,
что мы научились делать время топливом
для коллективного безмыслия, посвященного времени:
круг замкнулся, как виток света в неисправной гирлянде.

Когда-то в прошлом, в двадцать первом веке,
по проводам бегал ток, горели лампочки на орбите,
подсвечивая высшую точку зрения,
словно верхушку новогодней ёлки.

Ну а сейчас память валяется под ногами,
гремит, как пустые баллончики от дихлофоса,
продолговатые, как космические корабли,
потерпевшие чудесное созидательное крушение.

Слава защитникам границ, для них всегда
найдётся дело, пока мы распахиваем слова
и занимаемся межеванием молчания – оно
растрескалось от нестерпимого жара.

—Aleksey Porvin

Directions to the Underworld

Set your affairs in order.
Shed bone, breath, blood.
Take the quiet road down
out of day and night.
Should that quiet road dismay you,
should you choose to remain encumbered
by lungs, nostrils, toes, joints, tongue,
all the body's awkward apparatus,
then find a northern forest:
spruce, pine, juniper, birch,
branches above, roots below.
Step off the trail. Sit.
Accustom yourself to trunk and bark,
their roughness against your hand,
how the wind sounds on needle and leaf,
the habits of beetles.
Do not number the hours, the weeks.
This journey cannot be rushed.
Drink only rain. Eat sparingly.
Wait for the onset of autumn,
that shortening light,
birches turning to gold.
Name the friends you've lost,
the towns you've left,
childhood toys long gone,
but do not speak the name
that hurts the most,
whose absence pulled you here.
Let that unspoken weight
draw you downward
through soil, rock, grief
to stand beside them.
Say those things you'd left unsaid,
hold their hand,
but do not expect too much.
They will not remember you.

—Mary Soon Lee


A detail amongst the veins of life,
I too was moving with the blood,
huddled in the gigantic darkness.

—Margarita Serafimova

As the Tuatha Dé Danann Moves
through Mojave

After the wild fires, winter hangs her grey veil
over the landscape—and through it,
you watch the other world moving
toward their spring habitat.

Pale light fills the outline
of lady, knight and horse
as the fairy court glides beyond
the mountains of the high desert.

In their wake, they leave a soft wind
plucking strings of rain
that echo deep in root and bone, field and hill,
dry wash and saguaro rib—

a song of migration
calling for strange birds to come home
and flowers to bloom that haven't bloomed

in many decades. Eden's ghost
haunts the desert in maiden green—letting us
wear a cloak of mist and breach
an unseen world that subtly becomes seen.

Bark moist and blackened by rain
reveals the tracings of bird and insect
who've carved their presence in a tree—casting
the pine as a totem
other generations understood, worshipped
long before us. Their spirits wandering still
in bands of weather that defy the drought.

Under a frail sun, frogs and salamanders
surface early to sing, reclaiming their kingdoms
of moss and mud. And with them, our translucent selves
rise allowing the first
magic of earth to filter through, our insight now

(as it was then) the divine
permeability of a child.

—Wendy A. Howe


His name is
Journey:  the first colonist to be born
On this multi-generational travel
To what on paper appears to be
An earth-compatible planet.  Journey:

A boy, born in a process as close to natural
Child-birth as we can clinically simulate.
His grandchildren will die before
Their grandchildren reach a new Earth-like
Home, to then spread the species thinly
Across a new speck of real estate.

Journey.  The star craft spins and yowls 
And the most pleasant sound in it is the nutrient
Rain in the hydroponic gardens.
Maybe you will conceive your first-born there,
Wedged between the kale and the cabbage,
Doing what you are biologically wired to do.  

Buck up, boy.

We think of home as a dot behind us;
You think of home as a series of metal cans
Clawing at a darkness that ends only in imagination.
A boy named Journey, for reasons he cannot grasp.
But always remember, you are not the sentence, son,
Nor even the noun:  you are the hyphen.

—Ken Poyner

To Fly and Not Fall

The cunning one, in his hidden
workshop waxing poetic
about wax wings.
He spots me in the doorway
and beckons, Come here, son,
try this pair on but remember,
sun’s the limit.

The palazzo smells of wine and vellum.
I can taste the fermented grapes
and sanguine chalk on my tongue.
Here, I am called Salaì, the wicked one.
Master Leonardo strips me to the waist
with the efficiency of a butcher handling a tenderloin
and maneuvers me inside the flying machine he’s fashioned.
The ornithopter’s wings are leathery and batlike
as opposed to the last feathery pair I tried on
during my long fall through history.
I’m thankful for how different both pairs
are to my old opaline, gauzy wings,
once attached to my scarred back,
then clipped and shorn, now a trophy
mounted above the throne of my mother, the fae queen.
Stay still, master Leonardo orders
and though I bristle inwardly, I comply.
All for the chance of having his wings on me,
the wind on my airborne body.

Another engineering failure,
another three-hundred-year sleep,
hiding myself in a rotting tree trunk,
shielding my essence from my fair folk
so keen on punishing their runt,
their wayward child.
When I awake, I taste change thrumming in the air
and my body, ever fluid, ever in flux, echoes it.
I hear word through the forest foliage
of humans building aeroplanes and defying mother gods.
The whispers carry me to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina,
to the barn of two bishop’s sons,
two brothers who welcome me as their own.
Little sister, they tell me,
do you want to take the plane for a spin?
I climb into the wooden contraption
I’ve watched them toil over day and night.
By now I know how to fly and steer the Wrights’ aeroplane,
how to fly and not fall.
My too-human heart thunders away in my chest.
My fae wings ache with phantom pain, pinned up
and apart from me but for the scars they’ve left behind.
Little sister? the brothers ask me again, voices dipped in concern.
I’m fine, I say, in fact I’m perfect.
As I take off over the hills of Kitty Hawk,
as I cut through the breezy blue of the sky,
the tattered white of the clouds,
I laugh and weep and holler,
Mother, did you think you could break me?

—Avra Margariti

World Ship Down

We found their world ship generations deep
beneath a forest. How that wilderness
arose around a tomb, we couldn't guess,
except through verdant mercy. Birds asleep

on branches twisted by their passing woke
singing in keys no native species voiced
down centuries. We knew this for a choice
to help us rediscover & revoke

the silence of long-smothered lives. It cost
a season's patience. Roots are stubborn things
turned greedy in the bargain, harboring
a sky-wide hunger. Throttled, nearly lost

forever to their net, the vessel seemed
less ship than seed—& when we forced its hatch,
we saw the truth of this, could only watch
those clouded tanks where stillborn sleepers dreamed

away tomorrow. Yet not everyone
aboard died cargo. Bulkhead marks revealed
some guardian awake, their own fate sealed
as surely as that hatchway. Though undone

by circumstance, they left a record clear
enough to mourn. Scratched calculations, first,
then simple glyphs that hinted all the worst
was realized. And at the last, a smear

(organic, surely) like defiance: see
my touch, my life!
 Five outspread rays. We turned
away in wonderment at all we'd learned
of this sad species & its history

extinguished here. So few to come so far,
claiming a place not theirs. My triad mates
embrace me in the twilight, & await
the gentle setting of our double star.

—Ann K. Schwader