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Issue 46 • October 2022
edited by Wendy Van Camp

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionWendy Van Camp

On Sending a Mission to Explore the Outer System • RK Rugg
Go West • Cat S. Chen
After the Quest is Over • Lisa Timpf
Against The Wind • Alma Alexander
I, Medusa • John Joseph Ryan
[blood pools in the dust] • Nick Hoffman
Ordinary • Emily Randolph-Epstein
From “Hercules” • Translation from the Spanish by Brittany Hause of an excerpt from Nataniel Aguirre’s “Hércules”
Aswang Shaman Communing with Diwata for the First Time • Vince Gotera
The Visit • Juan Perez
Dragonslayer • Mary Soon Lee
In Absence • Jordan Hirsch
Artful Scrimshander • Devon Evans
The Great Beyond • Alicia Hilton
Dystopian Dreams • Indrani Perera
Beneath Yaxche • T. Wallace
the witch goddess • linda m. crate
A Hero’s Dozen • CS Dines
On Its Pedestal • Hannah Grace Greer
The Frosty Voyage • Adele Gardner

On Sending a Mission to Explore the Outer System

The launch is all thunderclouds and lightning.
Witness to the heavens’ newest star,
I watch as the rocket flare fades into the night sky,
then turn back to my computer screen,
my part in the heroes’ journey complete.

—RK Rugg

Go West

The monkey said it first,
Go West,
the monks repeated it,
whispers riding cliff winds,
until the villagers buzzed,
Go West,
testing the taste of the words
on the roll of their tongues
over and over until it was
commanded by the emperor,
Go West,
drawn in ink by calligraphers,
declared in markets by heralds,
dignified in song by the dressing
maid with strands of hair at either
ear, long fingers on the jade lute.
So they began one by one to
Go West,
a kingdom slipped out its doors,
oxtail to ox nose, shoulder sack
to walking cane, they stepped
onto the narrow road that veered
deep in another direction, forced
to step off again so they could
Go West.

I am the one who awaits them,
here in the land that is west of
where they began, who will
receive them and tell them
that salvation is too broad,
can they be more specific
in what they seek, who will
give them a toiletry bag,
direct them to a shelter,
show them how to go online
to update their address to not
miss the notice that it is finally
their turn to collect the object
of their long journey, who will
stand by as they clutch it and
hear the decision rendered if
they can stay or they will be
fated to return, perhaps to
Go West
until the earth circling in
on itself deposits them
back at the beginning.

—Cat S. Chen

After the Quest is Over

Of all the King Arthur stories
it’s one at the end that hits me hardest—
not Art lying mired in pain and regret
in the battlefield blood and muck
but the sword, tossed over the lake—
the Lady’s hand rising to claim it—

Fame’s never ours to keep;
trophies grow dust, and the fastball star
finds the bat they once swung with careless ease
too heavy one day, the knees too creaky
to run the basepaths. High-flying executives
retire, chess masters lose their edge,
firefighters stow their gear
one final time, think of friends they’ve lost
each time the sirens sound, after.

After the quest is over, we sit by the fire
deciding which story we will tell ourselves
to make sense of it all. We fret about
the goals unmet, the grails uncaptured.
Yet even as we drown, we seek the light—
before the sword vanished, the Lady
brandished it in triumph, not despair.
Hope always has a place at the table
if we will it so. After the quest is over,
perhaps it’s best to simply admire
the road behind, and marvel,
like Samwise, what a wonderful tale
we’ve lived.

—Lisa Timpf

Against The Wind

Like the sailors of old I navigate
my coracle by the stars.

They knew the wind. They took it
and tamed it and made it
blow them across the seas.

I see them pass in the night, the Navigators,
slicing the water silently in sharp-nosed boats carved
with heads of dragons
and faces of Gods,
homage and defiance,
their eyes on the sky
where the stars turn.

I sail against the wind,
fighting each breath; my boat uncarved, plain,
revealing nothing—
or perhaps revealing all
by absence.
My Gods
are not the kind that wear faces
or know sacrifices.
My Gods laugh,
and I can hear that laughter echo sometimes
through deep dreams.
My Gods bear gifts that at first sight
are thorns and ashes.

But my Gods stand beside me
and tell me of the stars I should follow
sailing the night seas
against the wind.

—Alma Alexander

I, Medusa

Despite my seeming death,
my fabled vision penetrated
the tight weave of the cloth sack.

Bouncing against Pegasus’ flank,
I absorbed the world’s wonders from the air:
the boiling crevasses of the clashing Symplegades,

the fortress redoubts of villain-kings speckling hills,
the sacred groves below Olympus,
and finally the forbidden mountaintop itself,

my rightful place by birth, denied me as a “monster.”
When that noble winged steed settled us down,
the grey-eyed goddess approached to receive

me as the hero’s gift. I looked into Athena’s eyes
and she into mine. And we smiled as she took me
onto her immortal shield, bestowing onto me new life.

Ah, simple Perseus, who thought this quest was his.

—John Joseph Ryan


blood pools in the dust
      in the hush, the hum
            of Sanjuro’s lightsaber

—Nick Hoffman


Once upon a time
before the dragon, springtime.
A quest unfathomed.

—Emily Randolph-Epstein

De “Hércules”

Como las ondas del Eveno, corre
Fugaz el tiempo. Con su clava en mano
Por la ancha superficie de la tierra
Vagando Alcides con valor socorre,
Del Indo hasta el Océano,
La pobre humanidad, en cruda guerra
Con los monstruos horrendos y la misma
Naturaleza ingrata;
Y si renace el mal, si no se abisma,
Vuelve a aplastarlo, hasta que al fin lo mata.

—Nataniel Aguirre

* * *

From “Hercules”

Like the waves of the Evinos, time
Rushes swiftly on. Alcides, club
In hand, goes wandering from clime to clime,
Coming to beleaguered mankind’s aid
From the Indus to the Sea, in blood-
Soaked war with gruesome monsters, battles waged
With courage against even Nature’s might;
And if a menace he’s faced down before
Rallies and resurges, then the fight
Resumes until the evil is no more.

—Nataniel Aguirre, translated from the Spanish by Brittany Hause

Aswang Shaman Communing with Diwata for the First Time

(an abecedarian)

Astral projection is what some call it.
Buzz of the waking world swirling like a
cyclone, hurricane, slows to a crawl, then
dissipates. I’m not sleeping or dreaming
exactly, but something like and not like,
floating above my recumbent form, soft
glissade, breeze whispering soft nothings,
humming silent arias. Not at all like how
I fly as aswang: no muscle pull of wings,
just my whole body, legs too, translucent,
keeping aloft without strain, just wafting,
light as a dandelion seed, light as a ghost.
My dear son Malcolm can’t follow me here.
Nobody can, except maybe another healer,
other mga salamangkéro, mga albularyo.
Pellucid figures, mga diwata, surround me,
questioning calmly why I’m here, in this
room without walls, white clouds, bright
sun, though minutes ago, it was midnight.
The spirits hover and assuage my concerns,
understanding my fear for Malcolm, my
vitiating dread he will be unmasked, that he
will be killed as aswang. They assure me, no
execution will occur, all will be well. I wake:
yellow light, warm sun. My tornado now a
zephyr, quiet and gentle. I can live in hope.

—Vince Gotera

The Visit

from a story I heard

Navajo Nation
during a dark time of drought
silence was a flood

one hot May morning
a woman who did not speak
spoke of a visit

at the door they stood
tall strangers who came in peace
bearing a sad news

soon comes a dim light
people must be made aware
changes must come quick

from death, no one hides
from danger, only few live
from warnings, a chance

they came to tell us
an indigenous future
deadly times coming

as they came, they left
leaving pollen and footprints
like none had seen since

—Juan Perez


Behold your work, your mighty deed.
Circumnavigate its continents;
study the tectonic plates of its hide,
the granite ridge of its spine.

Map the contours of each hinged wing;
mark where the trade winds blew;
measure the last tide.

Trace the Tropic of Capricorn,
looking for the longitude
of what you wrought:
the rift your sword cleft,
the cooling lava flow.

In the high north,
behold the glacier of a dimming eye.
However far you travel,
however great your renown,
you will never forget
that lost light.

—Mary Soon Lee

In Absence

             She is not the same woman who left.
          I knew those feet that boarded the ship, had rubbed them when she’d stayed on them too long, working late into the night for some breakthrough that eventually came, that sent her off on an exploration that I could not join her on. She’s thinner now, bones more brittle from lack of gravity, hair longer (but still unkempt), eyes shining with other worlds’ light.
         And I am to have her bed ready for her upon arrival, to not have painted the office walls a shade of green she cannot stand, to remember she prefers an extra clove in the hummus, though my stomach no longer tolerates garlic.
          I have changed, too, in the eight years apart.

          We thought it’d be exciting
          discovering each other again,
          exploring hands and lips

          That is how
          we justified

          And staying.

—Jordan Hirsch

Artful Scrimshander

                                        whaler’s son, he carves strange creations
and remembers his dismayed father. The sailor had reproached his child
for choosing the glow of runes over sun, leading life in a dim submersible,
sleeping amid whale song. Away from light he dreams techniques
to waken what’s lifeless. Finds ways to activate inanimates. Now
his greatest venture lies in the coldest chamber,
                                                                                in the belly of his home.
Immune to the fumes there, his sense of smell was stopped in boyhood
by the rot of slaughtered whales. In the workroom he shuffles through cogs,
keys and screws. Springs stacked askew. Metallic scraps rattle
against the floor. Along the wall squat tubs of skin ballooning in chemical
baths. Paired hands and feet. Spools of wire and cans of oil gleam
upon the table near organs bobbing in jars. He’d acquired more
than needed but… How much time had passed?
                                                                                No matter. Father had always
said: better to over-prepare than fail mid-journey. Surrounded
by the jumble lay his short metal manikin: joints trussed with catgut,
scribings red-black etched along its lines. This creation is fantastic,
more arcane than graven tooth or tusk. It                   she                    will wake
through his magic. Learn what he teaches. Here his artist’s hands will shape                              flawless beauty. Preparing for her had obsessed him
through a season, inspiration springing, mind alight with ideas of destiny. It
was for this he had left whaling, amassed a complexity of runes. He’d waited
so long to prove himself. Success meant coin and renown. But first,
the awakening must begin. The scrimshander draws his thumb
along inscribings, untested scripts like fireworks behind his eyes. He is not
his father. He will carve himself a better way.

—Devon Evans

The Great Beyond

Desperate for rescue
the sole human survivor
aboard a space station
sent an SOS

Back on Earth
rocket scientists
beamed instructions
vacuous politicians
beamed platitudes
that failed to fix
holes in the hull
punched by asteroids

Robotic explorers
probing the dark side
of the moon
wanted to wail
in sympathy
when they heard
the astronaut’s SOS
but the robots
had no voices

Orbiting Jupiter
five scientists
screaming about
stolen rations and
an extramarital affair
ignored the SOS

Beyond the Milky Way
interstellar travelers
heard the astronaut’s plea

Beyond human technology
the extraterrestrial
teleportation machine
beamed the astronaut
to another galaxy

Aboard an alien ship
the former Earthling
found kinship
her soul
shone brighter
than starlight

—Alicia Hilton

Dystopian Dreams

It’s all guns and ammo
severed limbs and slit throats.
Chests a gaping hole where
a heart should have been.
A souvenir limp or nervous twitch
to remember.

It’s never washing diapers
and cleaning toilets.
Wearing a track in the carpet
on sleepless nights
with a teething baby
to remember.

It’s always thrusters and jetpacks
cargo bays and airlocks
pull-ups to stay fit
dehydrated ice cream and
manufactured meat
to remember.

It’s never menstruating; cramps
doubling you over or a fever
that straps you into your bunk
with rolling eyes, convulsing limbs
and nightmares of home
to remember

that to destroy is human.

—Indrani Perera

Beneath Yaxche

Along the path of epochs, to walk by timid streams. The red fern bends, and touches and twists the water's gleam.
In days of lunar grey, and nights vivid by the light of the great star sol.
To stroll among the flowers blue, so blue, of roots and stems so precipitously thin.
For they grow as tunnels and bridges, undulating like the hills on times long breadth. Through umbered forest to climb and gaze, and at the top to see all days.
All man, all time, and all that was, among the plateau, beneath Yaxche. To pass all bounds of sight or sound, to walk free of sky or ground, through the desert of the starving corbies, long perched a trillion years, still fat on wavered souls.
To spiral forth past all dimensions, chased in all by Tindalos hounds, and their undying resentment.
To undertake the odyssey beneath the sands, to crawl by El Paso from the lime depths.
To be the brother of coyote who eats the fetid flesh.
And to do it all untold times since. To walk by, beneath, around, and above, Yaxche.

—T. Wallace

the witch goddess

as the man she was
engaged to went on the
many quests her father
sent him on to win his
future kingdom,

the princess fell in love
instead with the knight's sister;

it was never intentional
but it happened
all the same—

one day the knight came back
to find them kissing,

enraged he raised his sword
to slay them both then and there;
but a raven flew through the window
taking the form of a woman and she
slew him instead using potent magic—

the woman pushed the brick stairs away
revealing a hidden pathway,

"use this," she said, "to find your happiness,
never turn back to this place."
and so the princess and the knight's sister
grabbed one another's hand,
disappearing through the pathway;
wondering what woman had come to set
them free if she were merely a witch or a goddess
or perhaps a witch goddess to set them free to
live their best life.

—linda m. crate

A Hero’s Dozen

The world within which I dwelt was grey
When phantoms and their callings came
Yet their intent, I willed as madness
Before an old one spoke my name

Embracing destiny’s great journey
Where fast, new friendships fought off foes
I slipped through perilous boundaries;
Therein my great nemesis arose

Hard won battle earned a coveted prize
And richly empowered, I sought home
Banishing one last, treacherous shade
Whose fading laughter was my own…

—CS Dines

On Its Pedestal

Dirt sweeps and snuffs over bright fire
cream towers towards sun beckon hope
I follow road to boat to travel there
my fingers touch rough water to search beyond
wakening on the boat with hungry bones
leaving with knives and bloody clothes
I enter the castle with an untrue name
reaching rounding steps that go both ways
the first calls of a happy world of dream
or to a false heaven where shadows await me
The other? Curls down into the dark world
Deciding to follow honest darkness into its maze
passageways unlit, a chilled stone floor
deeper I go until my torch burns smoke
my bare feet cold, my eyes blind to—
the land of Abyss, I walk further
until on a pedestal of peach and bronze
I see the Jar of Hope.

—Hannah Grace Greer

The Frosty Voyage

Inspired by the photograph Cold Storage by Richard C. Isner, displayed in the By the Sea exhibit at The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Virginia.

Who dreamed it first is lost to the ages:
that sea of stars,
so beautiful, so milky.
The Vikings navigated the stars in stories
that mirrored the dark sea in frosty climes,
snow falling in frosty voyages,
speckled amidst black like the Milky Way
on nights when the stars were silent about the path ahead,
begging to be found.

We left them there,
out in the dark and cold:
the women and men who sailed space to work our will,
bring back more stories,
places and plots we’d never been—
beyond the wings of a poet to hard reality,
data streaming images and facts
hard as the rocks we found there:
a planet dry as dust, whose life lies hidden
deep under bedrock, buried by history
in lines we can’t quite read.

These snowy boats would reach a future shore
waiting for their riders, ready
even in winter’s thick blanket,
numbing us to the fate ahead,
insulating us from knocks,
even from our own cold:
our tiny barks among the stars,
as fragile and as lonely
as winter boats on Lake Maury,
captured by Isner’s unwinking lens,
a truth as important as Hubble
though few see it now, hearing the frosty wind
whispering through branches,
the slow knocking of snow-filled boats
echoing across the lake, calling out
Come back, come back, don’t leave us here
Night is falling
We’re cold

In my mind’s eye, I see them still:
sailing in that gallery where I sat with my father
while he still roamed this Earth,
silent, contemplating in this snowy scene
our peaceful, beautiful life in upstate New York,
fun winters when we’d sled down the hill in a blue plastic boat,
my brothers and I in the front, Dad jumping in
to send us whooshing down that hill.
Dad calls me at work on my lunch break
to comment on the poem I left at his place at the table
in the wee small hours before dawn,
before I left on my voyage to work:
two poems about Cold Storage, which I’ll bring back to this gallery
on my journey home
for a reading that Dad will attend.

I knew we needed these ships: Star Trek with Dad,
Octavia Butler with my husband who anchored me still to this museum,
bringing the message from my former colleague and teacher,
the invitation to write poems By the Sea,
where I found Isner, a small eternity
in this hushed scene.
I always said I’d go to space like Scotty in real life:
and now I contemplate matching his space burial
with one of my own.

But this sight’s enough for me:
we found Goldilocks, and like all fairy tales
the happy ending requires an equivalent price:
we found the secrets in time for you,
but too late for ourselves.
I'll end this voyage listening
to “E-Bow the Letter,” “Bittersweet Symphony,”
and “The Sidewalks of New York,”
sung by my mother in the years before her stroke;
with scenes from my life,
played back by computer—
friends, events, nature‘s beauty,
more happy family life—
and this image by Richard C. Isner
superimposed over the cold beauty
of my milky sea of stars

—Adele Gardner