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Issue 49 • July 2023
edited by Tony Daly

Table of Contents

Editor’s IntroductionTony Daly

The Butterfly Effect • Sandra J. Lindow
Dark Star 69 • Greg Beatty
Like Trees at the Arboretum • Mary Soon Lee
Healing by Good Intention • Egbiameje Omole
The Dead Knocking • Amelia Gorman
Beyond the Fog’d Fallow • Silvatiicus Riddle
Postprandial Traumatic Siesta Disruption • John H. Dromey
Après Vie • F. J. Bergmann
Thirty-eight Years After • Elisabeth Ring
Cheap Tears For Sale • Gretchen Tessmer
Jar of Fireflies • Kurt Newton
Ivara • Taya Boyles
The Episode • James G. Piatt
The Tale of Bad Daughter • Inga Piotrowska
A House of Sticks • Roxie Voorhees
the Angel conducts my autopsy • Zachariah Claypole White
The Problem of Pain • Anna Cates
On The Night I Exalted My Wounds • Arda Mori

The Butterfly Effect

The wings of the Butterfly Nebula are a 2-light-year pair of high speed… high temperature… lobes of gas being jetted out in the death throes of one of the hottest stars in the galaxy.
          —Jim Bell, The Hubble Legacy

Mother Hubble mourns
the dance of death and beauty:
how thick layers of gas and dust
thrown outward by intense stellar wind
become illuminated
by the searing heat of loss,
ionized to form turbulent
knots, edges and walls.
Fierce and terrible,
as the hallowed hollowing
pain of grief,
but from a distance,
fragile as a Monarch’s wings,
serene as a cathedral window,
perfect as that dazzling July day
nearly four months from your passing
when one landed on my hat
and chose to stay for a while.

—Sandra J. Lindow

Dark Star 69

When asked why you keep
that old phone, unfashionable,
scratched, can you speak?
Or do you stand mute,
thumbing three buttons
to redial the last number 
called, the call you skipped,
not answering morn, too busy,
not answering after, crying,
not checking until 9/12,
when you heard his final call,
his sotto voce but unfrightened
declaration of loving fidelity
before he fell silent
to earth near the Pentagon?
Do you still thumb these three
as you did in dark weeks after,
obsessively, hoping against sense
that this time he’ll pick up,
this time he’s not forever 
out of range? Do you thumb
that dark habitual triangle? Or
simply smile, silent, then look 
away, muttering polite excuses?

—Greg Beatty

Like Trees at the Arboretum

Since the armistice they’ve come
each morning at opening time,
thirty-six veterans of an alien war,
men and women marching
each to their chosen spot
where they stand, rooted,
no matter the weather,
warm or chill, wet or dry,
letting rain drip down them,
some of them whispering
as if they were answering
when wind soughs through
the leaves overhead;
some of them silent,
scarred like the sawtooth oak
struck by lightning last fall;
and that one who reminds me
of my sister’s boy
trembling at the slightest thing--
the barest breeze, a heavy footfall--
his strength sapped,
the one the birds flock to
though he has nothing for them,
not so much as a bread crumb,
only that quietness he learned
on some far distant world,
yet still the birds come
as if they know he offers
what shelter he can.

—Mary Soon Lee

Healing by Good Intention

(1.) Fibrin, haemostasis.

(2.) Pain, redness,

(3.) Usher in collagen
              pillars, holding up
        the matrix,

(4.) Blood vessels,
            a tree

—Egbiameje Omole

The Dead Knocking

I’m not going to be one of those women
who doesn’t open the door
when the dead come knocking.

I’m not going to end a story when it’s beginning.
I’ll let that corpse inside no matter how many
of its fingers have fallen off no matter how shattered the femurs 
that lean against the boards or how bloodless by disease
how bloodied by machinery.

I’m not going to be one of those women held back
from the door where the dead are pounding,
where their mealy fists are bashing through the wood.

I’ll be there to offer them coffee or meat or rigid chairs
oh my sister oh my father oh my neighbor dead
yesterday or twenty years now this past Tuesday.

Not even the kind of woman who pulls it open a crack,
cheat peeks before deciding what’s too ugly and what’s allowed.
No, I’m tossing that door open, a reverse slam and I am
letting all of the dead flood my hallway and all their dead friends,
none of us ending our story where it’s beginning.

—Amelia Gorman

Beyond The Fog’d Fallow

A faerie ring of teacups ’neath the willow’s bough,
a waltz of steam that clings to air, and gathers on the brow.
An off’ring for the May Queen, with flowers in her hair, 
her baneful eyes–their flash, their curve–wild like the hare. 

Nettle cakes and bramble buns, violets in a jam,
thistle crisps and boysenberries, pudding kissed with yams,
magnolia blossom cupcakes hallowed inside a beam,
honeysuckle biscuits, and a dash of clotted cream.

What lay beyond the greenwood, what lay there even now? 
To frisk and folly our goodly souls upon that hidden vow?
If all’st I could remember, so close and long ago,
a storied tale of leaving, beyond the fog’d fallow.

Mother c’lapsed in the dooryard and six foot down she fell. 
Father cursed his children and damned them all to Hell.
It’s fading now, on bergamot, the curse that he had dealt:
his breath a’foul of whiskey, his hateful eyes, his leather belt.

My kin and I, we ran and ran, beyond the mist and caw of crow,
led beneath the rivers thrice, from whence the moonlight grows.
From out the wood, I heard it: the music like a dream,
a hand it came a-calling, betwixt the willow-seam. 

The wind pulled our coats and tousled our hair,
and drew us in closer to that wildwood lair—
where the voices grew louder with fever and funk,
and the revelries swayed all woozy and drunk.

Gathered in, we, like friends dearly missed;
adorned in white clover, and tickled, and kissed.
Spices, aromatic, a cloud of perfume,
heedless in our pleasure, naïve to our doom.

To bury the lives we’d never yet miss,
and for our dear father, the vinegar and piss
of finding our bodies on the edge of the oaks—
how it rose in his chest and caused him to choke.

He heard on the wind our laughter and play,
our singing and banter, all lively and gay.
He clutched at his chest, and scratched at his throat,
and left that dark eve in the ferryman’s boat.

A honeyed-voice resounded from the hollow of flowers:
“A toast to the May Queen; a turning of hours!”
When day fell to dark, and from darkness—a light,
as the fires sprang forth on that Beltaine night. 

O’er the flames I saw it, I watched as it went:  
that gilded thread of mem’ry, how it twisted and bent 
in the hands of the Queen, she held it aloft;
and I pulled brother close, ’fore all was soon lost!

A flash of fine silver, it silenced the glade—
and our minds, they were lost on that salient blade.
The troll-hounds—they howled, the revelry cheered,
as I tipped my cup back, and swallowed my tears.

Pulled from beneath the pendulum’s swing,
to unravel the blood-knots and last human strings. 
To pack tight the breath-soul with oakmoss and root,
with sorrel, and resin, and dried leaves of jute.

With woven hands we leapt, soared o’er the blaze,
and beheld, us, our exit, the curse of mortal ways.
The gloam of fog lifted; the tender heart—a dying thing.
To the ruin of sadness! Behold immortal Spring!

What lay beyond the greenwood, what lay there even now?
To frisk and folly our goodly souls upon that hidden vow?
To leave behind the weeping world, o, by perilous begetting,
step inside the willow-seam, but the payment is forgetting.

—Silvatiicus Riddle

Postprandial Traumatic Siesta Disruption

Furniture’s possessed
This old rocking chair’s got me
It won’t let me go

—John H. Dromey

Après Vie

first line from @notaleptic

You are the ghost now.
You can’t remember any of your birthdays
at all. You can barely remember how
you died—something so trivial, it might
have been just a grammatical error.

Mistakes were made,
some of them spectacular, not all of them 
yours. Of course alcohol, or something
like it, was involved. Not to mention
the swimming pool, the car, the gun.

You thought all families
were just like yours—the spite, shallowness
and ridiculous expectations. Without
giving you a chance to learn how anything
actually worked. Except manipulation.

Once, the county fair
was the highlight of each year. You’d save up 
your allowance for months for those rides,
even though you had no one to go with. Lights 
and noise. More beautiful after dark.

You told yourself—and,
let’s face it, a lot of advertising budgets
told you—that how you looked
and dressed, and what you owned,
were of paramount importance.

They all said
they loved you—at least at first. The Sunday bus
to the Baptist church. You sold everything
you had, and then what others had. Awful jobs.
Filthy motels. A pounding on the door.

You were alone
on the bus that night—well, until he sat down next 
to you and pulled out a bottle in a bag. Pulled out 
a knife. Nobody with a badge around when you need 
them. Nobody when you really, really needed them.

One of your friends
said he walked through the park with you for hours 
after the bars closed, and even though he couldn’t
remember what you told him, it helped a lot. 
At the time, you were a thousand miles away.

You wonder who
found out first; how they were told about what 
happened to you; the exact euphemisms
chosen by doctor or police officer. The rippling out 
through progressively more distant relatives.

You still take walks
in the cemeteries, admiring plastic flowers,
reading the lost names. Decades since
the new ones are anyone you recognize. You drift 
right through the kids making out on the graves.

—F. J. Bergmann

Thirty-Eight Years After

The air smelled like wine back then
in the orchard, when they forgot to pick the fruit
that grew, then hung low, and then fell.
That’s what Great-grandmother says, her clouded eyes
fixed somewhere that isn’t quite at me,
but I can’t imagine how you could simply forget
to get food that offered itself for the taking.

Mother says Great-grandmother is old,
that her mind is not what it once was,
to not listen to a word she says—
but when I ask Grandmother, she shoos me away,
says it’s almost time for the gates to close
and I should get ready for the sharp-toothed night,
so I think maybe Grandmother knows it’s true.

As the sky turns from ash to charcoal, as the
footsteps of the night-beasts click past as they
search for something to devour,
I wonder, What does Great-grandmother see
with her clouded, unseeing eyes?
Is it the world she had so long ago
when the air smelled like wine?

—Elisabeth Ring

Cheap Tears For Sale

I’ve got vials of tears
not the ones you want, I’m sure
those shiny diamond drops harvested
from cherubic newborns
or effervescent angels
strumming lyres in the rain

sporting pain of such an elegant kind

these are undistilled globs
snotty, ugly, raw messes
of loss and long illness
frustration and not fitting in, of seeing
the life that you’ve always wanted
give way to the life that you’ve been

forced to live

yes, vials and vials
lining my moldy shelves
(the carboys drip and leak)
and nothing uncommon about any of them
nothing spectacular
nothing magical

except in the taste, I’d wager

these tears preserve better
than thousand-year-old honey
stinging salt, ever-fresh
breathe in deep and find that elusive relief
that only comes from
unscrewing the bottle

and pouring it all out

—Gretchen Tessmer

Jar of Fireflies

There once was a child bright
Whose head was full of dreams
But there came a thief
Who stole the night
In bits and pieces over time
Until the child’s head
Once a jar of fireflies
Became a hive of bees.

Of course a child has no recourse
Except to accept dreams as lies
And nightmares as the truth
The bees would often swarm
Stinging those nearby to warn
Not to come too close
The child never meaning harm
And never knowing why.

But as the child’s body grew
The child’s mind was still a hive
The bees that lived inside
At home among the glue
With nothing cutting through
The constant buzzing
Of stolen dreams and stolen youth
And thoughts of suicide.

But death was not the story’s end
The years went by
The child aged and learned to hide
The hive inside his head
Until someone special came along
A thief of a different kind
Who sang a silent smoky song
That put the bees to rest.

The child became a man
And the thief became his wife
And soon the child inside
Began to dream again
In bits and pieces over time
Until his head was filled
With stars just like
A jar of fireflies.

—Kurt Newton


 I know nothing of life without you,
And I won’t hear a word spoken,
A card pulled with some symbol
Of a ball and chain, when my tether is tetherless.

My stakes are planted in quicksand,
And my Cerberus knows nothing of the scarcity
Of numerologists and pharaohs,
Where your pendulum is a hand.

All I know is that shapes go
Inside the hole, not around,
And solid objects don’t move for me, like rivers.

If I were a movement, I’d be a wrecking ball,
All I’d manage was tearing  down, not up,
And someone would still have to rebuild a hole
Out of the shipwreck.

Someone would have to squeeze themselves
Tighter than I ever would,
Because the contractor is new,
And the structure wasn’t made to fit those two pieces together.

The system wasn’t built for creators or destroyers,
But to be built.

So when I wake up, I put myself back to sleep,
I am no rabbit, Morpheus,
They don’t want me to multiply.

—Taya Boyles

The Episode

Pain enters, and time disappears 
Into silence. 
Beyond everything there is a 
Sudden glimpse of ephemeral eternity.
At that moment, 
Only an ache exists. 
Hopelessness coils inside fears.
Breathing turns into gasping.

Clouds cover the sun, and
Dimness arrives.
My brow damp with
cold perspiration. 

I sense something, 
An odd pulsating rhythm
Inside my body
Trying to escape from death.

Sound materializes as silence 
Weakens. My mind awakens to 
An aromatic scent of fragrant flowers: 
Time begins again.

My eyes open to a blue sky, 
The throbbing subsides,
Pain leaves, and
Life awaits.

—James G. Piatt

The Tale of Bad Daughter

Baba Yaga lives in a chicken-legged hut,
somewhere deep in the forest,
fence made of bones, garden filled with weeds.

Baba Yaga is my teacher—
we pick poisonous mushrooms to feed the intruders,
sickly sweet berries to seduce new lovers,
cause days are uncertain and nights are lonely.

Baba Yaga is my cook,
stewing children’s bodies spiced up with thyme—
we like the crunch of dirty nails,
hair getting stuck in our teeth.

Baba Yaga is a poet—
she writes about souls that live in elbows, toes and armpits,
damp and smelling of mouldy apples,
evidence of Eve’s explorations.

Baba Yaga is my mother.

There are mothers who nourish, 
and there are those who prepare you to die 
in the woods for artistic inspiration.

Little does she know that I’ll soon be gone,
ready to pollute the ground on which she steps,
taking peaceful revenge.

—Inga Piotrowska

A House of Sticks

We met while I gathered straw
Dry, brittle pieces
Some long, but mostly short
And butter yellow.

He held out a basket in offering
He’d carry, while I’d gather
Handful after handful, I picked
And a house was built.

But it’s not generosity
It’s control
And the moment I realized
He huffed
And puffed
And blew my house down.

Our family grew while I gathered sticks
Some sturdy and straight 
While others own gnarled tips
And knotted shafts.

He held out his arms in offering
He’d carry, while I’d gather
Stick after stick, I collected
And a house was built.

But it’s not hospitality
It’s a ploy
And the moment I realized
He huffed
And puffed
And blew my house down.

Our family consummated while I gathered bricks
A batch of recycled, a few brand new 
Made of mud dried in the hot California summer
And fired clay.

He pushed in a wheelbarrow, empty
He’d carry, while I’d fill
Load after load, I moved
And a home was built.

But it’s not commitment
It’s a lie
And the moment I realized
He huffed
And puffed

And huffed
Then puffed

And my home stood.

—Roxie Voorhees

the Angel conducts my autopsy

and finds me a museum of feathers,

a time-zone with no clock.

From my palm He pulls dog 

teeth and pinecones, each

a synonym for river.

Sitting on the Angel’s shoulder,

I learn the architecture of myself.

He is a patient cartographer,

and I, an unhurried country. Look—

           there, the mountains anxiety

           makes of my throat; there,

           my wheelbarrowed chest;

           there, the dead boy now living 

           in my fingers. His garden

           is overgrown and the grass

           tall, but the pears are ripe.

I am relearning 

this body, afraid of returning.

The Angel drops

a flute into my open 

stomach, draws red clay from my illness,

licks His fingers warmly clean.

—Zachariah Claypole White

The Problem of Pain

Theologists pinned a term for it:  theodicy, with theo, from the Greek, meaning God, but I won’t hold that against them, God I mean, not those democracy crafting Greeks, for God is a whole flock of birds (in Isaiah), not to suggest I’m polytheistic like a Muslim might suppose, and not to suggest I’m judging Hindus either, who actually are polytheistic, worshiping multiple gods and goddesses, deities with superfluous arms like octopi or a lolling tongue—Hanuman, a monkey god, and Ganesha, the fat as Buddha elephant god, creatures strange as aliens, who’d lead us God knows where…

the self
clutching a suitcase
staring at the moon
beyond world’s woes 
whips and hammers

—Anna Cates

On the Night I Exalted My Wounds

For a thousand nights I’d laid
my marital cloth on a pyre [
For another thousand more
its ashes trailed to the Great Below 

O beloved hearth [  
Away, heavenly anchor
Still, my breast [
a tomb for tenderness
in want of rebirth

Hear, my fists 
against the doomed doors
Lady of the Descent, 
accept my morning armor,
] my gold, silk, lazuli

With each passing gate, 
] each passing curse 

      I must persist,
I must shed,

Even if by the Judges’ teeth
      this outer layer
                                                  tears [

] Alas, I am only a scripture of scars [

O beloved companions above, 
do not weep for me [
My blood will drink my crevices 
and my limbs 
reassembled in time

will praise the sky 
like mushrooms in spring

—Arda Mori