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Part 3 in a Series:

In my previous posts, I featured several poems from the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Eye to the Telescope #22, The Ghosts Issue“, which I guest edited.  The issue went live October 15th.

Today we continue the series with four very different genre poems that embody a spectrum of ghostly possibilities.

train

Not a Destination by F.J. Bergmann

In front of the hospital,
a somber chauffeur opened
the door of a limousine,
bowing, and he thought at first
that he would ride in style
all the way to the end…

In the last installment, we looked at how the ghost poems in Eye to the Telescope#22 transition from the abstract and epic to the intimate. F.J. Bergmann’s brief “Not a Destination” deftly moves us through a personal death towards what we might think of as the ultimate destination… only to find that the journey has just begun.

The blinking hospital lights and beeps of “Not a Destination” are a perfect fit with the poems just before and after: “Admittance” recalls a father’s resurrection in a hospital setting, while the you in Daniel Jones’ “Fevered Ream” slips from this mortal coil in room 607 of St Vincent’s.  To me, this trio of poems suggest a crossroads of possibilities: three slightly different routes for the departing soul.

The path of Bergmann’s “Not a Destination” takes a nicely dark turn; the deceased barely has a chance to settle into new accommodations before finding himself shuffled off again, sugar-plumb fantasies of  the afterlife dispersing with an ominous plume of smoke.  Like all the best ghost stories, this poem leaves it to the reader to fill in the gaps; it is our imagination that takes off from the station, towards a dark unknown.

F.J. Bergmann dreams of a future in which bios will need to be neither provided nor updated due to the perfection of mind-melding via hyperspatial dimensions. See fibitz.com for more ideation. She is the editor of Star*Line and the poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change.

 

Planetary Nebula NGC 2818

Fevered Ream by Daniel R. Jones

you slip from your die-cast sarcophagus
comatose to ghost, soul tethered to body like a
dangling tooth a child is not willing to yank

 

“Fevered Ream” was one of those poems that rises up out of the slush and just stops time for a minute — what did I just read?  I love the breathlessness of this one, the rambling fever dream string of images, similes; a literary tossing and turning that suddenly lets go with an explosive stanza of light and motion and a curious mixture of religious and scientific references (“Elysian nebula”, “between the star of Bethlehem and another”, “…blip on the Hubble”, “…a far cry from Mount Moriah”).

“Fevered Ream” raises more questions than it answers ( where does the arc of the soul lead, and what happens when it lands?) ; however I find the pace and tone and vivid organic language offer a promising counterpoint to the dark machinery of the previous poem.

What really sealed it for me, though, was the final line.  Gorgeous sci-fi poetry, that is.  Still gives me shivers.

Daniel Jones is a an MFA candidate at Lindenwood University, and a writer from Indianapolis, IN. Previously, he’s had work published in Aphelion, the South Bend Tribune, In the Bend, Spill Words Press, Time of Singing, and he won an award for best poem in the 2013 edition of Bethel College’s Crossings. He is currently serving as an editorial assistant for Issue 7 of The Lindenwood Review.

 

Now with nanobots!

Now with nanobots! https://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/3137493718

 

Hex Machina by Joe Nazare

The bitbots had been designed to reconstruct damaged cells,
But malfunctioned or mutated, escaped from the human
To overwhelm the landscape with a profusion of fabrication.

Speaking of science fiction: enter “Hex Machina” by Joe Nazare.  I just couldn’t say no to this one: ectoplasm, nanotech, an Armageddon of abundance… this was one of the most imaginative and clever poems in the bunch.

Truly, “Hex Machina” is so exemplary for this issue — a speculative poem that posits new and unexpected visions of the afterlife — there isn’t much more to say; except that “indiscriminate widgecraft” is my new favorite phrase ever.

Joe Nazare earned in a PhD in American Literature from New York University. His fiction, poetry, and nonfiction can be found in such places as Dark Discoveries, Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, Pseudopod, Star*Line, Grievous Angel, Death in Common, The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Butcher Knives & Body Counts. He is also the author of the collection Autumn Lauds: Poems for the Halloween Season, and is currently hard at work readying Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”: Ultimate Annotated Edition for ebook release on Amazon this autumn.

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Strawberry_jam_on_a_dish.JPG

Ma’s Late Knight Jam Session

by Oliver Smith

The long spines of his gooseberries
Were particularly impressive:
They grew sharper than lances, impaling
Dim-minded knights who had disembarked
From the number ten bus in search of Mount Badon.

Another one of my early favorites, “Ma’s Late Knight Jam Session” takes the chaos of “Hex Machina” and raises it to a level of delightful absurdity.  I LOL’d when I read this one, enamored with lines like “ground strawberries swelled red/ As the thrashed buttocks of masochistic elves” and “Now at breakfast time an eyeball stares/Accusingly from the bottom of the jar. It is red-rimmed and horribly medieval.”

I enjoyed Smith’s lofty language and descriptive prowess throughout, as well as the opportunity to refresh my understanding of British history.

I’m also a sucker for food in poetry.  He had me at “summer fruit” – though the combination of ghosts, food, and humor is deliciously and brilliantly macabre.

Oliver Smith is a visual artist and writer from Cheltenham, UK. He was born in 1966 and recently returned to university 25 years after graduating in Fine Art to study Creative Writing as a post-graduate research student. His poetry regularly appears in Spectral Realms and his short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Inkermen Press, Ex Occidente Press, Dark Hall Press, and History and Mystery LLC. Many of his previously anthologised stories and twenty poems are now collected in Basilisk Soup and Other Fantasies.  You can find out more about Oliver here.

summer reading program

The Kinglet, summer 2011

The following essay popped up in my Facebook feed this morning.  I originally wrote it in 2013 after we had to pull my son out of a creative arts summer camp.  He was easily frustrated, cried a lot, had to take lots of cool-down breaks — all things that are normal for a child with autism (which we didn’t know he had, at the time) and an emotional disorder.  I’d put two weeks of my summer aside so I could be there as his coach, but it still didn’t work out. The art teacher treated him (and me) like he had a contagious disease, and the administration (my employer, and friend, at the time) threw up her hands, because what can you do, you know? We have to think of the other children.

I cringed when I saw it again this morning — not because of what I said in it, but because this is a problem – a prejudice – that we’ve been battling all his life. In 2011 it was summer camp at the local Lutheran church — nice people, not equipped to handle him.  In 2012 it was the sports camp sponsored by the City of Newark.  Before his diagnosis, it was the school system that dumped him in an “intervention” room (closet) for most of the school day, or suspended him.  Last year it was the new gifted teacher that didn’t want him in her class, even though his test scores are through the roof and rote remedial learning bores him (literally) to tears.  Why should the other gifted children have to listen to my son cry, right, or witness him being removed by a para, or do their work like good boys and girls while my son audits the class because he’s too stressed that day? That’s not fair, is it? We have to think of the other children.

But you know what? No.  No, your child doesn’t need to be sheltered from my child.

My Child’s Meltdown Belongs in Your Classroom

(Summer 2013)  I’m trying to be professional and understanding about things that have happened this week, but as a parent, my heart is a little broken.

When asked to consider the place of children with emotional and behavioral disorders in an educational setting, the first concern of most people seems to be for the benefit of the other children, and the teachers, and the harmony of the group. Which makes sense, right? When you first think about it.

But I ask you to consider this. A generation ago, even less, these same arguments, based on misunderstanding at best, prejudice at worst, kept children with developmental delays and other handicaps from attending school. It was only with activism on the part of parents and child advocates that this attitude was challenged, and changed, resulting in laws that protect the right of ALL children to an inclusive education, in the least restrictive setting, with all possible and reasonable accommodation.

These days, we don’t much dispute the right of a child with physical challenges to take part in the same activities as healthy children. When it comes to children with emotional and behavioral disorders, however, there is still a pervasive prejudice. There is a perception that such children are bad, that their behavior is willful – they are punished, rather than worked with, and they are marginalized.

The truth is, such a child has as much control over his condition as a child with epilepsy, or with Tourettes, or with Autism, or Cerebral Palsy, or with any other host of impairments can control theirs. That is to say, given an opportunity, and a conducive environment, and appropriate supports, they can succeed as well as any child.

The questions I am asked, as a parent of a child with an emotional and behavioral disorder… Why should other children have to suffer when such a child acts out in the classroom?

– Because these people exist together in the world.
– Because discomfort over differences is healed by familiarity, compassion, and understanding.
– Because segregating “normal” children from “abnormal” children when it is not strictly necessary will not prepare either one for living in an inclusive world. It can only further misconceptions and prejudice. It can only distance the special needs child from a sense of belonging and success.

Why should teachers have to interrupt their class to deal with a child who acts out in the classroom?

– Because every child is different. Some have learning disabilities and need help understanding their assignments. Some children have physical challenges and need help maneuvering their world. Some children have language barriers, cultural barriers, problems at home, problems of self-esteem, problems keeping their breakfast down, problems sitting still, problems paying attention, problems with you.
-If you are a teacher, presumably you are so for a reason. Please don’t shy away from something because you don’t understand it.

With the rate at which children in our society are being diagnosed with behavioral and psychiatric disorders, and in the wake of national tragedies that have dragged the state of mental health care into the limelight, I believe this is something that needs to be said. This is a conversation we need to be having. This is a situation that needs to be challenged.

At the very least, it’s something I need to get off my chest.

In 2014, my friend Ro received the gift of a kidney from her brother.   We’re featuring her story here and on our Facebook page, A KIDNEY FOR SHARON.

 

ro pics
“I was on the transplant list, like thousands of others in the New York area, but my doctors were not optimistic…  I was told the longer a person on dialysis waits for a kidney, the harder a full recovery can become. The best chance was for me to find a living donor as soon as possible.”

I had been diagnosed with Systemic Lupus back in 2000, after a few years of arthritis-like symptoms. It was in 2004 that tests uncovered that the lupus was starting to impair my kidneys. Kidney damage is a very common long-term problem, and the effect can really vary person to person. I got hit hard: my kidney function was about 60% when I started treatment in 2004 and it dropped rapidly from there, leveling out at 40% around 2007.
 
I was hoping the stalemate would last forever, but my kidney started declining rapidly again around the end of 2012. It affected every other system in my body: my bones weakened drastically and I suffered repeated fractures, my bone marrow stopped producing red blood cells and I needed two blood transfusions, the anemia got so bad that I needed additional shots every other week for my body to produce enough red blood cells to barely function. I gained weight, slowly at first, but then my legs swelled up, pressing against my skin like a drum. I didn’t know until I was admitted that it was water weight from my kidneys not being able to pass fluid out of my body.
 
It was right before Thanksgiving when I went to the hospital and was told that my kidneys were shutting down; my organs were literally drowning in my own fluid. My heart and lungs were springing internal leaks from the pressure. They took me to surgery, implanted a dialysis catheter in my chest and started hemodialysis the same day. They let me go on Thanksgiving, after arranging for me to continue dialysis at a center near my home.
 
I went to dialysis for three hours, three days a week for seven months. All that time I had to wrap my catheter in plastic to take a shower, monitor every single drop of liquid that passed my lips, and strictly monitor what I ate. My weight dropped from 220lbs to around 185lbs – and it was all backed-up fluid. I was frequently nauseous, and often weak in the beginning. My first catheter got infected. The infection got into my blood stream and threatened my heart, so I was hospitalized for 12 days to cure it. My mother spent her birthday that year in the hospital with me and my whole family missed Christmas with my aunts and cousins that year.
 
I didn’t even realize how it affected my family and friends. Apparently my brother cried the first time he saw me hooked up to the machines. My mother was half-hysterical the whole time, only finally starting to relax once we had a routine and I was showing little signs of improvement. My friends didn’t even see me for several months and were genuinely worried that I wouldn’t pull through.
 
I was on the transplant list, like thousands of others in the New York area, but my doctors were not optimistic about me getting a kidney anytime soon. And I was told that the longer a person on dialysis waits for a kidney, the harder a full recovery can become. The best chance was for me to find a living donor as soon as possible. Both my parents tested and were disqualified. My father spread the word through his radio show in the hopes someone would step forward. Finally, my brother decided to donate and he was found to be a perfect match.
 
I had my transplant on May 28 2014. We had our 1 year anniversary on May 2015. The changes I’ve experienced have been enormous. Little things that were so common while I was sick have vanished and I’m on less medication than I’ve ever been before. And while a transplant, like dialysis are not cures – it’s a second chance that I didn’t think I’d get.
 

Save

So if you go here, you can hear me perform my poem “Beansidhe” – a classic Irish ghost story turned tragic romance – on the SFPA’s Halloween Reading page (which I’m co-editing with poet Liz Bennefeld).

As noted on the page: “The pronoun play in “Beansidhe” can be misleading—it may be helpful to remember that not every narrator is reliable.” “Beansidhe” (the Irish spelling of “Banshee”) first appeared in Ideomancer and later my poetry chapbook, UNDOING WINTER (Finishing Line Press 2014) , which was nominated for the SFPA’s Elgin Award.

If, however, you stay here, you can listen to me, my daughter, and my cat playing with my new headset.

Much thanks and kudos to fellow SFPA’er Diane Severson Mori over at Amazing Stories Magazine for her review of UNDOING WINTER!  In addition to maintaining a regular column at Amazing Stories to highlight speculative poets and poetry, Diane also manages the not-insignificant task of rounding up the spec-poetry related publications and activities for Science Fiction Poetry Association members.

If you haven’t already, please do check out Diane’s thoughts on UNDOING WINTER, complete with recordings of three poems from the chapbook!

COVER FROM WEBSITE

I’m busy getting ready for the DDOA Poet and Prose Writer’s Retreat this weekend (leaving my babies for four days! EEP!) but Diane’s post provides some food for thought that I’d like to revisit later [Watch this Space!!] To wit: while it’s true that none of the poetry in UNDOING WINTER is SciFi – indeed, i think I have all of one poem in my entire portfolio that I’d call straightup Science Fiction – I draw much of my inspiration from myth, folklore, and dreamscapes – all of which are snugly at home under the “Fantasy” category, which also counts as “Speculative Poetry”.

I think Speculative Poetry can be read in layers. The poems are metaphors, yes, but they also speak of their own realities. In my opinion, poems of ghosts, pagan gods, and slipstream are no more or less metaphorical than of any other genre – for what is SciFi, really, but the same, age old questions of the human condition, wrapped up in futuristic tropes?

Haven’t posted much here lately ‘cuz, well, I’ve been a little bit distracted….

10526093_10202842090427910_3759251557486081861_n

 

But please let me introduce you, officially, to:

 

Anna Shawn Rose Winward June 7th, 2014

 

Anna, whole world… whole world, Anna.

 

I usually have my hand with me when I go places, and sooner or later I’m bound to look at it. So if I need to remember something really important, that’s where I put it. Note to self: Library! Call Mom! Shadow People! (wait, what?)

The dangers of being forgetful AND having an active imagination, though… The other night I looked down at my hand and saw THIS – with no recollection of having put it there, or why.

proof

So I’m like, Proof… of what?

It was funny, for the first few minuets – but the more I tried to remember what it meant, the more I had NO IDEA. 40 Proof? Proof… of aliens? Proof of life??

I mean, where would YOUR mind go?

After about twenty minutes I remembered – oh, right. I needed to get off my ass and respond to the proof of a poem I have in an upcoming magazine issue.

Which is good, because I was beginning to think it got all MEMENTO up in here.