Modern MagicThe witch Baba Yaga once baked herself bread
out of spiders and liars and red razorwire
that was garnished with flowers from the vaults of the dead,
and sweetened with lye from a childs funeral pyre.
It was light as the crisp, cracking bones on the fields
and as sharp to the taste as the ash-scattered shards
that were all that remains of the swords and the shields
of the warrior king and his bold bodyguards.
In a chicken leg hovel at the edge of a wood
the witch Baba Yaga licks the dregs from the spoons
that she used to stir soup, spiced and thickened with blood
that the dying ones spilt from their widowing wounds.
But her low kitchen table will never be laid
and her bonewafer banquet will never be served,
while ghostly white whistles pipe a last serenade
as shes swept to the moon by the swerve of the earth.
The witch Baba Yaga in the coldness of space
weeping tears for the cage and her gingerbread home,
but icicled, weightless, they fly in her face
with the regular tick of
How to Write a SestinaIn order to write a sestina,How to Write a Sestina11 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
you must start by being unsure,
quickly switching from cold to hot
to cold and to hot again,
the temperature being like a cat
in the Sahara desert at dusk.
Sit on your porch at dusk,
watch the clouds create their sestinas.
As you watch, allow your cat
beside you, her tongue lapping unsurely
from a cup. Look up again,
wonder if milk would be hot
if left out. It is hot;
There is a heat about dusk.
Forget. Forget about the poem again,
Look around. Everywhere, there are sestinas.
Not just in the cool, unsure
ripples your cat
makes, the gentle clink clink your cat's
teeth make as she tips her hot
tongue against her cup. In unsure
clouds, sestinas. Not just in dusk
either. And mosquitoes make stinging sestinas.
Crumple a sheet of paper. Again.
Now throw it out, again and again.
Eventually, sensing a toy, your cat
will chase it. Wonder what a sestina
really is. The pen will feel hot
in your hand. Take some paper. Dusk
is now ending; Be absolutely sure
this time yo
Dr. BakunetsuDr. BakunetsuDr. Bakunetsu9 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
His name is Japanese for 'explosive heat' -
it's also, he says, unfastening his suitcase's
brass clasps, the name he gives the ailment, taps
the carat of my ribs - "In here, chief?
Right-o, that's a nasty one. No, don't speak!
These things can go off any time, sunshine,
Ive seen ones that could atomise Parliament,
your hearts the barrel and this thing, chief,
thiss the burning taper. Sonly got to leap
like a flea, or a jumping bean, sunbeam,
skip like a record and your whole torsoll
go up like a sack of fireworks. Keep still, chief.
His cigarette tipped with a ziggurat, his teeth
cusped with blood, he makes an incision.
My chests the seat of something unstable
as the Second Triumvirate, making sleep
impossible. Hot-black as torched heath,
lodged like grapeshot. Ive heard such things
are regarded by some as blessings, weapons
to be broken in and put on a leash,
but where do you start? Hold still, chief!
Seasons of Violet.We called her Violet, and she was.Seasons of Violet.7 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
We knew her when she was young and pale, during Fall
And when we'd climb old trees, their brittle branches
Like welcoming arms
Would snap in two
And we'd cascade to the earthy ground
Carpeted with golden and red and orange
And as we fell,
Secretly, she'd wish with all the goodness in her heart
That she were a leaf as well
That like a leaf, she could be swept away to some distant place
In arms that would not break
In arms that belonged to people who truly loved her.
We called her Violet, and she was.
And with the changing of the seasons,
Winter had taken away her smile and replaced it with the cold blank
A frown that could only belong to a soul like hers
To a soul that had wished to be a leaf
But had became only the scent of pomegranate and midnight
Perhaps people would embrace her only to get drunk on her scent
But my love was sincere, and it mingled with her berried essence
As I would try to will life and warmth back into her.
A gift sh
Synchro-CityThey breathed in unison. All over the city, all over the planet, the bots were breathing together. They moved and walked and spoke as their individual programming dictated, but their breathing was synchronised, in and out with the constancy of a ticking clock. She was in her twenties when she first managed to make her own working robot and it breathed with inexorable regularity. In out. In out. In out.Synchro-City7 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
"Hello," it said. In out. "Are you my mother?"
"The female creator of my form," it insisted, "The instantiator of my existence. Are you my mother?"
She had to concede that she was, although the term made her uneasy.
In out. In out. It breathed just like all the other bots did.
Without access to the research databases, she had made a very basic effort at its programming, and that meant it needed to be taught.
"Do I have a name?" It asked her, as she was showing it how to clean the windows. It was standing very close. She could hear it breathing in out, in out.
"No. Would you
Under the UmbrellaThats me under the battered umbrella, the one with the Technicolor dreamcoat and the hairstyle thats decidedly undecided. Im avoiding looking down, I expect, because Id like to be one of those confident people that smiles and says Afternoon! to everyone they pass on the gum-dappled pavements, and not someone that puts all their energy into considering abandoned takeaway packaging and coins glued to the floor by psychology students.Under the Umbrella8 years ago in Philosophy & Perspectives More Like This
Im probably thinking about poetry, or one of many arrogant young men that occasionally give me a look that could be mistaken for something meaningful. Maybe Im just wondering if the rain would sound so much like gunfire if I put the umbrella down. Undoubtedly Im so focused on my thoughts that I would jump if you said something to me. Id be embarrassed that Id jumped, so then I would snap at you, even though you were only trying to be friendly. Possibly Im thinking about that, although I
Full Fathom FiveFull fathom fiveFull Fathom Five8 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
She lies, drowned,
In a world with
No light or sound
On her side, 'mongst
The corals and the fishes,
Longing for the
Breeze she misses
Full fathom five
She stirs and groans,
From her bones
And rising from
Her frigid bed
She reaches from
Beyond the dead
Full fathom five
She leaves the gloom,
Seeks the comfort
Of the moon.
With a whisper,
She breaks the waves;
Her skeleton crew
Wake from their graves
Full fathom five,
She sails still,
Upon a gossamer mist,
Weaving a chill
Around the hearts
Of sailing men
Who cross themselves and turn
From this phantom wind
Full fathom five
She flees the dawn
Seeking the night
To which she's drawn
But when the sun
Climbs into the sky,
Full fathom five,
She'll, dreaming, lie.
Wild Flower Crimes When I crush the head of a clover bloom, the scent carries me to that far off field where my weed battered knees cut trails by the blackberry bush. Where the old man let us feast on his jam flavored crop of wild fruit, and told us tales of when his hair was crowned with dandelion fluff. Where the overhead hum of power lines cursing the heat of summer was the only thread we used to find our way back home. Where the king of the day was crowned based upon who found the biggest possum skull, or smashed the tallest crawdad hole; swearing he fought off its occupant, who was the size of Bobbys dog. Back then, the trash of ditches was pirate swag, or royal treasure. A baseball bat swollen with ditch water was a giants club. A thorny weed was the last proof of an ancient forest.Wild Flower Crimes8 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
Time ran slow there, meandering with bees tha
April's HouseThe man who would be my lover through April had a daughter.April's House11 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
I showed her Playboys from 1999 and she grabbed at my breasts.
In mid-April my lover's grandmother died in a Michigan hospital.
The night before we had hurried sex on a friend's floor and in his shower.
I lay naked on a dark blue couch watching B list horror movies
with names like Frankenhooker and drank carbonated strawberry wine.
The floor was covered in empty Bacardi bottles and powdered Cheetos
while the bathroom smelled of concentrated bleach and urine.
I could crawl out onto the flat tarry roof through a second story window.
On the fourth of July I sat on the functionless brick chimney and got high.
The roof in South Oakland always reminded me of Mary Poppins.
Vodka coursing through my blood, I danced like a chimney sweep.
A man with bleached hair and long nails filed to a point walked me home.
He said, Margaret, I want you, and I knew I had stayed in a house full of lies.
Pain PAINPain7 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
Hangs from your pelvis
like an incomplete, conjoined sibling
with no mind of its own
but enough of yours to make you fear it.
Comes when you are sleeping
to perch on your face and dip its beak
redly into your dreams.
Shucks its claws
on the upholstery of your flesh.
Is a fog-eyed poet, reading aloud to you
endless reams of his own passionate,
Squats in the waste it has made of you,
you dare not look in the eye.
Remembers the body when it moved
with the ease of light across a lakes delicate skin.
Watches your babies grow
skins so thick they cant feel you.
Is an illusion
overcome by mastery of the mind,
an ascetic life, a clean colon, eighteen
valium and a quart of Scotch, a bullet
or all of the above.
The Umbrella LettersDear Mr. and Mrs. Umbrella,The Umbrella Letters8 years ago in Socio-political More Like This
I'm writing out of concern for your son Charlie. Since he first started in my class I have noticed odd tendencies in his behaviour. I know Charlie is a special boy, but the way these tendencies develop is beginning to worry me. He seems to be having troubles communicating with others. He rarely plays with the other children and does not respond when I speak to him. His writing is beginning to stray from the alphabet. Last week he even refused to partake in morning prostration! I took him to see the school nurse but he remained silent for the entire time and did not subject himself to examination. I therefore ask you to bring Charlie to a doctor in order to find out what is causing these problems.
Miss Edna Umber, Umbrellium Primary School
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Umbrella,
After the examination of your son, we have been able to establish that he is not suffering from any apparent physical illness or dysfunction. There appears to be nothing wrong wit
leitmotif(I will never forgive Millais for painting Ophelia calm in the water. My cousin Noah died shoeless and struggling under a lonely mans hands, his eyes full of rain runoff. Real people dont sink as pretty as oil on canvas: Noah was four feet five on the autopsy slab, no flowers, no frames. I am ruled by the aesthetic, but I would embrace his every imperfection if it meant having him back. This clumsy dilettante still loves Noah with the scabs on his shins, sitting sloppy at Sams recitals in sneakers and shorts. Give me the asymmetry of his eyelashes. For the first time in my life, the art is optional.leitmotif6 years ago in Short Stories More Like This
There is a reason I keep this part peripheral: this is not about drowning. Boys in deep lakes know nothing of footholds, and Noah left the rest of us grateful for something to stand on. Don't expect closure. This is about hindsight. Today, we know that we are spoiled by floors.)
Emily is seei
The Chemicals Between UsThe Chemicals Between Us9 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
Colin had received the letter two weeks after his eighteenth birthday. "Congratulations!" it began. "You are pre-approved for a Breeding Marriage License! Enclosed is form MGA-1304, application for suggested partners. Please complete this form and return it to the Ministry for Genetic Affairs to request your list of genetically compatible partners." He folded the letter back into its envelope and drew out the application. After scanning across it briefly, he set it on the table and opened the next item, another piece of college junk mail.
It sat in a filing cabinet until a biting February day three years later. As he was walking home from a senior seminar on twenty-first century composition, the woman Colin had been seeing for the past few months stopped him on the sidewalk. His fingers searched for the warm spots in his pockets as she coolly broke up with him. "I'm sending for my partners list, and I think that we should end this relationship," she told him. "I just don't see the poin
The Grammar GangstersBeware the grammar gangsters!The Grammar Gangsters7 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
The mafia of the literary underworld.
They saunter into stanzas,
Under their trench coats
Or in violin cases.
They can make you talk,
"With just a few well-placed speech marks,"
Leave you shouting! Where you should have whispered!
And pulp your bold statements into quavering questions?
They can, pepper, your, phrases with, commas,
Or bring your piece to a dead.
They'll trap you (between brackets)
As you - dash - to the exit.
Then: punch a blunted colon
Into the gut of your text
Force-feed you a poisonous semicolon,
Then hack/slash your work to shreds.
The grammar gangsters
Never leave survivors.
Readers discover the victims
In the back alleys of the library,
In a tommy-gun ellipsis...
The Players' EpilogueSUPERFLUOUS CHARACTER X: That was all very well, of course; exceedingly tragic, you know, positively heart-wrenchingThe Players' Epilogue7 years ago in Scripts & Screenplays More Like This
SUPERFLUOUS CHARACTER Y: I wouldnt go that far.
X: But what about us? I mean, what are we, pond scum or something?
Y: I do believe were the comic relief.
X: No farewell speech, no rending cry of pain at the end of lifenothing but a snicker from that brat of a protagonist in celebration of his infinite cleverness at having our poor heads whacked off instead of his own. He, of course, gets two pages of script on which to elaborate. And what do we get? Diddly. As usual.
Y: I would have been happy with a short monologue. You know, earlier on.
X: (Sighing.) But, alas, it could only have been a dialogue of sorts. For we are but Siamese twins in this grand play of life. Where one goes, the other must follow closely on. What one says, the other must echo in due fashion.
Y: Siamese twins? But were
X: I was being metaphorical
omg lol"omg lol w8 4 meh!1" cried Wendy as she hastily grabbed her textbook and slammed her locker door shut. The second bell had rung five minutes ago, and her two friends were already across the hallway. They stood in front of a door with a sign that read "chatsp33k". Mary Beth, the eldest of Wendy's little posse, waved her hot pink painted fingers at Wendy.omg lol10 years ago in Scraps More Like This
"hurry!!11! were l8 lol," she beckoned.
"im coming lol," said Wendy. She trotted down the hall towards the two, who were already heading through the door into the Chatspeak classroom. Wendy panted as she took her seat, which was located directly in front of Mr. Parsley's desk, the Chatspeak instructor.
"u 3 r l8 AGAIN1!" said Mr. Parsley. "wot do i have 2 do 2 get u 3 to com ein on tyme?"
"sry," apologized the three girls.
Mr. Parsley scoffed. "nevre let i thapen a gain." He cleared his throat. "now, az i wuz saying b4 teh interupshon, did every1 turn in teh homwork form last nite?"
Everyone in the class, except for the three girls, who
ManuscriptI have written us down, typed us up, and sent us out.Manuscript8 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
they will edit us, and say some parts are no good.
but I want your run-ons, your lack of punctuation; and you are so easy
on my weak binding, my damaged spine.
Miyamoto Musashi's Poetrywe reconstruct the manMiyamoto Musashi's Poetry11 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
from shards of paper and pottery
(a shrike in ink
a small wooden bodhisattva
a practical treatise on swordplay)
he said his only teacher was Nature
which is a fine thing to say
when you're good at everything
they say he slew Ganryū
with a length of oar
he'd whittled on impulse into a sword
so much for the soul of the samurai:
not metal, flashing and hard
priceless and irreplaceable
only a discarded wooden spar
emerging from refuse
to refuse returning
and perhaps his poems were the same
nourished by earth and water
whispering an answer to wind
burbling off towards the long sea
and this is how history left him
and this is how I might find him:
an old man on a mountain
preparing future warriors for poetry
writing his way back
into the world that wrote him
when he emerges from his grotto to converse with the single scarred wholeness of the moon, I steal towards his poems and brush the pages across my hands, like reaching for a damselfly at rest, to see how his b
moth-eaten curtainsI sit on the carpetmoth-eaten curtains7 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
where gaps are filled
with chewing gum and dead spiders,
it's here, time,
I tell her everything;
use the words that are scribbled
on the paper with bright pink ruled
lines and no margins
kept in a shoebox beneath my bed.
The curtains were moth-eaten.
Damp marks left from leaks
swirl shapes on the
ceiling and the wall behind me,
smelling like clothes
that have flapped in the rain
and fallen in a pile, then worn
too many times;
in here, this time,
the whole building appears
yet with the windows intact
and exterior bricks
The smell of summer
She stares at me with those
with sharp edges still not glittering when
the last of the day's sunlight
sneaks in through closed curtains.
They are fake, not even glass;
ice: melting down her face.
A body of a snow man on
patrol in summer, her posture becomes
increasingly flaccid, the skin on her stomach
ripples, visible through her pyjama vest.
I watched my words eat her,
claycowardice runs deep, like a rich vein of redclay8 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
through the bottom of a Colorado river.
so I gathered that clay, scooped it up in my hands
and packed it, carefully, over my face
until it covered every inch; and my lidded eyes
were merely dents in the thick tan façade.
this was cleaner
than the traditional, Oedipal method
of blinding oneself.
alone, the clay
was not enough. I stayed inside
the house, too, under cover of a sturdy blue roof
that cordoned the horizon
because out here there is too much sky
to hide from.
and I ignored the phantoms
still flitting in my ears,
because they spoke of the kind of roses
that wilt and melt in the rain, dropping their petals
to storms and in truth I sometimes think
they look even more beautiful
that way, spreading and curling and darkening
into decadence, like glorious pink-frosted cake.
but I dont want to be weak
sometimes, when we watched movies, Id scratch
tiny eyeholes in the clay, so I could see
just a litt
Unfinal SolutionJim and Dave shuffled down the street in the hot summer sun. Occasionally they would encounter an obstacle, such as a shopping cart, corpse, pile of trash, or burned out car. Depending on the size and nature of the obstacle, their zombie intellect would kick over into high gear, and a conversation such as this might ensue:Unfinal Solution7 years ago in Horror More Like This
Rains! Rains! Raaaaaaaains1 .
If the object was large, such as a chunk of flaming airplane wreckage, Jim and Dave would do the Zombie Shuffle around its perimeter, sometimes bumping into each other and the obstacle itself. On rare occasions, the not-quite-cooperative maneuvering deflected them from their original direction of movement, which was entirely random anyway.
If the obstacle was small or spread out (like the 2000 individually-wrapped packages of toilet paper theyd encountered yesterday, rolling and skittering before their tattered
the other sondear james,the other son7 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
your name means "hold the heel,"
among so many other things,
and i think i could list them:
your eyes are funny. during saw v i saw your pupils
and i thought, hazel. his eyes are definitely hazel.
and they aren't: they are green-gray, they are gray,
they are tinted with blue, they are stung with brown,
but mostly, they are a soft, indecisive green, and your
lids are permanently half-closed, lazy, and you continuously
look like you may be waking up from a dream, and i am
continuously wondering if i was in it
i can recite things about you.
all kinds of things. your middle name is
david. your cat is a gray tabby with bright, vibrant green eyes,
and she has been de-clawed, and her name
is samantha. your bed is on the floor. when we are on the
phone and you get a text, and you sigh and tell me
to hold, i close my eyes and listen to the sound of your telephonic
keyboard, tap-tap-tapping, and think maybe i could
fall asleep to the sound, but there'd
I have loved you...---I have loved you...8 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
In another time, I may have been your late night
confessionary, a Parisian whore to your
gentle hands and overwhelming needs. I could see us
loving each other without knowing names.
We are at times both romantic enough, and tragic
enough, for that.
And if I was not full of sin enough
to beckon your fingers to my skin, perhaps I
was only a girl you met for
un café au lait. You laid
your hand over mine beneath autumnal arbres, and we
made small talk about the world. Perhaps;
we are masters at making love with strangers. And you
peu importe. Je sais que je t'ai touché, dune
Second-hand SmokeThen they'd haul the cage back in, with its catch of minersSecond-hand Smoke8 years ago in Free Verse More Like This
dredged from the mountain's cavity. Even their eyeballs were black,
see - they'd look like buried men dug back from coal hells
to return in silence to villages of wives and children.
Smoking kills say the scattered packets of Lambert.
But, we live squeezed between hollowed monoliths, lurking
along roads clogged by town after town. If this
air that tastes of roof tiles doesn't kill us;
if this damp, that keeps us damp until
the rain returns, doesn't kill us;
if the pressure of each person's personal slag heap
weighted with history doesn't crush us
then we'll risk a cigarette more
then laugh harshly at nothing
then risk another.
You always knew a miner's age by his spit:
how it stunk of the pit, and stuck to any surface like a scorch.
The colliery path was black with it. It seemed a miner's lungs
were just inexhaustible seams of dust that he heaved around his neck.
The sun never makes it past the mountain ri