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.
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.
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.
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.
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.