In recent posts I have been revisiting 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 five exemplary science fiction poems that explore the far-out possibilities of ghosts in space.
Romance by Jessica J. Horowitz
… kiss me under the light
of long-dead stars.
Following the heavy fare of the previous poems, Jessica Horowitz cleanses the palate with her sparklingly light short form, “Romance”. The flirtatious nod to both fantasy and science in this Dwarf Star darling quickly captured my heart.
Our Telescope now fixed skyward, “Romance” also draws us into the uncharted realms of space, and the ghostly possibilities therein, and beyond.
Jessica Jo Horowitz is Korean-born, currently living in New England where she studies historical sword work and Asian mythology. Previous poems have appeared in ChiZine: Treatments of Light and Shade and Star*Line. Find her on Twitter @TransientJ.
Little Lost Cosmonaut by Charles Christian
Standing by her capsule’s window
from time to time she sees the flares
of rocket-ships soaring up from Earth
Maybe tomorrow rescue will come?
Our Eye to the Telescope exploration of space-ly ghosts starts relatively close to home with Charles Christian’s love song to Valentinka, a (theoretical?) “Little Lost Cosmonaut” whose corpse was left in perpetual orbit after a botched space mission. Decades later, the ghost of Valentinka still watches and waits, dreaming of what was–and, maybe, what could be?
Though macabre in concept, and infinitely lonely, “Little Lost Cosmonaut” yet has a charming, life-affirming musicality to it — I was taken with waltzing lines like “the taste of vodka, the smell of borscht/the sound of the balalaika/And walking hand-in-hand in Gorky Park.”
Christian offers the image of Valentinka sealed with her capsule “Like a Matryoshka nest of dolls,” but one could as easily imagine her as a ballerina inside a music box, just waiting for someone to lift the lid and let her dance.
Charles Christian is an English journalist, author, and occasional poet who writes about tech, geek stuff, folklore, pop culture and the just plain weird. He is the publisher of the Grievous Angel zine and editor of the 2016 Rhysling Anthology—and an English newspaper recently commissioned him to go on a werewolf hunt. He found nothing but does now have to shave more frequently when there is a full moon.
in the starship junkyard by Lauren McBride
in the starship junkyard
viewscreens flicker on—
Bookending “Little Lost Cosmonaut” is yet another Dwarf Star potential, ” in the starship junkyard…” by Lauren McBride. While it’s a challenge to feature this one without reprinting the whole precious thing, I urge you to give it a read in context. Let the image sit with you a bit, especially this side of Valentinka’s lonely echo. Feel us drift far from our familiar arcs, out into space and time to distant tomorrows, where humankind expands ever outward, and our loyal machines dream…
Lauren McBride finds inspiration in faith, nature, science and membership in the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Nominated for the SFPA’s Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards, her work has appeared in numerous speculative, nature, and children’s publications including Dreams & Nightmares, Silver Blade, and Grievous Angel. She shares a love of laughter and the ocean with her husband and two grown children.
New World Haunting by Ann K. Schwader
Against a sun
that spawns no shadows, drifting as we must
across this landscape loaded like a gun
no longer fit to kill us, we aspire
With Ann K. Schwader’s “New World Haunting”, our journey takes us out beyond all known borders into utterly alien ghostly realms. Building on the mechanical echoes of space capsules and starships in the previous poems, “New World” ousts us from sleep pods-turned-coffins into uncharted worlds, where we find ourselves short of bodies but no less eager to explore.
I love the forward motion of this poem, the way one line strains to become the next, mirroring the underlying theme of humanity’s ambition and drive. I love the concept of space travelers fueled by such passion that even death cannot halt their momentum.
Ann K. Schwader’s most recent poetry collection, Dark Energies, appeared in 2015 from P’rea Press. It recently placed third in this year’s Elgin Awards for full-length collection. Ann is a two-time Bram Stoker Award Finalist, and has received Rhysling Awards for both short and long form work. She was the Poet Laureate for NecronomiCon Providence in 2015. A Wyoming native, she now lives and writes in suburban Colorado. Find out more at home.earthlink.net/~schwader
Possession by Deborah L. Davitt
We were meant to wake
when received by antennas,
undying mechanoid forms,
a fresh start on distant worlds.
With a thrust similar to “New World Haunting”, Deborah L. Davitt’s “Possession” also braves new alien realms. However, Davitt does this darkly, deftly weaving science fiction and psychological horror.
Though “Possession” (aptly named) revisits the possession trope, this poem eschews cliché by reimagining possession as technology gone wrong. Against a backdrop of planetary apocalypse, the possessor here is a human? maybe?–ghost? or program? sustained for countless years before being accidentally downloaded into an alien creature.
Or… OR, perhaps the alien is a human, and the “ghost” is the alien…
With the final stanzas, Davitt weaves together two points-of-view: the hapless space “ghost” and the rightful owner of the body it now inhabits. Drawing on even more classic genre tropes, “Possession” leaves open the possibility that perhaps the whole thing is just a story, a psychosis dreamt up in some demented being’s (person’s?) head.
However you read it, “Possession” aced the challenge of taking ghost stories in new and unexpected directions. Genre poetry at its finest.
Deborah L. Davitt grew up in Reno, Nevada, took her BA in English Lit at UNR, and earned her MA in English from Penn State. Since then, she has taught composition, rhetoric, and technical writing, and has worked as a technical writer in industries including nuclear submarines, NASA, and computer manufacturing. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and son. She’s been fortunate to have her poetry published in Star*Line, Blue Monday Review’s Storytime Challenge, Dreams & Nightmares, Silver Blade, Poetry Quarterly, and other venues. A short story of hers, “The Cenotaph,” appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show in Sept. 2016. She’s best known for her alternate-history/fantasy books, the Saga of Edda-Earth. You can find more of her work through her website: edda-earth.com