A sampling of my Rhysling Award eligible poems from 2009. Publication credits are printed at the bottom after the poems.
No be-bop, no swing,
just the blues, slow blues.
That’s all they want.
That’s all we play.
What do these aliens feel
when they close their eyes,
sway slowly to human music?
Before their dinner,
I pop a couple black market judies,
washed down with imitation bourbon.
When they kick in, I close my own eyes,
visualize a different time,
playing Le Cercle Rouge back in New Chicago,
my horn floating over Tony’s bass riff
and Amy’s inverted chords.
After the show,
the guards lock us up in our small rooms.
I dream of aliens,
bug-eyed with sharp yellow teeth.
No judies at night.
I have to save those for the stage (And no,
I won’t share the unspeakable things
I do to get them).
The next night, they bring us back out
through the kitchen, always
through the kitchen,
past that night’s dinner:
women, children first.
Their dumb eyes, tear-stained,
And every night,
the manager comes up to the stage,
nods back toward the kitchen,
sneers and says,
“You boys better play well tonight.”
City of Bridges
I am the Keeper of Bridges
in the City of Bridges.
The Travelers always ask
where the bridge will take them.
I tell them Heaven;
I tell them Hell;
I tell them the Void
and there's no turning back.
I always lie.
They always believe.
If it's late October
and the snow falls early,
I might tell them that the bridge
will take them to May
and the first breath of spring.
I will say that it's a long walk,
but in the middle there’s a diner
with pie and coffee,
shelter and cigarettes.
I may promise that the world
of their dreams lies on the other side
but that the journey will change them
and their dreams will lose all meaning.
If it is a lost child, I might say,
“The bridge will take you home.”
I never reveal the truth:
that this is the City of Bridges
leads to Bridge
leads to Bridge. . .
This Is Not A Test
Sign here: ________________________
Cut along the dotted lines of your disguise.
What will you do with the pieces
still smoldering in your hands?
Cutting releases endorphins
and can help you forget.
How will you explain the scars?
Initial one, and only one, of the following:
____Anna says you’ve lost your sense of humor.
____It’s not supposed to be like this.
____Your head hurts. You don’t know who you are.
____The walls are closing in the walls are closing in the walls. . .
Your reflection appears only in broken mirrors.
How does that make you feel?
Did you take your medication as directed?
Are you sure?
True or False: The coefficient of relative materialism
is the inverse of static dimensional capacity.
Explain your answer. Use exactly 100 words.
While this is not a test, do remember
that all answers must be correct
and time is a factor.
The way I look at my wrist
to check the time
when I’ve left my watch at home,
the way my lungs breath,
my heart beats,
without deliberate thought,
the way, after all this time,
I still reach for you
in our empty bed,
the way I gaze into the night
expecting the moon to be there,
the way I can’t adjust
to its absence.
Pretend that time moves forward
in rivers of dark blue light,
a continuous slow glide,
twisting in helical fugues.
Add year after year,
date upon date
(36,526 and counting).
Invent virtual positronic aluminum futures
or regenerated cellular infinities,
and time to explore all
of them, each one and every.
Forget the universe,
expanding, counting down,
down and down
In the Precinct of Night
He scans the perimeter
before trampling feet can
obscure any clues:
a stray shell casing perhaps,
a spot of blood
that might become a trail
or some personal article
carelessly dropped in a hasty escape.
Then, finally, the body itself,
mute, but with one grim story left to tell,
a story the detective
always manages to decipher,
pieced together from fragments
hidden in shadow.
The one mystery he cannot solve
is his own:
why he so often feels
that his words and actions
are not really his,
but somehow predetermined
he dreams in color
though he lives in a world
of black and white.
The Dragon’s Lament
for Mary A. Turzillo
no treasure here,
no maiden to be saved.
And yet, they come and keep coming,
craving my flame.
They will not let me be
though I have allowed none to leave
have paved the path
to my cave with the skulls
of their dead to tell them: “Keep Out.
I will hunt them,
reduce them all to ash
and finally be left alone,
Letter to Poe
Hearts tell no tales.
Body after body
buried in my cellar – and all
in my right eye
should last for thirty years.
What then, might it see after I
hides in shadow,
strikes like a copperhead –
swift, and until one feels his fangs,
“Cabaret,” Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (Vol. 33, No.3. Whole Number 398. Dell Publishing, New York, New York. March 2009) Editor: Sheila Williams (swilliams (at) dellmagazines (dot) net).
“City of Bridges,” Sybil’s Garage (No. 6, Senses Five Press. Hoboken, New Jersey. 2009) Editor/Publisher: Matthew Kressel (matt (at) sensesfive (dot) com).
“This Is Not A Test,” Sein und Werden 21(Vol. 4, No. 1. Manchester, England. Summer 2009. Disc Edition) Editor/Publisher: Rachel Kendall (r(underscore)p(underscore)kendall (at) hotmail (dot) com).
“Autonomic,” Hessler Street Fair 2009 Poetry Anthology (Cleveland Heights, Ohio. 2009) Editor: Joshua Gage (pottygok (at) yahoo (dot) com).
“Entropy,” Raven Electrick (Tujunga, California. March 2009) Editor/Publisher: Karen A. Romanko (karen (at) romanko (dot) org).
“In the Precinct of Night,” Cinema Spec: Tales of Hollywood and Fantasy (Raven Electrick Ink. Tujunga, California. 2009) Editor/Publisher: Karen A. Romanko (karen (at) romanko (dot) org).
“Dragon’s Lament,” for Mary A. Turzillo, Amaze: The Cinquain Journal (#17: Volume 7, No. 1. Temple City, California. Spring 2009) Editor/Publisher: Deborah P Kolodji (Dkolodji (at) aol (dot) com).
“Letter to Poe,” “Intraocular Implant” and “Chaos Theory,” Intrinsic Night (Sam’s Dot Publishing, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 2009) Editor/Publisher: Tyree Campbell (tyr3403 (at) yahoo (dot) com).
Feel free to email me if you'd like any additional info on these (jestanley (at) cox (dot) net).