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Issue 15 • January 2015
Speculative Poetry by Women
edited by Anastasia Andersen

Table of Contents

Editor’s Introduction • Anastasia Andersen

Karin Bradberry • Order Now!
Cathy Bryant • Daffodils After the Zombie Apocalypse
Steven Martinez • Medusa at 55
Beth Cato • When Death Rides Among Puppets
Stefi Weisburd • Postcards
F.J. Bergmann • Destiny
Ann K. Schwader • Self 2.0
Elaine Schwartz • In the nursery

order now!
order now!order now!
order now!order now!

Order Now!

The ads these days are never-ending:
Order Triton artificial gills now!
Try Like-A-Fish liquid breathing set
for 30 days free. Be the first in your family
to choose plastron respiration—why pay
for gills when you can develop rough hairy
surfaces that do the job for less?

Of course folks with real money
are opting for gill implants—they know
the score. By the time the waters rise
high enough to submerge what’s left
of our soggy land, they’ll already
be breathing water, staying ahead
of the rest of us unlucky landlubbers.

Before long we’ll all be ranked by
our breathing apparatus—practically
invisible gills for the wealthy, their slits
accessorized with custom jewelry.
Bulky breathing sets for middle-class
geeks like me, weighed down by
batteries that never last long enough.
While the poor?
They’ll be easy enough to spot
with their hairy legs
and dollar-store antennae
constantly waving
to increase oxygen flow.

Same as always, the rich can sit still
while the poor gotta keep movin’
just to stay alive.
And to think
they used to say
At least air’s free!

—Karin Bradberry

Daffodils After the Zombie Apocalypse

I zombied lonely as a cloud
that seeps down low o'er toxic hills
when all at once I saw a crowd,
a mob of ravaged daffodils;
beside the swamp, beneath dead trees,
cowering and sobbing in the breeze.

As patchy as the stars that wink
when moonlight shines on old barbed wire,
they barely made consistent link
along the scum-line of the mire;
doomed thousands merely dirty starch,
drooping heads in funeral march.

The murk beside them stank, but they
out-did the wastes in foul decay;
a poet could not but be prey
to melancholia today.
I stared and stared but little knew
the canker that would be my due.

For often, when alone I lie
in vacant or in pensive mood
they press down on that inward eye
that is the curse of solitude;
and then my heart with acid fills
and sickens with the daffodils.

—Cathy Bryant

Medusa at 55

Let me make love to the hero for once.
I’m no beast who stones out of spite;
my scales contract,
                                    fangs lash out,
only on the wares lame painters concoct.

Dear Zeus,
                                    wise Athene,
send one down to fondle my hide,
nestle speckled flesh—
                                    I’ll close both eyes—
might even rip these pips from their lids
if only to harvest his midnight sighs.

                                    Across the salt chop
encouraged by kings
he recently knelt atop mopped planks,
knowing his trope, dagger in hand—
teaching himself to relish my scream.

Now the never-sky surrounds the brute’s rage
—he who couldn’t know my satellite hair
discovered his name before the blind charge.
          he chose silk for his funeral cloak—
tricked by the praise conveyed back home.

He didn’t say a word,
                                    nor notice my pause,
couldn’t look past my scathing façade.
I wished him to sing, abandon his arms,
or instigate charm with a gentleman’s nod.

Instead he’s erect,
                    forever killing myth,
manhood hard
                                    for no good cause.

—Steven Martinez

When Death Rides Among Puppets

death rides a realistic wooden horse
carved of dusky walnut painted black
rotten strings severed by
the sun's fierce scowl

his scythe made of a popsicle stick
handle still stained in faux grape
black robes leftover funeral cloth
from one plague or another

it is impossible to see death's face
though wooden joints clatter as he rides
the constant rat-tat-tat of a tap dancer
hidden beneath his clothes

puppets see him and know degradation follows
termites, rot, fire, or flood
yet even so, they watch him canter by
and whisper, "what a lovely horse"

—Beth Cato


from Theo, south of Rio

The sun did not shine

dear anodyne of the drop sleeve. with the sky still hung over from last night’s gala for El Presidente’s pekinese, we sped down the main avenue from the airport in El Presidente’s limo, streets slick with rumors, reflections smudged as mascara. despite the gloom, little people flying kites managed to wave at us as they dug through the garbage dump, a mountain of surplus toy ships, hats and red fans. a dour El Presidente ordered the chief of police to arrest the clouds. it was in all the papers.

It was too wet to play

at El Presidente’s birthday bash, for which Sally’s gown matched the color of a pinkfoot goliath spider. dear aquamarine of brownouts, somehow the clouds eluded the law. amnesty petitions needlepointed the sky letting in more rain. since the lutes and lyres were made of cardboard, all they could manage was a soggy Debussy ranting pathetics. the harp refused to rondo with the cowbells. the piano keys sneezed during a glissando. only the drum section kept up its end, palpitating the tin roof. at least the cow-tow martinis were sublime, followed by coconut milk on a dish & tarantula-tabby cake, a local specialty. nothing else to do but watch the rockets (& El Presidente!) sputter on the launch pad.

So we sat in the House

of Abandoned Avatars today, dear fruitless myth, watching a mobile of skins from the revolution slowly rotate on a chain of umbrellas. a cup of cocoa balanced on a ball balanced on a rake. an acrylic cat in a cravat looked at us as if it could speak our language in anapestic tetrameter. Let me tell you one thing and another thing two was the title of this piece. I would have bought it for you, chèrie, but the mirth tax was outrageous. outside, we passed the famous spitting statue “gato gris en el sombrero.” according to legend, if you photograph its spit on the sidewalk, then spin the photo on a turntable at 45 rpm, videotape the spinning, then take the memory card out of the video camera, step on it with a red boot at noon on an overcast Tuesday, you’ll see very clearly either the head of the madonna or a fish, and you will know your future.

All that cold, cold wet day

was old, old in our minds today, but we used it to think cool while the weather on the hair side of the brain was stifling. dear chirp, we drip-dragged ourselves down the beach hunting for mai tais, manatees and a fan. the ocean was boiling, the beach, fused quartz. ice was worth more than diamonds. El Presidente does not flatter in a speedo. but who needs good looks when you’re the only one with the remote. legend has it that a cube from the last glacier is preserved inside a secret pyramid and El Presidente visits it to cool off with the pool boys. even my thoughts of ice are sweating.

I sat there with Sally, we sat there we two

stunned in the ruins of a Stalin-era school house. We had been hunting in the jungle for the ancient pyramid when we came across an abandoned school, dear static. inside, slogans scampered across the floor like caterpillars late for a metamorphosis appointment. guitars strummed themselves to sleep at nap time. the walls were covered with photos of a smiling, young El Presidente standing next to a man identified as Dr. Mindmeld. among piles of field trip reports and geometry workbooks we discovered Dr. Mindmeld’s notebooks detailing how he had constructed El Presidente using Lego mindstorm and a DIY cloning kit!

And I said “How I wish …

we had not stumbled upon this terrible knowledge,” as we bushwhacked our way back to what we now suspected was a city of mutants. We pushed through the jungle vendors trying to sell us blueprints of nuclear devices and how-to guides for lukewarm fusion. the mosquitos were particularly feisty today playing roller derby with our heads. we were looking forward to a shower but when we got back to the hotel we discovered our room had been ransacked by what looked like streaking pigmies flying kites, juggling (unsuccessfully) all of our travel books and generally bumping, thumping into the furniture and walls. dear puzzlement, the place was a mess, but at least Sally and I knew …

We had something to do

luckily the imps with einstein hairdos ignored our costumes so we could still attend the party at the embassy. I was a fox in socks and Sally was dressed as a turtle. El Presidente arrived, grinching to his police chief about all his botched jobs. we faced the aquarium pretending to count red and blue fish. Have no fear, said a cat who turned out to be the ambassador, we will get you out of this zoo in a diplomatic shipment of huevos verdes y jamón, the prime minister’s favorite. And so, dear, dear mamá, Sally and I should be back to see you on Mulberry Street any day now. Safe and smelling of breakfast.

—Stefi Weisburd

The Lingerie Sale by Kelli Hoppmann


from The Lingerie Sale, Kelli Hoppmann, oil on panel, 2014

The sisters were blind, but the three of them tracked
each other by means of high-pitched cries that also
allowed them to navigate the forest, driving their prey
before them. If they became hungry they sent a bird
aloft to scout for woodsmen or lost travelers. Then
the youngest and loveliest, cleverly disguised
as a living human, would arrange a wardrobe failure,
pose in the vermilion coils of her dragon, and allow
her nature to take its course. The silk she spun was
invisibly fine. The middle sister would measure him
for the cage, in case the web and its illusion of freedom
did not hold. The eldest sister sharpened her beak
in preparation for her duties and composed a brief
eulogy—which also served as a grace.

—F.J. Bergmann

Self 2.0

It’s simpler this way: no dye, no tweeze,
just ease yourself into the latest shape
& get on with your life. That heap of meat
can’t keep up with the times, or be maintained
sustainably, despite its primal charm
already fading. Failing to upgrade
just keeps you stuck—that’s why the truly smart
girls choose to love themselves by loving change.

Yet self-love is the loneliest without
judicious editing of heart & mind
to mildness, every square peg coming round
at last. No space inside this chic design
for circuitry complex enough to hold
opinions ripened by your thoughts alone.

—Ann K. Schwader

In the nursery

Snowlight warms the green grass carpet as the Nanny,
cloaked in scarlet moss, begins to sing

Put your finger in the air, in the air
Put your finger in the air, in the air
Put your finger in the air, hold it right up there

Thirteen feathered fingers point to the cupid covered ceiling
Thirteen voices repeat her every word

Put your finger on your nose, on your nose
Put your finger on your nose, on your nose
Put your finger on your nose, feel it as it grows

Thirteen feathered fingers feel burgeoning knobs throb
beneath thirteen maroon masks

Put your finger on your beak, on your beak
Put your finger on your beak, on your beak
Put your finger on your beak, leave it there about a week

Thirteen feathered fingers tap tiny blue beaks
Thirteen children chortle and chirp in avian delight

Put your finger on your eye, on your eye
Put your finger on your eye, on your eye
Put your finger on your eye, see if you will die

Thirteen feathered fingers touch thirteen violet eyes
The Nanny sings as one child chortles her final refrain

Put your finger on your finger, on your finger
Put your finger on your finger, on your finger
Put your finger on your finger, dare death to linger

Twelve feathered fingers flicker above purple crested brows
Twelve children circle round and round and the Nanny sings …

—Elaine Schwartz