Editor’s Note: Vol. 13 Issue 4...

Our end-of-year issue features poems that span the night sky and look back across the centuries.

Alexandra Seidel’s “The Star Reader’s Almanac” summons the wonder of the sky, a topic taken up again in the charming scene in C.E. Hyun’s “Dragon Girl”. In Bogi Takács’s and Marian Rosarum’s poems, two very different characters – one a woman who believes herself to be unremarkable, and another a powerful goddess – travel through history on their respective quests. Next, in Mary Soon Lee’s “The Matter of the Horses” we meet King Xau once again. Having won over the horses and the horse lords, his next challenge is to capture the respect of his own general. Lynette Mejía’s “Visiting Hours” presents us with an immortal (this seems to be a running theme), but one whose vast life seems hopelessly limited by the mortality of the person she loves most. With “A Kindness of Ravens,” James J. Stevenson brings us a similar hospital scene, but one in which the confines of a hospital bed are not limiting at all – thanks to a certain trickster bird.

If you enjoy this journey through time and space, please consider leaving a small donation in our tip jar. Ideomancer relies on reader donations to pay its contributors for their excellent fiction and poetry, and even five dollars makes a big difference.

Beth Langford
Poetry Editor

Vol. 13 Issue 4
Special Poetry Issue
Editor’s Note
“The Star Reader’s AlmanacAlexandra Seidel
“Six Hundred and Thirteen Commandments”Bogi Takács
“Demeter Sails the Stars”Marian Rosarum
“Dragon Girl”C. E. Hyun
“The Matter of the Horses”Mary Soon Lee
“Visiting Hours”Lynette Mejía
“A Kindness of Ravens”James J. Stevenson
Helen Marshall’s Gifts for the One Who Comes AfterClaire Humphrey
Collections: Kaleidoscope and IrregularityLiz Bourke

Photograph of December frost in Sweden, by Sigurdas, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Unported license.

13:4: “The Matter of the Horses”, by Mary Soon Lee...

General Qiang stood in King Xau’s tent
with the king’s other generals
and the king’s advisors
and the king’s guards
and the king’s serving boy
and the king himself,
the tent crowded with men,
rank with sweat.

The young king sat on a stool,
his left arm in a sling,
a grimness about him
that matched Qiang’s own mood
though the war was over,
the victory theirs,
the king’s advisors jubilant.

Qiang hadn’t slept last night.
Had tried to sleep. Failed.
Yesterday’s battle still with him.
The horses. Mud, rain, blood.

In the tent, the talk moved
to the matter of the horses,
to how it could be exploited
for conquest.

“No,” said the king.
One word enough to quiet the tent.
“We do not crave conquest.”

“Even so,” said an advisor,
“we should test the limits
of your control over the horses,
the better to employ it for defense.”

The advisor turned to Qiang.
“General, how would you proceed?”

Qiang looked at the advisor,
a man who’d never fought a single battle,
who’d sheltered in a tent yesterday,
warm and dry,
while rain cascaded from Qiang’s saddle, his armor,
turning earth and horse-shit to stinking mud,
Qiang riding on the king’s right
(the king, injured, unable to hold a shield,
but still riding),
Qiang’s horse maneuvering beneath him
before he even gave the commands,
all the horses in perfect unison
as if they were a thousand shadows
of a single faultless form–
a thing out of legend,
out of the old times
when dragons flew to King Nariz
and demons walked the earth–
the stench,
the pounding of hooves, of Qiang’s pulse,
as he rode beside the king,
as the enemy charged full at them–

And stopped.

Every horse in the Red King’s army
rooted to the spot
though their riders kicked them.
Whereupon the Red King,
red-haired and red-handed in war,
screamed in his barbarous language.
And then the enemy had slaughtered
their own horses,
slitting their necks,
the horses foundering in blood–

Qiang looked at the advisor and said,
“If it were my decision,
I wouldn’t test the horses.
I would let them be.”

“Even if inaction now leads to defeat later?”

“Even then.”

Into the stretching silence,
the king spoke:
“What happened with the horses
is not a trick to practice and parade,
but a gift. A gift the horses gave.
A gift for which many of them died.”

The king’s gaze rested on Qiang, anchoring him.

Qiang touched his hand to his heart,
offered it palm-up to the king,
a gesture Qiang had never made before,
the sign of allegiance of warriors
in the old tales.

The tent crowded with men,
but for that moment
only the two of them.

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but became a naturalized US citizen in 2003. Her poetry credits include Atlanta Review, Apex Magazine, Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and Star*Line. More of her work-in-progress may be read at thesignofthedragon.com. She says:

I wrote “The Matter of the Horses” a year after I first started writing about King Xau. I’d been thinking about how Xau’s advisors and generals would urge him to exploit his power over horses, and how he would react to that. When I let General Qiang into the poem, it acquired its own identity.

Photograph of hoarfrost in Niedersachsen, Germany, by Daniel Schwen, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

13:4: “A Kindness of Ravens”, by James J. Stevenson...

A Kindness of Ravens

Raven had taken many forms—
coyote, infant, pine-needle—
when tales were told
and heroes could shape shift
from one telling to the next.

But when stories stopped being spoken
and cement poured over his talons
Raven became a hospital
tricking carrion into preservation
in freshly sanitized pickle jars.

From his north wing, Nana heard
the forest coming down
while a sedge of flightless cranes
built nests for the wing-clipped
parliaments, coveys, and convocations.

Raven was her eyes
explaining how nightingale floors
were being installed so no patient
could escape without sounding
the alarm of bird song;

how the skylark’s spirit had been caged
in a library shaped like a book;
and how there was only one way
to see a blackbird now:
simplified in an apartment complex.

The parking lot was a damp
black rook in the rain
and the food court a windhover
made prey to never again ride,
glide, or stride in the morning.

Raven saw Nana’s cataracts lighten
and warned her that to turn left of the sunrise
is to die if it’s the wrong season,
but she stretched her wing north
where every beat turned her south

until Raven raised his own wing
admitting that the wrong season
sometimes is the right one after all.
Her blue vulture eyes returned to green
and she flew north as a kindness of ravens.

James J. Stevenson speculates and fictionalises in Vancouver. His stories, poems, and comics have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies including Vallum, Spellbound, and Fearsome Fables. Follow his daily haiku on Twitter @writelightning or on his blog writewithlightning.com.
He says:

“A Kindness of Ravens” was inspired by the visits I made to see my grandmother at the UBC Hospital and the cranes (birds) and cranes (machines) all over campus. I imagined Raven, trickster deity of the Haida, forming a kindness of ravens with my grandmother when she died, rather than one of the actual collective nouns for ravens: an unkindness. There is also a pandemonium of other avian literary allusions in the poem. Comment if you can find them!

Photograph of hoarfrost in Niedersachsen, Germany, by Daniel Schwen, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

13:4: “Visiting Hours”, by Lynette Mejía...

I knew I couldn’t keep you.
grey hair so human, splayed
like spider silk across the starched pillow
a firefly, a flicker among the trees
like the ones I captured as a child.

I watch you breathe.
listen to your life measured
by the rhythms of machines
though truth be told they are more
a crutch for me than for you.

I think about time.
a breeze across my cheek
and your breath on my neck
lying in a pool of sunlight or silver
eyes shining in the darkness.

How difficult to love.
something which measures time
in moments, a day, an hour
you are god to a butterfly
you are a butterfly to me.

How easy to forget.
we were never young
together, won’t grow old together.
Instead I’ll sit here and watch
with ever-sharp immortal eyes
the flowers in the vase beside you die.

Lynette Mejía writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror prose and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Goblin Fruit, Dreams & Nightmares, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, and Star*Line. She is currently working on a master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and lives in Carencro, Louisiana with her husband, three children, six cats, and one dog. You can find her online at www.lynettemejia.com. She says:

“Visiting Hours” was inspired by a short story I wrote a few years ago called “Becoming,” about two lovers, Elinor, who is fae, and Dee, who is human, and their quest for acceptance in the world. I still think about Dee and Elinor every once in a while, wondering how they are, and what’s become of them. This poem was the result of that, imagining how hard it would be to part with someone you loved so deeply, but how much the worse for knowing that your time alone would not be measured in months or years, but in centuries. 

Photograph of hoarfrost in Niedersachsen, Germany, by Daniel Schwen, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

13:4: “Dragon Girl”, by C. E. Hyun...

The dragon girl soared
over the city. From below,
a little boy pointed
and waved. She was
his favorite hero.
She waved back.

C.E. Hyun’s stories have appeared in The Good Men Project, decomP, Mirror Dance, and The Northville Review. She currently lives in Orange County, California and at cehyun.com. She says:

I love superheroes, and wanted to write something whimsical and subversive concerning them.

Photograph of hoarfrost in Niedersachsen, Germany, by Daniel Schwen, is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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