Alone in the woods, John forgot his shame; he was frightened. Just turned twelve, he knew of desperate thieves, sentenced to die by the rope, who had taken refuge among the sycamores which remembered the Romans, and the oaks which had drunk the blood of Druid sacrifices. As for animals, there were wolves and bears and long-tusked boars, and amphibaenas too, the twin-headed serpents and griffins with scaly wings. Worst of all, there were the Mandrake People who, grown like roots, clambered out of the ground to join their kin in acts of cannibalism.

© Thomas Burnett Swann, from ‘The Manor of Roses’

This is just to say
I have thought about it.

The rituals of paper and bronze pass
and metal and silk dwindle in the lap of years.

The only gift is in the elements:

A pinwheel of hydrangea in October.
Periwinkle shells scattered on stones.

Seahorse fossils in high mountain grass.
The attempt at words,

a presence of paradox —

And the knowledge,
that nothing is enough.

© Laurie Kuntz, ‘Anniversary’ originally published in The Pedestal Magazine.

… his mother’s ghost, his sum of remembering …

Thomas Burnett Swann, from his short story, ‘The Manor of Roses’.

here your brilliant mouth
here your crimson eye.
here your fire is my dawn, this roof my black sewn sky.

my green mouth and my hands, the scabs
of your absence, the healed-over wound,
granular with memories of the stars beneath your sun.

© Elizabeth Gross, from ‘Delphi’ as published in Goblin Fruit.

I am a small, simple pin-doll,
sojourner on the path of needles,
and the path of pins.
I am Ridinghood.
The wolf said I must choose from the two,
motherhood and pins,
the needle path of freedom.
But I have not chosen and
traveled with two maps, practicing invisibility,
mastering bilocation, stitching a prayer into each lace.

I am the magick grandma of the forest,
wise woman, crone, keeper of herbs
and incantations. I live in a hut with two doors,
where gypsy daughters may entertain lovers.
Embracing all between the swaddling and the shroud,
I wash the newborn, and wash the dead.
Pins will pick up pieces of all they contact.
I am a full, ripe, scarlet poppet,
a small, simple pin-doll.

© Patricia A. Boutilier, ‘Pin Doll’ originally published in Goblin Fruit.

Once the initials of the kingdom
are carved in bittersweet dalliance,
the Queen eats only fleurs-de-lis,
continuous abalone of a suave persuasion,
an occasional valence of mass hysteria.

Often we have heard her lemming
in the raw corn silk of the night
— argumentative Gatling, endless
whalebones, meretricious knees —
all of the lady in sly concoction,
irreparable as the bare velocity
of her bodice-torn meat.

And this we know and this we are,
camouflaged and flogged by sleep,
as if the rain that seeps along
the flowering crevices
and streaked crenelations
of Cyclopean warriors, proud
to serve Her Majesty’s exposed
exaltations, could actually feed
the dark and mouthless children
who defile the square.

© Bruce Boston, ‘All of the Lady in Sly Concoction’ originally published in Goblin Fruit.

My mourning-battened soul she eats, each bite
a scabrous skin sloughed off, a grief entombed,
until my psyche’s stripped to bone. Then light
reveals my weakness, and I’m sure I’m doomed

to loll in hunger at her feet, a cur
that begs for table scraps; a pilgrim gaunt
from fasting, raven-eyed at sight of her;
a wraith demystified, too pale to haunt

and dashed to earth with feathers, leaves, and dirt,
yet sentient, aware of powers lost.
But soon she holds me in her arms, and hurt
is gone. Divine embrace! Her ankles crossed

behind my back, she kisses me to feed
me back my pain refined — a poet’s need.

© Thomas Zimmerman, ‘Devouring Muse’ originally published in Goblin Fruit.

Sisyphus lifts the thighbone of a god
Above his head (a bone thick and long as
A felled tree) and begins his trudge
Across the hard-packed dust.

Spills of silver fluid blanket uneven stone,
Not pooling in hollows but spreading in
Thin film atop the ground, slick sheets
Draped over surface, that part rather than
Splash as Sisyphus steps through.

Pipes, metal, ceramic, cracked, of
Unpredictable diameter rise from valley floor
As breathing tubes from water; some protrude
Through mounds of bone. Ragged
Openings echo voices from some
Place deep below, their syllables
Forming no language Sisyphus knows.

Sheer black rock bluffs rise from the plain,
Jagged walls carving empty ocean basin
Into this bewildering maze where Sisyphus
Is never lost as he walks, titan bone
Balanced over head, around and over other
Cyclopean remains, charred pelvises or ribs,
A jaw bone that rocks itself, still eager to speak,
Fingers long as Sisyphus’ legs croaking
Come Hither. Sisyphus has seen all before
And ignores.

From these bleak walls towers rise, not built
So much as grown, or eroded, stalagmites
Stabbing into oilslick sky. At intervals,
Massed clusters rise as castles, their rough
Battlements riddled with windows, round portholes
Peppered at random, even bored into unsculpted
Bluffs; sometimes faces peer from them,
Bestial visages, or smooth masks, or things
Much more indistinct. They never speak, and in
A blink have gone. On them, Sisyphus
Wastes no wonder.

Shadows in the maze constantly change,
Thrown by whatever arch the spines of the sun
Choose to sweep as it twists and squirms
Cross-sky, a glowing wyrm whose radiance
Brings no heat, its soft progress sometimes
Thwarted by coils of sickly rainbow cloud,
Sometimes whipped along in eddies
of a firmament where colors never blend.
Like Sisyphus the sun never settles or sets,
Merely strains against confinement, thrashing
To all compass points and back again.
Sisyphus remembers a moon, complex
Mobile of cold beauty, intricate pieces that
Spun and interwove; but like the night,
It’s banished; he can’t remember when
he last saw it shimmer above.

Pushing against the grain of a wind
That sucks and blows as breath,
Sisyphus arrives at last at neat fields
Carved at random by castle shadows.
This is his destination, though no place of rest.
Among the ordered rows of bone
He walks, until he comes to a tract where
Parts of a behemoth skeleton
Lie ceremonially on the ground,
Arranged as one should be;
Shoulders above ribs, feet below knees;
Gingerly, he lowers thighbone into place.
No arms yet, no hands, no head.
Sisyphus walks away, with countless
More bones to search among
To find and collect the right ones.

Once this god is together again,
Perhaps it will tell him why it placed
Him here, why night never comes,
Whether Sisyphus has at last
Repaid his long-forgotten debt.
And if it has no such to say,
then he will begin again
with another one.

© Mike Allen, ‘Sisyphus Walks’ originally published in Goblin Fruit.