live physicist tank
I’d posted that horrorku (horror haiku) on Facebook. I didn’t care if I got a response, I was just doing what everyone else is doing on Facebook – sharing. Two weeks later I accumulated a grand total of three “likes” and one comment, the latter being from none other than my wife. “I never know what he’s talking about,” she wrote. “Lol.” What she was really saying was, “I really don’t care for your poetry, Babe, but I support your love for it.”
She does. From the hours I spend at my desk to the stacks of printed pages lost to revision, she won’t interfere as long as I am enjoying myself. (If I told her I was quitting my job to focus on my body of work… Well, I probably wouldn’t have much of a body left to speak of.) But honestly, as much as I value her support, I’d accept some friction every now and then if she understood what I was “talking about.” It’s not just her. I expect puzzled looks when I share my poetry.
I’ve shied away from explaining my poems because of that same underlying fear I spoke of in Short Answers, that fear of saying the wrong thing. Also, I feel that if I explain one of my poems it will go supernova and then what’s left of its meaning will be sucked into the ensuing black hole. But then again, I guess that can’t do much damage to a tiny poem that accumulated a mere three “likes.”
The first step in understanding my poem is to understand what a speculative poem is. In a Strange Horizons editorial,“The Idea of the Real,” Mark Rich explains that “in speculative poem, the poet presents an unreal world as though presenting a real one.” And according to Grand Master speculative poet Bruce Boston, what separates speculative poetry from mainstream poetry is that “[s]peculative poetry has more to do with the imagination, the world of dreams and the world as it could be. (Read more of Bruce Boston’s interview with John Amen in The Pedestal Magazine here.)
In the context of my horrorku, in the “unreal world” as a “real one,” zombies exist. With that fact established, I imagined that, since zombies do indeed exist in this world, there would be five-star restaurants that catered to zombies with discriminating tastes. And taking my premise one step further, instead of live lobsters, this restaurant would offer a fresh selection of physicists—who, of course, have the choicest brains.
Instead of sucking out all the meaning of the following poem, however, I’ll just conclude by offering a little insight into its premise. It comes from a series of poems I’ve been working in which melds modern astronomy with Greek and Roman mythology. In the unreal world that I present as real, I speak directly to Io (once Juno’s high priestess, now one of the four Galilean moons) about how she found herself in her predicament for having an affair with Jupiter.
Io’s Reality Check
by Kurt MacPhearson
You’ll find no sympathy,
because Juno’s tears were more than irritation
from your stealthy plumes of sulfur dioxide.
It doesn’t matter
if you couldn’t resist Jupiter’s charms.
You were her priestess, dammit!
Yet you still simmer beside your peers,
just because, to avoid getting caught,
he temporarily transformed you into a heifer.
You could have ended up like Medusa.
Europa surely doesn’t care.
They’ve got enough problems.
Why should they worry about the internal stress
from the command Jupiter still wields
over your heart.
We all know its iron.
Your tantrums don’t fool anyone.
Just be content with the fact
that instead of becoming one of four moons
that got Galileo’s attention,
Juno could have turned you
into a sow.
Originally appeared in Dreams and Nightmares #88