Strange Horizons July 2011
Poetry edited by Mark Rudolph (Senior Editor), Erin Keane, Drew Morse, Sonya Taaffe
Reviewed by Francesca Forrest
“Our Father Who Art,” by Jeanie Tomasko (25 July)
A beautiful, multilayered, long first verse, in which two sisters are sent by their father to study mathematics and art. They travel by train, with
a portion of bread, a book
All is not well, though—a shining dome is made of lead,
heavier than all the glory in the world
which is what our father
would have said
but our narrator
closed a blind eye and studied;
learned about sin and co-sin,
things like that.
But then comes the mysterious short concluding verse, which leaves me in uncomprehending confusion. I feel like I’m missing a key piece of knowledge that would let me understand what’s being said; it’s as if there’s a reference to Hamlet’s to-be-or-not-to-be soliloquoy, but I’ve never read Shakespeare. It has to do with liver? I wait for a clever friend to explain it to me.
“The Internet in Heaven,” by Sara Polsky (18 July)
In place of a medium and table rapping, we have instant-messaging across the divide of death. Near the end, the pathos of this yearning to speak with the dead is clear:
I press the video button in vain, wanting to know without asking
whether you carry tissues in the coins’ old place in your pocket
in case of tears as we type.
“The Mesozoic Tour Guide,” by Ken Liu (11 July)
A series of amusing facts and dos and don’ts for time-traveling visitors to the Mesozoic, such as
If baby theropods warble,
It means they like your yellow dress.
Keep your arms inside at all times.
This is not a diorama.
It would be easy enough to conclude the poem by wishing the tourists well and inviting them to come again, so I was a bit surprised at the turn the poet decided to take at the end. It adds a potentially somber note to what’s hitherto been lighthearted, but the poem still works.
“Homebound,” by Shweta Narayan (4 July)
A sibling spirited away under the fairy hill and another left behind here: the first comes to visit the second (or so I read the poem), wants some black bread and bitter ale, having grown tired of nectar and cakes. Well and good, but when it comes to sugar for the coffee her sister brews her, that’s not so easily had:
All the bitter
in this house, I say, every salt-washed shard
is yours. But the sugar has a price.
Wonderful lines that I’ll carry with me and repeat for some time, and the poem, lean and spare, maintains that level of lyricism throughout.