“After Appomattox” by Holly Cooley
A fascinating anecdote, and one that drove me immediately to a fruitless perusal of Google and my historian friends to see if the story of reused photographic plates in gas masks could be true. It makes a difference; if true, this is a wonderful poem with a compelling premise, but not at all speculative; if the images of Civil War soldiers on WWI gas masks is an invention of the poet, even though perfectly plausible, it catapults us squarely into the realm of alternate history.
“The Cyburgs” by Constance Cooper
This perfect sonnet evokes disquieting shades of Second Life, and has a nasty little punchline. One of my favorites from this collection.
“Les Fantomes (29 August 2005)” by James S. Dorr
Disclaimer: I don't much care for poems in dialect. Furthermore, this one doesn't come across as authentic. I also feel that the poem is rather slight, and its Pollyanna-ish suggestion that “jazz/sounds cure” is a sick-making trivialization as a reaction to the hurricane's impact. Nor is the inclusion of the word “spooks” sufficient to qualify it as a horror poem. And, in a spirit of utter pedantry, the title should have been Les Fantômes.
“Virgin Dragon Birth” by Gary Every
While this is an account of an actual event, the title is such a classic melding of fantasy and mythic tropes that I am completely willing, in this case, to forgive its mundane origin. The idea of watching for the “three wise lizards” is hilarious!
“Loup garou” by Serena Fusek
I like this short poem, except for the first sentence (“The world/is shifting sand”), which is not only a cliché, but bears little relation to the rest of the poem, particularly since the basic theme is the consistency of the narrator as an enabler for the werewolf, “no matter who he rends.”
“Chaos Theory” by Jeannine Hall Gailey
A good poem but essentially a science poem, not a speculative poem. The title relates awkwardly to the rest of the poem; the father's stated obsession with order does not penetrate the rest of the poem, which centers on mutation and the consequences of withheld information.
“The Golden Age” by Lyn C.A. Gardner
An interjection on publishing layout here: while the entire anthology is marred by peculiar kerning (the spaces between letters within words), it is especially apparent in this poem. Back to the poem itself: it is reasonably well-rendered blank verse, and I want to like it, but I'm having trouble figuring out the underlying story. While clearly speculative, and obviously involving the manipulation of time or near-lightspeed flight (“holos of our grandchildren,/Already grown while we sit nine years hence”), the essential purpose of the trip and task are opaque.
“How to Hide in a Japanese Print” by Lila Garrott
I'd like this poem better with the first stanza, which introduces a Greek mythic reference to no purpose, omitted. That said, I find it otherwise entrancing, despite its speculative ambiguity. “Fear is a closed book” is my favorite line. The longer lines in the first and last stanzas seem peculiar.
“The Amateur Astronomer in Me” by Timothy Green
This is mundane science rather than science fiction, but I love the last lines:
There's nothing new up there.
All things take up space
but words. Even mystery
is something invented
not too long ago.
"Weightless" by K.S. Hardy
The transition from light-hearted to dark happens in an instant, like a cloud passing over. Some of the line breaks don't help the poem, but basically, it's lovely.
"The Night Silent" by Christopher Hivner
This is a cliché-ridden (except for Glenlivet replacing the expected Southern Comfort or mint julep) Southern gothic. On the other hand, kudzu is pretty scary—as global warming progresses, I may not be safe in Wisconsin for much longer.
"Cellwoman" by Deborah P Kolodji
Tight and funny! It makes me wonder what cell-phones accidentally dropped into toilets turn into (3 in our family so far). I'd like to think they implant themselves into albino alligators in the sewer system to create saurian cyborgs.