Odysseus Alone at Sea

This selection is paired with Book 5 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get Issue 22 of NonBinary Review from Zoetic Press.


Why do I smell hyacinth on the night air—

black upon rising black, ruthless thrum
my aching elbow slipping from splintered plank
this is the end

and yet I lash the sea, ever-deep,
as cavernous as the hollow is
that I felt within my hipbone
as a boy sprinting down the shore of Ithaca
as I saw your hair lift
the first time

I will drown, and yet the tether of you runs down
into my belly, cords about my arrogance
and calls me king
mortal union
the air no god can steal

Salt crusts the edge of this honey-stained mouth
that reaches for you

Ithaca

Blood mists from these sputtered breaths,
though I cannot see it in the blackness

Ithaca
I would know your shape
the shape of unwrapping my wife from blankets,
sheen of warm sleep still on her forehead
the way her arm crooks something close in the shade of sleep
sopping linen ache, raw with sea,
deafening sameness, while my desperate hands
bend this fractured wood into olive bark,
the branches above

and you
you are Ithaca
to whom I will return.


Amy E. Casey writes poetry, poem-comics, and fiction. Her work has been seen in Split Rock Review, Psaltery & Lyre, and Sheepshead Review. She is a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives and writes in Wisconsin, near the cold, wild shores of Lake Michigan.

Before Paris Came

This selection is paired with Book 4 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get Issue 22 of NonBinary Review from Zoetic Press.


After the mining methods advanced, the delta changed colors: yellows, chartreuses, coppers, even sick blues all running down the hills and stagnating in the mud. The change confuses the snow geese—they swoop over the marsh in sad loops before, unsure where to land. When I say the water tasted strange my husband (that flinty Menelaus, my cherished Menny) says he could have clean water imported from the hills. I say that sounded like a lot of work.

Helen, Quit complaining, he says.

I’m not complaining, I say.

If I were a man, I might be an alchemist.

Menny asks, why don’t you take up weaving?

I remind him that I weave already, that I made him a shroud.

He says It’s as if you want me dead. Then he says, I can’t read you, Helen. What’s going on in that head of yours?

I think there’s something in his blood itching for battle. This is Sparta, after all.

From the balcony, I watch the boys training in the delta below, running in lines like ants or felling pines, stripping them of bark, building crude little matchbox houses. Sometimes their torches look like signals at night so I stare out the window with a lantern and brush my hair, illuminating my face, so if their captain was to scan up with his binoculars he could see me. Menny pretends to hate this, but he knows there’s no point to marrying the most beautiful woman in the world if no one sees her.

Since my father was a swan, I hatched from an egg, and keep the shell fragments under my bed.

Menny calls them a potential biohazard.

Don’t talk, I say, you come from a pussy.

That’s natural, he says.

So’s cannibalism, I say.

We have this conversation at least once a week.

I learn from a merchant that the mines are for tin and lead. I hope they’re getting what they’re looking for. He says it’s a new technique. Something hydraulic. I ask him to explain it to me and he does—we stay up late at night boiling lobster and talking economics. He draws supply curves in oil on an overturned plate. Luxury goods, he tells me, do not follow the rules. He gives me a look and I know what he means.

Sometimes I tell Menny I’m going out to market by the harbor and when I return he asks why I’ve bought nothing back but the smell of salt in my hair. How can I explain that all I want is to watch the ships unload their crates of saffron and fennel and cardamom, ripe pomegranates, smoked tea, cedarwood from Uruk and drums of olive oil viscous as secrets?

Let’s go see the mines, I say to Menny.

Why? He asks.

I tell him it’s important to understand our reign’s economic status.

He looks strangely at me. That’s an awfully sensible answer, Helen. Not what I’ve come to expect from you.

We ride out to the mines one sun-drenched, hot afternoon. The countryside’s parched, the light flat. Peasants and helots wave and call out as we ride by. The olive trees shake their dull plumage. We wind up the hills to the entrance of tin mine. The Forman greets us and shows us the dig site, the chalky pit and the aqueducts, the workers cleaving away at ore. We pay our respects at the mine’s makeshift shrine to pray for its fertility. These new methods are truly revolutionary, says the Forman.

Haven’t you seen what they do to the water? I ask.

Helen! Says Menny.

On the way here we passed dead fish floating in the reeds, I say.

The foreman is silent.

Menny says, If the hills are fertile then the hills are willing.

That’s why you don’t have a child yet, I say.

The foreman stands there, brow knotted in panic, eyes darting between my face and Menny’s.

Menny breaks into an easy laugh, and I’m relieved. We thank the foreman and ride back. When we’ve had our dinner and are sitting on the veranda I begin to make a catapult from silverware and stringy tulip stems, Menny huffs in exasperation. Helen. Look at you.

He says, you want to go to the mines and then you insult them. You do your hair for an hour every morning. You sit by the window and obsess over the river. You ask me how dark my pee is after drinking various teas. You talk to bees. You build tiny contraptions inside books. You take naps when we have visitors. You get up at two in the morning to cook lobster. You’re bored, Helen.

I’m not bored

You’re bored and you’re contrarian.

I’m not bored, I say. I’m just curious.

Even where the dirt looks dry, there is groundwater.


Elizabeth Wing is a rising sophomore at the Pratt Insitute. Her work has appeared in venues including Hanging Loose Magazine, Up North Lit, The Defiant Scribe, Jet Fuel Review, and Euphony. In 2018 Gordon Square Review nominated her short story “Leda’s Daughters” for a Pushcart Prize. When not at school, she lives in California where she works in a popsicle truck and teaches animal tracking.

Penelope Sends a Love Letter

This selection is paired with Book 3 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get Issue 22 of NonBinary Review from Zoetic Press.


This water will never forgive you.
You may be able to rise from it
but you will never be clean.

You will always notice bits
of kelp on the pillow of
her bed in the morning,

falling out of your clothes
as you peel them off each night.
This water will follow you,

engulf you on dry land,
spray up from your lungs
as you stretch out on the beach,

your memory mixing my scent with
hers. You will always smell
like this water, salt and decay.

Even if you sacrifice six bulls to Poseidon,
even if you cut into your own palm,
offer your wine-dark blood to the waves,

no, not even then will this water forgive you.

I wash our son in the tub,
hold his head in the cup

of my hand to keep his face
above the water line.

I start with his eyes because the nurse
said they are the cleanest part.

His fingers trawl through the warmth
as I work my way to his soft belly.

He laughs, but you will never hear this
because your ears are plugged with sand.


Meghan Trask Smith teaches English at a boarding school in Massachusetts where she lives with her cartoonist husband, indefatigable children, and one very fuzzy dog. She shows up to writing each day with the hope that the Muse will visit. Her work has appeared in Mom Egg Review, Blast Furnace Journal, cahoodaloodaling, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, and Quiet Circle Magazine.

Waiting on Odysseus

This selection is paired with Book 2 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get Issue 22 of NonBinary Review from Zoetic Press.


my friend and I were talking about our online dating experiences and he asked me what I was looking for in a man and I said, I am waiting on Odysseus, and he couldn’t stop laughing

they deem themselves Prince Charmings
all sweet and words
pour sugar onto shit
and promise the world

intellectual
caught up in his own smarts
spins out hefty thinking
acts impressed/surprised I understand

soldier/cop/guard
hides his empty under a uniform
thinks my wild is refreshing
until he can’t keep it down

broken men
come up from addictions/afflictions
wonder if I’m home plate
wonder if I can fill the job description of woman wanted

pot-bellied ex-classmates/random strangers
living in broken marriages
see my beautiful and mysterious face as the light
at the end of their boring domestic tunnel

old and young lined up in front of my cage
sticking their dicks through the bars
their pretty words seep
in flood of stink

used to be I’d soak it all up
offer them tea and quiet
massage away their pains
while I considered the possibility

now I pace

in front of the maze I’ve built
with my stories and poems
my kids sheltered far enough inside
they don’t hear the cat-calling

no one
is coming through these bars again
not even Odysseus
with his significant adventures

he waited too long
and I’m no Penelope
waiting waiting waiting
on possibility and hope

I took up with several of the suitors
Eurymachus was the smoothest and the worst
kicked him out too
what kind of man is jealous of a woman’s son?

no more waiting, stitching
the only time past childhood that I stitched
was when I had to lie down for months
so my sons wouldn’t get born too soon

though no Anticlea
it’s the sons I will wait for
Odysseus, this is my home
you are no longer welcome


Laila Halaby is the author of two novels, Once in a Promised Land and West of the Jordan, as well as a collection of poetry my name on his tongue.

Proxy

This selection is paired with Book 2 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get Issue #22 of NonBinary Review from Zoetic Press.


In Ithaca each night, the suitors sung her name
(and to/of her praises) though lewd and out-of-tune.

So seven-and-a-half-(some) years into The War,
it wasn’t just the women who hated her, but

the old men and the-no-longer-toddling children,
when they all began to pick and choose their

smooth stones, jagged rocks (and boulders)
to hurl at the still, pretty wife who’d, unlike

chaste Penelope, taken one of these “eligible” men
claiming to know the fate of her husband before

she’d had—and it was that Name held back
by (and underneath tongues)—with a loudness

(never uttered) which could not have made their
aim more true: Helen, no, Penelope, no, Helen.


Eric Pierzchala teaches Humanities, is a former professional baseball player, and teaches chess to children. Eric holds an MFA in poetry from Murray State University. His poems have recently appeared in: Plain Spoke, The 2018 Surrealist/Outsider Anthologie, Rue Scribe, Cathexis Northwest Press, The Stirling Spoon, and The International Anthology on Paradoxism.

She Contains All

This selection is paired with Book 1 of The Odyssey by Homer. You can get the full issue of NonBinary Review #22 from Zoetic Press.


I waited for you and I waited. I waited and waited. After some years of waiting, I took a pebble from the stream outside the garden. After some years of waiting, I emptied the thrice-mended offering bowl of nothing. After some years of waiting, I wiped the thrice-mended offering bowl clean of the accumulation of my waiting: ashes, ashes, and dust. After some years of waiting, I put the bowl beneath the bedroom shrine and shifted the shrine drape to keep the bowl from prying eyes. The maids and our son. The guards and the cook. A suitor, another suitor. Another suitor again. None of them would know. None of them would see. After some years of waiting, I dropped that first stone inside.

Waiting each day, I walked to the stream. Waiting each day, I clutched the hem of my skirt to the tops of my knees and waded, waiting, into the water. Each day, I secreted a pebble into the folds of my skirts: each pebble my pearl, never larger than the birthmark on my left shoulder, never larger than the peeking stone of our child’s first tooth. My accounted account, my bottomless boon for another day, another day, another day wadded through, waiting. One pebble. One very small stone.

Every day, I took my pebble home and dropped it in that empty offering bowl, that empty offering bowl I received at our wedding feast, that empty offering bowl once intended for offerings of water and flowers in gratitude for each and every night I received you, each and every night I loved you, each and every night you were there to love me back. Four years the bowl sat empty but for the offering of my dead skin. Now, each and every day I return from the stream with a very small rock. Each day, I drop this very small rock in the very large bowl. I listen for the clink of it: first against the empty clay, then against the other stones. Then dropping down the mountain of pebbles smaller than baby’s teeth and birthmarks drifting up the sides.

I remember that first time our bowl broke. I was not in the room. There was an earthquake. The earth shook. The maids shrieked, our son spilled soup. The bowl fell off the bedroom shrine. Certain it was an omen, I put on my best gown and presented myself to the Oracle. Begged the Oracle: Tell me what has happened! Tell me what I need to know.

He lives. He is surrounded by water. He is well-fed by witches. He sees much of the world. You are his root. You are his rock. Keep waiting. Your waiting will be rewarded. You are his hearth. His home. That for which he returns. Keep the home fires warm.

A root and a rock, I went home. Well-fed by witches. A prize on the hearth, I sat in the garden and blinked.

I remember the second time the bowl broke. I ran from the dining hall, I ran through the weaving room, I ran like hell from that swarming horde of suitors. All I do, some days, is run. Their spoil of war. My spoil of war. My spoiling war. Spoiled by war, I ran to the sleeping quarters, clumsy and weeping. Blurred with tears, shaking in my sandals, I lost my footing and crashed into the bedroom shrine. Certain it was an omen, I slipped into a hooded cloak and crept out the back way. I went to the Oracle. Held up a waning crescent of my wedding bowl. Begged the Oracle: Tell me what it means.

He is coming. He will come. You must wait. You must keep waiting. All you can do is wait. Keep the fires lit. Keep the bed warm. Keep calling him back to you. He will come. He will come. You are his. All you have to do is wait.

But how? I begged. How can I keep waiting when I’m dying from the wait?

The Oracle thought about that for a minute, but only the one. Make the wait sacred, they finally offered. Make it an offering of love.

I went home. I sat at the foot of our immovable bed, an offering of love. An offering of love, I sat in the root of my immutable wait. I waited. I waited. Still, I wait.

Every day, as a show, an hourly performance, noon show’s full up! Come back at two, I weave my living husband’s shroud. Every day, to prove my waiting to these strangers, I weave and weave and weave.

How she has weaved, the suitors murmur, when they notice. Such lengths, she has weaved. At the back of the hall, the crude ones make conspiracies of cobwebs. I think I’ll have them executed first. Every day, I weave my wait. Every night, I undo my weave. Invalidate my wait. Make it an illusion. Make three hours of work last three years. Make it oh honey, I’m just so glad that you’re home safe. The suitors are always drunk. She looks so young, the almost-tolerable ones whisper. So young for one who has been weaving for so long. I think I’ll have them executed last.

I remember the third time my bowl broke. Starved out by witches, I smashed it in the stupid stream. He is surrounded by water. I gathered the pieces. I mended it silently. I shoved it to the back of a storage room shelf. I did not query the oracle. I spat on the dark hearth.

I remember the final time it broke: crumbled under the weight of my waiting. Disintegrated by waiting so long. What was once indestructible. What no man could put asunder, now only rubble on the bedroom floor. I swept it into a pile. I swept it out the backroom door.

I am not angry. I am not angry. I am not angry, I am waiting. I wait. I wait and wait and wait. I am the God of Waiting. Even as my time dwindles, I know I cannot die. My mortality has been removed and replaced by a stream’s boon of miniscule stones. I will not die, I will only wait. I will only ever wait.


Judith Lloyd is a social construct: or she isn’t. There’s a chance when you look at Judith Lloyd what you are seeing are elements of her external environment and your personal history manifesting a distinct entity which, in reality, has nothing to do with Judith Lloyd at all, but really. Who hasn’t had that day?

Calypso, Riddled

This selection is paired with Book 1 of The Odyssey by Homer. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #22 from Zoetic Press.


My grapes glisten obediently upon trained vines,
But you cannot be trained.
The water channels I’ve shaped duly irrigate my cave,
But your troth cannot be drained.
Ambrosia and nectar have been bested by meat and wine,
For you, Odysseus, my would-be slave,
Resist the divine.

Who’s truly captive when they captivate the captor?
Go on, chop down my tree.
Here. Augurs for your raft. Bore holes in the wood,
Like you have done to me.
Who flees an immortal’s embrace and thus has trapped her?
You, Odysseus, moving on for good,
Ending my chapter.


Katherine Quevedo was born and raised just outside of Portland, Oregon, where she works as an analysis manager and lives with her husband and two sons. Her poetry has appeared in the Santa Clara Review and Civilized Beasts, and her fiction has appeared in Factor Four, Apparition Lit, and elsewhere.

Grodlik

This selection is paired with The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at www.zoeticpress.com


I am called Grodlik. My name is more a sound that came from my lifegivers when they saw me than an actual title, but I am satisfied with the grunt. That was all we ever did—grunt. For the first two decades of my life, I knew little in the way of communication. But I am not dictating this. I have learned this language called English and I have learned through many painful years of aborted attempts how to tell my own tale.

It is perhaps the most remarkable event that in this most remarkable of surroundings and circumstances, I have become reasonably literate. I am told that my brain, the piece inside my skull that allows me to learn and reason, is most inferior—certainly not suited to tell a tale. But at this point I have read widely, and shall try.

My education was not my own doing. My teacher wanted to enlighten all my people, but soon enough discovered the utter impossibility of attaining this lofty goal. Few of us were inclined to listen. The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) could not successfully expound even the most commonplace logic to us. I am a Morlock. My race was unalterably set in its ways.

It is my understanding that the Time Traveller visited us twice. The first time he came to our world, we sensed his presence. He was known as the demon who brought violence and fire to brutalize our people. I had just joined our hunting parties, and sometimes caught glimpses of him through the foliage, but always when I was apart from my group, and always when he had fire in his hand. I gave him a wide berth. By the time I reported my sightings, he had always moved on. For most of us, he was a minor annoyance.

Then came the night, as he told me much later, he had fallen asleep next to the protection of his campfire. Our subterranean-bred eyes could not bear the stabbing light, and thus he had felt safe by the flames. To his horror and ours, the fire had spilled into the surrounding woods and ignited the great conflagration that had finished many of us as we tracked Eloi in the darkness.

After that night, I was dispatched to the depths of our caverns and demoted to the maintenance of our machinery. I was bitter, but knew the elders had their own primitive reasons for all they did. I heard no more of the Time Traveller for many years; I did not know he had gone back to his own place—as he called it, his own time. I existed, I labored; I obeyed.

When fully mature physically, a female was offered to me, but no offspring came forth. A type of disdain enfolded me from the sensibilities of the others. I was not exactly ostracized, but I was no longer embraced or included in major rituals. My food was provided from the piles of offal, and my female took up with another. I left the caves by night, and sojourned in the depths of the woods. One midnight I watched stray Eloi nervously faltering back to their compound, and saw in their shining eyes the fear that came with straying too far afield before dusk. They amused me, but I no longer felt the need to gnaw at their throats, chew their insides, or suck upon their bones. I felt a hole in the pit of my gut that our “cattle” would not fill, and I came to understand that I was different than my clan. I had not been different growing up, but something had stirred. I feared I could never understand this painful passion, and was turning to retreat to the underground machines when a match flared in my face.

I shrieked and buried my head in the bushes. In a moment, the light dimmed somewhat, and with pain I saw past it. The Time Traveller stood before me, the flame in one hand and a raised club in the other. I had seen him close up through the trees twice in the far past, and he had not grown a day older. He watched me with interest, and lowered the weapon. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said.

He sat upon a rock at hand and studied me for a long time. His match went out, and though he knew I could now see him far better than he could see me, he did not light another. I sat on the ground and stared stupidly back at him. Somehow even at this early moment of acquaintance, I felt wisdom in his eyes. After some minutes of quietude, he reached into a bag and produced a slice of dried meat, which he offered to me. I edged forward cautiously, and grabbed and devoured it. Then he reached into a pocket and extracted what I later learned was a slide whistle. As he put it to his lips and blew into it, a strange squeal of noise reached my sensitive ears. I clapped my gray clawlike hands to the sides of my head and groaned. He softened the tone, and slowly I became enamored of the new sensation. Something I can only now describe as a laugh escaped my throat. When the man got up to leave, I followed him at a distance.

I followed him for years. It was easy for him to teach me to listen. It was far more difficult for him to teach me to speak. It was grueling for him to teach me to read—and to understand. But he did all this, and much more. I became a sort of assistant to him, and he said I was invaluable to making inroads with others of my kind. We were going to succeed or fail together. We failed far more than we succeeded. Because I was at his side, no hunting parties would molest us, but the only Morlocks who ever received anything in the way of instruction were the few stragglers we might catch alone on a path before dawn.

I came to comprehend my Teacher’s motives. He wanted more than to save the half-witted Eloi from our carnivorous regimen, he hoped to prod a sort of further evolution in the Morlocks themselves. In the later days, he frequently opined that I seemed the only specimen with an interest in self-improvement, and though my desire to learn was prodigious, he saw little long-term advantage to ennobling a being without offspring. He would ask about the female I once knew but we never came across her in our excursions; indeed, we would find few females without descending into the caverns, something we were now both loathe to do.

The Teacher resigned himself to doing his best with me, and eventually led me far afield to a secluded overhang halfway up a hillside. Inside, hidden by brambles, was the most glorious thing I ever beheld. He explained that it was a machine, in some ways like the things I had maintained, but nothing in our caverns ever glittered and shone in ways that burned our eyes. It was all crystal and something like bone, and it had a seat and a stack of levers, and he explained over and over that it allowed him to go far forward or backward across the centuries. I never fully understood, but he assured me he had been to the end of things, and he wished desperately to avoid such a finality. Inside the machine were many books, and over the decades I read them all.

We transported the volumes to the place of the Eloi, which he called the Palace of Green Porcelain. Of course, they were terrified of me at first, and apparently no one remembered the Time Traveller either, but over time they accepted the presence of both of us. Needless to say, no amount of bathing or grooming helped me resemble them, but we set up a library and living quarters of sorts in a corner of the compound, and soon they saw I was no threat and ignored us.

I studied in a dark sort of closet by day, and followed the Time Traveller’s trail by night. I began to call him “Teacher”, as I have noted, and he made no objection. Always, he seemed to be meditating on a fashion for spreading his success with me to the other Morlocks. I felt a throbbing pain within me always because I was unwilling to rejoin my clan and thrust a type of moral lucidity upon them.

One dark evening I stood too close as he struck a match for the lamp. I winced and tossed myself into my niche. “I am terribly sorry, my friend,” he apologized as I reappeared. “You have learned so much I sometimes forget the differences in our physiognomy. You have removed so much of the shaggy pale hair and adapted an excellent style of dress—and advanced mentally beyond my dreams. You are quite human. I forget the damage fire does.

“Fire damages all beings,” I replied quietly. “How did you escape the great fire many years back?”

My question startled him. He looked at me for a long time. “You remembered the night I left my campfire unattended when I drifted to sleep?” he asked at last.

“I do. I was with others in the surrounding woods. They wanted to surprise you. Ha! You inadvertently surprised them.” My words were rather slurred; my tongue had difficulty with certain letters, but he knew what I had said.

“Many of them died in the fire before morning.”

“Yes,” I nodded. “I was the only one remaining.”

The Teacher (the Time Traveller) did not speak for many minutes. The lamp grew low. I heard thunder far off. At length he said, “I had an Eloi girl with me. Her name was Weena. She died in the fire too.”

The thunder came closer. I moved to my closet. I don’t know why I answered; it just seemed I must. “No, she did not,” I said.

When I awoke the next evening, the Time Traveller was gone. I scaled the far hill but there was no trace of his machine. He had, however, left me his books. Whatever may come, I shall carry them below with me. I owe him that.


John Kiste is an organ donation ambassador, a McKinley Museum planetarian and an Edgar Allan Poe impersonator who has been published in such works as A Shadow of Autumn, Modern Grimoire, Dark Fire Fiction, Theme of Absence, and whose work was recently included in the Unnerving Press release Haunted Are These Houses, and the Camden Press anthology Quoth the Raven.

The Homilies of Edward Prendick

This selection is paired with The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at www.zoeticpress.com


I was once lost at sea
madness became me
because I found Him
saw his reborn
saw the dark of his Word

His is the House of Pain
His is the Hand that Wounds

The congregation nods
crucifix hanging above
plaster blood dripping on its face
Yes they pray
the Wounds they nod
He is the Hand of Wounds

Edward shakes his head
And continues
from the mount

I was once lost at sea
And mad visions overcame me
visions of His Chosen
rising with his touch
His Hand of Pain and Healing

His is the Hand that Heals
His is the Hand that Makes

I saw God create life
Then take life
Then life take God
this is
the madness of this island world

The congregation nods
Healing hands is our God
they sing
His hands made the world
they cry

I was once lost at sea
And I returned to the lost
rather than see the works of God
turned to Men
the works of Men
lost in the Word of His Law

That is the Law
Are we not Men

I was once lost at sea
and became man
now the scent of creatures
who break the law
are all around me

Yes the congregation applauds
then shuffles outside
to eat flesh and fish
chase other men
and rip the bark of trees
with machines that claw

I am still lost at sea
though land is all around me  —
Edward whimpers alone
watching the cold white stars
circle blackness above


David E. Cowen is the author of four books of poetry, Sixth and Adams (PW Press 2001), The Madness of Empty Spaces (Weasel Press 2014), The Seven Yards of Sorrow (Weasel Press 2016), the latter two being named to the Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballots and Bleeding Saffron (Weasel Press 2018). David was also the editor of the Horror Writer’s Poetry Showcase Volumes III and IV.

 

The Crying Puma

This selection is paired with The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Get the full issue of NonBinary Review #21 at www.zoeticpress.com


“Experts Say Southern California Mountain Lions Could Become Extinct in 50 Years”.—www.kcet.org

You wouldn’t let me live.
Your freeways and your strychnine
kill and maim the same
as Moreau’s House of Pain.

The sea’s a distant cry.
Through the pass I follow deer
up the hillside to the Getty.
Rich men love their art
more than they ever loved their beasts.

So I hid my ears beneath a hat
dressed in a fine wing-collared suit
served tea and macarons
to the wealthy donors on the hill.

They smiled and saw me not.
The crystal clinking hurt my ears.
I snarled and no one noticed
until there came the tears.

Someone had grown a heart
or had one implanted in a lab
and heard my miaows and gulps
over the strolling violinist.

Console they would not allow
and so, my cover blown,
I leapt before the bodyguard
could untangle his shoulder holster.

The roar of traffic matched my own
(and they say we do not roar)
as I fled and feared for my life
but no bullets twanged the air.

If you had the choice
to save the last Puma concolor,
or else the favored Brueghel’s Ark,
I hope you’d vote for me.
You may not have a choice.
I think I hear the sea.


Denise Dumars is a widely published author of poetry, short fiction, and metaphysical nonfiction. She is currently nominated for the Rhysling Award for her poem “Mars Must Remember.” Mountain lions, aka Pumas, live within the County of Los Angeles, not far from her home in L.A.’s South Bay, but are dying from eating animals killed by rat poison.