Friday, July 25, 2014

Sketch by Sketch

This fantasy prose poem (or vignette) was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Rose Red Review. It's about a fairy who wishes to become human, but is regretful when it actually happens.


Sketch by Sketch
by Jason Sturner

These I have drawn: a hillside of moonlit clover; creeks cradled by swaying heather; a forest beyond the crumbling stone walls of a pasture. And all just to get home; I’ve been gone so very long.

You might find me in the green layers beyond the sunless core of town, sidestepping the coiled corpses of men’s dreams, crossing industrial rivers where mechanical beasts gnaw on adolescent hearts.

For here dwell the kith of my childhood: the salamander, fox, jackdaw and deer; even the sheep—his dull eyes forever sliding along my heels. Old friends are the mosses and ferns, the spirits of pollen, the ghosts of tree rings. All under the watchful eye of Pan.

As a youth I was enamored with mortals, would sketch them on peeled birch bark and hardened flows of sap. I read book after book about their adventures, dreamt of their heroes and maidens, envisioned hordes of treasure behind castle walls. To me, the human soul mirrored endless romance and wonder. Man dared dream of anything; it dared dream of us.

O how I longed to dance and love and sketch wildly among them! To escape the confines of Pan’s wild domain—to posses a soul!

Such desires led to secrecy, to a thousand sketches wrought in the abandoned swamps where not even the banshee will go. Over time, and at the pace of a snail’s whisper, the leaves of my face turned autumn and blew away. My wings shriveled and fell. I had somehow willed myself, sketch by sketch, into the abrasive, mortal light of Man.

Alas, the humans were not as I had expected. Romance played almost no role in courtship or marriage. Foreign to me was hunger, pain, deep sadness. Strange and worrisome were science and religion. Hardship overcame me, and I reached out to the snickering god of apathy.

Soon my eyes turned the colour of winter. I broke apart as a flower petal in a storm. I do not know if I ever gained a soul.

But despite my disappointment, one simple comfort remained: my ability to sketch. Yet now I refuse to draw anything related to man or his dead dreams. Instead I lose myself in the mossy wood and wild heath, desperate to reveal the music and landscapes of my youth. Always I am trying my best to get the details just right. It is all I can do. I am at the mercy of human imagination.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Neutral Ground

This prose poem (or vignette) was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of The Linnet's Wings, and was written shortly after the Western Black Rhinoceros was declared extinct.
 
 
Neutral Ground
(In memory of the Western Black Rhino)
 
If I woke outside a dream, then at the dream’s shimmering edge I must have been. Nothing else could explain the rhinoceros at my bedside, its massive form displacing all sense of proportion, moonlight giving it a ghastly glow.
 
We remained silent, beast and man, though I could hear its thumping, tribal heartbeat deep inside my chest. I held my breath and switched on the lamp. In response, the rhino’s head drooped slowly, a waterfall of dark blood spilling to the floorboards from its severed horn.
 
A rush of emotion blew the cobwebs off my formative years: the rhinoceros had been a childhood fascination. I had drawn them, collected books about them, shushed everyone in the room when they appeared on TV. I had rhino toys, posters and cookies. Like dinosaurs, they wandered innocently into my dreams, though never quite like this.
 
The images were horrific: an article in a recent issue of National Geographic, the uncensored reality of poachers and the sick demands of the medicinal black market, something childhood had never exposed me to—proof, perhaps, that the ground in a child’s heart is always neutral.
 
Now I linger at the edge of some Kafkaesque dream. I’m well into adulthood—all my shapes in their corresponding holes; my coloring kept within established lines. At no other time in life has this been so obvious.
 
The rhino continues to bleed, its eyes fluttering on the verge of some primeval truth I cannot uncover. I want to sit with it, to feed it handfuls of green leaves until its horn regrows, until the African sun blazes high overhead and reveals an unbroken stretch of grassland.
 
But the rhino fades, and I come to realize that new horns will not be spared; they will never be enough. And I think: if only the child inside me would rise up, turn warrior, shed his neutrality. He could forge a new horn out of steel, take up arms, build a wall against the encroaching world! He could do all that. And wouldn’t it be something? That would really be something.
 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

For fun...

Cats rule! Dogs… not so much.

Here is why:

Cats are soft and fragrant. Dogs are smelly mud puddles with feet.

Cats only meow when necessary, unlike dogs, who bark FOREVER.

Cat farts are quiet, very low on the decibel level, and they actually make the air fresher. Dog farts are clouds of toxic gas that kill surrounding vegetation.

Cats don't run in circles and make goofy faces when served food; they thank you with tender body rubs against the leg, then go and eat like a normal person.

They are clean; they sometimes lick butt, but their tongues never smell butty. Dogs, on the other hand, smell exactly the same at both ends.

If a cat knocks your beer over, it's on purpose, which shows intelligence. When a dog does that, it's because he's chasing an invisible squirrel.

Cats can catch and torture fish. Dogs chase sticks and bring them back. Wow?

Cats poop carefully and without drama.

When a cat sleeps on my lap, there is warmth, balance and symmetry. Dogs balance awkwardly and fall between my legs, slobbering as they try to fit where they just won't fit.

Cats drink out of the toilet only if necessary. Dogs will drink out of a toilet with a human head in it. And they drink, and drink, and drink, [checks watch], and drink.

The only cool thing about dogs is that they aren't as cool as cats.

Cats rule!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Misery of He Who is Older than All Men

This prose poem was first published in the Winter 2013-2014 issue of Tales of the Talisman, and was influenced, as much of my work is, by the early writings of Lord Dunsany.


Misery of He Who is Older than All Men

He who is older than all men suffers a misery deeper than the sum of man’s wars and plagues. Left, for reasons known only to the gods, to ponder his existence amidst the cosmic fog outside space and time, to know only his purpose, his destiny, a task performed mindlessly and without pause.

As a consequence, many questions relative to his plight arise but are never answered. He bears no recollection of birth, no sense of an earlier time or even of time itself, save for hints gleaned from the ever-heightening awareness of mankind as it fumbles through its chaotic existence.

He cannot talk to men. There has never been kith or kin with which to converse. Yet now and again come flashes of having once been human: a cave strewn with ancient paintings, the dirty faces of woman and child, crude weapons in the hand, the fearful eyes of his prey and the grim stone idols of worship . . . .

Adding to his misery is the probability that these flashes are merely residual energies from the endless stream of human souls passing through his boney fingers.

Was I truly once a man? he thinks. How long must I endure this limbotic state? How long before I may again know the thrill of the hunt, the touch a woman? Certainly there is another to replace me.

And he cannot help but be convinced of a return to life, for all souls make their way back to Earth in one form or another—to this cycle he is first witness.

But he who is older than all men and whose core is a diamond of misery must endure his current destiny without fail, for always there is war and rampant disease, starvation, senseless murder, agedness . . . .

For who knew, that he who first personified Death, became Death. That with a cave wall and crude ochres had released it from the intangible realm of nightmare.
 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Thank you

A big thank you to all the great coffee mugs in my life. The mugs that helped me imagine all those stories and poems, kept me reasonably sane during editing, rejections, and acceptances. The ones that stayed warm and delicious in the earliest of mornings and the latest of nights, that supported me through private fits of anger, depression, and jubilation.

Mugs, without you I'd still be staring at a blank screen with cobwebs over my brain. You are one of 25 or 30 items that complete me.

So here's to you, coffee-and-sometimes-tea-and-occasionally-whisky mugs. I raise you to you and take a sip. May your rims never chip.

Love,
Jay






Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bird poem mentioned on nature blog

Stephen Lyn Bales, author, speaker, and Senior Naturalist at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, was kind enough to post a recording of my bird poem "Dawn Chorus" on his website, Nature Calling. The blog is a great resource for all things nature, especially the plants and animals of East Tennessee.

Click here for the post.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Another Space and Time Magazine update

A second review of the current issue of Space and Time Magazine--in which I have a story--has been posted at The R'lyeh Tribune. Click here if you'd like to read it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Space and Time Magazine updates

Below are two updates about the current issue of Space and Time Magazine, in which I have a story. 

1. SFRevu has posted a review here.
 
2. A digital copy of the magazine is now available at Weightless Books in MOBI, PDF, and EPUB formats. Click here to purchase.
 
Visit the Space and Time website or Facebook page for more.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Faerystruck Down

Here it is, the poem that got me my first Rhysling Award nomination. Written after coming home from Ireland a few years ago. It was first published in Volume 9, Issue 1 of Tales of theTalisman.
 

Faerystruck Down 

In the rolling fog of the purple sea
Where slugs infest the ridge
      And breeze-bent heather
      Tethers ghosts of the drowned 

Beyond the threshold of the mind
Where sea hags howl at the moon
      And shapes unseen
      Sneak away human babes 

Lies the maritime trail I was warned not walk
Urged by patrons of the old pub
To return to America, and be gone at next breath:
      “For too tempting is the tourist from afar!” 

But I split my sides at their heathen pleas
Doused their cares with whiskey and ale
Till after a spell, I was cheered out of town
      Pushed along streets of leaping whispers 

So onward to accursed shores I went
Bold with humor and the prod of drink
      Where fish-lipped merrows in cohuleen druiths
      Leered from frothy kelp isles 

And the mutterings in belch-bogs grew ever near . . .
And the perverted, creeping shadows . . . 

I will never forget their dream-drenched faces
As they sang and danced and picked over my end
Their goblets high in the salty spray of the purple sea
      Where many a mortal bone now rests in the deep 

And in my last moments of earthly acquaintance,
Head a pivot and lit with fires green,
They branded my soul to the tongue of lore
      Forever to break out madly from seaside lips
 
 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quieting the Agnostic

I have the quixotic urge
to steal thunder from the rain;
to take the pain
from our tears. 

To secure and sculpt it;
to create an elation all my own,
so that in a god’s honor
I can set the thing free. 

Because I’ve come to know
that everything sad or lost
is not really sad or lost
when the day comes;
when the truth comes. 

     And all the cold stars
     are a million degrees.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Making Amends

He is making amends to his victims
in the swarm of their ghosts, enduring
the blades, the beatings, the wringing hands—
each angry shade sucking up heat
as its own death reblooms and blackens.

For thirty years, few women walked
that city alone. In dreams they shrank
beneath his composite-face, took to prayer
in the gore of his wake. The law shaved
off its own flesh, trying to bring closure.

The instant death claimed him in age, a pack
of shades broke from the freeze, scurried
like bats to the rising maw of Hell. There
they blocked him, traded one of their own.
He is making amends to his victims.




First published in the April 2013 issue of Star*Line.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Poem nominated for Rhysling Award

Here's some good news that I am quite excited about:

My poem "Faerystruck Down"* has been nominated for the annual Rhysling Award in the category of "Best Short Poem of 2013." This is a great honor for me, and regardless of the outcome, I am very grateful for having my work recognized at this level. Good luck to all the nominees!
 
I don't have many details yet, but what I do know is that all nominated works will be compiled into an anthology called The Rhysling Anthology, after which members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) will cast their votes for the final winners.
 
I'll post again when the anthology is released and made available for purchase.


*First published in Tales of the Talisman, Vol. 9, Issue 1

Shimmer

This poem was first published in Every Day Poets, where it remained in the top 10 for many weeks.

Shimmer

She goes about pressing plants beneath her step
eyes inside the sky pondering her faith in flowers
a cornerstone of heaven
which for her, nowadays
must be outdoors or no where at all

There is a hand and heart
silent like embers across the old sea
threaded through twilight and alight
till morning, a glorious time
when dreams are mirthful
and nectarine-light kicks away city shadows

Once he could touch the long hills of her restless body
and see a soul shimmering beneath his fingertips

Monday, February 10, 2014

Old notebook poem

For fun, let's dig deep into the past and explore my old notebook. Something a bit embarrassing and extra sappy. Just in time for Valentine's Day.


Let Us Go There 

Can you accept, my love,
regression to older ways,
more passionate days? 

To fall into a swoon of love
and lose the world through the haze? 

To a time when romance was a pink hue,
searching for souls on earth's winds? 

To a place where heroes forgot time and distance
to reach their maiden? 

Let us go there, my love:
Please, take my hand, it longs to bring you,
and follow my heart, it longs to show you.

 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Poems published in anthology for charity


This post is about a charity publication I'm in called Passages. It's a poetry anthology from Dagda Publishing, and 50% of the proceeds go to charities for the disabled and the homeless. It is not expensive, and the book comes in paperback ($6.64 US) and ebook ($2.99 US) formats. It is available in multiple countries. 

Two of my poems are featured in this anthology. It also features wonderful poems by Wilda Morris, a very talented writer I know from Chicago. 

For the record, I greatly support charity-driven publications. So please consider buying a copy and sharing this post with friends and family. It's a nice gift idea. And, as Editor Reg Davey says, "Buy a book, feed your mind, support charity and social enterprise." 

Thanks for listening! 

Here's how to get it*: 

For the paperback, click here.
For the Kindle version, click here.

*Let me know if these options don't work for you. There might be alternatives. 

Lastly, please visit Dagda Publishing for other charity titles: website

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dawn Chorus

On January 18th (and during rebroadcasts) my poem “Dawn Chorus” was read on The Open Mike Poetry Show, an hour-long program on UK radio station 107.1 FM in Winchcombe. You can listen to a recording of it on YouTube. Here’s the text:

Dawn Chorus

In spring, they sing:
thrushes, wrens,
warblers, all.
An earthly opus
sprung wide and free
through dawn.

In spring, they sing—
Announcements cast
on a screen of rising light;
the silence pushed
to the backs of leaves,
into cracks of stone.

To my ears
the dawn chorus
is but one song;
one the waking sun
conducts
but cannot hear.

In spring, I join in . . .
whistle down the path
with a child’s air;
a timeless flow of nature
from ears to heart.

And that is how
all my best days begin.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Poem to be read on UK radio

Another one of my poems ("Dawn Chorus") will be read on Saturday January 18th during The Open Mike Poetry Show, an hour-long broadcast from UK radio station 107.1 FM in Winchcombe. The program will air at 2 PM (London time), then re-air on Wednesday January 22nd at both noon and 6 PM (again, London time). The only way to listen, however, is online (see link below), unless, of course, you live in the broadcast zone. Check it out if you get a chance.

Note: Soon after the final airing, the show will be archived and accessible via a forthcoming iCloud link.

http://www.radiowinchcombe.co.uk/

Friday, January 10, 2014

I'm beginning to agree

If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all. -- John Keats

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Hermit Thrush

Photo by Daniel Berganza
The first time I realized I had any purpose was just a few years ago, in an impossibly quiet, montane pine forest beneath a singing Hermit Thrush. The experience dissolved my hopelessness and I was forever altered by that magical song. Vines spiraled around my bones. Petty concerns were given to decay. My heart opened a little, like a shy flower, and made me realize things I'd never realized before. When I emerged from those dim woods, I found myself strangely confident and energized, as if having just made love to a muse. Since then I've longed for an experience just as profound, but it hasn't happened so specifically.

Today, a Hermit Thrush visited our backyard. I was watching her hop along a snow-covered branch when it dawned on me: the mountains, the forest, that song from all those years ago, the entire experience isn't merely a thing of the past. It's always with me, and I can turn to it whenever I need it, which is often, which is today. Sometimes it just takes the appearance of that speckled little bird to remind me.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Volunteer Project 2013

In 2013, a great deal of my time was spent doing research and compiling data for the second edition of "Lord Dunsany: A Comprehensive Bibliography" by S.T. Joshi and Darrell Schweitzer. Dunsany, an Irish writer and dramatist, is one of my favorite authors and an inspiration to my own work, which made my involvement in the project quite special. It also afforded me the opportunity to work with someone I've long admired, S.T. Joshi, a literary critic, novelist, and leading scholar in the study of H.P. Lovecraft and others.

The book has just been released and is available in both hardcover and digital formats.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Musings

You wake up one morning and suddenly you're older than one of your parents. You weren't sure what to expect. You certainly didn't expect to feel indifferent. For years you'd been wondering about the similarities, the differences, always aware that there was no way of truly knowing. But your heart isn't filled with alcohol and smoke and shards of spirit. You are a better person than they were. That much you do know.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A bad joke I wrote for fun

Mr. and Mrs. Mold attended the leftovers party but were very dull guests. They were sporing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Excerpt from "Nowadays"

How can one view and understand so old a thing as life or so new and strange a thing as this varying age, so full of machinery and politics, without the help of those rare minds that look, without reeling, upon essential things? -- from "Nowadays," an essay by Lord Dunsany