From: Bill Goodwin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
I know you're not running a fanzine here...
But I thought a bit of October SF spookiness might squeeze in! ONWARD TO MARS!
The Pumpkin Planet
When first I felt that clime that creeps
Up downward-slanting years from death
Death cloaked in fog perhaps but hid
No longer by such heights as from
The young conceal that vale where life is
A clime of soul and chill of season
Year and spirit ill at ease and
Hungry still for reason, theme or
Autumn waxed while I relaxed
To tend fire from my favorite seat
Youth awane but like a wine
My mem'ries better bittersweet
And yet no place in age for grace
No poise I should by rage debase
I stood and cried in sudden heat
"Now what do I do what now?
Unknown my name! Unsung my song!
It's such a shame! How much I long
For that electric sort of fall
When starry skies made me feel TALL
And crackling winds enlivened all
The boys throughout the town!
Now nights awake and flame-hung trees
But blight with ache each lame-lunged wheeze
I seldom drowse, afraid of dreams
And draw my shutters shut because
Orion's cloudy blade, agleam
Seems drawn to cut me down!"
Then hark! a tone, or was it a taste?
From out black space--alack!--it raced
Some spectral breath or whispered word
Sweet like the spherical notes unheard
Yet drear and fraught with consequence
Like fever-thought with hints of sense
Did drop like rain that sometimes seeps
In through my roof and plaster, cracked
To arouse me from idle, restless deeps
To assign me some vital quest I lacked
So beckoned I arose to roam
The wild around my toasty home
Wonder kindled, bright and brisk!
Within a heart unfond of risk
And from the gate, so chanced to spy
A seed of red fire, middling high
Sewn into the eastern sky
A seed of crimson fire
A fire no kin to dawn I deemed
And wondered if at last I dreamed
As, helpless, I was drawn along
The way into the countryside
A country overgrown and hushed
Hushed with Halloween
Reminded through which night I rushed
By spicy smoke and rustling clover
I ambled damp and weary over
Rutted earth and up the rise
Above which red Mars rose
The tangled vines beyond that slope
Wove gourdian knots of prickly rope
Lush with leaves afrost in fuzz
Nature's treasure trove it was
A thousand pumpkins in that snare!
The hope chest of the virgin future
Daylight's gold in even's care
The cold, it stung me like a suture
The freezing autumn air
But listen now for this is odd:
The hoarded daytime humours rising
Warmly from those golden tumours
Played a freakish trick
Somehow when they met the layer
Of icy-dry autumnal air
A lens was formed, and what was far
Appeared as near!--no more a star
But all at once an amber globe
That swelled obscenely ripe and showed
A haughty, hob-gob grin!
A Jack-O-Lantern smile!
The wargod Mars a planet
Yet a pumpkin all the while!
For seconds more like centuries
I didn't think to breathe
Then lowering my gaze I saw
That I was not alone
Tall and noble 'mongst the gourds
There stood a rusty, wrought-iron man
Whose embered eyes pierced mine like swords
And who, with anvil-hammered finger
Indicated something more
A monstrous stem that down unfurled
Down from space to forest floor
From what surely was his world
As I was bid, I climbed that bridge
Struggling for an age to reach
The frozen cream-and-sherbet pole
From which canals do darkly bear
The silent barges, pale as bone
To shores of smoking coal where beach
The tasty crystal worms that feed
The drones who manage to exceed
The measure of last season's toil
Toil in burning fields of thorn
For lords whose em'rald babes are born
In cities hard, like fists of nails
That ring with mint-skinned women's wails
As, lobster-clad, their singing males
Go forth in merry hosts!
Forth to blacken-stain the sand
That half-conceals the tarnished ghosts
Of war-machines immense and grand
Of silver shields and chariots
And carven, sapphire helms!
Dazzled by the scene I rushed
To join the bold, in lust as well
Abandoning my mortal past
Marching over goblin vermin
Through poison cold and gusts from hell
Streams of blood and molten magma!
Parching sun and Ether Spiders!
Demon-Bugs of gold we hacked
Apart from underneath their riders!
Battling till the blazing standard
Flown above our milling throng
Was ebon from the gory blast
And yet the host opposing us
At least a million strong!
Captains killed and bravery slandered
Fast, our final hopes were flown
The mounting of our mob in vain and
In our veins but dread alone
Then 'twas goblins bound my wrists
Slaves of the patient Monster Brain
That throbs inside its dome of mists
Beneath an ancient diamond plain
Prepared I was, as sacrifice
Before its single awful eye
Prepared was I, with inks and oils
But not prepared to die!
Then one goblin shed its cloak
The wrought iron man, he was revealed!
His arms like axes whirled and smote
Like windmills, how they wheeled!
Tortured metal shrieked as shrieking
Goblins clutched their cloven bellies
With a waft of rotting meat the
Broken brain-dome spilt its jellies
The stench, it made me choke!
A vortex tore the horrid lair
A storm of war and gory air
Around the place it blasted slime
Gray matter a-fly in flaming bits
Confounded space and plastic time
They shattered all my remaining wits
As down coronal solar slopes
I spun, an endless, aching gyre
The vacuum sucking at my cries
The icy void at weary flesh
Until I opened bleary eyes
On blades of green all fresh!
My blood on fire
Yes young, and full of hopes!
For what is youth at all, I ask
But just a jeer at clocks?
First or last each dusty year
Is dashed against the rocks
Dealing pikes like poker cards
I'd learned to call the bluff of Death
And having rhymed with warrior bards
Cared not if ice-rimed by his breath
For soon or late our number's null
Till then each moment's just as new
Each deed a seed from out the goo
Of mine own mellon skull!
The fever dream revolved away
In the west its light descended
While in the east a pinkish ray
Declared All Hallows' ended
And so I headed home
But as I buttoned up against the dew
A thought droned in my head:
For Earth, one night when summer's through
For Mars, eternal dread
Such fearsome beauty! Fearsome cost!
Endless mayhem! Endless gore!
Volcanic mountains clad in frost!
Iron-crusted globe, all rusted o'er!
Dark moons twain and terror-tossed!
And overripe in its starry patch,
That ruddy planet rolling lost
Through endless halls of time!
So hail the Legion of the Dead!
Of the Great Vermillion Gourd!
The Pumpkin Planet, crimson-ichored,
Slides through vacuum like a sword!
Lotus-drugged and perfume-liquored!
Spinning with its bloody horde
Through all the tangled stars!
The Pumpkin Planet, Mars!
From: Greg Bear
Wonderful! Poe meets Bradbury!
Yeah, it's cute. (I'm not really hip to poetry, but I think I recognise quality.) Make sure you pass it round to others.
From: Greg Bear
I'd like to pass it on to Ray Bradbury, with your permission, Bill. And I suggest submitting it to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction!
From: Bill Goodwin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
"Poe meets Bradbury:" Now THAT'S a compliment!
Absolutely you may pass it on to Ray. As for F&SF, do you think it would even get a reading? I didn't think they (or anyone else) used long poems...
I've taken a vow of poverty to write, and it's taking a toll. Your words are much appreciated, thank you.
Anyone wants to check out the Martian Cylindar crashed into my front yard, hop on over to www.myspace.com/evenweirder
From: Greg Bear
I'll send it on to Ray, with your compliments. F&SF would certainly give it a reading. Worth a try!