Horror Writers Association Blog

Nominees for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards® Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection

Congratulations to everyone nominated for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards®!

Most especially, congratulations to the five nominated poetry collections for the 2016 Bram Stoker Awards®!!!!

Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection:

Boston, Bruce and Manzetti, Alessandro – Sacrificial Nights (Kipple Officina Libraria)
Collings, Michael R. – Corona Obscura: Poems Dark and Elemental (self-published)
Gailey, Jeannine Hall – Field Guide to the End of the World: Poems (Moon City Press)
Simon, Marge. – Small Spirits (Midnight Town Media)
Wytovich, Stephanie M. – Brothel (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

To help celebrate and to promote these poets and to provide a larger sample, the HWA Poetry Page is proud to present more poems from each collection (presented in the same alphabetical order as the Ballot)!


Boston, Bruce and Manzetti, Alessandro – Sacrificial Nights (Kipple Officina Libraria)

 

THE GREAT UNKNOWN

 

i

 

Night, the Great Unknown,

rolled up in its own shadows,

waits with open jaws

for the night shift, the smell

of Detective Samuel Sandoval.

Night misses his old blue coat

from when he walked a beat.

It remembers the brass buttons

and the stale crumbs

of communion wafers

embedded in its threads.

 

Sandoval moves along

the riverside drive

followed by a skinny rat.

After an ten-hour shift,

he walks aimlessly

in the dark morning,

still high on adrenaline

and nicotine and hate.

He has to come down

before he can return

to his wife and children

and suburban refuge.

 

Sandoval hasn’t been

to church for years.

He no longer remembers

the face of Jesus Christ.

The last time he saw it,

it was swinging on

the silver medallion

of an ethnic gang leader,

crudely carved with

no look of suffering

anointing its features.

Rather it smiled at him.

And so did the gang leader.

A mocking sarcastic smile

that seemed to be saying,

‘Calvary, up to you now, man!’

 

Sandoval has been working

the night shift for five years.

He tries not to remember

the blood-scattered lines

and faults of that passage,

the lives lost along the way.

Night, the Great Unknown,

fate in bone-cold vestments,

is preparing his own demise,

dramatic and startling

or chill and indifferent

as the stone city itself.

 

ii

 

Rashida is sixteen-years-old.

Her boyfriend made her

swallow too many jelly shots.

Then he slapped her

because she would not

sleep with him,

because she wanted

to remain a virgin

until she was married.

For her, Sex is the

great dark Unknown.

 

She runs down the alleyway

to the riverside drive,

running away from

her boyfriend and herself,

running from a future

that is rushing too fast,

her teeth so very white

in the intermittent lights

spaced along the river.

In the long patches

of shadow in between,

Night, the Great Unknown,

claims her with its wing.

 

iii

 

Sandoval sees a flash to his right

moving fast, far too fast,

moving toward him,

a shifting flash and a shadow.

He imagines the blade of a knife

that shines in the river lights,

in the black leather of nowhere,

a blade that seeks his flesh.

 

“Not yet,” he thinks “Not yet,”

while Rashida runs closer,

mouth open, breathing heavily.

Sandoval hears that harsh breath.

Night, the Great Unknown

touches the back of his coat

with its unsheathed claws.

 

“Chills. Do you feel them, man?”

“Yeah!”

 

In an extended fraction

of a fractured second,

Sandoval draws his

revolver from its

shoulder strap

and shoots blindly

— once! twice! —

aiming at that sharply

shimmering light that

is nearly upon him.

The shots echo off

the condominiums

that rise along the river.

 

“Calvary, up to you now, man!”

“‘Who’s speaking?” Sandoval asks.

 

The only answer is the

rush of the river passing.

The body on the ground

has stopped moving.

 

iv.

 

Sandoval kneels beside

the body of Rashida,

curled on its side,

a silver lipstick tube

clutched in one hand.

She’s no longer masked

by the wing of night.

Her face has become

that of a girl surprised

by a sudden rainfall,

by the first and last

thunder of her life.

 

“Your blood…is mine…,”

Sandoval whispers

to the dead girl,

to the Great Unknown.

He has never seen the

face of an angel before.

 

Twin windows light up

in the building that

rises above him,

throwing his shadow

on the cracked asphalt,

then a third window,

where the Great Unknown

suddenly appears

in its shadow flesh,

dressed as a tall magician

with a top hat on his head.

 

A snap of the fingers

lights his long cigarette.

He inhales deeply as

he savors the scene below

as if it were a work of art.

Then he exhales and

blows a coat of fog

across the city.

 

Sandoval hears a siren.

Someone has called

in the disturbance.

He knows he should run,

yet he remains standing,

half bent over the body.

Though his face is

in complete darkness,

its silhouette is composed

of hard angles and lines.

 

He realizes that

he won’t be going

home to his family

and the suburbs tonight.

Instead he has been

crucified on the cross

of the Great Unknown.

Soon his own cohorts

will be coming with

their flashing lights

to carry him away.

 

“Calvary, man!”

 

 

 

JEAN-PAUL, THE FLYING THIEF

 

Summer.

The apartment is dark.

A small circle of light

runs up the ivory wallpaper,

penetrates a fissure

of the Boulle furniture,

awakens the woodworms,

asleep in their gnawed galleries.

This alien sun is the torch

of the thief Jean-Paul.

 

He is doing his job,

the only job he knows,

sweating and cursing,

followed by a train of moths

that appeared from nowhere,

drawn by the light.

“Damned beasts!”

 

Jean-Paul hears a noise.

Something is moving

in the next room.

The cocaine in his veins

melds with an adrenaline rush.

He releases the safety

on his revolver.

“Bloody hell.”

 

The light of the torch enters

the room and is drawn

to the ornate chandelier,

its crystals crashing into pieces

before Jean-Paul’s stoned eyes,

a thousand slanting rays.

 

His vision clicks

like a lantern show

of dislocated time

from one image to the next.

 

He sees himself climbing

the rickety fire escape,

sees himself as if

he were a being floating

in the air beyond.

 

Sees himself

prying the window open

and climbing awkwardly

into the room.

 

Sees himself as a patient

etherized upon a table,

the worn and worried eyes

of half-masked faces

looming above him.

 

Jean-Paul shakes his

head and looks down,

blinking from the reflections.

There is no one here:

no men, ghosts or cops.

 

A blue-skinned painting,

a stormy sea in the manner of Turner,

shifts inexplicably back and forth,

rubbing against one wall.

“Here’s the noise. Son of a bitch!”

There is no danger, perhaps.

 

The moths multiply,

continue to fly in a circle

around the head of the thief,

as if he were the only lighthouse

in thousands of miles of darkness.

 

Jean-Paul takes off his cap

and swipes them away.

“It’s hot in here, too damn hot!”

 

Yet all at once his skin feels refreshed.

The tongue of a subtle wind

is licking his cheeks and forehead,

even though the windows are shut.

 

The sails of the Turner ship

billow and swell to bursting,

and Jean-Paul can hear

the shouts of the sailors,

curses and cries of despair

swallowed by the storm.

He can smell the brine

of the crashing waves.

 

He is enveloped by a vision
of his mother and father,

his older brother,

all dead and buried,

riding the wings of that storm,

arms outstretched, legs straight,

their faces drawn back,

as if they had been

crucified upon the wind.

 

The thief begins

to distrust his mind,

the stuff that he bought

in the parking lot

before going to work.

 

That dealer, Josh,

strange guy,

looked more like an insect

than a human being,

scrawny, with those thin ears

laid back against his skull,

his arms held out

and bent at the elbows

like some praying mantis,

and dark impenetrable eyes,

just like the eyes

of those damned moths

now covering Jean-Paul

in a fluttering coat

like a second skin.

 

He drops the torch
and it flickers into darkness.

Like the moths, he is

now drawn to the only

visible light in the room,

the lamppost beyond the

window in the street below.

 

The moths begin batting

against the window

and Jean-Paul has

become one of them,

batting against the window,

trying to get to the light.

 

The glass shatters outward

in a starburst rush

and he is flying

like a magical being,

his features taut,

his hair blown back,

until he sees the asphalt

rushing up to greet him.

 

Deep in his coma,

Jean-Paul dreams he is a moth,

dreams he is a thief who can fly,

dreams of a thousand unlocked doors

and open windows.

 

“Bloody hell.”

 

 

 

LEGEND OF THE ALBINO PYTHONS

AND THE BLOODY CHILD

 

Slithering through the dark

bowels of the city in storm drains

where sewers often overflow,

the parthenogenic progeny

of an escaped pet python

survive on rats, unwary

city workers, and the odd

miscreant fleeing the law,

crushing the last breaths

from their trapped bodies.

Nightmares beyond reason,

they inhabit and haunt

these dank concrete

and steel corridors.

 

Some claim that through

generations born and surviving

in the fetid dark, they have

bred to albino pythons

capable of mesmerizing

their prey with a glance

of their lustrous purblind eyes.

 

Others say there will come

a day when they will emerge

from the rancid depths below,

from storm drains and manholes

and along the banks of the river.

Shunning the harsh light of day

they’ll come in dead of night,

pale specters from hellish depths

devouring sinners in their beds.

 

Then there are those who

tell the story of a little girl,

seen after midnight, walking

barefoot through the dark

asphalt streets of the city,

wearing torn yellow pajamas

splattered with blood and

a pale young python twined

around her neck, a living,

breathing ophidian necklace.

She is the ghost of the city’s

corruption made manifest,

a perverse little demon

with sharp young teeth.

 

They say it’s her, with her

flaming hair, who leaves

a phosphorescent red trail

behind her, who was the

first to be dropped into

the sewers, the first to

have seen a nest of pythons,

to heat it with her human cells.

 

In revenge against those who

left her to a watery grave,

she has given to the snakes

an advanced intelligence,

a key to the weaknesses

of the Lords of the Earth

who walk on two legs.

 

If you meet her when

you’re alone after midnight

and your own path turns

a phosphorescent red,

grasp a silver crucifix,

pray to your failed gods

for salvation, take off

your shoes and run away.

 

They call her Anja The Red,

this ghostly witness who

warns that in the underworld,

where your worst fears

and obsessions fester,

a reptilian dominion thrives,

waiting to embrace you

with its slick relentless coils.

 


Collings, Michael R. – Corona Obscura: Poems Dark and Elemental (self-published)

XXII. Tombs 

 

Where dead-man’s fingers press through damp-mold soil,

Their almost-sentient, ever-questing tendrils

Feeding on decaying flesh…the spoils

Of death…the murk and slime and stink of entrails:

Where bone-white worms consume their way through bone-

Rich earth, blindly probe vast labyrinths

Of roots until they break through ceiling-stone

And fall and crawl along forgotten plinths:

 

There gather ghouls in crude-rude shrouds, gaunt faces

Glistening with putrefying gore;

Grave-wax candles wane in skulls slick-smoothed,

Illuming naked souls—corruptive place,

Beyond redemption’s hope to life condemned…for

In nakedness nests biting, flyting truth.

 

 

 

XXVIII. Zombies

 

No thought, brain, mind—only black-edged face

Drained of all but need…needneed! Rage-ragged

Throat, raw from screaming horror, debases

Speech, emits primal grunts, harsh and jagged.

In rooms above, impersonal, it smolders

As it—once she—prowl-stalks its newborn child,

Each footstep nearer, each movement bolder…,

Once gravely loved, now evermore reviled.

 

But from our cellar-cell we hear it call,

Rough, counterfeited words to make us dream

The rash contagion over, think that all

Is as it was before…her death redeemed.

Silently, lest we should die-not-die,

we commune—my infant babe and I.

 

 

 

 

 

 XXIX. Newborn

 

we commune, my infant babe and I,

in a distant place where petals peek to see,

and westwinds lift the winging butterfly,

where cloudbanks humm incessant melody

distilled as tears when earth becomes too dry

but sucks with newborn eagerness at buds.

we commune then, she, and I, with eye-

lids shuttering in well-contented floods.

 

I wake to touch. Her finger-lengths, half-closed

Lay broadside-cold on mine. Not now!—not yet!—

She squalls—coarse shriek! And whirlwinds expose

Fresh agonies to waiting ears and set

Sublunar notes against a rotting moon….

And then o then must she and I commune

 

 


Gailey, Jeannine Hall – Field Guide to the End of the World: Poems (Moon City Press)

 

But It Was an Accident

 

Yes, I was the one who left out the open petri dishes of polio

and plague next to the plate of pasta.

 

I leaked the nuclear codes, the ones on giant floppy disks from 1982.

I fell asleep at the button. I ordered tacos and turned out the lights.

How was I to know that someone was waiting for the right time?

 

I thought the radio was saying “Alien attack”

and headed for the fallout shelter, failing to feed the dogs.

 

I followed evacuation plans. I just followed orders.

I was the pilot of the bomber, I was the submarine captain,

I steered into the iceberg. I held the scalpel but I was shaking.

I was the one in charge. I was on the red phone saying “Do it” decisively.

 

I always imagined writing propaganda; how could I possibly see

what was coming when they dropped the fliers,

when the angry mobs began choking people in the street?

I was always good at creating a panic.

 

I never saw the Ferris wheel start its fatal roll.

I looked away just as the plane plummeted,

as the building burned. I shook my head at disaster, afraid to meet.

 

It was just an accident. It was fate. It was never my hand on the wheel.

When you point fingers, point them towards the empty sky.

 

Introduction to the Body in Fairy Tales

 

The body is a place of violence. Wolf teeth, amputated hands.

Cover yourself with a cloak of leaves, a coat of a thousand furs,

a paper dress. The dark forest has a code. The witch

sometimes dispenses advice, sometimes eats you for dinner,

sometimes turns your brother to stone.

 

You will become a canary in a castle, but you’ll learn plenty

of songs. Little girl, watch out for old women and young men.
If you don’t stay in your tower you’re bound for trouble.

This too is code. Your body is the tower you long to escape,

 

and all the rotted fruit your babies. The bones in the forest

your memories. The little birds bring you berries.

The pebbles on the trail glow ghostly white.

 

Post-Apocalypse Postcard from an Appalachian Chalet

 

I’ve got my head next to a granite-strewn stream

that gurgles amid sunbeams as if the whole world

never went wrong. As if nothing. I’ve got at least two crates

of Coca-Cola stashed inside, a pile of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls,

all the beef jerky I can eat. A few bears have come by,

mostly uninterested, tearing through the old garbage.

There are leaves and mist and no noise except the wind

and once in a while, an eerie whine – foxes? ghosts?

If I smell the air I can believe. This is where I came in childhood

to hide. I loved the fossil rocks jutting at all angles, the tangled

mountainsides full of deciduous trees. The butterflies are gone,

of course, but the cicadas still hum inside their shells, oblivious.

If only you were here with me. I’m far past the florescent dinosaur

mini-golf and Pancake Houses, quiet now, too far from ski slopes

and tourist traps to matter. Without traffic, the paved roads

all seemed too lonely. If it all dies down, I thought, this is where

I’d want my bones, here where the shadow of the mountains falls,

in a valley of daffodils, in a chamber of forest so vast

the only things to meet me will be wild things.

 

 

 

Simon, Marge. – Small Spirits (Midnight Town Media)

 

The Hurricane

 

My parents left me a perfect house

with many strong latched windows

to keep at bay the winter winds.

I filled their cases with my books,

my art on walls and table tops,

displayed my pagan dolls on beds,

one for each passage of my life.

 

From the coast came refugees,

their faces drawn and haggard,

some worried, others angry,

fleeing a paradise gone wild.

I saw the pick-ups pass by,

station wagons with supplies,

laden with what they could save.

 

The wind stopped playing gentle games,

the chimes I hung have left their hooks.

I saw the trees bend down and break,

heard the restive voices of the damned,

the cacophony of elements,

a horrendous symphony of souls,

beyond the shuttered glass.

 

I gathered up my many dolls,

clutched their little bodies close

while spirits screamed for hours

in languages I didn’t understand,

as a careless fury made its way

through a house of shattered windows,

they were with me through the storm.

 

When Again I Feel My Hands

 

My wooden hands

hang idle on the strings.

Master’s drunk on Holland gin

& sleeps beside the wench

who takes my place.

 

Half human, half wood,

in a world deprived of joy,

I am the fool’s scepter,

a reprieve from tedium,

my simple plays enhanced

by classical compositions.

You cannot know how dear

the price of mirth.

 

With his dark eyes, he wooed me

& with his magic, he prevailed.

Father swore, mother wept

as he swept me in his arms

& then away to foreign lands.

 

Soon he’ll tire of her,

& cast a spell to change her form

as did he mine, to suit his needs.

She’ll bob & bow as I do now,

and he will set me free–

or so he promised, long ago.

 

When again I feel my hands,

I’ll rip away these strings

& as he sleeps, I’ll pull them taut

around his bearded throat,

claim his magic for my own.

 

 

The Anguane’s Gift

 

She was born twisted

with legs that made umber

sounds with every hurtful step

but her fingers were gifted

with wondrous visions.

 

Perched on a rock by the sea,

she would play songs all her own

on phantom strings.

 

One bright cloudless day,

an Anguane nymph rose from the water.

In her arms was a golden lyre

& a small doll with lidded eyes,

its face a likeness of her own.

 

“Carry these with you all your days

for only you can play these strings.

The doll’s eyes will open to you alone,

do as it bids and be well.”

 

 

Invitations to play her harp

came from princesses and kings.

Once, in the Orient, a thief stole her harp,

but he soon realized it would not play

&  dulled to brass in his hands.

He returned it to her, begging mercy,

and this she gladly gave him.

 

Throughout her many years,

the doll’s eyes opened only to her

to give unfailing direction

saving her heartbreak and hardship

as only magic can provide.

 

The pain in her legs never lessened,

for Anguane’s are a fickle lot,

& she knew best not complain.

 

 


Wytovich, Stephanie M. – Brothel (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

 

Vicious Girls

 

Creatures,

creatures are what they are—

violent Eves, rotten apples,

victimized damsels, Salem witches;

they bit the snake that fed them

drank his poison,

pulled out his fangs

and now they bleed,

they bleed once a month for his death,

the death of the devil who cursed their wombs

for they are vicious,

they are venomous

they are women,

and they will wait,

patient and persisitent,

ever-enduring

and damned

and they will sing,

sing in covens, sing in brothels,

sing for men,

sing for whores

and their words will kill

they will damn

they will puncture

for they sing with lips,

lips not of mouth but of sex

sex that weakens, that confuses,

that traps

and once they have you

have you  between their legs,

they will kill you,

they will eat you,

and they will love you

the only way

that they know how

 

 

Transaction

 

I

am

Nothing

but a business transaction,

something—not someone—

and you do me without feeling, without concern, for

I

am

Nothing

but a job,

something—not someone—

you use for convenience, always discreet,

fearing not to hide me

behind shadows, behind closed doors, for

I

am

Nothing,

but a window-shopped memory,

something—not someone—

that you forget the second you leave, and,

You

are

Everything

someone—not something—

to me, me who waits

in bed, at home, at work,

praying that someday, I won’t be

Nothing

to

You

 

 

 

Brothel

 

There’s a brothel in my hand

and it’s open for business, providing me with pleasure

while I pay it with my pain; I close my eyes and see,

see for the first time as immeasurable desires wake

inside me, screaming, panting: legs spread apart,

arms open wide, lips pursed, parted. The women are my

invitations, the men my RSVPs, and I’ll accept their summons

to come, to stay, to eat and drink the fruits and juices of the sweet gardens

in front of me—pulsing, dripping, rich with

honey, sweet with wine.

 

My mouth is open and I’m ready to inhale,

ready to swallow, and they’ve promised

they’d fill me, that they’d keep me nice and full;

I slip my fingers through the front door and

I’m met with a warm hello,

as I’m taken inside—as I’m taken—and I

think I’ll stay here for a while, locked inside

my brothel where the animals like to breed.

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