Original Poetry: “Daughter of Bilitis: for Del Martin (1921-2008)”

You are the defiant devotion of a half-century of modern, queer courtship
     resolving with your domestic vows.
You are the equanimity that surmounts court-forced annulment
     on your anniversary by reenacting your marriage while California
     patiently waits.
You are the tympani echoing from the bayside Pacific cathedrals since
     nineteen-fifty-five. Daughters of Bilitis beckon while mouthing, Qui vive.
You are the silent vanguard among our disaffected communities huddled
     in gay ghettoes bracing against communist brands and police
     who strip your Chicago sister-dykes.
You are the deviant teacher of variant knowledge, unbarring our doors
      and expunging our records of psychopathologies.
You are the asterisk and footnote to the legal chapter that quietly registers
     as an obvious coda.
You are the legend that, in death, no proposition can amend again.
 
 
 
[This poem was written in 2008 upon Del Martin’s passing to honor her work in promoting equality for a half-century. She and her partner were the first same-sex marriage in California before it was later nullified by the courts and voters. Del died before the proposition was overturned and before a single court upheld marriage equality.]
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Short Story Review: “Hecate’s Golden Eye” by P. N. Elrod

3 of 5 stars.

Chicago has had its fair share of supernatural detectives–most notably, Butcher’s Harry Dresden the wizarding detective of the modern era. This fun tale takes detective noir and Chicago back to its 1930’s bootlegging, gangsterland roots. Detective Jack Fleming happens to be a vampire, his partner, Charles Escott, isn’t. Together they right wrongs–at least as far as their clients are concerned.

This case involves a stolen inheritance of a rare yellow diamond called Hecate’s Golden Eye. It may be cursed, if one believes that sort of thing. What ensues is a mad scramble of alliances and subterfuge all taking place within a few hours on a single evening as money, the jewels and counterfeits aplenty play the Old Shell Game between the various suspects, clients and detectives.

Jack’s vampiric traits play a role in solving the case. Especially helpful is his ability to hypnotize and turn incorporeal.

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran.

 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: Lincoln Park Zoo in Late August

During the uncertainty—
      the lull compressed
between chemo bouts
      and stem-cell harvesting,
my brother had
      a good day.

His eyes were tracking
      marmoset acrobatics
and green swamp monkeys
      flinging themselves
from leafless branch
      to man-made vine.

Pressed nose to glass,
      his emaciated face
seemed to curl
      an unthinkably big smile;
his eyes –
      wonderment-wide.

My brother was once
      himself a monkey
climbing, leaping
      each ledge and tree.
But not now;
      and never was I.

Earlier, when basking,
      resting the walking stick
and his neuropathic hobble,
      our small talk
was ruptured
      by seagull screeching

emanating from a fist-faced
      young girl, her eyes
and fists squeezed white
      in deliberate mimicry.
Gulls responded and resumed
      scavenging the patio’s periphery.

If asked about those tall
      days of August waiting,
my story
      will be the seagull-girl
with steady eyes, arms
      outstretched collecting the wind.
 
 
[This poem was published by The Eunoia Review in April 2015.]
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Short Story Review: “Love Hurts” by Jim Butcher

Love Hurts (The Dresden Files, #11.5)Love Hurts by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short but bittersweet tale sees detective/wizard Harry Dresden and his police partner, Karrin Murphy partner up yet again to investigate a series of dual suicides by lovers throughout the Chicagoland area. The balance between his supernatural connections and intuition and her investigative know-how sends them on a roadtrip downstate to the State Fair looking for foul matchmakers.

This, of course, moves them beyond their normal territories and world of resources. It also plays with the growing friendship between the two as they are not immune to the wiles of the devious matchmaker. Their relationship has managed to stay platonic up to this point . . .

“Murph . . . I think we got whammied.”

She blinked at me. “What? No, we didn’t.”

Look at us,” I said, waving our joined hands. . . . “Murph, think about it. . . . You know how good this is?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“How right it feels?”

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“How easy it was?”

She nodded energetically, her eyes bright.

I leaned down toward her for emphasis. “It just isn’t fucked up enough to really be you and me.”

Her smile faltered. “My God,” she said, her eyes widening. “We got whammied.”

This tale appears in Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations edited by Paula Guran. I’ve previously read Butcher’s:
     Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)–4 stars
     Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)–4 stars
     Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)–4 stars
     Summer Knight (The Dresden Files, #4)–4 stars
     Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)–4 stars
     “Last Call” (The Dresden Files, #10.6)–5 stars
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Original Poetry: Suspension

From the tiers of the river,
      a floe of fog shears
Chicago’s drifting citadels—

their buoyant bulk hovers
      like oscillating droplets
amid eddying vapors overflowing

the locks of the man-hewn Hennepin.
      Like Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge,
a smudged tint in suspended mist

on the opposite bank,
      my parents’ place, gains definition
as I silently slide away.
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

Short Story Review: “Wild Card” by Leah Bobet

3 of 5 stars.

Operating like a police procedural, this tale follows a highly specialized crime-busting team that handles especially hard to crack cases, like those involving supervillians. Superheros and supervillians exist–some even have true powers called gamma powers.

This case takes the team out to Chicago where a gamma-able supervillian enacts his origin story as a copycat to The Joker. The media and superheros are quick to dub the clown-makeup wearing bank robber, The Alchemist.

This enjoyable tale feels very strongly like an episode of Bones or Castle. The strength is in the group dynamic and the comfortable repartee of the team.

This tale appears in the anthology, Superheroes edited by Rich Horton.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

Short Story Review: “Kabu Kabu” by Nnedi Okorafor and Alan Dean Foster

2 of 5 stars.

The landscape of Chicago gets imbued with specters of the Nigerian Igbo culture in this short story. Not unlike Jarmusch’s Night on Earth which shows the flavor of five major world cities from the backseat of taxis, this tale veers through the narrative from the backseat of an illegal cab in Chicago which bears an uncanny resemblance to a Nigerian kabu kabu, ie car for hire.

Ngozi’s hesitance to fly to Nigeria for her sister’s wedding rises to the top as she confronts both her lack of knowledge and yet her pride in her native culture. She doesn’t speak the language nor recognize much of the cultural iconography. The kabu kabu, in return, gives her more of a ride and lesson than she originally planned when it stops to pick up 3 other passengers much to her discomfort. In short order, she’s missed her flight at O’Hare and been robbed of her credit cards and cell phone. Allegorically, she’s stripped of her western safety net.

Her journey bounces from a confused Chicago landscape through otherworldly highways on her fantastical trek to the land of her parents.

This tale would be strengthened by a coherent sense of Chicago’s landscape rather than naming landmarks and streets that don’t pertain to any sensible trip to the airport. Also, the three passengers–who they are or what they represent–could also be made more clear. The second is barely human, if at all, and the third is drenched in human blood. Some sort of explanation is in order.

This tale appears in Okorafor’s anthology, Kabu Kabu by Prime Books.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]