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Perhaps what I miss most,
meu amor, is the way your eyes would glimmer
in the guiding light of my Winchester. These marbles forced
into your skull are a poor excuse for the deathly precision
of your iris at the edge of a barrel. Your beauty a bullet
not even lamplight could catch, though I would spend
the rest of this eternal sleep galloping after it,
if only to catch a glimpse of the darkness
in your pupils.

But what is there to catch?
For even in death I have never left your side.
You sound as if you were some macaco
courting flames as they dance a xaxado
but you of all people should know
the cost of singed palm
and empty fist.

I know of but one cost and that is you, bela.
To be by your side in this place is little more than a cruel joke
when once I had given you a sertão as your wedding ring
and a caatinga as your bridal price. What love
is there to be bought here with our lips empty
and our necks sewn like a purse?

Had not this tongue been taken
I would sing you the songs of our memory.
Let you listen to the sweet tones of glory
as they serenade the ghosts of our adversaries
like a shrill Lugar’s whistle.

Tell me, what glory is there in a headless man?
Whose body rots while all above the neck persists
only for the amusement of those passing by? Do you not see
how they mock us with outstretched arm and bucktoothed smile?
How they call us criminal? There is no remembrance
of our deeds. Only the bloated excess
of our deformed features.

It is true that these bodies
are ephemeral, but is there not power in a man
who resists long after his final breath has slowed?
Our names echo through the ridges of a Serra do Araripe down
through all the saints’ isles. What is loyalty worth in life
if you cannot capture their hearts in death?

Hearts are only worth as much
as the coronel’s nickel or as much credit as lead can buy.
Is that not what my father learned when his credit came due?
Is that not how we found ourselves cangaceiros, a band of debtors
who refused to pay by the rules they enslaved us with?
Yet, even now we seem to pay with each daily
repetition of this grotesque performance.

And what greater reverence for a cangaceiro is there?
To crucify yourself at the hands of Judas
so that the legend of your defiance can ring true.
If you cannot rest peacefully with that
do you even know what it is
you died for?



Woody Dismukes is a Brazilian-American poet and author living in Jackson Heights, Queens. He is a 2018 Clarion West graduate and has taught at University Settlement’s Creative Center. His work is featured in Huizache, Lightspeed, Apex, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @WoodyDismukes or on his website woodydismukes.com.
Current Issue
30 Jan 2023

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much.
It is probably impossible to understand how transformative all of this could be unless you have actually been on the receiving end.
Some of our reviewers offer recollections of Maureen Kincaid Speller.
Criticism was equally an extension of Maureen’s generosity. She not only made space for the text, listening and responding to its own otherness, but she also made space for her readers. Each review was an invitation, a gift to inquire further, to think more deeply and more sensitively about what it is we do when we read.
When I first told Maureen Kincaid Speller that A Closed and Common Orbit was among my favourite current works of science fiction she did not agree with me. Five years later, I'm trying to work out how I came to that perspective myself.
Cloud Atlas can be expressed as ABC[P]YZY[P]CBA. The Actual Star , however, would be depicted as A[P]ZA[P]ZA[P]Z (and so on).
In the vast traditions that inspire SF worldbuilding, what will be reclaimed and reinvented, and what will be discarded? How do narratives on the periphery speak to and interact with each other in their local contexts, rather than in opposition to the dominant structures of white Western hegemonic culture? What dynamics and possibilities are revealed in the repositioning of these narratives?
a ghostly airship / sorting and discarding to a pattern that isn’t available to those who are part of it / now attempting to deal with the utterly unknowable
Most likely you’d have questioned the premise, / done it well and kindly then moved on
In this special episode of Critical Friends, the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, reviews editors Aisha Subramanian and Dan Hartland introduce audio from a 2018 recording for Jonah Sutton-Morse’s podcast Cabbages and Kings which included Maureen Kincaid Speller discussing with Aisha and Jonah three books: Everfair by Nisi Shawl, Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan, and The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar.
Issue 23 Jan 2023
Issue 16 Jan 2023
Issue 9 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
2 Jan 2023
Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
Issue 2 Jan 2023
Strange Horizons
Issue 19 Dec 2022
Issue 12 Dec 2022
Issue 5 Dec 2022
Issue 28 Nov 2022
By: RiverFlow
Translated by: Emily Jin
Issue 21 Nov 2022
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