Size / / /

Content warning:


Editor’s Note: This poem is part of Strange Horizons’ twentieth anniversary special issue. From 2010 to 2016, Strange Horizons held annual readers’ polls; R.B. Lemberg poems won in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015. During the same timeframe, R.B. founded the influential mythic poetry magazine Stone Telling, and used Stone Bird Press to back other important speculative poetry projects—helping launch the careers of many poets who appear in our pages.


for Ursula, Sonya, and Corey

Prelude

 

The world burns, the residue of ash
staining my hands with snow
that melted before I remembered
my name, my shape, my purpose,
if ever it was so singular.
I tell myself that it’s too late now
to remember, to walk
through the library of my lives, through all the years
in which I wrote what no longer is written, in which
I whispered
in language of stone and rock, the long pedigree of the rivers
that made me before they flowed,
that spoke themselves into being while I stood
on their banks, listening
to the language of muck and exultation
before casting my stones, before
their concentric circles
told a story.
What now?
What use is there of stones that fall into rivers
as brittle as the world’s burning, what memory
shall I shape from this ash? Only this:
that as sure as the ice is melting, the flame’s
reign too will be quenched one day, and the stones
speak again. Until then, I listen.

 

The Old Craft

 

I wish I knew this earlier in life:
each healing creates a debt.
A healer
who walks between people, asking for no recompense,
not even a song, becomes sinister.
I did not want their money, so some paid
lesser healers for lesser healings.
Others turned from me once they were well —
refusing that I still existed
after sickness was gone from their world. After all, I was
a reminder
that sickness still lingered somewhere,
always too close. I took it away — perhaps I also brought it.
There were yet others who survived the sharpest edge of a knife,
the red heart-tide or the sharpshoot of a stroke,
they knew the debt could never be repaid
with money — only with their lives after
which they would offer to me,
often with resentment.
It felt heavy and yet I kept working,
kept piling the debts on
like stones on the riverbank, a monument
to my pride, my folly, my own
deep wounds that I could not touch.

I stopped at last, and started attending deaths.
There was no debt there. Only listening.

 

The New Craft

 

Like river breaks
past its banks of ash,
flooding flooding flooding

Like fire outflung
past the confines of the body’s house,
expanding
lingering

So I’ve grown old before I bloomed,
I’ve chosen silence over speech
and made a waiting place.

It’s not over yet
and there’s nothing to do
— though, some say, a great mystery —
but there’s nothing to do
except be present, except be
like stones that fear no flood, no heat,

the stones that hear no steps and see no light,
the stones that do not look beyond:

the stones, attending.

 

Stone

 

I am geode, I think,
turned inward. Satisfied
that I am owed no debt
and fear no mending for my breakage.

Inside my stone shell is a crystal cavern
that hasn’t seen a light
since stones were born. Between the crystals
in the geode, a hollow cavity.
A breath as ancient as the world
is captive there.

The world that burns imagines its rebirth,
a day that’s sung, outflung, a day that dawns through muck and exultation,
a dawn that cracks my stone, the dawn
— the mortal light, revealed —
that opens my geode

and frees its breath.

 

Listening

 

All world is breath, and when the breath is gone,
it melds into the world. The breath
of words, of trees, of cities, even the geode
is whole and broken, flooded, burned, victorious, given up, and still.
It’s not a linear story.
It never was.
I listen to the breath.



R.B. Lemberg is a queer, nonbinary immigrant from Eastern Europe to the US. R.B.'s novella The Four Profound Weaves (Tachyon Press, 2020) was a finalist for the Nebula, Ignyte, Locus, World Fantasy, and other awards. Their first novel, The Unbalancing (Tachyon), and short story collection, Geometries of Belonging (Fairwood Press), were published in 2022. Their poetry memoir, Everything Thaws, will be published by Ben Yehuda Press in 2023. You can find R.B. on twitter at rb_lemberg, Patreon at http://patreon.com/rblemberg, and their website http://rblemberg.net.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
Tuesday: Genre Fiction: The Roaring Years by Peter Nicholls 
Wednesday: HellSans by Ever Dundas 
Thursday: Everything for Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072 by M. E. O'Brien and Eman Abdelhadi 
Friday: House of the Dragon Season One 
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
Load More
%d bloggers like this: