Colin James


puzzle box.jpg

Marie Vibbert


Marie Vibbert's poetry has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Abyss and Apex, and other random weird places.  By day she is a computer programmer in Cleveland, Ohio.

Choose Your Own Advent


Pick a city to be born in,

One with a history resonant with your tragedies.

(they all resonate with tragedies.)


Pick parents:

Brilliant and pretty or —



Split your zygote. You’re gonna need a friend.


No, “not poor” was not on the list of options.

Sweet as psychosis will be the barbed cradle of your birth.


Well, it’ll make a great autobiography.


Love anyway. Toddle anyway. Revel in pure non-comprehension

until [not] understanding starts to hurt.


Remember to scream like shards in your epiglottis

“I never asked to be born!”

Ask to be borne.


From age twelve to fourteen you may choose to hate your twin.

If you do, flinch guiltily at every memory.

If you don’t, a bubble of untested rage will sit behind your sternum forever.


Lose your parents, like a library book or

Like batman or

Fail to lose them no matter how you try.


Miss the bus or

Go where you are afraid to;


Every choice is a beginning.

All the ends are unsatisfying,

but it’s okay–

You’ll think it is your choice

at the time.



Inside the Puzzle Box

After ‘Treasure Box, 2014’ by Ai Wei Wei – wood sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art


Sub-surface scattering of light limns

the false satin depths of wood grain;

Crafted, fit flush and clean, this joiner’s masterwork

–each rhombus laid tight to deceive deeper, yet

the flash of polish blanks the surface, a sliding lake of lacquer.

Puzzle wood, your workings just exposed enough to thrill;

the piano sound can bounce

on those corridors and banquet floors I cannot:

a turn, a shine, just out of sight.

And oh, how I’d treasure

to lie on parquet, to rest my gaze on beams,

Shafts and ceilings and prisms and all of it

just around a corner from attainable:

Cathedral ceiling living

rooms, dovetail dinning nooks

to box in your treasure:

the void you sculpt.



Saint Sebastian


Bronze a delicate Bohr’s atom around your slender wrist,

Made to suffer, to

Prettily look away to be

Prized by the eye that follows the shaft.

In Genoa they pierced your youth,

One sculptor and a dozen ravenous priests,

Bristling you with metaphors.

Now you slouch in a sexless hall,

Climate-controlled saints contort in

Preserving dryness around you.

Sebastian, I thirst to free you, but

Not from your ropes.



Life in Front of Counters


We must be dangerous.

We are bounded with razor wire, bricks and bus-stops.

Mr. Hero and the welfare clerk alike protected

     behind Vaseline-thick glass.


Because we need worlds of purple and

Pop-can sculptures and

     plastic flowers on chain link. We


     and necessity needs nonessentials

Or our survival is insufficient.


A rich kid decides, like, sure, he

Wants to be an artist/writer/singer.

Here, they say, right this way.

Did you fail? Adorable. Try again

     and again
     and gliding through our atmosphere

In space shuttle Pontiacs,

He never sees the boundaries he breaks.


A poor kid needs to make,

And they say ain’t no way:

It’s all on the other side of that glass

With vacation photos and coffee mugs and lives

     as far as galaxies.


Our hands can slide otter-like into the steel depression

Our fingertips wriggle in that rarified air but

Touch Nothing.


We live our lives in front of counters,

between chains, outside of walls;

We are bounded, but we

     have time to yearn.