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Metastable Systems


David C. Kopaska-Merkel




Published by Cyberwizard Productions


David’s photo by Andrew K. Rindsberg

Metastable Systems book copyright © 2017 Cyberwizard Productions

Individual poems copyright © 2017 David C. Kopaska-Merkel


First Edition


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher and the individual authors, excepting brief quotes used in connection with reviews.





These are for Sheila




Introduction



How can a water bear (also known as a tardigrade, one remarkably tough micro-animal) be a superhero?

Such questions lie at the heart of David Kopaska-Merkel’s speculative verse. He is himself a scientist – a geologist – and this is Science turned sideways. Warped in ways only someone with deep, abiding knowledge and love could even consider. Science powering a true poetry of ideas.

Whether he turns his artistic vision to science fiction, fantasy, or the dark fantastic, an unsettling amount of real information seeps in. The femmes fatales of Lovecraft’s Innsmouth are scarier for being categorized by species. Suicide by walking on the Sun is analyzed in detail, then found to be impractical. Microscopic aliens lurk everywhere, but they can’t eat us.

Or at least digest us after they’ve tried.

There’s a distinctive voice at work here – a dry, subtle humor that can turn chilling. Science isn’t always pretty. It is, however, infinitely inspiring. At least, it seems to be for Kopaska-Merkel, one of the most productive poets around. His name turns up regularly in publications large and small, print and digital. His blog offers readers new works almost daily.

And then there’s Dreams and Nightmares, his venerable speculative poetry magazine – on issue #106 at the time of this writing. Kopaska-Merkel isn’t just concerned with his own outpouring of ideas. He’s been curating a home for the ideas of others since 1986.

Many of the poems you’re about to encounter are quite short, like showers of sparks. (Or meteors.) Others are extended wry observations: did you ever stop to think about...?

How a water bear, scaled up, would actually make an amazing superhero. What happens when a cat goes nova. What might be the result of... well, just about any geeky, unlikely, but scientifically detailed event that could only happen in a poem like this.

David Kopaska-Merkel always stops to think about. But never for too long.

There are so many other ideas impatiently waiting to be formed into lines and stanzas. Given disturbingly apt titles, or running silent with none at all.

Then launched.


– Ann K. Schwader

Westminster, Colorado

May 2017




The Language of Body



Your smell,

Your hair,

The black hole of you,

Sucking me away from science.


Just pheromones, I know,

But they speak the language of body,

That tongue which,

Invented by our vertebrate ancestors,

Brings man and woman together.


I am crashing

On the reef of your hips,

The up-curved nose of you,

The studious lashes of your eyes.


My fossils call with dusty voices,

Write us into story, they say,

Publish the tales of our evolution,

But you are already written

On my hands;

You are the generation

Of light.




I. The Tumbler Stars Click Home



Backwater


Off the trails

blazed by Dreamers

who slept in ancient days,

weedy paths meander toward

long-forgotten cities

buried in lexicons of thought,

afloat in dream mirages,

reveries of near-forgotten years,

unvisited, scarce real,

translucent, unmoored.


Sometimes we've heard,

round embrous fires, glowing

neath the stars who peer

at camps of dreamers in the waste,

or lonely on a dream-dark sea,

the doubtful names of cities

dreamt of once upon a night.


Hypersiphia, where youths may yet disport

and gorge on dreamfruit:

creamcherries, pureed, clotted,

and spread on cakes--

they prolong Dream,

mayhap forever;


maryapples, bearing the faces of women

of the waking world;

it's said that eating these apples

brings nightmares to those

whose countenances they bear;


hoogfruit, repellent of aspect

and of odor,

rarely safe to eat;

the chefs of Weltumn knew the trick,

tis said,

but they've all died, save one;

and she'll not cook again.


But move on, move on I say,

press aside the weeds of

time, seek out the wreck

of yesteryear and go.


Farther down the track,

scarcely a track at all,

merely a thinness in the weeds,

other citadels once stood,

rude stones, tumbled, blurred, and cracked,

faint earthworks furred with forest,

are all that remains,

unless furtive hunters trace

their ancestry to cooks, blacksmiths, and lords

of undreamed nights.


Beyond, this track is done,

and broken heights agnarl

with twisted trees of types unknown,

or unwholesome spawn

of oak, hickory, or elm, parentage

hinted by their raddled leaves

glare hungrily at dusk;

noisome fogs mask much;

something calls out like a frighted child,

another croaks words one fears to know,

even the weeds grow wrong.


No shy hunters walk these woods

but something furtive blinks

sulfur in the gloom;

its leavings: gnawed bones of doubtful aspect,

crabbed footprints, and other sign, whisper

“Stay not here!“ to those who

pass into the trackless lands.


Dreamers, only, venture here;

those who linger do not wake.


Halloween in the Haunted House


Last Halloween

We spent the night in the old house

On the hill it stands alone

The door opened as we

Climbed up on the porch

An old man smiled toothlessly

Like rifting earth when a tree falls

Made us welcome with bitter tea

For politeness' sake we drank a little

It lingered unpleasantly upon the tongue


He showed us to our room

Gave us blankets; we slept on the floor

I felt unmoored, carried off on dreams

Of things that flapped insistently

Scrabbled at nursery windows

Crawled into cribs

Bared blackened palisades of teeth


I started up from dream

A weird ululation faded as I woke

Selena stared out the open window

Clouds fled across the moon

Dreams dragged me down again

Things like cubist dogs slavered

After me across a shifting cityscape

Of nightmare; I broke free at last

Dawn struggled with ensnaring trees


Selena at the window still

She leaned out; her hands

Clutching at the rotting sill

I softly called “What do you see?“

Hearing no answer, got up

Floor creaked under cold bare feet

I spoke again; touched her shoulder

She fell apart bit by bit

Flakes of ash fluttered in a chill wind

That blew into the room


Red-litten, Measured to the Nth


Experiment with marble mouthsful,

discover the phonology

of whoopass,

recall overlords from death

or worse; don't expect gratitude,

but to be eaten first.


Stable-isotope ratios of ichor,

of ivory mandibles,

put a firm date to carved surfaces

using microscratch density,

U-Pb isotopes,

distribution of trace elements in cements

in limestone blocks,

yawning from abyssal deserts

and echoing with spectral chitters,

heard, recorded, analyzed, compared,

classified: tekeli-li:

here there be monsters.


Out of my price range


Nice boot,

I say,

what’s it made of?



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