Steve Evans. Oteeyho Iro. Charles Haddox. Zama Madinana. Taylor Graham. Natalie Harris-Spencer. Jason Lobell. Maggie Yang. Aaron Weinzapfel. Meredith Wadley. Asma Al-Masyabi. Linda Neal. Shilo Niziolek. David A. Porter.
Ceridwen Hall is a writer and educator from Ohio. She is the author of a chapbook, Automotive (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Pembroke Magazine, Tar River Poetry, The Cincinnati Review and other journals.
When we are anxious, we like stories with rules
for time travel. For instance, I can go backwards,
but not forwards because the world might not exist
ahead of time. Or you can go back, but you mustn’t
take anything, mustn’t touch anyone; you might alter
history just by speaking—the way archaeologists
and politicians do, reframing battles as expedient
when new bones surface. We might find
that someone has already intervened, minutes
or centuries ago, so now there’s no choice
for any protagonist but to repeat the act. Time machines
reflect the era in which they are produced—
ours are luminous screens, free, now, of wheels and levers.
They shimmer and we struggle to follow
the complex mechanics of temporal transit, to spot
the glitch that protects against chaos.
If I stay too long, I won’t make it back to my own time.
Or you might complete several trips, only to witness
the same emergency recurring: blast, aftermath. We check
the parameters, try to cheat. But once we know,
it’s always too late; our hammered warning trips
the whole crowd into panic. We go mute, watching
our mistakes unfold; they rush, arms outstretched,
toward a brief incandescent future.
across four screens, a longboat voyages and is built. Or reconstructed with our best approximation of historical materials and techniques. They show this on a loop, leaving us to imagine the boats’ ritual burning. Two crews race each other west; but when you look again, you find they are one, doubled. Viking was more verb than noun, the wall asserts. For trading abroad. And for pillaging, though we are encouraged to marvel instead at tools and motifs borrowed from neighbors. Pendants gleam behind glass: leaping dear, ornate crosses. They captured slaves also, now represented by empty chains over a paragraph none of the mothers will read aloud. Their children press buttons, fight over who gets to lift the sword. Fog threatens. Grey sails—wool—ripple in silent wind
Another year, a new accident, I will think,
once I’ve located my eyeglasses and the fuse
is lit; or, halt and blur, as the flames climb
a ladder of smoke and noise. Then we glide
under the dragon, into the mouth of the party.
I drift toward explanation: a pedestrian starting
to cross, a faulty signal—so she couldn’t tell
I’d braked. But there are astrological predictions
to be heard, films to watch. Her engine crumpled
against my bumper and tail lights. A friend tows
me to the nearest chair. We saw fluid leaking,
but none of those white subtitles that indicate
what we are looking at, whose submarine
has been hit and in which ocean. I worry
my stop was too abrupt, admit this—as a captain
rescues his enemy and they agree the blast
was an act of sabotage, but fail to convince
their governments. At home, trees limbs block
the curb again and I slip into ultra-quiet mode,
where, if a wrench is dropped, it falls
with terrible slowness—until an outstretched
palm perhaps averts disaster.
like the crew of a submarine, ordered to attain a certain velocity, they proceed absent a destination. It’s just nickels and dimes, up or down, when the day ends. Abstraction contains, the way a missing hydrogen bomb’s destructive capacity can be measured in cities rather than civilians, a series of bets devised to locate and retrieve it. Exact magnitudes, at this depth, diminish confidence or inflate it. Instead they celebrate with Wednesday night trivia, where obscure facts turn assets. He enjoys winning, but knows the game is to sell drinks. All scores are rituals—are wars of quantifying. Words too; no matter its size, a sub is never a ship, always a boat, as if just out fishing—where risk, amid oceans of data, begets further oscillation
Souilly, France 1918
Cables stretch through barbed wire and battlefields
become switchboards. From above, pilots report,
invisible hands seem to manipulate the plugs
in thousands of electric flashes. Generals speak
to every trench as Signal Corps women connect
hundreds of calls. They breathe smoke and speak
French or English as necessary, retaining
AT&T’s polite script in case of interception
—if “the line is out of order,” it’s been bombed.
When headquarters catch fire, they keep making
calls until engineers drag their switchboards out
to nearby fields. A silent hour follows. (I mute
my phone and conceal my location, so I can think
of this in absurd comfort, undisturbed by friends
or news of my own century.) To hide the reason
for downed communications from their enemy,
the operators take responsibility for this lapse
and apologize. They are somewhere between
ladies and officers with gas masks hanging ready
and navy skirts—hems raised beyond propriety
to clear the mud; no one knows how to address them,
whether to salute. The Hello Girls learn new codes
every week, eat like wolves—or men—when bacon
appears in the mess. Days off, they drill with pistols
and, to boost morale, play and sing at the piano.