Sherre Vernon

Fiction Submissions

Once, when histories were oral, we passed each other myths for the keeping of our souls.  Please send fiction that dreams with myth and legend and dances with ancient tropes.  I’m looking for you to turn us all back on ourselves: déjà-vu of an epic scale.

There is a vast field against which your stories can be set.  Whether the work brings ancient gods to the here and now, (American Gods), adds back the myth into medieval history (The Habitation of the Blessed), or grapples with a post-historical world and an invented mythology (A Canticle for Leibowitz), I want to read it.  However, if your submission doesn’t dialogue with our deep history, this rich way of being human, it will be rejected, no matter the quality of the writing.

I do, of course, expect high quality prose.  The writing can be lyrical and fractured, if your phraseology breaks like light over your fragments.  Otherwise, the words should fall away from the page, like negative space, bringing your characters and their plights to the foreground.  

I am not looking for clever plot twists; the archetypal story is all palimpsest,  written over itself so many times.  I want to invest in your characters, their desperation, their still, silent moments.   It should go without saying that hateful writing, or writing that is overtly pornographic, will be rejected outright. 

Delight me. 

 

Of Penelope and Calypso, ca. 1973

I

 

With driftwood, the sea

touches her, pale and only

for the lean blue nights.

Penny downs

her Odyssey and sleeps

against the crook

 

of his arm, unfired clay.

He has withheld since

returning: this translation

is hard on the eyes, and English

a language of stone.

 

It is no unfamiliar thing

this leaving, this foregoing

the smell of rice paper,

by a woman’s hands traced

and hidden;

in deep accident,

by woman’s hands

found.

 

II

 

He knows one question

will unlock the years,

rust her bitter chastity,

unfork his tongue:

he will tell how he spilt her

name into the sandy stars

and intoned her face

through chalk-charred

northern cliffs,

 

how only unseen delay

kept him breast-pillowed

in a stranger’s cove.

He will say, no, I never

 

loved her so well as you

who weaved and unwove

everyman’s reach,

you who watched the sky,

the shivered horizon, for some

scar of my return.

 

III.

 

From shoulder glancing,

and the search for wild

yarrow trenches,

her tiny hand cuffs

where long hair fell –

 

to Ha Long Bay, a woman

bosomed and bare

washes away the last

of green face-oil, coarse

western cotton

between her thighs, long

cloth rolled to show –

 

dispossessed, an ankle,

in this burned thatch

where a man might –

were he not bound

by one lock of wind, forget

her unanswered covenant,

the why he left, and the way

he shoaled his Calypso.

Elijah Dreaming

1 Kings 18-19

Iraq, 2004

 

Brother,

 

I dreamed again of famine

in Baghdad, through the earth,

a tongue, a child crying Elijah

is come to kill me.

 

We summoned four hundred

brought them down

slit their throats

and made a trench.

I am the only

surviving.

 

I have seen the noon bare

her breasts for a little attention:

a green olive shawl

over the branches of white

blossoms. Like shade,

she says even the cactus

gives milk.

 

“Why are you here, Elijah?”

 

In Syria, in Baghdad:

the white broom juniper –

 

Through the Mojave and Sierra:

your joshua –

 

I am afraid.

 

It’s a day’s journey

into the dunes

to summon the grave:

I am no better than my fathers.

 

Our grandfather, an old man

fills a small canvas bag

with blossoms, the brush

too tall for his reach.

He makes me take it.

Grandmother says he does this

because he is dying.

I can feel her

bones inside me.

 

The sky grains brittle

with wind, and a heavy yashmak rain

the wind, a quaking,

a fire, a tiny whispering sound –

 

And I thought of the Anasazi

And I thought of Israel,

stacking stone upon stone,

so I hid my face and stood

at the entrance of the cave,

took the old road back.

Oh, my brother,

let the desert throw her cloak

over you.