Ekphrastic Acrylics

“Ocean Beach” by Amelia Cooney, Acrylic Pour

Nonestic Meets the Nothing
by C. S. E. Cooney
for Amelia L. Cooney

there, where the waters of oz
run sun-rich with silt
where those old waters run
powdered by paths pummeled by tornados
there, where gold-dust mingles with
bitter tears of dispossessed gargoyles
with silver sequins, and sad apples, and lonely-for-homeness
there, where come the waters, the waters of the river mouth
hard up against the nonestic sea
there, oh!
a terrible sea, that nothing sea
like a storm swept in
from the neverending story

“Sunset River,” by Joel Cooney, Acrylic Pour

Parochial Playground
by C. S. E. Cooney
for Joel Cooney

light as a feather, stiff as a board
light as a feather, stiff as a board
bright as a peacock, cold and hard
bright as a peacock, cold and hard

shove a shiv in the river
let its guts run down
shove a shiv in the river
let its guts run down

set a fire to the river
let the wyrms crawl ’round
set a fire to the river
let the wyrms crawl ’round

you are a
limnologist, standing at the edge
of a river
standing at that place where sunset meets
water, where land meets
lava, you are balancing
in the riparian zone, between
the green leaves of
home and
a channel of molten potential

eyes open, all-radiant


The first poem comes out of that bright, bold yellow in Amelia’s painting. I immediately thought of it as “Oz Yellow”–like the yellow brick road. The similarities between her roiling blue ocean and “The Nothing” in the Neverending Story struck me, and for the first time, I thought of those two childhood books (and films) together. Today I learned that the ocean of Oz was called “the Nonestic Ocean” which means “the non-existing ocean.” And that made me think of “The Nothing” as well.

The second poem “Parochial Playground” came out of a memory of that old schoolyard game we used to play: “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board.” It begins by a circle of children lifting a single supine child in their midst all together, each child using only their index and middle fingers to raise her. It ends with that child–her eyes closed–being led to and placed upon a cement curb stop, told she is on the Empire State Building, and then… pushed off. The fall is not long. And it is forever.

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From WIP: Fiddle

Context: A conversation between two goblin sisters of Hatch Khelekeres— Loxósseliss “Fiddle” and Dida–about the half-selkie boy (elephant seal, from the Pinkbladder family) whom Dida wants to marry.

These goblin girls both have spider-like attributes. Dida shares a few things in common with the spitting spider. Lox (or “Fiddle”) is very much like a brown recluse. She likes computer games, staying in, and accidentally biting people who startle her.

“Wait,” I said, and Dida stopped rhapsodizing for a second. “Does your boy have immunity to . . . you know?” I gestured to her wet mouth.

Dida’s semi-translucent hair-legs writhed in ecstasy across her entire scalp. She smoothed the silken tatters of her mini-dress, then immediately rumpled them again as she began hopping up and down and hugging herself

“He’s fine.”

Her smirk indicated something more like “and by fine I mean HIS ASS” or perhaps “to people who are immune to its toxicity, this saliva is a feature not a bug.”

She went on to explain, “Gentry-babes from the Fathom Realms are particularly robust.”

“I see. More so than ungulates?”

The smirk deepened. “Brine is an excellent lubricant.”

I shuddered. “Saltwater? In all those crevices?”

She laughed. “Friction!”



“Rash. Rash on all your carapaces.”

“He’s worth it. I promise. Those thighs! That nose bladder! So. Will you go with me?”

And then she said the P word again. And again. And again.

“Please? Please, Fiddle? Pretty please? With sugar on top of dwayberry tarts and fruit flies and earwigs—please?”

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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 5: Mystery: Questions

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

This is the last of the prompts in this mini-series based on the book How to Read a Poem, based on Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry“, but there are more free prompts here.

Based on Robert Haight’sHow Is It That The Snow
Write a poem that begins with a question. Don’t try too hard to answer it.

Since When

by C. S. E. Cooney

for Kiri

since when
did we take up our cameras, capture
our faces–
graceless, ageless, haggard and fey, shades of
dwayberry and moth-wing-gray
in the dusk?
since when was that us?

since when
did we use tablecloths for
instead of affixing them to our
persons with safety pins and fringed sashes–
choose to do dishes, when we might be prancing off
for sultry parklands, hand in hand, crushing
dusty moonbeams with our combat boots?

since when
did we reread Rilla, looking for escape
in friendly old pages, hoping to shake
off days of confinement, grinding duties
fearful uncertainties, find not comfort but
consanguinity with grief
death tolls that defy belief, and hear again
(as for the first time, again) that phantom
piper, and wonder–if he plays, he plays
for thee, for me–
for our beloveds or beloved strangers
on my side
or on thy side of the sea?

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Book Pairing: Martha Wells’s NETWORK EFFECT and Carlos Hernandez’s SAL AND GABI FIX THE UNIVERSE

Hear me out, hear me out.

Both Martha Well‘s NETWORK EFFECT and Carlos Hernandez‘s SAL AND GABI FIX THE UNIVERSE are out on May 5th of this year.

I think they’d make an EXCELLENT book pairing. I’ve been sort of nesting them in my mind, imagining Sal Vidón spending a summer weekend reading all the Murderbot Diaries, then dressing up as Murderbot/SecUnit for Halloween/Rompenoche.

I mean, it makes SO MUCH sense! Sal goes to an arts school, loves cosplay, adores robots–has a few sentient robot friends, including a toilet–and would be on the lookout for fictional heroes as ace/aro as he!

Also, the Remembranation Machine in SAL AND GABI FIX THE UNIVERSE, a super-intelligent computer with cosmic processing power, would probably want to cosplay ART, the “Asshole Research Transport” in Martha Wells’s Murderbot Diaries.

…Except the Remembranation Machine is not NEARLY sarcastic enough to pull it off, so it’d have to collaborate on its cosplay with its pal, the Entropy Sweeper, who is sarcastic enough for the two of them.

Carlos asked me who Gabi would be cosplaying. (We figured out American Stepmom would be Dr. Mensah and Gustavo would be Thiago.) And something Sharon Shinn said on Facebook MADE ME REALIZE…

GABI wouldn’t settle for cosplaying a secondary character. Oh, no. She’d retaliate by reading Ann Leckie’s ENTIRE Imperial Radch series! And she’d cosplay Breq, the ancillary unit of the starship Justice of Toren’s AI!!!

Anyway, that’s my daydream. Love BOTH these books so much. Both of them out on 5/5. PREORDER!


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Live from Studio Quarantine…

Recording from home, my mom’s home, with everyone else at home, during shelter-in-place, is a little like…


(Except, LOL, my own.)

(I tried getting up at 5 to record, and almost succeeded, but got snuggled back to oblivion. My bad.)

Ice machines, man. Everyone wants cold drinks. And they want them NOW. It’s like we’re living in a desert or something…

What’s that new noise? Ah. A juicer, I’d bet. Okay, well. I got 30% of my project done. Just need two more quiet mornings and I can probably finish. Probably time to call it a day, let people be people and not mimes.

No, autocorrect, I did not mean “mines.” Okay, maybe I did.

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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 4: Ah ha! Perspective Flash

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum‘s PoemConstellations
McFadyen-Ketchum “catches the light” of these fireflies from a variety of angles, describing them in different settings, times, and imaginations. Each stanza presents its own flash of insight about these creatures. Choose an object to explore from a few different perspectives in a poem.


by C. S. E. Cooney

handheld device, second brain, window to the world
record of my index print, trained to my voice, trained to call
the ones I love, by the names I’ve assigned them

palm-sized secretary, ball-and-chain, tethered attention
bearer of bad news, scavenger of headlines, object that tamed
me, that brought me to heel at a flash, a banner, a buzz, a ping

o love letter, o music box, o theatre, o photo album
o family, o amanuensis, o secret keeper, o library
o campfire, o atlas, o diet, o meter of my steps

and when you break down, as you are breaking now
how I mourn you, how I feel my future on the fritz
how I plug you in, avoid you, am repulsed, ashamed, a failure

ah, but when you work, how only I forget to thank you
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you
thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 3: Line: Suspense Breaks

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Chris Forhan’s PoemWhat My Father Left Behind
In Forhan’s poem, not only do the line breaks, but the stanza breaks (breaks between groups of lines), carry a lot of “weight”: half-finished—, he might be, and it arcs, for instance. Write a poem in which the breaks at stanzas suggest emotions, multiple meanings, themes, or suspense. Challenge yourself further by making each stanza the same number of lines.


By C. S. E. Cooney

he says, shy-scratching his quarantine curls, “there are people
in the kitchen, talking, so I’m waiting, like a gremlin, waiting
for my turn to go in and cook, some waffles and eggs, perhaps
a second cup of coffee”

I say (or want to say), “let me make your breakfast! thaw
your Eggos, stir in my colibrí’s sweet ratio of sugar to
caffeine, not break your yolk this time, serve it up pristine
in one of mama’s cobalt bowls!”

he checks his twitter, stands and paces, sneaks out
the door in his pajamas, alligator t-shirt, ducks back in
grinning, mutters, “not yet!” like a gremlin, prances to
his laptop, dainty, rinse-repeat

I, like a folksong, bend head to breast, lean over laptop, tap-
tapping it all out, real-time, here’s a poem, it hardly rhymes but
it’s us, right now, 9:56, a rill of wind chimes just outside our
wide-open window

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Francesca Forrest’s Gown of Harmonies

Gown of Harmonies, by Francesca Forrest

A few days ago, I read Gown of Harmonies by Francesca Forrest and it was JUST WHAT I NEEDED!

Francesca’s work, for some reason, always is. Last year, I read her novella The Inconvenient God, which made me laugh–so utterly surprising and delightful as it was. And her earlier, still so gorgeous, epistolary novel, Pen Pal, abides in me still.

Francesca’s newest novelette, Gown of Harmonies, delivers just that same “fabulous Francesca feeling,” though it’s never the same feeling, because she’s always trying something new!

This story is full fairy magic, human music, fairy trickery, human heart. Labor and stubbornness. And kindness. So much kindness. I’d recommend this story for anyone who loves the works of Robin McKinley and Patricia A McKillip.

Speaking of kindness, Francesca announced when she put out this novelette that all proceeds from it would go to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, which local to the author! That’s JUST THE SORT OF THING I love in this world, and every time I see evidence of it, I get happier.

By day, a recording studio. By night, our BEDS! #quarantine

A few hours of reading Gown of Harmonies, I started to get this… itch. (No, not that kind of itch!) The last audiobook I recorded was back in December, for Tantor, and since then I’ve been exercising my talents (maybe kind of an obsession) by reading Jasper Fforde books to my husband Carlos. (OMGoodness, Early Riser was one of our FAVORITE THINGS WE READ last year!!!)

But now that we’re “Sheltering in Place” at my mom’s house in Arizona (we came for a little vacation and then… stayed) (we don’t know when we’ll be able to go home to NYC) (we’re very lucky to be here) (also, I only packed for a week), we’re reading the ARC of Martha Well‘s forthcoming Murderbot novel, Network Effect. My mom jumped in, so I get a larger audience, which suits my inner Norma Desmond like whoa.

(FUN FACT, Network Effect coming out on May 5th, the same day Carlos’s book Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe comes out with Disney Hyperion! PRE-ORDER!)

All of which to say, I thought that it might be time to do a little reading-aloud project that might go a little further than Carlos’s ears. To that end, I asked Francesca Forrest (who is my friend!) if I might volunteer my voice for her audiobook.


What a posh mic. Where does my brother get this stuff?

So I found a little team willing to proof and produce me. These are Jessica P. Wick: a poet, author, and an AMAZING proofer and editor of books and audiobooks–so, if you’re looking for someone to do that, I recommend her heartily–and Jeremy Cooney: one of my five beautiful brothers, (like all my brothers, great at everything), musician, game master and podcaster, video editor, etc. He’s also the one who collaborates with me on my Brimstone Rhine projects.

All proceeds from the audiobook for Gown of Harmonies will ALSO go to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, to help create support for those who have been laid off in this crisis, & otherwise!


Since necessity breeds innovation, I have taken two of the foam mats (see above) that we are sleeping on in mama’s guest room (well, it was a “yoga/meditation room,” hence no bed and the need for Home Depot’s foam mats), and a little folding desk we got from Staples, and I borrowed a mic from Jeremy. Therewith, I have set up what will pass for a small studio!

I figure, if I get up at 5 AM before everyone else, including cats and birds and traffic are awake, I can record The Gown of Harmonies tomorrow and possibly the next day. And then send it on to Jess to proof me, and Remi to produce me, ET VOILA! We will have made a thing. TOGETHAH!


C. S. E. Cooney, excited

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TweetSpeak Poetry Prompt 2: Sound: Irresistible Vocabulary

From TweetSpeak’s Poetry Prompt Free Mini-Series. Sign up at their website to get prompts in mail.

Based on Sara Barkat’s Poem “Gerda in the Garden”
Barkat creates irresistible sounds by employing “expert vocabulary,” or specific words from a field, such as gardening. Write a poem that catalogs a variety of words you may not commonly use—it could be language from ice hockey, chemistry, or raising guinea pigs. Doing a bit of research first is okay. Play with the words and enjoy the sounds of them bumping and crashing together.

A Day In the Recording Booth

by C. S. E. Cooney

plosives are plush explosions, plummy and plumy, breathy and balloony
blowsy as tulips, effervescent on the lips, bubblebounce of sound
need a popscreen, angled jaw, distance from the mic (or put a sock on it!)
the “r’s,” however, more approximant, are rounded, restful consonants
though by weary wend of day, they rasp and fray and deliquesce to “w’s”
sibilance is easy-peasy, susquehanna-Sasquatch-squeezy, yes but even so
it sometimes slides to lisping fricatives, voiced or voiceless dental fricatives
“Thuffering thuccotash!” crieth Thylvethter. “Thith tongue ith tired!”
the lateral is lulling, liquid and compelling, but come nightfall, all there is, is


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Forum Network: Fantastic Reimaginings: Readings And Discussion

Well, this is really cool!

The Forum Network posted the entire Speculative Boston reading and panel that I got to do with Sonya Taaffe and Nina MacLaughlin, introduced by Gillian Daniels.

I read bits from The Twice-Drowned Saint–my new (short) novel, forthcoming from Mythic Delirium in The Sinister Quartet anthology (available for pre-order, both paperback and ebook!), along with great, dark novellas by Mike Allen, Jessica Wick, and Amanda J. McGee.

Sonya read from her collection Forget the Sleepless Shores, and Nina read from her collection of re-told myths Wake, Siren.

Then we have a panel discussion with some VERY interesting questions! (And, as far as I can remember them, SOME AWESOME ANSWERS TOO.)

So, for all you DARLING NERDS (like me) out there, check it out, here:
Fantastic Reimaginings: Readings And Discussion

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