Archive for February, 2012

Pseudopod 270: A Revelation of Cormorants

A Revelation of Cormorants

by Mark Valentine

Cormorant, from the Latin for “sea-raven”. The Tudors saw the bird as a symbol for gluttony: Shakespeare refers to hungry Time as a cormorant. It may have gained this reputation because of its proficiency at catching fish. Milton, however, invested the bird with a dark glamour: he likened Lucifer sitting in the Tree of Life to a cormorant, no doubt because of the bird’s habit of standing with its black wings spread out to dry. The satanic image stuck. The occultist and poet Ludovic Horne wrote of his “Cormorant days/dark and sleek”. The atheist essayist Llewellyn Powys refers to the birds as “satanic saints” in Parian niches on the chalk cliffs of Dorset, but he celebrated them too as manifesting the ecstasy of the moment, as they plunge into the sea after the silver-scaled fish of their dreams. Conan Doyle alludes to an untold Sherlock Holmes case of “The Lighthouse Keeper and the Trained Cormorant”. Isherwood cites them in a nonsense poem. Folklore about them is much barer than the literary record.


Pseudopod 269: The Burning Servant

The Burning Servant

by Steven Saus

‘Mrs. Freeman,’ Dr. Montegro said, ‘I believe there was a tale in the offering. While your observations of old age are … fascinating… they are not the coin of the realm. So to speak.’ The doctor looked down through his glasses at her. ‘We trade stories here, madam, and your grandson was going to tell one.’

The smile creased her face even further. ‘Why, yes, yes, he was.’ Jonathan tried to guide his grandmother to an armchair, but she waved him off, settling onto a barstool. ‘You fine educated men know of General Sherman, don’t you? The Union commander who burned his way from Atlanta to Savannah?’ Several men nodded; a few, who had betrayed Southern accents earlier in the evening, frowned. Montegro’s hand touched the silver chestpiece of his stethoscope.

Sarah looked up at the paneled ceiling for a moment, then back at the listening men. ‘What you don’t know is that Sherman didn’t do it all himself.’

Pseudopod 268: Let There Be Darkness

Let There Be Darkness

by Mike Allen

A day will come when the sun’s pale yellow stare starts to fill with the taint of blood.

Among the confused and tremulous hordes of mankind, amidst the endless processions of grand towers forged from metal stolen from the moon, I will walk. One knowing face, one unique being traversing the rivers of humanity that flood this world.

Pseudopod 267: Mentor


by Sean Eads

I recovered myself with difficulty. I was in my mentor’s house. I stood here uninvited but nevertheless I stood here. Understanding the opportunity, my attention burst outward in glances both rapid and greedy. I took in everything, finding the details of corners, seeking every scrap of intimate but banal information about the man. People might think this insane—I had after all worked closely with my mentor for a decade and a half, giving him my poems for his unsparing critiques, listening and agreeing to his thoughts on literature, attending his seminars and readings, making his friends my friends. I still was not good enough. I had never published anything but I kept at it. I was poor and I wrote about poverty. “You are poor,” my mentor would say, “but you have not suffered.” I was lonely and I wrote about loneliness. “Yes, you are lonely,” my mentor confirmed, “but loneliness is not suffering.” Gradually this became the sum of his critique. At the bottom of each returned poem he scribbled: “You still have not suffered.” I felt I would never understand. I looked about this room now as if it would tell me how to feel the anguish that clearly my mentor felt, the despair that made him so superior a poet. How could his kitchen tell me more about him than his verse, which was so confessional, so full of agony and torment, like a man imprisoned in his own flesh? What was knowledge of his plates and silverware in comparison? What could his dirty dishes tell me about his soul?