Burnt Offering by David C. Kopaska-Merkel


You tear meat from bone with carmine lips,

Pour the thick red wine down your pulsing throat

(a misdirected drop follows my gaze between your breasts),

offer me the rest as the fire bellows.


Your gown, your hair,

your limpid eyes:

lust lies like a hungry tiger between us.

Its tail flicks

and an argent candlestick clatters across the room.


A crow breaks from cover — your chandelier is reeling;

the swinging crystals, sky diamonds, burn to ashes as

you glare at me,

worlds burning in your eyes,

the falling dust mantles the banquet like a shroud.


You wipe your mouth — leaving a grey smear of dust,

and open another bottle.

The crow pecks umber wax from the spattered drapes.

Your lashes flutter,

the torches explode in their sockets,

the crow is a scatter of ivory.

You lean forward and the linen smokes

where your breasts touch it.

“Come here.” And you smile.


I shove my chair back;

It falls, I rise;

the tiger yawns and the table creaks.

I lurch to the window.

I don’t remember this room, those stars, even my name.

I ball a fist but the glass melts before me.

On the balcony a carpet ripples and I step aboard.


I despise myself for leaving but your

smile is like the tiger,

you rend my heart with the surety

that one of us will feed tonight.

Still, I could forget that too,

but, Oh God, it might be me.


(First published in Xenophilia)

David C. Kopaska-Merkel edited Star*line in the late ‘90s, and later served as SFPA President. He won the Rhysling award (long poem) in 2006 for “The Tin Men,” a collaboration with Kendall Evans, and has edited two Rhysling anthologies. He was voted SFPA Grand Master in 2017. His poetry has been published in scores of venues, including Asimov’sStrange HorizonsPolu TexniIllumen, and Night Cry. He is the author of 30 books; several are available on Smashwords and Amazon. The newest is a poetry chapbook, Entanglement, co-authored with Kendall Evans, from Diminuendo Press. Kopaska-Merkel edits and publishes Dreams and Nightmares, a genre poetry zine in its 33rd year of publication. Blog: http://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/ @DavidKM on Twitter. He and his wife live in a 120-year-old farmhouse. He shares a keyboard with two cats.


Published 10/15/19