The Ballad of Bellerophon-7 — a poem

The Ballad of Bellerophon-7

(an ode to the vintage science fiction paperback in three parts)

1. [blast off]

Hundreds and thousands of rectangular units:

a haphazard cityscape piled up from black type on yellowing paper

dying leaves, brittle and acid, on shelves mapped with dust and cracks

tiny brethren of the Moon’s craters, the mountains of Mars

Sifting through attic-born boxes overflowing with fantastic seductions:

The Unteleported Man, To Open the Sky, Galaxies Like Grains of Sand,

and unsettling slabs of name conjuring up the weird and uncanny:

Slan                Ubik                  Dhalgren                   Rork!

Thumb fanning loose-paged edge, whizzing across the event horizon of story time

fizzing exhale releases musty particles of wanton promise,

olfactory cloud formations whispering in dry ink: the future…

alternate reality… journey to the unknown… the un-nameable, named

2. [cruising at the speed of light]

Crumbling covers still alive with mod geometrics and paint-splatter nebulae,

faded heroes in iridescent suits stride across see-thru towers and geodesic domes,

titanium ships sail lakes of plasma, glittering asteroid belts, black, black holes,

their vapor trails describe a Mobius strip: yesterday’s vision of tomorrow

Strings of words, humble pads of paper, spines broken but still willing

they will introduce us to The Men Inside, call a warning of The Silent Invaders,

let us watch The Leaves of Time falling slowly through The Dark Light Years,

bathe us in a Pool of Fire under the Eye in the Sky’s omniscient gaze

1984, copyright 1948: the memory of 1984 in 1984 flickers like a telescreen

a journalistic simplicity to the booming numbers in orange and fuchsia,

Orwell in violet and blue, alone with his numerals, presides over a field of white

the future was ahead, then the future was now, now the future is past

3. [hyperspace]

Let us admit: some sit unread, collector’s items preening in plastic

but years of wonder coaxed by antennaed creatures and ringed planets,

spinning heads launched on gleaming rockets into X-dimensions,

leak out like onion tears, psychohistory from the pulpy innards

The book as question: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

echoing down through editions regal and classy, cheap and profane

science fiction, sci-fi, speculative fiction, slipstream

The Modern Prometheus keeps to its mission: stealing the flame

Pages keep turning, futuristic stories growing lined and gray

time machines from long ago whirling into tomorrow, crashing into today

ephemeral objects, geriatric legends, reborn again in wormhole brains

the reader finishes what the writer began, when the writer is gone, the story remains

— Jonathan Hawpe

Earth, April, 2008

Acknowledgements to the following authors for the appropriation of their book titles and neologisms in this poem: Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Brian Aldiss, Barry Malzberg, George Orwell, Neal Barrett, jr., A.E. van Vogt, John Christopher, Mary Shelley, Avram Davidson, Samuel R. Delany, Isaac Asimov.


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