Hello, horror fiends! I’d like to welcome Matt Moore to Cedar Hollow. Today, he is sharing two poems with us. “Heaven is the Hell of No Choices” first appeared in Polar Borealis #4 (2017) and won the Aurora Award for poetry in 2018. “Procrastination’s Joy” appeared in Jamais Vu #1 (2014).
Heaven Is The Hell Of No Choices
Heaven and Hell are smeared across this city.
Like God and the Devil shat stinking whads of perfect order and imperfect chaos,
ebbing and flowing through hallways and up stairwells,
surging across the sidewalks,
gushing along the boulevards.
—safe in the far-distant ‘burbs—
I double-count the 52-card deck, shuffle it,
and stick it deep in a pocket of my long coat.
Passing under the cavernous Fuller Street Extension overpass,
the unofficial barrier between The City and Not The City,
I take out the deck.
Where there is Heaven, the first card off the top is the Ace of Spades.
Below is the rest of the suit—deuce to King—and this order repeats
for Diamonds, Clubs and Hearts.
No matter how long I shuffle, how dextrous my fingers to scramble the order,
when I stop and pull the top card
it’s always the Death Card.
But where there is Hell, the cards vibrate against my fingertips like they want to flee.
I pull the top card
—Seven of Hearts—
put it back on top,
count up to five and pull it again
—Queen of Diamonds.
Like the deck forgets its arrangement, can’t remember its order.
I count the deck—51 cards—and recount—53—and recount—49.
Where Hell is strongest, I’ll pull the Sixteen of Spades,
which becomes the Eleven of Cats,
which becomes the Queen of Rapists.
Or, while shuffling, cards will disappear one between the others,
collapsing into nothing, forcing me to bring a new deck the next day.
In coffee shops where the cards resist any new order
servers never collide, never get the order wrong, never need to wipe up a spill.
Patrons sip coffee, fork up their eggs and wipe their chins in perfect, synchronized motions.
In clothing stores where I feel the cards pulse in my back pocket,
the variety on the racks doubles and triples as I browse.
A sweater is too tight,
then with a slight pull at the collar too large,
and with another pull it is not the same size or color or style
or even a sweater.
Patrons appear and disappear, a kaleidoscope of shoppers.
The age of the shop girl/woman/crone helping me won’t remain fixed.
On the sidewalks, saints queue up for the bus in geometrically perfect lines
while sinners cannot agree on a destination
(or even if they need to be going there).
In offices, angels collate while demons scatter.
Heaven is the Hell of no choices:
It is the perfect order of an unchanging Diety,
who has trapped entropy in an infinite loop.
Hell is the Heaven of choices’ impossible number:
A too-many Schrödinger’s cats that are alive and dead
and not even in the box.
And as long as I can avoid these smears, these ruptures in Free Will,
I can choose to board the bus that will take me home when the sun finally sets,
shuffling the deck until I emerge in Not The City
and settle into uncertainty’s wavering comfort.
Are we not friends? Death asked of Dreaming
Yes, of course, Dreaming replied to Death
Best friends, at that? Death asked of Dreaming
No, said Dreaming, I won’t say the best
And Dreaming nodded to Regretting
His best friend of all
Who stood grinning
Matt Moore is an Aurora Award-winning author, poet and columnist. His collection It’s Not the End and Other Lies was published by ChiZine Publications in 2018. He’s also a Contributing Editor for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Co-Chair of the Ottawa Chiaroscuro Reading Series, and a frequent panelist, presenter and instructor. Raised in small town New England, a place rich with legends and ghost stories, he now lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Find more at mattmoorewrites.com.
A horror and science fiction collection with tales of the bizarre, the terrifying, and the all-too-near future.
“Subtle power, intelligence, and humanity are the hallmarks of Moore’s work. These stories are apt to stick in your mind like quills. They did in mine.” —Nick Cutter, author of Little Heaven, The Acolyte, and The Troop
All these worlds, and more, await you. . . . Only able to recall the memories of others, a ghost must solve the mystery of his own death. The zombie apocalypse is the gateway to a higher human consciousness. An amusement park of the future might turn you into the attraction. An engineer-turned-mercenary races to kill the saviour of mankind. After the sky falls, can anyone still hope? Twelve new thought-provoking stories of the bizarre, the terrifying, the all-to-near future.