Issue 21 | Winter 2019

Neutral Blood

The children hide themselves from the shape
that calls out to them their names and exactly
resembles their father, who has been missing
for several years and must, as they now know
but will not speak aloud, have been devoured.

The creature’s unblinking imitation eyes have
never seen the trapdoor and the secret ladder
descending to these ancient tunnels, but while
shadows can deceive human sight, they could
mean nothing to a different kind of organism.

The children have no idea where the passages
lead, whether other routes to the surface exist,
and which branches might contain breathable
air. It is said there are gases underground that
can transmute human flesh to formless liquid.

The whining of the machinery, sealed behind
the thousand-year-old stone walls, has grown
sickening, and the children can smell the half-
petrified rubber from which semi-translucent
crystalline things appear to derive sustenance.

Here, the walls are covered with minerals like
beetles’ shells, glittering seductively. The time
will soon come to determine whether to leave
the slow ones behind and whether preserving
the body is really worth every risk to the soul.

Filed under: Poetry


Gregory Kimbrell is the author of The Primitive Observatory (Southern Illinois University Press, 2016), winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in IDK Magazine, Infinite Rust, Otoliths, Phantom Drift , Rabbit Catastrophe Review, and elsewhere. More of his writing, including his sci-fi/horror magnetic poems, can be found at