Payack has had 100's of Science Fiction Poems published with over three dozen in notable Science Fiction Magazines like ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE and AMAZING SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE.
But they also have crossover appeal and have appeared in major Literary Magazines such as The Paris Review and The Cornell Review. They also have found their way into The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Creative Computing. His Poem "The Migration of Darkness" won the 1980 Rhysling Award ( as the Year's best poem) and has since been named the Number One poem that unites science and art (Quirk Press). Below are a few!
the wrong end
of the telescope
(Amazing Science Fiction Magazine)
THE EVOLUTION OF DEATH
two billion years ago
in the warm shallow seas.
All later advanced forms
evolved from these modest
The evolution of death
the appearance of people,
where death is self-realized.
There is every reason to believe
that highly developed forms of death
on other planets throughout our galaxy.
ASSEMBLING THE MODEL
A standard model of reality comes to me in the mail. At $4.95 I feel it's quite a bargain. Actually since it's very intricate and made to scale, the kit is worth much more than the money I paid for it. There are three separate bags of different color plastics with an 800-page manual for assembly. The first bag I open is filled with 100 billion galaxies. A small note explains that each galaxy is composed of 100 billion individual stars, an unheard of number of planets, asteroids, and other manifestations of astronomical paraphernalia. Five little jars of paint are supplied with a tiny camel's hair brush to make the stars accurate in appearance. The second bag is filled
with philosophical abstracts: Hegelian absolutes, Platonic nouses, and Heisenbergian uncertainties, along with countless thousands of minor conceptions. Some of these are particularly hard for the layperson to grasp, so miniature tweezers are supplied. The third package contains assorted manifestations of things in general: minerals, gravity, human beings, light, artifacts of unknown civilizations, animals, oceans, doubts, foodstuffs, inspirations, et cetera. An itemized list, along with a magnifying glass, is included inside the package. I'm very pleased with the model and have it spread throughout the house, ready for assembly. It's not until then that I notice the fine print: "The price of the standard model does not include a tube of glue. The deluxe model of reality ($5.25) contains both a tube of glue and decals."
(This first appeared in The Cornell Review And has been reprinted and analyzed in Knowing & Writing: New Perspectives on Classical Questions (Harper/Collins)
THE MOON & THE MOTH
programmed by untold aeons
uses the moon as a beacon
navigate its flight.
But how has the moon
fallen from the nighttime sky
and become attached
to this post on the porch?
This white-winged lunar explorer
using all the bug logic
at her dutiful disposal
frantically orbits the porch light
like a crazed Apollo astronaut
on an endless excursion
As a deus ex machina of sorts
in this little insect drama,
switch off the light.
from the mesmerizing pull
of the moon,
the moth breaks out of orbit
and flutters safely back to Earth.
On this flight
the fates flew with her.
(From the Anthology ASIMOV’S WONDERS OF THE WORLD)
BLOWING IN THE WIND, part two
I like the idea
of a Buddhist prayer flag
where the vibrations
of the wind blow
goodwill and compassion
into the world
while I just sit
on my fat ass.
(MIT’s Baffler Magazine,)
A new radar detector
that has recently been invented
can not only detect rainbows
as was its original intention
but also has the unexpected
yet astonishing power
of seeing people’s souls.
and weather enthusiasts
are all aglow about this new
blithely code named “Soular”,
civic and church
authorities are looking
leerily at this new invention.
are distressed about meteorologists
meddling in matters
previously the domain
of people of the cloth,
not to mention it being
somewhat unethical to have
lay people voyeuristically
gawking into a person’s
The Surgeon General
has now also become involved
and recommended against
The soul has never before
a bodily part
and is therefore beyond
their scope of investigation.
The Civil Liberties Union
and has asked for a court injunction
to put a stop
to the test trials of this new mechanism.
Under the Fourth Amendment
of the constitution
this is considered
an invasion of personal privacy.
The constitution holds it
illegal to search
a person’s house,
and the body being a “temple”
makes it illegal
to peer into a person’s
most vital essence.
(Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, 30th Anniversary edition, 2007)
THE BARREL & BEYOND
The philosophical pickle ponders both that which is and that which might be beyond The Barrel, as speculative thought is usually described. He wonders what makes a cucumber pickled, and speculates whether life as we know it exists in the Beyond. After many months of study he determines that reality is made up of four primary elements: cucumbers, brine, pickling spices, and The Barrel. Further he concludes that there exists a Prime Mover who not only sets the whole works in motion but also decides what is to be, gives order to The Barrel and Beyond, and generally operates outside the limits of normal pickle thought and morality. That night, at dinnertime, the Prime Mover eats the philosophical pickle with a hamburger.
(The Paris Review, #71, 1977)
THE ULTIMATE PARTY
All 74 billion people who once
Inhabited the Earth are invited
to a party. The invitations state
8 p.m., and to my surprise give
my apartment as the place. The
dress is causal. They all arrive
within a couple of hours of each
other. But the party's a bomb.
There is very little food, no space,
and the various languages present
a communications problem. After
a while, tempers grow short and fights
break out. One in the kitchen is
unusually violent for a party and
a man is stabbed. He turns out to be
the first man. He dies. In turn
everyone else disappears in order
of birth, dating back almost three million
years. This takes some time, and goes
on well into the middle of the night.
Finally I am left alone with
74 billion cups and glasses to clean.
I put it off until morning.
(The Paris Review, #62 Spring 1975. Widely Anthologized)
THE GROWTH OF HUMAN IDEAS
How easy it is to be a gardener. In my garden plot I grow Ideas. I normally plant at least one row of primitive thoughts. These hardy creatures are easiest to grow, and flourish with little fertilizer and minimal care. Less than a week after they are planted, they sprout in their full, but pathetic, glory. Next to these I usually put in three or four rows of mundane perceptions. Any average garden soil will do, and they thrive under the most ordinary of circumstances. With any luck at all, an adequate yield is assured. This year, I am going to companion plant some bons mots about every fourth plant to keep this section colorful. Then I always like to round out the plot with a few rows of abstractions. These hybrids have to be specially ordered. They have to be planted with great care. A rich, sunny location is desirable. Among these, philosophical systems are the most fun to watch as they develop. Last year, because of mid-summer drought, the best I could do at harvest time was the 13th Century and the philosophy of Duns Scotus
(The Cornell Review, Fall 1977)
Spectacles for spectacular numbers.
(Amazing Science Fiction Stories)
Star-gazing through the wrong end of the telescope.
(Amazing Science Fiction Stories)
THE BEGINNING OF THINGS
At the present time there are three theories concerning the paving over of the world. The first theory states that the Earth has always been and will always be paved, as pavement is continually created. This theory proposes the pavement to regenerate in perpetuum out of nothing. The second theory holds that the pavement (macadam, concrete, crushed stone, & asphalt) comes and goes in a cyclical fashion, with periods when the surface of Earth is more prone to paving than others. Some cite sunspot activity as the cause. The third theory, and the one which receives the most ridicule, suggests that the surface of the Earth was not always paved, and that at sometime in the distant past there was no such thing as a paved surface. It goes so far as to postulate such fanciful notions as "forest," "field," and "creatures." As can be expected, this theory is held mostly by mystics, poets, and other misfits. This is where the matter rests at the present moment. The fact is that as far back as history is recorded. the surface of the planet has always been paved, and as far as we can surmise, it always will be. Science offers no definitive answer to this most perplexing question.
(The Cornell Review, Fall 1977)