Duane Ackerson (October 17, 1942 – April 19, 2020) was an American writer of speculative poetry and fiction.




Duane Ackerson

on the corner
is playing
‘All the World is Waiting for the Sunrise’
on his flute.

Occasional coins
fall into the can.
On breaks, he fingers them;
each becomes an eye
that opens on another world.
Before the warmth leaves them,
his fingers catch glimpses of other lives,
scenes reflected in soap bubbles
or caught behind windows at night
just before someone turns off the light.

Later, in his room, counting the day’s toll,
they cast cold glances back on him,
giving away less
than dead men’s eyes.

He is an apt student
and had learned the world by sight
before, at seven,
his eyes gave out.
Falling asleep,
the rest of us sometimes
awaken later with darkness,
remembering nothing,
no trace of another world.

He falls into sleep
and a whole world
spreads its table for him.
Each time, coming back,
he is born into darkness again;
it’s like shedding rainbows in his wake
as he returns to seeing the world
through donated eyes.


Duane Ackerson

First, we sent away the trees,
then the bubble of breath
they had long exhaled,
itself drifting off,
a large blue balloon
getting smaller and smaller
as the sky shrank away from us
to a pinprick that itself went out.
For a while,
those who could afford it
lived on bottled water, canned air,
and videos of sky, sea, and earth,
till, finally, none could afford
even these surrogates for life.
Little by little,
with nothing to ground them,
those few still left became
greater and greater
strangers to themselves.
When we were all gone,
we learned that the stories
about ghosts were true;
we survived, haunting the old places
that themselves were barely
memories of themselves,
reciting lists of all the varieties
of bush and bird,
tree and cloud,
that were no more.
Now perhaps we will discover
how long a ghost can hang onto
the ghost of a memory.


Duane Ackerson

Yes, the hair continues to grow after death—
even more so among the living dead.
Before a night out on the town,
he can’t just go into a barber shop and say,
‘Shave and a haircut, two bits.’
(Even though he is old enough to remember
when those services only cost a quarter.)
So, at home, he passes on the electric razor
(besides, the power to the mansion
was shut off, past due years before):
instead, opting for the good, old-fashioned straightedge.
Trying to unearth his reflection in the mirror,
he draws blood
along with a full-throated scream.
Licking the blade clean,
drawing fresh blood from the tongue,
he drinks even deeper of the elixir of death.
No reason to go out now.
He can just stay home
and enjoy himself.


Duane Ackerson

The glass of the mirror comes apart,
sending a thousand yous tinkling to the floor:

the death of a wind chime
that carries the wind’s last gasp with it,
multiplying loss into a banshee crowd
mourning itself endlessly.

After all, we all want the world
to die with us,
and it does,
though leaps up from the end immediately,
phoenix luring us into the fire
and knowing all the while
it couldn’t really burn itself.

You pick up the pieces of glass,
see your face, a flame flickering
on the wick of each.
it’s your face, not mine.
I’m still here,

safe in the wind
these words have harnessed,
blowing from the world that made your pyre