Lori R. Lopez

Lori R. Lopez dips her pen in poetry, prose, and art.  A resident of Southern California, the wearer of many hats, she also writes songs and enjoys filmmaking.  Two of her poems were nominated for 2020 Rhysling Awards. Books include The Dark Mister Snark, Darkverse:  The Shadow Hours (nominated for a 2018 Elgin Award), Leery Lane, Odds & Ends:  A Dark Collection, The Witchhunt, and An Ill Wind Blows.  Lori’s verse and prose have appeared in The Horror Zine, Weirdbook, The Sirens Call, Spectral Realms, Space & Time Magazine, Altered Realities, Bewildering Stories, Impspired, Terror Tract, plus a number of anthologies including H.W.A. Poetry Showcases, Dead Harvest, Fearful Fathoms, and California Screamin’ (the Foreword Poem).  She and her talented sons co-own a creative company, Fairy Fly Entertainment.  They have a Folk Band called The Fairyflies.


 Please hold this poem at arm’s length,
 if your arms are six feet that is,
 for it may be infectious
 and should be handled with care
 because you never know what might
 be going around, even if not
 a Pandemic or Apocalyptic Virus
 to transform Society, Civilization, people
 in general — the vast majority or minority of us
 who haven’t already been too warped
 to tell the difference — into an unrecognizable
 condition, whether temporary or as they say
 for good — which isn’t necessarily great
 unless you like that sort of thing, whereas
 I personally am not so crazy
 about Change.
 What I am trying to get across isn’t
 an actual warning that you should run away
 this very instant because it would
 defeat the entire purpose of writing a poem,
 which is to be read, whether softly
 or silently or loudly at the top of your lungs . . .
 possibly at the bottom if you’re
 inclined to draw deeper breaths than
 the rest of us, while I tend to
 inhale and exhale shallower than
 the average bear (not that I’m a bear; it’s
 a figure of speech), as if I am half-alive
 or less, like a mutant oxygen-deprived
 semi-corpse-state, but that’s beside
 the point . . . which isn’t quite as clear
 to me now.
 Pinching myself to determine whether
 I am human, or alive, or whatever —
 it isn’t the most scientific of tests to begin with
 keep in mind — I know what you must be
 thinking, that I have the infection,
 that it could be contagious and reading this
 poem will spread it to you, if only by
 virtue of thought (yes, a notion or suggestion
 can be infectious like a grin or a mood),
 yet I beg not to leap or spring to such
 conclusions, for it is fouler by far
 the spurning of literature than to catch a bug
 (virtually, virally) or mental illness
 (in your head) since we all have some form
 or other of those, at least part of the time
 (in my case I have many and have named
 each one, for I consider them family).
 I will attempt once more to transmit —
 correction, convey to sound less
 disease-carrying — the meaning of my
 verse that I first sought to share
 in a non-physical sense, maintaining a safe
 distance, heeding guidelines imposed by
 health experts (more arbitrarily, inconsistently
 by governments), purely through
 the hypnotic power of poetic lines without
 a need for direct contact, for sharp hypodermics
 to be involved, as the written word is a much
 pleasanter pill to swallow . . . an oft-proven cure
 for sicknesses of heart, mind, soul . . .
 and I, under extraordinary circumstances
 or not, just wanted to wish you well in the
 best or worst of days.
 Whichever it is — you be the judge —
 and wash your hands after reading this
 whatever you decide, for it’s usually a pretty
 good policy, even if you aren’t a Germaphobe like
 me — not that this poem is crawling with
 Cooties, but it might be, you never know —
 why take a chance? — and I guess that was all
 I had to say really, so it’s okay to ignore
 the remainder as it will primarily be a rambling
 piece of unnecessary closure running on and on
 with another sentence, another statement,
 a clear case of nonsense and who needs that I ask
 (along with “Are we done yet?”), as if we’re not
 terribly busy to be reading lengthy poems anymore
 anyway (it seems to be a consensus, not a contagion),
 in which case you should probably stop —
 two stanzas ago.
 Too late! 

The Whistle Stop

 Before everything went to Hell,
 some believed in Guns.  Some of them
 still do.  I put my faith in Whistles —
 stockpiling a broad assortment,
 accumulating an array of noisemakers.
 I called it a collection instead of
 an arsenal, yet it served the same purpose.
 Who could menace you to the tune
 of a Calliope, a note from a Fife
 or Piccolo?  What villain possessed
 the heart, or lack of one, to bash a face
 tooting a merry melody through a hollow
 tube?  It worked in theory, though I never
 found it necessary to put my plan
 to the test, until the aforementioned
 I dreamed it up as a little kid, back in the day
 when Train after Train of polished Politicians
 might show up to compete like stray dogs over
 a vote, shaking fists full of empty promises.
 Born in a town that squatted squarely
 on their route of Middle American
 Whistle-Stops . . . an impulse, a whim crept
 into my brain to be as loud and raucous,
 as grating.  Blow as much hot air as they did,
 but through a Whistle!  It might drown their
 drivel, whet their appetites for quiet and
 drive them away.  The scheme had proven
 pointless once riding the Rails was replaced by
 branded deluxe Coaches on paved highways;
 emblazoned Buses that could go anywhere
 Gas was cheap, and the pungent pundits
 started skipping my town.  Which led to
 a general slipping of loyalties, concerns, values,
 appearances.  I aimed my bleats and blats at
 common hoodlums; bullies; the stagnant,
 now in abundance.  And disaffected youths,
 never in short supply, to wake them up!
 Armed to the teeth with each manner
 of Whistle:  Penny, Pea, Police.  Bobby,
 Bosun, Band.  Drill-Sergeant, Dog, Distress.
 Sport, Scout, Slide.  Cuckoo, Crow, Canary.
 Pigeon, Predator, Panpipes.  Nickel, Brass, Tin.
 Wood, Bamboo, Cane.  Varying degrees of
 Plastic.  Expelling, expending my breath on
 bleeps and trumpet blasts.  Did it do any good?
 Actually . . .
 I can’t say that it did.  Looking back,
 I had grown a tad older and wiser.  By the
 time Society collapsed, I all but abandoned
 my fanciful notions on Whistles saving
 the world.  But then a curious thing occurred.
 It turned out, Zombies do have a distinct
 aversion to shrill noises — high pitches;
 frequent loud tones.  Yet are, simultaneously,
 attracted by the sounds — drawn in scurrilous
 shuffling hordes toward such audible becks
 and beacons that might be food, akin to
 ringing a Dinner Bell.  They couldn’t resist.
 I discovered this fact while pinned in a corner
 by an undead graveyard-shift Waitress after
 The Turning.  I whistled like a Teapot in
 trouble . . .
 I chirped and warbled, blared my brains out.
 A single Zombie became an infestation.
 Swarming, bumping, snarling.  Listening too.
 When I ceased blowing my horn, they stopped
 arriving.  Deem it instinct or habit, sensing my
 doom whether by one or a hundred, I played
 that Emergency Whistle with heightened steam . . .
 A multitude of Biters grimaced and groped at
 their heads, clawed their ears.  An audience of
 corpses reeled in disgust, and the lethal ragtag
 mob retreated!  My unexpected survival
 defied logic.  Peering in wonder at an instrument
 both of peril and of rescue, I vowed to use the
 miracle, my contradictory conclusion for a greater
 good — rather than merely to salvage my own
 Many a close scrape would be had with gross
 blighters in my wake, staggering, lurching,
 stumbling toward a Pied Piper’s siren call.
 Chased by an increasing herd, a vicious cycle
 of shriek and wail as I lured the oafs but
 repelled them with my subsequent breath.
 Striving to control the tweets and lead a crowd
 of unburied human remains in my footsteps
 as if I were John, Paul, George or Ringo.
 It would be my legacy, my contribution . . .
 Enticing Zombies to a trap.  Saving lives.
 Passing out piffles and twiffles to everyone
 I met.  We took back our town.  Then boarded
 Buses and Trains and traveled city by city to
 protect against an endless legion of expired
 Monsters.  Sometimes family or friends.
 Guiding, guarding, moving on.  There was
 always another town.  Like candidates on the
 most ferocious campaign trail.  Word spread
 far too slow.  This dire infection communicated
 faster.  Until a Dog Whistle caused the biggest
 uproar.  And not in the form of innuendo,
 a hidden message.  Not political.  Accidentally
 I chose a rejected silent tube — carried by error
 as a back-up.  I had dropped my Boat Flute
 and wildly fished for a replacement.  Discerning
 no refrain, no cosmic deliverance out of the
 burnished stem; in panic I realized the mistake
 and puckered dryly, my lips unable to make
 a peep without a pipe.  Feeling lost, needing
 luck . . .
 I beheld, wide of orb, the useless Whistle
 had produced a brain-splitting current of stark
 agony — wrenching throes and spasms —
 the cretins dropping onto knees or writhing
 upon pavement.  Shuddering, screeching before
 a throng of hideous gourds exploded in gruesome
 Technicolor.  Emboldened, we identified the
 exact level that would harm only Zombies,
 then transmitted a shocking inaudible signal via
 radio crystals, channels, airwaves, across
 land and sea, connecting every possible method,
 through wires and batteries, beams and high
 towers, antenna to antenna.  It wasn’t a cure.
 We couldn’t return to the Past, reset to Normal.
 Pandora’s Jar had spilled an ugly undeniable
 truth . . .
 Zombies were the Future, not machines,
 corporations, dystopian societies.  They were
 us.  Our next stage in Evolution.  Beyond
 Death.  Bodies would still decay — ere they
 festered, lingered, lumbered, undying.  A warped
 version of Eternal Life.  What Mankind had sought
 for countless generations.  Oddly gaining sharper
 senses:  Vision, Smell, Hearing.  Even as
 intelligence, health, vitality waned.  To halt it
 we had one resort, just one defense, The Whistle Stop.
 Where it failed to reach, a regular Whistle was
 favored over bullets, blades or clubs that sprayed
 blood, promoted violence.  Doctors quit battling
 the Pandemic, resources spent.  My brainchild
 was the final hope — Humanity’s best and last

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