Monday, October 21, 2013

F.J. Bergmann


You would be the groom, cleaning the bridle conscientiously, taking the whole thing apart to wipe off the dirt and sweat and metal oxide and then apply neatsfoot oil and saddle soap before putting it back together. Or perhaps the bit is being exchanged for a different one. The horse died or was sold and the bridle is needed for another horse who doesn't know or care about the previous wearer; a new bridle has been purchased because the old one broke or didn't look nice enough for competition; the horse has become less, or more, difficult. You push on the bit loop with your thumb and pull on the strap end of the cheekpiece or rein with the opposite hand. The L-shaped prong slides from its round hole forward into the slit, allowing the head of the prong to slip free as the leather bulges upward, and then you pull the strap free of the two keepers on each side of the stud. You check the bend in the leather for wear and cracking where the bit ring rubs. This is where you take a razor or very sharp knife and cut part way through, carefully making sure that nothing shows on the outside. The next rider is in for a surprise.

F.J. reads "Unfastening a Hook Stud:

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F.J. confesses: "I've been a groom in show stables, a low-paying position that involves cleaning a lot of leather tack. The horses' prices ran up to six figures, and their owners were sometimes unpleasant. Initially, the poem only described a bridle part, one non-intuitive for beginners. Then it went a step further."

Guest editor Terry Trowbridge's ruling: "This prose poem chills me. Bergmann reminds the reader that part of sabotage is a private moment, defined by touch and smell and a coincidence of normal things turned into opportunity (horses have moods, untested equipment). The motive and the victim are ambiguous, and yet Bergmann's methodical and clear description makes her opening words, "You would be" seem creepily plausible."

F.J. BERGMANN writes poetry and speculative fiction, often simultaneously, appearing in Kaleidotrope, New Myths, On Spec, Quantum Realities, Silver Blade, and a bunch of literary journals that should have known better. She is the winner of the 2012 Rannu Fund Speculative Literature Award for Poetry. Out of the Black Forest (Centennial Press, 2012) won the 2013 SFPA Elgin Chapbook Award. The editor of Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and poetry editor of Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, she frequents Wisconsin and

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