Frank Coffman is a retired professor of college English, Creative Writing, and Journalism. He has published speculative poetry and fiction in a variety of magazines and anthologies. His poetic magnum opus, The Coven’s Hornbook & Other Poems (2019) has been followed by his rendition into English Verse of 327 quatrains of Khayyám's Rubáiyát (2019). A second large collection of poetry, Black Flames & Gleaming Shadows, was published in March of 2020. 
He recently published his third major collection of speculative verse, Eclipse of the Moon (May 2021).

He has published speculative short fiction in Test Patterns, Black Veins I, Hell’s Empire, Eldritch Tales, and elsewhere. He established and moderates the Weird Poets Society Facebook group.

A traditional formalist in his poetic work, he is especially interested in exploring and experimenting with the patterns of verse found across the world’s cultures and ethnicities and across time from ancient to contemporary. His special love of and interest in the sonnet has led to invention of several cross-cultural meldings of various traditions with the 14-line restriction of the sonnet form.

See his Writer’s Blog HERE

(a dramatic monologue)

     “You are one of the very few to see my prize
Special collection. For only a dozen eyes
Save mine have beheld this sanctum, this secret room.
So very few have been bold enough to presume
To ask of my arcane grimoire library.

“But, as Fate would have it, you are very
Welcome to enter here. The lot is small,
Containing, of course, the well-known tomes: all
Of the “standard” titles (that you must surely know),
But here, in the center of the topmost row,
Are books long-hidden, texts that are unique!

“This one, for example, set down in Ancient Greek
And Hebrew—with some hieroglyphic Egyptian—
Fits, I believe, the kind of tome your description
Suggests. It is, of all these, that long-lost book:
Most rare, most eldritch…most unholy! Have a look
At the binding. It is leather of the rarest skin.
And there are heinous, fell secrets held within—
Words on grim vellum writ in human blood
And illustrations that can be understood
By very few. This finely illuminated
Leaf shows an avenging Golem being created.
On this page the dead god Osiris is revived,
Brought back! Those not-to-be-uttered words survived!
This tome the ages-hid, forbidden spells imparts
To the one who is Master of the damned Demonic Arts.

“I see full well your eagerness to peruse
This and my other rarities. But you confuse
My motives—just why I brought you here.   

“What? Do I detect the first faint signs of fear?
In truth, only six before you have been told
That I’ve found the secret for never growing old!
Unfortunately for you, the spell requires
A human sacrifice. The very fires
Of Hell are needed. And—it surely seems—much pain!
But, blessing of sorts, you’ll likely go insane
Before the essence of your soul is freed
To let me live another century. My need
Keeps me from caring whether it be sin
To use you thus. Well then…let us begin.”

(a “melded” sonnet sequence in pararhyme*)

     They’d found the man entirely stripped of flesh,
“Flayed while he was still alive,” the coroner said.
“I can’t imagine how intense the pain,” he sighed,
But then proceeded with this work. The flash
That leapt from the scalpel’s shining blade
In the room’s stark light made Agent Hopkins blink.

He was not at all surprised by the lack of blood.
“Complete exsanguinations!” The coroner’s face turned blank.
But Hopkins had expected that. He knew “his man,”
At least his man’s MO, but he knew no name,
No face to look for. But it had been “the right moon”—
Just at first quarter. Again, the sense of numb
Futility set in. He’d tracked this fiend
Across the country with nary a clue to find.
The FBI had formed the select team,
And Hopkins had been named SAIC**—
He knew he’d likely earned it over time:
Skilled profiler? Successful cases? Who could say?

But this devil was different—killed the agent’s old belief:
“No matter how bad, there’s some good in everyone.”
And Hopkins knew, deep down, that—if and when
He found this fiend—he would not let him live.

This latest victim made the total ten!
From Maine here to Missouri, a child, a teen,
Six in their 20s to 40s, two old men,
Both males and females—what could all that mean?
There was no doubt about the horrid Way
He killed. But who could guess the Why?
Much less the How? The bodies all were skinned,
Drained of all blood, the neck wounds had been scanned,
Examined closely for weapon marks or type.
Nothing was found to match the depth or size
Of those grim gouges. Hopkins sought to seize
On just what that quarter moon meant. Any tip
Would have been welcome. He was stumped.
The only other pattern was the East to West
Trail of the crimes. All other leads proved a waste
Of time. Dead ends. Only the ghastly MO, stamped
On each scene of slaughter. The only other note
Of import was the fairly regular distances between
The murders—170 miles, give or take. No, not
Exact, but interestingly close.

And when
Word came from Central Kansas of a survivor
Hopkins and Agent Smith jumped in their car.

     The man was still in shock, the Intensive Care
Doctor proclaimed, “This was some carnivore,
Some animal—I don’t know what—but nothing human
Could make these wounds! On what skin remains
On the arms, torso, and on this poor man’s
Legs—claw marks spaced too wide for any man
To make.

     “How is it that he was found alive?”
Asked Hopkins.
“Two fellows out hunting, I believe,”
The doctor answered, “came upon whatever beast
Was savaging this fellow. They shot at it. It fled,
They said, into the trees. I’ve done the best
That I can do,” he added. But half his skin is flayed!

“There’s no hope, I’m afraid. He’s heavily sedated,
And I think we must induce a coma soon.
Could this poor fellow’s fate somehow be tied
To all those serial murders that I’ve seen
In the news of late?”

“I’m afraid I can’t
Comment on that, doctor, but I must count
On you to keep the details of this quiet
For now, while we investigate. But the men
Who chased ‘whatever’ off—where are they at?”
“I’m pretty sure they’re with the local police.
They were treated here too for shock, but unless
They’ve been released from questioning,
The cops took them in to grill them on ‘The Thing.’”
Then Hopkin’s said, “We have no time to lose!”

     The hunters were still being asked just what they knew
By the local police. But Hopkins broke in, “Now,
I know this will be a repeat, but what did you see?”

“Well, Sir, I can’t rightly say just what we saw.
It warn’t no human, I can tell you that!
It was just before dawn. When we saw the Thing I thought,
‘It’s a black bear at a kill’—we have a few, you know…”

“I thought that too,” the other said, “but that
Was no bear, nor what it fed on a deer! I knew
When it turned toward us. I swear the Thing was green!
Dark green, and scaled like a fish! We heard a groan
From whatever that manfish was feeding on. ”

“That’s right!” the other agreed. We both shot
At the thing. It ran.”

Still white as a sheet,
Both men asserted that their tale was true.
The local cops scoffed. But Hopkins just said, “Try
To point out the exact place on this map. Where
Did this happen? It’s damned important that we’re
There as soon as possible, to track it down,
To catch or kill it—that’s what must be done!”

“That explains it all. The killer is not a man,” thought
Hopkins, “but some weird, unholy Thing that
Has some need in such a way to hunt
And kill!” Just what it was there was no hint.

“It happened in the woods just south of Hays,
Not far from Big Creek, but that damned thing has
Me spooked. I’m not going out there again,”
Said one, “If you go best take a damn big gun.”
“The spot is here,” the other said. “And I’ll not
Go with you either. It skinned that man as neat
As one can skin a rabbit! And the skin it ate!
Or seemed so. Weren’t a piece of skin left at
The place we scared it off and found that man
Or what was left of him. What can it mean?”

     “What can it mean, indeed,” was Hopkins thought,
On the way out to the map-marked place that
Had been the sight of the attack. He only knew
That this trail of horror had to end—end now!
He loaded slugs and double-O buckshot
Into the riot gun with 12-guage bore
“If I find this Thing, this thing that is ‘no bear,’
I’ll kill this beast! This evil, bastard shit!”

     He and Smith and eight other men beside
Spread out into the forest from the road.
“Keep your head on a swivel,” Hopkins said,
We have to find this creatureand be well rid
Of it.”

“Despite their yarn I still think the killer
Must be a man—perhaps in some disguise?
We simply have to drive him from his lair.”
Just then some fleeting movements met their gaze.
“I think we’ve got him,” Smith then shouted out.

“I hope you’re right,” said Hopkins. “‘Him’ not ‘IT.’”
Then all the men walked on without a word,
All sensing they were hunting something weird.
And just then—there peered out through the trees—
A being that all sanity betrays!
As the hunter said, the thing was scaled and green,
Hunched over, but bipedal, bigger than any man.
Its slavering maw seemed set in a weird, grim grin.
Hopkins and Smith and two of the sheriff’s men
Began at once to shoot. The Thing cried out.
It ran, then stumbled toward them, through the fire
And hail of lead. And much to their surprise
The Thing kept coming! There seemed no stopping it.
It lurched ahead, seeming to sense their fear,
But then it fell…yet—once again—it rose,
Straight toward Hopkins! Ten feet away it fell
For the last time. The men cheered to see it fall.

Hopkins fired twice more into the crumpled heap,
Tossed down the shotgun, drew his pistol from his hip
And fired all fifteen rounds into the beast.

It took another minute for him to dare
To walk up to examine this creature dire
And horrible to look at.

     “A man somehow debased?”
He wondered to himself. “No, no way it’s a man.
A thing from outer space? What can this mean?
Some science meddling gone horribly amiss?
He grew ill as he viewed the gory mass—
To see the terrible razor tooth that it
Used to flay off the flesh that it would eat!
And the horrid siphon tooth—a hollow dagger blade
It used to draw out all its victim’s blood!

     He barely had time to turn in terror when
Smith screamed out, “Oh God! There’s more than one!”

*Pararhyme is a special type of slant rhyme [off rhyme, near rhyme] in which both the beginning and ending consonants of the last (usually stressed) syllable of the line are repeated, but with the medial vowel changing.

** “SAIC” stands for “Special Agent in Charge”