top of page

 Formal & Rhyming Poetry                                        with Vera Ignatowitsch


Surfacing from sleep, you elude an anchor

propped against your ship on the ocean’s bottom,

dodge a poison pufferfish with its circles

crafted in seabed,


turn away from treasure long lost, long buried,

pry yourself from barnacled decks and breezeways,

peer no more through windows of sunken cabins.

Look to the moonlight


guiding your ascent for the next day’s harvest,

morning's catch arrayed on a sun-drenched sandbar,

once you’ve left the wreckage, forsworn old plunder,

chosen the daylight.


First published in Trinacria.


Claudia Gary is the author of Humor Me, Bikini Buyer’s Remorse, as well as poems in international journals. She teaches at The Writer’s Center (, FAES (, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @claudiagary.

Still There


The air is fecal—sweet and damp—

beyond the sweating sliding door,

and the rhythmic swing of your Coleman lamp

discovers oats and a harness before


what summoned you out here through the snow:

that blot in the stall, a phantom of form,

rampant and screaming. You say, “Wuh-whoa,”

and offer an apple. Her lips are warm.


Neither an owner, breeder or jockey,

you, a stuttering stable boy,

feel miniature before this stocky

beauty, this bestial Helen of Troy,


this purebred ebony Andalusian

banished to a New World plain.

You beg pardon for your intrusion

by reaching up and stroking her mane


and stand there awed, God knows how late,

communicating, eye to eye,

with passion in an equine state.

Then Goodbye, my love, Goodbye—


you scuff out through the wall of steam,

satisfied that she is there:

your reason, your recurrent dream,

your soulmate, your cellmate, your darkling mare.



Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His work has appeared in such publications as Best American Poetry, POETRY, and The Times Literary Supplement.

A Brief Alarm


Like everything, this too will soon be lost,

Forever out of sight and out of mind,

A brief alarm resorbed into the sum

Of passing things that leave no trace behind.

For its duration, it would summon all

To a restraint heroic—to be brave

Beyond all generations gone before,

And make a sacrifice more sure to save:


To starve the ground, and lay no further feast

For bloated Earth’s unflagging appetite,

But be content to plow redemptively

A barren field in which no seed seeks light

And make your plots the last wherein to toss

A harvest raised for neverending loss.



Poems by Tom Merrill have recently appeared in two novels as epigraphs. His latest book, Time in Eternity, can be purchased from Ancient Cypress Press.



The afternoon has hushed its radiant

bravura as the sun’s long arc

spins out its gradient

in one last



It is as if the world has been recast.

Supplanted by the owl, the hawk

will slumber hard and fast

till morning light.

A clock,


cosmic, chronometric, with a sleight

of hand, may, in its measured sway

admit the coming night

and so compose

the day


or devastate the angle of repose—

a sudden avalanche of thought,

of wild scenarios

where things that are,

are not.


And while the unremitting repertoire

plays out with every toss and turn,

the star that’s not a star

will advertise

and burn.


A half a century of lost Julys—

an old Old Farmer’s Almanac,

circled, certifies

the Thunder Moon,

the track


of tides, and how and when and what to prune.


First published in Alabama Literary Review, Volume 25, Issue 1, 2016.



Catherine Chandler is the author of five books of poetry, including The Frangible Hour, winner of the Richard Wilbur Award. Her poetry blog, The Wonderful Boat, is online at



I was a gunner in Afghanistan

Who, suddenly, it seemed, became a man

In a country I scarcely knew existed

For, when duty called, a boy enlisted.


My unit deployed with the First Marines

To Kandahar in the fall of ’03.

To my surprise the war was seldom clear—

The uncertain friend was our constant fear.


Though some say the doomed in wars are fated

Still, that dark day, I wish that I had waited.

Just south of Kandahar a herder died

Counted as an accident by our side.


Uncounted was the cost that was his life:

Perhaps a son, some goats, a grieving wife.

But to keep it from happening again

In future wars you must send gods, not men.



Dave Crocco enlisted after high school, then graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974. In 2002 he published a novel, Of Honor and Dishonor, and has also had a dozen poems published in The Lyric and The Word.

On this page we publish selections of metrical poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, sestinas, pantoums, and other formal poetry to betterthanstarbucks2@gmail. We love both traditional and experimental forms and subjects, and please do submit limericks and lighthearted verse as well!  Vera Ignatowitsch

The Hyper Texts

“some of the best poetry on the web” Vera Ignatowitsch



By willow withes no longer green,

            fixed in the depths

Of black water. No longer seen

            or sensed except


By passing minnows peering in.

            That braided cord

About his neck? Ask of the wind

            rilling the hoard


Of moss. Ask the broad sky. Answers

            with no more light

Than torches upheld, and dancers,

            far in the night.



Jared Carter’s sixth book, Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, is from the University of Nebraska Press. He lives in Indiana.

Oak Hill Cemetery


How well-designed, this plot of land

where sloping paths weave through the laurel.

It must belong to someone grand.


How well laid out, and how well-planned,

city-like, yet wholly rural;

how well-conceived, this plot of land


where elms and lichened sculptures stand

unearthly, silent, upright, moral.

It must belong to someone grand


with legionnaires at his command,

who do his will without demurral.

How well-maintained, this plot of land,


ruled with an impartial hand

that claims the child and spares the squirrel.

Its owner must be rich and grand


to gather so much stillness and

to put an end to every quarrel.

How peaceable, this plot of land.

It must belong to someone grand.



Alfred Nicol’s most recent collection of poetry, Animal Psalms, was published in 2016 by Able Muse Press. He has published two other collections, Elegy for Everyone (2009), and Winter Light, which received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award.

A Summer Songster


Just up ahead, beneath the streetlights’ glare,

a splendid, fragile thing who’s left his bed

of earth now stands with wide-set eyes to stare

up from the pavement, eyes that should have led

him to a trunk. Still, out of his broad head,

they scrutinize the steamy atmosphere

for somewhere he may vibrate, buzz, and wed

his song to summer, soon to disappear.


His veiny wings, transparent as the air,

great glassy shields, have hardened since he shed

his stiff, confining jacket to declare

he has arrived where any tramp could tread

and, with one careless footstep, leave him dead

as his discarded skin. But since I’m near,

I’ll help him with his pilgrimage instead.

He’ll sing of summer, soon to disappear.


It’s me and him—whose visits are as rare

as gnats on Neptune. Pansy blossoms—red,

white, yellow, orange, violet—everywhere

adorn the yards and lanes, so many spread

with toxicants by those who have a dread

of patchy grass, beneath which, year by year,

strange beings grow, then clamber free, sap-fed,

to sing a tune that soon will disappear.


Black prince, you study me, but could have fled.

You drone. Crawl up onto my palm. No fear.

We reach an oak, where you’ll pick up the thread.

Your kind will croon—while we all disappear.


Note: Psaltoda plaga is a species of cicada native to eastern Australia commonly known as the black prince.

Previously published in The Flea.


Martin Elster’s poems have appeared in Astropoetica, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Centrifugal Eye, The Chimaera, 14 by 14, Light, Lighten Up Online, The Road Not Taken, The Rotary Dial, Verse Wisconsin, and others.

Deaths I’m Responsible For


I am the bane of wasps, the scourge of flies.

(Spiders and bees, I treat with more respect).

Every houseplant ever given to me dies—

their silence makes them easy to neglect.

I flatten single ants, and spray their hills

with poisons that exterminate each one.

I once used mousetraps; now my housecat kills

them for me nightly, like a hired gun.

It’s not my thing, but I’ve fished once or twice.

I’ve boiled a lobster, slurped live oysters down,

destroyed (in sight of kids) whole heads of lice

and several ticks. I watched a cockroach drown.

A catalogue of death. That’s how I know

I didn’t kill my mother, I let her go.

Anna M. Evans gained her MFA from Bennington College and teaches at West Windsor Art Center and Rowan College at Burlington County. Her latest book is Under Dark Waters: Surviving the Titanic.

Home Suite


This place along the road I call my home—

The house that's on the corner by the school,

The house from which I said I'd never roam,

The house that in the backyard has no pool.


The house that has more bedrooms than we need

And half as many bathrooms (clean and bright).

Where both my sons when little often peed

And as their aim got better got it right.


A fireplace that works, an eat-in kitchen,

A dining room where dining was aloud,

Our cozy porch, a glassed-in jewel, which in

Summer, spring or autumn did us proud.


Where what we saved on heating filled our coffer.

Where memories still linger.  Make an offer.



Edmund Conti has published over 500 poems, some of which may have been memorable. He can’t remember which ones. He does remember his new book, Just So You Know, from Kelsay Books.

Lighthearted Verse

The Bear in the Ambulance


I later found they all had run away

When they had closed the doors with him inside;

I guess they didn’t know or couldn’t say

Where, when we saw him, I had gone to hide.


An ambulance is smaller than you think

With me and seven hundred pounds of bear.

His rankness was a weaponizing stink

And that, with jaws and claws, just seemed unfair.


I grabbed a hypodermic in desperation.

He stopped, sat down, and cocked his head and purred —

Well, growled a friendly growl. The situation

Was so surreal it had become absurd.


He sniffed the morphine, pointing with his nose,

Then wet his hairy foreleg to the skin

In half a dozen licks. I thought “Here goes,”

And found a vein to put the needle in.


They found us with his head across my knees

And breathing like an old man in his chair,

Me petting on his ears, almost at ease

As a dinner-platter paw caressed my hair.


And “Aw, how sweet!” is what I almost hear

You say, but really it is getting bleak:

He hears the siren, far away or near,

And now he comes around three times a week.

Not much is known about Marcus Bales, except that he lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio, and his work has not appeared in The New Yorker or Poetry Magazine. His newest book, 51 Poems, from Lawrence Block Productions, is available at

bottom of page