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 (writer.org), FAES (FAES.org), and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @claudiagary. pw.org/content/claudia_gary.
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.
cosmic, chronometric, with a sleight
of hand, may, in its measured sway
admit the coming night
and so compose
or devastate the angle of repose—
a sudden avalanche of thought,
of wild scenarios
where things that are,
And while the unremitting repertoire
plays out with every toss and turn,
the star that’s not a star
A half a century of lost Julys—
an old Old Farmer’s Almanac,
the Thunder Moon,
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 cathychandler.blogspot.com
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
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.
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.
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 http://tinyurl.com/jo8ek3r.
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