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 Formal & Rhyming Poetry                              with Vera Ignatowitsch

Dry Season


By mid-July the lack of rain

has drained the green from knee-high grass.

Across the valley a verdant vein

still zig-zags from a high crevasse,

a remnant of the vernal flood

against the brown.  The pond it feeds

lies cupped in banks of sunbaked mud

as week by week the pool recedes.

The tracks of fox, racoon, and deer

harden like sculpture in the sun.

And mine.  They show that I’ve been here

a dozen times, the only one

of all my kind to leave a trace.

The rain will come again in fall;

the rising water will erase

the record of our passing — all

the daily coming and going — gone.

The grassland creatures will not think

in some far summer’s thirsty dawn

to look for my tracks when they drink.



Richard Wakefield’s first poetry collection, East of Early Winters (University of Evansville Press), won the Richard Wilbur Award. His second collection, A Vertical Mile (Able Muse Press), was short-listed for the Poets’ Prize. His new collection, Terminal Park, will be published in late 2020 by Able Muse Press.



On 39th Street, screaming east or west,

the sirens rip the air apart and make

a whorl of purpose, fading in their wake,

the destination sure, the fate unguessed.

Something gone wrong, an accident, a crime,

has summoned them, a heart attack or fire.

With help or hindrance as it may require,

the sirens strive to interfere in time.


Safe in my room, and startled out of sleep,

I can’t prevent the circuits in my head

from spinning out scenarios of dread

and accusation—all the fear I keep

well hidden—listening with the certainty

that sirens coming on will stop at me.



Barbara Loots has published poems for five decades in literary magazines, including Blue Unicorn, The Formalist, I-70 Review, The Lyric, Measure, New Letters, and The Christian Century Online. She can also be found at Mezzo Cammin, Light Poetry, and Better Than Starbucks.

August Pain


A blush of rose still mantles the horizon

Cicada chatter suddenly dies down—

I stop and snap a pic with my Verizon.

The calm of evening settles like a frown

Tightened by the AC units whirring

To ward off August’s ancient, stagnant heat,

A little wind—you’d hardly sense its stirring

If not for dead leaves scraping at your feet.

You ask yourself—When will this be over?

Over over over—yes, there’s your answer.

To cool himself the dog writhes in the clover

While clinging heat invades you like a cancer.

August inflicts its special brand of pain.

There’s more ahead. It doesn’t look like rain.



Donald Carlson lives in Texas. His poems have appeared in Better Than Starbucks, Blue Unicorn, The Road Not Taken, and more. His collaborative volume of poetry, with Timothy Donohue and Dennis Patrick Slattery, is Road Frame Window, published by Mandorla Press.

Knowlton Henge


The early British converts stared aghast 
At Knowlton Henge in Dorset and decreed
The monument a blasphemy. Too vast
To level out, these pious folk agreed
To topple all its megaliths instead,
For fear that men might come to reappraise
The word that blessed Augustine had spread
And re-embrace their former pagan ways. 
They raised a temple of their own design
Inside the earthen ring already there
To further neutralise this heathen shrine
With wholesome Christian liturgy and prayer.
It’s ruined now, but still that wall of sod
Outside the church endures. So much for God.



Rob Stuart’s many poetry and short story credits include Light Poetry Magazine, Magma Poetry, New Statesman, The Oldie, Popshot, The Spectator, and The Washington Post. His website is



Things that have lasted all this time

          are taken now —

The lantern’s glow, the ivy’s climb,

          the lifted prow,


The spinnaker unfurling — all


Poised atop the wave. See them fall,

          break, miscarry,


Scatter in the wind and the spray.

          Now almost fled,

That bright immensity of days

          behind, ahead.



Jared Carter’s most recent book is The Land Itself, from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.

Holiday Inn Express, Three a.m.


How many other bodies lie between

crisp sheets like these, on other floors and down

this hall, in rooms that they won’t have to clean,

and are they happy to be out of town?

Are some of them still close to home, just hiding

from unsuspecting spouses, sharing sheets

with secret lovers?  Have some guests been riding

on trains and planes, toward meetings and retreats

and family parties?  Do they sleep, worn out,

at peace?  In five hours, I’ll negotiate

a business deal—the outcome much in doubt—

so I can’t sleep.  Instead, I contemplate

our hotel breaths: do they get synchronized,

as if our lives were briefly harmonized?


And if our lives were briefly harmonized,

would we share more than glances as we downed

free breakfasts in the morning?  Recognized

by our shared oxygen, would we be bound

by an unconscious kinship?  We’d been sleeping

as close as family members would, with all

our blood enriched by exhalations seeping

beneath our doors.  This doesn’t help me fall

asleep; instead it makes me fret about

my state of mind, the eccentricity

of my imagination, and I doubt,

if just a little bit, my sanity—

because what I’ve imagined seems more real

and urgent than tomorrow’s business deal.



Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014).

Another Sense of an Ending

            —after Julian Barnes


It’s pestered you for years and years,

Your private little worrywart

Like something buzzing in your ears,

Some static-tattered last report

From someone in the pockmarked fort

You’d never trusted all along—

The shitty, sentimental sort.

Suppose you got the whole thing wrong.


It’s aggravating, like the lead

—Eberhard Faber, #2—

You’ll carry (till you’re done and dead!)

In your left palm.  It’s part of you.

It fits you like a worn-out shoe;

The mark of what you bring along:

Your baggage, all you think is true.

Suppose you got the whole thing wrong.


Suppose the words were insincere.

Suppose you never got the joke.

Suppose you really were veneer

But sold yourself as vintage oak.

Suppose you suddenly awoke

To hear the real words of the song.

Suppose you spoke but never spoke.

Suppose you got the whole thing wrong.


In short, the short is what you are,

And short is always less than long,

And near is never more than far.

Suppose you got the whole thing wrong.


From Dogwatch, Measure Press, 2014.



R. S. (Sam) Gwynn retired from Lamar University after teaching there 40 years. He lives in Beaumont, Texas. His most recent collection is Dogwatch, from Measure Press. He is currently editing a collection of the apothegms of Sikhspak Chapra.

Rereading the Aeneid, Book IV


Sting of a memory, roused from its coils in the roots of the Latin:

     raising my voice to my teacher, right there in the hallway. I lost it—

     my grip on the weave of the grammar, the veiled indirectness of footnotes.

     Red-faced, incensed at her hint that not all of the weeping was Dido's.

     Calling Aeneas a jerk and a rat, almost shouting that duty,

     piety, vows to the gods were all lies.

                                                                      And her face. And her eyebrows

     (bristly and white and just visible under the edge of a wimple)

     knitting. Then both of us suddenly silent. The bell. And then moving

     stone-faced toward chemistry class, while across on the opposite stairwell,

     slouching, a certain young perfidus carefully stared at his loafers.


First published in The Dark Horse.


Maryann Corbett’s fifth book, In Code, will be published by Able Muse in 2020. Her work has won the Richard Wilbur Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and has been included in The Best American Poetry 2018.



Arithmetic, she tells you, has no grab

(‘Who cares how quick two taps can fill a bath?’)

And chemistry’s as much a bust as math

Except for making stink bombs in the lab.

Who got the best of whom, upon the Plains

Of Abraham, she couldn’t give a hoot,

What demarcates a veggie from a fruit

Or why, on Chile’s coast, it never rains.


‘Your future’s on the line!’ you long to shout

(Ignoring in your ear the spiteful purr:

‘You at fourteen were heedless, just like her!’)

But when you see her sketch a speckled trout

Or listen to its story, told in song,

You take her in your arms and hold your tongue.



Peter Austin’s poems have appeared in Able Muse, Blue Unicorn, Barefoot Muse, The Raintown Review, The New Formalist, Fourteen by Fourteen, and many more journals worldwide. He has published five books of poetry.

The Night Janitor for the Museum of Biblical Atrocities


There Herod used to sit and meditate

Behind a screen of incense smoke. Withdrawn,

He’d press his eyes worn by the crush of fate

And turn his heavy head aside to yawn

Then gesture to his sentries at the gate.

This alone remains, all the rest are gone,

A severed head lying on a silver plate

With printed notice reading: Baptist, John.


Now sometimes, right here in this gallery,

Behind a curtain or behind a case,

For something horrible a voice will plea

In tones that range from downright lewd to chaste

And mix with her rhythmic footfalls’ savagery

And the jangles strung across her naked waist.


First published in Measure.



Robert Donohue’s poetry has appeared in Measure, The Raintown Review, The Orchards, 2 Bridges Review, and IthacaLit. His verse play, In One Piece, was given a staged reading by The Red Harlem Readers. He lives on Long Island, New York.

The Widower’s Aubade


The dim morning is still in her nightclothes.

He drops a mug of coffee at his feet.

He hears a garbage truck. And fighting crows

are gutting bags of trash across the street.


He rubs his scalp and curly strands of white

and pepper hairs gather between his fingers.

He leaves the comfort of his chair and fights

the pain in his lower back that lingers—


despite the bags of ice and ibuprofen.

He winces, moving toward the bay window,

and sees himself bagged in his garbage bin.

His pane glass reflection now lost in limbo.


He dwells on his wife. Has she earned her wings?

Wake up! It is too soon to sleep! he sings.



Steven M. Smith’s poems have recently appeared in publications such as Rattle, Poem, Old Red Kimono, Plainsongs, Poetrybay, Ibbetson Street Press, Studio One, The River, Cabildo Quarterly, and Mudfish.

Lighthearted Verse

Pas de Deux

(may be sung if you know the tune)


She’s typing overhead

On the ceiling near my bed

In ear shot

Blocked she’s not.

I try to drown her out

With my TV.  Then I shout

“Time to fold.

Three just tolled.”

I whisper, “Give it up, my neighbor,

You can’t write,

You’re not a Kitty Kelly, babe, or

Katherine White.”

I hate my ceiling more

Now it is her dancing floor.

Her book

Just sold.



Edmund Conti has written more poems than you can shake a stick at. And many people have. Shake if you want. Conti will continue to Rattle and Roll. (Mostly former.)

On this page we publish selections of metrical and formal poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, 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

There once was a piggy from Macon

who grunted, “My heart is just achin’.

     When folks look at me,

     what do they see,

but sausage and pork chops and bacon?”



B. J. Lee is a children’s author and poet. Her picture book, There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth, launched in 2019 (Pelican Publishing). Her poetry is published/forthcoming with Little, Brown, National Geographic, Bloomsbury, Penguin/DK, Eerdmans, Wordsong and Otter-Barry.

The Hyper Texts

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

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