Formal & Rhyming Poetry                                        with Vera Ignatowitsch

                        The Plunge

 

Two dozen frightened eight-year-olds ascend

the ladder to the platform, where they creep

across or run with wild bravado, leap,

and plummet dumbly to the pool’s deep end.

 

In this, the last ordeal of PE class,

we feel as if the ladder rungs are glue.

I can’t look down, and looking up my view

is Gary Sexton’s skinny, trunk-clad ass.

 

Teddy Kirk, below me, stares in fear

at mine — the pucker too, for all I know.

The splashes resonating from below

grow distant even as they’re growing near.

 

The caustic chlorine rising on a wave

of humid air enwreathes me in its fire,

and whispers tauntingly, “Higher!  Higher!

It isn’t any deeper than a grave!”

 

Our terror isolates us.  We’re alone,

and yet united by a common thing,

all joined in fear, like prayer beads on a string,

each bound to take the plunge inert as stone.

 

Then having leapt and lived, we feel we’re blest

and vastly changed in such a fleeting time.

A world away, we watch the stragglers climb,

unbaptised souls so near their final test.

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.

Sister Rigor Mortis

 

Oh, the times! Oh, the situation!

We who hiked our uniforms above our knees

and called communion wafers “corpus crispies,”

will you forgive us for the appellation

 

we gave you? You stood so rigid and erect

as you declaimed a Cicero oration.

You were so old and tall, no coloration

vivified your cheek. Wasn’t it correct

 

to dub you Rigor Mortis, Latin name

for “stiffness after death,” wasn’t it wry?

Didn’t it suit you, didn’t it apply?

That it might hurt you was a thought that came

 

and went. If it hurt you, you never said.

You loomed at lunch or monitored the hall.

You made us translate “Love conquers all”

and bored us silly. The language was dead.

 

Who cared about datives, or the three parts

of Gaul, or if the die was cast? Who cared?

Still you taught us, who mutinously stared

you down and mocked you, whose barbaric hearts

 

would not be taught a thing. (True, a declension

or two may have osmotically passed through

our tiny minds which accidentally grew

on days we accidentally paid attention.)

 

No accident here: these past-due lines

willingly acknowledge an old debt.

Thank you, teacher, Sister Mary Margaret.

Firm, and eternal as the Apennines

 

of Rome is how your alpine bearing looks

in retrospect. Your endless patience

as we assailed you with impertinence

was the real lesson, the one not found in books.

 

It is fitting and just to mull awhile

on all you taught us in word and deed.

As I get nearer to where all roads lead,

I keep in mind your mild and tolerant smile.

 

 

Kate Bernadette Benedict is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Here From Away (2003), In Company (2011), and Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems (2015). 

Shifting Continents

 

Our continents once one, repeatedly separate, and join anew:

Pangea the most recent supercontinent, is the best known—

without national boundaries, state lines, circles of latitude.

 

Surrounded by water mostly in the southern hemisphere, the mood

must have been one of solitude without any boundaries or zones:

our continents once one, repeatedly separate, and join anew:

 

It would’ve been awesome to have been high in space to view

this huge supercontinent split and come back from the unknown

without national boundaries, state lines, circles of latitude.

 

What would’ve been the color of the sky—it wouldn’t have been blue;

and how deep was Panthalassa the colossal ocean all on its own?

Our continents once one, repeatedly separate, and join anew.

 

Maps show South American, African coasts fit together—a shoo-in

and one of the marks of continental drift, plate tectonics backbone

without national boundaries, state lines, circles of latitude.

 

It is predicted our continents will again combine, become one (you

probably guessed) and all boundaries of states, nations, overthrown:

our continents once one, repeatedly separate, and join anew

without national boundaries, state lines, circles of latitude.

 

 

Carol Smallwood, a multi Pushcart nominee in RHINO; Drunken Boat, began writing after she retired and returned to college. In Hubble’s Shadow (Shanti Arts, 2017) is her most recent poetry collection.

“St. Scholastic Academy lauds Sweetheart Court”

(headline, New Orleans Times-Picayune)

 

Each girl wears a single strand of pearls

that’s draped across a dark-toned turtleneck.

I count them—there are fifteen smiling girls—

or is it one? I confess, I had to check.

Their hair is long and blonde, perfectly straight;

it frames their faces, drapes across their shoulders.

They smile the same wide smile. Is this their fate—

to preserve those unformed faces, not get older?

The photos, black and white, comprise a grid,

like mugshots of child mannequins gone rogue—

or something grim and sterile Warhol did

when crimson, green and saffron weren’t in vogue.

The sweethearts’ features are forever frozen,

a perfect, ordered image of the chosen.

 

 

Diane Elayne Dees's  poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. Diane, who lives in Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that covers women's professional tennis throughout the world.

Limericks & Lighthearted Verse

A Hearty Appetite

 

A lady whose lover was sweet

wore a smile when they sat down to eat.

            When asked, “Is he tasty?”

            She said, “Don’t be hasty.

I’ve only begun with his feet.”

 

The Hyena

 

An Italian once slapped a subpoena

on a visiting laughing hyoena.

            “What you do when at home,

            is forbidden in Rome!

Take your paws off of that signoroena.”

 

Mother Turtle

 

Let us pity the poor mother turtle

who is prone to shed tears when she’s fertile,

            for she knows, without doubt,

            when her babies dine out

that the soup will cost more than dessert’ll.

 

The Hyena and Mother Turtle have previously been published in Light.

 

 

Laura J. Bobrow was once dubbed “The American Milne.” She has since been likened in print to Hilaire Belloc and Edward Lear. Besides two  chapbooks, her poems have been published in more than 50 magazines and journals.

In Praise of Chastity

 

So many things are better left untouched—

a flower in its early bud and bloom;

a field of fresh-shook, sifted snow; the hushed

cathedral of the woods; the quiet room

of my ordered heart. Not for me the flower

picked, the snow tracked into slush, the broken

trees and promises. Love’s for an hour,

then is done, and sooner left unspoken.

From what I’ve seen, the world’s a finer place

and none would mourn the loss or call it waste

if you and I refrain from close embrace

and choose instead to praise whatever’s chaste.

Lisa Barnett’s poems have appeared in Angle, 14 by 14, Measure, Poetry, and elsewhere. She is a three-time Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award finalist and is the author of two chapbooks.

A Sweetness Absent from the Ocean Air

 

The Weeping Window bleeds ceramic poppies

that blush St. Magnus’s cathedral wall

and each seems minuscule among them all—

the throng comprises nigh a million copies:

one bloom per British serviceman who died

in World War One, a massive flower bed

entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

displayed in London where it dignified

that War’s centenary. Now part has travelled

to Orkney, here to mark one century

since dreadnought fleets waged battle on the sea

near Jutland. Lifelines tangled and unravelled—

in two short days eight thousand men and more

succumbed as riven battleships went down.

With Princess Anne, the envoy of the Crown,

their relatives are welcomed at the door

of this, the Viking edifice erected

in memory of Magnus, who eschewed

bad blood in favour of the holy rood,

a man of peace, nine hundred years respected.

 

Some families take pause and stare, as if

they hope the flower avatar of their

lost sailor lad will wave. As they repair

into the church, the poppies stand up, stiff

like soldiers at attention on parade;

their stems are wire, their heads are crimson clay

and, grouped, they seem ethereal, a fey

honor guard shipshapedly displayed.

The British and the German brass bands march

along the harbor front then through the streets;

this day there are no triumphs or defeats—

they gain the church grounds through a common arch—

and then the pipe band, clad in kilts, assemble.

No instrument of war can so foment

bravado then bestow such dark lament:

Great Highland Bagpipes set the air atremble,

the Weeping Window work of art revives,

more vehemently, the ones who drowned and bled,

and now we see, in child-tall blooms of red,

a sad cascade of young, foreshortened lives.

 

Published on the Stoke Poges Thomas Gray 2016 Centenary website and the December 2, 2017 Goodreads blog.

John Beaton writes metrical poetry. His work has been widely published, won numerous awards, and he recites it in spoken word performance. Raised in the Scottish Highlands, he lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. 

Romantic Poem With

an Unlikely Metaphor

 

You are warty pumpkin lying in

October sunshine—not serrated orange

or smooth white. You’re uneven, with green skin,

a surge of bunions covering your form.

 

I love the heirloom species, not the slick,

smooth-perfect globes the supermarkets sell

with bumps removed by some genetic trick

wrought in a GMO lab down in hell.

 

Your rough protuberances lure my sight.

Nature’s extrusions show on you—thus she

protected you from predators that might

eat through more tender flesh—calligraphy

 

of Ceres; her protective, sheltering caul

surrounding you. I love you, warts and all.

 

 

David Landrum teaches English Literature at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His poetry has appeared widely. He writes about 50/50 rhyming poems and free verse.

Many Rooms

 

One third of life is spent in sleep,

But in the house of dreams, we find

True wisdom of a subtle kind.

 

Like divers rising from the deep,

The dreaming self retrieves at night

Things hidden from the common sight.

 

Adventure comes in many forms—

The spirit wanders restlessly

In dreams to seek its destiny.

 

The other world cares not for norms

Of time and place as followed by

The waking world; no rules apply.

 

The house of dreams has many rooms

Where mystics weave on golden looms.

The secrets of your soul are there;

Explore each passage, if you dare.

 

Previously published in The Lyric, Vol. 96, No. 3, Summer 2016.

Michael Fraley’s poetry has been published in Blue Unicorn, The Road Not Taken, and Plainsongs. He has published a chapbook First-Born and an e-chapbook Howler Monkey Serenade.

The Natural Order

 

Unflaggingly they till their fertile fields

And sop the sweat that gathers on the brow,

For they’re intent on adding to the yields

That they have earned from years behind the plow.

 

The oxen out in front of them fare worse,

Since these get nothing but alfalfa hay,

Which men have been so kind as to disburse.

Some people say that there will come a day

 

When gods and men and beasts shall all be equal,

But this is just an addlepated dream

That lives a single day and has no sequel.

Conditions are exactly as they seem,

 

And life goes on much as it always has,

With drastic changes few and far between.

The status quo is not as rigid as

One fears, although a natural beauty queen

 

Must still be granted privilege: By her charm

And by her noble bearing, she's a winner.

Sell off the livestock, modernize the farm,

And then, good landsman, ask her out to dinner.

 

 

C.B. Anderson was the longtime gardener for the PBS television series, The Victory Garden. His poems have appeared internationally, and his first print book, Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder, was published in 2013 by White Violet Press.

On this page we publish monthly 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 your limericks and lighthearted verse as well!  Vera Ignatowitsch

The Hyper Texts

"some of the best poetry on the web" Vera Ignatowitsch

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