Formal & Rhyming Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
A child who dropped her popcorn stands bereft
as Hecuba amid the wrack of Troy.
She feels no consolation in having left
a feast for crows that flock in raucous joy.
The birds in urgent ardor shove aside
their smaller ilk to peck the precious plunder.
More birds arrive. The girl retreats, wide-eyed.
A looker-on may feel her grief, but wonder:
Does some hedonic calculus prevail?
Would her enormous sorrow, weighed, out-sum
the crows’ delight, to tip the pleasure scale,
or is there inherent equilibrium,
in which the gorging of so many maws
precisely balances the child’s pain?
Or worse: To hear her sobs out-dinned by caws,
you’d think the net effect has been a gain.
Consider how the watching grown-ups feel:
Their sorrow for her sorrow complicates
the calculation of the commonweal
when factored with the countervailing weights.
Is her distress reduced in some small measure
by sympathy, or is their pain a plus
(or minus) that counts against the corvine pleasure?
The mathless crows feast on, oblivious.
(or Half-Dreamed, Half-Desired)
Awakened by a choir of car alarms
I lay in a hypnopompic daze. The Fates?
The Furies? Trumpets calling us to arms
as Visigoths and Vandals stormed the gates?
So many sounding all at once, so loud,
I pictured Mongol hordes with lurid torches
looting SUVs, beetle-browed
and swarthy, leering, coursing up our porches.
The commotion nudged me into fully waking;
I rose to face whatever mundane fact
had raised the ruckus, raised the blind, and taking
inventory, found the world intact.
The keening cries fell silent one by one.
The porchlight showed my lawn and flowerbeds
untracked, the parking strip not overrun.
No sign of any Eumenides, their heads
enwreathed with snakes. No angels robed in white.
Whatever wracked our sleep, it brought no harm,
no judgment coming as a thief tonight.
I stumbled back to bed. A false alarm.
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 Poet's Prize.
Your Abstract Body
Hon, you breathe the very same air the ginkgoes
breathed as brontosauruses lumbered past them,
bending them as blusters of wind will riffle
meadows of barley.
Ancient as the galaxies, old as space-time,
hoary as the sea, but as fresh as rollers
riding bareback over the brine to borrow
some of its water,
flung from dazzling suns that have spent their rations,
cycled through the eons, your precious body
must be worth, what, hundreds of thousands, millions,
billions of dollars?
Estimate: far less than a lunch at Denny’s.
You, pet, are the atoms of moons and mountains,
rushing rivers, thunderstorms, plants and planets—
common as comets.
Who, then, plays your melody? Why, the cosmos
coursing through the energy you are made of,
through the living cells of your corporation.
You are a blueprint.
Dare I fall in love with an abstract template?
Dare I not? What curious magnetism—
strong force, weak force, gravity, cosmic laughter—
draws us together!
Published in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and was the winner of Poetry Nook’s 162nd Weekly Poetry Contest.
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.
Seducing Billy Collins
in response to his “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes”
First—take a Loaded Gun—he is
American, you know—
and glance—askant—to let him sense
the Lava—peeping through—
then speak of Narrow Fellows riding
slyly—through the Grass,
of plush and dimity and lace—
pale shadows of your dress
of sheerest Abnegation. He—
raised Catholic—will find
in your unruly self-control—
a Hurricano Wind—
for Mr. Collins can’t resist
a trip-wired Metaphor—
that Lifts the Glasses—from his Brow—
and Lays his Senses bare.
My Own Mistress
I keep this woman solely for my pleasure.
I owe her no allegiance; she is free
to leave at any time. But who can measure
what I provide to her or she to me?
I can afford her. I’ve consumed my prime
doing a man’s work for a woman’s pay
and saving much of it. My waning time
I’m dedicating to delight and play.
Her beauty hypnotizes me. I'm drawn
to lose myself in her, knowing she’ll never
care for me the same, and when I'm gone,
she’ll just move on. Yet while we are together,
we both gain more than either does apart.
Some call it foolishness. Some call it art.
Susan McLean is professor emerita of English at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her poetry books include The Best Disguise, The Whetstone Misses the Knife, Selected Epigrams (of Martial), and one chapbook, Holding Patterns.
On an Arrival
Well, it is true you’ve come a long, long way:
Time was when you had not a thing to say
And said it gracelessly in poems which
Would not have passed for decent prose. Your kitsch
Went on at such great length that you could keep
Us listeners half writhing, half asleep.
You’ve come a long, long way; you now mold word
To meaning; what you say is not absurd,
And now and then a memorable phrase
Appears. Kindhearted folks can offer praise
Without too much hypocrisy. But, wait,
Your self-perception far transcends the state
Of what you have become; the journeyman
Works at his craft and does the best he can
But should not in his own mind so confuse
Reality to think the master’s shoes
Are his to fill when anyone with eyes
Can see his feet are not quite half the size.
The late David Berman was a student of Robert Lowell and Archibald MacLeish. A dedicated Powow River Poet, his work appeared in many top journals and three chapbooks.
She wonders at her brother’s bluff desire,
The human itch that crackles from his hands
For a working girl, some ready satisfier.
She wonders but she also understands
These complications of erotic love,
Its twisted strings of possibilities
With Aphrodite’s predatory dove
That nests there like a spider at her ease.
The strings start shivering to Sappho’s touch,
Her plectrum brushing them. She looks away.
Through music loving doesn’t hurt as much
Or say, at any rate, hurts differently.
The port lies gorged, her brother’s boat draws near,
But as for her [the text corrupted here]
Jack Granath is a library director in Kansas. His poetry has appeared in Poetry East, Measure, and North American Review, among other journals and magazines.
Dawn’s first light stirs, a steel blue glow. I step outside and feel no breeze.
Rain barrels, drizzled, overflow, and morning slugs mount their retreat.
I’m like a wraith, waist-deep in mist. Salal leaves whisper at my feet.
A sound. I freeze. It comes again. And antlers loom like winter trees.
He walks my way. No wind disturbs the cutthroat-dimpled deadfall lake,
and so, becalmed, my body smells don’t trip instinctive trigger-wire;
I stand stock still with lowered gaze to keep our eyes from lines of fire,
and drab clothes make my camouflage. He stops and scans. My heartbeats brake.
He moves beside me, muscled, heavy, eating understorey shoots,
his peaceful sustenance that spawned, this May, two spotted, spindled fawns,
who bounded high through spring-burst fields, from barrenness his bastions,
his branching roots. They’ve learned to thrive on autumn orchards’ fallen fruits.
Ripe sunsets bleed into the leaves. A rifle cracks a different dawn.
I’m startled as the buck appears, and rears and buckles in a roll,
then crashes, neck red-circled by a pulsing, spurting puncture hole.
He writhes upon the ground and shakes as nerves misfire through his brawn.
I look into his panicked eyes. His irises—forget-me-nots—
encircle pupils wide with pain no decent human could ignore.
A backwoods track. I see a man. He’s prowling in a four-by-four
for window shots. He’s not distraught. His eyes betray no afterthoughts.
“The beast took off into the woods and there are plenty more besides;
but if it’s not too far to drag its carcass meat back to the truck,
I’ll bring my two young sons and slip a killing shot into that buck.”
The trio strides to where he lies. They swear and smile. The man derides
the need for bullets and their cost, unsheathes his hunting knife and slits
the throat—at which the buck tears free and, thrashing head and antlers, draws
a gash across the hunter’s chest. But on he slashes without pause—
the youngsters laugh hysterically. Their blood-bespattered father spits.
Previously published in the online poetry journal Buckeye.
John Beaton writes metrical poetry. His work has been widely published and won numerous awards. He recites it in spoken word performance. Raised in the Scottish Highlands, he lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
The Antikythera Mechanism fits
Comfortably in no category I know;
A thing of Metal, from the Earth below,
For studying the heavens (Fire or Air)
While trapped in Water for two thousand years.
This ancient artefact from cultures past,
Designed to calculate future events,
Has a contemporary feel at last —
Making allowance for its steampunk look.
Not a computer, less whole than distressed,
It sits anomalously, missing bits,
But speaks loud of that loss much more intense
When the religious dogmas of The Book
Destroyed the nascent scientific quest.
God is Two Brothers
God is two brothers, one dark and one light,
Riding out Time in a tiny ship;
Half day and half night gives little room;
God knows that a rose, red rose or white,
Is a rose is a rose is a bud is a bloom
Is brown blown petals and a drying hip;
And the length of Time’s budding, blowing park
Walk the arm-linked arguers, Light and Dark.
Robin Helweg-Larsen is British-born but Bahamian-raised. His chapbook Calling The Poem is available as a free download from Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, issue 236. He lives in Governor's Harbour on Eleuthera.
Limericks & Lighthearted Verse
Nothing but Nyet
A Russian walked into a bar
And claimed that his dad was the Czar
But no one would weep
For this sad forlorn creep
They wept for the USSR.
There’ll Always be an England
If you have a stomach that’s weak
Do not dine on bubble and squeak.
Avoid food that’s British
And you won’t get skittish.
An example of Realpolitik.
Edmund Conti writes limericks. Edmund Conti writes haiku. Edmund Conti writes double dactyls. Edmund Conti writes light verse. And heavy verse. Edmund Conti ought to get focused.
The best thing about Fred:
For six years he’s been dead.
It’s often that way,
One improves in the grave.
Jake Murel studies literature at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has previously appeared in The Lyric.
I hoped it would be trickier than that.
But I could never catch that wrecking ball.
Beer on the porch. A purifying cat.
I hoped it would be trickier than that.
Cremated to a crisp, the urn all set,
no bones to grind, no children to console—
I hoped it would be trickier than that.
But I could never catch that wrecking ball.
Anton Yakovlev’s latest poetry collection is Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books, 2017). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Amarillo Bay, Prelude, Measure, and elsewhere.
Don’t talk to me of mustard greens,
Brussels sprouts and lima beans,
Neither lettuce, peas and other weeds
Upon which the vegan feeds.
Should you invite me in to dine
Set the table with beef or swine.
A ham or a porterhouse will do,
But don’t put carrots in my stew.
Before you start to nibble your boiled zucchini
Hand me another fat ballpark weenie.
Just bring me something fit to eat—
Some Armour Vienna or potted meat.
I will never graze in your salad stall
As long as there’s a pig in Arkansas.
As for the cholesterol in my diet,
I watch it close—I won’t deny it.
I’m trying to find some way to fry it.
Gayle Compton is a carnivore living in Pike County, Kentucky, with his vegetarian wife Sharon. His work has appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, Blue Mountain Review, and elsewhere.
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
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