Free Verse Poetry Page  with Suzanne Robinson 

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Black Hair

 

Every once in a while

A little girl clenches her chubby fingers

Shaking her small fist with the strength of a thousand women

Defiant that her hair is a shade lighter than it actually is

She is beginning to stake things on it, first ceding a dollar, then the rice

Her mother prepared for her, and sets of chopsticks then sit parallel in silence

Listening for the first word that the little girl

Is proud of her black hair

And thinks her skin is sunny

Like saffron diffusing in the hot tea sipped by the farmers who grew rice like they were pearls

But she is now willing to bet her life on the fact that her hair is brown

She caresses it only when it is in the sun, diluting the blinding black that was gifted to her

But never opened, because she saw that the world liked lighter hair,

Hair grown from different soils,

Hair that was not black.


Confessions of a Cloud-Watcher

 

A cloud I saw last Tuesday

Moved like the smoke from your cigar

It was insistent on rolling upwards,

Sullying only blank spaces at both ends.

 

I watched a few smile the same way you did

Tears bubbling silently on the inside

Until they boiled over in secret

And showed up on your skin instead, in dark spots

 

There was one that strode as if shackled

To the sky, I think its invisible ankles

Must’ve been rubbed raw

From trying to untie your noose, winning only in rope burns

 

Every day I go to the field down by the fence

I spread out a blanket

I watch the rolling clouds

And I hope to see you again.

Both poems first published in The Asia Literary Review.

Katherine Wu is a student living in Hong Kong. She currently studies English Literature, and is an avid environmentalist. Her favorite poets are Grace Chua, Robert Frost, and Ellen Zhang.

Advertised

 

I advertised for a lover black as a vinyl record

in a spattered jacket smelling like a

basement book. Or a jacket with

psychedelic artwork and shrink wrap I’d pierce

gently with my thumbnail. Black with

reflections white as the Apollo’s

spotlight. The needle arm rides daintily

from the outer rim to the no-man’s land

around the label. Experienced, scratchy,

it crackles like the fireplace in

the grand hall of the ski

lodge where we toast our anniversaries.

Sometime around the tenth, we no longer

feel conspicuous checking in.

By then the record’s been flipped

a hundred times. We’ve gotten careless about

sleeving it. We anticipate the notes that hiccup,

the one-syllable beefs that nag.

 

Timothy Robbins has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1978. His collection Denny’s Arbor Vitae was published in 2017. A new collection, Carrying Bodies, is coming out in 2018. He lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with his husband of twenty years.

     *

 

Star by star you add a word

the way the Earth still darkens

from the bottom up, lets you hold on

 

keep it from shedding just its light

and your fingers — you write

as if this stone was already black

 

and step by step your child-like name

pinned on to become its last breath

while you steer the lettering back home

 

leave spaces for this iron waterfall

to point from under some mountainside

at whispers that no longer move

 

smothered by braids, shoulders, kisses

that are yours, oceans, winds, mornings

blacker than this dirt and lost.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poems published by box of chalk, 2017.

BODY SURFING

 

Standing hip deep in the sea

Is nice in itself, but the reason for being there

Is the wait for a big wave.

 

A wave rising, a sudden tower

Smooth with devouring power

But one you can launch yourself forward in tune with — and

Hurtle ecstatic, unseeing and breathless

For as long as breath can hold

Through the water and up along over and onto the sand,

Sand thick in your hair, jammed in every fold,

Scraped, battered and rolled,

Triumphant, beached, deathless.

 

For this the saint prays,

For this the artist stares open-eyed,

For this the poet lets wounds bleed unstanched,

For this: this hope of being launched,

Controlled and uncontrolled

By what can’t be withstood or denied.

 

(Or else you could duck under the wall,

Let it pass over while you count three,

Hear the boom of its crested fall,

Yourself unbroken, inactive, safe, free.)

 

The sea is always there

Whether or not you are in it

Standing hip deep in it

Waiting for the next big wave.

 

 

Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poetry is published internationally. His chapbook “Calling The Poem” is available as a free download from Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, issue 236. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks — Form in Formless Times.”

BEGINNING

 

A tree-frog trills in the dark, echoing lightly in the midst of waning, not adrift but stationary, a lighthouse of sound, beacon of resonance that says Whether you come this way or not, dawn is here and brightening, and a school of crickets passes through night’s full tide toward light.

WIND’S CONSIDERATION

 

Ships creak over the land of the living, the dead.

 

The wind believes I should consider it alive and say,

See the leaves the breeze has birthed?

 

The wind’s expectation is that I believe it’s responsible for all movement,

even ships that navigate the vulgar crescent of the sparked darkness.

 

Both these poems are from FOUR BITS — Fifty 50-Word Pieces.

 

John L. Stanizzi’s full-length collections are Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, and High Tide-Ebb Tide. His work is widely published. His latest book, Chants, will be out this year.

THE ANONYMOUS LETTERS OF GLORIA VANDERBILT

 

At the flea market, she bought a perfectly trussed parcel

of letters and placed them, unread, in a transparent

plastic cage she keeps like a laboratory specimen

in her studio.  She had bathed in the fragrance of

old onionskin and the scent of lovers’ touches on

the yellowed envelopes and holds them, unopened,

in trust, still binding the secrets that spill onto pages

from the heart’s blood of lovers’ murmuring pens.

 

In the graveyard of poetry anthologies, we plunder

dead scribes’ rhymes with untutored reading, wondering

why the Royal Academy let Burkes and Hares like us

visit your graves, ragpick you to breathe new life into

our archives.  But a few of us know that you wrote not

for us, but in defense of the sanctity of secret intent

to which we supply the content, suborning hidden

discontents.  A few of us collect flint, schist, mica

or even fool’s gold to pirate away your rest, leaving

one mineral kiss of emulation on your headstones.

 

In the end, all letters are bound with the twine and

caution tape of our lives, marking casements that

are not to be pried by voyeurs when they’re left behind.

Gloria left these strangers’ secrets safe in a see-through

box, mysterious even though within reach.  Like the

dead poets, she shares our gift of ambivalence, knows

the worth of the underrated strategically placed footnote.

Pamela Sumners lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her spouse, a teenage kid, and three dogs.

“Insomnia”

 

An old doll with painted eyes

Balances the pump organ shelf

 

Over cigarette stained creamy ivory

Her head bobbles on a spindle

 

Mother pulls down bad blood

To pierce a bursting fingertip

 

Rotten chunks of criminals

Attract clouds of flies

 

Paper houses collapse in flames

To waft shattered wishes skyward

 

Ashen leaves blow

Around a restless bed

 

 

Christina E. Petrides is an expatriate American living on a small Pacific island where all the palm trees and the magpies are imported, but the rice wine is indigenous and delicious.

An Ending

 

I stand

on the beach,

smoking

a cigarette,

lost

in thought.

I see

young girls

tan

in the sun

and

little kids

playing

in the sand.

A seagull

flies

over my head.

I suck

the Pall Mall

deep into

my lungs,

close

my eyes

and

exhale.

I let

the breeze

blow

through my hair.

She is gone,

my mind

is gone;

there

is nothing left

to do

but chain-smoke

and think.

 

 

Warm

 

I’ve been

ordering

whiskey

and coke

at the pub

for the last

three hours.

Elvis

plays

on the

jukebox

as I stare

at the wall.

I finish

my drink

and order

another.

I light

a Pall Mall;

an old blonde

sits down

next to me.

I gulp down

my whiskey

and ask

for two more

shots.

“You’re cut

off,”

says the

woman

behind

the bar.

I stare

at her

in disbelief.

Hasn’t

she ever

been killed

by love

before?

 

R.J. Zeman is a poet from Dunedin, Florida. More of his work can be found at www.robertzeman.blogspot.com.

Do Over

 

in another life, my father

warms my milk

over the stovetop

and pushes his sleeve

up over the elbow.

fat drops

of milk fall first

onto his forearm,

pale as powder,

then onto my rose

petal tongue. We are

alone in the nursery,

and all is quiet but our

breathing. Here, he watches

me and smiles, soft

as a calf’s ear,

without realizing.

All is quiet, until

he speaks.

if only I knew

what he said

to me then.

 

Allison Sharp was born and raised in the sleepy suburb of Gardendale, Alabama, where she grew up telling nonsense stories to the dogs. Now she’s attending the Alabama School of Fine Arts, delving into non-fiction and all the truth (and peace) it brings.

Still Open

            after Marie Luise Kaschnitz

 

In the July yard,

a sear of sun grass,

certain buttercups raise

yellow upside down umbrellas

as if to you,

who died in 1974.

 

I hunt and peck

for words to call this world,

gather strength

from your timidity.

 

An admirable trait

imaginable only to those Lilliputians

who met Gulliver

when he stepped ashore.

After trying to subdue him

they returned

to their kitchens

where you waited in silence

disguised as a placid mother,

or an honorable guest.

 

I never liked men,

preferred to be alone

with the window dressing,

to sit with my back against what was left

of the forest

eating a salad of green leaves

at the table old roses.

 

 

Judith Skillman’s new books are Premise of Light, Tebot Bach; and Came Home to Winter. She is the recipient of grants from Artist Trust and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Poetry, Cimarron Review, Zyzzyva, and other journals.  

Big Bad Woolf

 

I had a dream last night—

Virginia Woolf rose from her river altar

And offered me a river stone.

(Smooth, round, cool—how cool it was)

it was the size of my palm

had a heartline just like mine.

And then Virginia turned into seaweed again

Her eyeballs splashed into that cool water—

Her pupils are still looking at me.

 

 

Everything’s Jake at Twilight

 

A spider crawls on the rail

Three stories down, cars mingle—

Hazy smog and June sunsets,

Drift off to sleep

 

All the white buildings

You see from up high

Turn into pillars of salt

 

The man across from you puts out his cigarette—

You follow him inside

 

Fin.

 

 

Tyler Clark is a student at Northern Arizona University where he studies English Literature and German. He has recently moved back from Dortmund, Germany, where he studied abroad for a year.

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