Free Verse Poetry Page with Suzanne Robinson
Use links at the bottom of this page, or the drop down menu above, to connect to our other poetry pages.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
on the beach,
in the sun
in the sand.
over my head.
the Pall Mall
through my hair.
She is gone,
is nothing left
at the pub
for the last
as I stare
at the wall.
a Pall Mall;
an old blonde
next to me.
I gulp down
for two more
R.J. Zeman is a poet from Dunedin, Florida. More of his work can be found at www.robertzeman.blogspot.com.
in another life, my father
warms my milk
over the stovetop
and pushes his sleeve
up over the elbow.
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,
All is quiet, until
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.
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,
from your timidity.
An admirable trait
imaginable only to those Lilliputians
who met Gulliver
when he stepped ashore.
After trying to subdue him
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
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.