Better Than Starbucks
Poetry and Fiction Journal
. . . if you love diversity and creative writing in any and every form, then you’re in the right place . . .
Vol VI No III
February, May, August,
Regular Feature Pages
Formal Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Poetry Translations with Susan McLean
Poetry for Children with Robert Schechter
Experimental, Form, & Prose Poetry
Better Than Fiction (creative nonfiction)
Waiting for the Noun by Paul García
Emergency Beacon by Alison Jennings
Ovid's Memory by Sekhar Banerjee
You’d Have Me Be White by Brittany Hause translating Alfonsina Storni
a short essay on the miseducation of love as a round peg in a round hole by Taofeek Ayeyemi
Five Featured Poems
dance with light
the matchstick light that punches up the side of a building
the graceful arc of rainbow where violet is in love with yellow
transcription pause of dawn when sun is coaxed to get out
for a new fight
dance with light as you step and turn
don't worry about choreography or blocking
music will be provided
cool beats of birds, horn of impatient driver
make sure you jump and whirl
if only just a little
this light is like no other
pulls you close to tango
whispers his million year twist and shout
Mary E. Croy lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she works as an administrative assistant. She spent nine years teaching English Language Learners in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. During her free time, Mary likes reading poetry and hanging out with her cats, Buster and Gabby.
There’s safety in this sameness
and strength, too, to help tame this
uncertain life that we lead. The histories
we tell our children, we carve in stone,
an epic poem of our pasts, our victories
and losses; words, deeds in monochrome.
Easier to remember that way and repeat
again and again, like the news
we watch every night, and the views
we hold dear, and the lies, and the waves on the beach . . .
the same gardens to tend, the same lessons to teach,
the work to be done, days to be framed,
the things we buy and consume, and the friends
we make; the rules, the predictable ends
for every attempt, venture, and gain,
one day to the next, always the same;
as if preserved in amber by the years,
archaic insects — until time
grabs us by the throat to remind
us we’ve grown old and weak and need to fear
the seasons, our new neighbors, the streets;
and so we convert winter retreats
into homes and equity into bonds,
to bask in the Florida sun,
in the flow of interest that compounds
each day as the waves, one-by-one
from the gray gulf up the shell-encrusted shore
fold and unfold, like the insistent kiss
of the tides, wave after wave, they slither toward
us and recede with a slow, rolling hiss.
First published in Troubadour: Best of Rhyme at the Year 2000.
J. Weintraub has published fiction, essays, translations, and poetry in all sorts of literary places and has had dramatic work produced throughout the world. His annotated translation, Paris à table: 1846, was recently published by Oxford University Press. https://jweintraub.weebly.com/.
The Lucky Boy
“You’re lucky” said the doctor,
“There might just be a cure.
I think we found it early,
More tests should make us sure.”
He told the boy and family,
Just what the treatment does.
The mother sobbed, forgetting
How lucky her son was.
Russel Winick recently began writing poetry at nearly age 65, after ending a long career as an attorney. Langston Hughes’ work is his primary inspiration. Several dozen of Mr. Winick’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in over a dozen journals.
is thought to cause
anxiety in rats
It is hypothesized that rats
will develop alcohol addiction
if fed the two substances
In the basement of the
behavioral sciences building
is a tiny guillotine for sacri-
ficing alcoholic rats.
Julian O. Long’s poems and essays have appeared in The Sewanee Review, Pembroke Magazine, New Mexico Magazine, and Horizon, among others. His chapbook, High Wire Man, is number twenty-two in the Trilobite Poetry series published by the UNT Libraries.
The Interview — Rob Plath by Tom Merrill
Rob Plath has saturated the underground lit scene with his writing for the past 25 years. He is the author of A Bellyful of Anarchy, There’s A Fist Dunked In Blood Beating In My Chest, Death Is Dead, Hearts For Brains, An Ax For The Frozen Sea, The Skeleton Sutras, In Rot We Trust, Swallowtude, Deathbed Colored Glasses, Feed These Words To The Buddha Who Is Slowly Waking Up Inside Of You, and many more. His latest books are another monster poetry collection My Soul Is A Broken Down Valise (epic rites press) and The Morgue Sutras (Rusty Truck Press' Brown Bag Poetry Series). There is more stuff in the works . . ..
TM: First, Rob, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Thanks also for sending me background material to help me get to know your mind better, what you think. The list of writing tips, the sample chapbook, Deathbed Colored Glasses, all of it gave me a clearer view of you. I can say by heart the final lines of “48” in the chapbook: “I am not yet ready / for my beard of death / for my heart is a morgue drawer / full of flowers jumping out.” Hope those pop-up posies keep intervening between you and The Brooklyn Bridge.
As you know from my emails, I don’t follow the poetry scene. My first exposure to your poetry occurred only last year, and it probably wouldn’t’ve happened if a friend hadn’t sent me a link to a few of your poems. Other readers’ acquaintance with your work / name / viewpoints may be much older than mine. For me you are a recent discovery. And an unexpected one.
As well as looking over the material you sent, I did some detective work of my own. One thing I found is an interview with Wolfgang Carstens, who I think is an editor, and who quotes you approvingly in the interview. He likes how you define poetry, i.e.: “Poetry is like talking a jumper off a ledge. The only way to do this is with simple straight talk.”
I understood the quote as meaning that poetry should help mitigate suffering by offering understanding. But it occurred to me that some might read it as meaning that poetry should help reduce the suicide rate. I tend to envy suicides. Never quite got why others didn’t seem to. But who knows, maybe they do and don’t admit it only because we’re not supposed to envy people who pull their own plug.
The quote also advocates frankness in poetry, a subject you might want to visit in the course of our confab.
I was also informed by that interview of movements in the world of poetry I had never heard of. I mean brutalism and blood poetry. I got the impression you might be an active player in those — is movements the right word? If you are, would you care to offer a rundown of the kind of thinking/purposes those movements represent? (Some readers may know as little about them as I did.)
I also found your name associated with “underground lit” — which leads me to assume that the movements I mentioned are part of an underground writing scene.
I remember standing in the driveway,
crying because I was aware
of time, the way it was slipping,
like the fish my brother jumped after,
before leaving sopping, with hands full
of nothing. Today, that’s a story that gets told.
When I go out on a boat, lightning gives
me dread. My intestines start bubbling. I
jump at the flash, even when it comes twelve
seconds before the boom. A melancholy
dinner, when grandparents begin sentences
with “I remember.” When I think of the dead
unburdened of flesh, a grandfather,
a great aunt, I hardly feel their distance.
They could be playing hearts in the next
room. After my grandpa broke his neck,
my mom, grandmother, he and I
played hearts for a last time. His nonexistence
begins to get through. Grandma makes do.
For me, the void arrives when I stand up
and see stars, or when I’m staring sideways
into space. I went down a trail, into
a dark hole. Dark fish swim among the murky
shadows. Occasionally they show themselves.
Awake, I would not be able to see.
Looking at my friend’s aquiline nose
from the side for the thirty-fifth time, I see
the Why-bother in him. The circles under
the eyes darker. The slouch like a folding chair
under pressure, contemplating surrender.
I want to assemble him, to straighten
him with a tent pole. Maybe he thinks that he could
hide from the lightning. There’s no lightning
here, but when he kisses me, I spiral
into him. Don’t resent that you remain,
I would say. When you long to lie still,
remember: there are no stars where you are going.
Olivia Soule has an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Nevada, Reno, and a B.A. in English and Italian from UCLA. She has published work in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal and Pudding Magazine and has also participated in poetry readings.
Yair Mejía on Unsplash.