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Formal Poetry

The Nature of Things

The dozen horses make a writhing knot

against this afternoon of windblown sleet.

Driven to preserve their vital heat

they nose and jostle for the inmost spot.

If we had thought the storm would reach this height

we would have brought them in this morning — instead

we’ll slog into a muddy winter night

to get the last one trailered, stalled, and fed.

For now my pickup cab is warm and dry.

Through a quarter-inch of windshield glass

I see the chaos swirling down the sky

to blast the horses’ involuting mass.


Lucretius says they’re particles in flux

from form to form, and so’s the storm, and I’m

involved, I guess, as I wait for the trucks

and watch the wipers measure off the time.

Richard Wakefield’s publications include East of Early Winters (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and A Vertical Mile (short-listed for the Poets’ Prize). His new collection, Terminal Park, is due for publication this year.

People and Pigeonholes

Palmettos clatter like Venetian blinds,

but we refuse to listen: we just hear

them clatter like palmettos. Or we stare


At tiny birds with giant yellow feet

slapping the soggy grasses happily

like agitated sequins, and just blink


at neon blue, and stop. There’s nothing wrong

with classifying what we stumble on

as “egrets mostly” (white), “with pelicans

and, now and then, a spoonbill.” True enough:


but labeling will never let us see

a polyglot community of birds

who swallow fingerlings companionably

where men would shovel them in fishbowls

to devour the whole, alone —

Kathryn Jacobs is a poet, professor emerita, and editor of The Road Not Taken. Her fifth book, Wedged Elephant, was published by Kelsay Press.

“¡estoy aquí!” hands down beats brand new pants

my mother’s evergreen demeanor spread

when making denim mason jar cozies,

which cost little and served for little more

than nursing her nostalgia. immigrants —

in gucci sweats from ross — wearing bourgeois

belief systems flat iron every root,

which takes a gracious toll. our charity

of smiles —

                       currency gives friends and family

levis — from jcpenney on clearance,

the tag torn off — because we know your size.

“¡estoy aquí!” hands down! beats brand new pants.


she’d give the jars two feet, to say “we rise,”

fill them with figs, because our home came with

a tree of choice. and an american myth.

Emiliano Gomez graduated from UCLA. He was born in rural northern California. He has been recently published by Indolent Books, Breakbread Magazine, and The Ice Colony. He is working on a pastiche collection which includes tanka, prose, objectivism, and sonnets.


after the painting by Michèle Lehmann (1940)


The morning ferry’s due at ten o’clock;

she watches for it — or, for all we know,

looks only to the far end of the dock

and thinks of running, then a dive below

that placid pale blue surface. It’s too cold

for such dramatics — even her long coat

can’t keep her warm — her packed suitcase is bold

enough. Her thick fur collar chafes her throat;

her own stiff pose of patience makes her itch

for drastic action, some quick liberation.

She’s had enough of him. She can’t say which

is worse: his lying or his expectation

that she’ll forgive again, come home, unpack.

She waits. She’ll board that boat; she won’t be back.

Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014).

Good Old-Fashioned Surveillance

Highly esteemed Frank Abagnale:

   I’m sure your colleagues knew me well

enough, back when they loved to waste

my time and money, and to taste

my envelopes. But you and I

have little else in common. Why,

when growing up, I mostly was

a goody-two-shoes, all because

my mother taught and I believed

our great Witness was an aggrieved

angel who watched us from above

while weeping tears of constant love.

   Never did I imagine that

he might just be some Bureaucrat.

Claudia Gary teaches workshops on formal and metrical poetry through Author of Humor Me (2006) and chapbooks including Genetic Revisionism (2019), she is also a science journalist and tonal composer. See; follow @claudiagary.

Liminal Vision

Grid of Existence, seeming minimal —

unknown extent, intent —

all-ruling, always nearing, liminal,

imminent — eminent —


the great all-seeing Eye of all the world —

the oracular Oculus —

the Stick round which our candyfloss is twirled —

the discorporate Octopus —


most active in the gap between day and night

when half-light blurs the features,

the predatory time the Unseen bite,

the time of mythic creatures,


time of illusions and profuse confusions,

the pros and cons in thrall

to every problem’s conmen selling solutions

to solve and dissolve all


the woes and worries of our warty worlds . . .

The Hunter bounds, unbound;

the Eye, the towering Wave, forever curls

over our grind, our ground.

Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poems have been published in Better Than Starbucks and other magazines in several countries. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks,” and blogs at from his hometown of Governor’s Harbour in the Bahamas.

Dwelling in Possibility


Emily Dickinson —

eyes on horizon and 

mind out to roam,


dashing her verbiage,

driving each image with

Hypervelocity —

hardly left home.

First published in Mezzo Cammin.

Barbara Lydecker Crane has received two Pushcart nominations and was twice a Rattle Poetry Prize finalist. She’s published three chapbooks and her poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review, First Things, Light, Measure, Writer’s Almanac, and many others.

with Vera Ignatowitsch



Caught, in brief intervals of chance,

          when water seems

Invisible, their swift advance

          becomes a dream,


An emblem of what cannot last.

          Adrift in light’s

Asymmetry, they shimmer past

          whatever’s bright,


Whatever’s dark, a fleeting sense

          that seeks for more —

Some shadowy equivalence,

          some farther shore.

Jared Carter’s seventh book of poems, The Land Itself, with an introduction by B. J. Omanson, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia. Carter lives in Indiana.

Pagan Saint: A Matron

We women learn how to weep. We are taught

by goddesses, or so it seemed to me.

Now, girls come to my house when mothers see

their days coming. In cool spring, beneath trees,

we sing the oldest songs first: Women’s lot,


husbands and birth. They learn the weeping rites—

of Tammuz and Ishtar. I teach them to plant

cool lettuce and fennel, to watch them die.

I slap small hands from the sweet stalks they can’t

eat. Midsummer comes. They’re ready to cry

for dead Tammuz and sing what Ishtar wants.


Later, they come to my cool house. They’ve learned

what husbands really do. I have sweet balms

for pains and blend coverings so bruises

don’t show their shame. We sing the quiet psalms.

Girls cry. They always cry. I show them uses

for plants to stave off births. I feel them burn

with broken love. I wrap them in my arms.

Mark J. Mitchell’s bio can’t fit into 30 words. His most recent full-length collection is Roshi San Francisco, published by Norfolk Press. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster.

This Failing Light

The year swings round, swings round.

Summer is at its height,

but we know where it’s bound.

The year swings round, swings round.

We try to hold our ground

as day turns into night.

The year swings round, swings round.

Summer is at its height,


But day turns into night.

We know where it is bound.

We know this failing light

as day turns into night.

Though summer’s at its height,

the year swings round, swings round,

as day turns into night.

We know where we are bound.


The year swings round. Swings round.

We know where we are bound.


Though summer’s at its height,

we know this failing light.

Bruce Bennett is Emeritus Professor of English at Wells College in Aurora, New York. His poetry website is

I Never Meant to Tell You

I never meant to tell you what I knew,

I meant to keep it secret all my life

knowing you loved her still, and thought her true,


knowing that you would never love me too,

desiring to prevent unwanted strife

I never meant to tell you what I knew.


For pity’s sake I kept the truth from you,

diverting every rumour that ran rife

knowing you loved her still, and thought her true:


ignorance often breeds a happier view.

Knowing that words cut deeper than a knife

I never meant to tell you what I knew.


But one night, drunk with envy, that foul brew

I spoke the name of him who loved your wife

Knowing you loved her still, and thought her true.


How could I guess my words — so late, so few,

Would summon the Grim Reaper with his scythe?

I never meant to tell you what I knew,

Knowing you loved her still, and thought her true.

Judy Koren’s poems have appeared in Israeli literary magazines and in Better than Starbucks, Blue Unicorn, Lighten Up Online, The Taj Mahal Review, The Road Not Taken, and The Orchards Poetry Journal. She is President of the English-language poetry society, Voices Israel.

Obligatory Rainbows

Sprawled out on our cold bathroom floor there lies

A dog whose life is coming to a close.

His legs are numb; he’s blind and surely knows

The end is nigh. And yet, for now, he tries.


So, with the wall to guide his shaking gait

He wobbles to the kitchen for a drink.

If he’s in pain it doesn’t show. I think

He’ll live a few months more. And so, I’ll wait

And see how long we can delay the end,

Extend our time, repay this loyal pet,

Delay the dreaded trip home from the vet

Without our ever-present furry friend.


What self-inflicted torture we embrace,

To love when death’s the end we have to face.

First published in Grand Little Things.

Randal A. Burd, Jr. is editor of Sparks of Calliope and a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. He received his M.Ed. from the University of Missouri. His poetry collection, Memoirs of a Witness Tree (Kelsay Books, 2020), is available from

Of His Eye

(Cézanne) did succeed in knowing an apple, fully; and, not quite as fully, a jug or two.

D.H. Lawrence, "Introduction to His Paintings"


Ah, Jonathan, you know so well

  just when to call. Uncanny.

Been thinking of you constantly

since hearing on KORE

that overture from William Tell.

                                How’s Granny?


A pair just moved in down the hall.

  Real corkers, Jon. You follow?

They couldn’t warm up any quicker.

(Though those two gals can hold their liquor!)

They’re loads of fun, but, Jon, it’s all

                                 so hollow.

Another poet’s pseudonym, Noam D. Plum has published in The Spectator, The Country Mouse, Light Quarterly, and elsewhere. Having won several prizes, he is a more successful breadwinner than the poet for whom he fronts.


Luke Palmer on Unsplash.

Lighthearted Verse

A Government Writer’s Oath of Office

a parody inspired by the U.S. civil servant Oath of Office

5 U.S. Code § 3331


I, Civil Servant, do solemnly swear, I won’t

Rest ’til I’ve scribed these directives with flair. All my

Emails affirm I’m a wordsmithing juggernaut —

Enemies far and domestic, beware! With wry

Bureaucratese, I’ll serve agency needs and pledge

Federal faith and allegiance. There’s no sector

Scandal or Capitol tangle my cutting-edge

Prose can’t un-tease. Without mind’s reservation or

Willful evasion, I’ll steadfastly render my

Duties as told. And if 24/7 staunch

Workload obsession befits obligations I’ve

Sworn to uphold, then I’ll readily type until

Late in the night. For unyielding devotion to

Power’s façade is my constant objective. So help me God.

Mindy Watson is a poet and federal writer who holds an MA in Nonfiction Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. Her poetry has appeared in Eastern Structures, Orchards Poetry Journal, Poetry Porch, Snakeskin, Star*Line, Think Journal, and more.

Extroverts and Introverts

Extroverts are showboats,

introverts complain.

Why the lust for limelight?

Why the need to entertain?

But when the extroverts depart

and leave the introverts alone,

there’s no one left to take the lead,

so everyone goes home.


Introverts are killjoys,

extroverts complain.

Why the cryptic silence?

Is it shyness or disdain?

But when the introverts depart

and leave the extroverts alone,

there’s no one left to lend an ear,

so everyone goes home.

Donald A. Ranard's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Vestal Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Light, The Boston Globe, The Best Travel Writing 2005, and elsewhere.

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