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 VII No III
February, May, August,
When her scent sweetens Tasmanian air,
the black fur bristles on his body,
and his muscles begin to hum.
He follows the odor through night scrub,
through moon-shadow of gum and yellow wattle
past where the cockatoo sleeps,
head tucked under wing.
The female devil is young, but when trapped,
fights with shrill coughs and sneezes
as if she were allergic to the stink
of his temper and his needle teeth.
She bites to cut skin, connects, then
cowers against the curved wall of her hollow log.
His snapping jaws grip her scruff;
he takes her from behind,
both of them in a trance and growling.
When he is finished,
she lunges and hisses.
With a wound on his hindquarters,
he snarls a warning,
marks the log, marks the earth,
limps out under wheeling stars.
Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing appears in Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, and Nimrod. She has won many awards including the Alan Ginsberg Award, the Paumanok Prize, and the New Millennium Prize. She has been nominated three times for a Pushcart.
Caught, in the Principal’s Lens
She raises her t-shirt like bed sheets,
index finger pointing to her left side,
where the shoeprint black and blues.
Skin too young to be braided by rage.
Her expression caught raw, stitched up
in surprise. I snap the flush of pink,
her silent lashes, her dark unblinking eyes.
School books line up behind her like prisoners
bound to their shelves but her captor’s
lens will not allow the words to be read.
Keeps her frozen this week
and the next and all the weeks of time.
What she will not do is tell me
his name. Does she know I cannot
keep her secret? She calls him
Daddy. Empty desks and empty chairs hold
their tongues. Maps of the world hang
with the promise of turning.
Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City and is of Puerto Rican heritage. Her poems have appeared in Mason Street, Constellations, Door is A Jar, Poetic Medicine — New Voices, and elsewhere. She was an elementary teacher/principal in the South Bronx.
With a delicious sadness
In the depths
Of a bleak
And utter frailty
With too many walls
And trampled upon
And cold conviction
In a world
To a place
Of eternal dust
A wisp of wind
A contemptuous moon
Along the boulevard
With the silent armies
Of a stoned melancholy
By my side
And the sharp lights
Against the river
John Drudge is the author of four books of poetry: March (2019), The Seasons of Us (2019), New Days (2020), and Fragments (2021). His work has appeared widely in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies internationally. He lives in Caledon, Ontario, Canada.
a pot-belly stove
ignites lava through
his fiery heart,
blazing with every
Peter C. Venable has written free and metric verse for decades. His work has appeared in The Merton Seasonal, THEMA, and elsewhere. He is a member of the Winston Salem Writers. His Jesus Through A Poet’s Lens is available on Amazon. Visit him at petervenable.com.
summer sleep, autumn dreams
white flowers in
a green meadow. a man
in the sun's warmth
but his mind is cold
& restless, like
the mountain-fed brook
that rushes nearby.
Peter Roberts has had poems and stories published in a number of venues, including Coffin Bell, LabLit.com, Meniscus, Haikuniverse, Shoreline of Infinity, Shot Glass Journal, Bitter Oleander, The Road Not Taken, Poetry Salzburg Review, New York Quarterly, and many more.
The twenty-something blonde offered
to lift my suitcase to the overhead compartment.
The thin boy with glasses said he’d push my cart
of groceries if I wanted help to the car.
The high school girl behind the glass
passed a senior ticket without my asking.
My principal inquired, “When will you be retiring?”
My neighbor (close in years) has cancer.
My doctor said men my age have difficulty peeing.
I’ve taught stories about rites of passage my whole career
— a first kiss, the first date, marriage, and children.
When the young woman looked at my gray hair
and offered to lift my luggage,
I thought of these other rites,
and the Last Rites, too.
As the plane rose through the clouds, I felt turbulence.
Outside the rain-pattered window was solid blackness.
I saw an old man. I knew what was behind me.
I knew what lay ahead.
How odd that an act of kindness made me think so much.
When we landed, the suitcase seemed heavier.
My exit was clear.
James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over 175 times and has been recognized with many awards. He was granted a fully paid writing fellowship to Oxford University. His novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019.
While in Traffic Near the GW Parkway
We pass a days old carcass
littered with flies and cigarette butts
I carry too many deaths
extra skins that I can’t shed
they follow me down 495
chafe against the seatbelt
choke me as I try to sing
to distract myself from the smell
so bitter it burns my nostrils
acrid flakes on my tongue
I roll up the window
slide into another layer of dead skin.
Gabby Gilliam lives in the DC metro area. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Tofu Ink, The Ekphrastic Review, Cauldron Anthology, Instant Noodles, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and three anthologies from Mythos Poets Society. You can find her online at gabbygilliam.squarespace.com.
Combs for the Bald
Though bald by thirty,
kept a collection of combs.
Colorful combs —
rhubarb pink, ocean teal,
yellow as lemon,
of clear plastic that captured
Like his other collections —
nails, screws, bits
of clothing and stuff picked
up from roads and sidewalks
in a habit of frugality.
He’d boil the combs
and place them in a plastic bag,
kept in his dresser drawer.
I remember as a child
him showing me the array
and my holding it,
as when the ancients cradled a sacred object.
Combs for the bald.
Betsy Martin’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly (Best of the Net nomination), El Portal, and many others. Betsy has advanced degrees in Russian language and literature and lived in Moscow during glasnost.
Thursday Morning 10 AM
Small voice, husky,
the answering recording wreathed
with rings of that smoke —
Voice of sorrow
while another good man, an angel
visiting, has gone down . . .
In the meantime frost has licked the lawn
I raked only yesterday, the magenta leaf piles,
the purple cabbage dug for a tub
gun-metal blue . . .
They were encysted by dawn with diamonds,
fog echoing all of that . . .
I see this, receiving word of his leaving,
& footsteps of the day workers on the sidewalk
come & go, & gruff motors rumble, turn over
turgid in this November chill
melding all with his roommate’s voice
coming over my phone —
Time, life, sorrow,
it seems there is no stopping you.
Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. He’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print and online. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum’s artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations, and allies predominantly before Stonewall.
The Red Rose
I’ll never think of you that way
I will never walk past the mighty granite
That shields the encased, vanished secrets
Of people’s short, and long-forgotten lives
I detest the pyramids of stale smelling earth
The clay churning beneath footpaths of dusty trails
That spread like broken capillaries on an old man’s face
I will never walk past the overgrown ivy
Or pitiful rows of rocks — and sometimes flowers
An attempt to show the world, you are still loved
No, I will never think of you that way
Like a parishioner who only believes on Sunday mornings
Or the black shrouded masses whose tears form a macabre sea
I will think of you when the winds catch my hair
And cool my breasts
At the door of the Pacific
This is how I think of you today, always,
As I cast one single red rose
To you, into the colossus
Mona S Gable writes articles, poetry, and humor/satire pieces for many publications online and through Medium. She is also a composer of music and a photographer. Her music has been licensed worldwide. Mona’s photography has been featured in two exhibitions.
This little house of flesh that encapsules us
is no more than a leaf that falls,
a wave that crests.
It is a place
where a sliver of God
broke away to settle in a temporary home.
Try to be worthy.
Janice D. Soderling has published poetry, fiction, and translations in many print and online journals. Her most recent collection is Rooms and Closets.
The Fifth Ave ‘El’ Closed Today
The Fifth Ave ‘El’ closed today
And my mother grumbled as we
Trudged home from Downtown Brooklyn
To Bay Ridge, groceries in hand,
I swear I could hear her protests,
Even over the booming noise
Of the demolition charge
Coming from the ‘El’
As we walked,
My little sister falling behind.
Robert Ackerman is a former New Yorker, currently living in Florida. His poetry appeared in The Avalon Literary Review and The Dillydoun Review.
Rats butterfly; morselmeals flutter and weave,
but something is terribly wrong.
The grass is rock, rigid, missing,
smooth and cold as the surface of the lab cage.
In 1959, a French researcher rewired the brains of housecats so they would move freely during sleep.
They crouched and twitched, froze, lunged and danced,
confirming what had always been assumed:
Cats dream of the hunt. He didn't write
how this strange bodyawake altered the dreams,
how apt the hunter to shift, closed-eyed, toward waking,
to sense something off in the landscape, in the prey, in herself,
the vague certainty her world had soured incomprehensibly,
I am the professor, frittering my time
in mindless harm, amazed at myself
for discovering what everyone already knows.
And I am the cat. Soon
in a hospital bed or on some highway pavement
I will wake from my dream of the hunt,
of struggling to express myself, of being
a father, a husband, a friend, a citizen of the world,
to see that I have never been more than a dying animal.
Max Gutmann has contributed to dozens of publications including New Statesman, Able Muse, and Cricket. His plays have appeared throughout the United States and have been well reviewed (see maxgutmann.com). His book There Was a Young Girl from Verona sold several copies.
The Father, the Son
My father prays the way children say the pledge of allegiance,
The same rote script repeated over and over each Sunday meal
As if checking in, once again, to a dead radio through which
Not even static crackles, and life never changes: still, there are the sick
Who are unhealed, the travelers who don’t make it home in safety,
And even the occasional meal that, though blessed, will roil
In the gut at two a.m. and turn us into desperate believers, pressing our thumb
To the two-way radio mouthing a dumb Please, bloated with meaning.
So different, those Sunday prayers, from his weekday prayers,
Which are delivered in that tongue most familiar to God,
Those sighs, which translate, roughly, to
Father, help me get through it,
Which we’re told is a gift.
Goddfrey Hammit, born and raised in Utah, and lives in a small town outside of Salt Lake City. Hammit has, most recently, contributed work to The Ekphrastic Review and Amethyst Review, and is the author of the novel Nimrod, UT. goddfreyhammit.com.
Tsunami by Hokusai
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