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 I
February, May, August,
Free Verse Poetry
Cherry Cola IV
We experience the night again
and again, tossing
toward constellations with no
apparent coin slots.
Reads Grapes of Wrath by moonlight
while I try to scratch my
from a list of paired names
in wet cement
This only deepens my feelings for a Balinese
woman who played a white
in a band called The Raga Muffins
influenced by the Velvet
There is no happiness.
Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English and edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters and has three current books of poems: Invisible Histories, The New Vaudeville, and Midsummer. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit, and Cream City Review.
The Prettiest Girl in Paddington Square
has jagged teeth
& a thick cockney accent
the only thing
her grandmother ever left her
she wears a locket
with a picture of a dead father
she never even knew
to cover a small tattoo of a rose
along the base of her neck
by day she pours beer
& smiles talking about her boyfriend
& by night
she is the most beautiful
flower in brixton
she is the cry of a barn owl
that once thought it might die alone
her heart tucked away
out of sight
to almost everyone.
John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019). He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Not All Widows Are Spiders
She clung like bougainvillea in the Spring,
aggressive and thirsty, with two-inch-long thorns
painted red with her ruby desire.
Octopus vines of disarming smiles
climbed straight up the wall and into his heart,
extracting the nutrients meant for another.
Squeezing and sighing, she drained his resistance.
The scent of her buds overwhelmed his discretion
in a mist of sweet poppy-seed poison.
And when she was finished, she blithely uncoupled,
withdrawing her tentacles, tearing the fabric
without concern or compassion.
She left him for dead — seduced and depleted,
shriveled and spent — to the carrion beetles,
as she searched for a new wall to climb.
Howard Gershkowitz has maintained a journal for most of his life, accumulating experiences to share. He’s published more than two dozen poems and short stories. His debut novel, The Operator, was published 2018. https://gershwriter.com.
My Albanian Nurse
Bruna, RN, BSN, swept into South 389
with the efficiency expected of her
lavender scrubs and stiff white cap.
She received the attention demanded by her
flawless complexion and shiny dark hair.
The morphine drip was no match for the Adriatic
air that breezed about my hospital room.
When she positioned the cool stethoscope
near a lapro puncture, when she touched
my tender belly with her fingertips, when
she whispered, “Let me listen to you,”
there was no limit to the lies I was prepared to tell.
Larry Pike’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications. His collection Even in the Slums of Providence will be published by Finishing Line Press in October. He lives in Glasgow, Kentucky.
I sit still to watch nothing happen
Not as a discipline
But as a conviction
The clouds stand still
A palm frond stirs . . .
A bird sings
But stops, embarrassed
To be so loud in such a quiet place
Eventually the light drains from the sky
Like water from an unplugged basin
Then time turns the key in the ignition
And starts back up
Alan Cohen, poet first, teacher, manager, lives a full and varied life. He wrote on average three poems a month for 60 years and is beginning now to share some of his discoveries. Married to Anita for 41 years. Living in Eugene, Oregon.
Juggling and Other Matters
Oh, sweet brown scimitars!
Oh, slender blades! Cutlery
light as bamboo. The clink
of it! The thrust and sweep
of its lines. Seraphim dance there
or lesser and less agile angels.
Like chimps in a row
or bees in a primitive ritual,
this, too, is an ancient dance.
More humble than the chimps’
antics, the silversmith’s fires.
But—glint of teeth!—the smith
is not so lowly, is he?
The knife repairer is,
he of the worn whetstone.
And the hunched herbalist
wheezing over troubled pots.
Not so the silversmith
with his candlesticks,
envy of the juggler.
Greg Huteson’s poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Honest Ulsterman, Modern Age, Better Than Starbucks, Christian Century, Alabama Literary Review, Orbis, and various other journals. For the past twenty years he’s lived in China and Taiwan.
The woman’s shadow lies
snagged in wire barbs
twisting through her form,
in one side and out the other
impaling her in breeze-blown
grasses tickling back and forth
in peek a boo hide and seek.
A bird shadow flies
through like a kite
without a string
fluttering the woman’s
shadow heart with palpitations.
Sunshine shrinks the woman’s
shadow beneath herself
where her bloody reflection
smears sunset across the sky,
and the shadow woman
escapes into night’s anonymity.
Diane Webster’s goal is to remain open to poetry ideas in everyday life, nature or an overheard phrase and to write. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Poets, Old Red Kimono, Salt Hill, and other literary magazines.
Someone once told me about an experiment
conducted to find out what happens after
death. The dying person was placed in a glass
coffin, and soon after the person passed away
a crack mysteriously appeared in the glass.
Being a sucker for vectors, geography & directions,
I was tempted to ask if the crack meant escape
of life, or the inward flow of life’s opposite.
But I stopped myself right there. Like I had seen
a photograph of a still-standing bird whose name
I didn’t know; while another—possessing the same
length of long legs and identically red-capped &
white-throated—hovered in the air behind it,
hind-limbs bent and wings partially spread out.
Whether the latter was preparing to evict the former,
or had just been displaced itself from that
particular spot in the sea where it might have stood
earlier—there were no glass coffins to tell that. Maybe
not even a single fish: at least that’s what the birds’
eyes, yellow as if with fever from standing in the water
for long, seemed to say.
Sudhanshu Chopra likes to travel on his train of thought with a book for a co-passenger. Follow him on Twitter: @_monkey_life.
And Her Eyes Made Love to Him
They ran barefoot through the yucca,
prickly pear, goat head stickers, and
mesquite like a monster was after them
Sniper told her he loved her, his heart
was destroyed, limping away, she shot
him the finger, he wondered if it was
His intelligence quotient or hers, she
was pissed, earlier they’d been shopping
for new panties for her and an umbrella
A six year old boy was with his attractive
mother, they walked by a well endowed
mannequin in an aquatic avocado bikini
He jerked the bottom of the suit to the
floor, Sniper cracked up laughing and
blurted out, “Way to go, little man”
He grabbed the half-dressed dummy and
sprinted from the store, a fat security
guard gave chase, Valentina and Sniper
Lost their sandals, he circled back for
their El Camino, the cops were waiting
with steel bracelets, he hoped it would
Be for a short visit and his lady would
have pity and go his bail, and let him
pay for and keep his newest amiga.
Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski. He’s from Albuquerque and Milwaukee. His newest books are Ghosts of the War Elephants and Meat Grinder.
July 24, 1915
“You are aware
of the condition of the S.S. Eastland,
unless structural defects are remedied
to prevent listing—
there may be a serious accident”
a letter of August 3, 1913.
corporate or government, took any action,
and today the prophecy came true
set to ferry about twenty-five hundred people
fifty miles across the lake to Michigan City,
tipped over on its side,
over eight hundred of the passengers died,
more than did so
on the Titanic or Lusitania
And no one, corporate or government,
was ever held responsible for the deaths,
as responsibility, civil or criminal,
was determined by the justice system
Michael Ceraolo is a 62-year-old retired firefighter/paramedic and active poet who has had two full-length books and several shorter-length books published, has two more full-length books in the publication pipeline: Euclid Creek Book Two and Lawyers, Guns, and Money.
Within earshot of the crowded beach,
we crunch along the hot gravel road—
yellow grass, deer shit, smashed snakes,
just-turned blackberries coated with dust.
I urge the dog toward the fruit, but,
head thrust into salal and Scotch broom,
she’s chasing a bit of bread, a banana peel,
a not-quite-empty Starbucks cup.
Here, a fisherman dumped his leavings,
crab shells, halibut guts, spiny skeletons
stinking in the sun, for the dog to snatch
while I holler, “Drop it, drop it, drop it!”
Half deaf, she doesn’t hear a blue pickup
roaring toward us. As I yank her back,
the driver waves, his mutts straining
to join the rotten seafood feed.
Sweatshirt tied around my waist,
phone banging against my hip,
my legs ache, but we need to move,
our old bones as dry and brittle
as the fish spines and berry vines
baking to dust in the August sun,
leaving a plastic Starbucks cup
rolling downhill toward the sea.
Sue Fagalde Lick recently published two chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead, about her husband’s journey through Alzheimer’s Disease, and The Widow at the Piano: Poems by a Distracted Catholic.
Crows Circled Around
crows circle sky darting from
poles to pavement, chalk lines
outline ring. birds forage breakfast
spilt from trashcans, back and forth
bickering about small croissants.
dashboard ottoman, the opponents
peck to scrape up evening meal.
bird crowd rips to bits bread
snatched from beaks, empty racks
cold. stray buggies homeless, rain
christened asphalt. overstuffed trash-
bins on matching side, bird packs
fanned out into coal dust sea.
Ash Slade lives in a small Connecticut town. He enjoys collecting poetry books, journals, and pens. In his spare time, hobbies include spending time with friends and family, reading, and shopping. Past publications include The Blue Nib and Circus of Indie Artists.
Tsunami by Hokusai
Archive of Free Verse Poetry with Suzanne Robinson by issue:
May 2020 March 2020 January 2020 November 2019 September 2019 July 2019 May 2019
March 2019 January 2019 November 2018 September 2018 July 2018 June 2018 May 2018 April 2018
March 2018 February 2018 January 2018 December 2017 November 2017 October 2017 September 2017
August 2017 July 2017 June 2017 May 2017 April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017
December 2016 November 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 June 2016 May 2016
Archive of Free Verse Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch by issue:
May 2020 March 2020 January 2020 November 2019 September 2019 July 2019 May 2019