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 I
February, May, August,
with Vera Ignatowitsch
He faced a faded barn and pyramid
of cans of paint, the white for trim, the red
for sides that to a sixteen-year-old kid
looked endless as the summer months ahead.
And in exchange: His father’s pickup truck,
in need of a clutch and retreads front and rear
and paint (ironic, no?). He’d have, with luck,
the freedom of the road for junior year.
The old, old bargain young men make, to trade
their time for what is vaguely understood
as freedom, visions too bright not to fade
like paint that wears in time to weathered wood.
In age he dreams he drives his pickup past
the barn and counts the sides — one, two, three, four —
elated with his term served out at last,
until his rearview mirror reveals one more,
a broad expanse of wood somehow left bare
to draw him back and back to labor there.
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, has just been published.
Another Semester Begins
I scan the courses I won’t have to teach.
It’s a relief. I won’t have to be there.
There won’t be young minds I would strain to reach.
I will not need to be involved, or care.
Of course, there is the downside. I won’t get
to talk about the works and words I love.
I won’t have the rewards, or the regret —
those high points one would never tire of.
But after all, this is as it should be.
I had my day. I served, and I served well.
Some people’s lives were changed because of me
in ways they cannot know and cannot tell.
And meanwhile, I am laboring for the sake
of what does have a term, but has no break.
Bruce Bennett is Emeritus Professor of English at Wells College. His poetry website is https://justanotherdayinjustourtown.com.
He grimaces and snaps his half-inch beak
at all the swooping interlopers. We,
from forty feet away, pause at the sound,
startling in its incongruity.
It works, though: the yard empties, and this wet
three ounces of despotic, clacking fluff
enjoys at ease his solitary bath.
Thinking you’re God is sometimes threat enough.
Jane Greer edited Plains Poetry Journal in the 80s and 90s and is author of two poetry collections: Bathsheba on the Third Day and Love like a Conflagration. She lives in North Dakota.
A Minor Industrial Accident, Page 13
If someone privileged should read of you
(which is unlikely), they’ll blame Mexico:
“this wouldn’t happen here.” A factory
with 12-hour shifts and deadlines; the TVs
that flicker in our warm suburban homes
are fabricated out of sight. And she
was tired, and hurrying; a mother who
made flatscreens till the memorable day
her hands were flattened like tortillas. She
was hustled off — still shocked, still staring at
her brand-new flippers. Obviously if
I’m writing this (one of the privileged)
I don’t live in Reynosa, and my case
was not thrown out of court, so I don't face
the children who first brought you to that shop
without an income. In another place
they might at least have paid you. So I hope
you had a village, and they cared for you
when brick-house people wouldn’t. And I hope
you flung your arms around those children, and
I hope the kids did better —
Kathryn Jacobs is a poet, professor emerita, and editor of The Road Not Taken. Her fifth book, Wedged Elephant, was published by Kelsay Press.
A Morning Word
Beitun District, Taichung, Taiwan
A word the dark-splotched dog seems not to know,
the bougainvillea rousted on the walls,
the pose of scooters all on edge to crow.
The rice with deep-fried dough at roadside stalls,
the drowsy child with bag half-dragged to school,
the tai chi bodies swayed in rhyme like dolls.
The angled park with posted list of rules,
the watercourse with intermittent fish,
the small brick shrine with incense sticks as tools.
The egg crepe fresh laid on a plastic dish,
the turnip cake with dab of savory sauce,
the cup of soy milk silky as a fish.
The scarred, damp pilings with their marks of moss,
the hissing of the air brakes on a truck,
the smog that hints the bridge’s chance of loss.
The siren parting someone from their luck,
the dove jongleurs chorusing their coos,
the myna hopping from the rocks to muck.
The wail on hearing of the neighbor’s news,
the cat on wall as silent as a stone,
a word for hours as mournful as the blues.
Greg Huteson’s poems have appeared recently in Modern Age, the Alabama Literary Review, Convivium, The Crank, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and Trinity House Review. He lives in Taiwan.
A Ghazal for Compassion Fatigue
Oh mama, the world is wet with weeping again.
Oh papa, the storm-tossed & lost are sleeping again.
When hope is double-crossed, the cost can be severe.
How often can hardened hearts start beating again?
The trauma that we all hear is a mantra of fear.
A litany of terrors & errors repeating again.
The stretcher-bearers bear the bodies from the rubble.
But why be too troubled with all that bleeding again?
We are punished & pummeled, worried & wearied.
But all things buried will soon start pleading again.
Daniel Klawitter’s poems have appeared widely in journals and magazines including Light, Plough Quarterly, and Think Journal. He is also the winner of two Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
When Form Becomes Fluid
When words become fluid,
the way wetness wells
between us so slippery,
under full moon
they flow on every page —
torrents of passion
of pause —
vis cos si ty.
Peter C Venable has written both free and metric verse for decades, and gratefully has been selected herein previously. Visit him at petervenable.com.
The man I’ve loved cooks lunch alone today.
The smells of food will permeate the air
an hour or two beyond the time
our oven’s closed, the pans are put away.
It’s healthy, see? he says. Just add a pear
sliced like this, before you pop it in,
no no, like this, he says, look, watch again.
I wish the knife could chop up his affair,
which then my mallet would reduce to grime,
a smear upon a bamboo board, unclean,
retaining just a soured hint of thrills,
in broken-down component parts of slime.
He asks, do you like this? Or this? I say,
I’ve lost my appetite. I just don’t care.
Those nights, these noons, he never hears that I’m
unsatisfied, half-starved, closed up, astray.
Rebecca McSwain has been or is an archaeologist, medical transcriptionist, editor, lover, wife, mother, friend, stranger, diarist, storyteller, and poet. She has yet to perfect her performance in any role.
Poem with a Hole in It
Mouth, wound, zero. I know who made this hole in you:
Eros, the gypsy moth who chewed the soul from you.
No wonder your tongue snakes out, seeking a new darkness.
In time, your emptiness becomes the whole of you,
Hallowing you as the hollowing makes a flute.
Absence, too, can embody something, flowing through
The arrow’s burrow, the bullet’s tunnel, the black hole
Whose O was the wail that swallowed the world of you.
Nails, driven through the hands of love, made love holy.
I listen for a whistle when I’m holding you.
Amit Majmudar is the author of four poetry collections: What He Did in Solitary, Dothead, Heaven and Earth, and 0˚, 0˚, four novels: Sitayana, Partitions, The Abundance, and Soar, and Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary.
I make mistakes at work. They’re very fine.
I ship them everywhere around the world.
On Mondays, big ones. Tuesdays, little ones.
On Wednesdays, sales. On Thursdays, ordering.
But every Friday I do something strange.
I’ve never spoken it aloud before.
I climb up out onto the roof and sit
All by myself. I close my eyes and breathe.
The world spins for a while. I let it slow.
And then I pull a piece of paper from
My hat, a pencil from behind my ear.
I smooth the paper on my knee and write
One thought, as perfect as a tortoise shell.
I eat it. It’s my home next week in hell.
J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in a brick house with his wife and five children, his two parents, and a dog.
Knit two, purl three, knit two, purl three — you say
the pattern over to yourself until
your fingers bend and grasp by their own will,
so that you hardly think about the way
each loop of yarn is formed and then connected
to other loops you’ve made — knit two, purl three —
a practiced feat of muscle memory,
like playing etudes you’ve long since perfected,
or driving home again. And yet you could
still miss an exit, a B-flat, a stitch,
and suddenly the where or how or which
confounds you. What was once well understood
becomes a tangle: yarn hopelessly crossed —
or notes, or streets — and just like that, you’re lost.
Jean L. Kreiling is the prize-winning author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014), and an Associate Poetry Editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art.
The Ministry of Hair and Teeth
Youth has its heartaches, pain and grief
but age has the Ministry of Hair and Teeth.
The letter arrives during the third decade
sent by a clerk of negligible grade,
‘Dear Sir/Madam, a query has arisen
relating to your claim and here’s the decision;
the request for immortality has been rejected,
your hair and teeth are to be disconnected,
if you wish to appeal — do call soon.’
The appointment takes place in a ministry room,
where an old man slumped in a wheelchair,
crumpled, bald, toothless, bawling with despair,
tells you, ‘We die, get flung into a hole,
rot to nothing. There is no soul.’
So why would the minister grant a deferment,
when this self-important cynic runs his department?
Trevor Price has published poems in several print and online journals. He has new poetry in The Blue Unicorn and Rat’s Ass Review. He also writes novellas in the Latin language, which he self-publishes on Amazon.
Pour Me Some Wine, My Love
We lounged on the back deck as twilight fell
and gazed as tiny fireflies cast a spell.
As Nature placed her glory on display,
we sipped red wine, reflecting on our day.
We’d had a scrumptious meal my love prepared,
and then a soothing bubble bath, we shared.
We’d watched a Lifetime romance on TV
and swayed to tunes we love by Kenny G.
We didn’t wash one dish or make the bed.
“The maid will do those things!” my lover said.
“Of course, she will. We’ve better things to do,”
I said. “I’m ready for the back-lawn view.”
That’s when we got the wine and went outside.
A place like this is such a source of pride —
out front car doors were slamming, and we knew
to all that splendor we must bid adieu.
The owners of the home returned too soon!
We fled through woods on paths lit by the moon.
Janice Canerdy’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Better Than Starbucks, The Lyric Magazine, Parody Magazine, Westward Quarterly, Light, and Lighten Up Online.
Luke Palmer on Unsplash.
In Praise of February
A fan is no use when your face has turned puce
and your neck is alarmingly red.
And I’m not being rude but I sleep in the nude
as I burn like a furnace in bed.
Being constantly hot is tremendous fun — not! —
and although I have yet to reach “old”,
it’s much more than a blush when you have a hot flush
so I’m happy whenever it’s cold.
That’s why February’s great. It’s the warm months I hate;
over-heating is not at all nice,
when your hairline is wet and you’re dripping with sweat.
Oh, I’ve come to adore snow and ice.
So while everyone moans that they’re numb to their bones
with the cold, — and the whole nation’s ill,
it’s the month I love best, way above all the rest,
’cos I’m ‘cool’ and, for once, I can ‘chill’.
Jayne Osborn is a UK poet who thinks in rhyme and is well known for her humorous poems which have appeared in numerous anthologies and online journals.
Let Me Give You Some Advice
Let me give you some advice:
always tie your laces twice.
While I’m at it, I’ll just say
please call your mother every day.
If you don’t mind, I’ll also add
that torn up jeans are just a fad.
And please remember, do not slouch.
You’ll thank me one day; that I’ll vouch.
Oh, if I may: do brush your hair,
the neighbours think you just don’t care.
Well, I must say, that skirt is short
for one your age, I would have thought.
Those leggings just don’t suit at all.
If it were me… but it’s your call.
At least (I say this to be kind)
wear something over your behind.
Now, don’t hang up! just let me finish:
between your teeth I’m sure there’s spinach.
Olivia Hajioff’s poetry has appeared in The Road Not Taken, Jersey Devil Press, and Ginosko Literary Journal, among others. She is the Grand Choice winner of the Laura Jackson 2020 Poetry Competition. She is a professional violinist and Fulbright scholar.
Archive of Formal & Rhyming Poetry by issue:
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April 2017 March 2017 February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 November 2016 October 2016