Free Verse Poetry

Clocks Have an Impassive Face

Some women have rows of flower pots on the window sill

and fresh bread delivered daily to the back door.

They lie on their beds and weep from boredom.

 

Some women have neither a bed nor flower pots.

They weep with their children from hunger.

 

Some women have no tears left.

They quietly observe drops of eternity falling 

between time's tick, tick, tick, tick

Janice D. Soderling has published poetry, fiction and translations in many print and online journals. Her most recent collection is Rooms and Closets.

Huntress

The huntress dog, adopted homeless

black pointer, now a 10-year-old puppy.

She pulled her hamstring bolting

coyote-like after a terrified rabbit

in sage between the piñons.

But tonight she brought back

from her wanderings in the dry dirt yard

the jawbone of a deer with

half its teeth missing,

dropped it on the kitchen floor,

smiling proudly, looking up for praise.

Greg Stidham is a retired pediatric intensivist currently living in Kingston, Ontario, with his wife Pam and the last survivor of a pack of rescue dogs. Greg’s passion for medicine has yielded in retirement to his other lifelong passions — literature and creative writing.

I married you beneath the stained-glass window
— For Christina

In a building that was once

a bank, we released blackbirds

and danced to David Bowie. At the bar,

cigarette smoke gathered in the doorway

 

outside under the orange awning, enter to

empty cans of Natty Boh on the table, cracked

black leather couches in the back — here

we gave poetry readings, and fucked men.

 

I owe you my child. Encircle me,

pray for me, light a line of incense

and tell me your favorite memories of your father.

In the middle of the night you whisper me

 

origin stories of our elephant ancestors,

your voice calming my pounding head — too much

noise, too much alcohol — I curl into you.

At your feet, I unravel like a scroll.

 

You are the lady of light dancing on the other

side. What can I give to you

that you don’t already have?

Megan Stolz’s writing explores life, loss, and spirituality. Her poetry has appeared in JMWW, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Rogue Agent Journal, and others. A Californian, she lives in the Washington, District of Columbia, suburbs with her family.

Ahab’s Widow

I wait for him as every whaler’s wife.

I write him letters every day.

I tell him how he grows bigger and stronger.

 

I tell him of his first words and of his first walk on his own.

I write, “What a lovely little pip he is.”

I write, “I call him that sometimes, instead of Malcolm.”

 

I write, “Rachel says he’s often mischievous.”

I write, “Come home to us safely.”

At dusk, as the sun goes down

 

behind the white

clapboard house and the elms’ shadows

reach out across the lawn to meet the ocean’s lip,

 

I climb the stairs to pace the widow’s walk.

I fold my hands on the rail and pray

and blow a kiss out to sea,

 

then go inside to kiss the boy good night.

I sleep in a bed wider than oceans.

I dream on sheets whiter than wedding gowns.

Nominated for the National Book Award and twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, J.R. Solonche is the author of twenty-four books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.

Apocrypha

In a dry and dusty chink

in the rare book room

of a long-dead gentleman scholar,

I discover a lost fragment

of the Book of the Apocalypse.

On the skin of an animal

killed young, in faded Greek

it is written: that in the

New Jerusalem, city made of gold,

crystal and gems, is the oldest

of all prisoners of war, a rebel angel

who never fell but was captured

and chained to the grimy floor

of a tiny cell beneath the place

where they crush the grapes, gut

the fishes and strangle the peacocks.

I panic for this devil, realize

that he may still be there now,

after millennia still beautiful,

unable to turn to a matrix of bone

as all the other prisoners do,

the witches and alchemists,

the medicine men.

If he’ll only repent and love God,

he can escape his solitary

defeat, rejoin the radiant choir —

but when he tries to say

a rosary his anger and pride

scream like wild horses

over his paternosters. I pray

to you, thrones and dominions,

made of light and eye-covered:

unshackle this tortured spirit

so he may tumble cackling

into the red and sulfurous maw

of the great Beast, which gapes

like a pair of open arms.

At long last, let him burn.

Brenda Edgar is an art history professor and emerging poet from Louisville, Kentucky. Her work has appeared in the Comstock Review, The Shore, What are Birds?, and the Tusculum Review.

All These Chances

A leaking flower in the grizzled jaws of feral dog,

The street watched by glowing eyes

Up and around, the dope fiend rumbles like a junky tidal wave

Awake in the tulip fields of SoHo

Distraught next to a legless derelict directing traffic on Allen Street

Always thanking him,

“You’re welcome” with a cigarette dangle and three tooth grin.

I loved the youthfulness, and vigor of a woman of the night.

This is a provocation of the city I grew up with,

There must be murder,

There must be artistry

There must be riots, and ramshackle retribution.

But first a ham and cheese bun,

Dried pork roll

Large hot coffee from the bakery on E. Broadway

She says “5.75.”

Sitting in Seward Park remembering death,

How many times I’ve seen it in action

Passing me by,

Knowing I got a deal at the Chinese joint

Also realizing the score

The most powerful tip of the hat from each of us,

Not yet . . .

There is nothing more powerful than “not yet.”

Joe Sonnenblick has been featured in such print and electronic publications as Fleas on The Dog, Impspired, Aji, The Beatnik Cowboy, SCAB Literary Arts Journal, Citizen Brooklyn, The Broadkill Review, Spectra Poets for their inaugural issue, and In Parentheses Literary Magazine.

Touch-Starved

For the men in my life

I have taken up smoking.

 

I impress my brother by taking three puffs

of his cigarette without coughing.

The fourth happens,

and then the choking,

and then the bumming another.

 

My boyfriend thinks it’s hot

when I smell like weed.

Lower mouth to pipe.

Gag until the tears come.

Eyes at half-mast,

dazed and rosy,

staring at clouds billowing,

pulsing like heartbeats.

 

Dad’s not allowed to smoke,

but he said cigars don’t count.

And with the screeching of cicadas

punctuating our conversations,

of topics unreachable

without the humidity of midsummer

leeching them out —

I’m inclined to believe him.

 

It sets into my clothes,

my hair,

my tongue.

Chapped fingers,

bits of paper peeled from lips —

more intimate than kisses on cheeks

or arms around waists.

 

I smell bad, I feel worse,

I am loving.

Mara Lowhorn is a grad student at Western Kentucky University, currently working toward her MA in English. Her poems have been published in several publications, including Mosaic, Talisman, Zephyrus, and the Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets anthologies (2017 and 2019).

The Waiting

It had been 103 years since he had been kissed

and I couldn't say what possessed me to do it.

I kissed the three fingers between my thumb and little finger

and pressed them against his forehead.

It felt warm from the April sun.

He thought it was a cricket.

This time, I kissed my fingers

and planted them firmly against his cheek.

He smiled and the wind tickled the grass around his feet.

The dust from an army of trees fell from gnarled branches, 

danced across the top of his head

and slowly trickled into the grooves of his name.

I left him lying in his bed above the river and below the sky,

whistling through the dust and waiting for another kiss.

Connie Carmichael is a former mental health care worker, now retired and living in Columbus, Ohio. She has published a chapbook titled Driving to Wellsville. She lives with a loving wife, a loyal dog, and a head full of poems.

The Home of the Heron

Inspired by George Inness’s The Home of the Heron, 1893, oil on canvas.

Coppery dawn streaked

by low ruddy clouds

and silhouetted, veiled by mist,

a lone heron glides

across an estuary’s rippled

marsh.  November frost gleams

on weather-ravaged poplars

that bend their barren tops

toward a dilapidated barn,

and the glazed, last

 

     leaves

            flutter,

                   falling.

 

The harsh wind stills.

 

A rhythmic chorus of marsh-life

sings behind tall reeds, rises

to a jarring crescendo — and then

 

the heron flaps

its wings, scurries

and squawks

as my errant step

upon a fallen branch

shatters quiescence

 

more fragile than

a pane of webbed glass.

Gregory E. Lucas lives on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. His poems and short stories have appeared in The Lyric, Blue Unicorn, The Ekphrastic Review, Ekphrasis, The Horror Zine, and in many other magazines.

want to smash it open

because i cannot deal with this

status quo that is strangling me —

 

the gravity of this world is

weighing me down when i am

meant to be weightless and limitless

 

once i know i had wings,

and another time i had fins;

but this time i don't have those things to

save me so i guess i will have to

rely on my own magic to break open

the curse of this world so i can truly live —

 

because i was not born to pay bills and die,

neither were you.

Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has eight published chapbooks and is also the author of the novel, Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

on being the tooth fairy

the dollar bill refuses to yield

as i struggle to stay quiet in the dark,

taut and rigid, cramping down the sides

of the small wooden box a cousin

gave you when you were the size of a melon.

these years, six and thirty-six now,

and i can’t believe you don’t wake up

here in the dark as we pretend.

your brother grunts, turns like an otter

in the lower bunk, your hair across your face.

i’m so worried i’ll spoil it for you —

that you’ll start awake and know the secret —

why do I care? why do I write now

by light from a used advent candle,

the scent of sulfur still in the air

as your mother throatbreathes in her sleep?

you’ve done this to me — it’s vital tonight

that I play the fairy, so you can believe.

 

2-20-19

East Village, MKE

Jacob Riyeff is a Benedictine oblate, teacher, translator, and poet. His books include his editions and translations of Benedictine works from the early medieval through the modern periods, as well as his own poetry collection Sunk in Your Shipwreck.

The Memory Store

I’m told to place my hand on the pad

Close my eyes and go inside

 

There he is — Grandpa Pietro — muscle of a man

Wears his denim pants and shirt with work shoes layered in dust

Before him his breakfast — a giant bowl filled with pieces of day-old bread

Grandma pours hot coffee into his bowl

Pietro spoons away and his slurping sounds begin

 

I take my hand off the pad as the owner says ‘Great’

Steps to some machine and returns with a check

Wow, I think so simple

Then he says ‘You know it’s gone — that memory, its mine now’

I say ‘Ok, it’s ok — can I go again?’ ‘Yes’

 

It’s Grandma making Pietro’s lunch sandwiches

Thomas Raisin Bread and Philadelphia cream cheese

Makes one, then another and another, not until six

I can’t believe then do believe — Pietro the muscle

Construction worker’s lunch — normal

 

Again, I take my hand off the pad — the owner steps away

then he’s back with a check and ‘Good job’

 

So easy I try again and it’s Pietro home from work

He flops into the kitchen chair

Muscles stiffened he can’t bend over to untie his shoes

Motions to me to help and with my tiny hands

begin to untie the laces, loosen the sides

I grab the heel and start a pull and twist . . .

 

I stop — pull my hand off the pad

The owner says ‘What’s wrong?’

I say ‘No more, this one I keep’

 

Grandpa Pietro’s Bravo I keep

Greg Moglia is a full-time poet writing about the foibles of midlife dating, the challenge of aging parents, the sweetness of lovers both old and new. His work has appeared in 370 journals and in 10 countries.

Tsunami by Hokusai

Tsunami_by_hokusai_19th_century.jpg

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