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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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).
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
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
as my errant step
upon a fallen branch
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.
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
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