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 II
February, May, August,
Regular Feature Pages
Formal Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
Poetry Translations with Susan McLean
Poetry for Children with Robert Schechter
Experimental, Form, & Prose Poetry
Better Than Fiction (creative nonfiction)
The Interview — Grace Schulman and Alfred Corn in Conversation
Grace Schulman and Alfred Corn
The Low End by Ted Downum
A Fall Through the Internet by Pamelyn Casto
Light Green Stones by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo
The Church by Janice D. Soderling translating Ebba Lindqvist
Six Featured Poems
A Prayer to Invisible Stars
On our rented motor scooter
weaving through the breeze along the shore,
we inhale forgotten simple joys
of youth once more—our skin toasted brown,
our hair bleached with brine, the horizon
so blue, so generous, so deceptively endless.
We are in love and long married, no
small miraculous adventure on its own, having lasted
past crashing along the long road. And now
we carry with us what survives. We wear it
like a flag, a truce of goodwill, the two of us
scooting inland toward our hotel, past military
guards posted at gates to the base,
their black rifles in hand, stern-faced
and dutiful. We see the danger; don’t misunderstand us,
please. They’re just boys, my wife says, and says it
with a heart full of hard-earned forgiveness, says it
like a prayer to invisible stars, the ones we know,
eternally burning through darkness. She waves,
and the soldiers lower their guns, just boys again,
smiling and waving. Don’t misunderstand; we comprehend
the world is hemorrhaging sadness. Our small cause
is to risk our brittle skulls on an open highway
in a foreign land. We hold fast to love. We hold to the other
and won’t let go.
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press. Jaeger is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. He was recently awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award.
They Said He Was Grouchy At The End
Cigarette butts littered the desk
where he liked to sit up late into the night,
writing epitaphs to his own wine-soaked eyes.
Unwashed breakfast trays clung
to the bed amidst stacks of torn and wrinkled
papers almost blackened by the blind stabs of his pen.
Over against the dresser, comics
pages and headlines of war made crumpled
heaps on the carpet like little altars to iconoclasm.
and lying open on his desk, the dog-
eared copy of Dante stuck forever now at
the open tombs of the sixth circle, the City of Dis,
where mortals stare vacantly into the sky
with their ever-opening eyes . . .
Michael Van Dyke lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he teaches in the Humanities division at Cornerstone University. He has previously published poems in Punt Volat, THAT Literary Review, and The Cortland Review, among others.
The Last Warm Saturday
The last warm Saturday, the final mowing—
that drone, that fragrance—with the traitor sun
low-angled, making all this not quite right.
Here is a bitter yearly winnowing
of what’s to come from what is in decline.
Here is the language of the changing light.
I know this language but I cannot speak it.
I learned it from my senses, over time.
It warms me while it makes me cold and mute.
Trying to express its deepest secret,
all I can mumble is its paradigm:
that loss and bliss come from the same root.
Jane Greer founded Plains Poetry Journal, an advance guard of the New Formalism movement, in 1981, and edited it until 1993. Her most recent collection is Love like a Conflagration (Lambing Press, 2020). She will judge the Catholic Literary Arts 2021 Sacred Poetry Contest.
A reversal in the sky, or a story about blurred vision —
those obscure colors swimming in pools of terror —
It’s a life in the wrong place —
It’s a reality shift — day for night / night for day —
a surgical subtraction of self —
complete loss of identity —
being broken, broke and devoid of love —
homeless and bound for an unmarked grave —
the sickness, loss, and surrender —
another nameless and trashed junkie found
reaching for heaven, but just missing —
It’s a bad connection like a broken heart
on a tattered sleeve —
It’s being serious like a busted vein —
It’s a spiritual call that’s lost more than won.
It’s iced tears coated with melted salt.
Total and finite calamity where you discover
reality’s always bleeding thru your ruined and running vision,
and there you sit, pondering, totally eclipsed in a catatonic dream.
Where you find even your children are the enemy,
reminding you of who you were and now where you are,
feeling your lost love’s the only solution,
as you desire to inject to reject this odd void to fill,
believing that you’re really different,
saying: — I needa hit . . .
Ah, the truth is the world’s afloat in myths,
and you sail your boat like a captain toward
the unending illusion of paradise.
First published in Anti-Heroin Chic.
Timothy Resau resides in coastal North Carolina. His work has appeared in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Currently, he has poems in Sideways Poetry Magazine, Sylvia Magazine, The Beautiful Space, an essay in Loch Raven Review, and a poem in Rat’s Ass Review.
Grace Schulman, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has been honored with the Frost Medal for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement in American Poetry. Her eighth book of poems is The Marble Bed, and her recent memoir is Strange Paradise: Portrait of a Marriage. Editor of The Poems of Marianne Moore, she is Distinguished Professor of English at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y. Schulman is former director of the Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1974–84, and former poetry editor of The Nation, 1971–2006.
Alfred Corn has published eleven books of poems, two novels and three collections of essays. He has received the Guggenheim, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. In 2017 he was inducted into the Georgia Writers’ Hall of Fame. This year Norton will publish his version of the Duino Elegies.
AC: Do you recall when you first felt a vocation for poetry, Grace — the circumstances, the feelings?
GS: As a child, I played word games with my mother, a poet who loved language but had limited opportunities to develop her talent. At bedtime, my father read poems to me in Polish and, though I didn’t understand the words, I thrilled to their music. At fourteen, I met Marianne Moore, a friend of my family. When I sent her my first poems, she replied, “The masterful typing shows the work to its greatest advantage. I bungle everything I type.” Years later, we became friends. I think that the association with Moore — her courage, her wisdom — inspired me. And then there was Gerard Manley Hopkins: I felt the surge of his stresses, his passion beating against the iambic pentameter line. That would be my vocation. When did you first heed its calling, Alfred?
AC: I’d agree that the sense of vocation comes by degrees. As a teen, I swallowed almost whole Louis Untermeyer’s anthology of modern American poetry — roughly the same years when I was discovering Shakespeare and Whitman and making resolute efforts to produce poems of my own. But I had divided loyalties and wanted to write stories too. It wasn’t until about 1970 that I put all my energies into poetry, probably because of meeting Richard Howard, who was the first poet with a national reputation I got to know. I didn’t return to fiction again for some time.
I rather envy your early life in New York City, Grace — at that time the cultural capital of the world. How did it shape you as a poet?
GS: I couldn’t wait to get away. In childhood, true, I was privileged to live a few blocks from the Museum of Natural History and the Ethical Culture Society, where Algernon Black lectured us teenagers about the Experiment for International Living. My parents’ friends were interesting and kind, especially E. McKnight Kauffer, whom I called Uncle Ted. He gave me books he’d illustrated, and I learned from them: Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Cervantes’s Don Quixote. I haunted the MoMA. I still feel the texture of those Picassos and Braques, and of a painter I clung to, Tchelitchew. But I craved adventure. After college, I worked as a news reporter for a daily in Virginia. I wanted to experience life firsthand. Hemingway and Katherine Anne Porter were my models. Meanwhile, my parents wrote to me about events they’d attended, such as Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milkwood” at the Y and a new play by Christopher Fry. I missed New York and saw it in new ways when I returned.
The Glad Sounds of Eating
To eat is human, for it is then
that we are truly revealed,
putting our mouths around
what will become ourselves.
Yet how rarely is it depicted in art
in full gaping, masticating detail.
Instead, we get paintings of fruit or soup cans
or people gabbing around a table
while ignoring gustatory delicacies in plain view.
You would think Edward Hopper could have
shown the two women actually
eating some chop suey.
And would it have killed Norman Rockwell
to include among those grateful Americans
gleefully greeting their turkey
a chubby little boy in the corner
stuffing his face with dinner rolls?
All those paintings of the Last Supper?
Forget it. There’s nary a nibble,
not even from Judas before heading out
for the evening.
Thank goodness for Bruegel
who knew a peasant wedding feast
when he saw one, with real people
chowing down and licking their fingers.
You can hear the glad sounds of eating.
But there is no joy in Goya’s
Saturn Devouring His Son,
as a wild-eyed Saturn grasps his son’s body
like a Big Mac,
its pale limp buttocks
hanging below white knuckles,
to take another bloody bite.
I guess that’s why Goya left his painting
not for show but on the plaster wall
of his dining room
and why so few painters
elected to portray the darker things
that go on at dinnertime.
Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet and the author of ten books, including collections of poetry, short stories, and essays as well as two juvenile fantasy novels. His latest poetry collection is The Museum of Unwearable Shoes (Kelsay Books).
To see and hear Gene read this poem on YouTube go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7p7NhW6MDs&t=2s
Below the Wall
Below the wall, against the shore, artlessly
He laughed, and, laughing, began to think
A smoother paraphrast in his condition
Might have noticed the terse and ready
Grace in gulls and pelicans—each of them
Wrapped, as if mantled in purple, with a hue
Of symbol and decision. He did not notice,
Nor could, though I heard him over glassy whips
And across a lusterless and undying day,
After he and I had left that place,
And his laughing, with malignant haste,
Was gone, I heard him still. He laughed
(I thought) at a damp enameled oriflamme
Aureoled upon the wall: of a salamander
Stretching back to lick at a chopped-down tree
And its swift decay.
Caspar Santacroce works in international trade regulation and currently resides in Istanbul, Turkey. His work has previously appeared in Outside Indie and Terror House Magazine.
Yair Mejía on Unsplash.