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 IV
February, May, August,
Free Verse Poetry
And though you left the sheet blank
the police are still investigating it
as some make-shift wall left in place
when the day after tomorrow arrived
all at once — they're waiting for the lab
to come up with how the ink
could have been swept away when the words
already had a place to stay and one by one
carried you off on a raft made from paper
with the pen no longer making estimates
how far the edge is, how deep the corners
the silence you finished working on.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Family of Man Poems published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2021.
How he managed pick-up sticks
through tear-blinded eyes,
how he steadied his trembling hand
enough to disentangle the disarray
that lay before him, and then arrange
the sticks in a way that
made sense, made palpable the pain
so great it made hell
a child’s birthday party,
how he did that, and survived to tell
close friends at a later date,
is nothing if not a miracle.
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.
Getting frisky at the kitchen sink
As my mother ladles tomato sauce
into Ball jars for preservation,
the smell of garlic, basil, and pureed
fruit fills our basement kitchen.
She rinses the pot under warm water
washing away the fruit flesh
that is sticking to the strainer,
staining the sink a bright red.
My father wanders over and rubs
the small of my mother’s back,
slipping his hand beneath her blouse
when he thinks the kids aren't looking.
“Stop it,” my mother complains,
coyly swatting away my father’s
hand, continuing to scrub the sauce
pot with a sudsy sponge.
Nunzio Lazzara teaches English at Orange Coast College. His interests outside of reading and writing include cooking, gardening, playing guitar, and spending time with his lovely wife and rambunctious kids. And ice cream. He loves ice cream.
Pine-barreled Polish beer drunk
at 3 a.m. on All Souls Day may
reveal long-dead relatives, place
a pine-built crib in the corner to cure
infertility, graze cattle in the pine forest
to enrich milkfat, if you can find them.
My grandfather carved each grandchild
pocket-sized St. Leonards, saintly presider
over ancestral baptisms, blessed them by
cone rubbings collected on summer nights.
In childhood, he sowed seeds on a ship across
the Atlantic. Na Zdrowie! Those barrels have soaked
up pagan traditions we thought we cast off long ago,
still I light candles every November, leave
an empty chair. Soft wood scars. A pine can live
over 1,000 years, but only as timber.
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.
Junk Drawer 6 — Entanglements
unless you leave me ajar,
which sometimes happens —
like the hurried morning
you half-closed me
with your hip after pushing
these plastic packets of nails,
screws, and bolts to the back
to make room for the shears,
glue and paper left over
from the school diorama project
on its way out the door. Or like
this bunched drawstring, long
from his sweatpants,
snagged in the brush, gray
with hairs of the long dead cat,
and the chewed leather toy
in case the dog comes back.
It’s not that you think you’re too old
for another entanglement.
It’s fear you might again outlive.
John Hicks is a New Mexico poet whose work has been published by Valparaiso Poetry Review, I-70 Review, Verse-Virtual, Poetica, Blue Nib, and others. His MFA is from The University of Nebraska Omaha.
Arriving Again in the Chihuahuan Desert
as children not knowing past
meant long ago
we summited the Tascotal Mesa
to look out across
the three kingdoms’ mountains
the sotol blooms themselves
were our elders
which of us said to the Spaniards
that these mounds looked like the lungs
of the Rio Grande?
we thought by now the dust
would have drowned them
since then we have grown gray
on different sides of the Bofecillos
I cannot find where we made camp
or think how to ask those
who will not name their dead
if you remain in the southern country
I have visited too early —
the claretcup cacti hold court
above the Presidio of San Vicente
without their diadems
and this place is like a corpse
the nomads would not let
their young ones near
J. R. Forman’s work has appeared in Borderlands, Ramify, Visitant, Agave Review, Apricity, Stirring, Matter, Streetlight Magazine, Glint Literary Journal, and various anthologies. He holds a BA from St. John’s College and PhDs from the universities of Dallas and Salamanca. Visit drjrforman.com.
Sharpened steel soothes
as well as slices
bone and breath.
the cut and the calm
are simply the same.
Peace and panic
A version first published in Heroin Love Songs.
Living in Happy Valley, Michele Mekel is a writer and editor, educator and bioethicist, poetess and creatrix, cat herder and chief can opener, witch and woman, and, above all, human. Her work has appeared in various publications.
Presenting The Blank Page
A field of snow one medieval morning.
An empty cupboard in ancient Rome.
A hidden room behind a secret door,
the Inquisitor grim and hellbent
on the soul’s corruption.
The page is a plain of energy.
An unsolved theorem. A London fog.
A lantern at perpetual dusk,
the page is pure potentiality.
A promise made. A sin forgiven.
Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician, has published over 1,900 poems internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle, and the North American Review. His books are The So-Called Sonnets, An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy, Like As If, and Hearsay.
nota di suicidio
The second floor
There’s a crash up above me and
my chandelier shakes
and the Sun is not risen.
This feels like well-rested
compared to unsleeping weeks.
Your note sits on my nightstand,
haunts every sparse dream.
I read it again, the content the same,
“I was forced to come in but I’ll choose when I leave.”
Sean Joseph Pino is a 24-year-old writer from Southern California whose interests include photography, backpacking, surfing, and medicine. His writing reflects the emotions and cognitions that unite us. He is set to start medical school in the fall of 2022.
Across the well a crossboard lies,
And, below, a shadow stretches out of earshot.
Quite restlessly and anxiously
The stones and board,
Lapping freedom in the light,
Decay, but — for that — will not
(Nor could) plummet into unheard
Speech though, dissevered, they
Begin to think that dignity
Subdues itself by decomposing
Until, dissolved, it can be free.
It is free, and the dark
Below is not, but in the violence
Of that glinting up
It keeps them close and closely fitted.
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.
He’s blind; he’s deaf.
He shivers all the time.
He is vertigo on four legs.
His nose drills deeper and
deeper into the fragrant
corridors of the bitch-
next-door’s piss, delving
open, layer upon layer,
the foil of his being.
Andrew Vogel walks the hills, eavesdrops, and teaches in rural Eastern Pennsylvania. His poems have appeared in Blue Collar Review, Off the Coast, Slant, Evergreen Review, Hunger Mountain Review, Tule Review, The Briar Cliff Review, and elsewhere.
Santa Ana (2)
Every wind has its own agenda.
This one strips the summer trees
as bare as winter,
intending to drive us mad.
Another snakes through the grass
unnoticed, shunning us.
One’s slack, sounding its schwa
for hours, harmless,
while another throws icy knives.
One wind bites, one caresses,
another, more like us
in those complexities called love,
Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. For more info and links to publishers, visit him at www.don-e-thompson.com.
It starts with a quivering strand
then a cascade of threads shudder
as the prey realizes
tries to pull itself free
but its wringing
only mummifies it
Then some thing
steals from the shadows
on black needles.
each an eclipsed sun,
rise and fill
the prey’s horizon.
liquefy the prey’s insides,
which the thing sips on
the prey is just a brittle husk
Teague McKamey lives with his wife and two children in Washington state. In 2020, he self-published his first book of poems, The Wind and the Shadows.
To the Woman Three Stools Down at Ricky’s Tavern
I’ve examined this life
to the point
where I wish I was someone else.
For the novelty’s sake.
What can I say?
I’m weary of being
scouring the dark caves
shining light on rage here,
dragging my good nature
to the surface,
trying to bury selfishness
where even I can’t find it.
“Who am I?”
seems no more relevant than
“Where did I last leave my car-keys.”
“Who are you?”
is of more interest.
So let’s swap psyches, stranger.
Or, better yet,
That’s not what I meant.
Did anyone ever tell you
you have beautiful eyes?
If you heard it from yourself,
that doesn’t count.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Hollins Critic. His latest books are Leaves On Pages and Memory Outside The Head, and he has work upcoming in Lana Turner and International Poetry Review.
Tsunami by Hokusai
Archive of Free Verse Poetry
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Archive of Free Verse Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch by issue:
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