Formal & Rhyming Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch
It starts the year your doctor says, “Let’s run
some tests on this. It may be nothing. Still —”
Every year till now your checkup was done
after you left the office and paid the bill.
This year there’s more to pay. Maybe a lot.
Not least your sense of being someone apart
from clinics, prescriptions, lists of things you’re not
supposed to do. It may not be your heart,
but then again, it is. At night you hear
it thumping as you never have before
and never had to, whispering in your ear
“It may be nothing. It may be nothing. Or —”
The tests come back. You’re fine. And yet you feel
a mortal wound that will not fully heal.
Richard Wakefield’s first poetry collection, East of Early Winters (University of Evansville Press), won the Richard Wilbur Award. His second collection, A Vertical Mile (Able Muse Press), was short-listed for the Poets’ Prize. His poem “Petrarch” won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award.
The Story Shall Be Changed
The story shall be changed:
Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase;
the dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind
makes speed to catch the tiger . . .
—A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The story shall be changed, but not the way
Helena thought she’d vary it and make
Daphne pursue Apollo. As the day
is different from the night and sleep from wake,
the plot will alter: Troy’s leaders will heed
Cassandra’s warnings when the Greeks depart;
Odysseus decide he won’t mislead,
and Io fail to capture Zeus’s heart;
Diana be delighted Actaeon
has seen her, and Achilles will not slay
Hector, the Trojans’ greatest champion;
Phaethon bring the fiery team to bay;
Persephone escape the chariot
of Hades so Demeter does not mourn
and winter never comes to kill earth’s fruit;
the Minotaur of Crete is never born;
and you don’t leave me, don’t say our affair
is done—I’m not alone, not left behind
like Orpheus, his love turned into air—
and not, like Oedipus the King, left blind.
David W. Landrum’s poetry has appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the US, UK, Canada, and Asia.
She dressed her children in exquisite clothes,
always selected what her husband wore.
I yawned on the subway to the store,
where she bought shoes that cramped her toes.
Once or twice she walked in fashion shows,
a swoosh of blonde streaking her black hair:
setting it in rollers was my weekly chore.
All photos show her striking a smiling pose.
When she died, I picked clothes quite well-worn.
I chose soft sweatpants for her final bow
and pale cashmere socks to keep her feet warm.
Such casual dress can do her no harm.
“Ciao, Mamma! What good are fine garments now?”
“Ciao, bella!” she ceded with raised eyebrow.
Gaby Bedetti’s recent poems have appeared in Frogpond, Italian Americana, and elsewhere. In June you can find her blogging a daily poem on https://lexpomo.com. At Eastern Kentucky University, she teaches Comedy as an Artistic Approach, which culminates in public performance.
Where Bluebirds Fly
In my garden an injured bird
balances awkwardly, testing its wings
for damage. Satisfied, it takes flight,
slowly circling up and up into the sky.
I watch it soar through the pink and blue,
until a speck against the fading rainbow.
I shiver, in spite of the woolly rainbow-
coloured scarf around my neck, its bird
motif the shade of peacock blue.
I wait until the sun finally wings
its way below the horizon, and the sky
becomes ink as moon and stars take flight.
Back indoors, I see my daughter descend the flight
of stairs, humming ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’
having watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’ on Sky
for the umpteenth time. She flaps her arms like a bird,
pretending her wasted limbs are wings,
pale skin showing between the black and blue.
She smiles, as always, refusing to feel blue
about her condition, even as the cancer takes flight
within her body, those bad cells on devil’s wings.
Where I see only dark cloud, she sees a rainbow,
always just out of reach, where a tiny blue bird
waits to guide her up into the sky.
I am far from ready to let the sky
take her. This Christmas will not be blue,
despite the dread hovering over us like a bird
of prey or angel of death. They can take flight
somewhere else for now. She is my rainbow
and I will keep her safe within my own wings
as long as I’m able. She says she wants water wings
for Christmas, and a telescope to view the sky,
and for God to send me a double rainbow
when the time comes. She says she’ll be in the blue
arc, looking down and waving before she takes flight,
following the path of that tiny blue bird.
My own tiny bird will have her own wings
and with each passing flight that crosses the sky
I’ll look at the blue, knowing she is the rainbow.
Tracy Davidson lives in England and writes poetry and flash fiction. Her work has appeared in various publications and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Atlas Poetica, A Hundred Gourds, The Great Gatsby Anthology, and In Protest: 150 Poems for Human Rights.
We’ve Reached Earth’s Edge
The Earth’s explored, and flat. And I know this
despite Earth’s shadow in lunar eclipse,
and how horizons hide the hulls of ships.
We’ve reached Earth’s edge, stare into the abyss
with Branson, Musk, NASA and the Chinese,
toppling into blackness, falling prey
with Kurzweil, CRISPR, Google, Bostrom, de Grey,
businesslike scientists battling disease,
entrepreneurs with dark unearthly schemes:
the outer darkness space’s endlessness,
the inner darkness immortality.
Pushing and leaning into stellar space,
the event horizon of our thoughts and dreams,
the black hole of our post-humanity.
Robin Helweg-Larsen is British-born but Bahamian-raised. As Series Editor of Sampson Low’s Potcake Chapbooks he strongly advocates formal verse . . . but surreptitiously writes other poetry as well. Please don’t tell.
Monologue of the Plastic Grocery Bag
Let me carry all your burdens. Fill
me with them—the box of cereal,
cans of green beans for Thanksgiving’s table,
a rainforest of toilet paper rolls.
Whenever you need me, I’m there.
Translucent like a ghost that rides the wind,
I float for miles and miles until I find my rest
within an empty field to be mistaken
for a wildflower. Notice how
the sun can catch my skin and lets me shine.
Some forget about me, stuff me in
a random kitchen drawer for later use
like a Bible. Specks of dust collect
within my folds. Or I can roam the sea
for millennia—a god adrift,
aimlessly riding currents. I survive
deep within the belly of the whale—
bring down beasts without an ounce
of mercy. My creation warms the earth.
I make this ocean rise. I penetrate your skin—
I’m running through your bloodstream even now.
I’m in the air you breathe. I fill your lungs.
I’m in the soil underneath your feet.
I don’t decay. I don’t return to earth.
I am legion, and I’ll linger here
forever on your little world, amen.
Katherine Hoerth is an assistant professor of English at Lamar University and editor-in-chief of Lamar University Literary Press. She lives in southeast Texas.
Dan lets them flap for him, since they have wings
that blink like eyelids irrepressibly,
and all he has are hands. Bright flutter-byes
are toppling over sideways; Dan suspects
they’re eating too much sugar, and he laughs,
but as he watches them, his hands lie still,
because the butterflies flap for him and
nobody ever stops them; one boy tried,
but he was being bad. Light flickers and
the air is full of colored wiggles. Some
are bouncing on the flowers like trampolines
but nobody gets hurt, and no one else
is so relaxed, immobile, as The Dan:
because they flap, while all he has are hands.
Kathryn Jacobs is a poet, professor, and editor of The Road Not Taken. Her fifth book, Wedged Elephant, was published by Kelsay Press.
And if such silence overflows,
it does not fall
Entirely away, but slows,
as when a caul
Refracts the sight from moments lost
to moments still
To come. Invariably the cost
of knowing will
Be paid, yet deep within that stream,
something remains —
A clarity that even dreams
Jared Carter’s most recent book is The Land Itself from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.
The Battle of the Little Shell
The Little Shell survives with sticks
To start a night of politics
By striking on an elk-hide drum,
When every member waxes mum
Within a warehouse built of bricks.
They are survivors; ten plus six
Score years pass — years which fail to fix
Their landless lot. Yet overcome,
They do. Alive and thriving kicks
The Little Shell.
The “garbage Indians” who mix
In shanties — housed like lunatics —
Do not surrender, nor succumb.
Four generations hence, they hum
Odjibwe songs, and light late wicks,
The Little Shell.
Jennifer Reeser is author of Indigenous, Able Muse Press. Her writings have appeared in POETRY, Rattle, and The Hudson Review. Her work has been anthologized in Everyman’s Library, Poets Translate Poets, and others.
The Rubáiyát of My Old Man
No jug of wine, a G&T,
no loaf of bread, a BLT,
lunching at the country club,
content among the bourgeoisie,
possessing most of my desire:
enough money to retire,
a cozy condo on the coast,
a divorcée to light my fire.
And though all that is doubtless nice,
it somehow doesn’t quite suffice;
my comfy middle-class excess
doesn’t make for paradise.
The plated peerage of the links,
are unaware that something stinks—
their millions hedged, derivative—
and so they talk and sip their drinks,
while algorithms calculate
stocks and bonds and interest rates,
shuffling futures at light speed,
and thus their fortunes dissipate.
As Madame De Pompadour
quipped to her royal paramour,
Après moi, le deluge,
the sky will burst, the rain will pour,
on beggars, Brahmins, in-betweens,
children, grownups, noxious teens.
But today, the weather’s fair,
and since I have sufficient means
to spend my time (what remains)
living on investment gains,
it’d be pointless to despair
and indecent to complain.
First published in The American Journal of Poetry.
Edison Jennings is a Head Start school bus driver living in the southern Appalachian region of Virginia. His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Boulevard, Kenyon Review, Rattle, River Styx, Poetry Daily, Slate, and TriQuarterly.
How Airplanes Stay Up
Airplanes only fly because we believe,
like pixie-dusted kids from Peter Pan,
or the little engine that could. We leave
the ground each time believing that we can.
What sacrificial acts are required
for questions of irrational belief?
Eventually everyone’s faith gets tired.
Letting the damn thing down is a relief.
My fellow passengers open windows,
throwing out novels, children, all that trash,
to live the clear-eyed life of one who knows
for the few seconds left before the crash.
The written report of investigation
would read, “Cause: lack of imagination.”
Neil Kennedy holds a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. His poetry often explores natural imagery and environmentalist themes. His work has been published in Origami Poems Project, The Road Not Taken, and The Orchards Poetry Journal.
He’d stolen the secrets of the Gods and chained
down Thanatos, the God of Death. The dead
could not pass over as had been ordained
so Hades charged him for his crimes. He pled
his innocence, but Sisyphus was condemned
to roll a boulder up a hill to the top;
it always rolled back down again—he stemmed
his tears and tried again and could not stop.
It vanished. What relief! A man alone
paced at the bottom, walking with a swagger.
“A transformation of my rolling stone?”
“You’ve guessed correctly, Sissy. I’m Mick Jagger.
We Stones need smokes for us and our troupes of trollops
and Zeus says you give never-ending roll-ups.”
First published in Lighten Up Online.
John Beaton writes metrical poetry. His work has been widely published, won numerous awards, and he recites it in spoken word performance. Raised in the Scottish Highlands, he now lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
On this page we publish selections of metrical poetry from our contributors. Submit your blank verse, metrical rhyming poems, villanelles, sonnets, and other formal poetry to betterthanstarbucks2@gmail. We love both traditional and experimental forms and subjects, and please do submit limericks and lighthearted verse as well! Vera Ignatowitsch
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