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Free Verse Poetry

How Not to Say I Love You or What We Don’t Know Can Most Certainly Hurt Us

I know you didn’t mean to
set the whole alphabet on fire.
It was only supposed to be
the letter L. From there it just
spread in both directions like a fuse.
If it helps I’ve heard closing one eye
improves your aim. It’s understandable
that you feel a little sick now. It happens
sometimes once we start to understand
the calculus of human emotion. It’s no
coincidence that there are three different
kinds of bleeding and three different kinds
of tears. Think of it this way. The definition
of abandoned is to leave completely and finally,
but the feeling of it never goes away.

Patrick Meeds lives in Syracuse, NY and studies writing at the Syracuse YMCA’s Downtown Writer’s Center. He has been previously published in Stone Canoe literary journal, the New Ohio Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Whiskey Island, and Nine Mile Review, among others.

Skunk Cabbage

Part of this wooded hill, at the bottom

a swamp not full blown, woodsy,

in which to walk is to sink. Round, flowery,

purplish, rooted where level land

rises the skunk cabbage with its acrid odor

you wouldn’t want to follow you indoors,

as you wouldn’t want a penguin

to follow you into a five and dime.


The cabbages gleam like tarnished silver

except they’re purple. You want a flicker

of purple in a rocking chair, a fiddle,

out in the pouring rain a Ferris wheel,

a beak-shaped church key,

the Episcopal church across the street.

Peter Mladinic’s fourth book of poems, Knives on a Table, is available from Better Than Starbucks Publications. An animal rights advocate, he lives in Hobbs, New Mexico, USA.


It’s a bright liquid word —

a shimmer, a gleam.


I’d put aside the whole family —

Martin, Charlie, and even Emilio

for Michael, his dirty wings,

his sexual research,

his red Italian eyes.


Softer than glint,

it’s the underside of a leaf,

a can opener under the moon,

the light crackling your perfect teeth.

Becky Nicole James earned her MFA from Queens University. Her work has appeared in many publications including Margie, Birmingham Arts Journal, and Moon City Review. Becky is a reader for the magazine Metaphorosis. Follow Becky on Twitter @beckynjames.

Peacock Valley

you came here lost

the sun kept at arm’s length

abandoned by dogs

who would never leave

a dead man’s side for any reason

covered in dirt & scratches

history works its way

under our skin

the sound of goats

crying in the fields

should’ve let you know

that the river

has mouths to feed.

John Dorsey is the author of Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020), Afterlife Karaoke (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2021) and Sundown at the Redneck Carnival (Spartan Press, 2022). He may be reached at

Junk Drawer 2 — Holding

No place among her things of frequent use,

their dailiness on countertop or shelf,

the music in the forks, the plates, the spoons,

in easy reach of hands at sink and stove.


Not in the junk drawer’s nickel-plated hammer,

unrhythmic like the heft of other tools;

small picture hooks that pocket tiny nails;

or batteries that roll their heavy A’s.


And not the box with things that touch recalls:

a baby’s spoon; a concert ticket signed;

and pay stubs with the dirt of summer work;

last picture on his Honda, leaving home.


There is no box can hold allotted span,

or fear that watched as he became a man.

John Hicks is a New Mexico poet whose work has been published by Valparaiso Poetry Review, I-70 Review, Better Than Starbucks, Verse-Virtual, Poetica, Blue Nib, and others. He writes in the thin air of the southern Rockies.


When I jumped from the diving board

into the lake like the boys were doing


I surfaced with a sputter to laughter.

My bikini top floated in the water


beside me, beside myself I sunk

back under, grabbed it, restrapped it


to my boyish frame. When I told

my mother she cawed like a crow.


“It's not like you have anything

to see,” she said. At that age


my body was much like the bodies

of my jeering peers. But girls


must cover, must conceal, must

feel shame for what they reveal.

Mary Ann Honaker is the author of Becoming Persephone (Third Lung Press, 2019). She holds an MFA in Poetry from Lesley University. She currently lives in Beaver, West Virginia.

What We Can Undo

The drone and crash begin.

A wood chipper brays, silver teeth

gnash the tree’s branches as fiercely


         as amid sparks and whine, you weld

        fifty steel arcs, end to end, to lift

        a new sculpture skyward.


The surgeon snips away twigs, aims

a chainsaw precisely into the collar. With a rope

he lowers the autumn-tinged diadem to the ground


         as you glaze each arc red,

         green and yellow to suggest leaves

         caught in a sudden updraft.


Such mastery, the making

and the taking down.

Diana Cole, a Pushcart Prize nominee, is author of Songs By Heart (Iris Press, 2018), and has published poems in numerous venues including Poetry East, Spillway, and Verse Daily. She is an editor for The Crosswinds Poetry Journal.


When she left, the bottom fell out.

I went to the neighborhood pub

with my barely legal older son

for burgers, steak fries and cold beer,

while the movers emptied my house

of all the belongings that were hers.


When we returned to the

now nearly empty house,

I felt the fall into the emptiness

beneath the hardwood floor

that was no longer underfoot,

and listened to the echoes

in the once-warm

now-empty living room.


I felt lost as a fawn

who’d watched his mother felled

by a sharpshooting bow-hunter.

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.

Kitchen Talk

Nobody told me

we inherit everything, all the ingredients —

anger and pity, grace with cruelty,

insight blurred by appetite:


a cousin’s veined hands

pinching dumplings whose

spice she never disclosed


the great-aunt, once a softball star,

compulsively scrubbing dishes so

the next course can be allowed

(What makes me so great, she’d say)


my mother, fifteen again and furious,

eyes blazing past the tureen

because they would not let me in

when her father lay dying.


Near their tombstones

encroached on by ivy, sparse

cypress lean over standing water.


The recipes I inherit are meals

for fishes, splattered by spoons

and sauces, stained with secrets.


By their baking tins,

over the cutlery,

filaments drift

through simmering rooms.

Michael H. Levin is a lawyer, solar energy developer and writer based in Washington DC. His work has appeared on stage and in three collections plus anthologies and numerous periodicals and has received poetry and feature journalism awards. See

Seventeen Years Underground

He searches for her through the creeping darkness

His guitar like a weapon

Thwacking against his thigh

With every step he takes.


He seeks to reignite their fire

Wanting desperately for things to go back

To where they were

Before it all began to unravel.


He knows he hurt her

But he was blindsided when she abandoned him

Although he shouldn’t have been

If he had been paying attention  

And the slam of the door still reverberates

Like a punch to the gut

Leaving him doubled over

Unable to catch his breath.


He stealthily makes his way through the grass

Where he can hear the dissonant song of the cicada

Piercing the tree branches

And he understands why they’re searching frantically for a mate

After seventeen years underground.


He finds her window and removes his guitar from its case

Yearning to feel whole again

He’s a jumble of broken pieces without her

So he’s been practicing the song that always made her melt

Playing with every ounce of sincerity that he can muster

And singing with a voice that cracks in all the right places

Filled with words about how much he misses her touch

And the heat of her body against his

And how he wants her wrapped in his arms

In the cool, smooth sheets of his bed.


He aims pebbles at her window

Until a light is turned on

And she stands there like an apparition

Next to the white, gauzy curtains

Arms folded across her chest

And her eyes penetrate his

Even in the dark

As he plays the first chord

And she waits.

Nancy Machlis Rechtman has had poetry and short stories published in Your Daily Poem, Paper Dragon, Discretionary Love, Grande Dame, and more. She wrote Lifestyle stories for a local newspaper, and she currently writes a blog called Inanities at


Hog wire on the new fence

With its galvanized illusions

Will rust — if not in my time.


For now, it cuts off the old

Dirt road I used to take

When I needed to go nowhere.

Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including in a dozen or so books and chapbooks. A San Joaquin Almanac won the Eric Hoffer Award for 2021 in the chapbook category. Visit his website at


Gerardo lives with 18 bikes, three of them

tandems, one of the tandems his favorite,

he can’t say why. It’s not the one he rides

most. To the most ridden he has attached

a child’s carseat. Papa, eight- and two-year-

old mijos fulfill its needs conquering and

reconquering Kenosha’s parks on a regular

rotation. I’ve seen pictures of the bikes in

his garage that looks like a 19th century shop,

mostly dim with flashes here and there like

silver finches searching for an exit. I’ve

seen the three tandems posing with the three

riders, whose stiff smiles hide the delight

they must feel when they become a small,

perfect parade moving away from the wife

and mother who itches to clear the garage

in their absence. A lovelier sight? Can’t

think of one. Not even the Turkish gymnast

with eyebrows as dark, as thick, as solemn

as I drew them when he begged (yes, it

surprised me too) for a portrait. Not even

the last sight of the house I grew up in —

every part of it fixed, the basement air

breathable, the cracks in the plaster painted

over — every room as empty as a soul that

never hurt, transitively or intransitively.

What is Gerardo? What are his sons, who

stare at the back of his head? Their voices,

even when Gerardo twists around, are

mostly carried off by the wind. What will

happen if the sons tire of Gerardo’s constant

leadership; if the baby sprouts wings, breaks

free of his safety restraints and flies cloud-

ward; if the middle rider faints toward the

pedals or leaps to the road? What promise

will be broken or kept if they never tire?

Timothy Robbins has published five volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books), Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press) Mother Wheel (Cholla Needles Press) and This Night I Sup in Your House (

I Survive

Like a bird

after a wildfire,

living among the ashes

of the life I once knew.


My lungs still fill with air,

and despite everything,

I am compelled

to sing.

C.M. Crockford is an autistic/ADHD writer whose work has been featured in Vast Chasm, No Cinema! Quarterly, Neologism Poetry Journal, Wilde Boy, and Vastarien, among others. Currently he lives in Philadelphia with his cats but has been in San Francisco and Boston.

Florida Sunset

We walk out to the driveway to see all those bright

slices and broken clouds on the horizon.

Trees, walls, and road lapse lavender-gold.


Buntings pause at the feeder.

A neighbor looks up from her weeding

and another stops in his tracks like a ship


on a windless day — we hold our breath

as the earth goes tinted, because if we can’t save

her, we can at least pay attention.

Sarah Carleton writes poetry, edits fiction, and plays the banjo in Tampa. Her poems have appeared in publications including Nimrod, Valparaiso, and New Ohio Review. Her first collection, Notes from the Girl Cave, was published in 2020 by Kelsay Books.


Tsunami by Hokusai

Archive of Free Verse Poetry

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  December 2016     November 2016     October 2016     September 2016     August 2016     June 2016     May 2016

Archive of Free Verse Poetry with Vera Ignatowitsch by issue:

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