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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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,
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 www.michaellevinpoetry.com.
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 https://nancywriteon.wordpress.com.
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 www.don-e-thompson.com.
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 (Cyberwit.net).
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
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.
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
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