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.

Grief
     for Peter

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

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

Darkness

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.

Double-Edged

Sharpened steel soothes

as well as slices

bone and breath.

 

Some days,

the cut and the calm

are simply the same.

 

Peace and panic

both bleed.

 

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

Was cheapest.

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.

Tsunami_by_hokusai_19th_century.jpg

The Well

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.

Stink

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,

does both.

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.

Anxiety

It starts with a quivering strand

 

then a cascade of threads shudder

as the prey realizes

it’s caught.

 

The prey

tries to pull itself free

but its wringing

only mummifies it

in gossamer.

 

Then some thing

steals from the shadows

on black needles.

 

Many eyes,

each an eclipsed sun,

rise and fill

the prey’s horizon.

 

Fanged injections

liquefy the prey’s insides,

which the thing sips on

until

 

the prey is just a brittle husk

 

crumbling away.

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

Sorry Socrates

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

this spelunker

scouring the dark caves

of myself,

shining light on rage here,

affection there,

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,

body fluids.

 

Sorry.

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

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