Free Verse  with Vera Ignatowitsch

By Different Boats

 

I care not a whit for my ancestry

or the look of my great

grandfather as a boy.

I find no comfort in faces

or names like mine.

I do not cling to the cluster of genes

carried across the waters in blue-eyed

vessels without my vote.

But give me a gorilla, now

there’s a face I can relate to,

the way he looks me straight

in the eye behind the glass

and makes me see there’s a link

I can feel down to my bones,

though we got here by

different boats.

 

 

Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. He is the author of nine books. His poetry book Trash Picker on Mars was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry.

South China, Maine

 

The death of my uncle is a kitchen story,

rinsed by my grandmother’s hands

in a sink full of blood-stained clothing,

a story where a man remembers himself, high water

on his mind, a story for the back room,

moving from match to pipe smoke, sipped

with Kentucky Gentlemen, cracked

with peanuts, penny pinochle, pegged along

with Gin Rummy, a story placed like a hot stone

under the blankets, at the foot of the bed,

told after the cousins are carried to sleep

lit by lamps, a myth without exposition,

without denouement, a story weary with rolling r’s,

fried clams caught in the throat, a sprinkle of saw dust

on a dance floor, a big band tuning their instruments,

a story for the cupola buzzing with black flies,

a story that burns the bottoms of biscuits,

seasoned with lullabies, lost in its own moral,

a story cut out of South China Lake ice, a child

drowned during his baptism, a circular narrative, circling back

to my uncle, cider drunk on a Saturday night, just returned

from boot camp, launching his car into a light pole

over Parameter Hill.

But if the story must begin, it must begin

with a long line of ghosts: Mary Cinderella Black

poisoning her firstborn, her husband Osma dead with fever,

five bearded uncles marched off to the Civil War,

Hattie May Dodge falling off a hobbled horse in a snowstorm,

Isaac and Hadie Bradstreet and their fourteen children,

shut in a burning barn, Margaret England struck dumb

and riding a child’s bike, and the first ghost, John Dow,

stepping off of the boat, a wasp landing on his bible.

 

 

Eddie Dowe is a teacher and poet living in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His chapbook, I Have to Tell You Something, will be published by Kelsay Books in May, 2021.

Thank You for the Madness

 

Have I always been an abacus?

Must I arrange my magnitude like this?

I apply illness like a topical cream,

testing which borders are semipermeable

and may allow seeping through. Here

my unforgiving feet dangle off the edge

of the bed. Open jars of pills face me

like gaping mouths of birds waiting

for nourishment. If I were healthier

there would be more connections to make.

 

There used to be some allure

in porous thought, the haze of inebriation fraying

strings of narrative thread, fingerprinting the night

from the window of the Saint-Paul. I know this.

People call productions of sickness beautiful

because it’s unthinkable to justify them any other way,

because it’s such a relief to be banal.

 

Again the wheel of history turns—

how parents say “bye-I-love-you” each morning

as they leave, and one may grow up thinking

that they could never be decoupled,

that love is inescapably linked with goodbye.

 

 

Leela Srinivasan is an MFA student at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of a psychological poetry collection, which served as her undergraduate honors thesis at Stanford University.

Poster

 

Her again. She must be some goddess

or other: those sun-dipped curls, those

fire-brushed cheeks. What is she thinking?

What would any deity reduced to a crinkled

 

scrap of paper think? How dare the wind

rip off my fingers! Who do those hooligan

clouds think they are smearing raindrops

down my frock? That whimsical gaze

 

summoning a lover from an ancient fable.

She’s promising to raise her hem ruffle by ruffle

if only he’d plummet into the present, tear her

out of this godforsaken advertisement

 

which no one ever stops to read, anyway.

I don’t blame her. Who’d want to be trapped

amid the pandemonium of modern life

if there were another way? What woman

 

in her right mind would choose to rise

with the sun, count the fruit of other people’s

labor for dollars a day when she could

enjoy a palace in the sky, a chest full

 

of fine clothes, a hot spring to bathe in?

A tangle of lovers scuffling for her favor.

Why would I risk my life crossing

these congested streets when a chariot could

 

whisk me above the clouds in nanoseconds?

A goddess would never settle for cheap beer,

Chinese take-out, reality show reruns.

She’d scorch the pile of good-for-nothing exes

 

festering in the stickiest corner of my mind.

She’s daring me to take her down.

Smash my phone, which won’t stop blinking,

against this crumbling cement wall.

 

Shrug off my life like a starched suit.

Pierce this century with a thousand

blinding arrows. Let the crazed rats race

until kingdom come and run the other way.

 

 

Julie Weiss’s debut chapbook, The Places We Empty, is forthcoming by Kelsay Books in July, 2021. Recent work appears in Praxis Magazine, Kissing Dynamite, The Blue Nib, and others. She lives in Spain with her wife and two young children.

Respondent

 

My pen flowed, cold ink

into the skin, signing away

our life. What is it

about permanence and paper?

 

I thought I was numb to it —

that all we’d shared

had long been set aside,

all we’d lost been grieved,

 

but in some corner of my brain

there lived yet more sorrow,

like an opportunistic thief ransacking

my house of feigned indifference.

 

My hand reversed the dance,

unclinked the flutes, turned bubbles

into vapor as ink bled into paper,

cut through my icy trance.

 

 

Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and publisher. Her work has appeared widely, and she is eagerly awaiting the release of In the Muddle of the Night (Arroyo Seco Press), co-authored with Alan Walowitz. She loves animals better than Starbucks.

Grandmothers’ Dance

 

Standing in a circle, they discuss the errors

their children are making as parents,

and in spite of the mistakes,

the perfection of their grandkids.

 

You watch the grandmothers sway,

from side-to-side, one foot to the other.

It’s a reflex, a habit they say, caused by

all those years of rocking babies to sleep,

of comforting a sick child.

 

It’s a gentle waltz, with no apparent music,

insinuated into our ancestors from time spent

in ancient trees swaying in the slow breeze

of an eon-old African evening.

 

A dance more primal than Salome

shedding seven veils — a pattern of steps

that draws you back to memories of warm arms

and the soft silk pillows of women’s breasts —

your small sleepy head at peace.

 

Published in Near Death/Near Life, Prolific Press, 2015.

 

 

Dennis Maulsby’s poems and short stories have appeared in numerous journals and on National Public Radio. His commercially published books include Near Death/Near Life, Free Fire Zone, Winterset, The Fantasy Works, and The House de Gracie. His website is www.dennismaulsby.com.

Archive of Free Verse Poetry with Suzanne Robinson by issue:

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 March 2019     January 2019     November 2018      September 2018     July 2018     June 2018     May 2018     April 2018   

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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:

     July 2020     May 2020     March 2020     January 2020     November 2019     September 2019     July 2019     May 2019

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