Free Verse Poetry

Down Under

When her scent sweetens Tasmanian air,

the black fur bristles on his body,

and his muscles begin to hum.

He follows the odor through night scrub,

through moon-shadow of gum and yellow wattle

past where the cockatoo sleeps,

head tucked under wing.

 

The female devil is young, but when trapped,

fights with shrill coughs and sneezes

as if she were allergic to the stink

of his temper and his needle teeth.

She bites to cut skin, connects, then

cowers against the curved wall of her hollow log.

 

His snapping jaws grip her scruff;

he takes her from behind,

mechanical thrust,

both of them in a trance and growling.

 

When he is finished,

seeds implanted,

she lunges and hisses.

With a wound on his hindquarters,

he snarls a warning,

marks the log, marks the earth,

limps out under wheeling stars.

Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing appears in Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, and Nimrod. She has won many awards including the Alan Ginsberg Award, the Paumanok Prize, and the New Millennium Prize.  She has been nominated three times for a Pushcart.

Caught, in the Principal’s Lens

She raises her t-shirt like bed sheets,

index finger pointing to her left side,

where the shoeprint black and blues.

 

Skin too young to be braided by rage.

Her expression caught raw, stitched up

in surprise. I snap the flush of pink,

 

her silent lashes, her dark unblinking eyes.

School books line up behind her like prisoners

bound to their shelves but her captor’s

 

lens will not allow the words to be read.

Keeps her frozen this week

and the next and all the weeks of time.

 

What she will not do is tell me

his name. Does she know I cannot

keep her secret? She calls him

 

Daddy. Empty desks and empty chairs hold

their tongues. Maps of the world hang

with the promise of turning.

Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City and is of Puerto Rican heritage. Her poems have appeared in Mason Street, Constellations, Door is A Jar, Poetic Medicine — New Voices, and elsewhere. She was an elementary teacher/principal in the South Bronx.

No Mercy

With a delicious sadness

Stirring

In the depths

Of a bleak

And utter frailty

With too many walls

Torn down

And trampled upon

With elation

And cold conviction

In a world

Without question

To a place

Of eternal dust

A wisp of wind

Across time

Beneath

A contemptuous moon

Haunting nights

Along the boulevard

With the silent armies

Of a stoned melancholy

By my side

And the sharp lights

Against the river

Screaming

John Drudge is the author of four books of poetry: March (2019), The Seasons of Us (2019), New Days (2020), and Fragments (2021). His work has appeared widely in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies internationally. He lives in Caledon, Ontario, Canada.

Mary’s Ninth

Your stomach,

a pot-belly stove

 

ignites lava through

his fiery heart,

 

blazing with every

molten pulse.

Peter C. Venable has written free and metric verse for decades. His work has appeared in The Merton Seasonal, THEMA, and elsewhere. He is a member of the Winston Salem Writers. His Jesus Through A Poet’s Lens is available on Amazon. Visit him at petervenable.com.

summer sleep, autumn dreams

white flowers in

a green meadow. a man

sleeps, unmoving

in the sun's warmth

but his mind is cold

& restless, like

the mountain-fed brook

that rushes nearby.

Peter Roberts has had poems and stories published in a number of venues, including Coffin Bell, LabLit.com, Meniscus, Haikuniverse, Shoreline of Infinity, Shot Glass Journal, Bitter Oleander, The Road Not Taken, Poetry Salzburg Review, New York Quarterly, and many more.

Turbulence

The twenty-something blonde offered

to lift my suitcase to the overhead compartment.

The thin boy with glasses said he’d push my cart

of groceries if I wanted help to the car.

The high school girl behind the glass

passed a senior ticket without my asking.

My principal inquired, “When will you be retiring?”

My neighbor (close in years) has cancer.

My doctor said men my age have difficulty peeing.

 

I’ve taught stories about rites of passage my whole career

— a first kiss, the first date, marriage, and children.

When the young woman looked at my gray hair

and offered to lift my luggage,

I thought of these other rites,

and the Last Rites, too.

 

As the plane rose through the clouds, I felt turbulence.

Outside the rain-pattered window was solid blackness.

I saw an old man. I knew what was behind me.

I knew what lay ahead.

 

How odd that an act of kindness made me think so much.

When we landed, the suitcase seemed heavier.

My exit was clear.

James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over 175 times and has been recognized with many awards. He was granted a fully paid writing fellowship to Oxford University. His novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, is a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019.

While in Traffic Near the GW Parkway

We pass a days old carcass

littered with flies and cigarette butts

 

I carry too many deaths

extra skins that I can’t shed

 

they follow me down 495

chafe against the seatbelt

 

choke me as I try to sing

to distract myself from the smell

 

so bitter it burns my nostrils

acrid flakes on my tongue

 

I roll up the window

slide into another layer of dead skin.

Gabby Gilliam lives in the DC metro area. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Tofu Ink, The Ekphrastic Review, Cauldron Anthology, Instant Noodles, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and three anthologies from Mythos Poets Society. You can find her online at gabbygilliam.squarespace.com.

Combs for the Bald

Though bald by thirty,

my father

kept a collection of combs.

 

Colorful combs —

rhubarb pink, ocean teal,

yellow as lemon,

of clear plastic that captured

the light.

 

Like his other collections —

nails, screws, bits

of clothing and stuff picked

up from roads and sidewalks

in a habit of frugality.

 

He’d boil the combs

and place them in a plastic bag,

kept in his dresser drawer.

 

I remember as a child

him showing me the array

and my holding it,

as when the ancients cradled a sacred object.

 

Combs for the bald.

Betsy Martin’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly (Best of the Net nomination), El Portal, and many others. Betsy has advanced degrees in Russian language and literature and lived in Moscow during glasnost.

Thursday Morning 10 AM

Small voice, husky,

the answering recording wreathed

with rings of that smoke —

Voice of sorrow

telling facts:

Time, place,

while another good man, an angel

visiting, has gone down . . .

 

In the meantime frost has licked the lawn

I raked only yesterday, the magenta leaf piles,

the purple cabbage dug for a tub

gun-metal blue . . .

They were encysted by dawn with diamonds,

fog echoing all of that . . .

 

I see this, receiving word of his leaving,

& footsteps of the day workers on the sidewalk

come & go, & gruff motors rumble, turn over

turgid in this November chill

melding all with his roommate’s voice

coming over my phone —

 

Time, life, sorrow,

it seems there is no stopping you.

Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. He’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print and online. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum’s artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations, and allies predominantly before Stonewall.

The Red Rose

I’ll never think of you that way

 

I will never walk past the mighty granite

That shields the encased, vanished secrets

Of people’s short, and long-forgotten lives

 

I detest the pyramids of stale smelling earth

The clay churning beneath footpaths of dusty trails

That spread like broken capillaries on an old man’s face

 

I will never walk past the overgrown ivy

Or pitiful rows of rocks — and sometimes flowers

An attempt to show the world, you are still loved

 

No, I will never think of you that way

Like a parishioner who only believes on Sunday mornings

Or the black shrouded masses whose tears form a macabre sea

 

I will think of you when the winds catch my hair

And cool my breasts

At the door of the Pacific

 

This is how I think of you today, always,

As I cast one single red rose

To you, into the colossus

Mona S Gable writes articles, poetry, and humor/satire pieces for many publications online and through Medium. She is also a composer of music and a photographer. Her music has been licensed worldwide. Mona’s photography has been featured in two exhibitions.
 https://www.monagable.com.

Brahman. Meditation.

This little house of flesh that encapsules us

is no more than a leaf that falls,

a wave that crests.

It is a place

where a sliver of God

broke away to settle in a temporary home.

Try to be worthy.

Janice D. Soderling has published poetry, fiction, and translations in many print and online journals. Her most recent collection is Rooms and Closets.

The Fifth Ave ‘El’ Closed Today

The Fifth Ave ‘El’ closed today

And my mother grumbled as we

Trudged home from Downtown Brooklyn

To Bay Ridge, groceries in hand,

 

I swear I could hear her protests,

Even over the booming noise

Of the demolition charge

Coming from the ‘El’

As we walked,

My little sister falling behind.

Robert Ackerman is a former New Yorker, currently living in Florida. His poetry appeared in The Avalon Literary Review and The Dillydoun Review.

Misdreaming

Rats butterfly; morselmeals flutter and weave,

but something is terribly wrong.

The grass is rock, rigid, missing,

smooth and cold as the surface of the lab cage.

 

In 1959, a French researcher rewired the brains of housecats so they would move freely during sleep.

They crouched and twitched, froze, lunged and danced,

confirming what had always been assumed:

Cats dream of the hunt. He didn't write

how this strange bodyawake altered the dreams,

how apt the hunter to shift, closed-eyed, toward waking,

to sense something off in the landscape, in the prey, in herself,

the vague certainty her world had soured incomprehensibly,

irrevocably.

 

I am the professor, frittering my time

in mindless harm, amazed at myself

for discovering what everyone already knows.

And I am the cat. Soon

in a hospital bed or on some highway pavement

I will wake from my dream of the hunt,

of struggling to express myself, of being

a father, a husband, a friend, a citizen of the world,

to see that I have never been more than a dying animal.

Max Gutmann has contributed to dozens of publications including New Statesman, Able Muse, and Cricket. His plays have appeared throughout the United States and have been well reviewed (see maxgutmann.com). His book There Was a Young Girl from Verona sold several copies.

The Father, the Son

My father prays the way children say the pledge of allegiance,

The same rote script repeated over and over each Sunday meal

As if checking in, once again, to a dead radio through which

Not even static crackles, and life never changes: still, there are the sick

Who are unhealed, the travelers who don’t make it home in safety,

And even the occasional meal that, though blessed, will roil

In the gut at two a.m. and turn us into desperate believers, pressing our thumb

To the two-way radio mouthing a dumb Please, bloated with meaning.

 

So different, those Sunday prayers, from his weekday prayers,

Which are delivered in that tongue most familiar to God,

Those sighs, which translate, roughly, to

Father, help me get through it,

This life,

Which we’re told is a gift.

Goddfrey Hammit, born and raised in Utah, and lives in a small town outside of Salt Lake City. Hammit has, most recently, contributed work to The Ekphrastic Review and Amethyst Review, and is the author of the novel Nimrod, UT. goddfreyhammit.com.

Tsunami_by_hokusai_19th_century.jpg

Tsunami by Hokusai

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