She, Barkeep, to Him, Barfly by Thomas DeFreitas

She, Barkeep, to Him, Barfly

Sometimes you’d really get to me, y’know?
Fifty-cent vocab and a slacker’s gut,
you’d guzzle Newcastle ’til you browned out
on the barstool where you left a pair of cheek-prints.

Still—lavish tipper! Oh, you’d never stiff me,
but really, forty percent? Shoot, you must have
wanted me more than the dark English stout
you’d use to ease your Niles Crane love-fluster.

I gave you grief. You took it straight, no chaser,
never flinching from my ashtray trash-talk,
my moods as changeable as late October.

I miss you sometimes, kid. You weren’t a jerk.
And I know I could be a piece of work.
And hey, good luck, I heard you’re getting sober.

by Thomas DeFreitas

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dylan0618/
Instagram: @thomasdef1969

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s use of first person point of view illustrates a gritty narrative from the inside, inviting the reader into empathy without sentimentality.

Desire in the Time of Pandemic by Carole Greenfield

Desire in the Time of Pandemic

Something that I never did and now do every day
Count the hours that forever keep our lives apart
Tick them off my fingers one by one, each time I say
The only way that this will end is with a broken heart.

Count the hours that forever keep our lives apart
While our energy connection yet spells us and enchants
The only way that this will end is with a broken heart
Still we edge ever closer to the possibility of chance.

While our energy connection yet spells us and enchants
Our longing yearns across the continents and oceans
Still we edge ever closer to the possibility of chance
Reason is submerged beneath the storms of our emotions.

Our longing yearns across the continents and oceans
Before desire’s rising tide, my defenses crumble
Reason is submerged beneath the storms of our emotions
All I want to do is take you into bed and tumble.

Before desire’s rising tide, my defenses crumble
On soul and body level, we both know what we are missing
All I want to do is take you into bed and tumble
We shall spend those endless counted hours kissing.

On soul and body level, we both know what we are missing
Tick them off my fingers one by one, each time I say
We shall spend those endless counted hours kissing
Something that I never did and now do every day.

by Carole Greenfield

Editor’s Note: This lovely pantoum’s repetitive form perfectly captures the tension of love, desire, and distance.

Work Until Rain by Ed Hack

Work Until Rain

It rained as soft as loving hands at ease
as afterwards, as sapphire wings that glide
the light-filled air in summer’s sweet release
that offers stricken hearts a gentle guide.
I’d worked until the sky turned dirty gray,
the forecast was correct, then air turned spice,
perfume of heat, macadam, rain—the day
a brew I deeply sniffed, a sudden prize
as unexpected, calming, as loved eyes.
I put my tools away, vac’d saw dust from
the floor, then sat in the garage, surprised
in part the way what is at bottom stuns,
and watched, breathed in the honeyed scent of rain,
and tired and satisfied, I was sustained.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s unexpected pivot from stately philosophy to concrete images mirrors the emotion the speaker feels when one suddenly swims up from work to find the world perfectly beautiful.

One Piece at a Time by David Stephenson

One Piece at a Time

It starts with little things you hardly miss,
taken while you look the other way,
and every year there’s just a little less,

as when a steady, unobtrusive hiss
continually drains air or steam away.
The little things are easy to dismiss

as you are out attending to business,
focused on collecting your day’s pay,
and though you see each year there’s less and less

you’re confident it can’t go on like this,
that someone will step in and save the day
and bring back all the little things you miss—

but you have mis-assessed the whole process,
the things in motion, the advanced decay.
With every year you’ll learn to live with less

until you’re frog-marched into the abyss,
and as the light fades you’ll hear others say
It started with some things we hardly missed
and suddenly we find there’s nothing left.

by David Stephenson

Editor’s Note: The villanelle form lends itself beautifully to this poem’s central theme of slow erosion.

Shark Facts by Charles Weld

Shark Facts

I’m being quizzed by a nine-year-old about p.s.i.,
how the pounds per square inch of a Bull Sharks’ bite
compare to the jaw’s pressure of a Great White
Shark. I guess one hundred, and get an amused sigh
which means I’m way off. “Higher”, he says, as I go
up in increments, a little too halting and slow
for his liking. “Higher,” he urges, then impatiently
gives me the answer. Six hundred plus for the Great
White, a thousand or more for the Bull. After that, he
begins to ask about each animal’s length and weight.
And I think of Thoreau’s sentence—Let us not underrate
the value of a fact—that he wrote in an early book review,
each, a surveyor’s stake, put down to help us arbitrate
the vastness, and, with some luck, find our way through.

by Charles Weld

Editor’s Note: This sonnet somehow manages to capture the curiosity of a child while also paying homage to an adult’s need for order. By the end, the reader remembers to enjoy the wonder that some facts offer.

Yard Sale by Devon Balwit

Yard Sale

Day one was an honest mistake. Eight hours
selling junk unearthed from the basement,
and I never thought to market my verse—

my hard-won collections surely of a different
sort than ugly sweaters and old records.
And people were buying—neighbors and strangers went

home satisfied. Day two, I made sign boards:
Got poetry? Support a local artist.
I prettified a basket and set it out towards

the street. The covers were nice, the titles suggestive.
You can guess how the story ends. Two sales.
True, it was Sunday. Fewer people passed.

In my hope, I had forgotten what’s proven the rule:
poetry is mostly for the poet—that lonely fool.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: This poem’s slant rhyme lulls the reader into thinking that the perhaps the speaker isn’t sonnetizing at all, but then the last two lines fool everyone back into reality.

Sweet Evocations by Kathryn Duroseau

Sweet Evocations

My mother talks to me about college while I’m looking outside the window at the blackberry bush and memories arise.

My grandmother, Mimi, is cutting us mangoes, their skin flushed from the ever giving sun, the promise of golden sweetness within.

That summer has been going by so fast, in a blur of cherry and juniper green.

My sister and I share a punnet of berries in my bed and the sunlight plants us in this moment.

I take my time to smell the mango in the kitchen and to taste the strawberries Papi has been growing in his garden.

Mimi’s wrinkled hands are scattered with lines and sunspots that remind me of yellow freckled bananas; she is ripe now.

I stand on my toes peeking at the baby. My aunt finally comes home after spending days in the hospital. She comes closer to me and reveals a little head with pink cheeks.

I love oranges and how they give their fragrance to the air. I always ask Mimi to give me some, ignite memories of sun-kissed summer days.

In the mornings, I cut apple slices into moon shapes, to feel like a child but I eat the skin.

I am 8 years old grabbing my mom’s skirt and begging her to let me spend the spring days with Papi because it meant planting runner beans, courgettes and more.

My sister and I are running, our feet kissing the land, laughing and screaming.

My knees always looked like pomegranates. That’s what Papi tells me while cleaning the blood off of them and gently patting them.

I can see my grandparents dancing together under the silver moon. I believed what kept them young at heart was the purity of the Martinican’s light and how it gave them the gift of dance.

My sister and I are not yet grown, soft as a peach’s flesh.

When I think back, that summer is like bruised blackberries , syrupy and imperfect and so full that the juice bursts and drips down my chin.

by Kathryn Duroseau

Editor’s Note: The poet called this poem a zuihitsu, and true to the form, the fragmented chaos of each stanza evokes a delightful resonance with both essay and imagery, granting the reader a cohesive snapshot of a life.

Passing by Ed Hack

Passing

The mournful early morning rain-soaked train
call softened by the sodden air calls through
the woods then vanishes like midnight rain
that pounded down so we don’t miss what’s true—
we’re tethered by a fine silk thread that’s strong
as life but snaps when fate decrees and we
go to the dark where we began. Our song
now sung, if song it was, we are set free
and disappear from light and day and night
from voices that we love, from coffee’s smell,
from everything we are and sense, the sight
of sky and bird and grass, the witch’s spell
of life. Today, a mother, wife, and friend
will pass into that dark that has no end.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet speaks of grief, and the sudden, shocking realization that life is short.

Gooseberry Island at Sunset by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Gooseberry Island at Sunset

There isn’t a beach, just rocks the size of small
regrets. They’re flat and long enough for two.
The water’s deep, and swimming, as we knew,
would be a danger. Instead, we stumble, crawl
along and find our spot. Like snakes, we ball
together, gather warmth amidst a slew
of crying gulls, and watch the sun fall through
its day to meet the ocean near the seawall.
This is our quiet place. We’re not too old
or stubborn to repent for our misdeeds.
We’re not afraid of words, the bitter or harsh.
Our fangs have dulled, and we’ve made tiny toeholds
on the slipperiest of rocks. Our needs
are simple. We’ll sit here until it’s dark.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in Crannóg

Editor’s Note: The first sentence of this sonnet grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go.

An Ode to Poison by Irena Pasvinter


An Ode to Poison

In shadow depths of wild woods
A flower grows amongst the trees,
So marvelous the blossom looks —
Delicious food for hungry bees.
Don’t stop to breathe its magic smell
Or touch its lovely petals. Go!
Or, stricken by its deadly spell,
On mossy carpet you shall fall.

On crumbling leaves of dusty books
A poem flows amongst the prose,
So marvelous it sounds and looks —
Delicious food for hungry souls.
Don’t stop to savor it but leave.
Don’t read, don’t listen, but depart,
Or, stricken by its fragrant grief,
Forever changed shall be your heart.

by Irena Pasvinter

Editor’s Note: The clever near repetition of the first stanza primes the reader for the second, but then the last line unexpectedly cuts open the heart with truth.