Tag Archives: Dramatic poetry

That House

By Mark Saba

I sit on a dry patch
of colorless earth, an empty lot
situated neatly between two Depression-era
brown and tan brick homes.

There is no evidence of charred wood,
nor garden of tomato and pepper plants.
The lot has shrunken from its three-story home.
Now termites have no where to go

and bees search aimlessly for phantom flowers.
Even the front steps are gone. My stroke-stricken aunt
has no handrail to guide her, my grandmother
no place to grieve for a lost son.

I have no windows to wash for her,
nor adventures in her stoic attic.
We have only the sun now
but nothing seems to grow.

I am sitting in a desert
hoping to dream up a world
but a green awning hangs over me
keeping out the elements: the storms

of summer, tilled soil of spring,
scented air of Christmas
and inanimate fire
that consumes us all.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

On Reading the Death Certificate

By Mark Saba

On reading the death certificate
of my father, aged 29, my brother said
What do you make of the interval

between onset and death?
What do I make of the tiny cells
that stood ready to multiply

in the deepest part of his brain?
How long did they wait there?
In the interval between onset and death

he hopped the rooftops of a Pittsburgh
neighborhood with his cousin Ralph.
In the interval between onset and death

he sat diligently in a high school
political theory class, wondering what part of him
reared by Italian immigrants

might allow him to speak. In the interval
he sat with our mother in the booth
of the drug store soda fountain.

In the interval they found each other’s bodies
on their wedding night, amazed.
In the interval he drove over snowy roads

to pick up our grandmother from the 54C
streetcar, a boxful of pizzelles in her hand.
He measured out pills, elixirs, and ointments

in a profession that allowed him to find order
in a senseless world. In the interval
he forgot who he was, his senses slowly dulled

as he lay breathing in a hospital bed
surrounded by blinding lights, remembering
reels of home movies of us he’d shot

wondering what might have been real.


Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). His work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. He is also a painter and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

You Consider the Apples

By William Doreski

Your apples never ripen but 
drop green and hard from the tree.
A lack of confidence? Spraying
the flowers to fend off the deer
may discourage the fruit that later
dangles like Christmas ornaments.

Too much thinking. Like you
pondering childhood in Poland,
your father repairing scruffy 
autos from the Soviet Union
and your mother nursing children
abandoned by unwilling parents.

You breached the university
in a thunder of competing tongues.
You graduated with such triumph
it deflated the stark old regime,
leaving a wreckage of heroes
in foolish historical poses.

Now you consider the apples,
their small tough size, their weak
hold on the tree. You suspect
that capitalist norms disfavor
the old varieties of apple,
modest but firm, subject to worms.

Under the full moon of summer, 
you swear a vegan allegiance
that should move any flora to tears.
Meanwhile deep in the wormwood
the eggs of subversive insects
hatch with a tiny private sound.

You return to the house with a sigh
the color of rotting newsprint.
Those freshly hatched subversives
are plotting mindless tactics,
their instincts thicker than night,
advantaged by lack of language.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Mountain Laurel in Mason

By William Doreski

Nothing personal in splays
of mountain laurel enriching
the simple hardwood forest.

Driving through Mason, we gaze
at the surf of white blossoms
flaunting without a critique.

June days as thick as this one
require such floral displays
to endorse their other products.

Gnats, mosquitoes, and deer flies
gnaw and sip the acres of flesh
they claim as their heritage.

Have you noted the evil abroad?
Like and unlike the laurel it flaunts
ornamental but vicious motives.

Like and unlike the insect world
it subscribes to plain survival
without those stony excuses

we’re tired of refereeing.
To you the sky is always green.
To me the hills look yellow.

Fauves in our palates, cubist
in crudely grasping dimension,
we perk along the back roads

with all our senses tingling.
Parked by a marshful of lilies,
the far shore spackled with laurel,

we muse on the water level—
the lowered shoreline exposing
bullsheads rooted in the mud.

We can’t parse the entire world,
but mouthfuls catch our attention
and we speak in familiar tongues

of familiar textures and forms.
The evil putters about, wiping
its hands on its apron. Masons

wear aprons, and the town
of Mason sports an oversized
Masonic hall to make a point.

But laurel, not stone, dominates,
softening lines and easing the eye
away from the evil we spread

wherever we install our works—
the marsh only a naked spot
ripening in naked glare.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

Google translates

By A. Whittenberg

a dead language 
into life 
replacing the human touch
with automated ruminations  
so pee  becomes  a beverage 
let me explain,  
a computer 
thinks 
potus is urine 

hit refresh  
remove the stink


A Whittenberg is a Philadelphia native who has a global perspective. If she wasn’t an author she’d be a private detective or a jazz singer. She loves reading about history and true crime. Her other novels include Sweet Thang, Hollywood and Maine, Life is Fine, Tutored and The Sane Asylum.

Defense Mechanism

By Keith Kennedy

Just try and keep up
You slothsome and loathful pelicans
No way can you outrun a train
My cackling breath beating about your face
Is all you can hope for – or perhaps a sidelong
Shoulder glance filled with comtempt and achievement
But don’t give up – I need an audience to witness this
Astounding, devastating victory


Keith Kennedy is a Pushcart and Rhysling nominated poet working out of Vancouver. Find him on Twitter.

And Lay Dead on the Dry Ground?

By Keith Kennedy

Do I have more in me?
Can I remain forever arrogant
Believing that poetry comes out at the end of my mind?
Or forever pliable to those that tangle my strings
In their fingers?
Must I force myself on another muse?
To collect the tears and distill imagination?
How far am I willing to go for such angry and fickle
Mistresses?

How long before one takes pity – and puts the light to rest?
Will I notice when it’s gone?
Or will I write on, create monuments
Of stone for stone?


Keith Kennedy is a Pushcart and Rhysling nominated poet working out of Vancouver. Find him on Twitter.

Acceptance of a Good Time

By Keith Kennedy

Long lines and lashes
One sided conversations
Smoked lips, dry, haggard, painted
Salty breath, heir to temptation
Yet, angled dress, cut to the level of deniability
And swollen eyes from years of rejection
A dark cocktail, something with sediment
Left over after the sweetness is gone
Little hopes reflected in tear-sheen
Off the street lamps, off the mirror pools
Of the blackened street
Night time, not for decisions, for allowances
Curdled tongues, no longer speaking
Greasy fingers in difficult hair
Wet notes passed to waiting hands
And a silent trip, to dry run ecstasy
Simultaneous remorse, longing, performance
Until the utter emptiness, so easily deflected
Plays roundabout with coy severity
And there’s nothing left but empty eyes
And empty eyes, too frightened to look away


Keith Kennedy is a Pushcart and Rhysling nominated poet working out of Vancouver. Find him on Twitter.

Spines

By Sharon Whitehill

Untouchable at fifteen 
as porcupine quills.
Her sullenness spreads
like a rash.
Find her bunched 
in a ball on her bed.

Offer all the right words: 
Can you tell me what’s wrong? 
Silence. 
It’s okay to feel angry or sad
Furtive tear wiped away
but silence still. 

Stymied, empty of words, 
afraid she’ll bristle if I persist. 
Then, inspiration:
Would you like me to give you a backrub
Her wobbly I guess
belies the deliberate dullness of tone.

She unrolls, turns over, and I begin: 
vulnerable vertebra-bump 
at the base of the neck, 
curvature of the ribs, 
contours of wings at the shoulders, 
valleys and crests of the spine.

Over and over I knead my way down, 
her skin warm through the shirt.
Nowhere a spike or a spur.  
Finished, I bend, kiss her cheek, 
hear her voice soft, undefended, 
the first time in days.


Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems.

A Normal Grave

“As bright and affectionate a Daughter as ever God with His Image blest”

– 1871 epitaph for Florence Irene Ford in Natchez, Mississippi

By Sharon Whitehill

Florence Irene Ford, a child 
once so frightened of thunder
she clung to her mother whenever it stormed.
Her headstone bears a carved wreath,
at the foot an urn on stacked blocks;

A traditional grave but for a trap door behind it 
that gapes, a mechanical maw
with rust on its palate, hinges like teeth
clogged with clumps of dead grass, 
and five concrete stairs down its craw
with risers and treads too crumbled with age
to stave off invasion by galinsoga, 
gallant-soldier plant, green in a crevice.

A chasm the size of the tomb,
concrete walls dappled with damp
like an abstract of monochrome blots.
A six foot descent to a window of glass
with a view of a little girl’s casket.

A stark anteroom excavated 
so a mother could comfort her child    
in the belly of death.


Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems.