Tag Archives: Free verse

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.

Old Shirts

By Mark Saba

My beloved T-shirts, worn ragged,
washed to the color of dust, yet
imprinted with my scent

carry everything I’ve witnessed—
their first days of my rejuvenation,
trial period of comfort, and final stretch

of willful obscurity—
as I met with triumph and despair
watching the orioles return,

my mother die, the sunlight of seawater,
my daughter admitted to rehab.
In the end I retire them

to the taboret of my painting studio
where, one by one, I use them to collect
excessive brushstrokes, unplanned arrays

of cadmium color, as I create new worlds
on a blank canvas, and those second skins
provide new comfort, their abandoned lives

awakened to new purpose.


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.

Tabula Rasa

By Mark Saba

Three of my books lie unopened.
My wife lies absently on the couch
gone to a digital novel world.

A fire heaves in its designated hearth.
I am in and out of it,
in and out of my thoughts

as my body grows older.
Lacking the courage to write them down
I flounder in semi-sleep

remembering the title of a news article
proclaiming the latest discovery: that
in our universe, present and future occur

simultaneously. I think about
the poems I’ve written, love letters,
fiction. It all comes back to me

yet future plans delete them
from my list of accomplishments.
There is too much death on the horizon,

a triumphant tabula rasa that will have
the final say, that I will remember
even when nothing is written.


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.

Poet Laureate

By William Doreski

In Walpole, certain streets climb
the ridge to lord it over
the square white village below.
I can see your condo from here,
tucked in a cluster of roofs.

Across the river a freight train
slinks along the shaky rails.
Further, the scalloped horizon
of the Green Mountains staggers
from south to north, scoring
its persistence into the sky.

Your married lover’s long dead,
and the space he occupied fills
with a shivery yellow mist,
so you’re surely writing something
crisp enough to float a load
of sentiment that otherwise
would sink the bravest metaphor.

Maybe when I walk back down
the ridge I’ll phone and invite you
to slurp coffee at the café 
and chat about the aesthetic
we’ve wasted our best years parsing.

Yes, I know you walk with a cane
and may not want to expose
your bulk to caprice of summer—
insects, thunder, and heat stroke.
Although we’ve never been friends,
today I think we should try.

But maybe you’re not even there
anymore, having slipped away
with a scrawled page smoldering
in your wake, every word as tough
as a promise made in vain.


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.

Urn Burial

By William Doreski

Two clay urns placed in a field
a hundred years ago collect
ashes blowing around the world.
Male and female from a time
when sex and gender were one.
They’re almost full. This summer

I’ll replace the two with several,
allowing the ether to sift
non-binary and others into
urns of their own. Our ancestors
would understand why secrets
have unfolded, exposing tattoos

we used to hide under our clothes.
Not that I’ve illustrated
my personal skin, but others
have adorned themselves so freely
I can’t help sharing their taste.
When I bury the urns, I’ll ask

priest, minister, rabbi, imam 
and pujari to officiate.
I’ll have the field consecrated
in at least two hundred languages.
Assembling so many liturgies
will fill the last, best years of my life.

I’ve already bought half a dozen
new urns, and found a new pasture
on an eastern slope to place them.
I hope this atones for my plain
agnostic life among strangers,
my awkward smiles and silence.

Indifferent to my diffidence,
the ash in the urns has toughened
into powerful black concrete,
competing immortalities 
gathered into a single substance
tough enough to speak for itself.


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.