Monthly Archives: May 2023

John Beaton, ‘A Many-Splendoured Thing?’

Is love a beaming, eye to eye? An oath—you-only-till-I-die?
A U that comes before an I? A hullabaloo-cum-lullaby?
A flirt? A tilting of the neck? An art? A Machu Picchu trek
back in time to that valiant peck on virgin cheek, that what-the-heck?

A brace of lovebirds who embrace instead of pecking cheeks, a plaice
whose eyes achieve a state of grace—as one on one side of its face?
A willing ear we learn to ration between soliloquies? A fashion?
The winning chips we hope to cash in from laying on the wheel of passion?

A bridle? Or a bridal dress? An if-you-love-me-you’ll… duress?
A scandal in the gutter press? A touch-me-there-uh-huh caress?
A smile without the crow’s-feet creases? A summer fling that never ceases?
A joining of two jigsaw pieces? A joke? A yoke with quick-releases?

Love grins with its beret askew, climbs up the sky and paints it blue
then turns the sun to shine on you and says, “You’re puzzled? Hey, me too!”


John Beaton writes: “This started with recollection of a joke by British comedian, Benny Hill: there’s quite a difference between ‘What is this thing called love?’ and ‘What is this thing called, love?’ I decided to come up with humorous answers and they started occurring to me in pairs of rhymed pairs.
I want this to be light and playful. I cobbled the answers together in octameter lines, each with two rhymed tetrameter halves, and configured the lines in three quatrains (aabb) and a rhymed couplet. The result has elements of the sonnet form—fourteen lines and a turn at the end of line twelve. I’ve also played with alliteration and internal rhyme.”

John Beaton’s metrical poetry has been widely published and has won numerous awards. He recites from memory as a spoken word performer and is author of Leaving Camustianavaig published by Word Galaxy Press, which includes this poem. (It is also in the Potcake Chapbook Rogues and Roses.) Raised in the Scottish Highlands, John lives in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.

What do you see through love?” by TW Chang is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Susan McLean, ‘Loving Mr. Spock’

At sixteen I was hooked on Mr. Spock,
not knowing why his cool control disarmed me,
while Kirk’s grand passions seemed a laughingstock—
each week another loved and left. What charmed me
was not, I think, Spock’s coldness, but my guess
that hidden urges gnawed at his resistance,
as mine gnawed me, his stoic loneliness
a shield against the claws of loss and distance.
I now know passion only lasts on ice.
Nothing attracts like those who do not want us—
or do, but can’t be had. The paradise
we own we do not see. It cannot haunt us
like that tall figure, silent and apart,
still burning in the black hole of my heart.


Susan McLean writes: “The world of the crush has laws more bizarre than any world of science fiction. The more impossible of fulfillment the crush is, the longer it lasts. If exposed to real contact, most crushes wither and are quickly forgotten, or are remembered only as some weird aberration in the past. But crushes that exist only in the mind can live on there forever. When I first wrote this poem, another poet tried to convince me that Leonard Nimoy was not very likeable in person. He didn’t understand: the crush was on Spock, not the actor who played him. And, even odder than that, the crush was on that character as filtered through my own mind at the time, part reflection, part projection. The alternating masculine and feminine rhymes that run through the first twelve lines of the poem mirror the union between the individual psyche and the animus/anima of its own creation.”

Susan McLean has two books of poetry, The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, and one book of translations of Martial, Selected Epigrams. Her poems have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Photo: “A bicycle wheel as a musical instrument?! The future is crazy. Rock out with your Spock out.” by Walnut Studiolo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Marcus Bales, ‘Helpless’

Life is one long horrible disease.
As victim or as witness it’s the same:
There are no opportunities to seize,
And helplessness leaves no one left to blame.
The path ahead seems only downward, slick
As running water on a plastic slide,
And pausing seems to be a magic trick
That never works however hard you’ve tried.
Eventually of course that blame gets laid,
No matter what you want. A gap, a fault,
A wall, some outside force that can’t be stayed,
And you become at one with the gestalt.
Some love, some fear, some cry, some laugh to death.
You cannot talk to addicts. Save your breath.


Marcus Bales writes: “This sonnet began as a set-up for a re-write of one of the terrible-pun-spoonerism poems from February 2023, and it sort of got away from me. It happens sometimes — you start out with one idea of what a poem is about and then the poem just won’t cooperate. At every line i was trying to tell the story of the alcoholic swami with cirrhosis who had been unfortunate enough to have married a woman who was impatient of inheriting, and who finally killed him when she weighed down upon the swami’s liver. As you can see, the poem was determined to have none of that, and went its own way, cleverly taking all the addiction and death for itself and leaving me with nothing I could use for my purposes. So to punish it I let it sit for a few months, hoping it would come to its senses and realize that the only way to see the light of day was to accept the purposes I had had in mind for it, but even there it was too smart for me, and kept quietly to itself until a day came when I hadn’t finished anything else. With a sigh and a shake of my head I posted it. So here it is.”

Not much is known about Marcus Bales except that he lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio, and that his work has not been published in Poetry or The New Yorker. However his ’51 Poems’ is available from Amazon. He has been published in several of the Potcake Chapbooks (‘Form in Formless Times’).

Helpless” by Scarlizz is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Richard Fleming, ‘Memento Mori’

An ambulance howls like a hurt cat;
parts traffic as Moses did the waves.
Worms burrow in awaiting graves.
A police car buzzes like a gnat.

Stuck in a jam of steaming cars,
I contemplate how life transforms
in moments. How they wait, those worms,
so patiently, for us, for ours.


Richard Fleming writes: “Ambulance sirens have been part of the soundtrack of my adult life, from the troubled years in Belfast to, more recently, my relatively tranquil life on the island of Guernsey.
There’s something about the sound, like that of a modern-day banshee, that chills the blood like no other. In common with all those who love unreservedly, I live with a constant fear of loss and a keen awareness of the terrible fragility of those things that we hold dear. This short poem attempts to articulate that fear.”

Richard Fleming is an Irish-born poet currently living in Guernsey, a small island midway between Britain and France. His work has appeared in various magazines, most recently Snakeskin, Bewildering Stories, Lighten Up Online, the Taj Mahal Review and the Potcake Chapbook ‘Lost Love’, and has been broadcast on BBC radio. He has performed at several literary festivals and his latest collection of verse, Stone Witness, features the titular poem commissioned by the BBC for National Poetry Day. He writes in various genres and can be found at or Facebook

Photo: “Ambulance” by gwire is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Gail White, ‘Money Song’

Money won’t buy you the moon and stars,
but trips abroad and enormous cars
and fancy drinks in exclusive bars,
can all be purchased with money.

Money won’t buy you wisdom and truth
or permanent beauty or lasting youth,
but it makes a very good substituth,
which makes it nice to have money.

The dog and the cat that you adore–
money won’t make them love you more,
but it keeps the wolf away from the door,
which is why I wish I had money.

I’d have a fabulous London flat,
a house in Provence and a Persian cat,
and I’d give up being a Democrat,
if only I had enough money.

When all the sins of excessive wealth
had left me ruined, by speed or stealth,
I’d still have memories of my health,
and the fun I had with my money.


Gail White writes: “I wrote the poem as a sort of updating of Arthur Clough’s ‘Spectator ab Extra‘, which has the refrain line ‘How pleasant it is to have money.’ Some things never change.”

Gail White is the resident poet and cat lady of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Her books ASPERITY STREET and CATECHISM are available on Amazon. She is a contributing editor to Light Poetry Magazine. “Tourist in India” won the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award for 2013. Her poems have appeared in the Potcake Chapbooks ‘Tourists and Cannibals’, ‘Rogues and Roses’, ‘Families and Other Fiascoes’, ‘Strip Down’ and ‘Lost Love’. ‘Money Song’ is collected in ‘Asperity Street‘. Her new light verse chapbook, ‘Paper Cuts‘, is now available on Amazon.

Photo: “Crowne-Gold-Silver-Bullion” by digitalmoneyworld is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Short poem: ‘Avalanche’

I wandered nowhere special in my past,
just drifted, looking, lonelyish, half-arsed.
Nor in my present is there brilliant light–
I drift, doze, dream, enjoy the day and night.
What then will help me through a magic door?
Sensing the future’s avalanche downroar.


This was published a couple of months ago in Snakeskin. Thanks, George Simmers!

The Magic Door” by h.koppdelaney is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Poem: ‘And, If I Could’

And, if I could, I’d sing my love with unicorns in chains of flowers,
With endless oceans greyly battering by misty moors,
With joyful hunting dogs with muddy paws,
With soft spring showers –
With anything eternal, wistful, happy, sad.
But all my dogs inside are snapping, yapping, mad,
My showers are wintry, my sea-shores are lined
With unkind tourists drinking bourbon,
And unicorns are dead, and flowers suburban.

And, if I could, I’d steal my love on midnight horse and overseas,
To city-sacking buccaneering round the reckless earth,
Settle at last to farm some quiet firth:
Goats, orchards, bees;
Explosive starts, wild-beating hearts, and peace at last.
But ungeared fantasies spin lies torn from the past:
I’m a slum-quarter city-sprouting weed,
My planted seeds die in deserted gardens,
My wandering’s my weak will; and my heart hardens.

And, if I could, I’d love my love with wayside flowers, fresh fruit, a kiss,
With secondhand-in-hand shops’ dazzling, puzzling oddities,
With evening at the theater or a fair,
With wordless stare,
With dreams and smiles, and laughter at my foolishness.
But all my city streets are drizzle and drains, not bliss;
Traipsing to shows and shops is soul-destroying,
And, toying with my rural lie,
Commitment-scared, I flee the searching Eye.

And, if I could, I’d give my love all children, chosen and our own:
Their love – their moody silences – their smiles like wind and sun –
Their seashell searching – riots – sense of fun –
Pregnant to grown
We’d share kaleidoscope Life’s spectrum-brilliant rays.
But I drift unfamiliar down decaying days
Where trees are concrete and the ground is stone,
Bemoan I knew but left that love…
And, if I could, you know I’d have my love.


This is a poem from my 20s, when I was more skilled at the creation of nonce forms. Formal poetry was essentially unpublishable at the time; decades later, this poem has just been published in David Stephenson’s Pulsebeat Poetry Journal.

File:Philadelphia Flower Show 2011 Unicorn of flowers HPIM4354.jpg” by Mary Mark Ockerbloom is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Maryann Corbett, ‘Dissonance’

We dress ourselves
from the Goodwill store
since Art has kept us
genteelly poor
and we laugh together
at how we’ve slummed
amid vocalises
and arias hummed
and the mirth for both of us
seemed sincere
so I joked, where others
would overhear,
about our finds
in the plaids and prints

and saw you wince.


Maryann Corbett writes: “Perhaps every poem that seems to portray one small moment is really a goulash of hundreds of moments. That’s certainly true of ‘Dissonance‘. There really was a friend who was a fellow singer, fellow poet, and fellow fan of the bargains to be found in charity shops. And there really was an awkward moment when I misjudged her feelings about artistic penury, a penury I’d escaped in a very un-artistic job. But folded into the writing of the poem were all my student years, years when I was much younger, much poorer, and much more in solidarity with friends still following their dreams.”

Dissonance‘ was first published in Mezzo Cammin, and gave its name to a 2009 chapbook collection published by Scienter Press.

Maryann Corbett earned a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota in 1981 and expected to be teaching Beowulf and Chaucer and the history of the English language. Instead, she spent almost thirty-five years working for the Office of the Revisor of Statutes of the Minnesota Legislature, helping attorneys to write in plain English and coordinating the creation of finding aids for the law. She returned to writing poetry after thirty years away from the craft in 2005 and is now the author of two chapbooks and five full-length collections. Her work has won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and the Richard Wilbur Award, has appeared in many journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and is included in anthologies like Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters and The Best American Poetry. Her sixth book, The O in the Air, is forthcoming from Franciscan University Press.

Photo: “Goodwill outlet store” by sparr0 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Using form: Susan McLean, ‘Cul-de-Sac’

The man who had a perfect lawn
forced his three kids to toil outside
till every dandelion was gone.

His wife, gentle and put-upon,
dusted the trophies of his pride
(for tennis, not his perfect lawn).

His son, advancing like a pawn
to keep his father satisfied,
chose, when his girl and job were gone,

to hit a bridge (or gun) head-on.
The neighbors whispered “suicide”
while walking past that perfect lawn.

The youngest, timid and withdrawn,
lived with her parents till she died
of cancer, but the oldest, gone

for decades, had skipped town one dawn.
When she died too, her parents lied
that she was fine. Their perfect lawn
remains. But all the kids are gone.


Susan McLean writes: “From the ages of six to sixteen, I lived on a suburban cul-de-sac, a more elegant term for a dead end. The neighbors I knew best, whose three children were around the same ages as the oldest three children in my family, came to symbolize for me the dark side of suburbia, the disturbing realities that lie behind the manicured exteriors and are never spoken of. Not until the father of that family died did we learn, from his obituary, that his oldest daughter, the one who was my age, had died several years earlier, of undisclosed causes. The mother, who played bridge weekly with my mother, had always said when asked about that daughter that she was ‘fine’.

I chose to tell this story in a variant on a villanelle in which only the last words of the repeating lines reappear: ‘perfect lawn’ and ‘gone’. That loosening of the form allowed more narrative to fill the lines, but the tolling repetitions of those words encapsulate, for me, the irony and tragedy of keeping up appearances in suburbia. The villanelle itself can be a straitjacket of a form, and the short tetrameter lines tighten it further, till it feels as though there is no way out.”

Susan McLean has two books of poetry, The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, and one book of translations of Martial, Selected Epigrams. Her poems have appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Able Muse, and elsewhere. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

An 8 Bedroom Vacation Rental” by Discount Vacation Rentals Online is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Nina Parmenter, ‘A Spell for Motherhood’

Take a mountain. Scale the pink-arsed flanks of it,
limb over limb. Find Poseidon. Extract from him a wave
and a horse’s hoof. Pluck a tree; kill the grip of it
by showing it your thoughts. Make your peace with the grave.
Eat apples, all of them. Taste in them the sin
of being a woman. Let that smack you in the gut,
you deserve it. Straddle the equator. Suck up its spin,
take it with you; feel your body snapping shut.
Learn to count each breath as an act of sedition.
Pull the lungs from a sleeping leopard. Be a speck.
Be a planet. Be a long-dead apparition.
Stuff a storm into your patch pocket, huge and wet,
but tell no one. Invent two new ways of shucking
a heart from a blown glass moon. Find a man. Fuck him.


Nina Parmenter writes: “This poem (first published by Atrium Poetry) was written in an online workshop in response to the prompt “a spell”. I wanted my spell to be impossible, to reflect the ineffability of motherhood, but I also wanted to talk about how the act of giving birth puts us right on the threshold of life and death. I felt that some kind of form was right for a spell, but needed the poem to feel raw rather than singy-songy, so I chose this unmetered sonnet form.
The last line was really a happy accident; I wrote the penultimate line (which originally ended with sucking, not shucking!) and then thought, “What rhymes with sucking?… OH.”  

Nina Parmenter‘s first collection “Split, Twist Apocalypse” is published by Indigo Dreams. Her work has appeared in Snakeskin, Light, Allegro, Raceme, Honest Ulsterman, The Lyric and Potcake Chapbooks ‘Houses and Homes Forever’. Her home, work and family are in Wiltshire.

Photo: “Magic Spell: Forward!” by RoguePriest is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.