When, at last, auditions ended parts were cast and roles assigned. By the time the vows were taken expectations had declined.
She replaced the silk with sweatshirts He drank beer instead of wine, They had tired of pretending Both agreed that it was fine.
Sometimes laundry went unfolded, furniture grew thick with dust. They had made accommodations Every happy couple must.
When her garden went unweeded when he failed to take out trash they hung in there, through the hard times long on love, though short on cash.
Through the years of strife and struggle, obstacles they couldn’t plan they held fast, to face the future- each the other’s biggest fan.
Leading man and leading lady both had heard the casting call. Their romantic comedy became the envy of us all.
Kathy Lundy Derengowski writes: “I selected this poem for submission, because it is one that just “fell into place” and because it still captures the essence of a satisfying marriage.”
Kathy Lundy Derengowski’s work has appeared in Summation, California Quarterly, Silver Birch Press, Autumn Sky Daily, Turtle Light Press, the Journal of Modern Poetry, as well as the latest Potcake Chapbook, ‘Houses and Homes Forever‘. She has won awards from the California State Poetry Society and was a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards poetry chapbook category.
Although she does not have a website or blog, you can find a reading of a few of her earlier poems on YouTube under Kathy Lundy Derengowski.
I just came from The Seagull, and it’s still the tour de force it was when it was written. The jaded past, a tragic Russian vaudeville, ushers in the star-struck and the smitten, the ingénue, the predator, hard-bitten, artists in a trance-like state and sordid, bewitched by when and how they’ll be rewarded.
Success too young is said to be a curse for writers—yours was neither smug nor rude. By twenty-one, your stories filled a purse to pay your famished family’s rent and food. Your father’s violence had finally been subdued. Doctor, writer, you could dress a wound or stage a scene of pettiness lampooned.
Though philistines have claimed your plays lack action there are secret histrionics of the mind where characters break through the stupefaction and character unfolds when it’s confined. Whether tight, oblivious or blind, the diva crippled by her little fame reveals herself in fear of change, or shame.
Your plays still plumb the interplay between words and silence, plotlessness and plot in which you show an uneventful scene composed entirely of what was not to be—the spent emotion scattershot around the stage in wraiths of lost pretension, and meaning haunted by the fourth dimension.
How women loved Antosha! You could be flippant, daring, timid, or a charmer. Biographers today are on a spree: computers link to lovers and their armor, unsigned stories, letters to a farmer, notes on pets. But did your gentle crane mean more to you than Masha or demesne?
And Lydia Avilova! Tantamount to love affair or game of cat-and-mouse, no one could say by reading her account of unrequited love, the empty house once lent by friends, your hunch her child and spouse (Karenina, or Lady with a Dog?) would haunt her like a countermarch, a fog.
Or worse. Perhaps it was her child for whom you stopped. Could she have let him go? It might have meant despondency and doom, and why should history have the need to know? Eventually Avilova’s book would show the years you spent inventing cryptic ruses, the stifled passion, the letters bearing bruises.
Four years before you died, you took a wife, the theater’s Olga Knipper—Like a colt, you said—who thrived on acting, laughter, life, and you. Your own Teutonic thunderbolt. Masha would be the sister in revolt. She’d broken her engagement years before at your insistence. Masha was keeping score.
Juggling marriage, jealousy, TB, and writing plays, in Yalta you missed Moscow, Olga, the theater—in Moscow you craved the sea, the ease, the heat. You dreaded every flow of springtime melt, the break of ice and snow. With spring came spitting blood, and you were weak. Writing was a trial. You couldn’t speak.
In youth, you wrote: Of all the doctors in town, I am the sorriest case. My carriage is broken, my horses mangy, I don’t know the roads, I frown at night and still can’t see, and I’m awoken by pleas for cash, of which I’ve none. Unspoken disease is rampant. I tire very quickly, practice medicine gratis, and am sickly.
My paraphrase, and fraught with emendations. The tragedy is clear. The truth is that you struggled with the people’s deprivations and gave yourself away sans caveat. En route to France’s kinder habitat, you died a “doctor’s death”—TB, champagne, the German spa, and morphine for the pain.
Terese Coe writes: “The letter-poem speaks for me.”
Terese Coe’s poems and translations have appeared in Agenda, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Moth, New American Writing, New Writing Scotland, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Review, Potcake Chapbooks, The Stinging Fly, Threepenny Review, and the TLS, among many other journals. Her collection Shot Silk was listed for the 2017 Poets Prize. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terese_Coe
The sun comes out. Street-closing hills that climb Below the scoops of cumulus from Wales Are woodland backdrops lit for pantomime, Bright as the ribbons round the horses’ tails.
Where steam-frilled dung and strawy puddles mix In iron pens, the mud-scaled cattle groan; The auctioneers outbawl the rapping sticks And rattling bars and hobnails scraped on stone.
Lost in the din, the gaiters, boots and wheels, The lambs cry, unregarded. Overhead, The clock, white marble up in front, conceals That all behind is brickwork’s weathered red.
A stray dog pauses, sniffs, then, deaf to shouts, Swings up its leg against a net of sprouts.
Jerome Betts writes: “I’m attached to this piece, first printed in Pennine Platform, as it began as wispy free verse in university days and gradually metamorphosed over many years. The bellowing from the market punctuated lessons in a West Midlands cathedral city and other elements were attracted, like the ribbons in the horses’ tails and then a reminder of the street-ending hills in a small town in Castilla y León, and the closing couplet from another in the East Midlands.But, aided by the grappling-hook of rhyme, something unexpected emerged from the depths and took over with the lambs and the clock, often an intriguing result of struggling with formal constraints.”
Jerome Betts was born and brought up on the Welsh border, but now lives in South Devon, where he edits the quarterly Lighten Up Online. In addition to articles and verse in consumer and specialist magazines his work has appeared in Pennine Platform, Staple and The Guardian, as well as anthologies like The Iron Book of New Humorous Verse, Limerick Nation, Love Affairs At The Villa Nelle, and The Potcake Chapbooks 1 & 2, and online at Amsterdam Quarterly, Angle, The Asses of Parnassus, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Better Than Starbucks, The Hypertexts, Light, The New Verse News, Parody, The Rotary Dial, Snakeskin, and other sites.
That was my first job, he said, as we gazed at the insignificant window. Down the slate steps, and looking from the raised salt-pitted pavement, where this end of town gets hammered by the sea, it looked so small. But sturdy, strongly-made enough to prove that here his father fitted him with all the craftsmanship he’d need. It wouldn’t move or crumble. Each year he’d return, to see his work enduring. Then brought me, to know a detail of our family history and let this shabby mullioned window show something inherited – that stone and wood, well-built, can last a lifetime and go on drawing the clean light in and doing good. I think about it often now he’s gone.
D A Prince writes: “Sometimes a poem travels far further than expected. When I wrote ‘The Window’ I felt it was a quiet and, for me, unusually personal poem which would have a limited readership. It was published in South, and the editors subsequently submitted it to the Forward 2020 Anthology. I was pleased they had chosen it but given the cutting-edge nature of the Forward anthologies I never thought it would be selected. After all, it’s formal; that’s not how twenty-first century poetry is. To my astonishment it was selected and included — perhaps a reminder that rhyme and metre are still part of our landscape.”
D A Prince lives in Leicestershire and London. Her first appearances in print were in the weekly competitions in The Spectator and New Statesman (which ceased its competitions in 2016) along with other outlets that hosted light verse. Something closer to ‘proper’ poetry followed, with three pamphlets, followed by a full-length collection, Nearly the Happy Hour, from HappenStance Press in 2008. A second collection, Common Ground, (from the same publisher) followed in 2014 and this won the East Midlands Book Award in 2015. HappenStance published her pamphlet Bookmarks in 2018. Light verse continues to be an essential part of her writing as a way of honing technical skills while having fun.
I’ve suffered, but I can’t quite sing the blues.
My troubles are occasional, not chronic.
My angst is true, but not the kind you’d use
against the everyday, to find or lose
your heart. My chords are major and harmonic.
I’ve suffered, but I don’t dare sing the blues.
Any attempt would probably amuse,
but not in ways your songs have made iconic.
Your angst is true, while mine’s nothing to use
in threatening to blow a major fuse
or skip to Paris on the supersonic.
I’ve not suffered enough to sing the blues.
Saying I have is asking for a bruise.
You’ll throw tomatoes. They’ll be hydroponic.
This angst is true, but nothing I can use
to make you say mine is the pain you’d choose.
The plates I spin are porcelain, not tectonic.
I suffer from a need to sing the blues
with insufficient angst, too kind to use.
Claudia Gary writes: “I chose this poem because people have seemed to enjoy it at various readings, as did the wonderful editors who chose to include it in “Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle.” Also, villanelle is one of the forms I love to teach at writer.org—currently online, so people can “Zoom” from anywhere in the world and wear their pajamas to class.”
Claudia Gary teaches villanelle, sonnet, and meter “crash courses” at The Writer’s Center (writer.org). A three-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award and semifinalist for the Anthony Hecht prize (Waywiser books), she is author of Humor Me (David Robert Books, 2006), chapbooks including Genetic Revisionism (2019), and poems appearing in journals and anthologies internationally. She also writes chamber music, art songs, and health/science articles. See also pw.org/content/claudia_gary, @claudiagary (twitter), and claudiagarypoet (instagram).
We choose what gives us meaning. I
chose you. That’s why
when people ask
me to unmask
and tell them if I’m ‘happy’, they
head off astray:
that’s not the glue.
But what I knew –
in the first minute, when we met
(part pledge, part threat) –
was that our text
Of course, it’s only when you turn
the last page, learn
its backward view,
say farewell too,
that you can fully understand
an author’s plan.
So bugger books
and how we’ll look
to hooked, impatient readers who
will hurry through
to reach the end.
Leave that unpenned.
Tom Vaughan writes: “The poem I would choose to represent myself, Save the Last Page for Me, first published in Staple, represented a particular challenge. I’d come across the form (‘minute’ poems, i.e. 60 syllables in each stanza, with rhyming couplets and a pattern of four or two foot lines) which it was suggested was only for comic poetry. I wanted to say something serious, and hope I succeeded. Writing the poem was also another reminder that at least sometimes the more you work within the confines of a strict form, the more you discover what you wanted to say. The poem is about my wife, Anne.”
Tom Vaughan is not the real name of a poet whose previous publications include a novel and two poetry pamphlets (A Sampler, 2010, and Envoy, 2013, both published by HappenStance). His poems have been published in a range of poetry magazines. He currently lives and works in London.
Murder needs no formality of gats,
violin cases or fedora hats
or any other long-outdated memes.
Murder is merely social discord that’s
taken to interpersonal extremes.
Murder. Here we present victims ranging from the unidentifiably unknown to the rich and powerful, and from the time of the Emperor Constantine to the present day. It appears to be something with which we humans are permanently infected.
The poems–all formal, of course!–are as usual in a variety of forms. This chapbook contains sonnets, a double dactyl, quatrains, rubaiyat, parody and nonce forms. They were authored by Potcake newcomers A.M. Juster, Marilyn L. Taylor,LindaAnn LoSchiavo andFrank Hubeny, and old-timers Chris O’Carroll, Marcus Bales, Vera Ignatowitsch, Noam D. Plum,Michael R. Burch and myself. And powerfully illustrated, as always, by Alban Low.
For the price of a fancy greeting card you can, through the wonders of PayPal, get this 16-page chapbook online for £2.60 + £1.20 P&P to a UK or European address, or £2.60 + £2.20 P&P to a Worldwide address.
Or you might prefer to browse themes and poets here, and photos and bios here, and choose between poems on travel, or love affairs, or the working life… or relatives, or modern life, or poems to amuse and amaze. Life, after all, is more than just Murder!
That trees would die
yearly, we knew. The columns of the nave
of Summit Avenue, the architrave
of openwork where canopies unfold,
green or briefly gold,
the arched, leaf-dripping limbs
backlit with sky—
in every year, some go.
Some ends arrive with force: the papers warn
with pictures, after every storm,
of fallen branches, hollow at the heart,
or great trunks snapped apart,
battering cars and houses with the blows.
(We knew, but now we know.)
Some ends are quiet: the red
stripes appearing, like a garotting wound,
on trunks where the inspectors found
beetles in bark, bare limbs lurking in shade.
The tree crew and the chainsaw blade
will come—we know now—soon—
The stripe says, This is dead.
They make short work of things
with sweat and cherry pickers, saws and zeal
rope and rappelling acrobatic skill
and limb-shredding machines.
Only the stump remains
and is soon sawdust: nothing left to chance
but next year’s fairy rings.
No help for it, then.
This cut to sky, this coring of the heart.
These trees too far apart.
This just delivered balled-and-burlapped stick,
its trunk two inches thick,
decades from beauty. What we always knew:
We start again.
Maryann Corbett writes: “All day today I’ve been hearing, and sometimes watching, the process of the removal of my neighbor’s enormous elm, which peeled apart suddenly in a recent storm, exposing a hollow core. I was reminded that I’ve seen this process so many times in my city that it prompted a poem over a decade ago, and it’s a poem I’m happy to remember. It first appeared in The Lyric and is included in my second book, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter.”
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 creating 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, five full-length collections already published, and a forthcoming book. Her fifth book, In Code, contains the poems about her years with the Revisor’s Office. Her work has won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize, 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 2018.
My seraph, enter. Here’s the deck you bade
Me fly beyond the Gates to fetch. We’ll kneel
Beneath this verdant tree’s unstinting shade,
Unearthing all your heart desires. Let’s deal.
I’ve drawn your future card. Does this reveal
Some truth to you: this Six of Swords I’ve played
That paints a boatman on a blade-pierced keel?
My seraph, enter. Here’s the deck you bade
Me burnish to a shine. You’ve always stayed
Our cosmic course, but now you wish to steal
Away by sea upon this ship you’ve made
Me fly beyond the Gates to fetch? We’ll kneel
Beseechingly before His judgment’s steel
For this infraction. Think before you trade
Celestial wings for shawl. Return to heel
Beneath this verdant tree’s unstinting shade.
What’s that? This passenger, the mortal maid
Our card depicts, denotes your soul’s ideal?
And tedium’s degraded our crusade,
Unearthing all your heart desires? Let’s deal
Then with the Throne when need decrees. Conceal
Your downcast head; pin back your wings arrayed
In fear. I’ll steer this vessel’s rigid wheel
And whisper, when we reach the port portrayed,
“My seraph, enter.”
Mindy Watson writes: “The Seraph and the Six of Swords” originally appeared as a February 2018 Star*Line Editor’s Choice poem. This rondeau redoublé—which at face-value chronicles one disaffected and divination-inclined angel convincing another (via a contraband tarot card deck) to thwart angelkind’s “cosmic course” and set sail for unknown shores—began unassumingly enough in 2017, with one Dark Tranquility song phrase—”Enter, suicidal angels”—that I couldn’t scrub from my subconscious. Because, at the time, I was also some three weeks away from starting what I (correctly) suspected would be an operationally thrilling, yet all-consuming new job, this poem served not only as a mentally grounding reiteration of my sincerest loves—mythology, individualism, rejection of unsubstantiated strictures—but also a vehicle by which my then two warring selves—the timid self clinging to comfortable complacency versus the brave self hellbent upon exploration despite the costs—could enact a healthy, internal dialogue. While the poem obviously features a “winner” of sorts, I intentionally framed the poem’s overall trajectory and final concluding stanza to favor, instead of the rebellious self’s unliteral triumph, a perspective blending by which—as the titular Six of Swords tarot card depicts—two entities/selves willingly embark upon a forward-looking journey where, while one serves as instigator/primary traveler and one serves as grounding facilitator—both ultimately undertake the voyage. While I rather compulsively followed “Seraph and the Six of Swords” with two rondeau redoublé sequels (respectively titled “The Fallen Angel’s Ace of Wands” and “The Guardian at the Gated Tower,” which appear in Star*Line’s Spring and Summer 2018 issues) that extend the featured angels’ saga, this original remains my favorite. And while a seemingly mundane job shift originally inspired “Seraph,” I can’t help but re-visit it mid-2020, as we stand stricken by a global pandemic’s impacts, upon the precipice of another pivotal U.S. presidential election decision. For better or worse, the journey continues, spurred forward—I hope—by our “better angels.”
Mindy Watson is a formal verse poet and federal writer who holds an MA in Nonfiction Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. Her poetry has appeared in venues including Eastern Structures, the Poetry Porch, the Quarterday Review, Snakeskin, Star*Line, and Think Journal. She’s recently also appeared in Sampson Low’s Potcake Poets: Form in Formless Times chapbook series and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s 2019 Dwarf Stars Anthology. You may read her work at: https://mindywatson.wixsite.com/poetryprosesite.
The cloudy image on the lake
Comes from the gracious morning light
We left the darkness of the night,
Became aware of what’s at stake.
We now renew, rejoice, remake,
Reflect on what we know as true.
Our part seems small, like morning dew,
But later when the victory’s won
We may find out it was well done
And fully know and be known too.
Frank Hubeny writes: “I often write to prompts. I know other people who are also participating in the prompt will at least give the poem a glance. Ronovan is one of the many people out there posting writing prompts. He has a weekly Décima Poetry Challenge. This form has ten 8-syllable lines with a particular rhyme scheme: abbaaccddc. I do like the sound of four beats per line. I often post my own photos and so write about them if the theme of the prompt permits. For this poem I posted two photos of clouds on a pond in Techny Prairie in Northbrook, Illinois. The last line of the poem is intended to suggest 1 Corinthians 13:12 about seeing reflections, knowing in part and then knowing fully and being fully known. The being “fully known” is what was foremost in my mind. That thought along with the reflections on the pond in the photographs and Ronovan’s challenge to use the word “true” as a rhyme word in a décima motivated me to write this poem.”
Frank Hubeny lives between Miami Beach, Florida, and Northbrook, Illinois. He has been published in The Lyric Magazine, Snakeskin Poetry Webzine, Ancient Paths Literary Magazine, Visual Verse and Vita Brevis. He regularly posts photographs, short prose and poetry to his blog, https://frankhubeny.blog