Welcome to the premier issue of Poetry Web, a new, juried, on-line poetry magazine.
You will find the contents of this magazine change weekly, as new poems are juried in. To submit your poetry, fill out this form.
You will find our jury's tastes are eclectic (and, alas, unpredictable). We will try to give you some comment on poems we reject, if we have your e-mail address. To aid bruised egos, please remember, our taste is only that. Our comments reflect our values, which may or may not coincide with yours. There are a thousand small press magazines with varied tastes; good luck hunting the right one for your writing.
While you're here, check out our other features with your back button, when you're done reading this magazine. You will find a slam page where you may try your luck with any poem you choose, discussions on the nature of poetry, and links to other poetry resources.
Join with us to make poetry alive on the web.
Rocking Emily in her dim blue room
her legs folded up to make her fit
her head wood-hard against my chest
her hair no longer the down I breathed
back when the dark between the blinds
was a known street:
I balk at this bigness, this weight on my heart
asking for a song to make her sleep,
as if she could, in such an awkward chair.
She would have made me give up my plans--a book,
a glass of tea--all for her whose body wants holding
the night, even as it grows like a field
and will swallow me whole the day my senses leave.
Suzanne U. Clark
(from Weather of the House, Sow's Ear Press
In the basement where slits in the stonework are threaded with
and vapors of bleach and gasoline alongside whiffs of earth
alloy the air, one begins to think differently
there on the steps breathing faint poison
and considering Jerome
who, with his foot on a skull, worked scripture--
in the damp where the cat ate its young
you sit for a long time.
Above you watery voices give you crickets
winding up the night at your feet:
the dark of your childhood, robed, coming toward you,
or outer darkness hunched over your father's body,
or darker: rage shaking you senseless, blurring
your son's white face: please, please.
How will you go up? How can you live in your house
without one word, one bright, unearthly, killing word?
Suzanne Underwood Clark
(from Weather of the House, Sow's Ear Press
Seeing mother's twin spoon in your house,
a bridal gift with the original gleam
and the U of our name an ornate little urn,
and then to see you my wishbone self, my father,
buttering bread in your illegal kitchen
asking to be called Roger
looking liberal and handsome in your ribbed sweater
looking familiar to me as you pour tea
though I can't quite place you,
acting like a man who forgot he already had a wife
and had another and thinks nothing of stepping out
on the porch at night to enjoy his camellias,
but his past comes doubling back
like the whole day's heat:
Dutchess, did you find a house?
Did my package arrive from Tripoli?
And after the war, to make heady plans with her
fingers touching across the table as sunlight
poured down as if to baptize the script my mother grasped
while you were looking her in the face,
her beautiful Bergmanesque face.
In those new-minted years she spent herself
on your stage, walking nights to a job in the city,
walking the floor with babies,
all for her soldier, home; her college man.
She planted dasies by the door.
But there was that you had not reckoned:
something in you, like snow up your sleeves
when you are small and far from the house
and the wind is pushing you the wrong way
and pushes you still, though rest is what you want,
you and yours in your house by the false river
the shining San Joaquin.
Suzanne U. Clark
(from Weather of the House, Sow's Ear Press)
Divested of time and shed of memory's
cheap veneer, you lay beneath the sheets
with the corners tucked just so.
Disease made you a relic not yet rendered
down to dust, suspended in florescent
light between the sacred and profane.
And though the brightwork in your eyes
still lingered, like spasms from two dying suns
occulting on the pale of reason,
breath's feeble habit barely stirred the air
around your mouth as the pulse unwound
the final rhythms of a weary requiem.
Your window opened on naked hills
stripped from heavy logging, except where
swaths of laurel wrapped the mangled earth;
and I recalled your color-plates
of the martyred saints--how often art
depicted torture as a splendid fortune.
But no ecstatic chords and no seductive
composition relieved your sterile
cubicle despite the hothouse flowers
that thrived beside the tubes and needles
dangled from your arm--just the low-slung
clouds clotted with the coming frost.
Then northward, where the fields rose
from the river, I saw a gauze of brightly
tender winter wheat, how it seemed to yield
a balm of green as if God's breath had fogged
fallow ground with life, frail as wisps
of tired hair, brief as air from quiet lips.
(from The Sow's Ear Poetry Review)
The lower blossoms wilted days ago,
drying into wads of crumpled tissue.
But the upper blossoms still unfold
slow-motion flames spindled up a slender
stem as if kindled on the lifeless flesh
of desiccated petals.
These blooms won't press
inside a bible, won't serve as keep-sakes
from a tardy spring delayed by freakish
snows that fell through Lent and well past Easter.
For a week at most, the petals spread their
glad pastels curving up the graceful stem
like a sabre hung with colored ghosts.
Chestnuts are the trees of love,
she said, and pulled a branch close to her face;
the blossoms smell like sex.
I wouldn't know. My sense of smell
is faulty, and much else as well.
But picking green barbed husky nuts
snarled in mats of shaggy grass wastes
an hour of the morning I dearly need to waste,
mornings being what they are these days-
long preludes to the afternoons,
which in turn are preludes to something else...
Chestnuts. Prying the shells open
requires a degree of dexterity.
even prudery: wicked little needle-balls
split in yawning X's along one hemisphere.
To crack the secret, guarded sweet,
I must spread the cleft still wider
with a probing finger:
and frequently I have wished
I'd been more cautious
when a point spikes beneath my nail
and pricks me to the quick.
Or when, as sometimes happens,
two fat well-formed nuts
fall into my palm, and a shake reveals
a stunted third, flattened and inedible,
crushed between the pair.
(from Literal Late
Lost in rural Georgia, we were
doing Jesus one better, driving
through one of those gully-washers
middle months churn up in humid
southern skies. The Caddy shimmied
in swarms of rain as a million
drops drilled needle-point tattoos
of shanty-towns and trailer-parks
rinsed opal in the shifting squalls.
Wipers skimmed two blinking moons
lush with peach and pecan groves
whipped by drenching scarves of wind.
Anvil-headed deacon clouds gathered
force as gospel stations ghosted by
then crinkled into static shards.
Bill-baords asked if we were saved,
and promised hell if we were not.
The front congealed and loosed a curtain,
cloaking lost and found in swirls
of opaque scud draped across the savaged
hills where heaven poured its wild excess
deep into the tangled growth and swelled
the sloppy, hootchy-koo Savannah,
bloated mother pythoness
spawning braids of pock-marked snakelets
beneath a bassinet of roots and vines
webbed into her soddy banks;
shimmer dear old Caddy, daddy's car,
shake and roll old rattling gospel--
the waters came, we leapt like harts
across the rich and sinful south.
(from Nebraska Review)
Truth is he could shoot like nobody's business:
snap shot. He had that trick of seeing,
and the gun became a faultless instrument,
a telescoping arm of will. And a drunk at that,
a stumbling, snot slinging, pathetic drunk.
That he spent hours as a boy splitting
three inch blocks of wood his father tossed
for him, busting them clean with a .22 rifle,
one hundred, two hundred in a row,
is not explanation enough. He was gifted,
and he polished that gift until it became
a curious, if slightly queer, expression.
Imagine this: shit-faced, on the verge
of the shakes, armed with an old Winchester
pump twelve, thirty two inch barrel--
a goose gun, really, shooting honest
doubles of trap, boxes of rounds without a miss,
the weapon intersecting space and time
booming twice in a tick, his sagging,
poisoned flesh convulsing with recoil,
a shuck-shucking of sweet smelling shells,
clay discs in the same instant transformed to dust.
He became his old man's trick, an incongruity
of sodden love and perfect timing.
He never drew a bead on any bird or beast--
too hung-over for one thing, and for the other,
his skill was seeing, pointing, calculating
proofs with rapid-fire theorems as tangents
angled into exploding resolutions,
until he drew one on himself.
At sunset he would drink and watch purple
martins carve arabesques of evening light.
His last night he tacked a strip of tin
outside his window so he could hear
the pattern of rain rinse clean and clear
the drunken dreams in which he split the moon.
(from Paisley Moon
You go back to a town called Sapling Grove. But you're
not fooled by the music of its name. You remember that only a
few miles away an elephant who killed her trainer was hanged.
Youth is suggested and there were plenty of seasoned hands--
neighbors, uncles, aunts, teachers who had taught your father and
older brothers--to prune and bend. Men worked at the pulp mill,
the glass factory, or the tannery. Women put cornbread in their
ovens when four o'clock whistle blew.
You remember leather sandles your father made you every
spring and how he tested your swing with his own weight. A
creek and swamp dared you every year to jump farther, go deeper
for the fattest cattails. Switches from a forsythia bush curbed
your sassy tongue.
Painted lips and mixed bathing were preached against--
young men and women warned of their Adam natures even as
they blossomed into being. Dying was accepted. And the dead,
no sooner than the dirt was dropped, they were back--in stories
and admonitions, their eyes watching from a brother's face, their
crumpled ears stuck on a grandchild's head.
You notice now how cramped the room where the old
woman waited for you to brush her hair, a box of buttercreams
on her dresser. She's dead. And Old Tom who milked the cows.
The state line still splits the town in two. Nothing else is the
same. You can't stay. You wouldn't want to. But it's your
birthday, and you've come back to see the forsythia in bloom.