Saturday, January 31, 2015

Poem of the Day: “The Map” by Callie Koeval

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “The Map” by Callie Koeval.  Miss Koeval is a high school junior living in North Carolina. Songs of Eretz was the first opportunity for publication she took during the five years she's been writing. Aside from reading and writing poetry, she enjoys listening to music, playing guitar, and spending time with friends. 

The Map
Callie Koeval

You said my body was a map,
I said "it's worth exploring"
In hopes that entertaining your desire
would satiate your hunger for submission

I told myself that you would love me,
A paltry price to pay--
After all, it's only skin, and maybe then--
I told myself that I could love you

But love is not the touching of your hands
and love is not my words when I pretend;
It's everything I've learned from secret sin--
Simply that it comes and goes.

I became a safety net for you,
A ragdoll for primeval urges
I drained my light and novelty
for false perpetuality

Nothing that you asked for was denied
And now your caged songbird, she has died
Upon finding, to her dismay, you had lied--
You threw your map away.

Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this piece to encapsulate something many teenagers go through: sacrificing themselves physically for a significant other in hopes of attaining reciprocated love. I aimed to embody the feelings of abandonment and manipulation that would come with being used in such a way.

Editor’s Note:  The map conceit is brilliant, and the raw emotion of this piece really shines.  Songs of Eretz is honored to be the first venue to publish the work of this promising young poet.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Poem of the Day: “If I Only Had A Brain” by Ross Balcom

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “If I Only Had A Brain” by Ross Balcom.  Mr. Balcom is a counselor living in southern California. His poems have appeared in Beyond Centauri, inkscrawl, Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Tigershark, and other publications, as well as regularly in the Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine. Currently, his favorite poets are John Ashbery, Lo Fu, and Michael McClure. In addition to poetry, his interests include parapsychology, hypnosis, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

If I Only Had A Brain
Ross Balcom

forgive me.

I left
the farm.

Now I sit
in my apartment,
counting pixels.

comes to this.

Everyone a prisoner
of the glowing screen.

There is a knock
on my door.

I don't answer.

It is a scarecrow,
begging for a fix.

But I have only
a barren field,
an empty stare.

Dear God,
if  I only had a brain.

Poet’s Notes:  "Will I answer the door when the scarecrow knocks?" This is a question that all who are displaced from the soil must answer for themselves. Let me just note that many have found love in his arms, and he's really not scary at all.

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Balcom captures the sense of loss that immersion in technology may bring with a wonderful, poignant poetic conceit.  The personification of the scarecrow is a masterstroke--creepy but in a somber, meaningful way. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Song for Beijing’s Factory Friend” by Meg Eden

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Song for Beijing’s Factory Friend” by Meg Eden. Ms. Eden's work has been published in various magazines, including: Rattle, Drunken Boat, Eleven Eleven, and Rock & Sling. Her work received second place in the 2014 Ian MacMillan Fiction contest. Her collections include:  Your Son (The Florence Kahn Memorial Award), Rotary Phones and Facebook (Dancing Girl Press), and The Girl Who Came Back (Red Bird Chapbooks). She teaches at the University of Maryland. Check out her work at:

Song for Beijing’s Factory Friend
Meg Eden

My eyes are factory
needles, always
moving up and down—

My friend got a needle
stuck between the joints
in her wrist. Like Christ.

She wasn’t careful, and now
her hand isn’t useable. 

The dolls we make are for
one-day parties: given
as favors, remain in a chest,

their heads pop off 
if loved too much (it’s like
the girls know this).

I know I too am disposable,
one-time-use, but neither am I
stuck in this city, the way

my mother was—I am able
to reconcile the world 
in my phone. There are other jobs

that will take me. And I will be 
the girl whose wrists remain clean,
who marries late to a man

she loves, who can buy her
the world, the way all those
import movies go. 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is part of a collection called A Week with Beijing, which is a response to my trip to Beijing in 2006, as the city prepared for the winter Olympics of 2008. This was the first trip I’d been on that showed the rawness of a city, not just the fluffy tourism I was used to as a kid. I felt a need to respond to this city and this experience—so this series of poems personifies Beijing as a woman as I visit her home, and talk and interact with her. 

Editor’s Note:  I find that the terse, blunt, haiku-like stanzas support the subtext, underneath the message of hope, concerning the difficult working conditions found in the factories of China.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review of Rough Traces by Jason Wesco

I had the pleasure of reading an autographed copy of Rough Traces (Shake Dust Press--Damascus, Nebraska, 2007), a collection of poetry by fellow Kansas City area poet Jason Wesco.  I received the copy directly from Mr. Wesco at, of all places, a health center where I had recent job interview--as it turned out, Mr. Wesco is the CEO of that health center.

I always bring something to read everywhere I go, and grabbed my copy of William Stafford’s The Way It Is off the coffee table on my way out the door as I left for the interview.  As I walked in to Mr. Wesco’s office, he noticed what I was reading.  “One of my favorite poets,” he said.  That certainly started my interview off on the right foot!  When we were done, he walked me to the parking lot and to his car, where he found a copy of Rough Traces in the trunk.  He scrounged around for a pen and autographed it for me.

It is evident in Rough Traces that Wesco admires Stafford.  Many of the fifty-three poems in the collection read like Stafford’s work.  There is also something there reminiscent of Whitman.  In fact, the portrait of Wesco in the back of the book is much like, and perhaps was inspired by, the iconic portrait of a young Whitman slouching casually in lose-fitting clothes, hands in his pockets.

Mr. Wesco favors the second person POV in his work, which, as my readers know, is something that I usually do not.  You know what I mean.  Using second person POV is always risky.  The poet must be careful not to offend the reader by telling a story from that reader’s POV.  Ideally, its use will draw the reader into the poem and make the reader feel a part of its fabric, feel the song of the poem in his heart.  For the most part, Mr. Wesco produces exactly this effect--and, coming from me, that is really saying something.

Wesco is definitely a regional poet, drawing inspiration from the Kansas City area and the surrounding Midwestern region.  Most of his poems are set about two generations back.  Many make use of regional dialect.  Reading them, especially as most directly address the reader, made me feel as though I had traveled through time to a Kansas that, while not the Wild West, was still rough around the edges, gritty, and a country western kind of cool.  If you want a copy, look here:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Gathering Glass” by Lauren McBride

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Gathering Glass” by Lauren McBride.  Mrs. McBride finds inspiration in faith, nature, molecular biology (she is a former researcher) and membership in the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). Twice nominated for the 2014 SFPA Dwarf Stars Award, her work has appeared in various speculative, nature, and children's publications including: Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine, Dreams and Nightmares, Tales of the Talisman, and The Magazine of Speculative Poetry. She shares a love of laughter, science and the ocean with her husband and two children.

Gathering Glass
Lauren McBride
Nestled among round pebbles -
sea-washed scraps of glass
surf-smoothed and frosted,
their former shine and purpose                         
lost and forgotten.                       
Green, white and brown
stashed in pockets around
colors more rare: turquoise,
pink, two cobalt, one purple;
still seeking red. Pieces plain                              
and unremarkable, but then,
half buried, a bottle bottom.
And just once, a sand-filled vial,
the stopper missing.
These my favorite finds - 
fragments ridged or imprinted,
worn letters and numbers
a clue to their origin.
If pieced back together,
what stories could they tell?

Poet’s Notes:  In "Gathering Glass", I share my love of collecting beach glass. I always end up with pockets full of plain pieces, mostly white, but far more interesting are the rare colors and those with some clue as to their origin. I often wonder how the fragments end up where I find them.

Editor’s Note:  This one has a nice Imagist feel to it ala William Carlos Williams.  I especially like the question at the end.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Lacertilia Regina” by David Kopaska-Merkel

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Lacertilia Regina” by David Kopaska-Merkel.  Mr. Kopaska-Merkel has written myriads of poems and stories since the 70s. He won the Rhysling award for best long poem in 2006 for a collaboration with Kendall Evans. He has written twenty-three books, of which the latest, a chapbook of speculative poetry, is SETI Hits Paydirt from Popcorn Press, Kopaska-Merkel has edited Dreams & Nightmares magazine since 1986 Follow him on Twitter @DavidKM.

Lacertilia Regina
David Kopaska-Merkel

Her raddled face; honeyed lisps
rain scales with every sibilation,
stirring coigned dust devils
and reflected winks in that dark case,
carved by them as worshiped
the Lizard Queen.

Weather patterns shift, a coverlet of mold
greens & softens cities,
sinkholes suck markers into muck,
their inscriptions elide and flow
in the water-plunked caverns of the Newt,
vanish beneath draperies of crystal stone.

Papa's got a new god,
Newt glistens in the halls of veneration,
sticky blinks pass sentence
on transgressors, the monster's
four-toed manus descends
oh so heavily upon wrong-doers.

Mama doesn't make that scene,
she's moved to a higher plain;
in a cool dry windswept temple
Lacertilia is reborn;
slit-pupil serenity
speaks with forked tongue,
obsidian knives drink, remember,
chants wake the moon,
sand snakes sidle; we are called.

Poet's Notes:  I recently completed a non-fiction book about a 300-million-year-old fossil site most noted for abundant reptile and amphibian footprints I was thinking about the differences, and the tales of reptilian gods, and thought: amphibians deserve their turn.

Editor’s Note:  I love the sibilance in this one and had to look up fewer words than usual for one of Mr. Kopaska-Merkel’s poems.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Juniper Tree” by Alex B.

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Juniper Tree” by Alex B.  The poet resides in Pittsburgh with her loving husband, silly dog, and royal hamster. Her short stories have recently appeared in The Mythic Circle and Swords and Sorcery Magazine. This is her first published poem. 

Juniper Tree
Alex B.
--For Lawrence

I will wait for you, my love
in the hollow of the Juniper tree
bring the rare flowers, my love
so you can lay them beside me. 

I will wait for you, my love
in the crescent of the moon
bring the rare flowers, my love 
so you can lay them in my tomb. 

I will wait for you, my love
in the cemetery of the sea 
bring the rare flowers, my love
so you can lay them beside me. 

I will wait for you, my love
in the depth of earth's womb
bring the rare flowers, my love
so you can lay them in my tomb. 

Poet’s Notes:  I believe that poetry is the crying of the human spirit, so readers are free to take what they will from "Juniper Tree."

Editor’s Note:  The juniper tree is symbolic of a legendary journey, filled with twists and turns, but always true to its goals and purpose--a well-chosen metaphor here.  I like the simple, musical rhymes and refrains, and the sad but somehow also uplifting message.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Book of Dreams” by John C. Mannone, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Book of Dreams” by John C. Mannone, Poet of the Week.  One of Mr. Mannone’s poems has been featured every weekday during the week of January 18, 2015, and this will be the final installment.  Mr. Mannone’s biography may be found here:

Book of Dreams
John C. Mannone
            Nachash: Hebrew word for serpent

My wife was drop-dead gorgeous
But I wanted more than her body.

I wanted conversation with her:
Sports and politics, and even poetry

But all she wanted to do was to pet
The animals, and talk with them.

Frustration grew faster than kudzu
So I went to see the Enchanter. His store

In the center of town was where we never
Went before. His name was Nachash—

A seller of magic and promises,
Of potions and apothecaries.

He was dressed in a copper colored suit
And seemed to know what I wanted.

He reached to the top of a tall shelf,
Blew the dust off the Book of Dreams.

He said that with it I could turn the rattle
Of dry bones into living creatures; another woman

If I desired—one who would know everything
About sports and politics,

And she would make poetry with me
In bed. I lusted after that thought.

I said, What do you want for this book
That will show me these things?

The magical enchanter smiled a glittery smile.
He said, Not much. We can talk about that later.

He offered me the book in good faith
And even a token to take home.

But now, I have no peace, only evil
dreams. All I did was eat one of his apples.

My wife did, too.

Poet’s Notes:  The poem was first crafted during a poetry marathon for National Poetry Month in April 2013 by a similar title prompt: his book of dreams.

This conversational poem was inspired by a Twilight Zone episode about a young man who is lusting after a young woman and seeks out an apothecary shop proprietor to conjure up, so to speak, a love potion. It was cheap. But since it did its job too well, the Romeo comes back wanting to undo it. Now that was expensive. I adapted the story to an urbanized version of the temptation in the Garden of Eden.

The word for serpent as is translated in the Old Testament (placed in the epigraph of the poem) actually means “magical enchanter.” I play on the name and image to pull off the tale.

The poem is not lyrical as much as my usual work, so I had to be certain that the prosy lines would be lifted into poetry. A few the things, to which I pay close attention, especially in such poems, are: (hopefully) impeccable rhythm, at least a few really effective line breaks, and something profound (again hopefully) to reveal.

Editor’s Note:  As a general rule, prosaic poetry is a tough sell with me, but last line here was such an unforeseen surprise that I was truly sold one this one.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Bluefish” by John C. Mannone, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Bluefish” by John C. Mannone, Poet of the Week.  One of Mr. Mannone’s poems will be featured every weekday during the week of January 18, 2015.  Mr. Mannone’s biography may be found here:

John C. Mannone

My three children—ten, eight and six
counting down their ages—would explore
the Miocene cliffs in Southern Maryland.

We’d hunt for twenty-five million-year old
shark teeth along with ancient shells and bits
of bone in sand and clay and in the water’s ebb.

All timeless as memories. The Chesapeake Bay
hinted its salt in the air; didn’t sting like brine
from tears of failed marriages. My children—

the only thing precious from that.
They were always hungry for food
for relationships.

So I would cook up adventures
in a cliff top cottage with a screened-in porch.
I remember their wide-eyed faces

staring at the fish I bought from a man
on the dock—fresh bluefish still
flopping its broad, forked tail in the bucket,

the sharp edge of its dorsal fin swung
out of its groove as if a switchblade.
The bluish green under the fin, fading.

It quivered in my hands as I pressed
its belly. Carefully wrapped it in newspaper.
We climbed up the 100-foot high cliff

on the same crooked wooden steps we angled down
an hour before. When we got back to the cottage
they’d insist on watching me clean

the fish for supper. I said to them
always respect the life of another,
even the fish you have to kill to eat.

I didn’t pray much at the time,
but there was a moment of silence; the fish
on the cutting board, knife in my hand.

And the stainless steel sink prepared as an altar.
I had the kids turn their heads for a moment
while I quickly severed the head of that bluefish.

My youngest asked me if it went to heaven.
I said I didn’t know, that it wasn’t a pet.
Its eyes stared back: wet, black, glassy.

They fixed their eyes on the blood
washing past the single row of sharp teeth in its jaws,
and down the sink drain.

Their bites sharp as razors.
They can be pretty mean, I said, and
greedy, too, especially when frenzied.

After scaled and eviscerated, I sliced
the dark gray-blue flesh into steaks;
they shimmered under kitchen light.

I layered them in the bottom of the blue
porcelain pot with bay leaves and peppercorns,
parsley and a little dill; quartered onions,

green pepper eighths; a bottle of Beck’s beer
with foam, a splash of vinegar to seal the pores,
and a can of Italian plum tomatoes.

The pot clacked on the stove as the liquid
simmered. We spoke of joy, of sharing
even in that cottage, on those cliffs

with all their buried secrets. We had unearthed
some of them that day, not hidden as deep
as I thought.

I ladled the broth mixture over rice, and the fish.
All its blue gone, changed to soft gray.

Poet’s Notes:  As I mention in a recent spotlight for this poem at Split Rick Review, “Bluefish” emerged from several influences. I talk about some of them there (the abiding image Cathy Smith Bowers talks about, Ellen Bass’ poem “What Did I Love” about killing chickens, and my recollections of bluefish). So I’ll briefly mention one other here: family and food poetry.

Bluefish is a remarkable species and delectable as far as I’m concerned. I created the original recipe with mackerel caught off the Florida Keys when I was first learning to scuba dive in the early 70s. The fishermen on the dock were kind enough to give me several mackerel for me and my family and friends joining me on a December vacation (but I had to clean them). I’ve since then used salmon and rockfish (ubiquitous in MD where I grew up). So, I can attest to the recipe suggested in the poem.

But of course, the poem is much more about relationships than about food. Food does bring families together and can often provide a metaphor for that. Most of the things mentioned in “Bluefish” are true, but may have been collaged from several trips. Interestingly enough, I invented what my youngest son had asked (if the fish had gone to heaven).

I had been working on a collection of poems in which food has a prominent presence, but it’s not a bunch of recipes in verse. I think I will pepper the poetry collection with anecdotes about the food, and of course, about my family, too. “Bluefish” will be numbered among them.

Editor’s Note:  I like the mood that the poet creates here, the gentle narrative style, and the preserved magic of that special day.  There is also something to be said for the fish stew recipe!  “Bluefish” was previously published in Split Rock Review, summer 2014.