Saturday, February 28, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Some Time After the Apocalypse: Family Loyalty, Part I” by Terrie Leigh Relf

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Some Time After the Apocalypse: Family Loyalty, Part I” by Terrie Leigh Relf.  Ms. Relf is a Lifetime Member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association and has been nominated for both the Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards several times. Her most recent poetry collections in include Letting Out the Demons and Other Poems (Elektrik Milk Bath Press, 2013) and An Untoward Bliss of Moons (Alban Lake Publishing, 2014). She is working on her next two collections, Further Adventures with the Muse and Postcards from Space. Please visit her website at:

Some Time After the Apocalypse: Family Loyalty, Part I
Terrie Leigh Relf
Ripe pears and fresh greens,
cherries tart, sans pits,
an avocado with salsa fresca,
and yes, she consumes them all,
our own hungers gnawing
through our very bones.  

“More!” she cries, as if our gardens
were fertile with organic fruit,
with vegetables sure to ripen
destined for her gluttonous maw.

She is our older sister
(as we are so oft reminded),
and so must do our part,
as she has always claimed
the inalienable, “Me first!”

Until it is our time (if ever),
we sprinkle salt, store fragrant herbs
prepare the spit and sharpen knives.
For our patience a just reward:
We’ll soon make a feast of her.  

Poet’s Notes:  I’ve always been intrigued by the tropes and potential scenarios of post-apocalyptic fiction, film, and poetry. This poem was inspired, in part, by Shel Silverstein’s “Ladies First” (which is one of my favorite poems of all time), watching a few post-apocalyptic films (the titles of which elude me at the moment), and wondering how a high-maintenance character (with a proverbial bizarre sense of entitlement) might fare in such a landscape. I also found myself pondering family loyalty as well as the individual and collective sacrifices that are, or could be made. The poem emerged in this free verse style, and I did play around with several forms and rhyming stanzas before I returned to free verse. I wanted a dollop of humor along with a slightly lyrical tone to contrast with the horrific aspect. I do so love a good cautionary poem, and Silverstein is one of the masters!

Editor’s Note:  The turn at the end is simply delicious, isn’t it?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Poetry Review Special Feature: "Cuando entre la Sombra Oscura" by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, translated by the Editor

The following translation was first published in Silver Blade just over one year ago.  My thanks to Sra. Catalano for making me ponga atencion in high school Spanish class.

Cuando entre la Sombra Oscura                 When the Dark Shadow Falls

Cuando entre la sombra oscura                        When the dark shadow falls
perdida una voz murmura                                 a disoriented voice murmurs
turbando su triste calma,                                   disturbing your sad calm,
si en el fondo de mi alma                                  if in the core of my being
la oigo dulce resonar,                                        I hear the sweetness resonate,

Dime: ¿es que el viento en sus giros                 Tell me: is it that the swirling wind
se queja, o que tus suspiros                               complains, or is it your sighs that
me hablan de amor al pasar?                             talk to me of love?

Cuando el sol en mi ventana                             When the sun in my window
rojo brilla a la mañana                                       shining red in the morning
y mi amor tu sombra evoca,                              and my love evokes your shade,
si en mi boca de otra boca                                 if in my mouth of another mouth
sentir creo la impresión,                                    I believe I feel the impression,

Dime: ¿es que ciego deliro,                               Tell me: is it that I am delirious and blind,
o que un beso en un suspiro                              or that a kiss in a sigh
me envía tu corazón?                                         sends me your heart?

Y en el luminoso día                                         And in the luminous day
y en la alta noche sombría,                                and in the height of the shadowy night,
si en todo cuanto rodea                                      if in all whatever it surrounds
al alma que te desea                                           to the core of your desires
te creo sentir y ver,                                             I believe you to feel and to see,

Dime: ¿es que toco y respiro                             Tell me: is what I touch and breathe
soñando, o que en un suspiro                             in a dream, or is it in a sigh that
me das tu aliento a beber?                                  you give me your breath to drink?

Gustavo Adolfo Becquer                                  Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD
Poet                                                                    Translator

About the Poet:  Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836 - 1870) is considered one of the first modern Spanish poets.  Originally from Sevilla, he moved to Madrid in 1854 in pursuit of a literary career.  Sadly, Bécquer received acclaim only after his death from tuberculosis at the age of thirty-four.  []

Poem of the Day: “Bacchus” by Efren L. Cruzada

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Bacchus” by Efren L. Cruzada.  Mr. Cruzada’s work has appeared in The West 4th Street Review and Headless. He studied at New York University and currently resides in Queens, New York.

Efren L. Cruzada

I worship your indulgent nature
Bacchus, higher than all the divines
I am drunken, always drunken
Intoxicated on the spirit and the flesh
Anaximenes’ air that holds the soul
To the body, the earth breathing
Its own spirit held to the planet by air
A material firmament, tactile
Sphere spinning in the void
Orbiting an immortal ellipse
Planet revolving with the passions
Intoxicated on the spirit and the flesh
The world is drunken, always drunken
The seas are churning with hangovers
Rippling their raucous pain like man
The sorrowful waves on the crust
Sadness and pleasure and lust revolving
With these vibrating passions
Man breathes in this briny air and foam
Exerts its dominion over the earth
Drunk on grass and salt and blood
Drunk on wine and food and knowledge
Love and logic and beauty, all ecstasies
To their highest, most supreme limit
I am drunken, always drunken
I worship your indulgent nature
Bacchus, higher than all the divines
Intoxicated on the spirit and the flesh

Poet’s Notes:  Sitting down and having a crack at the monumental The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, I swooned at his glorious passages on the Greeks. All I could think of was their endless intoxication. They were intoxicated on wine, on food, on arts, on intellect, on spirituality. Their excess was what catapulted them to become the most glorious society in the history of western civilization. They were able to live paradoxically and thrive, like the mathematician Pythagoras, who was also a mystic who formed his own religion.

The Greeks thought highly of Dionysus, the god of wine and pleasure, and they perceived him as one of their most important gods. I connected highly with this indulgence in the sensual and the spiritual, for I too always feel drunk both spiritually and sensually. I am intellectually obsessed, spiritually obsessed, sensually obsessed, attempting to awaken my being through every avenue possible. In this way, I view myself as a mystic. Poetry is the medium through which I reach the greatest heights of my soul. Poetry is the euphoria through which I attempt to awaken my inner limitlessness.

I used the Roman iteration of the god, Bacchus, because I felt the word had a rougher feel to it than the word Dionysus. Bacchus sounds darker and edgier to me while Dionysus sounds soft and frivolous. This choice was purely for aesthetic purposes. Anaximenes was a philosopher who believed that the earth breathed like an organism and the element air held the soul to the body.

Editor’s Note:  There is something wild about this one that I really like.  Reminded me a bit of Whitman, only with shorter lines.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Poem of the Day: “The Seated Race” by Anders Ward

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “The Seated Race” by Anders Ward.  Mr. Ward, a life-long Californian, is a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz where he is majoring in Literature.  He aspires to be a fiction writer, and his favorite poets include:  Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Allen Ginsberg, WH Auden, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson.  In his spare time, he enjoys taking hikes, reading, writing, watching movies, listening to vinyl music, and playing basketball.

The Seated Race
Anders Ward
Filling up with a vacuum,
Eyes searching like spotlights pretending
To happen upon other lily-pad-ponds.
         Heart it races
         Toward a future filled with synchronized
         Footfalls on September leaves.
         Lips licking teeth imagining wooden words.
                  Throat dry
                  Hair messy
                  Clothes tight.
                           Ease into speaking -- 
                                    like newly-loosened tie

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is originally inspired by the song "Heart it Races" (I prefer the version played by Dr Dog  My favorite thing to do in poetry is connect naturally unconnected things; in this poem I attempted to do so by explaining an experience through disconnected images to lend a deeper tone and greater set of implications for the reader.

I used the structure of advancing the lines to increase the intensity of the poem.  By indenting the lines gradually, they read faster.  By the end of the poem, the lines are so indented that the poem seems to be running out of space, creating the feeling that each line is gradually more aware of its mortality.

Editor’s Note:  There is something Salvador Dali about this poem that I like--a creative mix of the real and surreal, pleasantly non sequitur

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Stables” by Mary Soon Lee

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Stables” by Mary Soon Lee.  Ms. Lee was born and raised in London but has lived in Pittsburgh for the past twenty years. Her poetry credits include the Atlanta Review, Ideomancer, and Star*Line. Her poem "Interregnum" won the 2014 Rhysling Award for Best Long Poem.

Mary Soon Lee

In the stables,
King Xau found himself again,
or found the man
he might have been
if he had never been crowned,
never gone to war,
never led other men
to their deaths.

Half an hour at a time
squeezed between meetings
and training exercises,
the stables secured by his guards.
Only Khyert, once his stableboy,
inside to watch him groom Micha
or Pica or Narson or Romer,
to sit beside him
on a hay bale,
breathing leather, manure, dust,
the scent of the horses.

Xau's words already spent
on rice farmers, ministers,
ambassadors, advisors;
on irrigation, taxation,
alliances, strategy,
so that sometimes
he had no more
than a handful of words
for the boy--
Khyert, younger even than Xau,
turned fifteen that autumn.

But sometimes they spoke
at length about the horses,
both Xau's own mounts
and the others in the stable,
about the condition of the pastures,
the chafing of a girth,
a horse off its feed,
while Khyert rubbed oil
into the saddles,
asking nothing of Xau,
then or later.

Xau listened
more than he spoke,
received more than he gave,
though he asked nothing of boy or horses
beyond their company,
but boy and horses alike offering him,
unasked and without restriction,
their hearts.

Poet’s Notes:  “Stables” is part of my current work-in-progress, a novel-length heroic fantasy poetry sequence. The poem is a personal favorite of mine because of its quiet mood, and because it shows how unconditional friendship helps the king to recover from a war. Several other poems from the sequence may be read at

Editor’s Note:  This is a lovely prosaic poem with a story that held my interest.  The interaction between king, boy, and horse is magical.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Red” by Changming Yuan

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Red” by Changming Yuan.  Dr. Yuan grew up in a remote village in China.  He began to learn the English alphabet at the age of nineteen and went on to earn a PhD in English.  He published several monographs on English-Chinese translation before leaving China for Canada.

Dr. Yuan has been nominated for a Pushcart eight times and is the author of four chapbooks.  His poetry has appeared in 989 literary publications across thirty-one countries, including Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Cincinnati Review, and Threepenny Review.  He works as a tutor in Vancouver and is the co-editor of Poetry Pacific.

The mission of Poetry Pacific is similar to that of Songs of Eretz.  Readers and contributors to one would no doubt enjoy the other.  Find out more about Poetry Pacific here:

Changming Yuan

seeing the strange belts
like little mouth masks
hung on bamboo poles
I often wondered:
what kind of clothing was that
so funny looking
in front of almost every straw-thatched cottage
but you boys don't bother about that
until one of my aunts told me
on a showering afternoon

it was only until I began dating
with a girl in a major city, so close
to beijing many years later
did I get to know them 
to be no other than menstrual rags

(a taboo of female blood?)

although they actually looked
more like shrunken flags
than thick masks

that's all I remembered about my boyhood
my native village, my motherland

Poet’s Notes:  My early life experiences as a poor Chinese village boy has had a profound impact on my growth and personality. Often haunted by my past memories, I try to give a larger sociopolitical significance to each personal experience re-enacted in my poem. This poem re-interprets my dream-like memory about how my teenage aunt once cut me off when I wondered what her menstrual rag was.

Editor’s Note:  An interesting memory and expert set-up to the surprise reveal!  “Red” was first published in Yellow Medicine Review and nominated by the print magazine for a 2013 Pushcart prize.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Sand” by Callie Koeval

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Sand” by Callie Koeval.  Miss Koeval is a high school junior living in North Carolina.  Aside from reading and writing poetry, she enjoys listening to music, playing guitar, and spending time with friends. 

Callie Koeval

tell me that someday
this will all be worth it
tell me that our home
is anywhere in the world

I'm breathing for the sake of loving you
I wish we'd never know another consummation
than letting the sun set on our love
the blackened water a mirror to the universe

why is there anything else?
and why do I wake up alone,
buried in the sand of burned out stars
that streaked across our sky

Poet’s Notes:  Written on the beach at night, lying by the water with someone I love, this piece describes my feeling of contentment and complete satisfaction, not wanting that care-free night to end. Knowing that in the morning I would wake to responsibilities, I wanted to stay in that moment forever. The sand in the last stanza represents my memories, once bright and iridescent stars, now distant, used up, and finished. 

Editor’s Note:  I like the haunting imagery and metaphors here, as well as the sense of longing that the poet creates.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Altar to the Forgotten Poem” by James Frederick William Rowe

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Altar to the Forgotten Poem” by James Frederick William Rowe, Poet of the Week.  A biography of Mr. Rowe may be found here:

Altar to the Forgotten Poem

On the way to the Athens of my Inspiration
I espied an altar along the road
Upon which had been inscribed
On the marble of the mind:

A whisper of the Muses has been lost to Lethe
How easily Memory lost her hold
     How impotent Mnemosyne
This song shall never be sung
In this world
     Or the next

James Frederick William Rowe

Poet’s Notes:  I had an entire poem created in my mind before going to bed. Stupidly, I didn't write it down, thinking I'd remember it. I did not, but I remembered the rhythm, which this poem employs. In a sense, this poem is the echo of the forgotten one.

The "Athens of my mind" is a reference to St. Paul, in the 17th chapter of Acts, having passed by an altar to the unknown God in Athens. Befitting the reference to Athens, I wed this Biblical allusion to figures of classical mythology.

The original poem is lost to me forever. "This song shall never be sung / in this world / or the next."

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Rowe beautifully captures the unsung songs, those will-o'-the-wisps of inspiration that never make it to the page.