Monday, November 30, 2015

Poem of the Day: "Hamburger Diner" by Howard F. Stein

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Hamburger Diner" by Howard F. Stein.  Dr. Stein is a professor emeritus in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he taught for nearly thirty-five years.  He is also a medical, psychoanalytic, organizational, and applied anthropologist and is currently group process facilitator for the American Indian Diabetes Prevention Center, Oklahoma City.

Dr. Stein has published twenty-eight books of which seven are books or chapbooks of poetry.  His most recent poetry books are In the Shadow of Asclepius: Poems from American Medicine (2011) and Raisins and Almonds (2014).

Hamburger Diner      
Howard F. Stein

Nestled among retailers
of a busy city’s strip mall
the hamburger diner sits,
plain tables and chairs,
booths unkind to the back,
simple walls, stucco and brick.
The diner seems out of place –
surrounded by shops for the well-to-do.
Theirs might be the finest burgers on earth;
hot, juicy, drenched
in sautéed onions, and pungent mustard –
condiments that, while not universally enjoyed,
perfectly fit my appetite.

The waitress is as alluring
as the hamburger.
She looks tired –
too many tables to wait on
to be conversational,
takes orders, moves on,
speaks with her eyes, notices
my drained mug of root beer
as soon as I finish it;
she asks if I’d like another.
Is there an extra charge?
She says “No.” Our eyes meet
over root beer. Her face softens.
She cracks a shy smile and hurries off
for my second frosted mug.
Later, unbidden, she brings me a third.

Poet’s Notes:  I never know when a poem will descend upon me or ascend within me. Diagonal from the watch repair shop I visit is a hamburger diner.  I manage to come to the repair shop when hamburgers are cooking. The entire area outside the diner is redolent with the inviting aroma of grilled hamburgers. Once, while waiting on a watch, I ventured into the diner.  The iced mug of root beer and the thick hamburger made me a convert. So did the waitress.  From this was born a poem as I sat in the booth.  I've been back many times, even when I don't have a watch in need of repair.

Editor’s Note:  My mouth started to water at the end of the first stanza (I happen to like my burgers with sautéed onions and mustard--in any case, after reading this poem, a visit to Five Guys is most certainly in my future). The poet made the right choice to end with the strong and evocative last line--just as with a good hamburger, it leaves one wanting more but in a good way.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Abandoned Garden” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Abandoned Garden” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week.  A brief bio of Lockie may be found here:

Abandoned Garden
Ellaraine Lockie

Lying on the long side of time 
a partially buried Meissen vase 
Crackled like paper crunched in the fist of an accident
Its mouth growing sweet peas and pansies
A pioneer woman's attempt to civilize an untamed land
As though she were out gathering a bouquet
for a quilting bee in her homestead house
when some tragedy befell her 

The house now as much a ghost as she
Yet she lingers in these immigrant flowers
that survive encroachment from native clover 
blue flax, sage and morning glory
Butterflies that pollinate from one to the other
arbitrating the struggle 
Like the diplomacy of a woman
caught between a hardcore German husband
and the America around them
Between their children and the razor strop
that hung on a toolshed door

She lives in the flames of poppies she planted
that have burned through a century
of hailed-out crops, drought and grasshoppers
Today the prairie breeze breathes the same scent 
as her heirloom handkerchiefs
The sweet violet toilet water sacheted in drawers
and splashed on after a well water wash

She lives in the pressed purple yellow 
pansies that look out from 
a grandmother's diary and recipe books 
Butterflies, as they take flight 
in the draft of turning pages

Poet’s Notes:  “Abandoned Garden” is a composite poem in that it is the result of multiple experiences and observations.  The initial idea came from a San Francisco museum drawing on crinkled handmade paper of a partially cracked and broken vase lying on its side out of which pansies spilled.  The flowers were drawn progressively into butterflies that eventually flew away from the vase.  I took a photograph of it and carried the image around knowing I would write about it.  I put pen to paper every few days but couldn’t get beyond the first four lines of the poem.

Months later I read a newspaper article by Robert Lucke, Editor of my Montana hometown newspaper, the Mountaineer, about his grandmother’s prairie garden, and I knew where I’d go with the poem--to my own grandmothers’ gardens.  Both were homesteaders, and some of my aunts and uncles had descendent plants from their mothers’ gardens.  With these thoughts and images, I wrote the middle section of the poem.  The last stanza came from the pressed flowers that are still in the books I have which belonged to my grandmothers.

Editor’s Note:  I particularly enjoy the way Lockie metaphorically ties the lady to the land, as well as her use of words that evoke the senses.  Abandoned Garden” was first published in The Bookwoman.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Brotherhood of the Midnight Snack” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Brotherhood of the Midnight Snack” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week.  A brief bio of Lockie may be found here:

Brotherhood of the Midnight Snack
Ellaraine Lockie

He makes it at midnight
An ensemble of garlic fried in olive oil
leftover rice and two eggs as top hats

An elaboration on the long-ago 
bread fried in bacon grease
and dressed in Lawry's Seasoned Salt
A rite he brought home from college
into which he initiated his little sister
during summer breaks

When we'd eat in the breakfast nook
Lights out to watch fireflies spark the darkness
Curtains breathing in and out of the open windows
after an oven-baked day
Lilacs balming air that carried outdoor  
conversations of mosquitoes and crickets 

Inside, words sacred between siblings
What really went on at college 
and in the fourth grade
Words that built the bridge that would
transport me out of farm life when most stayed
Now between bites of garlic fried rice
We talk of what really goes on in a marriage
a divorce, children, a job
Lights dim to see the birdbath outside the window 
The water smooth, polished by the aged moon
An acorn plinks concrete and stills for the night 

Purple lilacs shadow the surrounding peace
and a moth flutters a soft motor on the screen
Not a thing except thunder in the throat of distance
to warn us that this would be our last midnight rite

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is a product of deep mourning for the loss of my brother who was also my best friend.  It’s an example of how poetry can perform its miracle of healing, not only for the poet but also for readers who perhaps may not be able to write their own expressions of grief.  And sometimes reading such a poem inspires readers to write their own poems dealing with loss.

For me, this poem is a tribute but also a way of keeping the memory of a loved one alive.  Qualities in a poem offer so much more than does a photograph, which completely supports the viewpoint in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review that “ . . . a good poem may be worth a thousand pictures.”  A poem can employ all of our senses.  When reading “Brotherhood of the Midnight Snack" I can smell the garlic and lilacs, taste the bacon and seasonings, and hear my brother’s baritone voice, the crickets, the acorn plinking, and the distant thunder.  I feel the night’s peace that precedes that thunder.  My mind’s eye sees an animated brother sitting across from me—the real him, not a camera’s version.  What a gift poetry gives to us, whether writing it ourselves or reading that of others.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the repartee between the siblings and feel a part of their exclusive club as I read.  What a beautiful elegy it is. Brotherhood of the Midnight Snackwas first published in Caesura in 2011.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Poem of the Day: “On the Road after a Record Rain” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “On the Road after a Record Rain” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week.  A brief bio of Lockie may be found here:

On the Road after a Record Rain
Ellaraine Lockie

Morning coffee at the Bear Paw Bakery
requires the mettle of a Montana driver
The car acts like a drunk on the dirt road
Sloppy as a warm chocolate bar
I relax the steering wheel the way I learned at 14 
to let go and give in to invisible great forces
Press the accelerator in my vintage Lucchese boot
to ten m.p.h. with no braking 
To keep from sliding into the roadside parade 
of young pheasants behind their mother 

Down the road a cottontail wasn't so lucky
In polite farmer protocol its flattened body 
has been moved to the far side of the road 
A murder of crows waits on a power line
to clean up the evidence
Feathers gleaming like the coal
my father mined in the years crops failed

Back at the cabin the die-hard walker 
in me eases into Wellingtons
Not what I'd ever wear into the town 
of Tony Lamas, John Deeres and Durangos
Mud has mortared enough on the dirt road for footprints 
My earmark on the same land that was branded
by parents and grandparents

The swarm of dragonflies sired by heavy rains
disperses to flit from yarrow 
to wheat grass to wild geraniums
Sun lights them like day fireflies
and heats the still air with sweet grass 
vanilla scent and anise of coneflowers
The whole prairie sings a green song
By the time I backtrack to the cabin
tires have erased any right of ownership
The land has claimed itself once again

Poet’s Notes:  This is a love song about place.  One way to keep a special place alive is to write about it.  In the case of this poem, the place is a wheat farming community on the plains in Northern Montana that I consider my real home.  Although my permanent address is in Northern California, I still live as often as I can in Montana, albeit much of the time the living is emotional, mental, and spiritual.  The homestead that used to my family’s and the little town and the prairie surrounding them ground me like nothing else can.  

This poem is one out of many that I regularly read to myself as a kind of mantra.  It’s a comfort, almost a prayer.  I use this one in particular when I can’t get to sleep at night.  I take the walk in my mind and often change the season, encountering the corresponding landscapes, weather and animals, and often before I finish the walk I’m drowsy enough to fall asleep.  And if I can’t, I’m at least relaxed and happy. 

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way Lockie weaves poetic devices into the narrative, her simile regarding the dragonflies being a particular favorite.  The story holds my interest, and I further enjoy the way she plays with time here, seamlessly fusing elements of past, present, and future into the narrative.  The "boots" motif adds a nice human element and serves to unify the various parts of the piece. “On the Road After a Record Rain” was first published in Casa de Cinco Hermanas in 2014.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Poem of the Day: “A Matter of Degree” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “A Matter of Degree” by Ellaraine Lockie, Poet of the Week.  A brief bio of Lockie may be found here:

A Matter of Degree
Ellaraine Lockie

In Montana when anything injured comes your way
Whether it limps on two or four legs 
Chases after the tail of sanity
Or suffers still and silent in the wreckage of time
It's your responsibility

You might be able only to feed a hunger its next fix
To invest a quick call to an animal's owner
To afford the few dollars that will drive 
a migrant family to the next town
Or to sign a petition that preserves 
the Eye of the Needle in the badlands

But your people know the necessity of communal
You've inherited the knowledge 
Three generations of families peppered 
over an endless prairie was all it took
to evolve the instinct of obligation 

And when one of you moves away 
to another kind of vastness in a city
This birthright still runs through your blood
There it's sometimes hard to leave the house
for fear of finding another stray cat or dog
Of meeting too many street beggars for the budget
Or a lonely old man at Starbucks
who can't stop talking about World War II

Reading the headlines, turning on newscasts 
or answering the phone becomes 
intolerable when there's no more to give
You start to feel naked in the midst 
of clothed indifference 
and raped by the mass of need
The only way to cope is to move further 
and further away from the edge of community  
One degree at a time toward the center of self

Poet’s Notes:  I grew up in a small farming community on the Montana prairie but moved away and into cities after graduating from college.  I began going home (Montana will always be home) for lengthy periods many years ago.  I stay in a cabin on land that used to be my family’s homestead and is now a horse ranch, and I continue to be active in my nearby small farming town.  Living close to the land and its people for a while every year keeps me grounded and helps me to cope with the fast pace of the San Francisco metropolitan area where I live full-time.  This rotation of places, along with travel to other locales, greatly influences my writing.  Not only does it provide fodder and different perspectives, but it stimulates the senses and the power of observation—all important qualities for a writer.

“A Matter of Degree” resulted from the unavoidable comparison of places.  Although the poem tends to throw a negative light on city life, other of my poems do the opposite, because cities offer experiences, attitudes and lifestyle that don't exist in rural areas.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the narrative here as well as the sobering moral lesson.  "A Matter of Degree," is the end poem in Lockie’s latest chapbook, Where the Meadowlark Sings, her first published collection of Montana poems.  It can be ordered on Amazon. com or through Encircle Publications. 

The poet supplied the graphics that accompany her poem today.  They are two photographs of Montana as seen from the cabin referenced in the Poet’s Notes.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Poet of the Week: Ellaraine Lockie

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Ellaraine Lockie will be our Poet of the Week for the week of November 23, 2015.  Starting tomorrow and continuing through the end of the week, a poem of hers will appear each day as a Poem of the Day.

Lockie is a poet, nonfiction writer, and essayist.  Her eleventh chapbook, Where the Meadowlark Sings, won the 2014 Encircle Publication’s Chapbook Contest.  She recently won the Women’s National Book Association’s Poetry Prize, the Best Individual Collection from Purple Patch magazine, the San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest, and The Aurorean's Chapbook Spring Pick.  An internal chapbook of hers, Love Me Tender in Midlife, will be released later this year from Silver Birch Press.    

Lockie teaches poetry workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh. She is currently judging the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contests for Winning Writers.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Poem for Paris by the Editor

The Beacon

Lovers, artists, writers, poets
are drawn to Paris. 
Just as the Trojan hero
for whom the city is named
captivated Queen Helen
Paris captivates the imagination
of the creative and the beautiful
and always will. 

How many of us
have dreamt of visiting Paris?
That dream is not a nightmare
despite the recent rending of her peace.
The Nazis could not destroy her.
Neither will the jihadists.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Friday, November 13, 2015

Poem of the Day: “Fort of Blankets” by Sylvia Cavanaugh

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Fort of Blankets” by Sylvia Cavanaugh.  Cavanaugh is originally from Pennsylvania, where some of her relatives were anthracite coal miners. She has an M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin and currently teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies.  She is the school poetry club advisor and a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.  Her poems have appeared in:  An Ariel Anthology, Midwest Prairie Review, Peninsula Pulse, Red Cedar Review, Seems Literary Journal, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Verse Wisconsin, We Are Poetry: A Love Anthology, and elsewhere.  Most recently, she was the 2015 winner of the Milwaukee Irish Fest Donn Goodwin Prize.

Fort of Blankets
Sylvia Cavanaugh

built over the sidewalk
in this neighborhood of no grass

where a massive chestnut tree
casts costly shade
over its choke collar of concrete
rust-brick houses press close

Beatrice invites me in
I crouch down through the doorway
her bedroom blanket
auras rosy over my telling
of mountain stories
abandoned mills and mines
heavy revolvers
and dealings with spirits
the need to navigate the dark with care

she seems to like the part
about the spirits and the dark
asks for more
our limbs lazily touch

rough scrape of sidewalk
muffled thin as the comfort we spin
I know now that I want to kiss her
like a sister
but had no words for it then

blue eyes and brown
round as a settled world

Poet’s Notes:  My hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania is an historic east coast city.  My grandparents lived in an old and somewhat impoverished neighborhood where the three-story row houses pushed right up against the sidewalk.  I would visit there with my father on Sunday afternoons and I always found the house to be somewhat oppressive.  I tried to go outside whenever I could.  The children in the neighborhood didn’t have much in the way of toys or nice clothes, but there was one little girl who was inventive with her bedroom blankets.  I bonded with her inside her fort of blankets, where we exchanged stories of our different lives.  She was so sweet and was probably my first crush.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the magical moment of memory here and feel drawn into the fort under the blanket.  The lesbian subtext is tastefully treated.