Friday, April 28, 2017

"All That Jazz" by John C. Mannone, Frequent Contributor

All That Jazz
John C. Mannone

To say that words of poetry dance
to the jazz beat           is something
that can only be felt. The bright
sounds, bright colors, the crisp
hue of words, percussions of
resounding fricatives. The symbols’
            Words arranged as notes
on a page,        the melody
            carried from stanza to stanza:
framework for the heart
            to pulse those words.
Let the spaces in between
verses be filled with rifts
of words in jazzy layout—
            an experimental composition.
an answer to a subtle melody:
saXophone wooing piano.
            Let only the chords
            of your heart   be broken
with the music of words.

Poet’s Notes: I’ve been thinking a lot about sound and the absence of sound and how that plays in poetry. This piece of meta-poetry tries to carry some of the jazz rhythms in its structure.

Editor’s Note:  I really enjoy this experiment, particularly that way John plays with white space to emphasize the jazzy feel. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

“Scopophilia” by Simon Constam

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Scopophilia” by Simon Constam.  Constam wrote poetry as a young man but gave it up after just a few years, put off by the growing influence of academia.  An admirer of Rimbaud and Beckett as a teenager, Constam hitchhiked around the world at eighteen, which he credits as probably his most formative experience. He worked for a publisher for a couple of years and then owned a small bookstore in British Columbia for a long stretch.

One day in his middle fifties, he retrieved the poems he had composed in his youth, finding that he could not leave poetry behind him. He now has a few poems published in online magazines and is looking for a home for a book of poetry as well as a chapbook.  He has a small sales consulting business in Toronto. 

Simon Constam

I enjoy within myself a mixum-gatherum
of shame, embarrassment and curiosity.

Must I use the word frisson?
It makes me feel so helpless.

Well, I suppose I don’t so much see what is before me as I,
wanting more of what I already have, attach myself to it.

I don’t accept just anything.
I accept whatever can be made into what I need from it. 

I cannot work with a cold night and a colder wind, for example.
I don’t know why.  Or a forest. Or a lake. Or nature generally.

With some exceptions – Lorca’s moon.

But certain moments in history repeated endlessly,
some of them are fine.  Most fly right past me. 

I can make something out of people hating.
I can easily modify that to suit my purposes.

I can do little with ambition and wealth.
Cities, modern, the space-age brain…..

I try to make them malleable.
But if the choice is mine …..

A village built on a winding river,
streets climbing up steeply from the water’s edge,

narrow streets, women with ancient brooms
and young women who have lived too long in a place with too few men.

And she ought to be a little older
and reluctant in a brazen sort of way.

For sex I’ll take my chances with pathological shyness
alternating with ride-em-cowgirl.

And lots of dark, dark hair. Truant kids peeking in through windows.
Old men who talk as if they will not live again. 

And for people arriving at the village square café,
I prefer that two tables be pushed together

for several generations of a family among them those
that simply know how things really work and are anxious to get on with it,

offending those who prize the gathering alone
happy in their ignorance of the old ways. 

For comestibles I prefer the whole beast, every last little bit of it
but that comes later tonight.  For libation, the blood they think is wine.

And there is something maudlin too - brothers who have good reason to
hate each other and do, and then don’t, and then do again.

I do like to watch history poking its head
through the curtains of individual lives. 

And for what ails me, I prefer the simple mechanism of a man dying
who doesn’t deserve to die, has worked too hard, cared too much,

for his family. But only if he has a secret life
that destroys my respect for him.

For meaning I much prefer it when the writer has no idea at all what the piece is about
and you have to choose more than just your own ending. 

Poet’s Notes:  Drawing stories that, as often as not, don’t fit what I see but fit my perspective, is what I find myself doing. I was outside one night last winter, looking up at a sky where the city lights obscured the stars, feeling a little anguished at both wanting and not wanting to write something about the disappearance of the ancient night.  Bit by bit, what I could use and what I couldn’t began to trouble me.

I grew up among people who didn’t spend much time outside, didn’t camp or hike or do anything outdoors.  So I can’t often for myself find a connection with the natural world. I find intensity instead in how we behave with one another.  That is what I make and re-make in the world for myself.  

Editor’s Notes:  What beautiful language Simon uses here!  I particularly enjoy his word choices for the first two stanzas.

His choice of using only one line for the stanza that refers to "Lorca's moon" is nicely done.  The white space created by the absence of the expected second line is filled by reference to and thoughts of "Ballad of the Moon Moon"

The turn is perfectly executed in the tenth stanza.  The stanzas that follow are filled with beautiful imagery and thought-provoking subtle references to biblical history (the stories of Joseph, and of Jacob and Esau).  These stories are evoked and woven into the narrative in a masterful way.

The final stanza makes for a "wow" finish.  It invites the reader to re-read the poem to look for different meanings and interpretations.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

“Down The Rabbit Hole” by Rie Sheridan Rose

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Down The Rabbit Hole” by Rie Sheridan Rose.  Rose has authored six chapbooks of poetry.  In addition to several previous appearances in Songs of Eretz, Rose’s poems have been published in: Penumbra, Illumen, The Voices Project, and Wolf Willow Magazine, as well as three Di-Verse-City anthologies, the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar, Speculative Poets of Texas Vol. 1, Terror Train, Bones II, No Sight for the Saved, and Abandoned Towers, and in numerous anthologies for Horrified Press. She is also a lyricist, having provided the words for many of the songs on Don’t Go Drinking with Hobbits by Marc Gunn.

Down The Rabbit Hole
Rie Sheridan Rose

When I was a child and first met Alice
I thought her Adventures were a travelogue.

I was sure the rabbit hole was right outside the fence
and if I looked hard enough I would fall 
right through to Wonderland.

The Queen of Hearts would prostrate herself
at my feet,
begging for forgiveness, and I—
being generous—
would cause her to rise 
and put her to work 
in the kitchen
with the Duchess.

I would clean up Wonderland.
It would be a great place after I
took the Red Queen's crown.
That Jabberwocky would guard my gate,
and the Walrus and the Carpenter 
would provide fresh fish.

But wishes weren't horses,
and I never found the rabbit hole
no matter how hard I tried.

I never found the Looking-Glass
that would permit me to step
into that mirrored madness.

But now,
as my eyes fade 
and my memories blur…
I think that I will search again.

Perhaps I was just looking in the wrong spot.

The Hatter will welcome me
with a nice cuppa,
and I will stroke the Cheshire Cat,
feeling at home at last.

Poet's Notes: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has always been near and dear to my heart. From earliest childhood, I was wont to wander through the rabbit hole. This poem reflects the adult looking back at the dreams of childhood and hoping to recapture that wonder.

Editor’s Note:  What I enjoy most about this piece is how Rie plays with time--the magic of childhood suddenly thrusts into the soberness of adulthood and then to the childlike hopes of end-of-life adulthood.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Portraits" by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor

Mary Soon Lee

Only two official portraits
ever made of King Xau:
the one in the throne room
depicts him after he won his first war--
seventeen years old,
robed in red, crowned in gold,
no hint of triumph
on the boy's stern face.

They caught Tian off guard.
She'd finished cleaning
the king's rooms,
had an armful of dirty cloths
as she stepped out into the hall--

The king and his guards
were lined up along the wall.
They all bowed to her--
to her--
and led her into the breakfast room,
the table laid with plates,
tea bowls, a single mooncake.
King Xau pulled out a chair for her,
the king beaming, Tian speechless.

The king cut the mooncake
into little pieces, scattering crumbs.
He handed the first piece to her.
"Happy Birthday, Tian."

Tian sniffed noisily
as the king gave bits of mooncake
to his guards, poured tea.
If she tried thanking the king,
she'd end up in tears.
So instead she gestured at the crumbs,
the plates, the bowls, said sharply,
"Who'll clear all this up?"

"Captain Li will," said Xau.
"He's getting lazy."

"The king will," said Captain Li.
"I will incorporate the clean up
into today's training session."

"You see?" said Xau. "He's lazy."

The second portrait,
painted by the master Pei Tsu,
given, in a gesture of outlandish generosity,
to an elderly cleaning woman:
black ink wash on silk,
the king in profile,
smiling as if at a friend.

Poet's Notes:  This is a poem about King Xau, the fictional hero of my epic fantasy The Sign of the Dragon. Xau spends most of his time doing what he believes is best for his kingdom: meeting with his ministers, entertaining envoys, commanding his cavalry, etc. But he prefers the company of his family, his guards, and his elderly cleaning woman.

In writing the epic, I tried to vary the point of view to present a broader perspective. This poem is one of three from Tian's point of view. I also tried to balance the darker, more serious moments with others where Xau has a chance to relax.  More poems about King Xau may be found in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review and at

Monday, April 24, 2017

"Time Enough" by Sierra July, Frequent Contributor

Time Enough
Sierra July

He had time before those lights
Spilled over him like cold drool
Before those tires struck him
Clutched like a tiger's clawed paws
He had time, to aim, fire
Feel the recoil, regret
The resolve; he had time, but
It slipped from his grasping hands

Poet's Notes:  Another of a series of poems inspired by mobster movies. This one centers on a man either being betrayed or being punished for his own betrayal. I left his back-story for the reader's imagination and focused on his thoughts as the car heads for him, personifying it as a beast that one can't hope to escape.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Adolescence" Terri Lynn Cummings, Frequent Contributor

Terri Lynn Cummings

Stars crowned our small prairie town
as crickets and toads whirred and croaked 
their warm, summer songs.

We laid on our backs in the meadow’s open sea, 
felt the first kiss of sweetgrass,
listened to nature and each other.

Our eyes tracked a satellite
streaming to the other side of the world. 
The boy pointed out the Big Dipper,

and I showed him the North Star.
I knew our tug of gravity had nothing 
and everything to do with the universe. 

Poet’s Notes:  A small town’s arms embraced my childhood. In the 1960’s, unlocked doors welcomed neighbors and children day or night. Outer space and rocketry fascinated the fathers who lived on my street.  Families gathered together on patios, sprawled on furniture or lawn. We waited for Sputnik satellite to curve over our backyards.  I inherited the love of astronomy and the challenge of a new age in space the same time my body changed. Discovery, first love, and the kiss of a universe shaped the words of this poem.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the special moment preserved here and the peaceful tone.  The romantic subtext is exquisitely executed; the longing that summer love will last is easily felt.  The imagery here is as clear as a cloudless prairie sky.  Adolescence” was a finalist in the 2017 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.   

Comments by Contest Judge Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD:  This first line is wonderful, especially juxtaposed with the title. I also like how the first stanza moves quickly to lying “in the meadow's open sea...” and all the listening that follows. This poem is strongest where the poet aims for specifics, such as tracking a satellite or noting the North Star. The ending is compelling because of the combination of nothing and everything.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"city" by Ross Balcom, Frequent Contributor


the alleys
disgorge their shadows

dirty hands
paw my genitals

the city's
dishonored guest

I seek
my detriment and


suckling rats
at my non-bosom

wet nurse
to the void

I have no milk
to nourish them

only this trickle
of polluted


Kill me, city
squash me like
the merest bug

Kill me, city
and sweep me under
your cement rug


My doom was withheld;
I lived to write about the city.

The rat-children I suckled
are all dead.

I pray the city
will be swallowed forever

by its own shadows.

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: I wish to dedicate this poem to American writer H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), whose eloquent loathing of megalopolitan New York has always moved me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Introspection" by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

René Descartes
James Frederick William Rowe

The starless, moonless night is deep dark
But deeper still is the dark of the mind
So dark, so deep I've not once seen myself
Blind, yet I have heard my thoughts, have felt my thinking
With a phenomenological faith in things unseen
But known more truly, with deduced demonstration
No demon can deceive

Poet’s Notes:  Introspection” came to me on the subway when I realized I had never seen myself. It is as if the darkness of my mindscape is so profound that I cannot raise my hand to see the fingers before my face. Of course, my self is actually a non-extended, thinking thing, a res cogitans, but there is some degree of sensation attached to my phenomenology, given that I can hear my own thoughts in my mind right now, or picture them, and certainly I know the feeling of thinking, and yet I can never see myself—my actual existence as an individuated, thinking substance, my spiritual essence, the Cartesian ego.

The theme of darkness, of depth, and of blindness aesthetically allow this poem a certain spiraling descent, hastened by the short length, and the rhythm, to the existential certainty of my selfhood paradoxically unified to a "faith" that borrows the words of St. Paul, but which seems so fitting given that this is truly knowledge of things unseen, or better still, unseeable. The poem is compact, and involves no diversions to another theme.  The Cartesian fixation of the poem is made explicit with reference to the deceiving demon, the malin genie, of the thought experiment culminating in the famous cogito ergo sum

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Mary Natalie (Swan) Reinhart" by John Reinhart, Frequent Contributor

Mary Natalie (Swan) Reinhart
John Reinhart

“It’s been fun,” she said, 
slipping out of consciousness 

The last words she spoke. 
The stroke came that evening, 
another a few days later.

History never
had its hold
too tightly

leaving behind
the Depression
in Iowa

living in
a fairy tale
between the blitzes

her last
child born
at 45

social outings
with her MASS group –
Middle Aged Sexy Swingers

grandmother, never grandma, 
but always there
for a game of tag

“it’s been fun,”
she said, skipping
into the next room

another passel 
of friends, neighbors,
family waiting

Poet's Notes:  When I left for college I began a regular postal correspondence with my grandmother, one of the few people in my life not connected on email. It was a great privilege to get to know my grandmother in that way, and our correspondence inspired me to explore her biography further. She was a gracious and meticulous host, some characteristics of which I suspect came about through her work as a dietician and deployment to England during WWII. I was on the other side of the country while she gradually excarnated. My parents were visiting one evening when she drifted into wakefulness, looked up, and said, "It's been fun," before drifting off again. She had a stroke that night.