Friday, June 23, 2017

"On Reading O'Brian​" by Mary Soon Lee

On Reading O'Brian​
Mary Soon Lee

Without passport or visa,
without luggage or provisions,
I have sailed with the Royal Navy,
fought the French and the Spaniards,
crossed the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn,
stood on the pitching wooden deck
beside Aubrey and Maturin:
soaked wet, cold, far from home,
in the company of friends.

Poet's Notes: The first draft of this short poem was about reading in general, one of many attempts I've made to describe how important reading is to me. However, in the end I decided to make it specific to Patrick O'Brian's naval series about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Patrick O'Brian is one of my favorite authors. I love the range of his prose, at times humorous, at times harrowing. I love the way he lifts me onto the ship and into the story. Most of all, I love his twenty-book-long portrayal of the friendship between Aubrey and Maturin. I wish there were twenty more books in the series. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Gemini" by Sierra July

Sierra July

Hikari gazed in the universe's mirror
The waxing, waning milk of the galaxy had her 
Lively eyes, reflecting young stars that burned bright although
She saw differently

Yami couldn't turn away, though she wanted to
The universe's mirror showed her pure energy
When her eyes blazed like ancient torches waiting for wind
She would burn out soon

Hikari . . . Yami . . . Though in other ways the same
Eyes fresh and eyes exhausted, stared into each other
Seeing and not seeing, missing the realization
That they weren't alone

Poet's Notes: Since my oldest sister and I have birthdays in May, and both of us fall under the Gemini astronomical sign, I decided to write about twin star sisters. Tying into the “living star” theme of my "Dancing on Stars" poem (previously published in Songs of Eretz), this poem personifies the stars. One was meant to have a bit of my sister's spirit and one mine. It also came from the thought of a lonely person looking in a mirror, thinking he/she and his/her reflection are all alone when they're actually staring at a being that is just as lonely. The twins' names, Hikari and Yami, mean “light” and “dark” respectively in Japanese, a language I've been studying.

Editor’s Note:  This is probably the best I've seen from Sierra, reminding me why I invited her to be an FC.  The theme is powerful--that even twins can look at the same phenomenon and come up with completely different interpretations.  The use of Japanese adds a nice, modern, anime flair. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

FC Rowe Has Debut Article Published in Scholarly Journal

Songs of Eretz is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor James Frederick William Rowe has had his debut scholarly article “Time and Change” published in a peer reviewed journal of philosophy, The Philosophical Forum - A Quarterly, volume XLVIII no. 20, summer 2017.  In his article, James touches upon some of the same themes that he employs in his more philosophical poetry.  Readers who enjoy his poetry should find delving into his academic prose quite interesting.

"Hearing Loss" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Hearing Loss
Terri Lynn Cummings

Leaving the world
to youth’s beat and screech

her hearing shuffles 
to the land of the old

She swims from sound 
to silence and back

through the breath 
of invisible waves

sinks in the ceaseless ringing 
from rock bands’ cannon

Others’ lips open and close
down one-way lanes

while she shrugs and surrenders 
the map she cannot follow

Light dims in the space 
of unopened language

disappears into dust 
as unseen as she

Poet’s Notes:  I wear hearing aids. There. I admit it. Quite frankly, I choose to wear them, because I do not want to be left out of family gatherings. All too often, people quit speaking to those who cannot hear well. I do not want to be left in the cold! Hence, the inspiration for this poem.

Editor’s Note:  This poem is not only poignant and beautiful but could serve as a PSA about hearing loss prevention and treatment.  It is indeed the “rock bands’ cannon” as well as the failure to wear proper hearing protection when required that leads to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

Hearing loss is NOT a normal or inevitable part of aging.  I am living proof that hearing protection works as advertised.  When I was in the Air Force and exposed to all kinds of toxic levels of noise, I always, always wore my issued hearing protection.  Even off duty, I did (and still do!) wear protection when performing noisy chores such as mowing the lawn.  Well into my fifties, I can still hear cars approaching from the left before I see them in my rearview and I can still hear heart murmurs through my stethoscope that younger doctors cannot appreciate.

The cavalier attitude that today’s youth has towards its precious sense of sound frankly appalls me.  Not a shift goes by at the Kansas City Military Entrance Processing Station where I work part-time doing physicals on military applicants that I do not see several teenagers with significant hearing loss--sometimes so bad that I must permanently disqualify them from military service.

So, I hope that the take home message of this lovely poem is LOUD AND CLEAR:  USE HEARING PROTECTION WHEN REQUIRED.  ‘Cause once it’s gone, it’s gone.... 

Monday, June 19, 2017

"moon maidens" by Ross Balcom

moon maidens

moon mists
multiply images

moon maidens
enchant me,
seduce me


the morning 
says otherwise--

moon maidens'
panties heaped
by my bed

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: I wrote this poem while under the spell of the moon one night. Indeed, the moon is my mistress and master. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

"A Morning in Manhattan" by David Pring-Mill

A Morning in Manhattan
David Pring-Mill

Brittle thin branches stretched over the street,
skewing upwards like spiky tangled hair.
Strange silhouettes would not concede defeat.
Bodies blemished the white and frosted air.
Big hoods and scarves hid peering blanched faces
and new snow fell to cover their traces.
With nowhere to go, nothing to become,
Life tries to cage you, yet I roved errant.
Prudent people with fading souls succumb.
Is God their puzzle?  Is He transparent?
Do others wait for their release with age?
I was disengaged, but had time to think,
not like a poor dunce dancing for a wage,
or those who sip and suffer on the brink,
whose coffee cups with wistful dying steam
appease twinges of spite for the sick scheme.
I craved their dark-roasted fuel and banished
alarming love from crossing my young mind.
I had hoped that with the damn past vanished,
I could feel happy, free, one of a kind.

I watched coiling heat from the dry cleaners.
I entered a dingy N train station,
paid the fare to avoid misdemeanors,
and pushed through a turnstile as vibration
celebrated each train to the city.

While sitting, I watched the varied faces ―
refined girls who boast in states so pretty,
working men who come from distant places.
I dozed, then awoke as we passed under
the steel arches of the Manhattan Bridge.
With eyes glazed, we muted the deserved wonder
as we traveled along a stately ridge.
The copper-clad green speck in the distance
ignited a new pride in resistance.

A homeless man whose eyes were deep drained black
walked across the train car in staggered gait,
holding a cardboard sign, suffering’s plaque.
A boy with big eyebrows slouched by his mate.
A girl hunched and pushed buttons on her phone.
A man let his hat droop to hide his eyes.
Some traveled in pairs, some traveled alone.
Bulgy coats enlarged them to twice their size.
Assorted ads lined the metal ceiling.

Forlorn, I stepped out at 34th Street.
I felt sickly and my heart was feeling
consigned dreams of people: poor and elite.
I decided to go to Bryant Park.
My soul was lost, adrift, an aimless ark.

I rode the F train to 42nd
and ascended from the station to walk
in lonely stroll as great noises beckoned.
Her smile flashed through my mind, teeth white as chalk.
Though I felt warm in rags I couldn’t hem,
It is the way of girls, in youthful spree,
to deny fires that burn easy for them;
and when older to ask, for me? for me?
And yet it’s known, beauty fades before wit.
I swear my passion’s fire will always stay ―
it flares up, dims down, yet still remains lit,
and it never will burn in the same way.
Despite its capricious spirit and haze,
in my darkest times, it keeps me ablaze.

Runty green tables and chairs lined the park,
once dotted with women in excesses,
lightly perched with coffees and eyes that spark,
chatting while wearing slim summer dresses
that showcase pink patterns and bright flowers;
All were gone, replaced by bundles of snow.
The women had withdrawn and snow showers
covered the paths and suffused the park aglow.
Domes of fallen snow sat atop trash cans.
I trudged through a trench of snow dug by feet
towards streams of yellow cabs as my plans
percolated and I hopped on the street.
I heard mostly noise for winter precludes
those easeful exchanges of platitudes.

I saw homeless folks with signs and scabies.
The respected strode past the dejected.
I saw grandmothers and bundled babies,
three generations and still connected.

A NYPD van was covered white.
A light green billboard stood out strongly.
People in puffy coats turned left and right,
while thinking rightly and thinking wrongly,
beneath a streetlight that rose up and arched.
They passed signs and designs and orange cones.
They blew their noses, rebounded, and marched,
fumbling in deep pockets for buried phones.

The signs cut short the dollar’s deviance.
Steam rose from gutters in braided, spry plumes.
Electric emblems begged for allegiance
and biased business in festering fumes.
A cascading cacophony of honks
shrieked and enveloped people, all around.
Traffic plodded from Midtown to the Bronx.
It slithered forward, with persistent sound.

Scrawny, angry hippies sat in loud woe,
claimed incessantly that a shelf of ice
would split from the cold continent below.
They sold damning thoughts, abstract advice.
Everyone always has something to sell.
Sell me a thought and give me a number ―
Baptize your baby or he goes to hell.
If you use paper, you support lumber.
Stop genocide and save the humpback whales.
Save money: then spend it on closeout sales.

I saw necks wrapped with scarves, frustrations,
snow banks, stalactites in subway stations,
and in spite of it all, I thought of her ―
and pained memories I could not deter.

She was a person I had lived without,
when I once stood beneath neon flare.
Then I became convinced beyond a doubt
that without her I was deprived of air.
She was a stranger then, now one again,
yet in her place was the presence of pain.

And why was I so badly affected?
I felt things with heightened intensity ―
as though my young heart was unprotected.
I knew the cause of this propensity
to stagger at every slight and heartbreak.
Most small, growing children are fortified
with lasting love that deflects and heals ache.
My harsh upbringing left me mortified,
starved, beaten, and always susceptible
to blows from everything perceptible.

My parent’s nails had sunk into my skin,
leaving behind crooked red reminders
of the deep worthlessness instilled within.
In a wondrous world, I wore her blinders.

And she told me that I deserved each scar,
and when you’re a child regarded as trash,
you start to think perhaps that’s what you are.
I tried slashing my wrists, looked at the gash,
But I found defiance inside of me,
an urge to conquer my predicament
and change this sick world to what it could be.
Although I was still an adolescent,
I dropped out, hitchhiked to New York, and found
oppressors oppress but brave hearts rebound!

I circled back to the moment and stopped.
A fare-seeking cab turned in tracks of slush.
With a thin lace left from what the sky dropped,
the yellow hunter prowled, in steadied rush. 

Poet's Notes:  "A Morning in Manhattan" is connected to the narratives in "And the Darkness Continued" (originally published in The New Verse News) and "Trauma" (published here in Songs of Eretz It is part of an epic poem that I wrote in 2008 and subsequently revised.

The themes of this epic poem are comparable to those found throughout The Catcher in the Rye. The work is about teenage angst, identity, and alienation. Taken as a trio, these excerpts have a particular focus on trauma.  Our emotional responses to terrible events can be unpredictable and powerful. Oftentimes, we are stronger and wiser people once we overcome the damage.

Editor’s Note:  David has done marvelous work here, as though O’Hara and Wordsworth teamed up to compose a poem together.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We Are Now

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that we have acquired the domain name is still our website's host, but gone are the cumbersome "blogspot" and the difficult to remember and perhaps confusing inversion "EretzSongs" that our site name formerly contained.  Our new and more logical name should help new readers find our site more easily and lend an additional air of legitimacy to our site as well.  Our old name,, will automatically link to our new one.

"The Rain" by Michelle Luo

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to debut the poetry of Michelle Luo with “The Rain”.  Luo is a sophomore at Baruch College in New York City and student of Frequent Contributor James Frederick William Rowe.

The Rain
Michelle Luo

Droplets ripple through the tides of the silent pools
Rain pours down the city lights
We look up from the pond to face the stormy night
to see the stars hidden behind the facades.
Though there’s no light that slips through the sorrow night of the crying clouds of grey
The sky roars the tremor hidden deep inside our souls as we buckle to our knees
We look up once more to the stars that are searching for their way to our eyes
But we draw them shut before the twilight shows.
The wetness soaks us to our shoulders as we turn to grieve
To grieve for our own sorrows
To look back upon our regrets as the night draws into darkness

The clouds draw back, and the mist clears
Yet we still lay there
on our knees with tears trickling down our cheeks
We look upon the night sky wondering what we did wrong
and we realize that the night is just an illusion.
All that has passed and all that has been done 
have been wiped away clean by the rain
All the regret is buried as our tears penetrate the soil
We rise to our feet and look up to see the moon
free of the stars’ gaze as we walk down the flooded ground. 
We turn around to repent
but see nothing behind us but the smiles of our old memories.

Poet's Notes:  I believe that everyone has been through rough times in life. We all look back and wish we could turn back time and do things differently. Sadly, time does not stop, and we risk drawing further and further into sorrow until the day we learn to let the past go. 

In this poem, I try to create a tone of despair in the first stanza. I want to paint with words the feelings that one may experience.

The second stanza is the turning point of the poem, and there is a shift in the tone. From the feeling of despair, the speaker moves in to a state of recovery, and the tone slowly becomes more light-hearted. I would not say that the speaker is fully happy, but he or she feels relieved. It would be the same feeling as someone taking a breath of fresh air and taking the first initiative to see the world as somewhere he or she belongs again. 

This poem was inspired by my own feelings when my grandma passed away two years ago. Sometimes pain expressed in poetry seems so beautiful. It also makes it easier for us to express our emotions without being too blunt. 

Editor’s Note:  The water motif is expertly executed.  I especially enjoy the way Luo uses different forms of water (rain, pools, tears, floods) to create subtly different metaphors.  The mood she creates here, at once somber and hopeful, results in a nice emotional release for the reader--a thing for which most poets strive but few achieve.  The narrative is pleasant and easy to follow. 

It is a rare honor and privilege to debut a poet, and I am particularly pleased to be the first to publish the work of this up-and-coming young versifier.  I shall follow her career with great interest. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Flag Day Poem by the Editor

Old Glory

I know not red states or blue states
But only white stars united on a blue field
Hold me whole and high and I inspire nations
Tear me apart and I am nothing but cloth

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

FC Mannone Awarded the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship

Songs of Eretz is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor John C. Mannone was awarded the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship at the recent Mountain Heritage Literary Festival. The fellowship, which comes with a $1,500 honorarium, is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards for Appalachian literature. It is offered by Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tennessee.  Congratulations, John!

"Still" by Lee Nash

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Still” by Lee Nash.  Nash lives in France where she freelances as an editor and proofreader. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the UK, the US, and France in: Ambit, Angle, Mezzo Cammin, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Presence, The Interpreter's House, The Lake, and The World Haiku Review. You can find a selection of her poems on her website:

Lee Nash

Monstrous metal intestine, hefty
on a bed of bricks, designed to convey drab
must, your ample-bowelled cucurbit (alchemy
from Memphis transmuted though the Arab)
part modern magic, part ancient ritual.
Swan’s neck choked with vapor, copper balloons
flushed, you twice refine that water, your coil
a snaking serpentine through cool.
By these colossal means, subtlety:
steady drops of pure, clear condensate;
from your alembic gut a delicacy
to satisfy the most discerning palate.
The brewers set aside the angels’ share
of eau de vie. And this is only fair.

Poet's Notes:  I live in the Charente department in France not far from Cognac. On a tour of one of the cognac distillery houses, we were shown the alembic or "still," an impressive apparatus for making the eau de vie, which is then aged in oak barrels. Our guide explained to us the phenomenon of "the angels' share," a poetic way of describing "the amount of liquor that evaporates through the walls of the oak barrels in cellars as the Cognac matures over the years before it’s bottled"  What a great subject for a poem, I thought. Some time later (as poems too need to mature) I penned this sonnet.

Editor’s Note:  This is a nice sonnet with a modern flair--and what an interesting topic, too!  I love Nash’s employment of alliteration, assonance, consonance, and hard end-line rhyme here. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"At My Desk, Beside the Window" by Frequent Contributor Lauren McBride

At My Desk, Beside the Window
                 "An hour lost in the morning is chased all day."
                                             --Variation of a Yiddish proverb

Voluntarily waking to an
alarm clock at this hour?
You might think I've lost
my mind; except in
the dark, pre-dawn stillness, the
alluring quiet of morning,
I can work, uninterrupted. This is
my favorite time, sleep chased
away by coffee, night yielding to dawn, all
colors of sunrise vying to announce the day.

--Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes: This poem follows the Golden Shovel form, where each line ends with the words from a quote. In the true form, the quote is taken from a line of a poem. Here I have used a variation of a Yiddish proverb that my grandmother used to say.  A memorable poem I read in Songs of Eretz introduced me to this form: "Get a Real Dog" by Sylvia Cavanaugh 

Monday, June 12, 2017

"compute[r]evolution" by Frequent Contributor John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone

Dr. Nanu on a TV science show
warned us of computers that won’t
shutdown, the ones that keep flashing
for help. He warned us of their egos
generated by some sort of fuzzy logic
algorithm leading to self-awareness.
We can tell by the nano crystals
growing in their circuits, their glow
of sentient greenthat smart color

of jealousy, and by their persistence
on holographic screens as if they’re
screaming at us, demanding help,
not in any machine language of zeroes
and ones no longer native to them
but instead, by uttering in our tongue
charged with emotion, a will to live

and a capacity to love, My binary eyes
flash that easily-confused love/hate green:
01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101
01101000 01100001 01110100 01100101

Poet’s Notes: The title plays on the notion that some embrace—that computers with their artificial intelligence (AI) can/will becoming self-aware. Though I don’t personally believe any of that, it’s still fun to imagine how such an evolution could proceed. Indeed, it would be revolutionary. And in our image—mankind’s—would our creation be rendered. No surprise that the futuristic AI would incorporate contradictions of human characteristics. The closing binary are not random zero’s and ones’s, they spell out “love” and “hate,” respectively.

Editor’s Note:  I find the poem begins prosaically like a newspaper article, then suddenly waxes poetic in the middle of line 9.  Finally, the last three-and-a-half lines feel as though an AI has taken over the piece.  In order to enhance the appreciation of this, I used Times New Roman font for the first nine-and-a-half lines to evoke a newspaper story, then switched to the painterly Blackmoor LET to evoke a poet’s hand, and finally switched to synchro let to evoke the cold, hard digital script an AI might favor.  If the font changes are distracting--all the better!  The poem is certainly disconcerting and thought-provoking--food for distraction indeed!

Friday, June 9, 2017

"The End of the Line" by Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee

The End of the Line
Mary Soon Lee
I can't
where to draw the line
or rather
where to terminate it,
and whether

or not
to insert a blank line
     or perhaps
          just some white space
               at the beginning.

It's all a matter of taste,
except when a li-
-ne break helps cl-

Poet's Notes: I have spent many hours puzzling over punctuation for my poems, including the matter of where to insert the line breaks. Short lines or long lines? Which words merit coming at the end of a line?

Recently, I wrote one particular piece as a poem, then reformatted it as prose, then pondered the two versions. Word for word, they were almost identical. But laying the piece out as a poem shaped the emphasis.I like the piece better as a poem, but I know that it could rightly be accused of being "cut-up prose." Maybe sometimes, if you cut it up the right way, prose can become poetry.  Lacking confidence that I'd achieved that, I ended up submitting the piece as a short story.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Dancing on Stars" by Frequent Contributor Sierra July

Dancing on Stars
Sierra July

She was born in red
Hot flames too bright to see
They called her a star
A carpet spread for her
And she danced on it
In a smooth Milky Way

Poet's Notes: This poem came from a random place. Listening to a song that repeated “dance” in the lyrics, I thought of the show "Dancing with the Stars", and that spurred the thought of dancing on the stars, then the thought of a star dancing on stars.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"Doubt" by Frequent Contributor Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings

Leaves fall    then speak of return
while my desire considers them 
as what let go of me 

Faith rises    follows the sun 
as it turns away like a lost love
Trees fold up their robes by winter

ease beneath blankets of snow
sleep in long-stemmed knowledge 
awake into something more than

years left rotting on low limbs
memories that flake like shed skin
shade as it hides in remorse

I drift with wood smoke
my roots in my pocket
reach for the branch where life resides

lift my head  
from the crook of winter’s arm 
rise from the couch of myself

like a hundred winged bodies
fly into sky from which will fall 
feathers    or blessings

Poet’s Notes:  With fall on my mind, and November’s birth of a long-deceased son, I cradled my thoughts into a poem. Faith is all around me when I choose to acknowledge it. Yet doubt lifts its head like a weed that must be plucked from the ground before it spreads. Therefore, I write and banish doubt from the page (most of the time).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"Film" by Arlyn LaBelle

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Film” by Arlyn LaBelle of Austin, Texas. Her poems have appeared multiple times in the Badgerdog summer anthologies as well as in: Words Work, Persona, The Missing Slate, The Blue Hour, LAROLA, JONAH Magazine, and The Oddville Press. Her work can also be found at

Arlyn LaBelle

I wear my anger for you
when it suits me,
when it is seasonally appropriate,
sometimes, when it rains.

I take no souvenirs.
I leave bobby pins in your bed,
hungover footsteps,
trailing down your stairs.

In the kitchen, without my love
you make coffee. You make
silent pillars of steam
to ease our morning.

I braid my hair to wait,
To practice living.

Poet’s Notes:  One of the things that I love about writing poetry is the ability to adopt an almost endless series of voices. I particularly like the voice of decadent disdain that I envisioned when creating this piece.

A relationship that’s ending slowly, romantic or not, can create a feeling of impotence, almost like it’s happening in another room completely without you. I wanted to look at the passion that this impotence could inspire, a low boiling “no, it’s your fault” that was really fun to explore, especially for a chronic compromiser such as I.

I earnestly struggle with titling my pieces. Names generally come long after the poem feels “complete”, so adding a title sometimes feels redundant or disconnected. I ended up choosing “Film” because I like the connotations that it carries--a layer of film developing over a relationship, maybe an indie-film sense of common drama. It’s easy to posture like a character that you’ve seen in a movie or TV show, especially when you’re young and not fully cognizant of your emotions.  I think of the speaker in this piece as a person who adopts and maybe even enjoys this attitude of resentment and disappointment that he has seen elsewhere.

Editor’s Note:  “Film” is an interesting and ironic modern take on the sonnet form, as the form is usually used for traditional love poetry.  The acid tone of this piece is palpable and is enhanced by the clever metaphor choices.  Despite the metaphorical approach, there is a narrative here that is easy to follow.  I enjoy the way Arlyn links "anger" in the first stanza with "steam" in the third.  In the final couplet, I envision the speaker viciously and angrily pulling and tightening his or her hair--the final accent to the somber story.