Monday, July 31, 2017

"Ontological" by James Frederick William Rowe

Editor’s Note:  This poem and the notes that follow it are well worth the time it will take to read critically.  For a primer on Saint Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God and the arguments of various philosophers against it, see http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/.

Ontological
James Frederick William Rowe

I will fill myself on the flesh
Of an imaginary fruit
A glorious apple
Plucked from a precious Tree
On a perfect isle
And think myself wise

I have not erred

Anselm,
     Anselm,
Would that you were bishop of Glastonbury
Then in sight of Avalon
That Touranian monk
Could not have chided you
Naive of legendary islands

And what do you know of thalers
Upon bureaus or elsewhere
You, a Benedictine?
Leave it to a Prussian Protestant
To insist upon sola fide
When we have reason also

Reason which renders
So sensible infinite notions
We cannot comprehend beyond what we can experience?
You have never uttered a word of truth
Committed to such a narrow view of proof
Transcendental though your idealism be

And indeed reason which demonstrates
Existence a perfection
The absence of which
The greatest cannot admit 
Assuring reality to that conceived
And granting proof to the divine

Anselm,
     Anselm,
It is no wonder you are a saint
For your miracles were woven in life
Deducing necessity from a potential
That all must grant
By thought alone establishing what must be

Poet’s Notes:  Ontological is my tribute to St. Anselm of Canterbury's ontological argument for the existence of God, which I so happen to favor, alongside Aquinas' argument from contingency (the third way) as demonstrating a rational proof of God's existence. 

I began this on the subway, and with a certain degree of difficulty, I continued it later. Specifically, I had a difficult time figuring out how I'd end it but eventually I decided to make the last two stanzas reflect on the argument itself, rather than playing with the attempted refutations proposed by Gaunilo of Marmoutiers ("that Touranian monk") and Immanuel Kant ("a Prussian Protestant"). Throughout the poem, the philosophies of the argument and of its refutations play the central theme.  For ease, here is a breakdown of all the references organized by stanza:

            Stanza 1: Guanilo's "perfect island" is referenced here, blended with the Biblical imagery of plucking from the Tree of Knowledge. In other words, I am suggesting I am willing to accept the ontological argument here, as evidenced by the stand-alone verse "I have not erred".

            Stanza II: Anselm was archbishop of Canterbury, an English seat, but I imagine him as more prepared to immediately deal with Guanilo's argument if he were archbishop at Glastonbury, the legendary grave of King Arthur, and so "then in sight of Avalon / that Touranian monk / could not have chided you / ignorant of legendary islands". Avalon also hearkens back to the first stanza's reference of apples, as Avalon is the "isle of apples".

            Stanzas III and IV: Here I deal with Kant's famous rebuttals to the ontological argument, where he suggested a hundred thalers on a bureau are not given existence by being better than their non-existence. Kant also thought that God is known through practical reason, or he said in the preface to his Critique of Pure Reason, “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith." This declaration is found in my "leave it to a Prussian Protestant / to insist upon sola fide [faith alone] / when we have reason also" and goes on to criticize in the next stanza Kant's transcendental idealism, which suggests we can make no metaphysical claims that are transcendent of possible experience. 

            Stanza V: In this stanza I take up Kant's "existence is not a predicate" argument but do so only by ignoring it. A long proof demonstrating why existence is indeed a predicate did not fit into this poem's structure, and so I didn't attempt to make a refutation; rather I just went with the idea that Anselm is right.

            Stanza VI: The poem concludes with the suggestion that the real miracle of St. Anselm's life is the creation of the ontological argument, which uses pure reason to deduce the existence of the perfect being. Though I think the argument sound, I nevertheless recognize that being able to show something exists from mere argument is indeed somewhat out of the ordinary.

Aesthetically, the bulk of the poem consists of stanzas six verses in length, aside from one stand-alone verse. Two of them include my repetition of Anselm's name, the second indented, which I thought was appropriate given that this is a "love letter" to Anselm's achievement. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

"sepulcher" by Ross Balcom

sepulcher

within
the sepulcher

you soar

your coffin
winged

borne by
winds eternal

black
the sky

numberless
the stars

galaxies
scythe-strewn

tribes
of the dead

welcoming
you

fearful 
stranger

everlasting
friend

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: One of my favorite words is "sepulcher"; in fact, I frequently slip it into casual conversations. (Neighbor:  "Hi. Nice day, isn't it?" Ross: "Yes. Sepulcher.") I suppose it was inevitable I would write a poem with this title.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Maui" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Maui
Terri Lynn Cummings

Coral reefs of light smile
while morning paddles her feet 
in sapphire’s swell and 
daubs the breeze with plumeria

Waves sway the hour
strolling over shelves of sand 
swabbing shells with salty rags 
until they catch

Voices claim the bay 
like a village of boats 
slapping oars on silver
filling nets with sunshine 

For now, I lie banked
dew dripping from palms
sleep drifting 
toward the isle of you
  
Poet’s Notes: Mother Nature wears her best lei, scarf, skirt, sandals, and perfume on this Hawaiian island. Whenever I trade a cold winter week for the warmth of Maui, splendor floods my senses. Nothing is better than the balance of bliss and serenity found when I simply sit and breathe. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"High-Bouncing Ball" by James Frederick William Rowe

High-Bouncing Ball
James Frederick William Rowe

The quarters I once begged
From a reluctant grandmother
Oft-refusing
Now jingle in my wallet
Detritus from the wages
Of the intellectual labour
By which I win my bread
Now no permission is needed
To turn the latch
To hear the clanking descent
Amidst the plastic capsules
Of its tight-packed fellows
To be retrieved by
Clawing fingers
Plucking my prize
From out the steel door
Securing what I desire
At a price of twenty-five cents
All my own

I'm a grown man! 

Poet’s Notes:  My grandma would only rarely give me quarters to buy the grocery store toys. As a consequence, my unsatisfied desire for these stupid little toys has given me all the reason in the world for me to waste my money on crappy, throwaway baubles as an adult. The reason? I'm a man, and it's my own damn money, and I can have my high-bouncing ball if I damn well please! 

This poem was more or less completed on the subway and is simple and straightforward. I revised it twice before I exited the subway and only tweaked it a little bit when I returned home and put it on the computer.

The structure of the poem is not special. The last verse is set off from the rest to underscore its declarative nature as expressive of why I actually do this. Beside high-bouncing balls, I have collected little figurines, cap shooters, bracelets, rings, and other garbage. Sometimes I give them to my students. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"the dolls" by Ross Balcom

the dolls

you will see her
sobbing

seized by grief
she cannot bear

BARBIE
kneeling graveside

one glance from her
will tell you

KEN
is  buried there

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: With Ken out of the way, Barbie is available. Now ROSS makes his move....

Editor’s Note:  Go get her, Ross.  Meanwhile, enjoy this:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dRn3DYydAQ.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Acquired Taste" by James Frederick William Rowe

Acquired Taste
         For William John Rowe

A deep and early memory
I can recall it vividly:
The darkness of the night
Robbing the transparency of the window
So that our own figures
Reflected when we gazed without
The pine table
Rustic and antique
Set for supper, spaghetti
And my father's glass of wine

My pinkie finger
That is the one that dunked
At my mother's protests
Into the brim of the glass
The crystal glass from which
I yet still drink
I snuck a taste before my hand was grabbed
The silten dryness of fermented grape
Despicable to the tongue
Of a three year old

I still don't care for red wine

-- James Frederick William Rowe

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is written in dedication to my father, William John Rowe, who died in January 2017 from cancer. It recalls my second oldest memory of him, which came to mind when I realized I am still not much of a red wine drinker at all.

The poem is divided into two stanzas of ten verses a piece with one verse standing alone to underscore my retained distaste of wine. I wrote this poem rather quickly after I had breakfast one morning and I struggled only with how to describe the exact taste of the red wine. I settled at last on “silten”, as I think the taste of a dry red wine conjures up a deep, earthy taste. It is, as best as I can remember, an accurate description of the wine I actually tasted so many years ago.

My favorite two verses in the poem are the conclusion of the first stanza:  "Set for supper, spaghetti / and my father's glass of wine". I believe this is the only time I've ever referenced my father in anything I've ever written in such a direct manner and I thought it reflected well my desire to do something to mark his death. I also like the alliteration in the first of those verses, which I find pairs well with the second verse. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

"This Moment" by Lauren McBride

This Moment

Sitting beside my garden,
the bills on my lap      forgotten,
    porch              
                              swing 
              slow
                      ing;
too busy this moment
watching bees and butterflies
trading flowers.

--Lauren McBride


Poet’s Notes: I think it's important to let ourselves get distracted from the must-dos in life and enjoy the moment. That being the purpose of this poem, I could stop these notes right now. 

Instead, I will share that in early versions, I changed "bills" to "book" thinking that image would connect with more people. Yet I was paying bills when this poem came to me, trying to make a chore more pleasant by taking it outside, which actually made it take longer, but was infinitely more rewarding.

Editor’s Note on the Poem:  I love the way Lauren placed her words here to evoke the gentle swinging of a porch swing.  Using white space in this way is unique to the poetic art form, something prose simply cannot do.  I also appreciate the double meaning of the title here:  “moment” as in “a snapshot of time” and “moment” as in the “momentum” of the porch swing. 

Editor's Note on the Graphic:  The lady depicted in the graphic is NOT the mysterious and reclusive Lauren McBride.  No one knows what she looks like, not even I.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"hello, river" by Ross Balcom

hello, river
Ross Balcom

1.
hello, river
I greet the waterway

I am a man
arrived at its banks

and I would know
its winding wyrd

2.
I am the lurker
in the cattails

though naked,
I am no pervert

I am 
the Angel of the Rushes

3.
I have the feet of a frog
devolution's gift

for I can swim 
mightily

I am the dripping athlete
at your daughter's door

4.
a job applicant,
I reek of river

I hand you this portfolio
of marsh grass

in the expectation
you will not hire me

5.
fish sing their scales
their glad tunes rise

multicolored suns
the light, the water

this is the eternal 
shimmer

6. 
and shimmer, 
shimmer me

I would be the light
of the river

I would be the dawn
flowing

7.
around every bend
a new me

my serial selves
the river

has multiplied me
ye gods

8.
resolved again
into one man

I walk 
riverside

into sunset
feet big as folly

9.
the ever-changing river
always a stranger

and a friend
greeting me anew

each moment
I call it Hello River

10.
river, hello

Poet's Notes: I wrote this poem after a recent riverside walk.  I dedicate it to the rivers of the world and to all who love them. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Epitaph for One So Young" by Lauren McBride

Epitaph for One So Young
         For Michelle, who was willing to hang on until her parents were willing to let her go.

Our tender phrases eased your grief
‘til gathered guests too soon took leave;
all cards and flowers in plain sight
when tearful day met empty night.

Then loneliness consumed once more, 
and sorrow from all thoughts of her.
But please do not remain in pain; 
your daughter did not die in vain.

Her voice grown weak, her frame so small,
yet lessons she did teach to all:
that love endures and life is prized -
though fading from her young blue eyes.

Now all those gathered on that day
will find new meaning when they pray, 
for all those know this world has still
true friendship, love and strength of will.

And all those know within their hearts
the pain that’s felt when one departs,
and joy that’s felt when one is free
of earthly strife and misery.

Please let fond memories sustain, 
for her sad death was not in vain.
Renewed are friendship, love and will
with those who miss her voice grown still.

--Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes: I wrote an early version of this poem years ago for the parents of a little girl who died of brain cancer. Month after month she sadly and tragically wasted away. Everyone in our small church was affected. I was looking for something positive for the family to gain from their loss.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Youth" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Youth
Terri Lynn Cummings

He died each night in the bed
whose skin he peeled back for sleep
and dreamed of the girl he wanted 
to please. They hid in a cave 
of branches, sugar on tongues 
and the green kiss of grass
in summer’s free heat. Earth’s 
anchor in the undertow of magma 
slipped through their veins 
to the heart of hands clasped. 
Every smile a curve of the moon
every breath a bud of their bond
untouched by daylight
and the sharp pain of growth.

Poet’s Notes:  I composed this poem as spring was approaching summer, taking a look back to childhood’s innocent awakenings. I remember sharp growing pains that woke me at night – and the sweet pain from liking the first, special boy, which kept me awake. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

"At the Gate of Eden" by James Frederick William Rowe

At the Gate of Eden
James Frederick William Rowe

The cherub with the burning sword
     Its blade alive with undulating fire
     Coursing as a tide of heat along the cutting edge
     Liquid in its smokeless grace
Is the firewall of the Past
And every regret a Serpent
Beguiling us with the fantasy
That we are gods
Who could live otherwise than we had
That if only we had a second chance
     A third, a fourth
That other than what transpired
May have occurred
If only we could eat and edit forever
The history we have made
We should be perfect
A fantasy that fate
Is fungible
That that which is immutable
Could be otherwise
If only we could step back
And try once more

Satan is indeed
The father of lies
But who amongst us has not wished
He could once tell the truth?


Poet’s Notes:  One of my favorite images from the Bible is that of the wrathful cherub(im) placed as a guardian blocking the entrance of Eden. In the poem, I think of it a single cherub holding the sword in hand, as that is how I often picture it in mind, even though the text appears to reference multiple cherubim, and the sword itself as alive and active on its own accord. Whatever the case might be in the Bible, I think it is more dramatic if it is a single entity and so I went with that. Also, I do think is notable that the first angel(s) in the Bible are beings of punishment though I make them something a little different.

In this poem, I take the cherub as being the irreversibility of the past, whereas the Serpent/Satan, who promises that we should "be as gods" to Eve, represents the voice of regret that would have us return to a past and so make right what has gone wrong. Who amongst us has not fantasized about going back and changing something about the past? That is why I conclude with the idea that though "Satan is indeed / the father of lies / but who amongst us has not wished / he could once tell the truth?" 

I wrote this poem in all of five minutes after breakfast. It came to me quickly and required only minor revision. The simple aesthetics see a large single stanza on the main theme with the ending offset in a separate stanza to underscore the recognition of the role regret has in all our imaginations. The indentation fixates on the imagery of the cherub, which I think underscores the blocked pathway to the past and the futility of listening to the Serpent's nonsense. Then again, we can't help but be nonsensical sometimes. 

It is also purposeful that the Eden so represented is the past, as the past always seems a promised land that we have abandoned for a present that is unsatisfying due to our regretful choices. For that reason, maybe the cherub really does represent regret in the Bible, as surely Adam and Eve must have felt for their transgression. Though given that our past actions make us in part what we are, perhaps it is not so bad that the cherub stands there, lest we undo ourselves by undoing the past. It is somewhat of a clichĂ© to reconcile oneself to suffering by accepting that this suffering is a part of oneself, but it does appear to be true that we are what we are because of all of that. The assumption that this is a good thing is not one I find especially convincing, but whether good or bad, it appears true and irrevocable at any rate.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Poetry Hat Trick for FC Reinhart

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor John Reinhart has had three poems published in other venues:

Ariel Chart published "Digging in the Spring"

Outlook Springs published two of his poems in issue #3: Employee Handbook

"Mother Nature’s on the Run" by John C. Mannone

Mother Nature’s on the Run
         After Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”

I never thought the Sun,
an orb of gold
light,
          could flare
all the way through cold
space ninety-three million miles
          and singe
our souls in the time of apocalypse.

We were too busy
                              making our own fire
bombs, blasting everything we knew.
          This good earth, stained with blood.
It must have been when the rocks cried
        that the Moon yelled
               at the Sun.
It must have been soon after that—
the gold Sun rushed its fire-light.

Only a few of us escaped
                              the tsunami
fireballing at a million miles an hour,
our silver spaceships glinting
          in the hot star
light.

Mother Nature’s on the run, we’re flying
to a new home in the stars
        but nothing’s new, no nothing’s new
under any sun.

--John C. Mannone

Poet’s Notes:  While listening to Neil Young’s title cut from his After the Gold Rush “album” on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e3m_T-NMOs, I was inspired to write this poem. This kind of ekphrasis, like any other art-informing-art work, has often been a good way for me to defeat writer’s block. Sometimes the music sets the mood, and at other times, like with this song, the lyrics inspire the poem. A clear apocalyptic sense is picked up in the closing lyrics, which I adapt and adopt. The structure of the poem goes to a sense of chaos in the aftermath of an apocalypse and the uncertainty of the unknown. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Camouflage" by Sierra July

Camouflage
Sierra July

Though human he was born with blots
Like permanent leopard print
Eyes scrunched, brows furrowed, sweat immune
Words and stones were thrown from fear, hate

Tears bit back, he took to the trees
Shadows hugged him; light kissed his flesh
Thus he fell to Nature's embrace
A home gained, a place he felt free
Still not quitting humanity

Poet's Notes: This is another poem that came about by considering nature's marvels. Watching a wildlife program featuring cheetahs made me come up with a human character with spots. I wanted a realistic tone; with people either fearing or despising said character. The ending came as a surprise even for me. I had the idea to make this completely tragic, but an almost optimistic last line sprung up instead. I'm actually glad it turned out like this.

Editor’s Note:  Taken literally, this poem has an interesting speculative narrative.  Metaphorically, the poem could be interpreted to represent the victims of bullies and anyone else who does not quite fit into society.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"The Nature of Marriage" by Terri Lynn Cummings

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.
– Dalai Lama

The Nature of Marriage
Terri Lynn Cummings

A third of what the husband remembered was false.
Memories hid inside, wearing masks

until they stepped into the world
and delivered him to or from himself.

Half of what the wife said waited with no concern.
She simply told herself, Say it. Do it!

yet years had passed before those words inspired
or were nothing more than steam from a shower.

Yet when his memories were deeds that replenished the earth
her actions seeded life from the bed of inertia.

They infused their days with more than dreams
that boiled like water, churning until spent.

Now this man and wife fill lungs with treasure
breathe and savor their breath to the last.

Poet’s Notes:  Sometimes, fingers point blame at another when issues fester within ourselves. If not careful, the term ‘bad marriage’ becomes an excuse and then reality. Recently, a friend laid frustrations at the partner's feet. Insightful dialogue and action dissolved the pressure. This led me to examine my marriages – one had faded but the other bloomed. 


Editor's Note:  I am incredibly lucky in my choice of mate.  Nevertheless, while I do not identify with this poem, I believe many readers will.  I particularly enjoy the uplifting conclusion of this piece.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Mandala" by Ross Balcom

Mandala
 
The helicopter descends,
its blades a whirling mandala

decapitating Buddhas,
making their heads fly.

I treasure the Dharma;
I have followed it forever.

My head is beautiful;
they call it the Great Lotus.

Smiling, I thrust it into

eternity's whirling blades.

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: Decapitation is the ultimate liberation. Lose your head. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

"In the Shadow" by John C. Mannone

In the Shadow
John C. Mannone

Once I read a horror story
about shadowpeople—
two dimensional entities
that would ghost us.

I can hardly imagine living
as a flat-lander having no idea
about the third dimension,
let alone stalk anyone. 

If I were that 2D-personage,
I imagine I’d be a projection
of God, well, a god, anyway.

And whenever the sun shone
low on the horizon, I’d grow
in stature, my gray complexion
running over 3D streets

in shadowland. I’d be pressed
to believe I have purpose, perhaps
to give shade to my brother.

When the sun climbed high
to its zenith, I’d be reduced
to a mere blot—sometimes
I must diminish so that

the one in whom’s shadow I live
could shine light on the world
around me.

Poet’s Notes: Coming out of the May’s Chattanooga Writers’ Guild meeting, long shadows of a couple of my writer friends were cast along with mine in an eerie pre-twilight sun. I was reminded of the 1884 novella called Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott. The same logic can be used for us three-dimensional humans, i.e. though it is impossible for us to perceive the fourth dimension, we would be able to deduce it’s existence by observing the dynamics of its projection, its shadow, on our world.  The horror story I mention in the opening line is actually a story that I wrote, “Shadowmonsters” published in MicroHorror Magazine (November 2009)—sadly, that venue seems to be defunct.