Friday, July 21, 2017

"This Moment" by Lauren McBride

This Moment

Sitting beside my garden,
the bills on my lap      forgotten,
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

hello, river
I greet the waterway

I am a man
arrived at its banks

and I would know
its winding wyrd

I am the lurker
in the cattails

though naked,
I am no pervert

I am 
the Angel of the Rushes

I have the feet of a frog
devolution's gift

for I can swim 

I am the dripping athlete
at your daughter's door

a job applicant,
I reek of river

I hand you this portfolio
of marsh grass

in the expectation
you will not hire me

fish sing their scales
their glad tunes rise

multicolored suns
the light, the water

this is the eternal 

and shimmer, 
shimmer me

I would be the light
of the river

I would be the dawn

around every bend
a new me

my serial selves
the river

has multiplied me
ye gods

resolved again
into one man

I walk 

into sunset
feet big as folly

the ever-changing river
always a stranger

and a friend
greeting me anew

each moment
I call it Hello River

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

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 cliché 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
          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

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,, 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

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

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.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

"grading" by John Reinhart

pain in my fingers
correcting student papers
red, red, red
spilling blood
atonement for history

--John Reinhart

Poet’s Notes:  In response to a comment about the laborious nature of correcting papers, a student once asked, "Mr. Reinhart, then why do you assign so many?" Correcting papers is simultaneously challenging and, in later years, highly rewarding. By the time students are in 11th or 12th grade, papers become a conversation, the process almost musical in its call and response, improvisations on a theme. I've taken many approaches, from literally cutting then rearranging papers, to rewriting as poems, to a focused "go back and try to fix X." Until I find another way to inspire students to improve on their work, practice seems to be the primal ingredient, so the assignments will keep pace and I'll keep my colorful pens at the ready.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"summer's ice cream truck" by Lauren McBride

salivating at
ringing bell like Pavlov's dogs
summer's ice cream truck

--Lauren McBride

Poet’s Notes: I don't remember the ice cream truck playing music when I was little, just the bell ringing which could be heard long before the truck came down our street. Playtime stopped as kids ran home for money and rushed back outside to get in line before the truck arrived. I wasn't allowed to buy ice cream every day but I drooled for it just the same.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Enveloped" by Sierra July


She could see the world but never move
Company only to the scratchy feel
Of her home cocoon

But her eyes flickered at passersby
Frogs huddled against rain, clutters of slick
Birds preening for warmth

She'd shiver, wish silk would comfort her
Instead bites from her home bled fey blood green
She fidgeted

Her heart soared as her cocoon crumbled
Tears spangled her worn eyes as she unfurled
A new pair of wings

--Sierra July

Poet's Notes: After receiving a notebook with butterflies on it, I wanted to write something in it. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was something about life in a chrysalis (a cocoon in the poem). Rather than personifying a baby butterfly’s (or moth's) thoughts in life as I intended, a lonely fairy was born who was granted wings and freedom in the end. I like to think that she makes friends with the wildlife she observed and perhaps finds more of her kind. Regardless she is happy to be neither boxed in my mind or in that cocoon. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

An Independence Day Poem by the Editor

Fifty-six Brave Men
The Founders composed and signed--a letter.
The fetters that so maligned
shattered freeing soul and mind.

Poet's/Editor's Notes:  If there is one characteristic of America that makes her great it is adherence to her traditional motto:  e pluribus unum (out of many--one).  America takes the best aspects of every culture and makes them her own, usually with improvements.  Accordingly, I feel perfectly justified in presenting a foreign poetry form in honor of the 241st birthday of these United States.

The englyn penfyr was introduced to me yesterday by a Friend of Eretz.  It is a Welsh poetry form that dates back at least as far as the 9th century.  For more information on this beautiful and lyrical ancient form of poetry, see
Steven Wittenberg Gordon, Editor

Monday, July 3, 2017

"Aging" by Terri Lynn Cummings

No one can go back and make a new beginning,
but any of us can start now to make a new ending. 
— Maria Robinson


wanders the rooms 
of man’s life
the title role in his plot

the film in his eyes
grow spare in shared history
harvested from 
hell and paradise

In the half-light of dusk
man gathers himself
closes and locks 
the door to an 
emptying house

which once held 
the back straight
curl into themselves
Hands of the clock unwind

--Terri Lynn Cummings

Poet’s Notes:  My life is stuck on fast forward. Childhood, youth, adulthood, and middle age has soared past like a star. Now each sunrise lures me to the past, and sunset reminds me of what remains undone or unspoken.