Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"What War Is Like" by Mary Soon Lee

What War Is Like
Mary Soon Lee

Not this.
Not this glory.
Not this unsullied glory.
Not this unsullied, thunderous glory.

The thunder, yes.
The thunder falling from falcons,
from the F-16s rocketing upward
in delta formation.

The aircraft, yes,
but not the air show, the fast food stands.
Not the planes' patriotic paint job,
red, white, and blue.

The pilots, yes,
but flying foreign skies,
their vipers liveried in gray,
armed with AMRAAMs. What we ask of them.

What we ask of all our warriors.
To be our sword, our shield.
To risk themselves.
To kill.

Poet's Notes: I wrote this poem last month, after going to the annual "Wings Over Pittsburgh" air show. As in past years, I was struck by the performances, including that of the Air Force's Thunderbirds. It's a visceral, astonishing experience to watch them. A book I’d recently read also influenced the poem, particularly the title: "What It is Like to Go to War," by Karl Marlantes, a book that also made an impression on me. (I recommend the book--it's a thoughtful, often excellent description and discussion of warfare, written by a Marine officer who served in Vietnam). I wish the poem came closer to capturing the intensity of watching the F-16s. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Eighteen Ways of Looking at Hurricane Harvey" by Lauren McBride

Eighteen Ways of Looking at Hurricane Harvey
Lauren McBride
Rockport in the cat 4 bullseye
the wrath of Harvey's winds 
batter the Texas coastal bend

             five days of torrential rain            
Houston becoming
a city of islands

not Houston's first hurricane
yet Harvey floods many homes 
for the first time

water rising
homeless too

all day, all night
tornado warnings
where to shelter
in a flooded home

traffic map
every road

 where there's a will -
pizzas delivered
by kayak

record shattering 
                         52 inches of rain                           
flood news becoming tiresome
except for those 
caught in it

flight after flight canceled
waking to find 
both airports closed
day after day 
trying to reschedule

stranded in Houston
a week advances 

Harvey heading east
the sky brightens
sprinkling quietly

in a clearing sky
hurrying by

strange to be under curfew   
                           like living in                           
a disaster movie

water receding
a chance to drive out for groceries 
everywhere - drywall, carpet, 
belongings at the curb
furniture outside to dry
cars - hoods up, doors open

empty store shelves:
now a welcome sight
the supply trucks 
          I used to curse            
for clogging traffic 

Beaumont's pump stations flooding
"water, water everywhere
 and not a drop to drink"
           take cover Louisiana          
Harvey has his eye
set on you

after Harvey
the sound of rain

Poet’s Notes: To cover the full wrath of Hurricane Harvey would take a much longer poem. I have concentrated on coastal Texas. Harvey spread damage to central Texas and many other states before finally raining itself out in New England on Labor Day weekend, nine days after landfall. Catastrophically, Irma followed Harvey within weeks. 

The devastation from an unprecedented two Category 4 Atlantic hurricanes hitting the United States in one year will long be remembered. What I hope will also be remembered is the sense of community we shared as a nation as people countrywide mobilized to help.

Editor’s Note:  I had several poems about storms and hurricanes in the Songs of Eretz publishing queue that I accepted for publication long before the arrival of Harvey and Irma.  Although all of them were worthy of publication and some of them contained messages of hope, they all glorified the natural power, ferocity, and poetry of storms.  There was no way I could publish these poems in the aftermath of the recent devastating hurricanes.  “Too soon” would have been diplomatic--“poor taste” would have been closer to the mark.

In contrast, Lauren tastefully and respectfully captures the horror of Harvey's arrival with simple but compelling metaphors and stark, raw, yet poetic statements.  She also captures the hope-filled sadness of Harvey's departure, and her notes enhance the feeling that the disaster will eventually be overcome with help from the community at large.


The Winner Will Receive a

Deadline for entry:  October 15, 2017

Contest Guidelines

Guest Judge
Immediate Past Kansas Poet Laureate 
Eric McHenry

Your donation will help further our mission to bring a little more good poetry into the world.  Enter the contest today!

Find out more about Eric here http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/e-zine.html and by enjoying his poems featured in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review in August 2017.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"August" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “August” by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy.  In addition a previous appearance in Songs of Eretz http://www.songsoferetz.com/2017/08/feral-by-yoni-hammer-kossoy.html, his poetry is forthcoming or has most recently appeared in Picaroon Poetry, Right Hand Pointing, Lunch Ticket, Cacti Fur, and Poetica's 2017 Mizmor L'David Anthology. 

A software engineer born and raised in the United States, Hammer-Kossoy and his family now resides in Israel.  Follow him on Twitter @whichofawind.

Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

There's a moment at the turn of twilight
when summer-worn sky colors like ripe plums
and the air unfolds with cool charity 
of a song’s remembered refrain.
A dog barks, the moon leans low and slender,
two boys kick a soccer ball that fades
to a black and white smudge
and even they admit it's time for dinner.
Like any moment of a given year
it might pass with unspoken ease
the way a school of fish slips
between shadow and dappled currents.
But I've saved this one for you
to open and tuck carefully away.

Poet’s Notes:  I started the first draft of what would eventually become “August” a few years ago, as one might imagine, on a warm, late-summer evening after returning home from work. There was something about the light that evening that somehow felt both mysterious and charged with meaning.  I dropped everything and just wrote for the next half-hour or so, after which I had a long, formless stream of images. It was far more of a placeholder than an actual poem, but even then I felt an incredible sense of relief at having grasped something unspeakable and somehow translated it into words. 

Editor’s Note:  The metaphors employed here are gorgeous, and the way the speaker directly addresses the reader in the final two lines is breathtaking. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

FC Lee Wins a Contest, Has 3 More Poems Published

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee’s poem “Master of Chocolate” (first published in the Atlanta Review) won the 143rd weekly Poetry Nook contest https://www.poetrynook.com/forum/contest-winners/143rd-weekly-poetry-contest-winner-master-chocolate.  In addition, her poem “Unsaid”, a King Xau poem, was published online in Uppagus #25 https://uppagus.com/poems/soon-lee-unsaid/; her poem “Yellowstone” was published online in Litbreak http://litbreak.com/yellowstone/; and her poem “Mortal”, also a King Xau poem, was published in print in Spillway #25 http://www.spillway.org/.

"Born and Made" by Sierra July

Born and Made

Part of her craved the water at her feet
Another part of her knew it would kill her
Not poisoned or polluted, it tempted her

Waving as though to beckon her near
She remembered how it felt before
Cool, smooth as it washed her tongue
Now her tongue wouldn't feel, couldn't
All her parts traded for metallic

But she knew, her other parts would feel
In a new way, would cry and shatter
If anything other than oil
Penetrated her lips and traveled down

--Sierra July

Poet's Notes: I've noticed the theme of androids and cyborgs gaining popularity in movies and books again and, also being a bit of a fan for all things robot-like, I wanted to write a piece on them too. This is another sentimental/tragic piece, a girl who can recall being human, needing water, craving it, now both missing and fearing it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"Remembrance" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings

Mother and father
heels and hair
dresses and ties
proper as a Sunday

honest as a sermon
preserved in photos
black and white like belief
rise when bidden

by a chorus of solitude
and a thirst for voices
adrift on prairie's waves
where words rise and recede 

with menace and mercy
like Oklahoma wind
or a shell of memory
caught in sleep’s sand

unseen until stirred
by the clock’s missing hands –
one sentence a song
one word a universe

Poet’s Notes: Although orphaned later in life, I still suffer from the void of my parents’ voices and the touch of their hands. At this point, I’d even welcome the gale of an argument over our differing beliefs (something I never dreamed I would admit). This little poem has a rhythm that I tried to develop like the tick and tock of time’s clock. It’s not perfect rhythm but I think it might work. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Haiku Remembrance by the Editor

burned are the towers
within American hearts
just as hot today

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

"Jefferson Turnip: The Turnip Walked" by Ross Balcom

Jefferson Turnip: The Turnip Walked
Ross Balcom

shadow found the Turnip
oh, he died

death nourished him
sent him forth

the Turnip walked
I do not lie

his face
blank acreage

where shadows 

and you could lose 

in that face 
blank acreage

that looked
through you

in the moonlight
did he feed you?

of his pale, cold flesh
did he feed you?

of his love, his memories
did he feed you?

tell me, tell me
he did feed you

yes, the Turnip
he did feed me

with no death

can be stricken

our human love
will quicken

dead boy
our hearts have taken

to a place...

oh, he walked
the country miles

he walked
feeding us

freeing us
the friends

the strangers
freeing us

feeding us
he walked

I say again
the Turnip walked

the pale legions
follow him

the blessed
those of the new flesh

the Turnip's people
the blessed

down the moonlit
country roads

the blessed
and I am of them

the blessed 
the blessed

and all roads lead
to the dead boy's eyes

the dead boy's arms
the dead boy's heart

and all roads lead
to the dead boy's love

the dead boy's flesh
a brand new start

the food eternal
Turnip has given

the new flesh
Turnip has given

release from old ways
Turnip has given

Turnip has given

by the dead boy

we the higher road
have taken

Turnips all--
the world we'll feed

makers of
a pale, cold breed

Jefferson Turnip
boy unbound...

death nourished him
sent him forth

the Turnip walked
I do not lie

he fed his people
the old world died

Poet's Notes: This poem is a sequel to "Jefferson Turnip," a poem of mine previously published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review http://www.songsoferetz.com/2015/04/poem-of-day-jefferson-turnip-by-ross.html. In this poem, dead boy Jefferson Turnip returns to transform the world with some parallels to the Christ story. What else can I say? I hope y'all like turnips. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review by Mary Soon Lee of “Mole People” by Heather Cox

Below the cobblestone and double decker
buses, below the corkscrew spin of never-ending
staircases, below the humming tracks of every
fast-moving train, below the London you have
come to know live the mole people.

The above quote from “10 Things You Must Understand about Mole People”--the opening poem of Heather Cox’s chapbook “Mole People” (Batcat Press, 2016)--sets the stage for this wonderful treasure about a secret race living beneath London. Five of the poems concern Thomas, a World War II veteran who in 1963 finds a map of the Mole People's Under-Underground. Thomas is a sympathetic and interesting character, but it was the details about the Mole People that fascinated and delighted me.

As a child, I loved Mary Norton's stories of the Borrowers, another secret community of tiny people, but the Mole People are not imitations of the Borrowers--they are their own true selves. The following quote, also taken from “10 Things You Must Understand about Mole People”, establishes their unique place in the genre:

When London is shrouded in grey, when rain
bursts into pavements, when the wind is also
propelling the rain, one mole will be selected to
climb up wooden steps, through tunnels, up iron
ladders, through hidden holes and crevices and
passageways and in between tall brick walls, to
sneak to the surface and smell the rain, to feel the
splash and taste the wet, to tell the others.

I highly recommend this chapbook, which may be purchased in hardback with hand sewn constructed dust jacket through Batcat Press for $22.00 https://squareup.com/store/batcat-press-3/item/mole-people-by-heather-cox. And I want a sequel. 

Brief Review by Mary Soon Lee of “Ghost Tongue” by Nicole Rollender

“Ghost Tongue” (Porkbelly Press, 2016) is a chapbook that contains ten beautifully worded poems that convey mood and strangeness.  There is something lovely here, something cryptic and just out of reach of my understanding.  I wasn't certain whether the first person narrator was intended to be common to all of the poems, but whether or not the poems are part of a single narrative they reinforce one another. I particularly appreciate the specific details, the attentive phrasing, and the sense of nature pervading the collection.  “Ghost Tongue” may be purchased through Etsy.com for $7.00 https://www.etsy.com/listing/466599432/ghost-tongue-nicole-rollender.

Brief Review by Mary Soon Lee of “Apocalypse” by John C. Mannone

"Apocalypse" (Alban Lake Publishing, 2015) is a chapbook of speculative poetry of the disastrous variety by my fellow Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor John C. Mannone. I have read and admired some of John’s individual poems, but this is the first collection of his that I've read.  From flood to frost to fire to alien invaders, this brief book contains thirty calamitous visions.

As with almost every poetry collection I have read, I found some of the poems stronger than others, but the theme of John’s collection powerfully binds the poems together into a cohesive whole.  Readers will enjoy the science fiction concepts, and I particularly appreciated the way John uses specific details, whether of nature or the machinery of war.  "Apocalypse" is available on Kindle through Amazon for $1.99 https://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-John-C-Mannone-ebook/dp/B012Z6C400 and in print from Alban Lake Publishing http://store.albanlake.com/product/apocalypse/ for $6.00.

Friday, September 8, 2017

"St. Jerome and the Lion" by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Week

St. Jerome and the Lion
Carol Hamilton

At times history turns fictional.
It recreated Jerome of the Vulgate
into a kindly St. Francis
going out to remove a thorn
from the lion’s inflamed paw.   
He soothed the beast to lamb
much as the miracle’s telling
does for this irritable saint.
Perhaps all that translating
turned Jerome testy, but gossip’s
slippery slopes seem to have
confused his name with another:
St. Gerasimus, whose good works 
flourished a ways up the Jordan River.
An artists’ imagination loves
a tussle with such incongruities.
So sweet-faced lions accumulate
on museum walls as do
the arrows piercing Sebastian's flesh.
Who cares if Jerome was a grump!
Good art sometimes comes
from time’s unintended lies.

Poet’s Notes:  I am fascinated by memory and how stories get told. If you have ever tried to tell your mother about doings of you and your brother when young, and you are both telling the story, you quickly realize that each person has a completely different take on what really happened. And so with history.

Our universal memory comes out in our stories, legends, art, and all of this is fascinating. I love my Book of Saints, and there is so much iconography in the religious and mythic paintings throughout the world. When a bit of historical fact comes my way, it certainly sets me thinking!

Editor’s Note:  There are a pleasant number of references to Christian legend/mythology folded into this one, including the different depictions of St. Jerome, as well as the interesting possible confusion with St. Gerasimus.  I am reminded of some of the art in the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City and enjoy the way this poem works at once as an ekphrastic piece with non-specific reference to any particular work of art and as a meta piece. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Obsession: Etched in Stone" by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Week

Obsession: Etched in Stone
Carol Hamilton

Does legacy haunt every writer’s heart,
so for each work we look for fame
and drop by drop seek a flood?
I save my words as if they mattered,
but Jon empties dumpsters in Kansas,
said the libraries sacrifice old books
to the landfill in torrents.

Dumas had his builders chisel
titles of all his novels into the stones
as they built his home. I scribble letters
across the page, and when finished,
I fill files and flash sticks, then nest 
them into The Cloud. Yet folders, papers, 
even clouds tend at last to drift away.

Poet’s Notes:  My friends and I are of the age to wonder what our progeny will ever do with the volume of paper we have used, saved, backed-up, filed and obsessed over. And then I remember all of my mother's saved documents we gave up to the landfill. I still have her special writings and published pieces, but she only wrote now and then in her later years. It often occurs to me that the world will surely go merrily on its way without any of my myriad scribbling. But my behavior belies this knowledge. 

Editor’s Note:  This is a nice, modern take on the classic sonnet form with alliteration and consonance taking the place of rhyme.  I love the way Hamilton brings the universal and eternal yearning for immortality into the present by referencing the past. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Wishful Thinking of a Former Teacher" by Carol Hamilton, Poet of the Week

Wishful Thinking of a Former Teacher
Carol Hamilton

Your photo at the bottom of the page
shows me you are too young
to be one of mine, 
but your words above it
told of a Christmas night 
in an Indianapolis ghetto.
And wouldn’t it be nice to think
that I gave one child that start? 
My presence there was the first jab, 
inoculation to numb 
the pain in the plan to integrate, 
to put just a few white faculty
into your hard-scrabble 
world of no choices. 
The girls combed my hair 
as I played the piano at rainy-day recess, 
said they would have hair
just like mine when they grew up,
said I looked like Julia,
an early TV heroine of their race.
Too little of everything there
except children and trouble.
But for a moment, I felt hope …
until I saw your photo … hope 
that one boy walked away 
from that terrible year we shared 
with some loose change in his pocket, 
that perhaps it jingled as he moved, 
and somehow, years later, it made music 
of our stress-filled days together. 
But you are way too young. 
And they were wrong. 
It was not our color that mattered. 
It was all those emptied dreams 
ahead of us.

Poet’s Notes:  I won't name the city, but it was a terrible year personally, and the work situation was as bad as the personal problems. I was one of the few white teachers integrated into the faculty of a downtown ghetto school. The school had good teachers but a terrible principal who was cruel to the children.

All classes, grades K through 9, were way too large. The older classes in science had no water for experiments, the textbooks were ancient, and the playground was a big slab of concrete surrounded by a chain-link fence. Meanwhile, the whole system had rigid rules that were militantly enforced by a system of "supervisors." We attended workshops in all-white schools at the edge of the city, beautifully equipped, and one even with ruffled covers for the reading group chairs. I was told, when I did not follow the rules, "We always have more trouble with experienced teachers."

I felt even my children with the most promise had little chance. My most gifted boy had a mother who worked with him faithfully and an older brother in prison. He was doing so well, but one day as my class walked down the hall, the principal pulled him out of the line because his too-big, hand-me-down shoes were making a flapping noise, so our passage was not perfectly silent. She told him he was a troublemaker and he would grow up to be just like his brother.

It was a year of fighting the supervisor and the principal, who wanted me to make a big chart for each child to mark every night how they had cared for their two issued pencils with no erasers. I was caught letting them use pencils with erasers. At the end of the year, my supervisor said to me, "I don't know how you did it, but the children have developed self-discipline." The children and I had a hard year, but how could one not hope and pray that some of them made their way in the world.

I recently saw a photo in a journal with an article about a young man whose life was changed by something that happened to him at Christmastime in that ghetto in that city. It was not something that happened in school. But I leapt to the hope that one of mine had managed to find some inspiration for a good future. Of course, it was way too many years later for any of my students to be that young man. But teachers always hope.

Editor’s Note:  The narrative reminds me of the stories I used to hear from my mother-in-law who once was a lonely white teacher in the Bronx with similar hopes and dreams for her all-black ghetto students.  The narrative also reminds me of the stories I used to hear from my mother who used to work as a long-term substitute teacher for the poor rural white children one town over from mine.  Those were challenging days for both of them with few if any happy endings for the underprivileged children--black and white. 

Some people, especially in these racially charged times, will point to the narrative of “the smart, pretty white lady saving the poor, helpless black children” as being racist.  In my opinion, those people are the true racists.