Thursday, November 30, 2017

"Cloudy Morning" by James Frederick William Rowe

Cloudy Morning
James Frederick William Rowe

Water-colour blue
Water-colour grey
Cloudy morning
You are gently brushed
On the fresh canvas
     Of the dewy sky    
     Of the waking city

Poet’s Notes:  This is a short poem that was written on the subway during the time when the F-train takes the Culver Overpass and so ascends out of the tunnels.  The "water-colour blue / water-colour grey" of the clouds struck me as particularly beautiful in the dawn light--a gentle, soft beauty that paired well with the hardly-after-sunrise timeframe. 

I wrote this within a few minutes on the subway in my notebook. The aesthetics are simple to convey the simple scene, but I think it captures the moment well as a consequence. By no means a complex poem, it nevertheless satisfies me. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Score Another for Reinhart

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that our prolific Frequent Contributor John Reinhart has had yet another poem published in another venue.

"afraid of nothing" by John Reinhart

afraid of nothing
John Reinhart

afraid of
    she says

I wonder,
the nothing
at the bottom
of the pond
or in her
she wakes up
at night
around the corner
in Papa’s

she really is
    of nothing

Poet's Notes:  My youngest daughter occasionally wakes up to inform me that she's scared. She's not usually clear about what she's scared, just scared. That seems reasonable. I'm often frightened of things without a real discernable, articulate-able point (not reasonable to say everything)--nothing is as good an answer as any. So how does one comfort a four-and-a-half-year-old who is afraid of nothing? 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Holiday Favorite" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Holiday Favorite
Terri Lynn Cummings

Today I ate your slice of pie
because you left it in the refrigerator
A better person would not have done it
or perhaps would have left a note
with x’s and o’s sprinkled on the bottom
like shavings of chocolate

You would have had one bite of mine 
(if any had remained)
or would have left it all to me --
the healthier person, a superior discipline
compared to my waistline, expanding
and my fork, foraging

I wanted nothing more than to be transported
from a crowded jail of unwashed laundry 
to the sinful affair with crust 
and meringue and chocolate

Poet’s Notes:  Leftover chocolate pie does not survive long in our home. Every holiday, family members long for a slice of my mother’s special recipe. Always, it is a battleground of forks, and I lead the charge--such a wonderful way to remember a lost mother and grandmother! 

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme" by John C. Mannone

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme
John C. Mannone
     After “Scarborough Fair” by Simon & Garfunkel

     Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
     She once was a true love of mine

My heart skips
I peek through the trellis—    
But now her new lover is holding her hand
     She once was a true love of mine
I turn away

My heart still skips
I peek through the trellis
     All around, parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
But the air is not as fresh as it once was.
I cannot turn away

I cannot hold my breath
But I close my eyes
     She once was a true love of mine
But still hear her voice longing for someone else

I hold my breath
I close my eyes
     To parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
Yet still smell the bittergreen air

My heart skips, I hold my breath,
I don’t want to turn away
I peek through the trellis just one more time
Then close my eyes, for a moment

     I smell parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme
     She once was a true love of mine

Poet’s Notes:  “Scarborough Fair” is a traditional English ballad set in the Yorkshire town of Scarborough. The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former love to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. Often the song is sung as a duet (see the end of the document for the lyrics), with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished. 

I am frequently reminded of the Simon & Garfunkel song around Thanksgiving. I once didn’t know what herbs to use in making stuffing, but “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme” seemed a good starting place.

Editor’s Note:  This is a lovely modern take on the balladic form.  I enjoy the way John works the lyrics and the feel of one of my favorite songs into it.  An extended version of “Scarborough Fair” may be enjoyed here, or a shorter version here

Saturday, November 25, 2017

FC Reinhart Has 13 Poems & 4 Micro-flash Pieces Published

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor John Reinhart has had thirteen poems and four micro-flash pieces (drabbles) published in other venues.  A “drabble” is a micro-flash piece of exactly 100 words.

2 poems in Quatrain.Fish

3 poems in Scifaikuest print edition 11/2017 (alongside several from FC Lauren McBride)

3 poems in Scifaikuest online edition

2 poems in Poet's Siddur (Ain't Got No Press, 2017)

1 poem in Crannóg #46

3 drabbles including an Honorable Mention (alongside FC Lauren McBride and a second place finish by Songs of Eretz Editor Steven Wittenberg Gordon) in Alban Lake Drabble Harvest #9

First place in Alban Lake special Drabble Harvest (alongside FC Lauren McBride and second place finisher Steven Wittenberg Gordon)

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Grammy's tablecloth" by Lauren McBride

Grammy's tablecloth
Mother's china
Dad's carving knife
still with us
every Thanksgiving

--Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes: These days, folks might not get out the good china or fancy tablecloth for Thanksgiving or dress in their Sunday best as we used to do. Yet, I am grateful for these fond memories and the tangible reminders of loved ones, absent through distance or death, which made every Thanksgiving a truly blessed event, even as our family grows in number around the current dining table.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Thanksgiving Day Poem by the Editor

Thanksgiving:  The Real Story
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

The year was 1621 and the Pilgrims were
thankful to be alive, shooting their guns
and causing quite a stir in the wilderness
that was near the Colony on the Bay
that the Wampanoags fearing for their
friends came en mass a hundred strong
ready to fight alongside their pale cousins
but instead came upon them feasting
and making merry, shooting in celebration
of the bounty of the harvest and the land.
And so the Pilgrims upon seeing their red
comrades invited them to join the fun
and as there was not enough to feed the
extra hundred the Wampanoag Chief
dispatched some of his folk into the woods
and to the shore and they returned in
short order with venison, eels, and lobsters
by the score.  And so the two nations--
the one established and the other soon
to spread--feasted together in celebration
of family, friendship, fellowship, and food.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Dinner's Saving Grace" by Sierra July

Dinner's Saving Grace
Sierra July

Grace preferred drumsticks to wings
From the festive bird
But so did her mom
So did her dad and brother

Served, Dad gave his leg to mom
Mom renounced the leg to Brother, who would accept
Licking his lips, but Grace stared at the second leg
When she found it on her plate

She'd been told to say thanks, but
Also taught to show, so before the bird grew cold
She split shares for mom and dad, handed them over
Ate the spare meat on her bones

Never had a feast felt so large as 
The joy that blossomed in her stomach 

Poet's Notes: This is a poem obviously inspired by Thanksgiving. On a more personal level, my mom’s, and dad’s, and my love for drumsticks inspires it. Whether dealing with whole chickens or turkeys, it can be a bit of a dilemma. My family and I never thought about cutting the meat from the bone and dividing portions, but in hindsight that would've been a great solution; instead, a bucket of drumsticks was used to form a truce.

Editor’s Note:  In my family, white meat turkey was preferred, and the drummies and thighs often languished.  When I married, I was shocked to find that a preference for white meat was not universal, as my wife and her family prefer dark meat!  So, when not having turkey with my in-laws, my wife enjoys all of the dark meat (one of the many ways my wife and I compliment each other).  However, to appease my wife’s family when feasting with them, we do the same as Sierra’s family by cooking up extra drumsticks. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"No Time to Rhyme" by Lauren McBride

No Time to Rhyme
Lauren McBride

I tried to write a poem
but it wouldn't rhyme -
which I thought was a curse,
but it turns out that verse
has fallen out of favor,
and I am out of time.

Poet’s Notes: As a child, I loved rhyming poetry. I love it still. When I first started submitting poetry for publication, the number of markets that do not accept poems that rhyme surprised me. What surprised me more is that the same holds true for at least one major children's publication where I planned to send several rhyming poems, until I read that they are only in need of non-rhyming verse.  For children?  Really? It would seem that I am out of step with modern times, leading to the double meaning of my title and last line. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Heart Strings" by Sierra July

Heart Strings
Sierra July

Melodies play when our eyes meet
Increasing tempo with a touch
Slowing with a sweet kiss

Sometimes my heart strings are caressed
Feather light with flirting fingers
Still, other times, they are plucked, yanked
Without a care, and I wonder

If they will ever break

Poet's Notes:  I enjoy revisiting romance as a theme since there are so many angles that can be explored. Sometimes I try to capture feelings of heartbreak, other times first love. I also like just to describe the emotion in an abstract sense or describe it through another art medium such as music. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

A Review by the Editor of "in the moment" by Gene Hodge

I had the pleasure of reading in the moment, a poetry collection by Gene Hodge (Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, 2015).  It contains ninety-four poems densely spread over eighty-eight pages.  Hodge is a member of the Chattanooga Writer’s Guild and International Bureau of Electrical Workers.  He is also a professional entertainer who performs throughout the south and northeast.  He hails from Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.  A previous appearance in the Review may be enjoyed here

Hodge reads like a modern-day Walt Whitman, albeit he eschews the use of the long lines for which Whitman is known.  Like Whitman, Hodge is unabashedly full of himself but in a completely innocent and unconceited way.  The title of his collection is quite apt, as each poem finds the speaker, most likely Hodge himself, immersed “in the moment” of the narrative. 

The subjects of the poems in the collection range from romantic love, life, death, change, and profound observations about simple things.  Even his saddest poems end with a ray of hope.  For example, “Pop,” an elegy to his father, ends with, “I know he is happy here on the mountain / he loved so.”  (The poem is reprinted below in its entirety with the poet’s permission).

Another poem, “Let Him Go,” told by a speaker whose brother is terminally ill, similarly focuses on the positive rather than deteriorating into a simple lament.  The speaker leaves his brother’s side to pick blackberries, only to come to the realization that, “Hey, the blackberry season is over. / Why bother?”  This is soon followed by, “My brother’s season is coming to a close. / It is time we accept it....”

The collection includes many shorter poems, some only five or six lines, but these are no less profound for their length.  One of my favorites, “The Crow Is My Friend,” contains only six lines.  The subject is a crow that the speaker passes each morning.  They observe each other and have come to a beautiful understanding.  The poet could, I am sure, discuss this relationship at length.  Instead, he concludes in his sixth and final line with a clever play on words that, “Friends don’t need to crow,” which really says all that needs to be said.

Hodge has reminded me that there is beauty and good to be found in almost every situation and that every moment of life should be cherished and held as sacred.  I had forgotten that in my life and in my poetry of late.  So, if life has trodden you down and you have forgotten that too, I strongly encourage you to pick up Hodge’s collection and get back “in the moment.”

A paperback copy of in the moment may be had from for $12.95  The collection would make a wonderful Christmas gift, especially for someone down on his or her luck and who needs a bit of cheering up.

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon, Editor

Gene Hodge

The phone rang at three a.m.
A chill, darker and deeper than the morning’s stillness
erupts within my stomach.
My wife answers,
turns to me and whispers. . . ,
“He’s gone.”

For a moment, the silence overtook me.
I saw him, not there, lifeless in a hospital bed,
ninety-two years old.
But twenty-two, full pack, iron helmet and rifle,
courageously riding the waves in a Higgins boat;
the doors to drop down
upon the beach at Normandy.
I hear his heart, like thunder over his comrades praying and crying;
see in his eyes, the fear of knowing that
hell is only moments away.

I recalled his look of sadness and hopelessness,
as the medical team lifted his frail body into an ambulance.
The wind of many miles ruffled his silver hair
as they closed the door.
I wept, as I told the driver
the terror he faced in the war,
how young and proud he was
to now be reduced to this worn-out body of flesh.

Here I stand . . .
looking down upon the grave where he sleeps.
I know that he is happy here on the mountain he loved so.
My heart, heavier than the stone above his head, breaks
and the earth trembles beneath my feet.

Poet’s Notes:  My father (pictured) was a gentle soul, a quiet man with an air of mystery about him.  He, like many other veterans, spoke little of the war.  If asked, his only reply was that he was in the Army. 

After his demise, I found locked in a cedar chest a book and map describing in detail the maneuvers and battles of the Cannon Company, 320th Infantry as they forged across the European theater of operation.  This poem is a tribute to a silent hero who never claimed fame; who fought and lived that others might live; to give me this golden moment to say to the world, “I am proud.”

Editor’s Note:  Elegies are usually a hard sell as they are so specific to the deceased and those known to him or her, but Hodge has captured a certain universal quality with this one, one that made me think of my father and how he looked so dashing in his military uniform.  Will my son one day think of how I looked in mine? 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"Cookies" by Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee

Yesterday I ate my childhood
with chocolate chips:
one shortbread cookie
that once I would have called
a biscuit,
buttery and sweet
as the cookies
that Mrs. Latchmore sold
in the small bakery
in the small row of shops
near the house
I used to live in,
in the days when I rode home
on the blue plastic seat
of my mother's small blue car,
a white paper bag
of Mrs. Latchmore's cookies
waiting beside me,
the everyday happiness
of small treats.

Poet's Notes:​  One day, shopping for groceries, I happened to buy some chocolate chip cookies that tasted almost exactly like the cookies I'd loved most when I was little. For a moment, I was a child again. It's not always the large things that I miss--Christmas, catching the ferry to France for a family holiday. Sometimes, it's the small things: a bag of cookies; sitting in the car beside my mother. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Right Now" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Right Now
Terri Lynn Cummings

stories awaken
shimmer on limber branches
each one a given

in this glimmering
within the heart’s glade, adrift
death plants a seedling

grief shivers, wretched
time ceases in one heartbeat 
cuts veins, indulgent

hiding in plain sight
no one sees the hand of light
eclipsed by the moon

a lake filled with tears
composure dives off a cliff
while friends bring the raft

memories connect
gemstones fastened and secured 
breaking nightfall’s clasp

the weight of bones, strong 
as loyalty, a kindred
spine ancient as time

a tender silence
quickens sorrow’s intellect
suckles fresh gardens

new stories blossom
shimmer on limber branches
each one a lesson  

Poet’s Notes: Nine years ago, my husband and I lost our teenaged son to disease. Recently, my brother-in-law lost his 27-year-old son in a cliff diving accident. If one lives long enough, the lesson of death is imparted and clarified, over and over, lest we take life for granted…. Loss does not leave room for words. Therefore, I chose the brevity of haiku for each stanza.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"Coffee House" by Laura Marlene

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Coffee House” by Laura Marlene, a teacher of 5th-grade mathematics in Connecticut for the past sixteen years.  Prior to launching her teaching career, she worked on and off as a writer, photographer, and art director.

Coffee House
Laura Marlene

In a blue shingled shack
At the three-way intersection
Of Sherlock Holmes
And Zippy the Pinhead.

He shuffles in to sit alone
On a rickety wooden stool by the back window
Beside a dusty, plush Siberian tiger
And white ceramic cats.

He sings with an echo of loneliness
In a whitewashed room
Searching for the friends and regulars
Who are busy this Saturday.

Where is the coffee?
That is why he keeps messing up this morning
Not that he is sober
For the first time since September.

He is good, real good - like the Big O.
A shy treasure amid cups of dark roast.
Tonight he will go home
To write the ultimate love song.

If a tree falls in the woods
And no one is there to hear it
Does it make a sound?
Only the Lonely will know.

Poet’s Notes:  The scenarios are true in all of my poems. My husband and I have the most wonderful artist friends whom we love dearly. We woke up early to visit a local coffee house in East Haddam, Connecticut to support our musician friend.  For a while, only he, my husband, and I were present to the annoyance of our friend. Eventually, more of our friends filtered into the cafe.  Still, I find it just amazing how many talented people put themselves out there on a daily basis with little to no recognition.  

Editor’s Note:  I especially like the references to Roy Orbison (pictured) who, although famous, was not as famous as he should have been due to his homely countenance, health issues, and competition from Elvis Presley. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

"Lower East Side" by James Frederick William Rowe

Lower East Side
James Frederick William Rowe

Your magnetic force is an attraction
At 3 am my steps are drawn to you
1st and 1st – and all the way down
A and B, alphabet city
The fear has vanished from your streets
Replaced by bars beseeching me
To quaff a nightcap
In commemoration of the night's mischief
     and my own

My last call prayer:
Lower East Side
Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing
Let my night end with you

Poet’s Notes:  “Lower East Side” is a simple poem about my favorite place to end the night.  I wrote this originally for the Lower East Side festival but I never heard back from them, so I assume that an audience there never heard it. Regardless of my reception (or lack thereof) from the LES festival, I think this is a fine poem that speaks about exactly what I love about the LES--that it is an excellent nightspot.

Back in the day, the LES was pretty dangerous. Shooting galleries lined the streets, and you were likely to be robbed or worse walking down any street in broad daylight; and had you gone there at 3 am, when I roam the streets on a pretty regular basis, you would have been signing your own death warrant. When I was about four years old, my grandma had a dentist in Alphabet City (the lettered avenues East of 1st avenue).  I remember her tightly holding my hand and telling me to stay close to her, fearful that we'd find some trouble on the quick walk from the bus. Nowadays, it is all cleaned up, and though it's lost some of its old charms as a consequence, it is still an incredible place for all the bars, restaurants, shops, and other venues that stay open late. 

This poem is a love letter to the neighborhood and the mischief in which I entangle myself in this area. The aesthetics are simple and to the point. It really only took me a few minutes to write this poem, and so it represents, I think, an authentic feeling for what I love about this area so much.  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Veterans Day Poem by the Editor

The Salute

Some say a knight once raised his right
hand to shield his eyes from the dazzling
beauty of the damsel who inspired him
or to she whom he was about to rescue.

Another legend has it that when one knight
encountered another on the field of battle 
each would raise his visor to expose his face
and demonstrate if he be friend or foe.

British soldiers used to remove their headgear
when an officer approached as a sign of respect. 
As headgear became increasingly cumbersome
raising the hand to the visor became the custom.

The oldest legend has it that men would raise
their weapon hands as they approached each other
to demonstrate that they were empty.  The weaker
of the pair was expected to raise his hand first.

But the colonel in charge of the Air Force School
of Aerospace Medicine provided the definition
that was and remains the most meaningful to me. 
When I raised my hand in salute, it meant this:

“I have kept the faith, my brother.  Have you?”
And when my salute was returned, I knew he had.

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD, Former USAF Flight Surgeon