Friday, November 17, 2017

"Pop" by Gene Hodge

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Pop” by Gene Hodge.  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

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

"Forward Thinking" by John Reinhart

Forward Thinking
John Reinhart

Lakeside, old when I was young,
grows older still with my children
year after year

not yet tall enough for the Cyclone,
classy wooden coaster, Mattheus
dreams of buying the park

fix it up, new paint, etc.
& eliminate all height requirements,
despite his mother

who claims it's not to exclude
but about safety, to which 
a practical-minded Mattheus plans

to fit every visitor with a 
life jacket & parachute
to ensure safety in any scenario

Poet's Notes:  I have written about Lakeside Amusement Park in an earlier poem here Whenever I read a poem about Lakeside, I start with some line about it being exciting because you might actually die. It's that kind of park. And it's great. I take my children back there every year. This last summer was the first year the older two were actually tall enough and interested in riding more than the carousel and a few kiddie land rides, though not tall enough for Mattheus's liking. We set a family record and only rode the carousel once. Maybe next year he'll be tall enough to ride the coasters...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Green Flash" by F.J. Bergmann

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Green Flash” by F.J. Bergmann.  Bergmann edits poetry for Mobius: The Journal of Social Change and imagines tragedies on or near exoplanets. In addition to periodic appearances in Songs of Eretz, her work appears irregularly in: Analog, Asimov's, Polu Texni, Pulp Literature, Silver Blade, and elsewhere. A Catalogue of the Further Suns won the 2017 Gold Line Press poetry chapbook contest.

Green Flash
F.J. Bergmann

it is said to happen in the great level wastes
waveless desert or trackless ocean
a christmastree sparkle at the far end of night
as darkness trickles away from the world
out of the molassesjar sky

just a glimpse of greenglass bottlerim
before the libation of light is poured
rosé dawn over the winy deep
the olivebranch promise appears
over the waters at the edge of vision
and is instantly withdrawn

watch for a sudden springleaf radiance
peridot, emerald, tourmaline
brightness described but never seen

Poet’s Notes:  I've never seen a green flash. I've always wanted to. Sometimes, though, the descriptions of others' experiences take on an almost supernaturally lyrical quality, reminiscent of ghost stories that make me wonder whether the phenomenon actually exists.

Editor’s Note:  This is an interesting, modern take on the traditional sonnet form.  Bergmann’s attention to rhythm gives the piece a nice balladic feel.  The hard rhyming of the last two lines is just right.  I can envision Captain Sparrow reciting this to the approbation of his pirate crew. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Broken Symmetry" by John C. Mannone

Broken Symmetry
John C. Mannone

I can’t tell how many times
physics has birthed a poem
on my ledger of equations.
Obscure letters, x’s and chi’s,
dissolve into words as precisely
as they do in mathematics,
in theorems. Abstractions
transform into more abstractions,
yet there is a tangibility to them.
They have congruent similarity,
a mathematician might say.

There is beauty in symmetry
even after it is broken, as in
the universe of atoms, of stars,
of love and of us. But I tell you,
the converse,

physics is born of poetry, too.
Note the way the words break,
flow into new dimensions.
Even Poe, the surgeon of letters
with no bedside manner, knew
the nighttime universe should
blaze. He knew the fickle
goddess of light hadn’t brought it
to our eyes yet. I’m still waiting
for her, for the beauty of physics—
her face still lovely, even broken
in the dark, in uneven light.

Poet’s Notes: I continue to write poetry that fuses with science and mathematics. There’s an opportunity to explore a new source of metaphor. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"The Day's Measure" by Mary Soon Lee

The Day's Measure
Mary Soon Lee

​If days were shorter,
would we still find time
to belittle each other?

If each day were twice as long,
would we watch the sun setting,
read extra bedtime stories to our children,
learn new languages, feed the birds,
grow more orchids, hike through fall forests,
make gingerbread houses, build snowmen,
go fishing, go to a ball game, go to Yellowstone,
call our parents, listen without interrupting,
visit the elephants at the zoo, ride a roller coaster,
watch old movies with a friend,
say yes more often?

Poet's Notes:  My days often feel too short to me, and I fondly imagine what I would do if only I had more time. I already read quite a lot, but there are so many books waiting, so many books I could love. I'd like to watch more sunsets, go on more hikes, travel more, see more of my friends, help out more, and find time for what matters most. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

"Bleak to Bright" by Sierra July

Bleak to Bright
Sierra July

She was cut off from her hometown
Growing more distant at a more rapid pace
Trees flapped and bowed, dragged by the winds
Into a painful wave farewell

Her body vibrated along with the car's
But the road shock didn't faze her
Her hands were already shaking
The window reflected her image perfectly
As a raindrop streaked down its face

Her eyes flew to a rainbow spread
On the dingy sky, brightening her bleak world

Poet's Notes: This is a melancholic piece about leaving a beloved location for one less familiar. Life teaches us that these moves are sometimes necessary, but are nonetheless painful. The idea for this poem came when Hurricane Irma was looming on Florida, where I reside, and while I was praying my family and I would stay safe, I also asked that we wouldn't have to evacuate and that our homes wouldn't suffer too much damage. Though we fared well, my heart goes out to all affected by storms, earthquakes, and all other forms of devastation. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

"The Reckoning" by Terri Lynn Cummings

The Reckoning
Terri Lynn Cummings

Curls unfurl into spring
and gardens sprout children –
each with a story of their own
like bees and dreams and streets

The tooth of summer
hones its bite on staring skin
and the hustle of wind
from the billion candles of childhood 

Sunlight shimmies down willows
and falls into shapes
like eyebrows raised in question
or thumbs hitching a ride to autumn

Showers of color ebb and flow
heady and sharp like flames of a fire
spines of wood emptying the page
clearing the path for a new story

Nature straddles the sled of winter
dons the meaning of every change 
hails the race of thrift and drift
to the dark prize of homecoming

Curls unfurl into spring
and gardens sprout children –
each with a story of their own
like bees and dreams and streets….

Change rattles in pockets and purses
adding up to the sum of all seasons
though promise demands my patience (aloof)
hoeing the long lane to heaven

Poet’s Notes:  The changing of a season beckons my reflections on past and future. Seasons of birth, childhood, maturity, aging, death, and renewal are depicted in nature. Such lessons help to stem the tide of worry about mortality, if only we open our eyes and minds. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Spillway" by Pat Anthony

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Spillway” by Pat Anthony.  Anthony lives in the rural Midwest where she finds inspiration in the rugged furrows of the soil and in the faces of the men and women working it. An observer of and warrior for nature and the environment, she uses the land as a lens, and her poems are most often responses to events around her. 

Anthony is the former poetry editor of Potpourri (no longer in print), holds an MA in Humanities Literature from California State University, and was a teacher of English, Spanish, and Special Education until her recent retirement. She has works published or forthcoming in Cholla Needles, Fourth & Sycamore, San Pedro River Review, Snakeskin, and Open Minds Quarterly, among others. Visit her blog at

Pat Anthony

From the crumbling stone bridge
the boy in red drops a broken silver
sardine from an invisible line and waits
counts perhaps to ten and then
with only an angler’s patience draws
up the bait concealed within black
crayfish writhing in his fingers as he
tosses it to join others in the cracked
ice cream bucket beside the Coleman.

Poet’s Notes:  This particular poem is like an old Kodak snapshot, the 4 x 4 with wavy edges, the black and white of it. I like to develop the moment so that it reappears in poetry, the starkness its own statement, without interpretation. Sometimes the poems are shot with the panoramic lens; this one, however, was "taken" just over the rail of the old stone Creamery Bridge on the north edge of town. I was struck by the boy's attention to task as the water roiled around him.

Editor’s Note:  This one reads like an old-school Imagist poem--nice, crisp imagery formed with a minimum of words.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"some rollercoasters run uphill" by John Reinhart

some rollercoasters run uphill
John Reinhart

I find myself
angry at a world demanding forms in triplicate
not my creative, imaginative best

which is why I fill in absurdities:
“alien” or “probably” in the white space where
I find myself

dying; breathing toxic news,
the static that stifles
my creative, imaginative best.

So I dig holes, jackhammer asphalt.
Looking for gold, sorting through dust, 
I find myself

still retching at the daily vomit ritual,
the pile up of paperwork –
not my creative, imaginative best.

I owe it to my children – to feed them,
feed their souls, so I dig deeper.
I find myself when I get to be
my creative, imaginative best.

Poet's Notes:  I've written previously about my love of villanelles. I don't keep the rhyme scheme of the original form; it's the repetition that I find so enticing. The challenge is to pick repeating lines that can be adapted multiple ways.

Perhaps it's ironic that I have written a poem in a form about frustrations over form. Oddly, I think all human beings yearn for form--"creatures of habit" we say. Yet, as in all things, too much form or too little form causes indigestion. I'm a form person, at least in the sense that I like lists, organization, clarity, and predictability. I've worked to balance this since I was old enough to consciously make such a choice. My earliest poems have more form; my later poems (in my collection invert the helix, for example) go so far as to have no form. Perhaps poems like this one represent balance.