Friday, December 15, 2017

"Evanescence" by Mark Grinyer

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Evanescence” by Mark Grinyer.  Grinyer received a Ph.D. in English and American Literature from the University of California, Riverside. He has a particular interest in the roles of poetry and poets as participants in modern society and in the use of natural scenes and images as vehicles for understanding our place in the modern world.

Grinyer’s poems have been published in:  Samisdat, Green's Magazine, The Kansas Quarterly, The Literary Review, The Spoon River Quarterly, The Pacific Review, Perigee, Cordite, and a number of other magazines.  Finishing Line Press published his first chapbook, “Approaching Poetry,” earlier this year.

Mark Grinyer

the Santa Anas ridge
green and brown beneath
the clouds’ tectonic flow
toward blue sky in the east
enshrouding peaks and sending skeins
of misty gray down canyons
up and out above the talus slopes
above the valley where
thousands of homes on streets,
evangelical churches,
schools and shopping malls
replace what once
were orange groves greening slopes.

Standing in the early morning sun
I’m pumping gas. I watch
as rainbows drift across
the mountains’ face,
pale, evanescent, fading,
then growing bright
as a million tiny raindrops
prism in the light.
They break the morning sunshine
into bands of red, orange and yellow
bright against the slopes
as this last mist of spring turns
to vapor in the heights.

As I watch the rainbows come and go,
a mother and her child approach.
She sees the light as it begins to fade
grabs a hand and says,
“Look, Mom, look, a rainbow!”
Her mother, looking up,
says, “Hurry up, we’re late,”
and bundles both
into her car and off.
I’ve filled my tank,
paid the price.
Now I, too, am off,
ocean-ward to work.

Poet’s Notes:  “Evanescence” begins as an accurate description of what I saw as I was driving to work one spring morning a few years ago. The sun was rising into a blue sky, and the western sky over the Santa Ana Mountains was dark with rain clouds flowing in from the Pacific. The sunlight created rainbows over the mountain slopes and the city of Corona, California where I live.

The scene made me think of the changeability of everything--from the sky to the mountains created by tectonic activity in the American Southwest, to the changes in human habitation that had occurred since I moved to this area as a teenager. City streets, homes, businesses, and churches--with all the appurtenances of civilization, now cover areas that were semi-rural and planted in citrus orchards when I first arrived. 

I wanted to bring this sense of constant change down to the human level.  So, I imagined stopping at a gas station to fill my tank and watching the small human drama of the mother and her little girl coming out of the station, seeing the rainbows and reacting--one with indifference brought on by adulthood and the need to get on with the day’s duties, and the other with the wonder and excitement typical of a young child.  I write poetry at least in part to maintain the childish sense of wonder on my own.  Sadly, I too am forced by the need to support my existence (and my poetry) by working for a living--thus my presence on the freeway driving to Santa Ana for work in the first place.

Editor’s Note:  I really like the imagery in this one and particularly enjoy the employment of the rainbow as a poetic conceit.  The final stanza provides a good moral lesson--to live in the present and not to lose that childlike wonder.  

Viewing Tip

Experiencing "word wrap" when viewing Songs of Eretz on your smartphone?  Choosing "view web version," which may be found at the bottom of the post (you may have to scroll down), usually corrects this problem.  Switching to landscape mode will often correct the problem, too.
--The Editor

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"Glory" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings 

Once, a garden, graceful as a maiden
ornamented a palace. Laughter 
braided garlands, breeze whispered 
through trees like a low, winter fire

All surrendered to the slow
autumn burn, clearing land 
for old and new 

Black branches waved sparklers
of leaves—brilliant thatches of
orange, red, yellow dripping
molten onto dull patches of grass

Maple tree dropped large, flat notes
of summer onto a table of earth 
Leaving! they declared, waltzing 

into a grove of oaks multiplying 
nightfall. Shadows stretched one limb
to another in greeting, spoke of fasts
and long, frantic prayers for an early spring

Dogs barked, demanding to be let inside 
Noise raced over night’s cold air
yet stars stayed silent as ancestors

Beyond the garden glimmers home 
Laughter braids garlands
breeze whispers through trees 
like a low, winter fire

All surrenders to the slow 
autumn burn, clearing land
for old and new

Poet’s Notes:  I had looked out the window to this scene. How moving the march from fall to winter and back! The loss of a nephew made this fall particularly poignant—a painful reminder that nothing stays the same except change. Yet, over the years, I learned loss turns to light and dark again, like the seasons. In writing this poem, I looked outward, inward, and outward again. Until I wrote these notes, I had not realized my poem was a metaphor for personal loss.

Editor’s Note:  This will be the last we hear from Terri for a little while.  She has requested and been granted a leave of absence from her Frequent Contributor commitment.  It will be a joy to welcome her back when she is ready. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Farewell John

Editor's Note:  It is with a heavy heart that I must let our readers know that this will be the last poem by John Reinhart as a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor.  I will miss his fatherly yet eclectic poetic voice as I am sure our readers will, too.  And now, please enjoy "Homecoming," John's final poem as an FC. 

John Reinhart

in  her dreams
there are hugs 
& how was it
& welcome back,
we missed you

in  her dreams
the house is warm,
her room unchanged,
her knitting needles
still attached to the hat
for mom

in her dreams
the dog is barking
at the boys
playing football
in the street

in her dreams
the last check sits
uncashed in her purse,
her fresh start
on familiar ground

in her dreams
she is awake,
dreaming sunlight
into a living room
full of family, chatting
in her dreams

Poet's Notes:  Coming home is never quite what we imagine. It's never what we left, never what we are, never again, no matter how much there's no place like home, the ruby slippers never fit again, scuffed from too much road, from too much yellow, from highlighting markers explaining the importance of distance, which can never be undistanced. We stretch back into our beds, familiar paint peeling from the ceiling, same old carpet, a poster smiling back, unchanged.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Poem for Hanukkah by the Editor

Nes Gadol Hayah Sham

A long time ago as is told in the
Great Books of the Maccabees a
Miracle was wrought by God.  It
Happened in the city of Jerusalem.
There the Temple was rededicated.

Poet’s Notes:  This year’s Hanukkah is a particularly special Hanukkah for the Jews, for the Holy City of Jerusalem was recently rededicated in a way.  The recognition by the United States of all of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish State, against all odds, is nothing short of a miracle.  If only my father could have lived to see this day, may his memory be a blessing.

The title of the poem is in Hebrew and means, “A great miracle happened there,” a reference to the dreidel (pictured), the festive four-sided top associated with Hanukkah.  The first letters of each word of the title (Nun, Gimel, Hay, Shin) appear on the dreidel--a secret code to help children remember the meaning of Hanukkah and to fool enemies of the Jews who might have punished them for celebrating Hanukkah during the Diaspora (to them it would appear that the children were just playing with a toy top).  There are no words for “a” or “an” in Hebrew so there would be only the four letters.  Can you find the “secret” message in my poem?

Happy Hanukkah, my friends!  May the holiday bring light into your hearts and homes!
--Shlomo Ben Moshe HaLevi aka Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Monday, December 11, 2017

"Four Signs Your Heart Is Quietly Failing" by Mike Oarlock

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Four Signs Your Heart Is Quietly Failing” by Mike Orlock.  Orlock is a retired high school teacher and coach who divides his time between Illinois, and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

From 1989 to 2001, Orlock wrote film reviews for the Reporter-Progress newspapers in suburban Chicago and was a contributing member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. His short fiction has appeared in TriQuarterly, the literary journal of Northwestern University, and Another Chicago Magazine. He has twice been honored with Illinois Arts Council Awards for his short stories.

Orlock’s poetry has appeared in Your Daily Poem, the WFOP yearly calendars, Verse WisconsinThe Los Angeles Times, Blue Heron Review, Peninsula Pulse, and various other venues. In 2014 he won the Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring award in the Free Verse category, and in 2016 he won the WFOP Muse Prize. He is a member of the Unabridged Poetry Group in Door County, Wisconsin.

Four Signs Your Heart Is Quietly Failing
Mike Orlock


You wake the morning dreading
the day, suspicious of light
and all it reveals. Your mind
muddles reasons for keeping inside.
Behind walls you know safety--
for what you don't know 
you won't have to feel,
and what you don't feel 
you won't have to know.


Seasons no longer matter.
You look at a tree in spring
wearing a new gown of green
and all you see is a scandal
of under-dressed limbs.
That same tree in fall,
dressed for a ball, is a conspiracy
of leaves just waiting to turn
on you.


What once was languorous
is now merely tedious.
Afternoons are an abyss.
You stare into them 
and they stare back,
but the holes you see
you see are inside you,
deceptively deep and black.


Words refuse to sing.
Poems decline an invitation
to dance. You are left
at the altar, once again
to falter, too timid
to reach for romance.

Poet’s Notes:  The inspiration and title for this poem appeared in my inbox in the form of an online advertisement from Newsmax that promised delivery from a serious health condition that could end my life. Instead of medication, however, I thought poetry, for some reason. I used the ad's dire warning as a title and created my own symptoms for a failing heart.

Editor’s Note:  The rhyme scheme is enjoyable, and while the use of second person POV is always risky, the theme is universal enough that it works well here.  I especially like the wicked play-on-words at the end of the second part. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Revision Announcement

The feature posted in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review on Friday, November 17, 2017, has been updated to include a review of in the moment by Gene Hodge
--The Editor

Friday, December 8, 2017

"The Gibbon" by Ross Balcom

The Gibbon
Ross Balcom
sex sex sex
the moral panic

of accusations

of confessions

"I dropped my pants
at the party,

played with myself
like a gibbon,

scared everyone

the gibbon's face
on every TV

hands reaching
for our privates

run, oh run
from the gibbon

sex sex sex
the moral panic

jungle shadows
shift around us

the gibbon, the gibbon
the gibbon

Poet's Notes:  Accusations of sexual misconduct are flying thick and fast these days, with many celebrities being targeted. Why now? What is the meaning of this? The gibbon and I would like to know. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Kate" by Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee

Her glass is full to brimming
but she can't take that first sip,
although they have progressed
to the main course
and only the awkwardness
of a first date
is keeping her companion
from asking why she won't drink.
But how can she drink
when that clear deep sweetness
leads straight to an empty glass?
And it's no good saying
she could order a second,
because it won't have the savor
of that first red swallow,
and even that first swallow
will be tainted with the knowledge
that a different wine
might have been better.
Or a different man.
Or even this man,
if only she'd found him sooner.

Poet’s Notes:  This is an entirely invented poem. I don't drink alcohol. I didn't ever go on this type of first date but I do feel sympathy for the imaginary Kate. For the record, I met my husband at university, when he was eighteen and I was seventeen. The closest we came to dating was to go together to meetings of the university science fiction club.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy that way Mary uses the wine conceit to capture that awkward second guessing that is part of every first date, particularly in these times when online hook-ups are increasingly common. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Review by the Editor of “In America” by Diana Goetsch

I had the pleasure of reading “In America” by Diana Goetsch, the runner-up for the 2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize (Rattle, Studio City, California, 2017).  The chapbook contains a collection of seventeen poems written from the perspective of a male who has transgendered to a female.  I enjoyed sixteen out of the seventeen poems in the collection--all but the titular (no pun) poem.

The chapbook “In America” begins with a poem “In America” wherein the transgendered speaker rails against TSA agents forced to perform a detailed body search on the speaker.  Personally, I felt bad for the TSA agents who had no choice but to pull the speaker aside because the speaker’s anatomy was non-standard in the initial x-ray scan.  The agents had to do their due diligence.  For example, who knows what kind of explosives could have been concealed in bra area of this individual?  The speaker was incensed that the agents debated what sex the chaperone should be and answered legitimate questions with non-sequiturs just to be annoying.  The title of the poem (and chapbook) is devastatingly ironic, for only “in America” would a transgendered person be treated with such respect by government agents.  In many countries, such agents would take the transgendered off to jail or execution or worse.

The titular poem aside, the rest of the poems in the collection reveal interesting aspects of the lives of the transgendered and transvestites.  It was also interesting and instructive to view the world through their eyes as many of the poems will allow readers willing to suspend any biases to do. 

My favorite poem of the collection, “The Fabric Factory, Circa 1987,” describes a typical night in a popular bar that caters to the transgendered and transvestites, a place that for a few drunken hours they can openly be themselves.  The backstories of the various lonely and sad patrons of the establishment are moving and told in a tasteful manner.  Ironically, the bartender, the only straight character other than the "GG" (genetic girl) who has accompanied her transvestite husband (now THAT is a stand-by-your-man-no-matter-what woman!), is perhaps the most interesting, with his come on of, “What’ll be, ladies?”

Another poem I particularly enjoyed is “Whole Lotta Love.”  The advice for what to do “if you’re ever in a fight with someone you love,” applies to any couple, whether they be traditional man and wife, man and man, wife and wife, or whatever.  The message that hit me--and hit me hard--was that romantic love is perhaps not in the exclusive realm of the heterosexuals.  Such is the power of good poetry.

“In America” is available from Rattle for $7.00 here where may also be found a bio of the poet as well as three sample poems from the collection including “The Fabric Factory, Circa 1987.”

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Ross Balcom Double Feature: "to stone" and "a black dog story"

Editor's Note:  On rare occasions, "life happens" and we are unable to get a feature posted.  Such was the case yesterday.  To compensate for this mishap, please enjoy the following double feature by Frequent Contributor Ross Balcom.

to stone
Ross Balcom

the blank years...

purge all visions
from your mind

let the leprous moon
consume you

you who know
no sun

climb the stairs
at midnight

to her whose loins 
await you

already turned

to stone

Poet's Notes: Midnight mineralization negates nookie. This is a rather bleak poem. 

a black dog story

a black dog story
I'm telling you

a black dog story
a phantom dog

huge, black 
red eyes glowing

on my lawn
at midnight

staring through me

a black dog story
I'm telling you

it leapt through me
took my soul

my twisting, 
shrieking soul

left me vacant

I lost it 
lost it all

in a black dog story

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes:  Frightening encounters with phantom black dogs are reported worldwide. This is my poetic nod to the phenomenon. (Next up on my terror list: phantom black squirrels.)

Editor’s Note:  I personally identify with this poem, as every time I enjoy a cup of tea, I mean every single time, I am always left with "the grim" in the bottom of my cup.  I am not sure what that says about me, but it cannot be good.  Oh, no. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

FC Lee Publishes Three & Wins One

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee has had three poems published in other venues and that a previously published poem of hers recently won a poetry contest.

"The Secret Life of a Toaster" appeared in Polu Texni

"Lotus Moon" appeared in Mythic Delirium #4.2

"The Ark's Daughters" appeared in Eye to the Telescope #26, as did a poem by fellow Frequent Contributor Lauren McBride

"Trees," first published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, won the 150th weekly Poetry Nook Contest

Once Again, Songs of Eretz FCs Dominate Star*Line

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that the following poems by Frequent Contributors appear in Star*Line #40.4, Fall 2017:

“Skyrocketing Sales” by Lauren McBride

“arrival” & “incandescent darkness” by John Reinhart

“October 31 at Midnight” by John C. Mannone

“Exercise 2050” by Mary Soon Lee

This issue of Star*Line is available for $7.00 here

Friday, December 1, 2017

"December the first" by Lauren McBride & Steven Wittenberg Gordon

December the first
Thanksgiving yields to Christmas
ornaments unboxed

--Lauren McBride & Steven Wittenberg Gordon

McBride's Notes:  It seems the celebration of Christmas keeps creeping earlier and earlier on the calendar. I like to wait until December 1st to clip my nativity pin on my jacket and start getting out Christmas decorations, which makes the 1st a special day for me.

Gordon’s Notes:  Even though I do not celebrate Christmas per se, I still take great pleasure in the light, hope, and song that Christmas brings to the darkest days of the year.  I enjoyed collaborating with Lauren on this one.