Friday, December 29, 2017

2017: A Year in “Review”

Dear Friends of Eretz,

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review logged 100,000 views in 2017, shattering last year’s record of 68,000 views.  Over 250 poems were published, including twenty-three composed by guest poets who received five-dollar honoraria for their work--a semi-professional rate.  Also, in keeping with the “review” in Poetry Review, nine collections of poetry were reviewed.

2017 also saw the successful continuation of our Frequent Contributor program.  Sadly, we had to say farewell to David Pring-Mill and John Reinhart, both of whom resigned this year.  Their strong poetic voices will be dearly missed.  We also miss Terri Lynn Cummings who is on a leave of absence; however, we welcomed the return of former Frequent Contributor Kaitlyn Vaughn nee Frazier, who has graciously agreed to cover for Terri until her return.

The Fourth Annual Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest was a huge success thanks to the unprecedented number of participants and the loyal support of hundreds of Friends of Eretz old and new.  As the preliminary judge, I personally enjoyed reading and providing individual feedback for each of the several hundred poems that were submitted.  Guest Contest Judge Former Kansas Poet Laureate Eric McHenry will choose the winner in January, and a special feature announcing the winner will be made in February.

2018 should be a banner year for Songs of Eretz.  Starting January 1, we will begin offering honoraria of FIFTY DOLLARS for publishing unsolicited poems--a professional rate.  We are truly humbled and grateful that with your support we have been able to reach this goal way ahead of schedule and have no doubt that “going pro” will attract more poets of quality and refinement to our cause.  In order to maintain our professional status, we will be relying even more heavily upon your continued generous support.  So, please, if you are a regular or frequent visitor to our site, consider making a donation soon.  If you wish to have your poetic work considered for publication, we expect that you will have no problem with donating a token amount with each submission.  Please see our “Donations” page for details

You may have noticed some new names on our masthead today.  We will be adding five new Frequent Contributors next year!  Some of these poets will be familiar to the readership, and some will be new.  Three of them hail from outside the United States.  I have no doubt that this diverse group of additional poetic voices will deepen and enrich the Songs of Eretz reading experience.  Each will be introduced to the readership with a Poet of the Week feature in the first weeks of the year.

Songs of Eretz has always been a traditional, mainstream poetry and review venue and will remain that.  However, next year we will be expanding our mission to include prose poems, narrative poems, and--most significantly--short poetic prose (up to 833 words per story).  So, if you have a short piece of prose that is chock full of gorgeous imagery and other poetic elements, we want to see it!

The fifty-dollar Editor’s Choice Award will be retired next year in favor of paying all guest poets fifty-dollar honoraria for their work.  However, 2018 will see the introduction of the Reader’s Choice Award.  This will be a one hundred dollar cash honorarium awarded to a (non-winning) contest finalist poem by a vote of the readership.  Look for an announcement about this new award in mid-February. 

Plans for next year’s--our fifth annual--Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest are already underway.  In addition to recognizing the winning poet with a one thousand dollar honorarium, we plan to award honoraria of one hundred dollars each to five additional poets worthy of honorable mention. 

We are still looking for an accomplished poet to serve as Guest Contest Judge next year.  Please send an email to if you or someone you know may be interested.

All the best for a happy New Year filled with poetry and song,
Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Winter Haiku by the Editor

eggnog and mulled wine
steaming spiced mugs of cider
the warmth of winter

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Poet's/Editor's Notes:  It has been unseasonably cold here in Kansas and elsewhere in America of late.  Composing this simple 5-7-5 haiku made me feel all warm and cozy--I hope it made you feel that way, too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"Little Christmas Tree" by John C. Mannone

Little Christmas Tree
John C. Mannone
          Inspired by “little tree” by e. e. cummings

There’s a little Christmas tree in my living room
for daughter, granddaughter and me—a little scrub
pine with tiny piney leaves that prickled just a bit
especially when I sawed it down in my backyard.

The slender trunk would scarcely fit between
the gaping screws of an oversized Christmas tree
stand, spiraling all the way in, but hitting only air,
yet still, the little tree stood tall, despite the single

strand of flashing lights that seemed to weigh
it down. A sparkling garland dressed the tree.
And on the 24th it’s magic came to life, it danced
with music all around the gifts appearing there.

It had a glow, an angelic glow, as it stretched itself
to ten feet tall, then through the ceiling and through
the roof, to the clouds another hundred feet or so,
until it touched the face of God

who put a lot of Christmas in my little tree.

Poet’s Notes: This poem is based on a true event. My daughter and youngest granddaughter were staying at my house in the Tennessee countryside a few years ago. I wanted to give them a Christmas with a tree and all. Back then we were all on the poor side and had to improvise, so I cut down a small pine tree in my yard. My tree stand was more suitable for a much thicker trunk, but I did the best I could. I didn’t think the needles were going to be that sharp! Nevertheless, we decorated the tree with its prickly, flimsy branches and it felt like a towering tree of beauty. In gratitude, the poem naturally followed, especially since I was thinking of the e.e. cummings poem, “little tree.” It can be read here:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Leaves Changing" by Sierra July

Leaves Changing
Sierra July

Everyone had heard of the tree,
In the center of the woods
How its leaves would bloom

And unfurl in various ways
Leaves of money and gem, of
Pricey elements, glittering

Called the festive tree
Because of how its blessings
Made celebrations

Poet's Notes: This is a poem that came from thoughts of fall, although Christmas trees came to mind once I was putting it on paper. That new thought transformed this from a “leaves changing colors” poem into one about leaves changing into anything, namely things that people find valuable. At first, I considered a whole forest of these special trees but settled on one so that the items growing would remain rare.

Monday, December 25, 2017

"A Christmas Poem" by Kaitlyn Vaughn

Editor’s Note:  Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to welcome back former charter member Frequent Contributor Kaitlyn Vaughn nee Frazier.  Kaitlyn has graciously agreed to take over for Terri Lynn Cummings until Terri returns from her leave of absence (unless we can convince Kaitlyn to stay on longer!).  Kaitlyn’s bio may be found in the “Our Staff” section.  Much has happened in her life in the past year-and-a-half since she resigned as an FC, so I encourage you to read it.  

In the spirit of the season and in an effort to prolong the light and feelings of peace and goodwill, Songs of Eretz will feature a Christmas or seasonally themed poem from today until January 5, 2018--the "Twelve Days of Christmas."  And now, to begin the festivities, as a special Christmas present, Songs of Eretz is pleased to present “A Christmas Poem” by Kaitlyn Vaughn.

A Christmas Poem
Kaitlyn Vaughn

Children are dreaming such sweet dreams in bed
Imagining Santa, his reindeer, and sled.
Encased like cocoons in pajamas so warm
Exuding excitedly Christmas’ charm.

Throughout the past month, all the parents were busy
Cooking, and decorating in quite a frenzy
With holiday spirit pervading their halls
Expecting the day that St. Nicholas calls.

‘Tis the season of happiness, giving, and love,
Made possible by God’s grandest gift from above.
So give thanks and be merry while the season doth last,
For life races by in a twinkling so fast.

Poet’s Notes:  I tried my best not to be dark when composing this poem (for some reason, it’s almost impossible for me to write without being dark).  This is as cheery as I can get.  The message I hoped to convey with this poem is that you never know how long you will have your loved ones--“so give thanks and be merry while the season doth last.” 

Friday, December 22, 2017

"We Don't Speak the Same Language" by Aspen Bullard

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “We Don’t Speak the Same Language” by Aspen Bullard.  Bullard is a student at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.  This is her debut publication. 

We Don't Speak the Same Language
Aspen Bullard

I’m fluent in silence
     Like the silence of my dorm room after my friends have all left for some party that has a crowd I’m afraid of stepping into
     Like the brief silence of mind when I try to remember the last time my thoughts weren’t screaming and scrambled
     Like the silence of my voice when I wanted to say no but I wanted him to love me more

I’m fluent in goodbyes
     Like the goodbye you have to say when “I love you” isn’t enough anymore, because love can’t always hold 2 distanced people together, at least not when the distance is in heart and mind rather than in miles
     Like the unspoken goodbye between old friends who have grown into new people and moved on with their lives
     Like the goodbyes you say every day hoping they won’t be the last, or sometimes secretly praying that they will be

I’m fluent in what-ifs
     Like what if my all-consuming need to please people is never satisfied and I’m left miserable in the process.
     Like what if all of my hopes and dreams crash and burn right in front of me and I have to start from scratch.
     Like what if one day everyone wakes up and sees me the way I see myself; Not good enough; Not strong enough; Not enough

Maybe you’re fluent in I love you’s
But remember I’m fluent in silence, goodbyes, and what-ifs
So forgive me if I can’t say it back

Poet's Notes: I wrote this poem to express the many insecurities I've felt throughout my life. Sometimes it is a struggle to explain things such as anxiety and depression to people who don't experience them, which for me is a kind of a language barrier. I hope this poem can break down that barrier a little and start a conversation.

Editor’s Note:  It is a rare privilege to debut a poet.  Songs of Eretz is honored to introduce Aspen Bullard to the public. Her poem reads like something Walt Whitman might have composed if he were an insecure girl.  Bullard’s use of anaphora is masterful.  I also enjoy the last stanza with its shorter lines, whether those lines are directly addressing the reader or a would-be lover of the speaker.  I will certainly follow this poet’s career with great interest.  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Tongues" by Jessica Greku

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Tongues” by Jessica Greku.  Greku is a student at Baruch College in New York City. She enjoys nature and finds inspiration for her writing in the little moments in life that often go unnoticed. Originally from Staten Island, she currently resides in Manhattan. 

Jessica Greku

A storm stirring up in my body  
causing my soul to tremble 
and my heart to quiver. 
Thoughts escape captivity
and bolt to be voiced
only to be faced with the barricade
that presents itself as a tongue tucked away
behind a broken smile.

Poet’s Notes:  While we can manage our actions, the spectrum of our thoughts and emotions is often beyond the realm of our control. In certain instances, we find ourselves disregarding our deep-rooted thoughts and contradicting them through our actions. 

Editor’s Note:  What a poetic way to experience a kiss!  The concept of thoughts fighting to be voiced only to collide with a kiss brings a bold freshness to an otherwise cliché topic. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Cold War" by Marcie McGuire

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Cold War” by Marcie McGuire. McGuire received her BA from Georgetown College, her library science degree from the University of Kentucky, and a second master’s in creative writing from the University of Missouri.  Her poetry has appeared in Midland and Kansas Quarterly, her flash fiction was published in Well Versed 2017, and her mini-memoir appeared on the Daniel Boone Regional Library website as part of their One Read program in 2016. 

A poet, writer, beekeeper, and contra-dance musician, McGuire resides in Missouri with her favorite dance partner and beekeeper.  Learn more about her interests and obsessions at Email her at or friend "Marcie Slone McGuire" on Facebook.

Cold War
Marcie McGuire

Our mothers had been advised
to keep the children indoors 
during nightly street fogging 
operations, as trucks
rolled through town
spraying for mosquitoes. 
But we lived in base housing 
too cramped to stay inside
on long summer evenings 
without air conditioning
in nineteen fifty-eight
in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Our mothers were nervous 
about the chemicals and
worried about our lungs 
but didn’t know how harmful
they might be, or whom to ask,
or what to do about it 
if there were any danger. 
Our fathers could do nothing
to calm their fears. They had
bigger things to worry about
and military secrets to keep.
They were under strict orders 
not to wear their uniforms in town.
No one was supposed to know 
the Navy was at Fort Campbell, 
or where the weapons might be hidden, 
or even that there were weapons,
and who knows what else might be
buried deep in the hillsides 
behind those wires and electric fences.

When the trucks came through
we huddled near our houses while
the most daring boys charged ahead
through chemical fog, their faces lit by
flashing red lights, imagining towns
up in smoke, hearts pounding as they
ducked between houses on the quad.
At irregular intervals one would make a
break for it, bent low to the ground,
silhouetted against the orange sky, run for
cover, tumble and sprawl into the street,
or roll noisily behind a trash can,
while his friend covered for him, until
someone screamed and everyone started
running at once, fearful of the noise
or the smell, or the dark shapes 
of wings and fuselage moving over us,
the larger shadows that passed
between us and the sun.

Poet’s Notes:  Many of my poems come to me first as an image or sensory impression, and these images pull at me until I can begin to tease out their meaning. Often, I am unsure whether the original image came from a dream or something that actually happened. This particular poem began with the acrid smell of chemicals at dusk, flashing emergency lights, the near-hysterical shouting of children, and a strong sense of fear, but it took me a while to remember the trucks that rolled through the quadrangle each evening spraying for mosquitoes when I was a child growing up on a military base.

Once I could place the memory in real time, the poem grew and touched on other aspects of my life. Now that I am much older, I think about how afraid my young parents must have been at the time—stationed at a secret military installation during a time when fear of communism and nuclear war pervaded everything—and how their anxieties fed our imagination. All those secrets. All that fear and dread. Not unlike today.

Editor’s Note:  McGuire has done well in capturing the paranoia of those times and in referencing those times as a metaphor for our current geopolitical military posture.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Dreidel" by John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone

The black shuttered, white clapboard structure,
with its warped glass windows in the middle
of a historic town, shows off its wrap-around
black iron rails Victorian style. Bright and tiny,
a magical house would appear in its parking lot
every Christmas season and Santa would shimmy
out the doorway to light the Christmas Tree next
door. Yes, he was kind, rotund—a man with beard,
but this time it wasn’t white. It was full-length black
with his side-lock curls dangling under moonlight.

And after all those Ho-Ho-Ho’s, he spun around
and pointed to a structure he flashed next to the tree,
then winked and said shalom as he lighted that one, too.
All the kids laughed and sang, holding each other’s hands.

Poet’s Notes: A number of years ago, while Santa was doing the New Mexico stretch over the holidays, residents of Doylestown, Pennsylvania were caught off guard when what to their wondering eyes should appear but a walk-through dreidel lit up from the inside and perched on the cobblestone apron before the Fountain House.  The Doylestown Borough Bulletin Volume 24, Issue 2, Fall-Winter 2013 proclaimed on page 9,  “The Doylestown Business and Community Alliance will be hosting our annual Santa’s arrival and tree lighting on November 29, 2013… The countdown to the tree lighting will be lead by Santa… Please also stop by and see our giant Dreidel at the corner of State & Hamilton, near to Santa’s house.”

Editor’s Note:  Hanukkah technically will end at nightfall tomorrow, December 20, this year, but the final candle-lighting ceremony will take place at nightfall tonight.  This final lighting will show off the menorah in all its glory with all eight candles plus the central helper candle or shamash ablaze.  I find John’s poem with its humor and inclusive message perfectly fitting to mark the unofficial end of Hanukkah.

Monday, December 18, 2017

"The Dream of Defeat" by James Frederick William Rowe

The Dream of Defeat
James Frederick William Rowe

The pain is a choice
But the loss of breath
The restriction of blood
That is fate
With pain you can bargain:
Give up an arm
An eye
Pay whatever the price
In the currency it claims
To broker a deal
To endure
But against this
All resistance is folly
The vanity of a clouded mind
It is not submission
It is succumbing
And all you may gain
In the strife of your struggle
In the torment of your twisting
Is perhaps a few seconds more
A few seconds more

Yet maybe that is enough
For your purpose
For your honour
If so: the choice is made
Fight on
There can be victory
Even in the dream of defeat
In the pride of closed eyes
In a body stilled
But not submitted

Poet’s Notes:  A scene in Blade Runner 2049 initially inspired this poem--I started writing my notes during the film.  However, the poem took on a tone and drew further inspiration from mixed martial arts competitions.

I once watched an interview where one of the members of the Gracie family suggested he preferred to choke his opponents, as it was not a matter of psychology whether they'd submit, but of physiology. If you are willing to "give up an arm / an eye" you can manage to continue the fight. Not so with chokes. If a choke is properly sunk in, it is only a matter of time before the restriction of blood-flow to the brain will induce a state of unconsciousness. At that point, the fight is over: you've lost. Also, of course, if you were to be choked of breath you might actually suffocate to death, but most martial arts chokes are blood restrictive (even though I include them amongst the choke references in the poem). 

Now, in spite of the hopelessness of withstanding the choke, one might out of an abundance of pride still choose to struggle against it rather than submit. There is something inherently noble in this. Though it really is foolish to horrifically break your arm or leg in a competition, given that you won't actually die (in the history of Judo, no one has ever died in competition from a choke hold) from a choke hold, there is something inherently honorable in choosing to go to sleep and struggle to the last rather than submit. 

The poem recognizes the inherent folly of fighting off the choke but nevertheless respects the pride so displayed. Sometimes, the only victory one can achieve is a moral one, and there is something inherently respectable about choosing that way. This is in no way to call someone who submits to a choke a coward, or cast aspersions upon them at all.  My favorite fighter, Fedor Emelianenko, famously lost to Fabricio Werdum by triangle choke, and I would never insult a man I have always admired—but it shows a certain virtue to be willing to be rendered unconscious rather than tap.

This poem, as noted, was started in the theatre, and then I continued it on the subway, wrote more on the subway again, and polished it off at home. Aesthetically it's fairly simple with a focus on phrasing and word choice to frame the ideas conveyed. The breaks between verses were intuitively chosen to give a poetic structure that I think enhances the artistic merits of the poem, whereas the choice of uneven stanzas is to cement the recognition of the value of the struggle that is denied in the first stanza after the further consideration of the second.

Editor’s Note:  I saw a metaphor for the futility of fighting a terminal illness here rather than the literal interpretation as per the poet's notes.  Either way, this is a powerful piece. 

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.  

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--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.