Saturday, March 17, 2018

Standings for the Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award Contest So Far

First place:  "Autismville" by Melinda Coppola

Second place:  "7 a.m." by Melinda Coppola

Tied for third place:  "Deceptive Cadence" by Carol Kner & "The Great Escape" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Tied for fifth place:  "Passing On" by Carol Kner & "When I Am Old" by Tim Amsden

Seventh (last) place:  "The Poet Says This Is How You Should See" by Melinda Coppola.

Voting continues for two more weeks (until midnight CST March 31).  If you have not already voted, send your pick for your favorite poem to  See for more information about the contest. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Toads Abounding" by Ross Balcom

Toads Abounding
Ross Balcom

"All Hail!" Ink and Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
a black candle

mouth a prayer
to the Toad

let the heath
run wild

with warty weirdness

toads abounding,
toads abounding

dance naked
with them

this hour
of abandon

is yours
croak, croak, croak

with wanton weirdness

toads abounding,
toads abounding

lumpy children
of Luna

noisome numbers

join them,
midnight mage

in your wild weirdness

toads abounding,
toads abounding...

All hail the Toad!

Poet's Notes:  I am a lover of toads. I embrace and lick them in my dreams. This poem is dedicated to every toad, from the toad in the road to the Toad on the throne.

Editor’s Note:  I toadally love this one! 

Artist's Note: This piece went a different direction than I expected, but I think that is appropriate for the subject matter. All glory to the Hypno Toad!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

“Temptation” by Sylvia Cavanaugh

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Temptation” by Sylvia Cavanaugh. Originally from Pennsylvania, Cavanaugh has an M.S. in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin.  She teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies and advises break-dancers and poets. She and her students are actively involved in the Sheboygan chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change. 

Cavanaugh’s poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.  She is a contributing editor for Verse-Virtual: An Online Community Journal of Poetry. Finishing Lines Press published her chapbook, Staring Through My Eyes. A second chapbook, Angular Embrace, is forthcoming in April 2018 from Kelsay Books. You can find more of Cavanaugh’s poetry at

Sylvia Cavanaugh

Paralyzed by food
"Reverse Birth" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
the garter snake
helpless and limp
lies by the side
of summer’s dirt trail

the enormous impossibility
of swallowing that frog
like childbirth
in reverse

if eating were that traumatic
let’s face it
I could slink
cold-blooded cool
past untold bounty
pizza, pasta, even chocolate

I might have the time
to find a woman 
and spill my secret plot

Poet’s Notes:  I was walking along a dirt trail to Lake Michigan and saw a garter snake off to the side. It was limp and helpless but grasses obscured its head. At first, it appeared that the snake had suffered an injury, but upon closer examination, I found that it was working a frog through its jaws. It looked painful and rendered the snake completely helpless. I moved the snake further away from the trail so that it wouldn’t be stepped on. It was shocking to see how traumatic the act of eating could be.

Editor’s Note:  This one is filled with goodies!  I especially like the image created by the brilliant metaphor of giving birth in reverse, a concept of which Neil Gaiman would approve (ref:  American Gods).  The wicked idea of slinking past the delicious food followed by the Genesis reference produced an involuntary "wow!" from me. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"An Old Man’s Book" by Kaitlyn Vaughn

"Disturbing the Peace" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
An Old Man’s Book
Kaitlyn Vaughn

Extraterrestrials were the old man’s favorite subject.
Most nights he roamed the countryside in search of otherworldly beings.
Information for his latest book he was seeking to glean and construct
Inspired by articles teeming with evidence for possible new life forms
Driven by curiosity, frowned upon by others with scorn
“What a peculiar old bloke, 
Always tromping about during the late night’s hour,
Wonder what he’s searching for?”
The troop whispered from a nearby bush as they cowered.
The man was equipped with a rucksack filled with provisions,
And what all else, no one could tell.
An alarming amount of questions the man couldn’t quell
He gazed at the sky for long periods of time
Searching for any sign of lights flashing or sounds chiming.
He zigzagged and trekked onward almost aimlessly with no certain destination,
All while the nosey troop followed with indignation.
At last he arrived at a spot which resembled that of a low valley,
Where the trees and all growth seemed to recede.
He sat in the lifeless meadow, took out his rations and began to eat.
Not a lick of new insight had he found for his book,
At this time he was most ready to go home, 
But jumped with a startled look,
For above in the star-blotted sky flew forth the most curious drone.
It spun in circles on a tilted axis.
It whirred, it hovered, it hummed with madness.
As one can assume the troop had quite dispersed,
For the show didn’t take very long to chase the group
Clean back to their homes,
Meanwhile the old man still sat all alone.
He absorbed the spectacle, never to lose in his mind.
The new sighting was enough to ready his book and to bind.
However, the apparatus began to open,
And out came a bridge with a blinding light that lashed out with force.
The man could see nothing, and all at once couldn’t feel.
The light retracted and so did the bridge for good.
All that remains of the old man are his glasses
Nestled in the meadow where his new comrades had frequented in the luminous apparatus.
None of the nosey troop members have disclosed any words on the events
In which they so willingly abandoned the old man,
For his family often questions his disappearance, 
But most are too guilty while others say good riddance.

Poet’s Notes:  My husband and I are avid documentary watchers, and aliens and the paranormal fascinate me the most. In the poem, I try to help the reader envision the old man as a recluse who is obsessed with aliens and with writing books on them. The meadow where no life seems to grow is actually a large crop circle that the man stumbles upon and finds his source of interest out of nowhere.

Editor’s Note:  Until this year, I would not have chosen to publish a poem like "An Old Man's Book" but I have expanded the mission of Songs of Eretz to include publishing riveting prosaic narrative poems such as this one.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"“Looking Out At 42nd Street” by Mary K. O’Melveny

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Looking Out At 42nd Street” by Mary K. O’Melveny, a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington, DC and Woodstock, New York.  O’Melveny’s poetry has appeared in various print and on-line journals, including Allegro Poetry Magazine, GFT Press, The Flagler Review, The Write Place At The Write Time, The Offbeat, Into the Void, and Slippery Elm Literary Journal.  Her poem “Cease Fire” won the 2017 Raynes Poetry Competition sponsored by Jewish Currents Magazine and appears in the anthology Borders and Boundaries.  

Looking Out At 42nd Street
Mary K. O’Melveny

"Buzz" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
City rhythms feel electric on my skin.
The Hudson River emits a slight smoky haze.
Hot summer air settles over geometric rooftops, 
copper and glass vie for attention with neon lights.

The Hudson River emits a slight smoky haze
as I stare toward a distant horizon line.
Copper and glass vie for attention with neon lights
while helicopters flit above the water like summer insects.

As I stare toward a distant horizon line,
I wonder if every city denizen feels safe
while helicopters flit above the water like summer insects,
or if the urge to run and hide takes over.

I wonder if every city denizen feels safe
walking street side in the sweltering afternoon
or if the urge to run and hide takes over
even as sunset ripples slowly across the sky.

Walking street side in the sweltering afternoon,
people push past us staring down at bright images.
Even as sunset ripples across the sky,
camera phones are cradled like newborns.

People push past us, staring down at bright images.
Some would call this the center of the universe.
Camera phones are cradled like newborns
as memories are captured in distant clouds.

Some would call this the center of the universe,
but I believe we are just dancing on its surface.
As memories are captured in distant clouds,
city rhythms feel electric on my skin.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was composed during a visit to New York City in July 2017.  I had just begun experimenting with pantoums.  Somehow, the rhythms of the city seemed perfect for this form of expression.  I am a former New York City resident and always experience a “current” whenever I return to this place of magical energy and multiple contradictions.  I began the poem after looking down from my hotel window onto Times Square many stories below.  After walking to the theatre and back through throngs of tourists and city dwellers alike, these multiple scenes carried me quite naturally to the poem’s ending.  

Editor’s Note:  I was riveted by the narrative of this perfectly constructed pantoum.  My favorite part is the last stanza with its play on the word "clouds." 

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Perhaps" by Aparna Sanyal

Aparna Sanyal 

"Peace" Ink on Paper
J. Artemus Gordon
there is a book
by a fireside 
on a rug of tufted joy,
at the end of a long day. 
Shall we make our way there?  
Through a spiraling
once our lives have unspooled,
and insect-like, we have
scrabbled through the rims of
endless pine cones,
dreamt arachnid dreams
of flies, spit-cocoons and
Once we've opened too many holy 
books with gun shapes 
cut inside,
drunk too much merry wine,
foul scotch and swilled 
bitter pills,
will you join me at 
this fireside? 
We can open the first page together. 
something that isn't 
jaded, cloyed, tainted
will draw us to its core.
And with your hand in mine,
leaning back against 
your absorbing shoulder, 
we can read again? 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem came to me at the end of a particularly stark day. Watching radical religious fundamentalists create yet another fight, seeing the downward spiral of economic and social conditions in my beloved country, and then seeing tear-drenched, hopeful faces at another candle-lit vigil, I was struck by how varied a country we are, and how we’ve existed for eons seemingly teetering at the edge of devastation, but somehow redeeming ourselves. Perhaps, all we want, all we dream of, beyond the divisions, beyond the hate, is a simple, sweet, honest ending to our mortal tales? 

Editor’s Note:  What a lovely overriding metaphor and hopeful sentiment so beautifully expressed!  The world is so divided.  That would be fine, perhaps even beneficial, if all sides respected each other, but sadly they do not.  Perhaps this poem will at least change a few hearts and minds.  In any case, it is my honor to publish it. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

"My Journey with John" by the Editor

I have been aware of the speculative poetry of John Reinhart ever since I became aware of the self-styled Science Fiction Poetry Association.  That would have been late in the year 2012.  At that time, his work appeared frequently in the SFPA journal Star*Line, edited until recently by F. J. Bergmann.  I found (and still find) his genre poetry to be engaging and thought-provoking with a sprinkling of (at times dark) humor worthy of a smile albeit sometimes a grim one. 

I launched Songs of Eretz Poetry Review in 2014 and published some of John’s more mainstream poems with such frequency that I eventually invited him to be a Frequent Contributor, a quasi-staff poet position, which he held from the inception of the FC program in January 2016 until he decided to move on to other projects in December 2017.  During his time as an FC, I published approximately thirty-five of his poems, easily enough for a chapbook or small collection.

Of all John’s poems that appeared during his time as an FC, the most popular with the Songs of Eretz readership were “24th century lullaby” and “saying goodnight”  The latter is a mainstream poem of only twenty-six words that exemplifies John’s love of family, storytelling, and science fiction.  (There is always a speculative element in one of John’s poems--one just needs to look for it.)  In this poem, John melds heart and ear to form a “heart ear.”  What a weird yet beautiful concept!

In the former poem, John demonstrates his enjoyment for composing form poems, this time using the empat perkataan form.  Setting aside the obvious sci-fi title, the poem, while certainly speculative, harkens back to balladic nursery rhymes and old household tales, a joining of the familiar with the cosmic.

The last collection of John’s poems that I read was Invert the Helix.  Disappointingly, only half a dozen poems in the collection really moved me, two of which I had previously published in Songs of Eretz.  The rest of the poems in the collection I found either too "out there," borderline non-sequitur, experimental (but not in a good way), or too cutesy for my personal taste.  Nevertheless, I admire John for taking a risk.  After all, if poets never did, poems would still be imprisoned in stifling forms and entirely dependent on rhyme and meter.  And that would be a shame.  I will continue to follow John’s poetry career with great interest.  You should, too.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

"Mi Isla" by Alberto Garrido

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Mi Isla” by Alberto Garrido.  Originally from New Jersey, he is currently studying marketing and advertising in New York City.

"Isla" Watercolor & Graphite on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Mi Isla 
Alberto Garrido

Skies I had never seen before
Land I never felt below my feet
Yet everything was so familiar

La tierra that my dad’s family escaped
I see a familiar flag in the distance
The red triangle mocks me
The government tells me it is for strength 
But I know it is for communism

This country that once thrived
That the whole world rushed to
Now ridden with poverty
Those remaining, dying to leave

Mis primos ask me about the United States
About the Ferraris, the wifi, the pools, the food, la libertad
Things they will never see 

Che’s face looks over those whom he has ruined
A symbol to those who know his face
A monster to those who know his story

But I can’t say any of this
Or I will put us in danger

Celia and Gloria sang their hearts
Now they can never go back

“Mi isla”
I have never been to it
But it feels so familiar
Aquí corre mi herencia
I can feel the tears shed by my Abuela as she boarded the plane
I know everything my Abuelo left behind

I hope that one day
“Mi isla”
Will be what it was

I pray that in
“Mi isla”
People can speak
And say that Fidel was a killer

Yo quiero que “mi isla” sea mi isla un día 

Poet's Notes: Being Cuban on my father's side, I have always heard stories of survival and escape from members of my family. In March of 2017, I had the privilege to see Cuba with my grandfather. Upon being there, I realized how much my family overcame and the major sacrifices they made so that I did not grow up under this system. Seeing my extended family that is still there, I realized how blessed I was to be brought up in a country founded on freedom. This poem deals with my conflicting experiences and emotions on the island.

Editor’s Note:  I am moved by the passion and longing that bleeds and screams through the words of Garrido’s simple, heartfelt poem.  Quiero que su isla sea su isla un día también. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

“Happiness: A Road Map” by Marcie McGuire

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Happiness:  A Road Map” by Marcie McGuire.  McGuire is a poet, memoirist, and fiction writer born and raised in Kentucky but now living in Missouri, where she enjoys the simple things in life, such as playing music with friends, dancing, walking in nature, and keeping bees.  She has worked as a librarian, English teacher, and editor.

McGuire’s poems have appeared in Inscape, Midlands, and Kansas Quarterly.  Her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Well Versed 2017, and her flash fiction recently appeared in Reflex Fiction.

Happiness: A Road Map
Marcie McGuire

All those years she managed
"Bucket List" Photograph
By J. Artemus Gordon
to cut her dreams down to size, to
make do with what she had, to 
hold on to everything
she had outgrown or worn out,
against the slimmest chance
that it could be transfigured
into something she could use,
until those things she had
became what she thought she 
wanted, until her dreams were 
less than nothing, until
you could ask her anything,
and she would say she has 
never been happier.

She makes love at the borders
where time and space change places,
where it is impossible to tell the
last day of winter from the first
day of spring, where things spill
into each other and become their
opposites. In no time, the minutes
become the miles she has traveled
in the passenger seat, the trees and
utility poles moving steadily past
her window into yesterday, the
road map unfolded across her lap,
as though she meant to give
directions, as though she could
predict which way to turn.

Poet’s Notes:  Too often in life, I have chosen the easy path or have failed to choose. I have let fear and insecurity keep me from putting myself out in the world and asking for what I really wanted. Fearing rejection or failure, I have taken what came along and “made do” with what I had. This poem is a reminder to myself that I have the power and the responsibility to take charge of my own life. 

Editor’s Note:  From the ironic title to the final sad scene in the narrative, McGuire poetically tells the story of crushed dreams and how most of us let life pass us by.  Her metaphors enhance the narrative immensely--I particularly like the useless, ironic open map as a metaphor for a useless, ironic, closed life.  This poem should resonate with many and benefit a few who might snap out of their funks after pondering its important message. 

Artist's Note: The colored pieces of paper represent the old fun dreams and plans that have been forgotten in a world that is now otherwise devoid of "color." This is the first photograph I've taken in a long time for the purpose of being its own piece. The nature of this poem required me to be more metaphorical. I came up with the idea for this and realized there was no reason to paint it, and, in fact, it would be more powerful as a photograph.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Picnic in the Snow" by Lauren McBride

"Warmth" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Picnic in the Snow
Lauren McBride

With hot chocolate steaming, 
we're dreaming aloud
under a bright blue sky
with a whipped cream cloud.

Poet’s Notes:  I have seen pictures of people sitting at cafe or picnic tables in the snow, seemingly oblivious to the cold, enjoying a hot drink or a meal. I am not in those pictures. I will never be in them. I would be shivering long before my hot chocolate stopped steaming. But I like the idea and so I wrote a poem. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Reasons for Reading" by Mary Soon Lee

Reasons for Reading
Mary Soon Lee

Escape? Yes. And solace too.
When I was overwrought,
I flew on dragonback
above the islands of Earthsea,
rode with the Rohirrim,
walked the grounds of Pemberley
for the fifth or sixth time.

But more than refuge:
a craving, a restless hunger
drives me to the shelves,
seeking my next fix.
To be prisoned, pinioned.
That moment when the world
hinges on the next sentence.

Poet's Notes:  Ever since I can remember, I have loved to read. Books were part of the landscape of my childhood, and I would visit and re-visit my favorites, including those referenced in this poem.  When I'm caught up in a book, I resent all interruptions. When I'm too busy to read, I become cranky. It is puzzling to me that not everyone feels the same way. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

"Blood Work at the VA" by Gene Hodge

Blood Work at the VA
Gene Hodge

Did she like me,
did she catch my smile
                                      as she pushed the needle in my arm?
Watching as the empty vial

fills with my warm blood,

I wonder. . . ,

Did she believe me
when I said, “you’re special?”

It’s her, the same nurse,
each year that
I return for my health screening.
Golden hair glowing
like sunlight through a cloud,
intoxicating sprit, sweet as honey crisp apples.

Unabashed, she hands me a container,
    “take this to the restroom
for a urine sample,
                               place it here on the table
as you leave.”

Just like that . . .  and it’s over!

Beautiful Cristy, passionate, cute Cristy
touching me for 
a Tuesday morning moment—
never to know
       the ache of a young man’s desire,
       the poem in his heart;
       a romantic novel—

Each page with her name written in gold.

Poet’s Notes:  Each year the Veterans Administration offers a health screening and each year the same nurse administers my blood work and urine analysis.  Being friendly and offering kind words is easy when you are a visitor but must become routine and mundane to the worker.  The patient is just another patient.

Editor’s Note:  This one is charming as an unrequited love poem but also makes an important statement about the depersonalization from which healthcare workers and patients often suffer.  The grammatical error in line 9 was left in by the poet’s direction (and over my objection) to give the piece a more colloquial feel.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

FC Lee Has 5 Poems Plus a Short Story Published in Other Venues

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee has had five poems and a short story published in other venues.

Her poem "Diaspora" appears in Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2018.

Her poem "Venus, As It Might Have Been" appears in Analog, March/April 2018, and is currently, though not permanently, available on its website

Her poem "On Reading Le Guin" is in the current issue of Uppagus

Her poem "Dragon Mountain," a King Xau poem, is in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

And another King Xau poem, "Again," is in Dreams & Nightmares #108.

Her short-short story "Dwarf Varieties" appeared in Daily Science Fiction

Friday, March 2, 2018

"Sunrise" by Sierra July

"Sunrise" Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Sierra July

Dyeing the sky, rainbow hues
Before sinking from sight
Rays reaching like fingers
Still grasping, hanging on
Before all grows dark
At least, how it looks

On the other side of Earth
Our sunset, another's rise
Lighting their world and
Returning to ours

Poet's Notes:  This poem is my way of wishing everyone a happy start to 2018. Even if times were bleak in 2017 or still are at this moment, remember that darkness is temporary. At some point in time the world darkens for everyone, but the sun will always return again to shine and warm us. I look forward to writing more pieces that can inspire others the way words I've found have inspired me.

Editor’s Note:  I was about to reject this poem after reading the first stanza, which, while full of gorgeous imagery, is hardly original.  Then I read the second stanza and was blown away!  The second stanza would actually make a powerful stand-alone poem, but I like the nice surprise as the borderline cliché gives way to profound wisdom--enhanced all the more by the poet’s thoughtful notes. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Votes from the readership for the Readers Choice Award will be accepted today through the end of March.  The winner of the RCA and a one hundred dollar honorarium will be announced in April.

The poems eligible for the 2018 Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award are:

“The Poet Says This Is How You Should See” by Melinda Coppola

Vote by sending the title of your favorite poem via email to