Sunday, December 16, 2018

"Minding" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings

Just as the heat
of late summer
causes my potted plants
to wilt
and shed leaves and petals,
I go to my garden
of words
to pluck dull poems—
once blooming
but now weeping
with life’s insults—
and fertilize worn soil
hoping the next seeds 
I sow take root 
and blossom for good

Poet’s Notes:  What writer does not have reams of discarded work waiting for redemption? In the heat of late August, my potted plants wilt, shed leaves and petals, just like poems on my computer. How fun it was to metaphor a garden to a poem!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

"Glory’s End" by Alessio Zanelli

Glory’s End
Alessio Zanelli

The painless warriors
And the loveless knights!
They do come unto me
With their icy lances
Aimed by their burning gazes.
They do come and make me stand up,
They do come and lift the stone
Which is weighing my heart down.
They do transfix the shield of sleep
And pierce through my bosom deep.
For Avalon does not exist
But in our dreaming minds,
For Lancelot stopped loving,
Merlin stopped mystifying
And Perceval stopped seeking
When still we were unborn.
For stains and shades by now
Cover each of us.
Nothing is worth
This epic labor.

Poet’s Notes:  If Hesitance At Camlann borrows stories from the Arthurian Legends to create a metaphor of our (often imaginary) struggles in life, this one, while also taking inspiration from some Arthurian characters, is simply symbolic and takes a step further, revealing what comes after such struggles, and how life—both the heroes’ and the common people’s—is like a turning wheel (remember Yeats’s famous poem “The Wheel?” “Glory’s End” dates back to 1995 and is written using quite old-fashioned style, diction and imagery to magnify the momentousness of the subject matter: once again man’s transitoriness, for all his endeavors and deeds; in other words, the end of things.

Friday, December 14, 2018

"Seaside at Sunset" by Lauren McBride, Poet of the Week

Seaside at Sunset  
Where darkening waves 
arch thin,
twilight’s golden rays 
slip within:
the sun ablaze as days
end - and begin.

 --Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes:  The Ocean appears frequently in my writing. I like to swim in it, walk along its beaches, explore its tidal pools and get lost in the changeable beauty of its waves. 

Standing on the eastern shore at sunset one night, I was mesmerized by the view that inspired this poem. The wind held cresting waves in place before they arched over so that the tops grew thin to the point of being clear, and that's when the wave tops caught the golden color of the sun setting behind me. I stood a while watching row after row of waves take on the deepening colors of the sunset before toppling into white foam, while the ocean grew darker, and this poem began to take shape in my head. 

I included the last two lines because color reflecting into waves could have taken place at sunrise. I hope the lengthening of the lines makes the reader linger over them because the last two words might be the most significant. For me, they allow the poem to circle around to the repeating cycle of days and nights, with the opportunity to find beauty in the gift of each new day.

Editor’s Note:  The susurration in the title sets the tone for this intense yet peaceful poem.  The imagery is breathtaking.  The final line conjures up an image of an ouroboros for me--a fitting image for Lauren’s final poem as a Frequent Contributor to Songs of Eretz. 
The First Monthly 
Songs of Eretz Poetry Contest Ends Tomorrow!

Contest Theme:  “Winter”

Deadline: December 15, 2018
Midnight CDT

Judges:  The Songs of Eretz Editorial Staff

Prize:  One-half of the net proceeds + publication

All contestants will receive feedback on their poems by the editorial staff, whether accepted or rejected.

All entries will be considered for publication in our January 2019 winter-themed issue.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

"No Pen, Paper, Nor Time" by Lauren McBride, Poet of the Week

No Pen, Paper, Nor Time
Lauren McBride

This morning while mowing,
my best poem came to me.
The beat, the rhyme, each verse
in perfect symmetry.
            Soon published I would be!

Then dark rain clouds threatened.
No pen, paper, nor time!
As the grass got shorter,
So too did my new rhyme.
            Not gonna make a dime.

By noon the yard was mowed;
rushed while raindrops splattered.
Poised now at my keyboard,
but my thoughts have scattered.
            Blissful moment shattered.

Words hide when I seek them;
rhymes flee when time is free.
Yet again, failed to pen
my perfect poetry.
            Mind's blank unless I’m busy!

Poet's Notes: This lighthearted poem was written for anyone who seems to get their best ideas at the worst times. It is one of my early efforts and was indeed written while I was out mowing and a storm was brewing. But unlike the poem, I ran back to the house to get some paper.

Editor’s Note:  Ah, Lauren!  Such gentle hands as yours were not meant for the menial task of mowing!  

All joking aside, I am glad Lauren was able to remember this one.  It is a bit of a departure for her--but a most welcome and entertaining one!  I really enjoy the tight rhythm and rhyme schemes, universal sentiment, and sprinkling of ironic humor here. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"Empty Mug" by Lauren McBride, Poet of the Week

Empty Mug

He used to read
the comics to her
over coffee.

Now she reads
to his photograph.

--Lauren McBride 

Poet's Notes: A tribute to my parents, married fifty-eight years, who met as children and were friends for life. 

Editor’s Note:  Ernest Hemingway used to enjoy making up six-word micro-flash fictions.  His most famous:

For sale:  baby shoes, never worn.

Lauren’s final stanza would make a great 6-worder--one I daresay that would have given even the great Hemingway pause.  The first stanza enhances the impact of the second.  Such emotion packed into such a tiny poem!  

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"Pluto" by Lauren McBride, Poet of the Week


never expected
a second red (dwarf) planet
with such a big heart

 --Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes: After nearly ten years and three billion miles, the New Horizon's probe was speeding so fast it had only nine minutes to take pictures of Pluto. 

Those images resolved a fuzzy blob into "the other red planet:" a world that was not cratered like the moon or Mercury, not cloudy like Titan and Venus nor striped in swirls like Jupiter and Saturn, but uniquely Pluto with a large heart shape dominating its terrain. Planet or dwarf planet aside, Pluto has captured our hearts with its heart.

Editor’s Note:  Those interested in finding out more about the New Horizon’s mission to Pluto would do well to follow this link

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Looks Easy" by Lauren McBride, Poet of the Week

Editor's Note:  Toward the end of every year, Songs of Eretz must bid farewell to Frequent Contributors who have decided to move on to other projects.  We recently had send-offs for Sierra July, Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, and Mary Soon Lee.  However, it is with great sadness that this year we must also say goodbye to one more--Lauren McBride, a charter member of the Frequent Contributor group who has been with us since January 1, 2016.

The mysterious Lauren (no one knows what she looks like) was to me the heart and soul of Songs of Eretz, the embodiment of our mission to bring more and more good poetry into the world.  She will always remain in my mind as the Queen of Short Form Poetry.  I learned so much from her as I am sure did we all. 

It is difficult to imagine a Songs of Eretz without Lauren, but I have imagined it, and it will be good, just not the same.  She will be dearly, dearly missed.   

As a final tribute to this fine poet and friend, Songs of Eretz will feature Lauren as Poet of the Week for the week of December 10, 2018.  We invite you to enjoy one of Lauren’s poems every weekday this week, beginning today with "Looks Easy".

Looks Easy
Lauren McBride

On television
gourmet meals,
thirty minutes -
kitchen spotless.

My kitchen:
dirty pots, 
pans, bowls,
countertop, floor.

Burned fingers.
Burned roast.
Hungry family
still waiting.

Poet’s Notes: I should know better by now than to try to cook something that seems to generate spontaneously on televised cooking shows. Even if I pre-measure all my ingredients, my meals always take longer to prepare than the "snap your fingers" magic of TV timing. Plus my kitchen never self-cleans. However, with the holidays coming up, I thought a poem about cooking would be fun.

Editor’s Note:  This one certainly has universal appeal!  I especially enjoy the way Lauren’s choice of short lines mirrors the short temper of the short order cook. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Introducing New Frequent Contributor Charles A. Swanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present a special double feature, "Quilted" and "Black Holes" by Charles A. Swanson, one of our new Frequent Contributors.  Charles' bio may be found in the "Our Staff" page.

Charles A. Swanson
Pieced from Papa, a little of World War II,
and Mama, scraps of a failed marriage,
a double wedding ring stitches me in,

circle of mountain past, circle of city hope. 
Log cabin shade and light, something of darkness
and chimney smoke, the smell of old fabric,

cloth saved, raw cotton for batting, I recognize
composite of genius and frugality, waste nothing.
I am not so new, never was, as reclaimed

and made pretty—a needle thrust into tomorrow,
a seam sewn by a domestic hand.  A bear claw
and a pinwheel, a little fear, a little play,

but most of all a warmth, I’m all of these.
Lay under me, love, on a cold, troubled night,
though I have my haunts, I will comfort you.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is dedicated to Grace Toney Edwards who taught English and who advanced the study of Appalachian literature at Radford University for many years.  She loves quilts.

My wife quilts and when she puts her needle into a top pieced by her grandmother or by mine, one of those tops whose patterns were sewn together but never quilted to a back, she feels as if she is touching kindred hands with a frugal and thrifty artisan of years past.  Such is the strength of a quilt, especially when a scrap here, or a piece there, is one saved from cloth worn by someone in the family.

My grandmother also made crazy quilts, solid blocks on which she added her own embroidery patterns.  Her “BER” (her initials), her words, “Remember Me,” and her free-form flowers still speak out of her needle, that needle she used to quilt us into her life.

Editor’s Note:  The personification of the quilt really works here. I love the soft, cozy ending.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Black Holes
Charles A. Swanson

For any work of art, the palette spins
in dreams.  Imagination sorts the thin
and nondescript from the fat and rich.
How orange blazes, makes loud the witch
of Halloween, but beige is colorless.
I choose the bright, the sun that scours the west.
I see it in my mind.  But I also choose
the beige to soften all this noise.  I lose
the rainbow when I pick the blackest black
to border every afghan square.  This black
is traditional, but when I also pick
the same lost black to make the squares, the click
of Grandma’s soft tsk catches me.   Not that,
she says.  It won’t work.  It’ll be too flat.
But somehow I see blank windows of night
and know that every short day cycles, light
gives way to what I can’t see, don’t know.
And I must work the dark night of the soul.

Poet’s Notes:  Once, many years ago, a boy of nineteen sat with a woman of eighty-one in front of an open fireplace.  He had learned to crochet that fall and now had come to live with his grandmother on a small farm in the Blue Ridge foothills of Virginia.  As he attended college, he worshiped at her Baptist church, played pick-up basketball at the college gym, and helped his uncles with chores.  

Two small homemade chairs drawn to the fire, the only heat in the living room became symbolic of a recurrent time to talk and work.  He looped the yarn for squares of his first afghan, running the thread through his fingers and onto the hook, twisting it into the stitches known as single and double crochets.  His grandmother sat beside him, easing her arthritic limbs in the heat of the fire and always busy herself with some kind of handwork.

I was that boy—and still am that boy as I travel back through the vehicle of poetry.  I also travel back each time I pick up the crochet hook.  I have moved past the traditional “granny square,” edged with black, with which I started, but I still see that archetypal pattern, good for beginners as well as experienced hands, on television shows in background staging.   Invariably, the squares are finished with a black row, despite all the color within the square.  

To edge the pattern with a color other than black seems somehow daring—somehow irreverent.  Even as a nineteen-year-old, I was one to play with the rules.  I loved following the pattern and breaking it at the same time—much as I love form and freedom in poetry.  Although I edged my squares with the expected black, I upset that pattern on my first afghan by making some squares a solid black.  Grandma objected, but, when all the squares were whipped together at long last, she gave me the approval I cherished.  

The solid black squares reminded me of windows at night.  The rest of the squares, vivid with color inside their black frames, represented the warmth of the fire, the friendship of conversation, the light I needed to balance the dark.

Editor’s Note:  I take pleasure in the mood here--somehow somber and hopeful simultaneously.  While knowledge of crochet would be requisite for a complete understanding, the poem may be enjoyed even without that.  The ending gives an interesting insight into the speaker.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

"cinderella" by Larry Schug

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “cinderella” by Larry Schug.  Larry has published seven books of poetry. He is a volunteer writing tutor at the College of St. Benedict and a volunteer Naturalist at Outdoor U. at St. John's University.  He lives with his wife, dog, and two cats beside a large tamarack bog in St. Wendel Township, Minnesota.


i woke wishing i was entangled 
with a euro-trash cinderella, 
who wanted to smash  
all the glass slippers in the world
loosen the wheels and free all the horses 
of every princess-carrying coach
a girl with a stud in her nose
and a small tattoo of a spider on her shoulder
who looked like my friend danica
but with a dirty face and jet black hair
round eyes that see right into you
and sneer at all the prince charmings
and i wished we were both ragged and thin as old jeans
and wore torn army jackets as we snuck around
bleak abandoned streets 
of some post-industrial eastern european city 
maybe in czechoslovakia or poland, some dark place
so hungry our minds were clear as ice
and that at night we sheltered in a bombed-out warehouse
and were the only ones left in this city
but still afraid because of roaming packs of wild dogs
and because the night sky clouds the color of dead skin 
were lit from below by an electric glow
and we talked only with our eyes.

--Larry Schug

Poet's Notes:  Thanks, of course, to Cracker for their song "Euro-trash Girl" (see Editor’s Note).  I just took the story of Cinderella a bit farther in time.  I also found the poem wanting a post-industrial setting.  I'm not sure if Cinderella lived happily ever after or not.

Editor’s Note:  All poets are rebels.  Some even live a rebel lifestyle, but most do so only through their words.  This poem should resonate well with all the true and wannabe rebels out there.  

The poem has a strong beginning, setting the reader up for an avant-garde experience and pleasing the ears with its inter-line rhyme on "-ash".  The narrative of the poem does not disappoint, and the ending is also strong.  I particularly like the "dead skin" metaphor three lines from the end and the intra-line rhyme in the penultimate line.  The final line speaks volumes.

Enjoy a video of Cracker performing “Euro-trash Girl” here

Friday, December 7, 2018

"How to Grade Comets" by Mary Soon Lee, Poet of the Week

How to Grade Comets
Mary Soon Lee

Do not grade on a curve.
Do not use numbers at all.

Even the smallest comet
deserves more than a score.

Consider their constancy,
their patience, their heart.

That long cold trajectory
before the sunward curl.

Compliment their commitment,
their comae, their tails.

The courage it takes to burn
for the sake of their art.

Grant each a gold star
to welcome them back.

Poet's Notes: This poem is part of a sequence of astronomy poems that I am working on. I have been writing more science poetry of late, but it is often science poetry with a slantwise view, such as in this case. If I could have six lives and six careers, I would hope to be a scientist in one of them. I am especially drawn to space, and, though I have not put it to use, I have an M.Sc. in astronautics and space engineering.

Editor's Note:  I have known Mary for years and just found out about her Master's degree!  I hope you enjoyed this final tribute to her as she goes ad astra (but hopefully not per aspera).

Thursday, December 6, 2018

"Per Aspera Ad Astra" by Mary Soon Lee, Poet of the Week

Per Aspera Ad Astra
Mary Soon Lee
Every rocket rises
against weight.

Before Sputnik, before Vostok,
before the race to space,
Korolev's teeth fell out
in the mines of Kolyma
under Stalin's terror,
beaten, scurvy-ridden.

Before Gagarin orbited Earth,
before Voyager 1 glimpsed Saturn's rings,
concentration camp workers
carved caves to birth V-2s.
Corpses cremated.
A pit filled with ash.

The stars a fire.

Poet's Notes: "Per aspera ad astra" is a Latin phrase meaning "through hardships to the stars." I wrote this poem after reading the opening chapter of T. A. Heppenheimer's book, Countdown: A History of Space Flight. I love the space program, but there is plenty of grimness in its history, far more than the poem touches on, some of it merely (merely!) due to equipment/vehicle failures: Grissom, White and Chaffee who died during testing for the Apollo program. The Soyuz 11 crew. Challenger. Columbia.

Editor’s Note:  The state motto of Kansas is ad astra per aspera. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The First Monthly
Songs of Eretz Poetry Contest Is Underway!

Contest Theme:  “Winter”

Deadline:  December 15, 2018

Judges:  The Songs of Eretz Editorial Staff

Prize:  One-half of the net proceeds + publication

All contestants will receive feedback on their poems by the editorial staff, whether accepted or rejected.

All entries will be considered for publication in our January 2019 winter-themed issue.

"The Cake" by Mary Soon Lee, Poet of the Week

The Cake
Mary Soon Lee
After years of guilt
and plausible excuses,
I told my daughter, age six,
that we could bake a cake.

How many years
since I baked a cake?
Long enough to wonder
how to cream together
the butter and sugar.
Unshaken by my uncertainty,
Lucy measured, sieved, stirred,
greased, poured, asked permission
to sample one glob of batter.

When I pulled the twin cakes
from the oven: too dry, too flat,
Lucy watched as if witnessing a wedding.
Together, we sandwiched the cakes
with chocolate frosting,
topped them with white,
and Lucy drew a shaky snowman
beneath a hail of multicolored snow.

So many days I feel the weight
of what I haven't done,
but Lucy takes me by the hand
and makes me better 
than I am.

Poet's Notes: I wish that every time I sat down to write, I produced a perfect piece. Alas, it often takes me several tries to get close to what I wanted to say. I wrote the first draft of this poem in January 2011 and have revised it several times since then. Each time I come back to the poem, it is like time travel, returning to the days when my daughter was young. Now, years older, she bakes cakes quite independently (and kindly allows me to share them).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

FC Lee Has Eight Poems Published in Other Venues

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that our soon-to-be-departing Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee has recently had eight poems published in other venues.

“Advice for Time Travelers” and “How to Betray Sagittarius A*” appeared in Strange Horizons.

"Between Battles," a King Xau poem, appeared in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

An Arthurian poem, "Fealty," appeared in Uppagus

Star*Line published two more of her poems:  "What They Took" plus "How to Be Invisible."  The latter is online as an editor's choice poem

Finally, Mary had two poems published in Ship of Fools #78:  "Minecraft" and "modern poetry".  Ship of Fools is a print-only publication

"All the Lovely Normal Stuff" by Mary Soon Lee, Poet of the Week

All the Lovely Normal Stuff
Mary Soon Lee
       In Memory of Amber Miro

I combed the tangles from my daughter's hair;
sliced bagels, put them in the toaster;
poured juice into plastic glasses;
read my book at breakfast,
interrupted by my son telling me
seemingly every one of the cartoons in his book;
sorted out bills to pay, stamped envelopes;
walked down the road
in the blue sky sunlight;
watched my daughter stretching high
to put the letters in the mailbox,
and then the ritual race
back up the hill;
all the things I'd done a hundred times,
all the lovely normal stuff
you used to like to hear about.

Poet's Notes: Amber Miro was my best friend since I was six or seven years old. When I was in her company, I was exhilarated and slightly wilder. I didn't get into trouble often when I was a child, but the little I did get into was mostly with Amber. She died of cancer in 2012. In an email message written the month before she died, she told me that she wanted to hear about "all the lovely normal stuff." And the week after she died, I tried to write about it.

Editor’s Note:  Mary does a fine job transforming the quotidian into the poetic in this moving elegy for her friend.