Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Among My Scrub Oak" by Howard Stein, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Among My Scrub Oak       
Howard Stein      

leathery leaves
contorted branches

not much for majesty
not much for lumber

long roots for drought
long waits for rain

Oklahoma scrub oak
keep their secret
in carefully guarded rings

tell a story
of craggy defiance –
when most everything
around them dries up,
scrub oak still thrive

Poet's Notes: Weather permitting, I spend much of my daylight time out on my little front porch, smoking my pipe and writing while dwelling among the mostly Scrub Oak trees, widespread inhabitants of the region. In early fall 2017, I wrote this poem as a meditation on the remarkable resilience (and adaptation) of a tree in a largely inhospitable environment--transparently autobiographical as well.  

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"The Life of Science, or Modesty" by Howard Stein, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

The Life of Science, or Modesty
Howard Stein   

Based on my
extensive research,

I have the data;
I have published it widely
in well-respected journals.
I refer you to my book --

In all modesty I must say
that many reviewers
consider it the definitive
work in its field.

The life of science requires
an unprecedented degree
of self-abnegation.

Poet's Notes:  Over my career, I have attended many scientific conferences. Many presenters were haughty about their findings.  At one such conference a few years back, I took notes on the presenter's claims about the correctness and significance of his work. I could not believe he could be so openly contemptuous. His words found their way into my subsequent poem. All along, I remembered that in graduate school we were taught to be humble about our work. This pungent poem is my reply to the speaker's brazenness.

Editor’s Note:  Once in a while, Songs of Eretz has the privilege of publishing a poem with a message that is of the utmost importance for the world to hear.  This poem falls into that category.  We could all use a hefty dose of humility in our dealings with each other--especially in the sciences.  I only hope my humble e-zine will disseminate this poem properly as it deserves. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Special Double Feature: "Measure, Ghost Ranch, NM" & "Skyward, Ghost Ranch" by Howard Stein, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to introduce to the readership Howard Stein, another new Frequent Contributor.  Howard will be this week's Poet of the Week.  His bio may be found on the "Our Staff" page.

Measure, Ghost Ranch, NM
Howard Stein      

Mesas, mountains,
canyons, valleys, sky –
transmute unimaginable
into imaginable
sense of place,
but preserve
the scale and miracle
of unfathomable space.

Poet's Notes:  Each year for at least twenty years, I attend the annual fall retreat of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology held at Ghost Ranch (pictured) in northern New Mexico. The sense of place inspires poetry in me every time I go. This little poem is from late September 2017 and strives to do the impossible: to fathom the unfathomable and to bear witness to my awe whenever I am there.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy Howard’s use of rhyme here as well as the magical moment when the imagined becomes reality.  What an inspiring place Ghost Ranch must be!

* * * * * * * * * *

Skyward, Ghost Ranch
Howard Stein     

The earth
begins as geography
and ends as sky.

Above the Piedra Lumbre basin
and the Chama River Valley;
above the Cliffs of Shining Stone;
above the high desert that spans forever,
dwells a more immense forever
where the Milky Way nearly blinds you by night,
where you can follow the sun’s long arc by day,
where you can see fierce storms in their far approach –

the realm of sky,
more than an eye can hold,
more than arms can wrap around,
more than imagination can grasp –
spawning wave upon wave
of terror and reassurance,
desolation and comfort,
exposure and enclosure;
where we give names to stars
and group them into familiars
so we don’t leak out into infinity –
constellations, our celestial mesas and buttes,
to give bounds to the badlands of our minds,
as if the sky could at last have a skin,
and we could fall asleep under the stars
and not be afraid.

Poet's Notes:  This poem also comes from the annual fall retreat in late September 2017 at Ghost Ranch.  As awe-inspiring as the geology of the place in northern New Mexico is, the sky (pictured) ultimately dominates the landscape and the imagination. This poem comes from my walk at night beyond the incandescent lights of Convocation Hall.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

3 More Poems by FC Sanyal Appear in Softblow

If you enjoyed Frequent Contributor Aparna Sanyal’s feature as our Poet of the Week last week, be sure to check out three more of her poems recently published in Softblow--“Dissembling” and “For a Survivor” and “Necessary Deceits”

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Whale Song" by Aparna Sanyal, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Whale Song
Aparna Sanyal 

Metrical, sonic beauty, their song; they are 
separated by krill, kelp, and an ocean’s longing. 
Bumps and baleen hold grey and true through
a water’s shimmery deception--
steady hearts sing their need across the traveling
warm-cold-warm currents.  
Unwavering through deceit, their twinned souls 
mate, across fields of deepest obsidian, lit by 
the bioluminescent, strobe-pulsing cheers of 
a million onlookers 
that marvel at the tenderness,
grace and fragility of these lovers, leviathan. 
They’ve swum lifetimes and use this 
divine playground to frolic away harpoon fears
and tears. 
Soon, they will be three. 
Then thus schooled, they will crest 
and dip with swells of loving foam and 
cerulean stipples. 
Around them, the waves will change, 
indigo to jade, then coruscate and break, 
create frothy jargon as they rise,
never losing their collective shape.
Sprays of joyful diamond drops will be their only tell
as they submerge and glide
ever onwards, ever seeking--
more splendent symphonies, more mellifluent 
more coupling by song-washed nights and days. 
They are fluid, gentle-- 
as the moonlit smiles of us, when we meet. 
Passionate--as the glare from our sun-bright trysting. 
Beyond our lifetimes, these giant hearts
will rule and obey the sea.

Poet’s Notes:  A documentary about whales prompted this poem. I was awestruck for the umpteenth time by the sheer grace, beauty, and pure peace of these magnificent creatures and couldn’t resist writing this ode.

Editor’s Note:  What a beautiful, lyrical piece about one of the other self-aware species that share the earth with us--and the largest portion of it, the sea.  I especially like the intra-line rhymes and the gorgeous imagery of the whales mating. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

"The Split Second" by Aparna Sanyal, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

The Split Second
Aparna Sanyal

Walking streets of raking stares, she is knowingly unaware. 
These lascivious surroundings have been described 
in turns as grimy,
hopeless and end-of-the-road. 
Her eyes lie sunken on top of apple cheeks--the 
worms have just started their feast.
Yet, her pressed curls tell a story of vanity 
and a placed pride of beauty, bright.
It’s in her soul; this clenching light.
It radiates from pores in subtle pulses, 
easily missed, as she angles her scrawn more seductively. 
She makes a thigh meatier, a breast more succulent, 
subsides a too-large cup with 
quick deft fingers.
The split second betrays her--that time between
her eye-locking, inscrutable gaze-fix, and
the downward tilt it takes to smoothen her creases-- 
That is the moment!
It tells the world everything; speaks louder than a foghorn, 
sings sensual trails of Mesmer that suddenly bind its seekers.  
Actions are forethought, not a limb out of sync,
but this unconscious moment betrays the cultivated outré of her sardonic tongue,
makes her an ingénue, fresh faced and in love for the first time.
This split second is all it takes
for every lonely, wretched, tawdry, depressed form 
of humanity, all dross and hubris-- 
to fall instantly, madly in love with her--
and for a night, 
she loves them too. 
By mornings’ bleached rays 
they walk away, scarred and refreshed; for 
vampiric, they’ve drunk of her light. They are
thunderstruck by her giving. 
She watches them leave, 
turns inside-out once more. 
Soon she will find light to run on, 
and on and so it will go--her battery will magnify 
her watt-switched-on smile, and
that split second demise 
will bring all to her door. 

Poet’s Notes:  Outside the vast skyscrapers of Mumbai’s skyline, hutments line the streets. Those hutments often host a particular trade that bustles at all hours--one to which most office-goers and locals turn a blind eye and that thrives with the blessings of the constabulary that partakes in its pleasures of the flesh and hefty sums of weekly bribe money. In those lines of girls, standing vacant-eyed, waiting for the next customer to show, are beating hearts too. And each sallow face hides such dreams and desires. This poem is an imagining of one such girl and her unique spark. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Fractal Perfection" by Aparna Sanyal, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Fractal Perfection
Aparna Sanyal

A fractal face in a
fractal state;
the tremble of my lip matches 
moist eyelids. 
Bitten, the inside of my cheek
to oozing wounds that flow from my nose; 
raw sniffs that hold back 
Salt--that is the concrete of my shell,
that blessed tell,
of a whole, that is finally wrung out. 
Fractal geometry 
betrays my body with its symmetry--
I know not these unplanned surfeits--
how to stop one part, one curve, one angle from 
mirroring the other in cat-curling 
Fibonacci conceits. 
A riptide of orderly emotion, can it be? 
It creates another me-- 
facet-twinned, the opposite of erratic. 
Each pore harks to the next, it’s mate, 
in grief’s fractally perfect state. 

Poet’s Notes:  There is a certain progression in pain. Having lived with Recurrent Depressive Disorder all my adult life, I have now learned to tell and even quantify the onset of symptoms. They happen in a systematic, geometric, almost Fibonacci sequence of perfection. The mental anguish is mirrored in double by the physical anxiety, and both add up with mathematical precision to a breaking down of the body’s reserves. Truly, there is a beautiful symmetry in even the most excruciating pain. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"Home" by Aparna Sanyal, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Aparna Sanyal

Places, bricks and mortar, stone and metal built, 
strobing neon light and raptor screeches are
so close, but not there. 
The metropolis is my heart. 
It has every shore, every mountain, wildernesses profane, eyries and screes--each brick, 
every mite, all the dynamite 
that I need. 
Everything that’s frantic, keening
--sleepy, peaceful and yielding. 
Rill rippling rivers, torched deserts and sprays of tear-rain, a lush hothouse--
My biome. My home.
Gestations most divine, so acrid, side 
by side, liven then enervate this mindscape.
And the voices and the thoughts and the pulsating, liminal colours--
paan*-spit, then cerulean, 
saffron pixelating ire and green that lulls me to sleep each night. 
And moments, oh the moments. 
Memories I will carry, peopled pockets of pain and gain--
when I finally lay--my home will lay with me.
Be it in loam, or in stone, 
or in a fire's cleansing ire--
my home will go with me

Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem in response to a prompt on “Cities.” The idea of placing myself, or the accouterments of my life, into one geographic location, was suddenly anathema! I didn't know that I would chafe at the idea of calling “a particular city” my home, right until the time I received the prompt.

Home is home and it can just as easily exist at the top of a skyscraper, deep in a jungle, in a shanty held by spit and willpower, or even in the wildnesses of deep space that I don't fully comprehend. Home is an experience, not a place. It is the beating, pulsing heart at the core of every life experience. I carry it with me, whether in a saree or in oil-stained dungaree pockets. I am always home.  

Editor’s Note:  I find the comparison of the city to the features of the wild country to be breathtaking.  What a beautiful paean to the city!  Had longer lines been used throughout, I might have thought I was reading some of the best of Walt Whitman.  I don't think there is anything better to say than that.

*Paan is an Indian digestive. It is a bite-sized package of betel leaves with tobacco (optional), catechu or black cutch, lime, sugar, coconut shavings, fennel seeds, rose petals et al, inside. It produces rust coloured saliva that Indians spit copiously on walls and all over most cityscapes. The paan is delicious, the spit, not so much. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

"A Murder of Crows" by Aparna Sanyal, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to formally introduce to the readership another new Frequent Contributor, Aparna Sanyal, who will be featured as our Poet of the Week this week.  Her biography may be found on the “Our Staff” page.

Aparna Sanyal

A murder of crows dominates 
this neighbourhood. 
They sit on blue tarp clad trucks,
green tarp clad hutments, 
yellow crane necks and the red trucks 
carry away disobedient two-wheelers 
with rusty metal clamps. 
They are gurus, these crows; they pick colour out of grime. 
Tilt funnel beaks back to 
long skeins into their souls. 
Black is an outside affectation. 
They stare up at helicopters in 
then head to the tin roof of the 
slaughterhouse for mid-day refreshment 
and quick gossip.  
There, picking apart threads 
of muscle, from gristle and bone,
they speak in caws of cabbages
and kings. 
A Phoenix song is mere précis 
when compared 
to the wraith-and-paper sandwich histories that unspool 
from these claw beaks, these innards, ancient 
with the muck of entire clans.
They carry away spit-shined nails
and copper coins, wire ends 
and two-bit bobs
from a mat of oil-cloth on the 
Do they hear the splenetic cries 
of the scrap seller as they speed away,
oiled jet streaks in a soot sky?
No, this murder of crows 
has much to do. 
Ineluctable coups and deadly revolution; 
they plot, plan,
sieve machinations from 
feathers and bone dust.
This murder of crows does not know
that below it, 
we plot too. 

Poet’s Notes:  Driving through the outskirts of overcrowded, smog-laden Mumbai, I glimpsed three homeless people sleeping on the hood of a broken, rusted car left to rot on the side of the street. Next to them was a construction site, where a huge murder of crows sat on a crane, watching, intermittently cawing, and seemingly contemplating the slumbering humans. Around these people and crows, the world moved on, in clueless, ceaseless chaos. There was a strange shattered beauty in this scene of almost post-apocalyptic ruin. This poem just wrote itself thereafter.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the imagery and macabre narrative in this poem about our corvine friends and appreciate the poetic glimpse into the crushing poverty that plagues not only India but, appallingly, parts of the United States as well. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

5 Speculative Fiction Venues Publish 7 Poems by FC Lee

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that five prestigious speculative fiction magazines/e-zines recently published a total of seven poems by Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee.

"Dear Creator" appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction, January/February 2018.

"Dark Harvest" appeared in Mirror Dance

"Camelot Cats" appeared in Eye to the Telescope

"Stormalong Bay" & "Eligible" appeared in Ship of Fools #77. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Fundamentally" by Gene Hodge, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Gene Hodge

I am the son
of a World War II veteran
and sawmill worker;
but fundamentally
I am the seed of greatness.

I grew up in poverty,
feeling inferior,
but fundamentally . . .
the earth’s darkness
my reaching for light.
My spirit surfaced,
who I thought I was,
who people said I was,
I shed like a skin.
Now . . . the fundamentalist—
the unique,
a creature of great light—
stands before the world
totally consumed . . .


Poet’s Notes:  It was in elementary school that I was exposed to whom everyone thought I was.  In my innocent mind, I wove an early life around what they expected of me.  Born and raised in the country and attending a small country school till I was six, I recall only joy and the freedom of playing cowboys and Indians in a large field outside the two-room school.

In contrast, the following year we moved to the city, and I attended a large city school.  I was the only one in class wearing patched jeans, and at lunch, while other students were eating plate lunches, I was unwrapping last week’s newspaper—tied together with thread—to have my peanut butter and applesauce sandwich.  I recall my first-grade teacher screaming at me because I didn’t understand that “chair” was not pronounced, “cheer.”

But somewhere, past the darkness, where no one has been to return to tell the story, something was always there and growing.  My young mind couldn’t understand that it was seeking me as much as I was searching for it.  Like the light of a supernova, light-years away, it reached its destination one hot July afternoon.

Editor’s Note:  This poem is quite like one of Walt Whitman's, albeit with shorter lines.  What a YAWP!  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Tennessee Seagulls" by Gene Hodge, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Tennessee Seagulls
Gene Hodge

It’s only a notion . . .
that I park in the mall’s
vacant parking lot
to watch a flock of seagulls
swimming on an asphalt ocean.
Curious as a child,
I observe a distraught Styrofoam cup—
victimized by the cold December wind—
as it tumbles across a sea of parking spaces.
It stops right in front of me
and spins like a playful toy top.
But this is not recess for the gulls.
Their destitute foraging
is dependable on a visitor’s car,
a bag of popcorn, a hand out the window,
white kernels, like snowflakes
flying in the wind.

Poet’s Notes:  It was a cold, windy day, and I was tired from Christmas shopping.  I thought if I could just sit in this empty parking lot and catch a short nap, I could be refreshed.  Sitting there, I observed a flock of seagulls—hundreds of miles from the ocean—flocking together to stay warm.  A few moments later a car stopped near them.  Someone reached out the window and scattered a bag of popcorn into the winter wind.

Editor’s Note:  What an interesting experience!  The mirage of the blacktop as the ocean and the misplaced seagulls are certainly metaphors for many things.  Also, I'm a sucker for anything with seagulls in it :) 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"Now" by Gene Hodge, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

Gene Hodge

It’s morning . . .
Turn off the alarm—
don’t turn on the TV.
Let’s just lie here
in each other's arms
and be who we are
and let the day be
who the big guy designed it to be.
I have no other desire
but to be where you are.
If the world says
two people are missing today,
“who cares?”
There is no space between us . . .
not even the air we breathe.
Beneath these warm covers,
in your arms,
I am safe . . . for now.
And now . . . is where
I choose to live.

Poet’s Notes:  We are always seeking refuge from the responsibilities of the day.  And to spend those moments with someone you love, before our minds begin to fill their bottomless cups with tasteless coffee, is a longing in everyone’s heart. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"The Poet" by Gene Hodge, Frequent Contributor & Poet of the Week

The Poet
Gene Hodge

I watched him on the balcony of the Days Inn,
from my apartment window across the street.
Early it was—6 am.
Everyone sleeping
but noisy blackbirds
on rooftops and power lines.
Oblivious to passing traffic
he sat reading a book,
sipping coffee
and occasionally looking-up
to see if he was missing something.

Laying the book aside
he stood, holding the handrail . . .
scanning the street’s double yellow lines,
white parking spaces,
cracks in the sidewalk,
bouquets of morning glories
hanging from each lamppost, 
a runner with tattooed arms chasing the morning
and a grey Siamese cat with three white mittens
tip-toeing across a porch roof;
gutters hanging loosely
from antique houses
where peeling, painted bricks
checkerboard the exterior.
He thought about the dirt and cigarette butts
laying in the parking lot,
who was the last to turn the parking meter knobs?

I saw his lips move 
as he peered into the sky.
I thought . . . he’s praying!
Then with his head lowered,
smiled and returned himself
to reality—
disappearing through sliding doors
behind curtains of the day.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is speaking not only to the reader but to the poet, who desires his readers to have a deeper understanding of what he feels as he is touched by his surroundings.  Every detail, every little observation matters.

Editor’s Note:  The reader is invited to ask, "Who is the poet here?"  Is it the speaker?  The subject of the poem?  Poets in general?  The author?  The reader wonders about whom the subject of the narrative might be.  Are two poets observing each other? 

One wonders how the speaker can know the thoughts of the subject of the poem.  It is easy enough to believe the observer can observe what the observed observes--but to know his thoughts, as is implied in final lines of the second stanza?  That implies the speaker and the subject of the poem may be one and the same.  Added to this mind-boggling fun is the beautiful imagery throughout the piece, as well as the notion of poetry as prayer.  How delightful! 

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Poem for Martin Luther King Day by the Editor

Donald Takes Liberties with Emma
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
--From Emma Lazarus’ famous poem displayed on the Statue of Liberty
Give me your desired, your dour,
Your coddled masses earning six not three,
The richest recluse of your north-most shore.
Send these, no Haitians, hempless-tost to me,
I give my stamp when gold comes through my door!

Poet’s/Editor’s Notes:  I did not believe Donald Trump was a racist until a few days ago when he actually met the definition--he advocated treating Haitians differently because they are Haitians, a fact which he does not deny.  Even Trump’s defense that he was advocating that the United States should have a merit-based rather that a quota-based system for immigration, does not convince me.  Our president is a racist, and it is safe to conclude that some of his policies will be guided by his racist ideology.

I may support some of Trump’s policies in the future but I will do so with much greater care.  That does not make me a racist, as I am sure Dr. King would have agreed.  Racists can still have good ideas.  An idea from a racist is NOT the same thing as a racist idea.  On the contrary, sometimes racists have excellent ideas, such as the Founding Fathers, racists all--out of the context of their era and by today’s definition.  Without those “racists” from our past, we would certainly have nothing to celebrate on this Martin Luther King Day.