Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Readers Choice Award Contest Poem: “Autismville” by Melinda Coppola

Editor’s Note:  Nominees for the Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award have been or will be published/reprinted in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review every weekday from February 19 to February 27.  Vote for your favorite in March by sending an email to Editor@SongsOfEretz.com.  The winner will be announced in April and receive a one hundred dollar honorarium.

Autismville
Melinda Coppola

I can’t tell you
it is an unpleasant thing
to live in the quirky neighborhood,

"Puzzle" Watercolor and Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
on the far side of the river,
a good ways from the thickest part
of the frantic throng.
Here, we are daily looking up,
fixating and stimming
on green minnow leaves
that shimmer against the waters of the sky.
Here we have our own customs;
the daily waking song,
the recitation of dreams,
the morning questions and videotaped answer
for her to play back over and over,
the reassurances:
Yes, there will be snack. Yes, Mom is a girl.
Yes, there will be girl hair when we leave.
The life we’ve grown into,
first she and I and then he
who married into this confluence
of ordered disorder,
this life has authentic charm.
We go slow, we don’t try to measure up.
Our victories are sweeter
for how long they take to manifest
and mysterious
for how quickly they can disappear.
I can’t say it’s tragic in this virtual village,
this parallel universe
peopled with other singular folk
who understand the need for things
like space and processing time,
patience and velvet compassion,
smooth voices, soft dolls,
sweet routine and
more spice in everything.
We have magic here, I tell you.
Songs that play in color,
voices with texture,
folks who spin and swing and
hum and sing.
And the leaves! The glorious
minnow leaves,
dancing upstream,
between the clouds,
and laughing.

Poet’s Notes:  My young adult daughter lives with my husband and me.  She also lives with Autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a great deal of anxiety. She presents as quite challenged to the uninitiated eye, and our lives are far from typical. 

I often feel that we live in a parallel universe, moving at an entirely different pace while the world speeds past.  The children of friends and family meet their expected milestones and move on, and we amble and pause, spin in circles, and forge our own footpaths through the weedy brush. Our milestones are different, but if and when they come, we celebrate them well and take nothing for granted. 

It’s not an easy life but it’s also not the grand tragedy that some people seem to believe it is. I wrote this poem to offer a different perspective to those who feel sorry for us and those who move in the faster, more conventional lanes.

About the Poet:  Melinda Coppola has been writing in some form for nearly five decades.  Her work has been published in several magazines, books, and periodicals including I Come from the World, Harpur Palate, Kaleidoscope, The Autism Perspective, Spirit First, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Welcome Home, and Celebrations.  She is an artist, yoga teacher, and mother to an amazing daughter with special needs and enjoys infusing the work of her heart with her voice as a poet. 

Coppola nourishes her creative spirit with singing, early morning walks, collecting and making art with beach stones, cooking, spending quiet time with her husband and daughter, and communing with her cats.  This poem was first published on her personal blog twenty four may on June 8 2017. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Readers Choice Award Contest Poem: “7 a.m.” by Melinda Coppola

Editor’s Note:  Nominees for the Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award have been or will be published/reprinted in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review every weekday from February 19 to February 27.  Vote for your favorite in March by sending an email to Editor@SongsOfEretz.com.  The winner will be announced in April and receive a one hundred dollar honorarium.

7 a.m.
Melinda Coppola

"Emerge" Watercolor & Ink on Paper
J. Artemus Gordon
I entered your room quietly,
with loving stealth,
stood inches from where you slept
curled into the warmth of your sleep nest,
pausing one round moment
to take in the sight of you, just
to hug you with my eyes
before we began
the ritual we’d perfected over
two decades of mornings.
There we were
in our assigned places,
me leaning gently above,
you just beginning to stir
as I sang you awake.
There were your hands
reaching for my hair,
first right side then left,
like always, like a touchstone
to remind you it’s safe
to be awake and alive.
Pink walls and ceiling, pastel rug,
whispered, made-up song,
you under soft
layers of things;
assorted spreads, a quilt, some blankets,
one embroidered with your name
and the date you debuted,
a gift at birth from a relative
on your absent
dad’s side that met you
once maybe, whose name
I’ve quite forgotten,
who is surely long dead.
I flash-mused on what she’d feel,
this nameless giver of named blankets,
if she could ghost unseen
into your bedroom, this morning
to see what you’ve become.
Would it be grief
for all the ways you’ll never be,
the way you arrived
with unseen challenges,
diagnoses not yet named,
a baby who would remain,
in many ways, a child?
Would it be curiosity,
your differences intriguing,
offering perspectives
she’d never considered
while alive,
tapping on the doors
of her phantom compassion,
awakening a deep patience,
a human reunion with her own
estranged otherness,
the selves she, while living, shunned? 
I hope she would be filled
with the color of pure delight
as she saw you still loving
her decades old gift,
for its essential pinkness,
its enduring softness,
its well-named comfort
in the place you call safe,
in the place you dream,
in the place you are perfect
with no one there
to tell you otherwise,
in the place you dream.

Poet’s Notes:  My young adult daughter lives with Autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a great deal of anxiety. She is a stranger to the ways most of us learn to survive and thrive in a confusing world. Her vulnerability is a big concern for me, yet she is finding her own ways to cope and to calm the sensory storms any given day can present.

E’s pink room, and her bed layered with soft blankets that echo the colors of the walls is a place of refuge for her. The rituals that we’ve created give her structure and comfort. 

In this poem I tried to capture the tenderness of a morning moment before I sang her awake, when my eyes went to the monogrammed blanket on her bed. I imagined the giver joining us in spirit in that pink room, seeing that baby blanket. What would she understand from this scene?

About the Poet:  Melinda Coppola has been writing in some form for nearly five decades.  Her work has been published in several magazines, books, and periodicals including I Come from the World, Harpur Palate, Kaleidoscope, The Autism Perspective, Spirit First, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Welcome Home, and Celebrations.  She is an artist, yoga teacher, and mother to an amazing daughter with special needs and enjoys infusing the work of her heart with her voice as a poet. 

Coppola nourishes her creative spirit with singing, early morning walks, collecting and making art with beach stones, cooking, spending quiet time with her husband and daughter, and communing with her cats.  This poem was first published on her personal blog twenty four may on April 20, 2017. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Announcing the 1st Annual Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award Contest


Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce the commencement of the first annual Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award Contest.  All non-winning finalists for the 2018 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award are eligible.  The winner of the Readers Choice Award will be chosen by YOU, the readers, and will receive a one hundred dollar honorarium.  One poem will be presented each weekday from February 19 to February 27. 

The poems in the running for the 2018 Songs of Eretz Readers Choice Award are, in alphabetical order by title:

“7 a.m.” by Melinda Coppola

“Autismville” by Melinda Coppola

“Deceptive Cadence” by Carol Kner

“The Great Escape” by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy*

“Passing On” by Carol Kner

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

“When I Am Old” by Tim Amsden

Voting will take place in March, and the winner will be announced in April.  Vote by sending the title of your favorite poem via email to Editor@SongsOfEretz.com.  In order to be fair to all contestants, please hold off on voting until March after all of the contest poems have been published/reprinted.



*Yoni Hammer-Kossoy was not invited to be a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor until AFTER the 2018 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest was closed for submissions.  Therefore, he is eligible for the Readers Choice Award this year and this year only.  So, if you like his poem best, do not hesitate to vote for it. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Third & Final Poem of the Winning Set for the 2018 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award

What I Mean By Beauty
Doris Ferleger

"Dream" Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper
by J. Artemus Gordon
What I mean by beauty is not the strange red sky
you said belonged only to me or the regular blue sky
with white clouds you claimed as your own
because you believed, you said, only what you could see.

What I mean by beauty is how you trusted me,
let my words wash over you though you had
no idea what I was talking about when I said,
the sky's fire-red feet rake across our bodies.

What I mean by beauty is not the brilliant broach
of white moon against the eloquent deep blue,
the kind of blue that enunciates and disrobes
in the parking lot at the Home Depot.

I mean how the heavyset couple walks out
of the store side by side, how each then drifts,
one in front of the other, how they look happy,
unadorned, with white PVC piping poking out

of the supersized orange cart, how they indulge
me when I point to the sliver of moon the way
a child might. How the woman with a blond-streaked
wig stops her jalopy beside me, her front seat filled

with marked-down shiny fat-leafed rubber plants,
how she says, I see you got some too! Though
I got coreopsis with spidery leaves, pale yellow flowers,
tiny stars, I agree with her since she just wants to say

from One came many and how we need each other.
What I mean by beauty is when I point to the moon,
the woman with the bright abundant wig laughs
and says, Ya gotta love that! How she doesn't turn her head

to look back at the white crescent. She is sure of love
as she drives off with her rubber plants. What I mean
by beauty is freedom; when I say freedom I mean how
the moon lifts us, seats us into the deep curve of her hip.

Poet’s Notes:  For our second date forty years ago, my late husband had asked if I would go with him to collect soil samples. He was a scientist. I was an English teacher and poet.  He became a physician who did a fellowship in statistics and epidemiology in his late fifties. He trusted statistics; he trusted bodies to speak their truths; he trusted me, though the language I spoke of metaphor and image was not his language. I trusted him, though the language of numbers and spleen and pancreas was not mine.

I knew on that second date that I wanted to spend my life with him. When in my late fifties I was asked to write a poem about beauty, I immediately thought of that mutual trust that became the bedrock for our thirty-five-year marriage. I was interrupted from beginning the poem by my mundane desire to cash in on the plant sale at Home Depot before the store closed.

Yet beauty kept insisting itself: the beauty of unself-conscious human connection, the beauty of our human need for connection, our incontrovertible connection to each other and to the moon in all its phases, the crescent of love lifting us, holding us even as we shop for specials on rubber plants. Likely I would not have seen all this as beauty had I not just been immersing myself in thinking about beauty.

Editor’s Note:  One of the amazing things about well-written poetry is its ability to transform the mundane and quotidian into the sublime.  Ferleger has accomplished that here with her epiphanies in the parking lot.  Her modern take on the quatrain would make Emily Dickinson proud.  

“What I Mean By Beauty” was first published by Poet Lore in 2010.  A bio of the poet and comments by Guest Contest Judge Former Kansas Poet Laureate Eric McHenry may be found here http://www.songsoferetz.com/2018/02/announcing-winner-of-2018-songs-of.html. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Second Poem of the Winning Set for the 2018 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award

Pass Over
Doris Ferleger
For J.D. (Anna) in memoriam

1.
How many people a day say,
Pass over me for this one, God

this sad thing, this scary thing,
this bad thing, this door—

is marked—with blood—
already.

How many people a day say,
Come by here, God, and take the one

steadfast thing left of me—give me instead,
the sea—that will surely betray me—

such calm and turquoise water
when down below millions of vibrant fish

rush toward decay—
sergeant-major fish dress up

in yellow and black dinner jackets
and feast at a table of green algae

that’s half-holding tight to anchor weights,
half-feathery and longing to float off.

2.
In festive clothes, just as Anna had wanted,
hundreds of us show up at the funeral home

to celebrate her life. We swim toward the survived-by
like colorful hungry fish surrounding the sunken

treasure chest. We swim in and out of the holes
Anna left. Even the out-of-towners have come

with all the right garments and hymnals,
Anna having planned far in advance—

chants for the children to sing, photo displays
in the entryway: Anna showing off thirty hot pink

cup cakes baked in the brand new Viking stove
in the newly designed kitchen, finished

only a few months before she passed,
worth every penny, she had said,

Anna and the girls sun burnt
under a bright red beach umbrella,

Anna laughing her left-sided
brain tumor laugh while the kids

make giant vowel-shapes
with their wide-open mouths.

3.
Six months before her wake Anna dreamed
an obstacle in the road stopped her passage

and when she stepped out of the car
to tamp down the high mound of dirt

across the only road home,
she couldn’t do it,

so she borrowed her husband’s arms
but they were also too weak.

And when she woke she told him
he was the obstacle: I am on a path

and I know where I need to go. 
You are in my way, keeping me

from walking on this path.
And her husband remembered the words

Jesus spoke to Peter, You are an obstacle to me;
you do not have in mind the things of God,

but the things of men.
Anna sent her husband into the hall

to make the girls stop arguing
over the hair dryer or whatever

they were fighting about, she made him
go out three times until he succeeded

and she was sure he could succeed again
and again without her for all the years to come.

4.
That night she dreamed her suitcase
was packed and ready and when she woke

she called the priest to tell him.
He answered, it is good to be ready

but still you have to wait
for God to be ready for you.—

The next night Anna saw the Passion.
she whispered to her husband,

Thank you for letting me go home
without you. A gift to the dying—

to refrain from speaking
of ocean air or green glass

shards at the water’s edge,
of what was or could have been.

5.
We will all forsake someone—
let it not be ourselves—

We will all forsake someone—
may it be someone we have loved well and long.

Anna forsook her beloved for the ocean-
ic embrace of Christ weeks before

my beloved forsook me for The Ein Sof,
the Vastness he spoke of only with his eyes.

Had it not been for Anna
I would not have known

how to embrace
such fullness, emptiness, such silence.

6.
The hour before Anna’s funeral I called
the priest to ask if I could come to the church

service, as I did not take
Christ as my savior.

As I had failed
to say goodbye to Anna.

As I had said, but you’re still alive,
so let us speak the things of living—

Pass over me for this one, God,
I kept wanting Anna to recite,

though she had already begun
swimming with all her might

toward the eternal womb.
As I hadn’t seen Anna

was my teacher more than I was hers.
As I didn’t know love could

neither be created nor destroyed.
As saying goodbye to her eyes

and half smile
is something I long to have done.

7.
I keep dreaming I will transform
into someone without suffering,

without having to leave
anyone behind.

When the living leave
the beach at dusk

white seagulls swoop and sup
in formal black or grey suits,

and hundreds of translucent blue fish
leap and dive back in unison,

in wide arcs. Every day,
I see something that saves my life.

8.
On Yom Kippur God decides
who shall live and who shall die.

Who by fire and who by flood.
Who by shaking,

who by remaining unmoved.
Who in an old brown coat,

who while kneeling and kissing
the hem of the past goodbye.  

If I don my bright blue dress
and toss into the sea all the black

shoes of the dead, unworried
whose waters they will haunt—

what wings—
what flying fish—

what coat of many colors
will I wear?

"Boardwalk" Watercolor on Paper
by J. Artemus Gordon


Poet’s Notes:  “The stroke caused me to lose faith, and it was a cold, cold ...and I suddenly realized it was fierce grace that turned my life around.” Ram Dass 

About ten years ago, my spiritual teacher gave each student a hand-caligraphied personal blessing, a blessing upon which we were to meditate. When my late husband and I sneaked a peek at each other’s personal blessings, each one read, Life is short. In fact, we learned that everyone’s personal blessing read the same. Each person read the blessing through their own lens—lenses of fear, lenses of insight, lenses of confusion, lenses of anger, lenses of understanding, to name a few. 

Life is short.  When Anna learned of her terminal diagnosis of a brain tumor, she was thirty-eight years old. She had four children under the age of nine. She was a physician, bright and empathic and spiritually oriented. I was her ally, meant to help her cope with her terminal illness, yet she made me understand that facing death had little to do with coping skills or emotional intelligence and everything to do with faith and something more than faith. Then I remembered the phrase, fierce grace, a term of “nested opposites” coined by spiritual teacher Ram Dass who suffered a stroke and a crisis of faith that only fierce grace could heal, a sort of alchemical transformation through suffering, and of suffering.

The poem is partly a meditation on our universal aversion to suffering and our inevitable common fate of suffering through loss, impermanence, and death. The poem is also about what I learned from Anna about “how to be” with my husband, how to help him die in a peaceful state a year later. 

Editor’s Note:  This is a beautiful and moving series of poems.  I particularly enjoy the blending of the Jewish and Christian religions, being a hybrid myself (my father was Jewish, my mother is Christian).  The narrative of each part is riveting, evoking emotions from the sublime to the ridiculous, just as the death of a loved one evokes mixed feelings.  The common thread of the sea/water creates a nice poetic conceit that helps unify the separate elements--I particularly like the "Viking" stove, another metaphor for water and water travel.  A bio of the poet and comments by Guest Contest Judge Former Kansas Poet Laureate Eric McHenry may be found here http://www.songsoferetz.com/2018/02/announcing-winner-of-2018-songs-of.html.