Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Aftermath" by Sierra July

"Pendant" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon

A pendant hung from her neck
Matching the color of his eyes
When the fire in those eyes blew out
Clutching the pendant left her hand cold
And looking at it left her empty
Like she, the faux eye lacked emotion

--Sierra July

Poet's Notes:  This poem was inspired by Violet Evergarden, an anime about the importance of expressing your emotions to the ones you love. The plot seems simple, but as a writer, it speaks to me on a personal level, as I think it would to my fellow poets and readers. Another theme the show touches on is that flowery words can be beautiful, but sometimes simple words are best, and I wanted to convey that message in this poem while paying homage to the character's emotions, or lack thereof, after losing someone to war.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Still Life" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

"Forest" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Still Life

The days and weeks
are ranks of planted pines.

Sunlight buzzes 
through open canopy.

In the understory
tight fists of seed

wait in vain
for a flame's caress.

--Yoni Hammer-Kossoy 

Poet’s Notes:  I love the specificity of the word “understory”, how it gives a name to the space between a forest’s floor and the tops of its trees. Yet there’s also something mysterious evoked by the word – as if there’s always another level of understanding waiting to be discovered below the surface of something, like a walk in the forest, like a poem.

Editor’s Note:  Successful short poems such as this one are difficult to compose, as every word must count at least once.  Some, as in "flame's" in the stunning final line, may carry double duty (flame as in the sun or the actual fire that some species of evergreens require for reproduction).

Friday, July 13, 2018

"the chicken in Juanita's taco" by Ross Balcom

"Evolved" Ink and Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
the chicken in Juanita's taco

descendant of dinosaurs,
fallen from Cretaceous splendor
to factory farm and misery,
ending as cooked flesh 
eaten by primate 
whose nimble hands
pressed corn tortilla

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes: The consensus among paleontologists today is that birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Clear fossil evidence supports this view. Contrary to popular opinion, chickens are not stupid; ethologists (scientists who study non-human animal behavior) have established that these birds are quite intelligent. They no doubt suffer acutely in the horrible confines of factory farms.

Artist's Notes: This ended up looking more "Dragon Ball Z" than intended. That only really makes it better in my opinion though.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

"Ignorance" by James Frederick William Rowe

James Frederick William Rowe

"Time Lost" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
O! do not let me know
The misery of a departing train
I do not need the illumined mockery
Of a glimmering "F" fading to a distant blur
I need not be reminded of a second's delay
     So many hours
     These seconds have cost
That has robbed me of a journey home
Or worse still: An on-time arrival
To the work I am bid to do
Do not insult me as I stand
Impotent witness to a bygone carriage
My aching feet
And sweat-dewed brow
Are enough agony for me

Be now my concubine, blessed ignorance
Discreet, that my sophic bride
Discovers not my infidelity
Let me rest against your bosom
Eyes closed that I might not see
That I might not know
What I have lost today

Oh who am I kidding?

This plea is in vain
I am too faithful to wisdom
To make ignorance my mistress
It is against my nature
     My character
To close my eyes and will the truth away
Though I curse the love
That brings me such frustration
I am too enamoured to ever give it up.

Son of a bitch!
I missed the train again!

Poet’s Notes:  I spend a lot of time on the train. I also spend a lot of time waiting for trains. The latter is especially galling when I've just missed the train, thus the birth of this poem.  

Oftentimes, I have caught myself actively trying to avoid looking to see if the train I just saw pull away was my own. In spite of my wishes that I might remain ignorant, I inevitably look and thereby compound my miseries.  And in further spite of my desire to take ignorance as my concubine, I love my bride of wisdom more.  

I composed this one on the subway on a day I actually didn't miss the train. I suppose I was thinking of how nice that was.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Approaching Storm on the Great Plains" by Howard Stein

"Atmospheric Maw" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Approaching Storm on the Great Plains
Howard Stein   

A late spring storm sprawls west to east,
does not ask the prairie’s
permission to advance toward us.

Whitest tall cumulous cliffs
jut far into purest blue.
Beneath, thick brush strokes
of black and gray
read like the vision of John.

Winter wheat will grow from this,
we console ourselves.
We busy our hours
as the great maw nears.

We vow to prevail –
though we know too well
that we and our winter wheat
live at the mercy of the sky.

Poet's Notes:  In my nearly thirty-five years of weekly drives from Oklahoma City to teach family physicians in rural Enid, some eighty miles to the northwest, I have witnessed and have been caught in spectacular late spring and summer storms. I also learned much about rural wheat farming families and came to admire and respect them -- and to identify with them.  I learned how their world almost totally revolved around their precious land, their wheat and cattle, their family and church -- and the sky. This poem draws from the intimate relationship between farming families and their sky on which their lives totally depend.

Editor’s Note:  This is a strong regional poem that no doubt will resonate far beyond its region.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"Rosalind" by Mary Soon Lee

"Memory" Ink and Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Mary Soon Lee

One room,
not even a large room,
framed the library
of our elementary school,
but when they released us
into its fold,
we traveled together
to King Solomon's Mines
and back from our London
to one where Sherlock Holmes
played his violin.

Now we write to each other
maybe once a year.

Poet's Notes:  I think my friend Rosalind and I were about seven years old when we were given permission to borrow books from our school's main library. I remember--possibly inaccurately--wooden shelves and sunlight, and the shared excitement of embarking on adventures to far-off places. It was a long time ago. I haven't seen Rosalind since I moved to America, one of the losses of leaving.

Artist's Note:  I was inspired to create this illustration when I found out from the Editor-in-Chief that "Rosalind" means "beautiful rose."  I hope that my art does justice to the fond memories of Mary's old friend.

Monday, July 9, 2018

"The Day After the Concert" by Aparna Sanyal

The Day After the Concert
Aparna Sanyal 

It is a ragpickers’ feast
a crows’ horn of plenty.
Delighted urchins suck plastic cups
"Discarded" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
to their mouths, 
rims and lips sticky with yesterday’s sugar.
They double-dutch over green glass, 
treasure dive for keys and coins, 
and soda can tab rings with which to pledge 
their troth. 
The grass has started springing back, 
a full cycle completed--
trampled by the dancing, 
the music of those feet has nonetheless
refreshed it. 
Its purpose has been met
in thousands of grinding heel tips, 
cigarette butts and the seismic after effects of many bass lines.
The grime too vibrates,
an after-tune of pan pipes;
the adrenaline has drenched it
from drops of sweat and gargles of water.
In corners, the beetles feast on
yesterday’s bile and morsels of too-much. 
There is glitter here too, tempting
with the smile of fool’s gold.
The after images of twirling skirts
and light, trumpets and guitar picks,
speckle sunlit tar. 
This cornucopia will sustain an underbelly’s 
guttering smiles 
for a few days to come.

Poet's Notes:  At the outskirts of the city in which I live, there is a huge, barren field, where the undergrowth sprouts refuse, street urchins play, and the homeless seek transitory rest.  A few times a year, this field is transformed into a fairytale playground for the privileged. Their opulent cars line its sides, and in the center many musicians from around the world perform. The day after this concert, the ground returns to its hardscrabble origins but provides a banquet of leftovers for days after to its original inhabitants. 

Editor’s Note:  I was immediately reminded of a scene from Charlotte's Web https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bTSs3hTNRE as I read this entertaining yet sobering poem.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

FC McBride Featured in "A Day in the Life"

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Lauren McBride has been featured in Terrie Leigh Relf's "A Day in the Life" interview series.  Find out more about this mysterious and reclusive FC by reading the interview here https://tlrelf.wordpress.com/a-day-in-the-life-interview-series/a-day-in-the-life-presents-poet-and-fiction-author-lauren-mcbride/.

Friday, July 6, 2018

"Outside the Citadel" by Aparna Sanyal

Outside the Citadel
Aparna Sanyal  

At the valley’s edge, the citadel towers, forbidding. 
Dark, mossy cracks rain-slick, 
nestle in centuries of smoothened 
"Citadel" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
stone and pebbles, 
mortared by sweat, song and belonging.
Triumphant thunder booms, lightning cracks and 
in the cracks, we see the pore-less granite
rise into an infinite sky. 
It reaches beyond us.
It frustrates our every attempt
to scale, 
breach even a rat’s hole, seep liquefied 
into it through even miraculous capillary action. 
We are desolate, 
like millions before and billions to come, 
we want to leave the fray, 
our dreams un-summited, left in a pile 
at the gate, lit by weeping candles and 
enshrined by the jewels we’ve shed. 
as we make this mixed temple of our tributes, 
a bonfire without fire lights our faces. 
It is absorbed sudden, in a flash of percipience
into our souls.
So, at the gate steps, we make our Mecca. 
Gems hewn from the mines of our souls are
the mosaic overlaying the citadel wall. 
Dolls’ processions and parades of 
phantasmagorical creatures are friezes
on mossy boulders. 
We share bowls of bone broth, blood and song,
lip to lip, ear to ear, heart to heart. 
The frost circles and jousts, goes without a touch. 
We gift light bulb stories and flickering 
rings of emotions, 
make tiaras of 
pussy-willows and fern, 
and flags of colours leached from our vestments, 
by osmosis, in symbiosis, 
fly high in our sky. 
It is a feast of the senses in this forest-- 
sparks light up the sky from our combustions. 
From the outside, the citadel starts to sing. 
Pebbles, then rock, warm to our touch
and the lichen doesn’t shrink when we pet it. 
The thunder abates, makes a rainbow mussed
almost immediately-- 
but it does speckle the sky, 
even though for a fleeting moment.
And when the gates of the citadel finally 
we invite its inhabitants 
to come outside and play. 

Poet's Notes:  So many desires unfulfilled, so many doors that do not open, so many tiny daily victories--life is a mosaic of failures and successes. But the greatest victory (for me, at least) is to be true to oneself, and in all endeavors, to be kind--to open those parts of the heart that cruelty and defeat have closed and live a full life.

Editor’s Note:  I saw the citadel as something literal at first, particularly until the turn at "but" midway through the piece.  Then I began to see the citadel as a poetic conceit for the walls we build around ourselves.  Until we understand ourselves and open up ourselves to the world by achieving a certain modicum of self-actualization, we cannot release our creative spirits or "inhabitants". 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"Advice from an Elephant" by Mary Soon Lee

"Gray and Wise" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Advice from an Elephant
Mary Soon Lee

Gray is beautiful.

Value the middle path,
neither black nor white,
all or nothing.

Don't hide your age.
Old women are the best leaders.

Cherish your sons,
but let them leave
when they are grown.

Stop worrying about your weight.

Those who are strong
should dig water holes
that others may use.

Remember where you came from
and how to return there.

Poet's Notes:   I think this poem was triggered by an entry in The Daily Poet, a book of writing prompts by Kelli Russell Agodon & Martha Silano that I often dip into at the start of my writing day. I don't like to feel under pressure to write to a given theme but I'm happy to get suggestions. I think seven of their daily prompts have directly inspired poems of mine. No doubt other prompts led me down wandering paths to poems far removed from the original suggestion.  Also, I'm fond of elephants and always spend a little extra time watching them when I go to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Editor’s Note:  Mary has certainly captured the Zen of the Pachyderms here.  What a clever conceit for use in imparting such valuable poetic wisdom!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An Independence Day Poem by the Editor-in-Chief

One Generation Away
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
 Ronald Reagan

Today, on the 242nd anniversary of her birth,
These United States are in trouble.
Just as one of her greatest presidents predicted,
Our hard-won freedom is one generation away
From extinction.
The rising generation and the entrenched elites
Would have been content to have
An unapologetic socialist for their president
In exchange for impossible promises
Worth nothing more than thirty pieces of silver.

Congress has forfeited its enumerated powers
To a court that is anything but Supreme
And to a series of cowardly presidents.
The only checks left are those that flow into
The Treasury, stolen from the People.

The cabal of liberal selected that controls the narrative
Would have us believe that pedophilia is natural
That mathematics needs reinventing and history rewriting
And that control of guns is about guns
Rather than about control.

And yet, there is hope! We have a president now 
Who would reestablish balance and restore freedom
Who is willing to tilt the windmills
Who is willing to fight for what is needed
To make America great again.

Yet those who support this brave man
Are called “deplorable” by his enemies
And by the paper of record that publishes
All    the    news    that’s    print    to    fit
And the media that fabricates its facts with abandon.

Are we truly independent 
On this 242nd Independence Day?
The fact that this question must be asked
Provides the answer and begs another for me-- 
What price this?


Editor's/Poet's Notes:  The main reason why Songs of Eretz is not and never will be a not-for-profit entity is that it would limit our ability to publish poems such as this one. This poem expresses political opinions and facts that many poetry venues will not or are legitimately afraid to publish.  There is a definite bias against liberals and in favor of President Trump.  Disturbingly, the poet/editor wonders what price he will pay for being so bold as to publish his poem--something to which until recently he would not have given a second thought.  The Dickinsonian "this" that ends the poem screams volumes.

Many political poems have appeared in Songs of Eretz over the years.  Simply click on "Politics" in our "Labels" section to sample them.  Note that poems of all political stripes have been published here, though there is a definite conservative bias.  Feel free to submit them.  But if you do, make sure you back up your words with references (and if you find you cannot, best keep your words to yourselves).