Friday, September 28, 2018

"The Song Ends" by Lauren McBride

The Song Ends
Lauren McBride

"Food" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
There were two eggs
in the nest.
I know because
I snuck a peek,
but no bird came 
to chase me off,
or sit on them.
And there were feathers 
in the grass.

It would help to know
that somewhere
some hungry
creature lived on,
nourished by
this little bird
who left only
a fistful of feathers
and two eggs
in a nest.

Poet's Notes: I cannot imagine filming a nature documentary, silent witness to the struggle between hunter and prey, unable to intervene, hunger or death awaiting the loser. As a biology major, I try to be dispassionate about the food web unless I witness it personally. Such an encounter led to this poem. Curiosity made me keep checking the nest. No bird ever sat on the two eggs, and after several days they disappeared. I can only hope they fed something else since they had no chance of survival.  

Editor’s Note: Taken literally, this poem is a poignant example of biology/ecology at work with a nice, positive spin about the hope that some benefit to some other of Nature's creatures was derived from the disaster to the poor bird and eggs.  However, taken metaphorically, the poem makes an important statement about what happens to families when the parents desert them.  

As I read Lauren’s poem, I was immediately reminded of a poetic essay in the most recent chapbook offering from Rattle:  "Punishment" by Nancy Miller Gomez.  In "How Poetry Saved My Life, Part One," Gomez writes about a prisoner in a maximum-security prison who was part of a poetry seminar for prisoners she was teaching.  The prisoner (probably a murderer or some other violent felon) recited a poem to the group about when his mother drove him, then 8, and his sister, then 4, to the grocery store and left them in the car saying she'd be right back.  She never came back.  Ever.  And that woman's son grew up to be a convicted felon--essentially dead to society.  Eggs abandoned.  Family ruined. And there is really no way to put a positive spin on that.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Baku's Feast on Dreams" by Sierra July

"Dream Eater" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Baku's Feast on Dreams
Sierra July

Back to the thrumming of footsteps
Curling up, unable to wake
Dark, smothered, feel of being watched
Cool touch slithering to the nape
Teasing tickle of a trunk's tip

Creature feasting on illusions
Consuming with a sharp inhale
A hiss resonates, goes unheard
Curtain lifts: victim's eyes open
On silent night, memory void

Poet's Notes: The Baku from Japanese folklore is the subject of this piece. It is a creature that looks like a tapir and is said to eat bad dreams; though children are cautioned not to call on one too often to rid themselves of nightmares, because the Baku will eat motivation and leave a person “empty.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"Old Pickup" by Howard Stein

"Pickup" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Old Pickup   

I saw an old pickup truck today –
in mint condition for all its years.
I couldn’t guess its age.
I only know that I was young
when it was new.

--Howard Stein

Poet's Notes:  I have lived and worked in Oklahoma for forty years. One fixture of the cultural landscape has long been pickup trucks. For many people, especially rural folk, they are largely functional. For many others, they symbolize manhood, independence, mobility, power, and much more. 

Pickups come in all ages from the most up-to-date and shiny to vehicles dating back as far as the 1950's--some rusty, some still spiffy, but all of them kept in working order. My eyes are especially drawn to the old ones with which I identify as much as remember. Sometimes I calibrate my own life by them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Dear Friends of Eretz,

I’m not going to sugarcoat this.  Participation in the contest has been abysmal so far this year.  This has to change if Songs of Eretz is to continue.  The e-zine is offered to the public for viewing for free but is far from free to produce.  The contest is our only fundraiser.  If it fails, then so does Songs of Eretz.  It’s that simple.  It’s that serious.

So, in an effort to boost participation, the contest guidelines have undergone significant changes, particularly involving the minimum donation requirements and prize money.


The amount of your donation now determines the amounts of the honoraria you may win and whether or not you will receive editorial feedback on your submission.  All judging (preliminary and final) will be performed BLINDLY as to the amounts of donations.  Use the following table to guide you.

Donation   Max Prize for 1st   Max Prize for 2nd   Max Prize for 3rd   Feedback
<$5            Bragging Rights      Bragging Rights      Bragging Rights   None
$5              $250                        $50                          $25                      None
$10            $500                        $100                        $50                      None
$15            $750                        $150                        $75                      None
$20+          $1,000                     $200                        $100                    Provided

Full refunds have been issued to the few good people who entered the contest prior to today.  All quarterfinalists up to this point have been given the option to have their donations fully or partially refunded as they see fit.

The contest deadline is October 15 and will NOT be extended.  This leaves plenty of time for our supporters to participate at whatever level they deem appropriate.


Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD
Editor-in-Chief & Preliminary Contest Judge

Monday, September 24, 2018

A Poem for Sukkot by the Editor-in-Chief

My Deck, My Sukkah
Shmuel ben Moshe HaLevi

Every year just after Yom Kippur
my wife visits the local Chabad
to purchase a lulav and etrog
for our family to use during Sukkot. 

This year the day before Sukkot
we visited the local Farmer’s Market
to purchase decorative pumpkins
with which to adorn our makeshift sukkah.

Our deck not exactly kosher
as it is a permanent structure
and the trees in our backyard
form a canopy overhead

But we do dedicate it for its special purpose
with prayers and the lighting of candles. 
It is there that I as the man of the house
will eat every meal for the next eight days. 

I am supposed to sleep there too but do not,
leaving that particular tradition to the more hardcore. 
My wife will sometimes join me during the day.
The sparrows, finches, and chickadees almost always do.

My daughter joins me only once or twice during the week.
“Too many bugs,” she says.  After dark, I am usually alone.
I can see the moon and stars through the pergola at night--
this at least is a kosher aspect of my little booth. 

Every year I do this and every year I say to myself
that it is so nice and peaceful that I should eat
on the deck occasionally during the rest of the year.
But I never do.  Somehow, I just never do.

Poet’s/Editor’s Notes:  Sukkot, or the Festival of Booths, is an eight-day Jewish holiday that usually falls during the early autumn of the year just after Yom Kippur.  It is a harvest festival recalling the days when the ancient Hebrews lived in makeshift booths in the fields to maximize the time on site for working to bring in the crops.  Not many Jews celebrate Sukkot these days, but at one time it was the most observed and important holiday of the year, known as HaChag, literally “THE Holiday.”

Part of the tradition of Sukkot involves the waving of the lulav and etrog.  This rather odd custom, perhaps pagan in origin, is said to ensure rain in the proper amount in its proper season.

There are certain rules (the Jews have rules for everything, believe me!) for the construction of a sukkah--rules that I have chosen not to follow strictly.  A proper, kosher sukkah should be a freestanding structure.  Mine is a permanent deck.  There should be no branches of trees overhanging its roof.  My backyard is almost a forest.  Also, and here my sukkah scores a point, there should be enough defects in the roof so that the stars may be seen at night.

Those interested in finding out more about sukkahs, lulavs, etrogs, and other Sukkot traditions will find it useful to visit here  Chag sameach!

Friday, September 21, 2018

"Your Frown" by Howard Stein

Your Frown
Howard Stein   

You are dead – how hard it still is to say –
But your frown, your scorn,
"Shadow" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Are still alive in me.
I see your angry face
As if you were still
Standing before me.
Though we buried you,
I cannot keep you away –
Nor would I wish to,
For you were gentle, too,
And I would keep you
For a comfort,
But your grimace shows up
Like a ghost, unbidden,
Condemning me to a
Life sentence of your fury.
I wish I could repel you,
But I cannot. I sometimes think
That my dying would end
Your vicious gaze,
But you, no doubt,
Would follow me to hell –
Though, come to think of it,
I can think of no worse
Or more permanent hell
Than your disapproving face
In this life. 

Poet's Notes:  The source of this poem is the experience of being and feeling haunted by the memory--that often feels like a presence--of someone who died. In different ways, it is about my experience of growing up with my father and mother.  They had wildly contrasting moods that appeared, disappeared, reappeared, and changed.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"New Color" by Mary Soon Lee

New Color
Mary Soon Lee

Yesterday, into the heaviness of the novel I was reading--
the over-abundance of meticulous historical detail,
the men acting poorly and the women paying--
"Color" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
came you,
inserting yourself
beside me on the sofa
with your book
about a fairy,
only the second book
you had ever read
for fun.
And when, late last night, after you fell asleep,
I read the pages where a young man walks to his death,
a section that resounded inside me like the words of an old hymn,
you were there,
asleep beside me,
lifting me out
of the waste of it,
and I don't know whether to wish you a childhood like mine:
where I finished one book and picked up the next,
reading and re-reading my favorites until they were part of me;
or to wish you
less solitude
and more time
giggling with friends
or busily searching
for the brand new color
that you first looked for
at the Children's Museum,
a color never seen or made before,
that I held back
from saying you'd never find,
no matter how many crayons you mixed.
Yesterday, as I read, 
my reading was colored
by you.

Poet's Notes:  I wrote the first draft of this poem over seven years ago when my daughter was six years old. As my poems age, I often retire them and store them in large binders with the other veterans. And sometimes instead of retiring them, I dust them off and try to revise them. This particular poem has been revised twice since I first wrote it, both times emerging a few lines shorter. I note for the curious that the novel I was reading was The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt. Despite its title, it is emphatically NOT a book for children.

Editor’s Note:  I believe this is an important poem to publish in a literary magazine.  We lovers of poetry and literature may lament those significant people in our lives who perhaps do not appreciate reading as much as we do.  However, those same people may appreciate the fine arts, music, athletics, or personal relationships and friendships much more than we.  Who is to say which is better or more fulfilling?

Tuesday, September 18, 2018



"Too Painful To Notice" by Howard Stein

Too Painful To Notice
Howard Stein   
"Monochrome" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
For how many decades
of lost spring have I
failed to notice your arrival?

Can yearning be so immense,
despair be so leaden,
that I cannot bear
to give myself over to

          the white sea of Bradford Pear blossoms,
          the unfurling of purple redbud,
          the jaunty heads of yellow jonquils,
          the fiery reds of plump azaleas,
          the fluffy white seeds of cottonwood?

What is spring
to eternal winter?
Winter’s desolation
lasts not a season.

Perpetual winter
is a curse.
Who will dispel it
and let you in?

Poet's Notes:  Yearning for spring during the cold grip of winter is a subject many poets and other artists have long addressed. This poem comes from a different wellspring--an inability to experience spring and rejoice in its renewal, even when blossoms and lavender green leaves grow everywhere, year upon year. The poem uses the inability to appreciate the pleasure of spring as a metaphor for the anhedonia experienced by those suffering from depression.

Editor’s Note:  I read this one as a metaphor for aging or chronic illness rather than depression, but depression is certainly a kind of chronic illness.

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Remembering" by Kay Dondero with Lauren McBride

"Simplicity" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon

How much simpler 
life was along dirt roads
beside fields of flowers, 
Dad's cows in the pasture,
growing up with warm milk 
on oatmeal in the morning; 
not knowing what fear was. 

By Kay Dondero with Lauren McBride

Poet's Notes: Today's kids grow up in a fast-paced world bombarded with electronic entertainment. I wonder sometimes if they could slow down long enough to enjoy "watching the grass grow." My aunt, Kay Dondero, remembers a simpler time and wrote the inspiration for this poem nearly word for word in an email she shared with me recently.

Friday, September 14, 2018

"The Return" by Ross Balcom

The Return

The sky
bleeds purple.

My mouth
tastes of soil.

"The Hand" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Where, where
have I been?

I must return
to the house 

on the hill.

A man 
with no eyebrows

the door.

His face
falls from his 

skull, squirms
on the ground.

I enter.

A vast 

and whirrs.

The professor?
He now has

six legs, and moves
like a bug.

I smile.

"You've changed,

I stroke
his antennae.

can frighten me.

Even the truth
is a lie.

--Ross Balcom

Poet's Notes:  This poem is a short, concentrated horror film. I suppose life itself is a horror film.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018





1st Place--One thousand dollars
2nd Place--Two hundred dollars
3rd Place--One hundred dollars
Readers Choice--Two hundred dollars

Deadline October 15, 2018

Contest Guidelines

Guest Judge
Montana Poet Laureate 
Lowell Jaeger

Your donation will help further our mission to bring a little more good poetry into the world.
Enter the contest today!

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Rosh Hashanah Haiku by the Editor

fish avoid the net
sun glints off running water
breadcrumbs cast away

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Poet's/Editor's Notes:  This traditional haiku is inspired by the tradition of Tashlich, a ritual usually performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  The Jews cast breadcrumbs, symbolizing their sins, into a body of water, which then symbolically washes them or carries them away.  It is preferred that fish be present in the water, for just as a fish may avoid being ensnared in a net, so too may a person avoid being ensnared in sin.  Ideally, the water should be moving, so the breadcrumbs/sins would be carried away.  However, in a pinch, even a bucket of water may be used to complete the ritual.  The presence of seagulls would just be a bonus. Additional information about Rosh Hashanah and Tashlich may be found here

Friday, September 7, 2018

"The Smile of You" by Terri Lynn Cummings

The Smile of You
Terri Lynn Cummings
                                For my nephew
I sit in a chapel
wonder at the moment when 
you sow your transformation 
into something else

a dandelion or daisy
a dove or cardinal
standing in sun
Your garden grows 

familiar faces
fragile and fleeting 
as the pale, yellow light
streaming through a window’s

constant awareness
I trust you become
the wings of the world
everywhere ascending

like a minute-long 
string of black geese
chasing the moon 
crescent as a smile

My love
I hardly 
your beauty

Poet’s Notes: Recently, we lost our twenty-four-year-old nephew (pictured) to opioid addiction. My sister asked me to write a poem for the memorial service. Too close to the loss, I could not pen the small yet significant moments or manners that stood out about him. So, I imagined what it would be like on the next day—to sit in a chapel and say farewell. Part way through, his smile took hold and guided my hand.

Editor’s Note:  What a moving elegy and with such universal sentiment!  Reminds me of "Vincent" by Don McLean

Terri asks those with the means to do so to consider sending a donation to the HERO (Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization) Foundation

As a physician who has dedicated his career to the field of addiction medicine, I have seen how widespread and devastating drug addiction, particularly opioid addiction, is in the United States.  Substance Use Disorders cut across all socio-economic groups and all walks of life.  Adolescents comprise half of the epidemic's victims.  These days, it is rare to find someone who does not have a friend, relative, or loved one with a drug problem.  

Drug overdose, whether deliberate or accidental, is now the leading cause of death for Americans under age fifty.  In 2017, 72,000 Americans died from drug overdose.  To put that in perspective, in the same year, 40,100 died in motor vehicle accidents.

Treatment is readily available for those willing to seek it and pay for it.  The success rates are similar to those for the treatment of other chronic diseases such as hypertension and asthma.  Those needing help in the Kansas City area are welcome to inquire about treatment through my private practice