Thursday, October 18, 2018

"Paleontology" by Terri Lynn Cummings

Terri Lynn Cummings
I wear my father’s hands
hold histories in them 
like drops of water
delicate, easy to lose

Like students hunting fossils
boulders bend their backs 
in the Arbuckle Mountains
wizened Precambrians 

over a billion years old
Below ancient seas 
brachiopods, bryozoans
graptolites and trilobites 

inhabit Oklahoma 
before mankind exists
   I stand and stretch
breathe summer’s green

crunch grit between teeth
wipe arm over brow
watch classmates collect shells 
and imprints of remnants

glance at my feet
Hair snaps awake
Chill chases spine
Eyes hone, again, again

Silence, white as a stone
erases the world
A trilobite, long as my hand— 
the find of a lifetime

Poet’s Notes:  Sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound probe this planet for answers about existence. Our senses translate history, rousing the buried, famous and forgotten. Imagine speaking a person’s name, unheard for the first time in centuries, or reading a poem written on papyrus; playing a children’s game carved on a boulder in ancient Ephesus; placing fingers over fingerprints imprinted inside a Grecian terracotta urn while drawing the urn’s earthen aroma into your lungs. Such power sparks time travel.

In the mid-1970’s, I majored in Anthropology at Oklahoma State University. Naturally, geology and paleontology dazzled my senses. The courses helped me understand the context and dating process of archaeological finds. I devoted as many weekends to archaeological digs as possible, including a summer in Caesarea, Israel. One long weekend, I accompanied sixty or more paleontology students and our professor to the Arbuckle Mountains where I “discovered” (almost stepped on) the trilobitethe largest trilobite recovered in the area until then. I donated it to the university museum.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

"I Can Stop Time" by Ross Balcom

I Can Stop Time
Ross Balcom

The long-awaited messiah
hanged himself in the closet.

The house groaned.

In his bedroom,
the Boy Scout slashed his wrists
with his prize arrowhead.

The old parrot was blind.
He could only repeat,
"Scout's honor: I want to die."

The debutante had coffin breath,
unusual in one so young;
but everyone agreed that death 
had marked her at an early age,
when the shadow of the jump rope
fell on her the wrong way.
(One day, she will wake to find 
her head replaced with a headstone,
and no one will kiss her R. I. P.)

"Let's face it: we're talking 
about the procession of the days and hours,
about time and sorrow and the inevitable death
of everything,"
said the little boy

as I stole his crackers.

Please, God, send us a messiah who can face life
with a winning smile.
You see, our previous messiah
hanged himself with a jump rope
in the closet.

I hide in the house.
Its shadows are mine.

A blank-eyed clown,
escaped from the circus,
stands at the front door. Speaks.
"I can stop time."

Poet's Notes: I was thinking about astrology (as I often do) and spinning the wheel of the Zodiac in my mind. I stopped its spinning and thought, "I can stop time." That was the origin of this poem, which has nothing to do with astrology.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Dear Contest Participants,

Thank you for rallying and making the 5th annual Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest into a modest success.  I won't kid you--it was looking pretty grim until the last two days when a flood of submissions was received.

Our coveted Duotrope sponsorship brought us little if any additional contestants.  Shouts out to Poets & Writers magazine whose free ad brought in the majority of our contestants, and to our Associate Editor James Rowe who inspired almost two dozen of his (college) students to throw their hats in the ring.

I'll be spending the next several weeks personally responding to every one of the 170 poems still in the reading queue and determining who makes it to the semifinals.  Finalists' Contest Judge Montana Poet Laureate Lowell Jaeger will then sort through the semifinalists to determine the finalists and eventually the first, second, and third place winners to be announced in February 2019.  An additional winner will be selected by the readership for the Readers Choice Award this coming spring.

We raised just enough to pay the winners the maximum honoraria we offered plus enough for Lowell and me to celebrate over hot beverages. While Songs of Eretz will receive little to nothing in terms of money, we are proud that we will be able to recognize and promote the work of four outstanding poets--a first prize winner, second prize winner, third prize winner, and the winner of the Readers Choice Award.  This will certainly further our mission to bring a little more good poetry into the world, and THAT is what Songs of Eretz is all about.

Next year will bring some exciting new changes to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.  For many years a week-daily mainstream e-zine, we will be going to a monthly, themed format.  In lieu of our annual contests, we will be offering monthly, themed "50-50" contests through Kickstarter (more on this at a later date).  We will also be putting more "review" into the Review by featuring at least one review of a poetry collection with each issue.  And in lieu of soliciting donations, we will be offering fun and exciting patronage options with pathways to earn fabulous Songs of Eretz-themed merch through Patreon (more on this at a later date, too).

Finally, I would like to thank this year's Frequent Contributors for the work they did in promoting the contest and for the quality of their work this year.  There would be no Songs of Eretz without them.

All the best,

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Monday, October 15, 2018





Contest Guidelines

Friday, October 12, 2018

THE FAIRY'S CAVE Part II "Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms" by Charles A. Swanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms,” Part II of The Fairy’s Cave, an epic fantasy narrative poem by Charles A. Swanson.  The poem will be published as a four-part series on successive Fridays in October.  The first installment, “Elf Bolts,” and a biography of the poet were presented on October 5

"Purple Polka-Dots" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
The Fairy’s Cave
Charles A. Swanson

II. Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms

He thought, troll, but his only troll buddy,
Bones-Sniff-and-Burp, was, dare I say it,
trolling somewhere in the bowels of the earth.
The little elf admired Sniff’s gait,
somewhat lumbering, somewhat loose-armed,
for Sniff shook the rocks when he gamboled,
while little Claudius—that was, alas,
the little fairy’s name—such a name
to grow into, and he would never grow,
but as I was saying, Claudius coveted
Sniff’s ground-trembling tramping,
for Claudius barely skimmed the earth.
So, no troll; no other troll did he trust.
Clever as he was, he gathered spores
of drowsy, nightmare-inducing mushrooms.
His fairy eyes could see moonbeams,
even the translucent dreams of other fairies,
so why not spores? He puffed his palm
into a dim corner of wood-chips, sawdust,
straw, and waited for mushrooms to appear.
Before that boy, that brat-boy he hated

peeped into the cave, a fairy bed beckoned.

Poet’s Notes for “Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms”: The story advances with the fairy’s desire to win the girl.  That he can never have her, not in a physical way, does not stop his delusion.  

A bit of the restaurant, The Mellow Mushroom, came into my mind as I dreamed how the fairy could work his mischief.  The Mellow Mushroom creates an atmosphere of the psychedelic '60s.  I breathe patchouli when I enter, whether there’s a real scent of it in the air or not.  And I have to order pizza with mushrooms.  It’s a given.

With this poem, the narrative moves further into the fantasy realm and further away from the realistic and human dynamic of a boy and a girl at play.  Trolls, purple-polka dotted mushrooms, and heightened senses of a supernatural nature all seem fair game.  Yet the boy, the human boy, is the elf’s nemesis.

Editor’s Note:  The development of Claudius' character is interesting to follow, enhanced by the speaker's sprinkling of ironic humor. Readers should plan to return to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review next Friday, October 19, for Part III of The Fairy’s Cave, “Dark Disposition.”

Thursday, October 11, 2018




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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"The Water-Craving Bird Listener" by Alessio Zanelli

The Water-Craving Bird Listener
Alessio Zanelli

A child, I used to say my prayers. 
To whom, I still have to understand.
One day the cuckoo showed and started singing,
I took to keeping silent, listening rather than imploring.
Only—caged in solitude, in awe of myself, obsessed with Lethe,
always looking for bodies of water, as if dying of some unspeakable thirst,
and for winged creatures, as if wanting to mingle with them in flight.

They kept on telling me that God created time before all things,
yet I preferred to swim against the tide and turn to science,
whereby our mind and time derive existence from each other.
The universe alone exists per se and is—as such—unknowable.
Then the cuckoo's cooing ceased, I felt the urge to find some other bird to listen to.
The hawk appeared—I watched it land and soar but couldn't hear its call.
Still desperate for water.

Years succeeded, seasons changed, and so did attitudes.
Till time and aging didn't mean a thing, nor did the birds I chanced upon—no more.
I stopped believing this or that and paying heed to scientists, thinkers, wise and holy men.
If infinite, I realized we are allowed to gather but a tiny speck of time,
too small to waste or give away, indeed so small as to make me regret the birds,
the cuckoo and the hawk, and mostly those I had avoided listening to.
But water evermore.

Suddenly time itself began to speak. 
Its whispered call more charming than all birdsongs,
its assuaging cuddle sweeter than a lullaby.
The truth inexorably revealed:
precariousness is but an artifact by the finitude of the human mind.
Time will never be through since it never had a beginning. 
We will because we did.

We start to perish the moment we’re born.
Hence—do we live at all?
Is what we're let to have a glimpse of worth the sorrow and the dread?
And yet it is the terror of demise that sets us going, 
keeps us alive, has us make our lifespan count.
All contribute to explaining the necessity of an end,
a worthwhile life requires temporality.

I finally felt a bird myself, though neither a cuckoo nor a hawk.
Not scared of flying, happy, singing as perfectly aware of time going by,
always thirsty but quenched with just a drop of water, as small as it may but mine.
Water is life, and life is water slowly evaporating—they say.
However, it mustn’t be like that—says I.
That is—why fear it will eventually run dry?
Don't keep watching your water—drink it, and it will never dissolve.

Only birds, 
their unacted desires 
and empty hopes 
are really volatile.
While God sits back on the shores of Lethe
and perpetually stares into itself.
As it were.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is about the elusiveness of time, our limitedness, inscrutable thirst for its opposite, and attraction to water, desire to fly, fascination for bird calls and songs, i.e., for all kinds of swindlers, and God, and more--one big metaphor of life's ventures, twists, and lures.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"The Green Room" by Aparna Sanyal

The Green Room
Aparna Sanyal

Such coming and going through this, a
revolving door of tirades.
Lipsticked moues, red circles that desire
the arc lights. 
Never stopping, this parade of 
costume changes finds limelight, 
then velvet night 
behind curtains, drawn tight.
No stuttering here, only artful deceit,
intellectual distance seen 
through welling lenses, the mitre where 
and overwhelm meet. 
This green room is my home, yours too, 
where we dress in shades to impress
and repress—
our lives redress.
Are we actors then, pure and plain?
Without wit, we pirouette
in someone else’s domain. 

Poet’s Notes:  I recently produced a play. Watching the actors and their professional detachment as they laugh and cry on cue always makes me think. Isn’t life a green room too? And are we all not waiting for our spotlight so we can play our parts? 

Editor’s Note:  Yes, the world's a stage.  Aparna’s conceit is hardly new, but I do enjoy her unique spin on it, and the message bears repeating.

Monday, October 8, 2018



Don’t miss your chance to support Songs of Eretz and to receive recognition for your poetry!

The contest deadline is midnight CDT on October 15, 2018, and will NOT be extended.

Friday, October 5, 2018

THE FAIRY'S CAVE Part I "Elf Bolts" by Charles A. Swanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present The Fairy’s Cave, an epic fantasy narrative poem by Charles A. Swanson.  The poem will be published as a four-part series on successive Fridays in October.  The first installment, “Elf Bolts,” is presented today.

Charles teaches dual enrollment English in a new Academy for Engineering and Technology, serving the Southside region of Virginia, and pastors a small church in Danville.  His poetry and short fiction have appeared in Virginia Writing, Wildlife in North Carolina, Appalachian Heritage, Appalachian Journal, Pegasus, and elsewhere.  He has published two books of poetry:  After the Garden (MotesBooks), and Farm Life and Legend (Finishing Line Press).

"Green-Eyed Monster" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
The Fairy’s Cave
Charles A. Swanson

I. Elf Bolts

        --The Little Green-Eyed Monster

Under the crags, in the cave, he waits,
little pinched faced imp. They come,
the boy, the girl. Big-eared, bright-eyed
fairy boy, he waits in shadows,
behind boulders, in untrodden dust
(his bare feet make no prints, he floats,
hovers he does, even without wings).
The boy, the girl, bring play-pretties.
They spread out in innocence
pockets of stones, neckerchiefs
of plucked flowers—birdfoot pansies.
Stones become a minister, a groom,
a bride, a rock-table full of congregants.
Little fairy-elf, much older than his size,
much more groaning in the groins,
though he and the little girl, no
larger than he, can’t ever meet—ever
mate, stamps his foot, puffs
his chest, blows out his breath,
and tosses devious elf-bolts

at the human boy’s breast.

Poet’s Notes for “Elf Bolts”: When a poem starts with a tickle in the brain, that seems a good beginning.  In Chapter XII of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Catherine Earnshaw Linton is ill, not far from death.  She accuses Nelly, a servant (who is also a long-time friend), of wishing her harm.  Catherine says, “I see in you Nelly . . . an aged woman; you have grey hair and bent shoulders.  This bed is the fairy cave under Penistone crags, and you are gathering elf-bolts to hurt our heifers; pretending, while I am near, that they are only locks of wool.”

Such a name as Penistone crags made me wonder about the author, about how she sneaked into such a tumultuous Victorian-age love story a bit of innuendo and sexual nomenclature.  What also fascinated me was the fairy cave, a place mentioned several times, but not presented.  The final trigger was the elf-bolts.  What would a fairy toss?  Something like locks of wool?  Locks of wool would be innocuous yet capable of hurt.

All of it seemed like a good beginning to a poem—a fairy, a mysterious cave, and an instrument of harm.  Then there’s the additional identification for the fairy, that of an elf.  Suddenly, the fairy seemed not so innocent.

Another connection to Wuthering Heights is the boy and girl in my poem.  I see them as Heathcliff and Catherine, the famous lovers.  I’ve often wondered how Brontë was able to create such an iconic pair, a storybook type of love, when she presents the actual characters as haughty and selfish.  They are not loveable, yet their love comes down to us as love exemplar.  I see my boy and girl as Heathcliff and Catherine in their childhood, already fascinated with each other and full of a curiosity that would take them to a place as mythical as a fairy cave, a place where sexuality is as tangible as the nebulous air.

Editor’s Note:  What a tantalizing beginning!  This is exactly the kind of epic narrative poetry I seek for Songs of Eretz.  I especially enjoy the way Charles preserves a near perfect (perfect would be boring) balladic rhythm, which adds an old household tales feel to the fairytale narrative.  Return to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review next Friday, October 12, for the next installment of The Fairy’s Cave, “Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms.”

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"Creation" by John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone

[1] In the beginning
there was a universe
of letters in the package
from the flower catalog,

cosmos seeds were there, too.
And inspiration hovered
over the dark and formless soil.

[2] And I broadcasted
those seeds. Rains came
when windows of heaven opened.

[3] After the face of many
waters looked into the ground,
ideas germinated, sprouted

through the once barren earth
that had blocked the great light.
[4] And words bloomed

with the crested iris, crocus
and daffodil. They were hid
in the soft petals, in their sweet

perfume drifting into air—
soon, they would condense
as dewdrops on the scroll

of tiger lily petals like a strand
of pearls glistening in the grass.
[5] And a meadow breeze

jostled the jonquils full of new
expression, phrases scribed
even on their stems.

[6] At the end of the day,
the hyacinth and all the spring
flowers brought forth a poem.

And it was good. 

Poet’s Notes: “Creation” is a meta-poem, kind of an ars poetica, but more. Since it has the structural flavor of the sacred texts, I introduced bracketed numbers to simulate verses as in the Book of Genesis.

Editor's Note:  I thought this one fitting status post Simchat Torah earlier this week, making this week's Torah portion parshah Bereishit (Genesis 1:1 - 6:8).  And here is a shout out to my nephew in California who will be called to the Torah as bar mitzvah tomorrow.  Chazak!  Chazak!  V'nitchazek!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

"The Clock Is Still" by Alessio Zanelli

The Clock Is Still
Alessio Zanelli 

we used 
to go looking
for pebbles—for
hours in the brackish 
air—the sun didn’t burn 
our skin: the foreshore was
right where we wanted to be, a 
tongue of soft ground—allurement 
to our strides—the sea now takes, now 
leaves. To infinity. And although the hands 
were moving, it was as if they had always been
at rest, molten away in the dazzle of reverberations. 
Each shell—the most beautiful find, each sighting on the
horizon—the most grandiose dream, each flap of wings over 
the swells—the longest voyage. These days it’s difficult to recall, 
even imagine: the sea no longer brings wonder, but the pungency of 
the salt dissolved in it; no more time is left to wait for the wave, abandon 
ourselves, be lost in the squiggles of the foam. All is clamor—chaos unleashed 
after long constraint—like the splashes of beachcombers against the reef. Indeed the 

hands are rushing now, earsplitting like the roar from the surge: they run, they run like 
mad while we look on, because we can’t slow down their turning. We 
know it inside better every day: everything slips off faster than we 
would, and never does the mechanism jam for all the sand we 
may pick up from the beach and let among the gears. 
To our eyes, however, the clock is still. Forever.

Poet’s Notes: I really don’t know why I felt the urge to make this one a concrete poem, visually shaped like a sailboat. Maybe it symbolizes our voyage through time like that of a boat across the ocean? The moment we set sail, the distance from the shore we’ve left gets ever longer, as the distance from the shore where we’ll finally land gets ever shorter. That’s the inexorability of time. We’d like to remain children forever, playing with sand and foam on the beach.  However, we’re forced to travel, and all voyages come to an end. The clock can stay still only in our minds.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way Alessio plays with time and paints with words here and made the editorial decision to allow the shape of the poem to serve as its own illustration.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

"Tethered" by Sierra July

"Tether" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Sierra July

Even in day, darkness is cast
Shady eyes drawn to me, boring
Into my flesh with words
That only I can hear

I shut my own eyes
Will the words out,
Plead the eyes off
To no avail

Then feel the squeeze
Of your hand on mine
Tethering me

I blink at the light in your eyes
Brighter than the sun and I know
I will be fine

Poet's Notes:  This is a simple one about the beauty of holding hands. Thinking of how hand holding works as silent communication to express reassurance, love, or just simply allow the other to feel a presence, I created a scenario that uses all of these messages, although there are many more. I like to appreciate universal signals like smiles and friendly waves, signals that need no translation.

Editor’s Note:  Sierra poetically captures the feeling of holding hands here, whether the subjects be two lovers or parent and child.

FC Lee Further Published and Anthologized

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that Frequent Contributor Mary Soon Lee has had the following poems published in other venues.

"Packing for the Afterlife" appeared in Asimov's, Sep/Oct 2018.

Three of her poems appeared in Apex #111

Her poem "Trojan Cats" appeared in Uppagus

Her poem "Advice to a Villain" just came out in Liminality #17

And her poem "Moon Swan," which first appeared in Star*Line, was recently anthologized in Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghosts, Ghouls, and More.