Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"Hesitance At Camlann" by Alessio Zanelli

Hesitance At Camlann
Alessio Zanelli

Blunt is the edge,
Pointless – the blade,
Aeruginous – the hilt.
Vanished – the brilliance
Of the steel forged
By sage and benign hands,
When time was puling
Inside the cradle.
Dissolved – the glitter
And the fury of the eyes,
Exhausted – the vigil
For the crunch, that be
With nobody but ourselves.
We like to believe
That outside in the mist
Mordred’s dusky ranks
Eagerly await us.
The combat is lost
Even sooner than fought,
Should we not admit
That our only sacrilege
Was but that of sticking
To our enemy’s figment,
Of reputing ourselves undying
In our deeds’ recollection,
And of disowning in the end
Our ordinary caducity.
A long time we will wait
For a chief who does exist
But within the powdery coffer
Of our time-worn vagaries.
Our aimless arms and banners
Will taint and crumble
To imperceptible dust.
Our certainties will fade away
Like shadows at nightfall.
We will be left alone
With our extinct, sterile ardor.
Mordred and his evil troops
Will have been awaiting in vain.

Poet's Notes:  According to Annales Cambriae and later chronicles, at Camlann (an uncertain place somewhere in England, maybe today’s Queen Camel in Somerset) King Arthur allegedly fought his last battle, against the troops led by his treacherous son of incest Mordred, during which they wounded each other mortally. I’ve always regarded the Arthurian Saga as a monumental allegory not only of the struggle between good and evil but of human existence in its entirety. In turn, I took inspiration from this momentous episode, Arthur’s final epic deed, using it as a metaphor for our continued struggle against doubt and fear, and for our endless battle against imaginary or unidentified enemies. So many times we think we’re fighting something real, be it opposing people or adverse circumstances, only to discover little by little that we’re just chasing ghosts, and that if enemies actually exist, they often hide inside ourselves.

Editor’s Note:  This one reminds me of one James Rowe penned in 2014, "Everywhere the Serpent Slain", one of the best and most important poems I have ever read.  The United States are facing this challenge right now, starring Donald Trump as the faithful, fearless, but tainted King Arthur with the faded Declaration of Independence as his shield and the tattered Constitution as his sword, versus progressivism--the Constitution’s incestuous love child.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Take a Minute To Not Breathe" by Lauren McBride

Take a Minute To Not Breathe
Lauren McBride

Please take a minute 
to not breathe.
One minute of your day -
sixty seconds.

Now three deep breaths - 
inhale, exhale, again and hold . . .
lungs full, diaphragm strong, heartbeat steady.

1,2,3 starting off easy
            croup, asthma, cystic fibrosis

4,5,6 seconds speeding by 
                 pertussis, pneumonia, tuberculosis

10, 15 seconds ticking slower 
                      pulmonary edema, emphysema, COPD 

20, 25 straining now
                                lung cancer, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

30, 35 heart racing
                  coughing, choking, short of breath, respiratory arrest

40, 50 lungs burning, diaphragm twitching 
            inhaler, bottled oxygen, ventilator

60 seconds 
Now breathe!
Inhale. Exhale.

Again. Breathe deeply 
in and out,    in   and   out
and be grateful
that you can.

Poet's Notes:  My father died of IPF, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. From diagnosis to death: five years, exactly on schedule. The death rate with this disease is 100%; there is no cure. The treatment is a lung transplant, not without its own risks, and not for the elderly. 

Several conditions and diseases can cause a daily struggle for breath or the frightening feeling of suffocation. There is even a word for it: dyspnea. Some diseases are curable, some chronic, some deadly. All are debilitating. 

I hope my poem made you think about breathing, something we typically take for granted. If so, please consider donating to a respiratory disease charity of your choice.

Editor’s Note:  This poem is a departure for Lauren or for anyone for that matter--quite original.  The differential diagnostic scheme as expressed in the poem may or may not be accurate--I honestly am not sure.  I can say I was definitely not taught in medical school to count the seconds that a patient takes between breaths or to complete a breath as a way to come to a differential diagnosis for dyspnea.  However, attention to a prolonged inspiratory or expiratory phase of respiration is advised to come to the broad conclusion that something is wrong with the respiratory system.

The accuracy of the differential diagnosis scheme does not matter here for the poem to have a powerful impact.  The various diagnoses and treatments, for the most part, escalate properly and are quite effective in conveying a sense of impending doom to the reader who may even be holding his or her breath as he or she reads.  This is a brilliant poetic conceit and certainly conveys an important message.

The white spaces in this poem are of supreme importance, as they correspond to the time intervals indicated in the poem as well as to the increasing blankness of the mind and body that occurs with increasing respiratory distress.  The Art Editor and I made the editorial decision not to include any artwork so as not to interfere with this aspect of the poem.

Those interested in donating to a respiratory disease charity should consider these:

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Poem for Pittsburgh and All of Us by the Editor-in-Chief

Pittsburgh in Memoriam 
Shmuel ben Moshe HaLevi

The gunman did not pick and choose
As he killed eleven helpless Jews
And when the law surrounded him
He turned his deadly gun on them.

This hateful man I will not name
To do so would increase his fame
May the memory of him be erased
His life forgotten and disgraced.

Instead let us commend the corps
Who bravely stormed the temple door
And fought the gunman to the floor
Though four of them were wounded sore

And pray for the community
Of those killed with impunity
May their memories a blessing be
And hatred yield to harmony. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

THE FAIRY'S CAVE Part IV "The Bad Boy Effect" by Charles A. Swanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “The Bad Boy Effect,” the fourth and final installment of The Fairy’s Cave, an epic fantasy narrative poem by Charles A. Swanson.  The poem was 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  The second installment, “Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms,” was presented on October 12  The third installment, “Dark Disposition,” was presented on October 19

The Fairy’s Cave
Charles A. Swanson

"Yin and Yang" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon

IV. The Bad Boy Effect

There they were, boy and girl, she light,
he darkness. That boy could speak no word,
no word at all, that sounded kind.
Claudius knew, for the wee elf practiced
sarcasm, satire, hyperbole, understatement,
double entendre, tongue-in-cheek,
equivocation, white lie, pun, speciousness,
prevarication, duplicity, dissimulation,
double-talk—well, you get the idea.
Claudius knew the facility of language,
also, the wink, the nod, the shoulder shrug,

the look away, the grin, the gesture
to say that the words meant something else.
Brat-boy spoke vituperation, scorn,
disparagement, ridicule, outright insult.
And the more he said, and the blacker
he looked, the more she beamed,
fascinated. All this work, all this work,
all this subtle turning of the screw, all
this to make him detestable, and she loves
him all the more. It was then the fairy knew

he would never understand humans.

Poet’s Notes for “The Bad Boy Effect”:  Sometimes a title should announce the poem.  We understand the irony of the bad boy effect.  We may ask, “Why is the teenage girl attracted to all this hot-air bravado?  Why does the wife-beater-wearing boy get the girl?”  But we know the phenomenon.  We even pray the girl through it, if we can.

For all his facility with language, this fairy with his kingly and supercilious name of Claudius, doesn’t understand human nature.  Perhaps, here, the fairy seems the most like we.  Though we understand the bad-boy effect, we still shake our heads in disbelief.  Who is wise enough to understand such a thing?

Editor’s Note:  I hope you enjoyed the serial presentation of The Fairy’s Cave.  The comment on the nature of adolescent human romantic love at the end of this epic poem is simply delicious, isn’t it?  Poor Claudius!  And may God protect our daughters...

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"You Are Not Fine" by Aparna Sanyal

You Are Not Fine
Aparna Sanyal 

Delhi, you are not fine.
Your wrinkles are now splotches on 
your over-made-up face.
I’ve never minded your loud throated 
cackles, your lusty guffaws, 
your broken-pitched stridency, even.
But this reedy phlegm is your voice now,
and my heart is in shards. 
Never one to curb excesses,
I’ve watched you smoke entire chillums dry,
all the while waving bejeweled fingers 
in animated delight.
The purple gem on your finger is plush—
swollen with lavish royalty.
In my night’s sleep, it is a diadem that
encircles my heart, 
pulses light and unfiltered joy. 
You’ve regaled me with tales, woven
a carpet for my dreams to fly on, 
and through it all, your orgiastic 
unashamed beauty 
has stunned me.
Now, you need a tube 
to breathe.
And I sit, hushed by your bedside,
awaiting the next fantastic
tale to fall 
from your fading crimson,
pout-seeping lips. 

Poet’s Notes:  A recent trip to Delhi to visit an ailing relative made this poem write itself. This beautiful city is in shambles. Growing up, I spent my summers there at my grandparents’ home. And just like my grandparents, who were larger-than-life figures, this city too was a grand old dame. But now, there are smoggy streets where once there were abundant trees, and snarls of traffic where there was birdsong. It breaks my heart.

Editor’s Note:  Many cities and towns share the fate of Delhi that Aparna so poignantly and poetically describes here in this moving piece.  I am sure many readers will see a metaphor for grand cities and towns that they once knew that have changed for the worse. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Mourning Abbey" Terri Lynn Cummings

"Abbey" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Mourning Abbey
Terri Lynn Cummings

Too sentimental some say
Maudlin over the loss of a dog
eyes large and sharp
fur silver and gray
like stones of an ancient abbey

I say no one laments a moth
or a spider. Ants gather no tears
Flies don’t either. Turtles 
make the cut, sometimes cats
Dogs, almost always

She wasn’t my daughter
but dug a home in my heart
tender as a newborn. Without her
I am blind in the dark. Cannot 
shed the heavy coat of being human

Poet’s Notes: We adopted Abbey soon after our son died. She strayed into our lives and over ten years she patched the gaping hole torn in our hearts. When we lost Abbey to the same bleeding disorder that killed our son, we were overwhelmed on many levels. My husband and I knew the addition of another dog to our household would help--not to replace Abbey, but to help fill the new hole in our hearts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review by the Editor-in-Chief of Tai Chi by Master Lam

While not exactly poetry, Tai Chi is a kind of poetry in motion.  Hence, I thought that readers might enjoy my review of Step-By-Step Tai Chi--The Natural Way to Strength and Health by Master Lam Kam Chuen, which may be found on my personal blog, Steves Of Grass, here

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Monday, October 22, 2018

"Copyright" by Gene Hodge

Gene Hodge

Before you awaken . . .
     before the morning
     steals the smell of your skin,
the way your hair
swirls across your neck  
and caresses your breast; 
      let me bottle your fragrance,
photograph your beauty
      and copyright this moment.

Poet’s Notes:  As an entertainer/singer and artist, I am aware of copyrighting one's creations.  This poem's intent is not to own but to hold the passionate beauty of the moment in a personal copyright.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

THE FAIRY'S CAVE Part III "Dark Disposition" by Charles A. Swanson

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Dark Disposition,” Part III 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 LINK.  The second installment, “Purple Polka-Dotted Mushrooms,” was presented on October 12 LINK.

"Swoon" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
The Fairy’s Cave
Charles A. Swanson

III. Dark Disposition

They came again, the little girl, auburn
tresses dancing like sunlit butterflies,
the dark-eyed boy. The fairy-elf watched them,
first dim against the cave mouth’s morning,
then merging with shadows in the grotto.
As Claudius so hungrily hoped, the boy spied
the polka-dotted mushrooms, but he turned away,
not tempted. He continued the words
he was already darting at her. Why was he
speaking crossly? Why was she smiling?
Eat some of the mushrooms, you rude brat,
Claudius willed. His fairy power held both
check and scope—he could not force
the boy, nor lay a hand upon him. Breathe
he could do, and he sent out that breath,
magic like pollen, magic that suggested,
magic that tempted, magic that made
the wartiest toad into a precious gemstone.
Take me up, the mushrooms crooned. No
treacle is half so sweet. The fairy willed:
Eat them. Become so baleful she’ll turn

with loathing from your dark, deep eyes.

Poet’s Notes for “Dark Disposition”:  Whose nature is the more corrupt?  That of the elf, or that of the boy?  Or, perhaps, the darkest mind is that of the girl, who seems to like the boy no matter how rudely he speaks?

The elf, as in many stories, cannot harm directly, but he can tempt.  The charm in this case also would not maim or kill, but it would make the ungracious boy yet more detestable.  Who will be able to stand such an arrogant churl?

Surely, Prince Charming did not win the day by being Prince Hateful?  The fairy has no doubt about the efficacy of his plan.   After all, he does live in a fairy-tale world with fairy-tale endings.

Editor’s Note:  Readers should plan to return to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review next Friday, October 26, for the fourth and final installment of The Fairy’s Cave, “The Bad Boy Effect.”

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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