Friday, November 30, 2018

"Last Call" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, Poet of the Week

"Caw!" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
Last Call
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

One crow caws
and I'm awake

blue-faced babies
on screen

where I left them
hours ago

broken bodies
struck down
by a monstrous hand.

Oh poetry – 
curly-haired beauty
obsessed over without end

where are you now?

Poet’s Notes:  This is a variation on the never-ending question of "Why Poetry?" with which I constantly struggle as a writer. On the one hand, it sometimes feels good enough simply to write poetry for poetry's sake, creating a beautiful artifice. But other times, poetry feels terribly over-matched by a world that never ceases to amaze me with its brutality and evil. There obviously isn't a single correct answer, which is one reason why I ended this poem with a question. But it is also a personal challenge to strike the right balance between beauty and social relevancy when writing.

Editor's Note:  And with this thought-provoking bit of ars poetica, we must bid farewell to Yoni as a Frequent Contributor to Songs of Eretz.  I hope you enjoyed his Poet of the Week feature this week.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"Dogrun" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, Poet of the Week

Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

By summer's end
"True Happiness" Ink & Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
the grassy shoal
wedged between apartments
is blistered brown

and harbors no more
than a puff of air
when the sun claws above
nearby pines.

Owners hunch alone
over cellphones
or complain in listless groups
about the unbroken heat

while their dogs 
careen around like philosophers
sputtering about happiness 
and world peace.

A toy poodle turns in place
and a husky stands panting;
both seem to be watching
a stately red terrier

lying on her side
almost straining to hear
the ground's answer
to their long-argued question.

Poet’s Notes:  I walk past a dog run almost every day and I'm never sure if it's more interesting to watch the people or their dogs. I suppose I'm naturally inclined, as a fellow Homo sapiens, to check out what's happening with the owners. But the dogs almost always seem to be enjoying themselves more, which makes a certain amount of sense, given that they're in a dogrun and not a nightclub.

I remember the day I started writing this poem had been an especially grim one for humans, combining endless summer heat with endless horrors in the news. But somehow, watching the dogs go at it, I had the feeling that Emily Dickinson's "Hope" was not only a thing with feathers, but could also be a furry ball with four legs and a tail.

Editor’s Note:  Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” may be found here

Lana the Poetry Dog’s Note:  Of course the dogs are more interesting, and Yoni is a good human to point out this obvious yet oft’ o’erlooked fact.  Woof. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"Blood Oranges" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, Poet of the Week

Blood Oranges
It's almost as easy
     to start a poem as it is
to peel an orange
any knife or finger
can poke a hole
                                                to get started
but peeling 
        an orange
gets harder
after that first stab
under its skin.
It only gets harder
to coax a spiral
from its skin
like a loose thread 
         pulled out
stitch by stitch
like a loose thread pulled
from an old sweater
word after word
until there's no sweater left
just fruit. 

--Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Poet’s Notes:  This poem started out as a pantoum, and depending on how you look at it, either "fell apart", or "became something new" along the way. I suppose there are some purists out there who would claim a poem must possess one thing or another (form! rhyme! or freedom! to name a few), to which I answer a resounding maybe yes or maybe no. Or said differently, the only thing I think a poem must have is an initial stab of wonder, after which any and all forms of artistry can and should be used to share that feeling with others.

Art Editor's Note:  As with most concrete poems we publish, I decided not to include any accompanying illustration, allowing the poem to perform that function.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"Unpacking List" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, Poet of the Week

Unpacking List
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Three days later 
our suitcase arrives
without fanfare or apology,
and as I dump
a spent mess of clothes
into the washer
it feels like I’m swiping
through photos
on someone else’s phone.
Is this all that’s left
of a week away?
A wine-stained t-shirt
from when we watched
the sun set 
in astonished hush?
Four sodden socks
after a mad dash
across cobblestones?
A fistful of red rocks
clatter from my bathing suit
and I suddenly remember 
the naked sea
so cold, so salty.

Poet’s Notes:  As the inimitable George Carlin put it, "Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you." Indeed, packing for and planning vacation often seems to take more time and effort than the actual trip itself. And what about when you come back from vacation? It's truly unsettling how fast I usually find myself sliding back into the normal day-to-day routine of things. This poem is a reflection on the dynamic of going away and coming back, and the surprises that sometimes make unpacking more than just a physical act.

Editor’s Note:  I will add that in the act of unpacking, sometimes I wonder if I have truly returned home or if I just left my true home... 

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Cloudy with Errors and Pacing" by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, Poet of the Week

Editor's Note:  Toward the end of every year, Songs of Eretz must bid farewell to Frequent Contributors who have decided to move on to other projects.  Sadly, this year we must say goodbye to Yoni Hammer-Kossoy.

In his all too brief year with us, Yoni put the "Eretz" in Songs of Eretz quite literally.  His crisp style of poetry with its Middle Eastern flair helped set Songs of Eretz apart from other venues.  He will be dearly missed.

As a final tribute to this up-and-coming poet, Songs of Eretz will feature Yoni as our Poet of the Week for the week of November 26, 2018.  We invite you to enjoy one of Yoni’s poems every weekday this week, beginning today with "Cloudy with Errors and Pacing".

Cloudy with Errors and Pacing
Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Dear reader,
in a far-off where or when,
bundled and burdened
by day to day troubles,
trudging knee deep
through frigid drifts --

I'll never know why or how
you're reading this,
if you're one to savor
every pixelated word,
or like a gobsmacked castaway
at an all night buffet
barely rest between one verse
and the next.

I give you this seed of sunlight
harvested at an early hour
bright with birdsong
and purple clouds drifting in the west
like a rumpled bedspread.

It was the longest day of the year
and the heat set in
with the finality of a second opinion,
while everywhere trees
were busy adding another ring
under their skin.

I'll never know why or how
but someday this seed in your hands
might grow into anything,
or stay nothing at all.

Poet’s Notes:  The title of this poem is borrowed from something Michael Ondaatje said recently when accepting the "Golden Booker" award: "I've not read The English Patient since it came out in 1992 and I suspect, and know more than anyone, that it remains cloudy with errors and pacing." Beyond being struck by the wonderful humility of his statement, it prompted me to explore the idea of how writing is a delayed conversation between writer and reader. An act of catch and release of a moment back into the world, and whatever happens after that is anyone's guess.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Special Double Feature: “Opening the Blinds” & “Domestic Ditty” by Sierra July, Poet of the Week

Opening the Blinds
Sierra July

Skin so cold, a warm touch burns
Eyes shaded, jaded, begging please open the blinds
Heart cowering like a bird in that small rib cage

But with kind words, love, trust builds
Eyes glow as light finds its way in; the heart flies free
A smile of thanks reflects the joy inside
And is mirrored on the parent's proud face

Poet's Notes:  Thinking of how there are many works about families but few of them about found families, I wrote this piece. For all of the children who went through hard times and reawakened because of the love of their adoptive home, and the adoptive parents that grew and changed just being in their strong child's presence, I thought this would be perfect at a time meant for giving thanks.

Editor’s Note:  It is amazing what Sierra packed into such a short poem!  The poetic conceit, enhanced by her thoughtful notes, is well executed.  The intra-line rhyme and assonance in line two are stunning.  Her play on hot and cold is again nicely done.  With its theme of being thankful for family, this one makes a perfect poem for the day after Thanksgiving.

* * * * * *

Domestic Ditty
Sierra July
Bed warmer, turned alarm, rumbling before stalking away
Twittering joining the morning chorus of brethren outside
Wagging tail, tapping a joyful beat on the cold kitchen tile
Huffs of pants and whimpers begging for breakfast scraps
Cooing from the trip-initiator curling around your legs
Chirping from the now resting winged serenader
Exiting the door, turn, smile, lock up and await work's end
When returning home will mean an evening reprise

Poet's Notes:  Since I was on the subject of family, this one is an ode to pets but specifically cats, dogs, and birds, since I've owned and loved all three. Rather than just writing about the obvious joys of these animals, I focused on something that some might not think of and may even take for granted, save the bird owners--the gift of a lively, melodious home.

Editor’s Note:  This one dovetails nicely with Sierra’s Thanksgiving Day poem and with "Opening the Blinds", making it perfect for a double feature and final farewell.  

I hope you enjoyed this final tribute by Songs of Eretz to Charter Frequent Contributor Sierra July.  It was so nice getting to know her over the past several years, and I for one will continue to follow her poetry career with great interest. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Around the Table" by Sierra July, Poet of the Week

Around the Table
Sierra July

Traced hands with paper feathers attached
Guests from close by dropping in,
Calls from those afar
Laughter travels and fills each room
Starting with the family table
Where all have gathered
Feeling warmth from holding hands in grace
From the smoke rising off the food
And from their contented hearts
Even when their plates have emptied soon,
Their stomachs a good while later
Memories of family still live on

Poet's Notes:  This one was written with Thanksgiving in mind, though my goal was not to make just another seasonal piece but a poem that could conjure the warmth of familiar bonds and friendship no matter what time of year. The dinner could be on any night and the gathering on any day. But I did also include an image that could paint a sense of Thanksgiving nostalgia--the first line, thinking of how teachers made kids trace their hands or use paper plates to make the body of a turkey and then cut paper feathers to attach to it.

Editor’s Note:  Ah, the traced hand turkey!  Universal symbol of the elementary school aged child’s Thanksgiving experience.  Sierra has certainly captured the spirit of Thanksgiving with this and the many other nostalgic elements of her poem.  From the editors and staff of Songs of Eretz, we wish you all a happy, warm, and comforting holiday. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Who-Knows-Where" by Sierra July, Poet of the Week

Sierra July

White breath clouds, synchronized puffs in air
Streetlights click on, joining starlight
Mittens no good, their hands find each other
Crunch of their feet in snow
Masks their raging heartbeats
Blush powdering both faces from cold? Thrill?
Neither can guess by the shade of red
CafĂ© ahead, should they stop, warm their blood?
Knowing smiles, of one mind, both carry on
Continuing their walk who-knows-where
Content with heating their hearts instead

Poet's Notes:  Since one of my first poems was a sentimental romantic piece, I decided to make this one on a similar note. I thought of two people walking along a cold city street, and the rest of the details came later. What are they doing? Where are they heading, and why? Questions like these made this poem come together. Just as I thought of questions to get started, I decided to make a few a part of the storytelling.

Editor’s Note:  I love the way Sierra combines hot and cold in this winter romance.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"Love Blooms, Air Thins" by Sierra July, Poet of the Week

Love Blooms, Air Thins
Sierra July

Thorns stab her heart from a smile
And she knows, feels
The first flowers of love creep inside
Stifling her heart though,
For a while, they were pretty things

Betrayal sapped her leaves dry,
Withered, yellowed
Like the complexion her tired eyes
Caught in the mirror
Those leaves lie in the bathroom sink

With apologies and promises
More blooms grew, bit, escaping
Up, out her sore throat

Each day, she wondered if today was when
Her heart's garden would leave her

Poet's Notes: A fictional disease, Hanahaki, inspired this one. Made popular in Eastern writing and art, the disease entails someone having flowers bloom in his or her heart, often from one-sided love, and then coughing up the petals until the victim has the flowers removed by surgery and loses their feelings, dies, or in the best case scenario, has their feelings returned and naturally recovers. There have been many modifications to this general premise, and this poem is merely my take on it.

Editor’s Note:  Ah, the oldest clichĂ© in the book, the rose / Eros metaphor for love.  I usually reject poems that use this worn out poetic conceit, but Sierra’s is the exception--a refreshing, new, post-post-post modern twist on the old theme.

Monday, November 19, 2018

"Figment" by Sierra July, Poet of the Week

Editor's Note:  Toward the end of every year, Songs of Eretz must bid farewell to Frequent Contributors who have decided to move on to other projects.  Sadly, this year we must say goodbye to Sierra July, a charter member of the Frequent Contributor group who has been with us since January 1, 2016.  Sierra's eclectic mix of science fiction, fantasy, and mainstream elements, and her easy-to-follow yet profoundly philosophical narrative style of poetry will be dearly missed.

As a final tribute to this up-and-coming poet, Songs of Eretz will feature Sierra as our Poet of the Week for the week of November 19, 2018.  We invite you to enjoy one of Sierra's poems every weekday this week, beginning today with "Figment."

Sierra July

Twilight fell on two bodies
Swaying in a garden swing
Head slumped on shoulder,
Eyes closed but twitching
Trapped at rest and wake
Behind those eyelids

Red and orange light filtered through
Warmth from life or memory
Hands clasped together
But when the dream ceased
As dawn crept forward
There was no one there

Poet's Notes:  Thinking about how the light plays tricks, I wrote this with the image of a mirage in mind. I wanted not only to paint a mirage but create one, so the last line leaves the poem a bit open-ended. You can imagine one person is waking from a dream and finding themselves alone, or that the two are both a figment of the imagination.  

Editor’s Further Note:  For me, this is poem became an interesting poetic exploration of hypnagogia, a frequently overlooked state of consciousness.

Friday, November 16, 2018

"Rain of Frogs" by Ross Balcom

Rain of Frogs
Ross Balcom

"Rain of Frogs" Ink on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
you came into my life

as a rain of frogs

a Fortean love 
anomalous and phenomenal

rain of frogs
rain of frogs

your one became many:
white bellies flashing

wet bodies falling
on my highway

smashed by cars
sliding in your guts

      (let me eat your sweet guts
      let me roll in them)

rain of frogs
rain of frogs

amphibian eyes rolling
that's the look of love

      (give me love *ribbit, ribbit*
      give me love)

rain of frogs
rain of frogs

pounding my head
rocking my brain

sweet is the rain
sweet is the rain

keep falling forever
froggies keep falling

don't ever stop

Poet's Notes:  Among the strange phenomena investigated by American writer and researcher Charles Fort (1874-1932) were falls of animals from the sky, including masses of frogs. A frog freak, I have in this poem analogized the thrill of love to a rain of frogs. The adjective "Fortean" (not a word of my invention) refers to paranormal phenomena, of which Fort wrote with great style, wit, and originality.

Editor’s Note:  Enjoy a biography of Charles Fort here  Also, apparently raining frogs is an actual thing

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"A Mocking Bird’s Significance" by Gene Hodge

A Mocking Bird’s Significance
Gene Hodge

He lights on the top rail
of the McDonald’s playground fence.
I eat my hotcake platter
and sip on coffee . . .
I stare out at him,
while he stares in
at me.
Holding a swirling worm in his beak,
he, with the swiftness of his species,
flies to the top of a large yellow sign—
“Eat One Of Our Juicy Sandwiches.”
An elderly man— wearing white moccasins,
whose head has grown out
through the top of his hair—
sits at the booth in front of me, 
absorbed by a hungry fly 
eating biscuit crumbs.
Though a “far-out" morning,
and a little weird . . .
who would question the sanity
of a poet whose thoughts . . . rise like coffee vapor,
then settle on the significance
of a mocking bird’s swirling breakfast?

Poets Notes:  I composed this poem one of those mornings when something was cooking—boiling-up from deep within me.  I gave it life and delivered it in poetry.

Editor's Note:  I allowed the poet the poetic license to use "Mocking Bird" instead of "Mockingbird" for the title.  After all, the bird described seems to be "mocking" the restaurant's sandwiches--hence, it is a bird that mocks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"sinkhole" by Alessio Zanelli


to allow a
glimpse of how
the swallow works and
let the unnamed dread grow
too big to conquer a thread of bleak
light hard squeeze of night creeps through
cracks into the secret void where soul appendages
contort and struggle to plug its own bores from which fast 
trickles keep on leaking out and falling to the bottom meanwhile 
running dark to feed the obscurity creating an abyss so deep as to become 
unclimbable by anything incapable of setting fire to itself or giving birth to a star
 --Alessio Zanelli

Poet’s Notes:  Provided that I can enjoy some good inspiration (i.e., it must come spontaneously), every now and then I happen (and like) to write experimental or concrete poetry. This one is both and makes use of the idea of a sinkhole (a natural hole or depression in the ground, also known as “cenote” or “doline”, which can go very deep) as a metaphor for how sometimes our spirit can get so gloomy and make us sink into the darkest blues, if not into pure despair. 

To be honest, when I started writing it I had this clear vision of a sinkhole, both physical and figurative, but I really didn’t know where such an image would take me. I didn’t use any punctuation on purpose--in fact, the poem consists of one long sentence; I didn’t use any capital letters either, not even for the title, for it looked more consistent thus; I found the pyramidal shape appropriate to the idea of an abyss enlarging below Earth’s surface or inside the soul; I added the lone special character of the first line (obtainable by alt+0149), symbolizing the aperture of the sinkhole, only when the text was finished and visually shaped. 

The poem could sound a bit dismal, but it’s not definitely hopeless, despite what the last line says. However difficult it may seem in certain situations, still metaphorically speaking, everybody can light up the darkest despondency by getting rid of its cause (“setting fire to itself”) or starting all over again (“giving birth to a star”). And, sometimes, sinking further down a while is something necessary to be able to climb up all the way back. As Deep Purple puts it in their song “Don’t Make Me Happy”, I’ll take my comfort from this hole I’m sinking in.

Editor's Note:  A recording of Deep Purple performing "Don't Make Me Happy" may be enjoyed here

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"The Longing Tree" by Aparna Sanyal

The Longing Tree
Aparna Sanyal 

Trees can be life. 
on your horns 
shedding leaves like tears 
sing sonnets of 
my careworn love. 
They carry the weight from 
the going-light
of my dimming eyes. 
Speckled along this peeling bark, 
I write 
my memories, 
so that perhaps, when you look, 
you will see me
there too. 
And when you leave this 
steepled awning of 
emerald, rust and umber, 
the stark ravens of longing that 
reside in these branches 
peck at my being, carry away 
torn bits of my soul, 
to bring 
to your side. 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was written in response to a picture prompt—a traditional Indian Warli painting of a tree with a deer standing at its base. The leaves from the tree were shedding onto the deer’s antlers, and on the tree’s branches; birds sat looking down at the scene, a complete ecosystem in a single frame, soul-stirring in its simplicity. 

Editor's Note:  I heard Daphne, post-metamorphosis, speaking to Apollo here