Saturday, February 23, 2019


February 2019 Special Contest Issue
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Cover Art "Delivery Gull" [Ink & Watercolor on Paper] 
Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are the work of our Art Editor or taken from "royalty-free" open internet sources.

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is best viewed on a computer screen.  There have been reports of word wrap when viewing on a Smartphone.  Choosing "View web version," which should appear at the bottom of the post, usually corrects the problem.  Switching to landscape mode may also correct the problem. 

Table of Contents
A Letter from the Contest Preliminary Judge
A Brief Statement from the Contest Final Judge
The 2019 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest Winners
   "Poverty" by Christopher Buckley
   "It's the Year of the Rooster" by B. J. Buckley
   "A Man's Work" by B. J. Buckley
Poetry Review
Cloud Memoir Selected Longer Poems 1987-2017 by Christopher Buckley
   Reviewed by Steven Wittenberg Gordon

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A Letter from the Contest Preliminary Judge
As the preliminary judge for the contest, it was my duty and privilege to read and respond with comments to every one of the more than 350 poems entered and then choose those that would advance to the semi-final round.  Lowell Jaeger took matters from there.  My job was difficult enough, as the quality of the submissions was high.  I can only imagine how difficult Lowell's job must have been to sort through the high-quality poems that made my initial cut.

My preliminary judgments were not made completely blind in that I knew the poets' names.  However, unless I knew the poets previously, I was unaware of their bios, and I did not have their poets' notes.  So, my judgment was semi-blind.

In contrast, Lowell did not know the names of the poets or have their bios until well after he picked the winners.  Poets' notes were given to him only for the finalists he chose and were considered when he made his final judgments.  It is a complete coincidence that the winners have the same last name (there is no relation).  It is also completely by chance that the second and third place winners are the same person, which speaks to the consistency of Lowell's judgment.

This, the fifth annual Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest, will be the last poetry contest Songs of Eretz will hold for the foreseeable future.  We at Songs of Eretz are proud to end our contest cycle by recognizing these two outstanding poets.  We hope that the one thousand dollar honorarium for the first place winner and the three hundred dollars in honoraria for the second/third place winner will go some way toward promoting and enhancing their poetry careers.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD
Preliminary Contest Judge

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A Brief Statement from the Contest Final Judge
I agonized over my choices.  The poems I selected as finalists were worthy in many and various ways.  It was difficult to choose the “best,” as all the finalist poems were in their own ways “best.”  In the end, I chose the three which moved my heart most.  

Lowell Jaeger
Montana State Poet Laureate

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First Place

Christopher Buckley
                  la colera de pobre
                  tiene dos rios contra muchos mares.—Cesar Vallejo                                                      

Vallejo wrote that with God we are all orphans.
I send $22 a month to a kid in Ecuador 
so starvation keeps moving on its bony burro 
past his door—no cars, computers, 
basketball shoes—not a bottle cap 
of hope for the life ahead . . .  just enough 
to keep hunger shuffling by in a low cloud 
of flies.  It’s the least I can do, 
and so I do it.
                      I have forgotten to pray 
for the creosote, the blue salvia, let alone 
for pork bellies, soybean futures.  
There are 900 thousand Avon Ladies in Brazil. 
Billions are spent each year on beauty products 
world-wide—28 billion on hair care, 14 on skin 
conditioners, despite children digging on the dumps, 
selling their kidneys, anything that is briefly theirs. 

I am the prince of small potatoes, I deny them nothing 

who come to me beseeching the crusts I have to give. 

I have no grounds for complaint, though deep down, 

where it’s anyone’s guess, I covet everything 

that goes along with the illustrious—creased pants 

as I stroll down the glittering boulevard, a little aperitif 

beneath Italian pines.  But who cares what I wear, 

or drink? The rain?  No, the rain is something 

we share—it devours the beginning and the end. 

The old stars tumble out of their bleak rooms like dice—
Box Cars, Snake Eyes, And-The-Horse-You-Rode-In-On . . . 
not one metaphorical bread crumb in tow.  
Not a single Saludo! from the patronizers 
of the working class—Pharaoh Oil, Congress, 
or The Commissioner of Baseball—all who will eventually 
take the same trolley car to hell, or a slag heap 
on the outskirts of Cleveland.
                                     I have an ATM card, 
AAA Plus card.  I can get cash from machines, 
be towed 20 miles to a service station. Where do I get off 
pencilling in disillusionment?  My bones are as worthless 
as the next guy’s against the stars, against the time it takes 
light to expend its currency across the cosmic vault. 
I have what everyone has—the over-drawn statement 
of the air, my blood newly rich with oxygen, 
my breath going out equally with any atom of weariness 
or joy, each one of which is closer to God than I.

"What Lies Within" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon

Poet’s Notes:  Some “factoids” that came over the radio as I drove home one day started me on this poem—those seemingly insignificant pop culture facts the stations add on at the end of a broadcast of dreary national news and stock market reports--these some facts about life in Brazil.  I had been working on a poem on the subject for some time, trying to emphasize the spiritual poverty that often is the cause of physical poverty and our lack of concern for others on the planet, and finally what that might mean for us in any human and spiritual sense.

As with most of my poems, I worked through forty drafts or more, cutting down and tightening.  And I relied as always on longtime poet friends to offer edits and cuts and critique.  This poem took something like a full year of re-writing and going back into it to arrive at the point where I had hoped to arrive when I began.

Preliminary Judge’s Note:  This is a thought-provoking and timely, even timeless, piece.  The soul-searching of the speaker is heartfelt, and the judicious use of irony makes the moral lesson sing.  “Poverty” was first published in Five Points Magazine.  SWG

Final Judge’s Note:  I admire this poem’s soul-searching tone and its refusal to sugarcoat the poverty of pocketbook and the poverty of the heart. I admire this poem’s ambition to say something of importance, something almost inexpressible.  “My bones are as worthless / as the next guy’s against the stars . . . .”  This line will stay with me.  In the Poet’s Notes, this poet says that much of this poem was built around “factoids” heard on the news.  So, here’s a poet who is paying attention to small things and discovering how they add up to important things.  LJ

About the Poet:  Christopher Buckley is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, two NEA grants, a Fulbright Award in Creative Writing, and four Pushcart Prizes.  He was awarded the James Dickey Prize from Five Points Magazine in 2008. He won the William Stafford Prize in Poetry from Rosebud in 2012.  His collection The Far Republics was the winner of the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize from Cloudbank Books in 2017. 

Buckley’s published poetry collections also include:  Star Journal: Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016), Spanish Notebook (Shabda Press, 2017), Chaos Theory (Plume Editions, 2018), and Cloud Memoir: Selected Longer Poems1987-2017 (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2018--reviewed below in this special issue of Songs of Eretz).  Among several critical collections and anthologies of contemporary poetry, he has edited, with Gary Young: Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (2008), and One For The Money: The Sentence As A Poetic Form (Lynx House Press, 2012).  Messenger to the Stars: A Luis Omar Salinas New Selected Poems & Reader was edited with Jon Veinberg for Tebot Bach’s Ash Tree Poetry Series in 2014. 

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Second Place

It's the Year of the Rooster

and that one knows it,
clarion claxon
cock-a-doodle dueling
with the waning moon.
"Strut" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon

There's a man who would have heard him, once,
and rolled and stumbled weary
out of bed and into boots,
bib overalls and shirt
to put the coffee on, and
while it perked, clomp out
to feed the chickens –
he's travelled long beyond
this kind of waking.
is fierce angel at the gate,
warning off the weasel and the skunk
to take their darkling dawn meanderings
elsewhere. Beautiful
bright bird with his comb blood red
as sunrise, red for luck,
for this morning's new eternity
opening out before him.

--B. J. Buckley

Poet’s Notes:  When I was a kid growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, my parents were friends with an elderly couple who had a chicken farm. When we visited, my sister and I were allowed to collect eggs, feed the hens, and hold their beautiful rooster, who crowed frequently regardless of the time of day or night. That rooster and his hardworking old owner were vivid in my mind as I wrote this poem, and it made me happy to finally preserve a wonderful childhood memory in this way.

Preliminary Judge’s Note:  "Cock-a-doodle DUELING"!  What a play on words and what a strong, enticing opening to a wonderful poem.  SWG

Final Judge’s Note:  I admire how this poem has its feet on the ground (the man in the poem literally rolls out of bed and puts his boots on to go feed the chickens).  So the poem feels like bedrock reality, and the rooster is waking us to this fact.  Later in the poem, the man has “travelled long beyond,” gone from this world. The rooster is still here, maybe not the same rooster, but the essence of a rooster and the coming new day survives . . . “for this morning’s new eternity / opening out before him.”  LJ

About the Poet:  B. J. Buckley is the Writer-in-Residence at Sanford Cancer Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she works with patients, families, and caregivers to tell, collect, and preserve their stories.  She has worked in Arts-in-Schools/Communities programs throughout the West and Midwest for more than forty years.  She lives with her sweetheart and too many cats in a small farmhouse thirty miles west of Great Falls, Montana, where she also enjoys gardening, playing music, and teaching art to special needs adults.

B. J.’s poems have appeared widely in print and online journals, including Green Mountains Review, The Cortland Poetry Review, and December.  Her prizes and awards include Cut Throat Journal's Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, The Comstock Review's Poetry Prize, and The Rita Dove Poetry Prize from the Center for Women Writers at Salem College, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Lummox Press published her collection, Corvidae, Poems of Ravens, Crows, and Magpies, in 2014.

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Third Place

"Working Woman" | Watercolor & Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
A Man’s Work
B. J. Buckley

The day they called the Leiter Bar
to tell us Norma Malli’d had a heart attack,
Joyce said, “It’s ‘cause she’s done a man’s work
all her life.” And all the women nodded,
she ranched on her own, did everything 
herself, it was too hard, finally might kill her.

All those women nodded, young girls
with faces already going leathery with sun
and wind, from squinting into it to see
some lost lamb in the blue sage or to sniff out
if that was smoke in the wheat or just some boy
in a pickup throwing dust – those women who rode
and branded and cooked the damn testicles and
nursed the kids and cleaned up after everything,
who jacked stuck trucks out of the mud,
who learned to pee from a horse as tiny girls
because if they got off they were too short
to get back up again (and they could be
twenty miles from home looking for some
antisocial heifer who ought to be ready to drop),
those women who mostly did what Norma did,
who stayed and kept the ranches when
their fathers died or their husbands ran off
or their sons left, those women who called it
“man’s work”, who couldn’t, somehow,
call that work their own.

I ran into Norma once on the dirt road
behind Dead Man, she was on her hands
and knees in the roadside weeds and wheat,
her face flushed crimson, pouncing like a cat.
She was catching grasshoppers in her heavy hands
and popping them into a can with a lid, and I yelled,
“What are you doing, Norma?” and she said,
“Going fishing, nothing like grasshoppers
for going fishing, half the time the fish
leap out of the water to get ‘em before
you can wet the hook!” So I helped her,
while Norma, who never much said two words,
spoke love for fish and her cows and said
she’d never wanted to do nothing else but ranch
even though she was a girl and was
supposed to want other things, and
here she was doing it and how many folks
got to do that their whole lives,
exactly what they wanted?

Poet’s Notes:  I lived for nearly twenty years after college on a 25,000-acre sheep ranch between Sheridan and Gillette, Wyoming. The Malli's were one of the surrounding ranching families who welcomed and included me in everything from Sunday dinner to docking sheep. Norma was the only sister in a family of brothers, unmarried and determined to have a ranch on her own if she had to... so she did. She was an amazing woman, strong and stoic but with a wicked sense of humor. 

I wrote this poem at Joe's Place, the small gas station/bar/cafe/post office in Leiter about three miles from my house, where many of us had gathered after hearing about Norma having a heart attack. Several others and I had neither phone nor electricity at the time, so Joe's Place was “news central” for many. We all passed the time telling "Norma Stories".  I had just seen her earlier in the week and wrote of that encounter in this poem. You will be happy to know that Norma survived and prospered for many years following, no mean feat for any rancher then or now.

Preliminary Judge’s Note:  What a fine tribute to the working women of the West.  The narrative is engrossing.  The imagery is stark and beautiful. “A Man’s Work” was first published in Woven on the Wind (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).  SWG

Final Judge’s Note:  One of my teachers along the way measured the worth of poems by their “reality quotient.”  This poem has a high one.  It’s an ear-catching narrative well told.  The opening is the perfect scene to draw the reader into what’s to come.  I love the stanza where Norma is grubbing in the ditch for grasshoppers. I love that the narrator jumps into the grasshopper hunt with her.  It’s so vivid that I want to jump in, too!  LJ

Artist's Note:  There is a method to the order in which I list the mediums used in my pieces. In "Working Woman", I list watercolor first because I used watercolor first and then applied the ink on top after it dried. Usually I do it the other way around. While employing this "reverse" technique might result in the loss of some precise details, I find the resultant gestural quality quite pleasing.  JAG

About the Poet:  Ibid. 

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Poetry Review

Cloud Memoir: Selected Longer Poems 1987-2017 by Christopher Buckley
   Reviewed by Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Cloud Memoir: Selected Longer Poems 1987 - 2017 (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2018) is a book of about 150 pages of densely packed poetry by Christopher Buckley, the winner of the 2019 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.  The collection is available in hardcover for about twenty dollars wherever books are sold (Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, &c). It contains forty-three poems with an average length of two to three pages per poem (few are shorter; some are longer).

“You reach a certain age . . . you talk to yourself more often . . . recently I’ve been asking myself what ever happened to my long poems?”  Thus, Christopher begins his brief introduction to the collection. He goes on, “ . . . I’ve often felt, however immodestly, that the longer poems often were the strongest . . . .” I have not yet had, what I anticipate would be, the pleasure of reading Christopher’s shorter poems, but it is difficult to believe that they would be stronger than the longer poems contained in this collection.

The poems are contemplative and autobiographical, as would be expected from a memoir. But this is a poetic memoir--more difficult to compose than a standard prose memoir (go ahead and try--I have). However, a successful poetic memoir (and Christopher’s is certainly successful) will always come closer to the true life story of its subject than its prosaic counterpart, being able to utilize the various tropes and devises of poetry to advantage to better portray the emotional milieu surrounding the anecdotes and musings of the life in question.  Here, for example, the reader will learn not only the mundane fact that the poet attended a traditional Catholic school but will experience the boredom, fear, doubt, and frustration that doing so entailed, not to mention the broad questions of faith and episodes of rebellion that it inspired.

The word “cloud(s)” appears in every poem, providing a nice unifying thread.  Clouds are used as metaphor for many different things in the poems--from the stuff of angels to the passage of time--but sometimes, the clouds are just used as clouds.  Another theme that binds the collect together is that just about every poem is a metaphysical examination of, in the words of Douglas Adams, “life, the universe, and everything”.  At one point, the poet jokes that he would have been an astrophysicist rather than a poet but for the math.  

Christopher is acutely aware of his mortality as he poetically looks back on a life that included living in California before it was fashionable and travels to Europe. The poems are sprinkled with passages in French, Spanish, and Latin--just enough to add a little seasoning while avoiding the dangers of pseudointellectualism.  The reader will follow the poet’s life (in no particular order--the collection is not chronological) from his simultaneously rebellious but obedient youth to his frankly existentialist young adulthood to his more philosophical and accepting older age.  

As Christopher is not that old (he is past retirement age but could easily live another twenty years or more, God willing), it would be interesting to see how his current poetic memoir might compare to one written two decades from now.  I predict he will come full circle--accepting as truth the religion drummed into him in his youth while still, if only a little, rebelling against it.  Perhaps we shall see.  In the meantime, I invite readers to enjoy Christopher’s current poetic memoir--one I am glad to have read and will most assuredly re-read periodically.

Are you the author or editor of a poetry collection, a poetry magazine, or other long poetic work?  If you would like to see a review of your work published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, please see our "Review Guidelines" section for details

The original paintings and drawings (and prints of them) created by our Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon and used for the illustrations in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review are available for purchase with and without copies of the poems that inspired them.  Please visit our "Artwork Store" page for details

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019


February/March 2019 "Love" Theme Issue
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Cover Art "Smitten Gulls" Ink on Paper
Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are the work of our Art Editor or taken from "royalty-free" open internet sources.

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is best viewed on a computer screen.  There have been reports of word wrap when viewing on a Smartphone.  Choosing "View web version," which should appear at the bottom of the post, usually corrects the problem.  Switching to landscape mode may also correct the problem. 

Table of Contents
A Letter from the Editor
Ross Balcom

   "Out There"
Sylvia Cavanaugh
   "Winter's Love" 
Terri Lynn Cummings
   "Scraps of Letters and Lace"
Richard Fenwick
   "The Morning Meditation"
Joanna Friedman
   "The Sunshine Couple"
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
   "Goodbye Old Friend"
Stephanie L. Harper
Gene Hodge
   "A Gift"
Virginia Jensen
Karla Linn Merrifield
   "Dance Card in Tanka"
John C. Mannone
   "Animal Instinct"
   "Unseen Words for the Goddess Venus" 
Vivian Finley Nida
   "The Nature of Love"
Janel Nona
   "Don't Fall In Love with a Writer"
James Frederick William Rowe
   "Widows from the First"
Karen Shepherd
   "Quiet Sleep"
Bobbi Sinha-Morey
   "Paper Roses" 
Howard Stein
   "Navigation, A Love Poem" 
Charles A. Swanson
   "First Date"
Alessio Zanelli
   "If One Day" 
Poetry Review
Fan Mail from Some Flounder by Lisa Vihos
   Reviewed by Sylvia Cavanaugh
Frequent Contributor News

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A Letter from the Editor
It is probably safe to say that love poetry is as old as poetry itself, making it difficult if not impossible for the modern poet to avoid clichés when composing love poems.  This inescapable reality makes editing love poems no easy task as well.  For example, while I daresay no individual lover would take it amiss to have his or her eyes compared to celestial bodies, such honey-dripping being perfect for Valentine cards and almost sure to make an individual lover swoon, reading this kind of old and worn-out material in a modern literary magazine is at best tiresome and at worst nauseating.

I believe you will find the poems contained in this "Love" themed issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review to be enjoyable and emotive, if not always entirely fresh and new approaches to the poetic expression of love.  Many of the poems here solve the cliché dilemma by approaching the subject tangentially, resulting in a perhaps a deeper and more organic experience of what it is to love.  Where clichés are unavoidable, readers should find enough nuanced language and unexpected twists to forgive them, albeit perhaps with a wry smile or slightly raised brow.

With love,
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

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"Eros" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Out There

kisses loom
in skies of Eros

clouds merge
in scenic foreplay

blue limbs
tangled far, blue hair

the stratosphere,
the stars...

of all worlds

Sirius pulsing
heart pounding

nova flash,

I spiral Earthward

--Ross Balcom

Editor's Note:  This one brought images of eagles mating to my mind  Spectacular!  SWG

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"Sunlit Shoulders" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
  Winter's Love
  Sylvia Cavanaugh

  The northern hemisphere leans
  its shoulder into the sun
  and light splinters into sparks,
  dancing across a blanket 
  of February snow.
  You brew tea in the iron kettle,
  hissing and rattling
  on the stove,
  then carry a steamy cup
  to me in your strong hand.
  This month is so short,
  I think I'm growing younger.

Poet’s Notes:  I'm interested in the ways in which we experience and perceive love as we grow older. More and more, I see love in small everyday actions. I also find that as I grow older my feelings of love are intertwined with my encounters with the natural world and my sense of wonder in each of the four seasons.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy how the speaker describes her husband.  I agree--it is the millions of little things that lovers do for each other that keeps love alive.  SWG 

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Scraps of Letters and Lace
Terri Lynn Cummings 

"Comfort" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Within a week, we loved each other
Urges governed actions
never in fear of getting things wrong

Silhouettes faced on reddish, full moon 
bodies moved, a sudden fuse
of what we never knew

If objects remember our gifts to each other
then pearls around wrist
knot themselves with tender grace

Initialed tumblers 
fill a bar with
never fading bonfires

Almost thirty years married
idle chatter, predictable secrets
meander toward the far horizon

Limitations, woven like rugs 
silences, loving or self-serving
strange comfort like a favorite book      

Labors’ lines carve our faces
family thinned like extra seedlings
earnest pain a wise reminder why

we remain together
Remnants of our greater lives
tucked in pockets and purses

Poet’s Notes: Our thirtieth wedding anniversary arrives this spring, and the occasion merits attention. Love isn’t defined by lust, longing, or first gifts.  Rather they draft it. Predictabilities, limitations, labors, and losses finalize the rest.  A new challenge or reward surprises the heart—sets one marriage apart from another.

Editor’s Note:  This is a beautiful poem that expresses the sentiments of true love in such a vivid, lyrical way, heightened by the clever use of assonance.  SWG 

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The Morning Meditation
Richard Fenwick

Mornings come with the sun
"The Sound of Peace" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
that slices through

our window slats, and I listen
to you prepare for your day:

the song of the shower,
a whir of toothbrush, hangars
sliding across the closet bar,
the final rustle of clothes.

I wait for the tap of heels
across Saltillo tile before
I close my eyes to imagine
the Japanese monk who rises

before the others, slipping
into a still-cool red robe
and listening to the sounds
of sleep permeating silence.

Your mornings are like that,
a practice in the silence
of my sleep, and I am engulfed
in your rote meditation.

Let us imagine that monk
slipping into the cool morning
to ring the temple bell,
and the two moths that fly off

toward the dewy garden,
how they land upon the jasmine
to wait for the sun to rise,
both of them elegant, breathless.

Poet’s Notes: My marriage is only four years old now, and I’m enthralled with everything about my wife. I especially like to listen as a way to observe, and this poem includes both of those elements. Here I’m describing a kind of ritual and tying that to the peacefulness of another--a monk ringing the temple bell each morning. The poem would not fit the theme if it were not for the final line…, which I like.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy how the entire narrative becomes an elaborate metaphor for the intimacy that lovers share, but it is the beauty of the piece with its gorgeous imagery and romantic subtext that really wins me over.  SWG

Artist's Note: I believe I have experienced the phenomenon Richard describes in his poem. I was on my bed in my dorm listening to the activity outside. I eventually entered a zen-like state; the familiarity of the sounds I heard from my friends made me feel almost as if I were there with them. It was all so familiar, so comforting.  I felt warm and at peace.

Creating a visual to represent this feeling was a challenge. In the end, I decided to employ the same metaphor as Richard--a monk meditating. I made him smaller and almost insignificant compared to his surroundings, yet in the center of it all. I can imagine the monk listening to the sounds of the leaves, the insects, the animals, the wind, fully at peace with his world.  JAG

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The Sunshine Couple
Joanna Friedman

The silhouette of a couple;
"Desk Dance" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
made of sunrise and fern, 
watch from the edge of my desk
leagues of honey-wood ocean.

"What if we crossed," she asks. 
"With post-it-note sails?" 
His thin arms cradle her.  
"Or use them to write our dreams."
Sun orbits the sky, 
and shifts  her head   
under his chin, to kiss,
amidst shadowy blades.

Above them, a fern cloud–
he pulls her into his coat.
"The sun will set," she whispers.
"What then? What then?" he asks.

Fire waves extinguish the sun. 
Echoes of her voice in the cliffs.
"Until the sun rises, rises,
my love, love, love!" 

Fern shadows blur,
in the gray flotsam 
of desk and stirred notes.
A steamy mug of tea awaits.

Poet's Notes: The Sunshine Couple appeared one day as shadows on my desk drawer. I sipped my tea and listened to them talk. As the sun set, they said goodbye to each other, and I to them. They like to visit, but only on sunny days.

Editor’s Note:  The first stanza’s imagery drew me into the story and the imaginative arms of these lovers. I was comforted (and humored) by the cup of tea when they disappeared into the dark.  TLC

About the Poet:  Joanna Friedman's fiction and poetry has appeared in a variety of anthologies and on-line publications. She works as a psychologist in the San Francisco Bay area and lives with her husband, twin girls, pug, fish, tortoises, and gecko. Follow her on twitter, @j_grabarek or her website,

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"Wedding Veil" | Watercolor on Paper
Jason Artemus Gordon
   Steven Wittenberg Gordon
   The bud of a pure white rose
   Concealed by delicate sepals
   You stood beside me.
   Then your veil was lifted
   And I beheld 
   The radiance of your face.

Poet’s Notes: The eyeballs exist under pressure, usually 10 to 20 mmHg above the blood pressure, so as one begins to pass out, one’s sight goes first, commonly called a “black-out.”  The unwritten final line should be “And almost passed out,” hence the title of the poem. When I saw my bride walking down the aisle toward me, I almost fainted--it was a near mishap.  Fortunately, I steadied my nerves and broke the glass and kissed the bride and all that.  Twenty-seven years and counting...

Artist's Notes: Most painting teachers tell their students never to use black and instead to make black by mixing several dark colors. This is usually good advice. However, one of my favorite painting teachers taught me, "You don't need to stop using black; you just need to know how to use black." Black has its time and place.  This illustration started black and white, but partway through, I could not help but add some subtle color, which I see as representing the "radiance" hidden beneath the veil.  JAG

Goodbye Old Friend
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
         In Loving Memory of My 1996 Taurus GL

You were always there 
for me and mine 
old friend 
"The Going Merry" | Digital Photograph | Steven Wittenberg Gordon
my vibrant white stallion
my faithful steed.
For almost twenty years 
a far longer life 
than the strongest of your breed 
could be expected to run 
you ran 
oh how you ran 
with the thunder of seven score horses 
on and on 
to the end of the longest road. 

Such times we had together 
life changing and mundane but 
always you were there in the background 
always you behind every triumph 
always you with me 
through every new frontier. 
How you held me and mine
how you carried us 
with your gentle strength 
across these great wide lands
you moved me and mine.

If there could be emotion 
in your motion 
if such a thing were possible 
in a machine such as you
I felt your love 
and loved you in return. 
When finally you could 
safely carry me no more 
and we took that last lonely 
trip together 
to the place of no return 
even then 
when we had to say 
goodbye forever 
you gave your all 
what little you had left 
so I could ride away in safety
in a newer model 
and continue on my journey 
without you. 

Poet's Notes:  I bought my Taurus GL new in 1996 and drove her into the ground in 2016 twenty years later.  Although "only" a machine, that car was everything a friend should be--faithful, reliable, always there when needed, comforting, forgiving, supportive, and self-sacrificing.  That car lasted way beyond the norm for its make and model.  In the end, although she still could run and I had always garaged her, time and salt and weather had taken their toll, and she was declared unsafe to drive.  

When I drove her one last time to the car dealership, she gave me one final gift in the form of $700 for a trade.  I knew she would be cannibalized for parts and sent to the junkyard--an ignoble demise for such a faithful friend.  Is it crazy that I wept and mourned her loss as I would a departed beloved family member or friend?  I am not ashamed that I did.  I miss her to this day.

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"Liquid Heat" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Stephanie L. Harper 

Reach for me, for I am
not this podge of corpuscles
you see: I am deeper. 

Reach into the warm
of me, to the ancient

where all my unsaying
resides nameless,
& with your tongue, teach me
to speak. Reach

into this buried of me,
survey & stoke
my lain waste’s embers,
score my borders,
& till me nitrogenous,

that I may be a sieve for your waters,
& for the salt of your deep,
the belly of hope.

Poet's Notes: I've finally reached a point in my life where I'm beginning to understand who I am as an emotional and sexual being and what I need to be whole in this life--a hard-won milestone which is now finding expression in this and other recent poems.

Editor’s Note:  I appreciate the vocabulary used in this poem, a discourse of intercourse and love, particularly the second and third stanzas. The hope for a child is skillfully related in the poem’s last line. This piece is not filled with platitudes or “salty” language.  TLC

Artist's Note: Creating a visual for innuendo that is not either too explicit or too "on the nose" was a challenge. How does one depict the feeling of intercourse with such limitations? I decided some warm ripples would be a good middle ground.  JAG

About the Poet:  Stephanie L. Harper holds an M.A. in German literature from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.  She is the author of the chapbooks “This Being Done” (Finishing Line Press) and “The Death's-Head's Testament” (Main Street Rag). Her poems appear in such journals and anthologies as Slippery Elm, Isacoustic, Panoply, Underfoot Poetry, A Larger Geometry: Poems for Peace, For My Lover, She is Fair: A Sappho Tribute, Stories that Need to Be Told, and others. She lives with her family in Hillsboro, Oregon.

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A Gift
Gene Hodge
"Nightly Glimmers" | Watercolor & Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon

There are no stars this morning,
the clouds are thick as a winter blanket.
In the distance, a flash of lightning—
too far for a rumble of thunder—
then you sweep through my thoughts,
like a sudden breeze from a distant storm.

Do you hear the rain that falls upon your roof
when there is only you, the clock, and a pillow for comfort?
I wonder about the flashing traffic light outside your window,
the ribbons of street lights that wrap around your world
and tie into a beautiful bow . . . like a present.

You are special to me . . . like Christmas lights,
ribbons of beauty wrapped around a birthday present,

                           a gift.

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Virginia Jensen

1 Weight of a Petal, Shape of a Breeze

Russian Olives here are so laden with yellow blooms, 
"Olives Blossom" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
the petal weight pulls them down toward the ground. 
My emotions like gravity tug at each glorious branch 
and my heart swells for you like budding flowers. 

I remember dogwood, magnolia, jasmine,
azaleas and camellias; the cooling intake of wet air;
moist fertile earth and the noises of the night;
and miss them for the first time because you’re there.

I inhale the sweetness of you like these flowers. 
Millions of molecules of their sexual perfume 
waft over me like your loving attention,
like your famished hands limning every line of me.

You draw my breath away to linger in your mouth; 
my body vibrates to the sound of your voice, 
your gentle drawl nostalgic and sweet like honey, 
its soft romance intoned in my ears through the ether.

My body sways in your arms to the tango of love 
like those laden branches, as if the wind knows our music. 
Your eyes are the pale green of those leaves; your gaze 
shakes my limbs and makes my heart flutter like a leaf.

Disembodied words span the distance on winds of desire.
My life pales in the background and you are all I need.
The thrill when you arrive and pull me into your arms
says you want this too – our bodies locked in each others’ gravity.

How can I share you with your other world? 
Wavering between realities all day long, 
I remember our nights and long for sunset, wait
in this wet unsettled spring where the desert blooms.

2 Burden of Tears, Weight of Passion

Olive branches are laden with small fruit, 
myriad green teardrops sagging every branch, 
the wet weight of water pulling them
"Olives Ripe" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
wearily down to brush the cold ground

Petals lie browning on the grass.
The breeze has halted, tentative, and I
feel the chill of autumn in the air,
passing time a hollow tick in my heart.

Memory tells me you were only an illusion,
your love so surprising, so fleet.   
I imagined it all, and need not feel
the pain of a love with no substance.

Yet in a line down the front of my body 
your presence returns like a convulsion
of sorrow, a ghostly finger stirring to life
the vagus nerve connecting me to you– 

that sheathed channel where our love flowed
like the sap of the blossoming tree,
rooted in my belly where you 
melted my defense, planted your claim.

Rough roots suck at nurture no longer there, 
Ungiving now, no love comes through.
Are you hard of heart, an old tree, 
bereft of living sap, of living love for me? 

Or do you feel, still, the pulse of dance 
shushing through the laden branches,  
feel the lift and drop of the green limbs,
like mine in your arms when we danced?

Do you taste the air, remembering my breath, 
my mouth on yours, and yours on mine
the scent of my skin in your nostrils?
You are not gone from me, in body or in memory.

The fruit still hangs, hard and green
waiting for the sun to dry these tears,
turning each one pale and sere, 
letting them finally fall free.

The weight of my passion is too heavy,
burdened like these fruit-laden trees
My scale topples trying to balance 
this emptiness from you.

3 Fake Spring, Unfallen Fruit

The black skeletons of the Russian olive 
stand in the cold, covered with frosting.
Snow has fallen and I despair of ever 
"Olives Decayed" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
being in your arms again.

This cold parody of an African wedding, 
in photo gray, the ebony branches 
a Nubian bride’s graceful arms
garbed in January snow. 

The small fruits, long irregular clusters 
of beads, hanging from the bride’s veil 
still adorn the nuptial branches–
no natural wedding, this mockery. 

These pale tears will not let go. All winter 
they have tried to fall but been unable,
the hidden heart seeping inside,
love and hope unwilling to die.

Spring recovers beneath the silent ritual.
New flowers blossom early like hope
out of sync, while old tears still hang
unwilling to release their stubborn hold.

Early wet spring whispers of you, 
reminding me of the pain that refuses
to die. This sap in my heart still throbs.
These tears, withheld, cannot fall.

I’m eking out the embedded parts of you, 
the memories we shared, the way 
we sat together, how we cared
face to face, our hearts embraced.

The play was already written, I said,
we only have to say the lines, and I, 
the only audience, wept from the start 
for the end I only now can feel.

The weak heart breaks; and that’s the end.
the strong heart bends and bends and bends.
What greater love and pain than this,
that aches and aches, and aches again?

Poet’s Notes:  “Seasoned” was named at the point that I put it in the email to submit. The poem grew slowly over the three years that it was part of my life. I firmly believe that most people, especially those we may not suspect, have deep emotional experiences, and it is a pleasure to put mine into words so that others will know they are not alone in such feeling. Love is ubiquitous and mysterious, mundane and life-altering, ecstatic and terrifying. In the words of Joan Osborne, "Love comes down any way it wants to, doesn't ask for your permission. Open up your heart…."

Editor’s Note:  This poem is one of the finest I've read since I've taken on editorial duties with Songs of Eretz.  It blends a deep eroticism to a profound sadness that is beautifully matched by the progression of the olive tree's ripening, ripened, and rotting fruit.  JFWR

Editor’s Note:  I echo the sentiments of the Associate Editor and would add that I feel blessed to receive a submission from such an exceptional poet.  As a bonus, it is such a long poem.  Each part could stand alone, but together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I particularly enjoy the ironically playful way Virginia depicts the linea nigra in the 4th stanza of the 2nd part of the poem--breathtaking!  SWG

About the Poet:  Virginia Jensen has been writing poetry and fiction for decades but only recently has submitted her work for publication. Her life has been full of study, spiritual search, marriages, and a career in graphic design and publication.  She has a BA but pursued learning in an organic way, studying writing and art at Winthrop in South Carolina, art at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, design at The University of Utah, and writing at The University of New Mexico. She credits participation in numerous critique groups and workshops in Albuquerque and Grand Junction and conferences in Albuquerque, Grand Junction and Denver for her growth as a writer.

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"Display" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon

Animal Instinct
John C. Mannone
At times I bury my head
with other turkeys, ponder
what love is, after all,
there’s plenty of fish in the river,
but I’ve kept away from those
pretty piranhas. I found not

puppy, but grown-ass-dog love
and Holy Cow! there’s no
pussyfooting around about that.

When I tell her I’ll love you
until the sky falls, it’s not for
the chickens. I won’t fly the coop.

In a sow’s ear, those words are silk.

Sometimes I feel like a real jackass,
but never a snake in the flowerbed.
And sometimes we fight tooth & claw,

lioness and bear, then laugh
like hyenas before going
about our monkey business.

Poet’s Notes: Recently, someone asked me about my personal relationship. I felt like saying, “That’s none of your business.” Instead, I turned to poetry and answered with an extended metaphor using a number of animal clichés to address the issue of human relationships that are likely universal.

Editor’s Note:  The humour and double entendres here are just delicious!  SWG

John C. Mannone

There’s no control
"Internal Astra" | Ink, Watercolor, & Acrylic on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
by the zodiac stars—
No astral connection
No laws of physics
Causing attraction,
No portent of the future
But perhaps a sign
As spoken of in sacred
Texts—word pictures
Of good news. His star
Sparkles in me, a bright
Asterisk of my soul set
By the One who created
All, even the bright stars
In your eyes. Those 
Hold me captive.
When I’m near you
My heart is pulled
Inexorably by your
Strong gravity, electricity
Pulses then flares
Into a constellation
I can only feel
         But not control.

Poet’s Notes: Sometimes I wonder how (too many) people confuse astronomy with astrology. “Constellations” started as a rant in an earlier draft but eventually morphed into a poem. There are mysteries and mythologies in the constellations, perhaps based on some truths. But the one that captivates me most is the power of the stars shining in a lover’s eyes.

Editor’s Note:  One of the most worn-out clichés is to compare a lover's eyes to the stars, but John’s twist on the old theme here freshens up the presentation.  SWG

"Lovers" | Watercolor & Acrylic on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
 Unseen Words for the Goddess Venus
  John C. Mannone

  Let me punctuate the sky  tonight—I am the Moon,
  my crescent heart hooked on  you—but you cannot see
  the words I have written in the  dark, so come closer,
  catch me in the middle of the  sky, my love, and touch
  the words, the stars, that Braille  the night; your bright
  blue dot completes my sentence, and tomorrow, I will
  pause periodically and gaze intently at your naked light.

Poet’s Notes: Each time I witness the night sky with a crescent moon and Venus, I wax romantic. The poem is one long sentence, so this could have worked well as a prose poem with a slightly more fluid rhythm, but I’d be giving up a couple of good enjambments.

Editor’s Note:  I believe John dodged all of the cliché bullets here, and the result is a beautiful, modern, yet mythical love poem.  SWG 

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Dance Card in Tanka
Karla Merrifield

Call me Hedone
"Hedone" | Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
for I am pleasure’s goddess
who dances desire
through your body into your
holy imagination.

I.  Forest God
Ours is to tango, 
my Satyr, haunches taut in 
urgent lunges, teasing dips, 
muscular thrusts, your deep plunge—
o, musky satiation.

II.  Garden God 
Florid Priapus, 
come dance flamenco with me,
stamp, stamp, tap, tap, tap
me fevered to frenzy—
spun by slow beautiful hands.

III.  Sea God
Claim me, Poseidon,
for primal waltzing in Time,
for I am your tide,
sweeping, inevitable—
our consummation ordained.

Poet’s Notes: Is it love or is it lust?  Or is it a dance between the two? This sequence of tanka approaches answers to those questions. I deliberately chose the tanka form as a strategic tactic – a way to contain the explosive, oftentimes overwhelming and consuming nature of desire as it arises when we “fall in love.”

Editor’s Note:

Brava for Karla!
She has captured the spirit
of the tanka form
with her perfect examples
of the dancing of lovers.

Learn more about the tanka form here and stay tuned for our short Japanese poetry form themed issue forthcoming in May.  SWG

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The Nature of Love
Vivian Finley Nida

"Bluebird" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
On dry pasture’s uneven ground
I steady ladder husband climbs 
two dozen times each February 

Boots twang on aluminum steps
beneath everlasting azure sky, vivid 
as bluebirds whose houses we clean

I hand him drill to remove screws
lift roof.  He visually sweeps interior 
before reaching inside for old nest

cautious if unhatched eggs remain
stench of one broken worse than 
cow patties, impossible to scrape off

We replace damaged wood, nail nesting 
boxes to trees and fence posts in open spaces
facing east or northeast to avoid summer sun’s 

burnt orange inferno, same shade as breast of 
mother bird warming eggs blue as folded wings 
or rare pearl white found only once at main gate

After twelve days, parents perch on high wires
low branches, drop for insects, rise for berries
meet demands of fledglings together

Poet’s Notes:  For at least twenty-five years, my husband and I have gone to the family farm in February to prepare bluebird houses for new nests.  Our children always looked forward to it.  When our daughter was in college, she took an ornithology class and monitored the nests closely.  That year one nest had pearl white eggs.  Now our grandchildren have added their own decorated houses and take pride in checking those specifically.  A noticeable growth in the bluebird population makes us aware of the impact we have on the environment, and working together toward a common goal strengthens our family bond.

Editor’s Note:  There is so much love in this poem.  I especially enjoy the way that the love shared by the speaker and her husband is reflected in the mating and nesting "love" behavior of the bluebirds--themselves an avian metaphor for love.  The Poet's Notes bring the love of parents and children and grandchildren into the mix.  SWG

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"Offer" | Watercolor & Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Don’t Fall in Love with a Writer
Janel Nona

I remember the day that changed it all for me 
Do you?
At the Mexican spot around the corner from your mom’s house
We sat at the table with the uneven legs,
I scoffed under my breath, “God, how annoying.”

You’d find beauty in everything
You said it was the only tarnished table and me sitting there made it perfect.
I rolled my eyes.

You picked up the prospering rose from the glass bud vase and strategically yet delicately placed it to rest upon my ear.

You opened your notebook and asked me if I wanted to read you.
I frowned because the spine was bare and pages were frayed.
I didn’t realize that the beauty was on the inside, written on the pages.

“Let me hear it”

You began to read.
I was so enthralled by your words.
I sucked on the tip of my index finger to keep it wet for every page turn.
Every metaphor made my eyes light up
I watched you get high watching me
I felt every word, I fell deeper in love with every word.

That was then.
I realized now that you did think those things
But not for me
Almost like a template for every woman.
The high you got was from watching them fall in love with potential
You know exactly what they want to hear
So you let them read it instead.
What a lovely way with words you have
And you know just how to use them.

Poet’s Notes:  Manipulative people are all around us, and it’s easy to fall under their spell. In “Don’t Fall in Love with a Writer” the speaker is taken on a rollercoaster of emotions during a meeting with her lover. At first, you can sense the speaker’s reluctance, with the eye rolls and scoffing under her breath. For a moment she gets sucked in and you see her eyes light up as she falls “deeper in love.” The speaker realizes she is being used, and the poem ends. There is room to question whether she was strong enough to leave or not.

Editor’s Note:  I guess I too am manipulated as I read this poem as I find the narrative here is riveting.  The naïveté of the speaker at first to the machinations of the writer followed by the speaker's later realization that she was being seduced and played is quite breathtaking.  SWG

About the Poet:  Janel Nona is an artist and native of New York City.  When she’s not writing, you can find her listening to vinyls with candles burning and editing videos for her YouTube channel. You can also find her exploring the newest art exhibits downtown and hopping on the train to Park Slope to develop another roll of 35mm film. 

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"Widow" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
  Widows from the First
  James Frederick William Rowe

  They wore white  flowers in their hair
  And wore such gowns as brides must do
  But they were widows from the first
  Married to the men that fell
  Wives to soldiers freshly dead
  Unnumbered slain by hell were claimed
  Lost amidst the scathing flames
  And the wives to them were also fed
  In succession one by one they leapt
  The men they could not serve in life
  They would gladly love instead in death


Poet’s Notes:  I wrote “Widows from the First” a few years ago. The germ of its premise came to me in reflecting over a   comment made in Dune--that old men use young men to fight wars that they might keep   the women for themselves.  When young men go off to war and die before fathering   children, they may as well have never been born, at least as far as posterity is concerned.   This thought led me to imagine a society that understood this sacrifice and took it   seriously.
  The story of the "bereaved sweetheart" of a young soldier who went off to die is one that has been with us as long as there have been wars.  I am reminded of the droves of women who lost their boyfriends and husbands in the World Wars. But instead of living out their lives in regret, the women in the poem who "could not serve in life" choose to "gladly love instead in death"—that is, they volunteer to join them.  I am certainly not advocating that our society adopt this custom.  However, it is undeniably romantic.

In terms of the poem's structure and overall aesthetics, though it is free form and consists of a single stanza, I feel there is a certain musical quality to it. The first two verses have always had a singsong quality in my mind, and then the poem dips for the next four, which harmonizes with their general sadness. The poem then climbs back up to join the leaping of the widows until a plateau is reached in the concluding verses, where the bittersweet fate of the widows is resolved.

I recall having an easy time writing this and I believe I did so in less than a day. I do not recall the entire process, but it was not one that required much in the way of revision. The first two verses came to me suddenly, and the rest followed in short order. Sometimes inspiration works out, and I believe it did with this poem.

Editor’s Note:  The first eight lines have a nice balladic rhythm and a near traditional balladic rhyme scheme that James appears to recognize as its "singsong quality."  I would go so far as to say that Yeats has penned worse.  The last three lines one must force into the balladic form, and the price paid for this is a bit of awkwardness, but this forced quality actually mirrors and enhances the narrative at that juncture.  The "missing" 12th line of this "ballad," whether intentional or not, represents the emptiness in the aftermath of the brides' sacrifices.  SWG

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"We used to Walk" | Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
Quiet Sleep
Karen Shepherd

I miss the miles we walked in quiet sleep.
Our dreaming selves ignored the lethal stake:
those moments lost. Now we can only weep

for angry words we flung in woods so deep.
They stuck, like leaves to our old broken rake.
I miss the miles we walked in quiet sleep.

A part of you was never mine to keep
or hold. A fleeting, fragile snowy flake,
the moment melted. We can only weep.

The honeysuckle ached to spread and creep.
The overlooked sweet blooms were our mistake.
I miss the miles we walked in quiet sleep.

In time, we learned to wade and swim out deep,
then face the sun and float upon the lake,
those moments light, so we could only weep.

Our bodies twined, this memory to seep
in our shared slumber, snug in morning’s break.
I miss the miles we walked in quiet sleep.
Those moments lost, now I can only weep.

Poet’s Notes: Sometimes form can help me find the poem.  Villanelles offer a challenge in terms of crafting the repeated lines to pull through a theme.  The first draft of this was actually a sonnet inspired by Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, but then it took some different directions when I plugged the couplet from that draft into this form.  The context changed, becoming a weaving of the complexities commonly found in relationships.

Editor’s Note:  Karen uses the rhythm of this touching villanelle to express life’s rhythms of love, forgiveness, and loss. Her reference to Japanese honeysuckle’s urge to smother native blooms speaks to me of neglect in the relationship.  TLC

About the Poet:  Karen Shepherd lives with her husband and two teenagers in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys walking in forests and listening to the rain. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in various online and print journals including Constellate Literary Journal, The Literary Nest, Halfway Down the Stairs, Riddled With Arrows, and Wales Haiku Journal.  Follow her at

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Paper Roses
Bobbi Sinha-Morey

"Wax Rose" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
They came from so far away,
letters written in a beautiful
hand; his words, his thoughts,
I loved to read again and again.
A man I'd only met once before;
and as the months turned to
years, I'd write him by lamplight
or by the blue sky of my bedroom
window, his love blowing like
a gentle breeze through prairie
grasses, every letter he sent
I always kept as if each one
were a paper rose. I described
to him the world I lived in,
the ivy-covered brick house
I had grown up in, wishing
he were here so I could wrap
myself around him. A man
in my life, only by pen, and
I'd learned so much about him.
One day he said he'd shorten
the miles to meet me in the
rolling green hills beyond my
home. It was a Sunday and
tears were in my eyes when
he gave me a wedding ring:
a ruby in the center of a
golden rose.

Poet's Notes:  Looking back on my life, I loved the time when I was a teenager and how I always liked writing long letters to my favorite aunt. I always had the perfect place to write the letters--inside my bedroom while looking out my window. Years later when I was in my twenties, I wrote to a soldier and I fell in love with the idea that he was a pen pal. This was the inspiration for my poem.

Editor’s Note:  This is a truly splendid poem--tremendously moving, with a theme of beautiful love kept alive through distance and time. There is a true sense of purity of love that stems from a young, girlish giving of love without reserve--a theme which I believe is sorely needed in these days of cynicism and disparagement of the possibilities of love. I especially enjoy the concluding verses. JFWR

About the Poet:  Bobbi Sinha-Morey's poetry has appeared in a wide variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene's Fountain, Helix Magazine, The Wayfarer, Miller's Pond, and Old Red Kimono. Her books of poetry are available from Amazon, and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net, and the Best of the Net 2018 Anthology Awards. 

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Navigation, a Love Poem
Howard Stein       
"Navigation" | Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
I navigate by the stars
To steer my ship’s course.
The night sky tells me
Where I am and where I am headed.

Then, like a supernova,
You appear out of the darkness,
Outshine even Venus.
I do not need to take a reading
To find you, night upon night.

We met at sea
In Debussy’s dialogue
Of the wind and waves.
You came as surprise;
I let go the helm.
You guided my ship
Into safe harbor.

Poet's Notes:  For nearly two years, I have been working with a long-time friend and co-author on a book that draws upon my poetry from organizational /workplace life to understand the experience of "toxic organizations" that wound if not kill the soul of employees. One of our central images that ties the book together is that of the triangle: of poem, story behind the poem, and psychodynamic interpretation.

My friend was in the Navy during the Viet Nam War and became interested in the role of triangulation in navigating a ship in the open sea toward its destination. We talked a lot about this process during our weekly Skype visits. As I began to write a love poem, I was drawn to my fantasy of naval navigation and followed where the image took me until it turned into a poem about following love's guidance. The line “Of the wind and waves” is a reference to Claude Debussy, La Mer, Third Movement.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way Howard incorporates music into this lyrical love poem.  There are cliché elements, which are nearly unavoidable in poems of romantic love, but the poetry is good enough to overcome them.  SWG 

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"Blue Ridge Parkway" | Ink, Watercolor, & Acrylic on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
First Date
Charles A. Swanson

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia is not only scenic, but also romantic, especially on 
a clear night.  The overlooks catch the height of stars and the breadth of man-made
lights twinkling from vast distances.  Springtime breathes sweetness carried on an 
uplift of breeze.  We drove and talked, parked and talked, and looked not only into 
physical distances but into spiritual ones as well.  Later we drove the same road again, 
and I pulled over at what I hoped was the same overlook.  This time, in the middle of 
a babble of hopeful words, I extended to her the ring of promise.

Poet’s Notes:  That first date was a blind date.  We discovered we could talk to each other and that our goals were similar.  The drive, the night, the stars, the quiet talk, the ambience of shared dreams--they are all there as we celebrate forty-two years of married life. 

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"Bond" | Ink on Paper | Jason Artemus Gordon
  If One Day
  Alessio Zanelli
              For Jane

  Your last breath, awake,
  flows into my eternal sigh;
  your eyelids, soon to yield,
  secure my window open wide.

  And while you dream of us
  as having always been together,
  the dark lights up,
  our little room dilates,
  I travel through the  depths of time
  and see ourselves so far ahead—
  yet close, forever one.

  Then here is what I  further view:
  even if one day we chanced 
  around these very parts
  in completely different forms,
  say—you a doe to rove the woods
  and I the wind to blow the dells—
  we would abide until we joined anew.

  You would hasten hilltop-bound,
  looking for a sign;
  I would linger all around,
  wrapping you as mine.

Poet’s Notes:  This is one of the few love poems I have written in the last decade, and is dedicated to my wife.

Editor’s Note:  This is a powerful romantic love poem.  Alessio managed to avoid the usual clichés, and I enjoy the message that the lovers were destined for each other no matter in what form.  Set this to the right music, and Alessio could be a rock star.  SWG

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Poetry Review

Fan Mail from Some Flounder by Lisa Vihos
Reviewed by Sylvia Cavanaugh

I first met the author of Fan Mail for Some Flounder (Main Street Rag Press), Lisa Vihos, through her role as organizer of 100 Thousand Poets for Change in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and later through her role as Poetry and Arts Editor of Stoneboat Literary Journal. Since then, I have been delighted to get to know her poetry as well.  A poet-activist, Vihos has been awarded a Vassar College Time Out Grant for her work in building a children’s reading garden at a school in Malawi.  She is the author of three other books of poetry and the blog Frying the Onion

A philosophical treatise on poets and poetry, Fan Mail for Some Flounder is sprinkled with Vihos’s hallmark sense of the humor found in everyday life.  In it, Vihos demonstrates her poetic chops with many poems written in free verse as well as in form, including pantoums, apostophes, villanelles, and sonnets.  

The collection begins with a poem written as a letter to Mark Strand, where the speaker light-heartedly looks for a connection to the acclaimed poet. The theme of engaging with dead poets in an effort to understand poetry, and even oneself, yields a comprehensive exploration of the meaning of poetry as it relates to life. 

In her poem “What I’d Say If I Were Billy Collins’ Mother Responding to His Poem “The Lanyard,”’ the speaker understands the economics of childhood and a child’s lack of material wealth that the lanyard “wrought” on a summer afternoon when the child might have been otherwise swimming in an Adirondack lake. The speaker then recognizes the thought that went into constructing the lanyard--

            …despite its small and useless nature. To know
            you sat immobile on a workbench for a while
            and meditated on me as you twisted colored strands
            together to make the boxy lanyard is return enough.
The cumulative effect of these poems is to see the tightly interwoven connection between the poet as a writer and the poet as a human being. I am reminded of Yeats’ line, “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” from “Among School Children”

“The Body of My Words” delves into the interrelationship between inhabiting a woman’s body and coming to poetry later in life. The structure of the poem mirrors the structure of the body, yet there is more--poetic words can also nourish the body and make it stronger--

            …my poem, my love, in whom I meet my fate
            and in its eyes, see every memory I own
            The body of my words has found me late.

Vihos does not shy away from strong imagery, and her poems engage all the senses.  In “Questions for the Open Road, for Walt Whitman,” Vihos begins by summoning the physicality of walking the road in “Fatiguers of hamstrings” and “sinews work like pulleys.” And Vihos makes death poetic in “Come Again, for Sylvia Plath,” with “Leave the frame to decay. / Peel skin and hair away. / Rise up on wings.”

As both a writer and poetry editor, Vihos has rich advice on the art and craft of writing poetry. The more philosophical poems in the collection are interspersed with reflections on craft.  She urges readers to 

            touch down
            on wet grass
            your pencil
            and paper.
            A poem
            will come
            Give in.
            Give in.

After beginning Fan Mail for Some Flounder with a humorous letter to a dead poet, Vihos works her way to more philosophical poems on death near the end of the book. However, even her poems on death offer something uplifting. Again, one may read life as poetry and poetry as life, as in these opening lines from “Poem for the Passing”--

            You are getting it all wrong
                        my friend,
            because no matter where we go
                        we never completely disappear.

Fan Mail for Some Flounder leaves one wanting to dive deeper into a poetic life. Vihos employs humor, philosophy, and the senses to encourage readers and writers of poetry to “Give in.”

Are you the author or editor of a poetry collection, a poetry magazine, or other long poetic work?  If you would like to see a review of your work published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, please see our "Review Guidelines" section for details

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Frequent Contributor News
New FC Sylvia Cavanaugh had her poem "Why Do We Have to Have A Seating Chart?" included in From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology (Water's Edge Press).

Assistant Editor Terri Lynn Cummings will present her poetry at the 40th Annual Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference, February 20-23, 2019, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Along with New FC Vivian Finley Nida, she was also accepted to present her work at the 14th Annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, April 4-6, 2019, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma (see poster below).  Terri received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Annual Contest of Oklahoma City Writers, Inc. in the Nostalgia Category for her poem “Muse”, and Second Place in the Humor Category for her poem “Do Something”, and Second Place in the Poetry Category for her poem “First Loss”.

Former FC Mary Soon Lee had three poems published in Star*Line #42.1, Winter 2019, titled "New Year's Resolutions," "Unicorn Care," and "Snubbed."

FC John C. Mannone has been appointed the 2019 Dwarf Stars Chair by the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). He is actively looking for stellar (pun intended) examples of short pieces of speculative poetry as defined in the SFPA Guidelines

New FC Karla Linn Merrifield continues her world voyage aboard the Queen Mary 2 toward India and further east where she also continues to reflect on her adventures in poetry. Among the poems she's writing is a series of one-a-day poems that take a variety of poetic forms from haiku and tanka to etheree to Fibonacci to modern sonnet, etc. "These poems are kisses blown to loved ones across the miles that I hope will become a collection of 108 poems in what I've come to think of as a pillow book," she said. "Today is Day 31 [February 3]--so I have a ways to go."

New FC Vivian Finley Nida has been selected to read her poetry at the 14th annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, April 4-6, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma.  Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith will read from 7-8:30 Thursday night, April 4. The festival is free and open to the public. For more information see the poster below and

Former FC Aparna Sanyal recently had her poem “My Husband Eats a Crocodile at the Bangkok Night Market” published in Penn Review 

New FC Charles A. Swanson will address a class of high school seniors in February, reading from his own work, and discussing strategies for successful essay responses to the poetry analysis question on the AP Literature exam.  During February and March, he and fellow teachers will exchange AP essays for a mock exam practice.   Each teacher will evaluate the essays of students from fellow teachers’ classes and provide feedback.

FC Alessio Zanelli had his poem "A Book About To Burn" published in issue 40/41 of The Nashwaak Review, a literary magazine published by St. Thomas University, Canada

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Lana the Poetry Dog
The next issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review (March/April 2019) will have a "Fantasy & Fairytale" theme and will be published in mid-March.  Associate Editor James Frederick William Rowe will be the primary editor.  Submissions for that issue are now closed, but submissions for the issue after that--our April/May "Spring" theme issue due out in mid-April--are now open.  

You will not want to miss the announcement of the poems that finished in the top three of the fifth (and final) Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest, judged by Montana Poet Laureate Lowell Jaeger.  These winning poems will be published in late February in a special edition of Songs of Eretz.  Honoraria will be awarded for first place ($1,000), second place ($200), and third place ($100).

The original paintings and drawings (and prints of them) created by our Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon and used for the illustrations in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review are available for purchase with and without copies of the poems that inspired them.  Please visit our "Artwork Store" page for details

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