Sunday, November 17, 2019


November 2019 "Autumn" Theme Issue
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Cover Art "Autumn Gull" [Watercolor on Paper] 
Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are the work of our Art Editor or taken from "royalty-free" open internet sources.

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Table of Contents
A Letter from the Editor
Guest Poet Aashika Suresh
“During the War”
Guest Poet Steve Luria Ablon
“Veterans Day November 11, 2018”
Howard Stein
“Cottonwood Leaves in Autumn, Ghost Ranch, NM”
Vivian Nida
“Autumnal Equinox”
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
“Autumn in Bordertown”
John C. Mannone
“A Fall Poem”
Terri Lynn Cummings
“Autumn’s Playbook”
Guest Poet John Davis
“Double Reverse”
Charles A. Swanson
“At the edge of dusk”
Guest Poet Elena Nola
“Like Roses in November”
James Frederick William Rowe
Gene Hodge
Guest Poet Susan Coultrap-McQuin
“Autumn Squabbles”
Guest Poet Hibah Shabkhez
“The Martyrs of the Fall”
Alessio Zanelli
Ross Balcom
“The Apple Roar of Autumn”
Sylvia Cavanaugh
“Oak Tree of November”
Poetry Review
Black Sunday by Benjamin Myers
   Reviewed by Terri Lynn Cummings
Frequent Contributor News

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A Letter from the Editor 

Autumn marks the close of the "relaxed" summer season and, for most people, a return to routine, shorter days, cooler temperatures. Bittersweet, say some. Ambivalent, say others. Sad. Relieved. Enriched. Always, endings evoke a spectrum of emotions, filling the poet’s and philosopher’s well with rich pigments from which to write.  Perhaps poetry is like a leaf that changes color as it falls to the page.

Nature, with each metamorphosis, determines beauty and its peculiarities. So too, human nature determines whether poems variegate or fade, sizzle or drown, inspire or bore. Certainly, when a poem succeeds like fiery autumn, it begs to be seen again. The poems in this issue evoke a colorful gamut of emotions and more.


Terri Lynn Cummings
Assistant Editor

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During the War
Aashika Suresh

three-season silence:
a barn owl delivers home
single maple leaf

Poet’s Notes:  I read somewhere that maple leaves are supposedly a symbol of unity and peace. I have never seen one of these in real life. This poem is inspired by three disparate things: Ilya Kaminsky's widely-shared poem, "We Lived Happily During the War," the lockdown in the Indian state of Kashmir, and a picture of rusty autumn leaves that my best friend sent from London. 

About the Poet:  Aashika Suresh is a sunlight seeker, coffee addict, and poetry aficionado from the coastal city of Chennai, India. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Bones JournalWax Art and PoetryWiFi for Breakfast (Anthology), Chestnut Review, and Royal Rose, among others. When not writing, you can find her petting puppies, chasing after butterflies, or stuffing her face with chips. 

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Veterans Day November 11, 2018
Steve Luria Ablon

I am a veteran. I am a scrub oak,
bending by the Atlantic Ocean,
my leaves brown, a wrinkled skin,
scratching each other like the ponderous
passing of seasons, a perpetual

motion, collusions of wind and sun.
Yet many leaves adhere despite
the certainty of breaking loose
writhing in the wind and settling on 
predecessors sinking into mulch.

Here a leaf trembles, displays a tinge of red
emblazoned like fire from fall, the skies.
Spider webs grope across incandescent
memories, soon ashes. Interstices of organic
and inorganic, not easily parsed but decisive.

Poet’s Notes:  I grew up in the hills, a farm in Connecticut, and college in western Massachusetts. Each year, watching the leaves color and fall, I thought about the organic becoming inorganic, the liminal space between life and death, a space where we are all veterans as soon as we are born.

About the Poet:  Steven Luria Ablon, poet and adult and child psychoanalyst, teaches child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and publishes widely in academic journals. His poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines including The Brooklyn ReviewPloughsharesThe Princeton Arts Review. His previous collections of poetry are Tornado Weather (Mellen Poetry Press, Lewiston, New York, 1993),  Flying Over Tasmania (The Fithian Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1997), Blue Damsels (Peter E Randall Publisher, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 2005), Night Call (Plain View Press, Austin, Texas, 2011), and Dinner in the Garden (Columbia, South Carolina, 2018). His website is

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Cottonwood Leaves in Autumn, Ghost Ranch, NM
Howard Stein       
Across the parched hayfield  
A stand of old cottonwood
Lines the banks of a mostly
Languid arroyo.
Come late September,
We can hardly wait
For the first cold snap,
When summer’s ripe green leaves
Abruptly change to brilliant yellow.

Of the many ways of reckoning time,
We mark ours by fall’s alchemy
Of cottonwood’s color –
Transmutation of leaves
Through a shift in the direction
Of earth’s tilt
In its journey around the sun.

How odd, that when
Explanation should suffice,
We nonetheless welcome
This transposition in color
As if a loved one
Had just returned home?

Poet's Notes:  Almost ever since I moved to Oklahoma forty years ago, massive, stately, tenacious cottonwood trees have seized my imagination and never let go. They have become personal totems. They tend to flourish along stream beds where they can gather and store water and go for long periods of drought. They are "survivors" where much less hearty vegetation long ago disappeared. I have written numerous poems about them.

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Autumnal Equinox
Vivian Finley Nida

Yesterday it rained, but today, gold 
sifts through scattered clouds
We swish through seas of Indian Grass

Switch Grass, Purple Top, Bluestem 
carrying fishing poles, tackle boxes
to a spring-fed pond

Red sumac borders flat rocks 
scaled with moss 
Musty carpet of pine needles and

lemon yellow leaves warms dark earth
A caterpillar, pale green suit
with red and white tuxedo stripes

hair in spiny bristles
sting worse than a bee’s
moves through debris to sleep 

swaddled in tightly woven cloak
He’ll wake next summer as IO moth
Wings with mesmerizing 

black and blue eyespots 
will flutter above this water 
where three turtles refuse 

to look at us, but a bullfrog
immersed, except for bulging eyes
stares, unblinking. We cast 

Wild-eyed shad lures splash
sink, search, seduce bass
Iridescent scales shimmer

in radiant light
Set free, it slips back 
into Neptune’s world

Poet Notes:  My husband and I, along with our children and grandchildren, spent the first day of autumn on family land my husband walked with his father and grandfather.  We visit frequently and identify so much with the place that I wanted to write about the joy we find here, especially in the small things that mark a new season.

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"Across the St. Croix" | Digital Photograph | Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Autumn in Bordertown
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

The Saint Croix River doth rise and fall
Her fluctuations so extreme
One could walk across to Faeryland
And at other times be swept out to sea
Where the right whales dance in the Bay of Fun.

As seen from our side of the wide Saint Croix
The mountains of Faery slowly bloom and fade
While the river takes months to rise and fall
To the ken of faery eyes in the mountains high
While the right whales dance in the Bay of Fun.

Poet’s Notes:  I live in Calais, Maine on the Saint Croix River, which empties into the Bay of Fundy, which leads out to the open Atlantic Ocean.  The nearly extinct right whales (only about 400 remain on earth) can sometimes be spotted in the Bay.

Across the river lies Canada, which seems like a mythical land of elves and faeries after living in Calais for a while--Calais with its population of 3,000 and dwindling and where the nearest airport in Bangor is a two-hour drive on a good day.  One of Neil Gaiman’s favorite books of all time, The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany, inspired this poem.

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A Fall Poem
John C. Mannone

It’s too easy to write about falling
down, like a leaf spent of summer,
trading its bright green chlorophyll
of youth for the sweetness of age,
a sugary love flaring like sun’s fire
scorching horizon, but before the
crisp crinkle of skin, brown-mottled
smiles curl up with the tannic
truth of getting old. It’s easy to fall
prey to the wind, to the shake
of time, to the cradle of coffined air.
Drift, drift, drift down to the soft
spoken prayer, for it won’t waver
in its cycles—the lift and fall
of wings on their way to breaking
the silence of death.

Poet’s Notes:  When it is difficult to avoid the expected, as with seasonal poems, I rely on detailed images and the use of language together with the turn of the line to provide a fresh poem.

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Autumn’s Playbook
Terri Lynn Cummings

Pigskin moon
soars above a stand
of pines, goal posts
rooted in fall’s
painted field

Intricate patterns
surge, collapse
caught in clock

mindless of score
before next quarter—
each conversion
a crisp snap
of nature

Poet’s Notes:  In my home state, college football reigns every fall. It provides a metaphor and fresh terminology to describe the season’s evolution.

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Double Reverse
John Davis

Leaves have wrapped tired knots
around themselves against a ground
suddenly muddy and more muddy among
our thundering shoes. Men too old
to play football are two-hand touching
a Thanksgiving Day. We are thankful
for ligaments and spines and standing
water that we slide through, tuck the ball,
slide, splash, crash. 
                                    It’s fourth down.
The air smells of wet wash. Our mud faces
hang like wrinkled jeans. In the huddle
Doug diagrams a play in his palm,
looks eyes to muddy eye, exacting
as a Pilgrim might have been before walking
on the new shore and pulling a double reverse
on the Wampanoag people years before designing
the Statue of Liberty play.

Poet’s Notes:  Leaves, mud, and football help define autumn. Before a Thanksgiving feast, I played a touch football game on a muddy field after two weeks of rain. Bodies slid, flopped, caught passes, dropped passes. We were mud-caked, grinning ear to ear before we sat down to dinner, thankful for joy, reflecting on history and the turns that had brought us to that point in our lives. 

About the Poet:  John Davis is the author of two collections, Gigs (Sol Books) and a chapbook The Reservist (Pudding House). His work has appeared recently in DMQ ReviewIron Horse Literary ReviewOne, and Rio Grande Review. A retired high school teacher of forty years, he moonlights in blues and rock and roll bands.

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At the edge of dusk
Charles A. Swanson

Thou art my refuge,
                  my portion
                             in the land of the living
                                         Psalm 142:5,RSV

one hand stretches for pears
                             one steadies on the trunk
sugar-drunk buck hornets
                  hollowed fruit
                           skin shrunk over emptiness
a small fight for remnants
                  small steps
                           small steps and stumbling
once I could not keep
                  your stride
                           tenderly, we touch the pears
turn them, the bees buzz
                           hidden in the walls of fruit
breath comes hard to legs
                  blood slows
                           feet heavy as old work shoes
you say words to me
                  well worn
                           words of your dad your youth
stories that hide something
                           something you can’t see
I read signs, stumbles,
                  (touch my face)
                           your smile as slow as evening
you have come late
                  (touch my face)
                           ready to leave
you drowse on my couch
                  (I touch your face)
                           you love pear preserves
father, our land calls
                  autumn, a falling,
                           father, let’s chase the bees

Poet’s Notes:  This fall, once again, we have pears, and we have buck hornets, but my father is no longer with me. For breakfast today, I ate an English muffin with pear preserves. (Dad would have preferred a biscuit.) I remembered again how the pear syrup tastes like honey, and I thought, “That’s why dad loved pear preserves, that taste so much like honey.” Remembrance is a honey—even when the buck hornets are buzzing. 

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Like Roses in November
Elena Nola

There's a certain kind of sadness
To roses in November 
Flowers blooming in a world 
That otherwise is dying
The color more intense 
For its contrast to the brown
The living edged with danger
With winter coming on
For what will freezing nights inflict
On saturated branches?
The beauty melancholy-cast
For it will not last the month
The end of all its glory,
Already past its prime 
But still it dominates the landscape,
All its rivals now outshone
Today it yet is beauty
The future not yet come

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is part of a collection I’m finishing that explores my relationship with perfume as wearable art and identity expression. Scent, for me, has become a way to navigate back to emotional balance via sensory beauty - there have been days in the last few years when that beauty was the only light I could find. I also really love art in conversation with other forms of art, and many perfumers have poets' souls. The inspiration scent is a dry, autumnal rose. At this time of life, I may or may not feel like the rosebush.

About the Poet:  Elena Nola is a 2005 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (English and Plan II). Her work has appeared in Riddled with ArrowsConscious; the zine, and The Texas Poetry Calendar. She prefers colors to drab, feathers to bones, and capes to coats.

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James Frederick William Rowe

The withered leaves sang a song of autumn
And I listened
Beneath a rain of acorns
Drum beat to the promise
Of the coming spring.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem came suddenly in the afternoon when I came home from work out of a desire to write a poem about the fall. It is simple and to the point, focused as it is on the promise of new life from the dropping acorns which are scattered so often beneath the withered leaves. Autumn is often viewed in light of the dying of the year, but I think of it as the hope for a rebirth as well.

The poem is short and aesthetically simple, with the use of "song" and "drumbeat" to give an aural tone to what is more often experienced visually.

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Gene Hodge

Here is autumn,
     Curling-up beside me
Like a campfire hugs a chilly night.

Yesterday, summer was harvested
     By the fall equinox—
Leaving me in despair.

But now…
     A cool October breeze
signs through empty trees
     as I snuggle

In the warmth of a contented soul.

Poet’s Notes:  I’m a summer person. Relishing in the warm sun with only shorts and bare feet—feeling carefree as nature.  But as I sat out back one cool October morning, I became pensive.

Wrapped in a blanket, enjoying my first cup of coffee, the breeze rustling leaves of tall oaks seemed to speak. I felt the sadness of the sun traveling south across the fall equinox as if it was the last day of summer vacation.  Then… images of friends and family laughing and singing around a happy campfire appeared across the screen of a cloudy sky. At that moment, I let go, and my spirit was rekindled.

I will rest for a season, look inward and be one with creation.  Already, deep within, spring is gathering nutrients for a new birth.

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Autumn Squabbles
Susan Coultrap-McQuin

Geese squabble in the chill air.
More than we’ve seen all summer
glide across gray-sky waters,
then feast on the dying shore.

The ferns, burnt orange,
bow to the changing light,
while coral bells cling
to the lime green of spring.

Gold and red leaves blaze
above tall amber grasses.
Their white tassels sway softly,
preview whiter days to come.

Every year the same gifts,
wrapped like a birthday surprise—
colorful papers do the trick,
and we forget the year that’s gone.

Poet’s Notes: As much as I love the fall, it also brings regret that another year has passed.  The beauty fools us;  winter is always close behind.

About the Poet:  Susan Coultrap-McQuin was a former faculty member and administrator who has returned in retirement to her first love--writing poetry.  She lives in Minnesota where colorful falls quickly disappear into winter. She enjoys gardening, boating, and spending time with her family exploring nature and the world.  She has recently completed a chapbook of travel poems.

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The Martyrs of the Fall
Hibah Shabkhez

The plan suddenly made sense. The ones gilt
And withered by age would break off and sail 
Downward as tribute until the earth built
Autumn’s crackling carpet, for winds to wail

And booted feet to march through. This would save
The raw brown promise of spring that quivered
In the bereft branches that themselves gave
Wholly to sorrow, that whirled and shivered

Under the blows and bleachings of Winter.
But in the despair of the mother tree
Their ardour would have planted the splinter
Of the hope that can rewrite destiny.

Poet's Notes: This poem grew out of the line, "The plan suddenly made sense," a wizened father taking his daughter to school on a bicycle, navigating his way through a road jammed with cars and motorbikes, and three laughing students walking across a school garden in September with their teacher. Exactly how all of that fused and metamorphosized into this is quite beyond me, but I shall be eternally grateful that it did do so.

About the Poet: Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in The Mojave Heart ReviewThird WednesdayBrinePetrichorRemembered ArtsRigorous, and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages, and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.  Enjoy her Blog:, and feel free to connect with her on Twitter: @hibahshabkhez.

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Alessio Zanelli

Strata of flattened mist
begin to invade the soundless plain.

Long-emptied fields
and crops still waiting to be harvested
are slowly blurred away,
till dusk blots out them all.

The last migrating bird has gone,
perhaps the snow is not too far to come.

Assailed by gloom
and gripped by doubt
I check what’s left
inside my crazy summer-end’s
untidied secret drawer.

Cracked flakes of staling bran.
Dried drops of bottled brine.
Loose scraps of withered brain.

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The Apple Roar of Autumn
Ross Balcom

The apple roar of Autumn deafened me,
set me reeling under gray skies.

They found me later, unconscious,
bleeding from my ears.

"The apple roar, the apple roar..."

The heavens rained cider for forty days and nights,
and I wept to know my sins.
Thunder shook me.

"The apple roar, the apple roar..."

The rain stopped. The skies cleared.
Autumn blazed in yellow, red, and gold.
I walked into the flames, proclaiming myself King of Hell.

"The apple roar, the apple roar..."

The apple roar consumed me.

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Oak Tree of November
Sylvia Cavanaugh

You look like a madwoman, you guardian of abandoned playgrounds
with the sighs of empty swings whistling in the wind. Unashamed
of your thick-ankled naked body. Your frosted Einstein hair sizzles

all afternoon. In the name of the missing children, you stand firm
and beckon the sun with brittle brown leaves sporting veins etched 
in ice, like old peasant hands—a lifetime of tilling soil, baking bread.

Your mystic hands construct woody girth out of sunlight and thin air.
Talk about Einstein. You beckon our star down to earth so it might
taste dirt. O, earth-rooted sun, like some locust-eating prophet you

grant this vision that never blinds—your living layer of cells, poised 
in the translucent thinness of now, clings to proud concentric pipes 
of your past. The years of summer drought hold you up. Years of cold

springs hold you up. The years of flood hold you up. Years of fire
and years of insect plague hold you up. Then, too, you sport that cute 
little knot where the workman severed your low-hanging branch. You

understand November’s missing children with their troubles and grief. 
Years of hardship hold you up stronger than steel and give you the grace 
to whisper furry flowers every spring so that abundant autumn acorns

can drop for jitterbug squirrels and pockets. Your inner bark hydrates 
leaf-flutter imagination before changing to a stony-strong wall etched
in primeval runes. Your leaves eat carbon dioxide and cast cool shade.

Poet’s Notes:  I've been reading about trees lately and have been marveling at the process of photosynthesis and the role trees play in reducing carbon. I've also been impressed with the rings of the tree, representing years, and that lost years hold up the tree and give it structure. The tree is a metaphor for resilience and healing. 

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Poetry Review
Black Sunday by Benjamin Myers
Review by Terri Lynn Cummings

In his latest body of work, Black Sunday (Lamar University Literary Press, Beaumont, Texas, 2019), Benjamin Myers, the former poet laureate of Oklahoma, author of two previous poetry books, and winner of the Oklahoma Book Award, bears witness to lives, livelihoods, hopes, and prayers smothered by dust.  Myers’ meticulous research includes Sanora Babb’s Whose Names Are Unknown. According to him, her novel is “superior even to Steinbeck’s dust bowl classic in its humane depiction of the dust bowl farmers.” He also includes Lawrence Svobida’s first-hand account, Farming in the Dust Bowl, among others. Black and white images placed throughout the book thirst for rain and color, courtesy of photographer Arthur Rothstein.

Myers employs fictional characters to shoulder the wind’s storm, exposing raw, unapologetic history from actual events. A farmer, his wife, their daughter, a school teacher, the transplanted Presbyterian minister, and a town drunk round out the cast. The farmer, when listing his assets for another bank loan application, writes, “800 acres of itch, grit, and chirr/crawling with hoppers, burning like a match./All mine….”

In Part One:  The Dust Bowl Sonnets, every character speaks in sonnet form except the minister, who, Myers remarked, “refused to conform.” Here the sonnets end, and narrative poems examine backstory. 

Part Two:  The Faith Healer, uses an unnamed friend of the farmer’s wife to depict the wife’s childhood “gift.” Said the friend, “Well, like I said, the healing kept up all week/maybe six, seven hours a day./At Supper time her Daddy told them all/to leave. He’d stand there with his gun and say/I’ll shoot whoever tries to hang around….”

Benjamin Myers’ astute, tender, yet unsentimental approach to storytelling transforms the reader into a witness--a masterful stroke. Open Black Sunday and enter the Dust Bowl.

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Frequent Contributor News
Editor-in-Chief Steven Wittenberg Gordon is pleased to announce that "Nightmare in Xipan", a fantasy/horror/mystery story taken from his unpublished novel The Last Paladin, was published in Jitter Press #8, November 2019

Former FC Mary Soon Lee had five poems published. "How to Curve Spacetime" and "Not For Sale" are both in the November/December 2019 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. "Tall Tale" is in Star*Line #42.4, Fall 2019. "How to Trick a Trickster" is in Eye to the Telescope #34 Lastly, "Witch" is online at Polu Texni

Former FC Lauren McBride is pleased to announce that her poem, "Our Sky Full of Light," was published in Balloons Literary Journal, Issue 10  She also has an article in the November 2019 issue of Scifaikuest titled, "The Not So Simple Cinquain"

FC Alessio Zanelli is pleased to announce that his poem “One Last Gin And Tonic At La Hacienda” was recently published in Cordite Poetry Review, and his poem “Mixed Pathology” along with a painting of his titled “El Dorado” (oil on canvas, 16x12 inches, 1995) was published in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of The Stray Branch, both in print and online

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Lana the Poetry Dog
Our winter holiday issue will be published around the middle of December.  Readers will enjoy a compilation of poems with fresh new takes on the festivals celebrated by Christians, Jews, and pagans alike.  Submissions for this, our final issue of 2019, are closed.  Be sure not to skip reading the "Forthcoming" section of this issue.  We have big plans for 2020 which we will announce at that time.  Those who wish to be informed of the latest happenings with Songs of Eretz are encouraged to join our email list by sending an email to

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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