Saturday, December 19, 2020



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Editor-in-Chief:  Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Art Editor:  Jason Artemus Gordon
Associate Editor:  Terri Lynn Cummings
Featured Frequent ContributorsAlessio Zanelli, Charles A. Swanson, & John C. Mannone
Other Frequent Contributors:  Gene Hodge, Karla Linn Merrifield,
 Vivian Finley Nida, James Frederick William Rowe, Howard Stein, 
& Tyson West
Biographies of our editorial staff & frequent contributors may be found in the "Our Staff" page
Cover Art:  "Emergence of 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.
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Table of Contents
A Letter from the Editor
Featured Poets
Allesio Zanelli--A Special Farewell Feature
The Poetry of Charles A. Swanson
The Poetry of John C. Mannone
Lana the Poetry Dog, In Memoriam, by Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Other Fine Poets

Returning Guest Poet Colleen Anderson

“Aphrodite’s Pearls”

Guest Poet Maureen Anne Browne

“Spring Fever”

Terri Lynn Cummings


Guest Poet John Delaney

“To Bee”

Returning Guest Poet Jane Dougherty


Guest Poet Melanie Faith


Guest Poet Mark A. Fisher

“Spring in the Mountains”

Gene Hodge

“I Come”

“The Memory of Spring”

Guest Poet Gail Jardine


Returning Guest Poet Gerri Leen


Karla Linn Merrifield

“Quartet in Late Spring”


Vivian Finley Nida


“Spring Variations”

“Through the Window”

Guest Poet Martha Patterson

“New Spring Leaves”

Guest Poet Kathryn Sadakierski


Guest Poet Beth SKMorris

“Wave Hill in April”

Returning Guest Poet Elizabeth Spencer Spragins

“Resting Place”

Howard Stein

“Signs of Spring”

“Two Bradford Pear Trees (Pyrus calleryana)”

Tyson West

“Easters Weekend UVA 1968”

“The Elder’s Spring Cleaning”

“The Hillyard Mickey D’s” 

Frequent Contributor News
Forthcoming & A Year in Review

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A Letter from the Editor

A winter issue showcasing poems about spring?  Unorthodox, perhaps.  But I thought it might be refreshing to read poetry about renewal, rebirth, warmth, and light during the coldest, darkest days of the year, days unfortunately darkened even further by a surging plague and the uncertainties surrounding the recent presidential election.


I’ll admit that I was a bit concerned about the response we would have in asking the public for poems about spring in the fall for publication in the winter.  But it turns out that I need not have worried.  The contributions from our Frequent Contributors were likewise robust, with two of them, Charles and John, earning special distinctions as Featured FCs for this issue.  Included with Charles' feature is a moving elegy for his granddaughter, who died tragically at the age of seven.  My heart broke as I placed it within these pages.


In addition to featuring Charles and John, this issue also contains a special farewell feature for Alessio Zanelli.  After three years as an FC, Alessio has decided to move on to other projects, particularly finding publishers for his sixth original English language poetry collection (tentatively titled The Invisible), and his second bilingual (Italian/English) collection of selected poems (tentatively titled Ghiaccielo/Skyce).  Fans of this Italian who writes in English should not be disappointed with our final tribute to this world famous poet.  Alessio, perhaps more than any other poet to grace our pages, really put the “eretz” in the Songs of, and he will be dearly missed.


Finally, I hope the readership will accept another final tribute--an elegy for my beloved, faithful Airedale terrier and Songs of Eretz mascot, Lana the Poetry Dog.  While heartbreaking to write and heart wrenching to read, the poem does have a spring theme and ends with a message of comfort and hope.  I dearly miss my canine companion, and ask the readership to indulge me in this.


Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


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Featured Poets
Allesio Zanelli--A Special Farewell Feature

Editor's Note:  It is with a heavy heart that Songs of Eretz bids farewell to Alessio Zanelli, arguably the most famous poet ever to grace our pages. This special farewell feature will mark the last time that his poetry will appear with him as a Frequent Contributor to Songs of Eretz.  Alessio accepted my invitation to join the Frequent Contributor ranks on January 1, 2018 after a chance “encounter” in LinkedIn.


Alessio is from Cremona, a small city on the River Po in northern Italy, where he lives and works as a private wealth consultant. Self-taught in English, he started writing English language poetry in the mid-1980s.


Alessio's poems have appeared in literary journals from sixteen countries, mainly in the USA and the UK. In the States, in addition to his appearances in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, his work has been published in:  Antietam ReviewCalifornia QuarterlyChiron ReviewConcho River ReviewHawai’i Pacific ReviewItalian AmericanaMain Street RagPotomac ReviewSanskritSierra Nevada ReviewThe Clarion ReviewThe LyricThe Worcester ReviewThe Society Of Classical Poets, World Literature Today, and many other venues. He is the author of several original poetry collections, most recently The Secret Of Archery (Greenwich Exchange, London, 2019).


In addition to being a world-renowned poet, Alessio is an amateur painter, photographer, and ultra-marathon runner.  His poetry and artwork may be viewed on his website,  Alessio has promised to keep Songs of Eretz informed of his doings, so be sure to look for him in future editions of Songs of Eretz in our Frequent Contributor News sections.  SWG


Listening To Karelia Suite

Alessio Zanelli


Under tear-striated spring skies, horns and cellos
on the march, to the rhythm of muted drizzle.
Under the ceilings, musty air of enclosure.



Freshness of distant lakes and forests, blown into
a blast as sudden as a violins’ entry, illumines

the day outside, dispels the mist inside.


Time of awakening, of calmer abandon to a slower flow of things.
Woodwinds and brasses picture the desire for normalcy,
perky and clarion like more and more blue rifts
athwart the washy gray of resignation.


Timpani summon life, pulsating anew, standing up
to the downbeat. Harmony cuts both ways,
the summer upon us, Sibelius gone,
in hopes of a novel melody.


Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem on 1 April 2020, during the long Italian lockdown, when I had plenty of time for things to which I usually can devote only scraps of it, such as reading, writing, and listening to music. For sure, the last one was the oddest, saddest and most disconcerting spring of my life, and of so many others’.


Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the ekphrastic-ness of this piece, a true "song" of eretz.


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 Yearning For Height
Alessio Zanelli

Flatland spread across eye scope.
Just early birds and runners.
Springtime’s brought along old thoughts.
Remembrance awe desire.
Drawn by sheets of spotless blue.
A clue toward the mountains.
Pylons lined from south to north.


Poet’s Notes:  I devised this poem in my mind during a training run in May 2017; when I reached home I wrote it down immediately, even before having a shower, lest I should forget the terse and curt images and thoughts conveyed in each line.


Editor’s Note:  I especially enjoy the crisp imagery in this short piece. 


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May Snow

Alessio Zanelli


Muggy mixed with breezy.

Verdure at its acme.

Passage now completed.

Thoughts as light as snowflakes.

Longing for illusions.

Seedpods whiten roadsides.


Poet’s Notes:  Another short, observational poem, one of those I call “zen poems” that I come up with while running in the countryside.


Editor’s Note:  This one is quite "zen", as Alessio says.  I enjoy its elegant simplicity. 


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Rainbow Chaser

Alessio Zanelli


Upturned the eyes, pinned down the feet.

Escaping into corn and wheat.


Terrific demons throng the sky.

I’d need a spear, and wings to fly.


Cold rain, warm sun. Together now.

Homebound apace, unknowing how.


Embankment roads exhaling steam.

As clouds go dark and borders gleam.



Poet’s Notes:  Another simple descriptive one, thought of while running and caught in a spring thunderstorm, only, formal (iambic tetrameters, four rhymed distichs).


Editor’s Note:  I especially enjoy the way that the second stanza adds a kind of mythological element to an otherwise pastoral experience.  SWG


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The Indispensable Illusion Of Immutability

Alessio Zanelli

to anyone watching a parent parting slowly



when days were made of forty hours,

seasons mattered, though not too much,

dawns and sunsets used to shift,

at times allowing us to swap them around,

the world contracted or dilated as we pleased,

we thought there were no rules or limits binding us

and there would never ever be?


Our fathers looked like mighty, indestructible rocks,

under whose overhanging walls

we could always take refuge;

our mothers looked like gigantic, evergreen trees,

whose many arms were always ready

to rescue and cuddle us, even when no longer toddlers.

We loved to dream of them as lasting nearly unchanged

as the stately peaks and glaciers in the background.


But all has changed and keeps on changing.

Also, our eyes behold all things from different perspectives.

Colors go paler, contours blunter, volumes smaller as we get old.

Slowly but incessantly, peaks erode and glaciers shrink.

Boulders drop fragments and forests grow holes.

Now it’s so damn clear we’re bound by rules and limits,

as it is we’ve been deceived and failed to notice that as youngsters

just because still way too tiny inside the fence.


Poet’s Notes:  A melancholy poem about the spring of life compared to the present, time passing quickly, our little world changing, watching our parents slowly slip away, regret, and remorse.


Editor’s Note:  This is an interesting twist on the spring theme and a beautiful lyrical poem. 


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Alessio Zanelli 


Hail of glances on my runaway fear, laces
of contempt on my ankles, invisible tears
of hatred, whispers of pity as background
to screams of condemnation, cracked like
a whip on my skin, prisoner to a long-dead
sun. An obscure truth, a beacon projecting
beams of darkness on a devious road that
leads to no destination, obliterates the glow
of reason, hunkered down in the recesses of
anger. Bent over, barefoot, the body beaten
out, the arms shaking from a chilly gust of
complacence more painful than the stabs

of scorn, should I even deny the future, I'll
hoist my offended past on top of the mast
of the present, my feeble voice the rope, the
glimmers of light beyond falsehood the only
hope. Stone laugh amid sorrow flames, my
derisive grin is to brush aside each sinister
look, loosen all strings, disarm the minion's
hands. Shrill, neat, shiny diamond grooving
graphite, in the face of the dull silence from
failed tirades, the ultimate word will scratch
the turbid crystal of my missed pillory. Fatal
incision, deep, unconcealable. Devoid of any
soul, an ashen moon in their eyes ablaze, the
torturers are to become the victims of their
savage, crazy despair, specters adrift in the
gale of dreamed-of dreams. A whole whirl
of blank faces, nullities scattered into thin
air. Fresh wings on my thoughts, no more
limits and no more boundaries, a new life's
sky my undisclosed domain, I will remain
the one to command the delirious shades
of remorse. Dawns like sunsets, days like
ages, the path that shows on the horizon
as a blade broken in an oblivion boulder's
fissure. The clear night on a stroll through
branes of unruled time, unhurried, without
an aim, across the unmeasurable, within a
particle. Ignorant nova, blinding and blind.


Poet’s Notes:  Quite an unusual kind of poem for me (I’m sure many would define it as “Hermetic”), written in May 2020, right at the end of the exhausting lockdown (where I live it lasted about 3 months). I thought it could be the right one to say goodbye, and thank you, to all the fellow Poets and Editors of Songs of Eretz--it was lovely, an extraordinary experience, especially for a non-mother-tongue poet like me. Blessings.


Editor’s Note:  This is a powerful piece and a bit of a departure from Alessio’s usual fare.  I agree that it makes a fitting farewell.  SWG

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The Poetry of Charles A. Swanson



--Ode to the Silk Tree

                        the Mimosa

                                    --Charles A. Swanson


A happiness, to breathe out

my window, as mist

pearls the petals of mimosa,

like pink soda froth.


Oh, cotton candy at the fair!

I watch a hummingbird

bury its beak deep down,

and skim away, burring


with that noise, like a propeller

from a string-pull helicopter.

Fair days, I’ve bathed my face

in pink like a busy bird


sipping at ambrosia, come away

sticky with sugar-syrup

and man-growth of fuzzy cheeks—

bearded by the pink of bliss.


Poet’s Notes:  I’ve read that the Mimosa tree is also called the happy tree, and that the bark is used as an herbal medicine to help with mood (  In the South, the tree can spread quickly and become weedy.  Thus, the tree is well loved by some and detested by others. 


A mimosa grew in my front yard.  My bedroom was upstairs, and I could look out on the upper-story of the tree, and see the blossoms at eye level.  The fragrance was wonderful, and the hummingbirds were busy, dipping in and out of the pink wonder-fall of flowers.  I could imagine myself as a hummingbird, but I was a little too heavy to fly.


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Charles A. Swanson 


I do this the old way, walking

scooping each hand-full, flinging

from wrist through upper arm,

a rhythmic farmer’s way, old

as Biblical seed-sowers.  I need

not walk quickly.  I have time

to examine the pasture slope.


Fescue and timothy, I joy to see,

and ladino clover.  I identify

other growth, thistle, ironweed,

waxy yellow buttercups, plantain,

daisies, chickweed, henbit.

A compendium, like a field-guide

open before me, some in bloom,

some coming in their season.

Moss is there, too, still left over

from a cold wet winter.  The cows

graze nearby, already finding enough

to batten upon.  The randy bull

scratches his bony head

against a disc blade, as the tractor,

where my fertilizer bags rest

in the front-end bucket, chugs

quietly, waiting, out of gear,

keeping me company, as if I need

any more than this field of promise.


Poet’s Notes:  This is a slice of life poem.  Spring is a season of readying, and putting fertilizer on growing plants is more than just a ritual.  When I perform the job in the old-fashioned way, walking and spreading the tiny granules by hand, the connection to the land is stronger.  Of course, were I a large-scale farmer, I would never have the time or endurance to distribute all the commercial fertilizer in such a slow, non-economical method.


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Charles A. Swanson 

For Addi, who died at age seven



Teachable moments.  I know them

as a student.  Every now and then

I know them as a teacher, a preacher.


When a student says, “I remember,”

then I know I was blessed to strike

a tone, like major A on a tuning fork.


Ripples in the memory pool,

the vibrations keep touching something

deep down, an epiphany,



a life lesson, a soul song.

Such was a lesson on seeds

for my granddaughter,


a springtime children’s lesson.

I spoke of how these little hard grains,

dried and dead things, but no,


not lifeless, they could sprout, grow

change, influence, make a difference

by blooming.  It was a gospel


analogy, complete with a gift,

marigolds in five-for-a-dollar

packets, one per child to plant.



Little Addi took the object lesson,

planted the seeds, watched for orange

promises and won blue ribbon


at the North Carolina Fair.

Her blue ribbon stood on a table

along with other testimonies,


the power of sprouting in a life cut short.

Oh, what she did with those seeds,

seeds still opening in me.


Poet’s Notes:  The Addi in this poem is my granddaughter (pictured).  She died this fall of an E. coli infection.  When she first became sick, we suspected COVID-19.  We were soon to learn, tragically, that an innocent park expedition, and a little playing in sand and water, could also become deadly.


As a preacher, I often have had to speak quickly, with little time to prepare between the date of the death and the date of the funeral.  Poems usually have the, I’ll say, luxury, of having time to season, to simmer, to boil down to the essence of the feeling.  I have been writing poems about Addi and I wonder if I’m rushing the process.  I may be too close to my subject, but writing poems also helps me to heal.


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Sweet Williams

Charles A. Swanson


On Mother’s Day, we ran scattering across the yard

looking for red.  A red spray, a red corsage,

a red boutonniere, a red honorary for our living mom,

the one who sent us through the dew in church shoes

to find, at the last minute, the color of life. 


Sweet Williams, faithful to bloom

the second Sunday of May, opened with calico faces,

like decoupaged cat’s eyes, lacy with fringe on the top

of western buggies. We cut, not worried about sap

oozing from jointed stems hollow as drinking straws.


A little tissue, a straight pin, a less than fastidious positioning,

and eager eyed boys, a little later, rushed into church,

looking for others wearing blossoms. It was red exuberance

from the living, a white lesson on death from the mourning. 

I was glad we grew no white Sweet Williams.


Poet’s Notes:  Wearing a red flower or a white flower on Mother’s Day is a tradition, though perhaps not so well known.  The red flower proclaims that one’s mother is still alive.  The white flower signifies that the wearer’s mother has passed away.


Perhaps the fact that we observed the tradition with flowers from our own farmhouse yard says something about our thrift and self-sufficiency and the ease of lifestyle in the country church where we worshiped.  I still like to search the yard for a flower to wear in honor of my mother on Mother’s Day.  Nowadays, I have to hope a white flower is in bloom, perhaps a spray of mock orange or a white lilac. 


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wheelchair gardener

stretching toward a weed

beside spring onions


--Charles A. Swanson



Poet’s Notes:  My mother went through several years of declining health.  Her mind and body failed at a parallel rate.  She worked hard throughout her life, and even when her body said she wasn’t able, her mind was saying, “Yes, you can.”  I gardened two years at her house so she could see the vegetables grow and mature. 


I wheeled her to the garden one spring day because I thought she would enjoy the out-of-doors.  I wanted her to watch me work, but I had to watch her because she was still trying to garden, even from her wheelchair.  Her body would bend in a jackknife angle, her long arm would go out, and she would reach beyond the footrest of the wheelchair for a tiny weed.  She was happy, but I was nervous and anxious the whole time I had her outside.


I chose the haiku form for these memories because it is concise and catches the image in an economy of words.  Sometimes fewer words catch the heart of the experience the best.


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When the Tree Is Green

            --Luke 23: 31  

                        --Charles A. Swanson


When the tree is green,

sap rises, buds swell, xylem

pulses toward heaven.


When the tree is green,

a canopy unfeathers

birds’ nest, ah, birds’ song.


When the tree is green,

shoots bruise, a chop oozes sweet

like maple sugar.


Yes, the tree is green,

oak-tough, massive, but, sadly,

not impervious.


Though the tree is green,

it sees not earthquake-hatchet

prepared to butcher,


hears not conference,

the rumble-talk of clear cutting,

rev-up of chainsaw.


Though it can lengthen

tip-end of branch, tender leaf,

root, it cannot run.


Tethered, locked to earth,

even slow things, virus, bug,

caterpillar come.


Poet’s Notes:  On the way to the cross, Jesus said to those who were weeping, “If people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" [Luke 23:31, NIV].  I have long seen this expression as one of great sorrow.  A green tree is a symbol of strength, life, and renewal.  It is a symbol of good times.  Around the corner of every bend is the possibility of tragedy.  We live in a world fraught with unforeseen danger.


I give God praise for the day but I don’t neglect to say, in my prayers of hopeful petition, “If it be your will.”  I don’t believe tomorrow is promised to me, not on this earth.  This poem is not so much a poem about deforestation, though it touches on that subject, as it is a poem about the uncertainty of life.   

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The Poetry of John C. Mannone

Ode to Sunflowers

John C. Mannone

     Love turns aside the balls that round me fly

     Lest precious tears should drop from Susan’s eye

     —John Gay


Your sun-filled petals daisy chain

the wind, and your hearts sway

through history. O Black-eyed Susan

Maryland’s flower that booms past

remembrances—not a speck of red

on your garments adorning grassy

lanes at Sharpsburg, its cannons too;

your tender shoots would celebrate,

your September blooms aroma the air,

cover the stench of sulfur, memories

of war. You encourage, inspire justice.

Your language, symbols, your words

rest on the nightstand next to the Bible.

At Appomattox, you offered peace

that was bedded that spring, and soon

the fields would no longer be exploding,

except for flowers, your lovely flowers.


Poet’s Notes:  I have always liked the Black-eyed Susan. When I visited Sharpsburg, Maryland in 2013, the site of the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), the bloodiest one-day battle of the War Between the States, I was emotionally impacted on reflecting on what had transpired there, and by the irony of the image I cannot forget near the entrance to the national park’s visitor center, that of decommissioned cannons painted baby blue amidst a cluster of beautiful flowers.


The link to war and this flower is in a poem by John Gay (1685-1732), an Englishman. An excerpt appears as the epigraph, and it is believed that this poem’s reference to the sunflower (Rudbeckia) is where its nickname, Black-eyed Susan, originated.


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The Passover Lamb

John C. Mannone

He was led like sheep to the slaughter

                                        —Acts 8:32


Sheep, led by a Judas

goat, follow a gentle path of grass

up a slope strewn with leaves


spread palmate, through

a gauntlet to a beautiful



They do not pay attention

to the priest standing by the rock

with a knife in his hand,


they simply see the sheaves

he waves, only hear his soothing

voice, the chant of prayers,


and make not a sound as they

submit themselves, unblemished

and innocent, as the priest


stretches out their bodies,

pinning them to the ground

—legs stiff, feet clasped.


Then he turns their heads

skyward, their eyes covered

with their own ears.


Flour & oil already mixed

for bread; a cup of wine

delicately balanced


on the altar. The sheep,

placed on a rack of wood, lie

still without complaint,


even when their own throats

are sliced open and silence

pours out as blood.


Poet’s Notes:  It is difficult for me to think about spring and not include thoughts of Passover and Easter. And writing for a poetry issue with a spring theme in December, when many celebrate the birth of Christ, adds to that. The language about the lambs prepared for a Passover echoes the Passion of the Christ, who is called the Lamb of God.


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Red Cedar

John C. Mannone


A swing swayed in the garden,

its narrow, wooden seat

            tethered by chains,

held us close, our hands

clasped together like

            honeysuckle vines,

our eyes blooming—wild

flowers complementing

            each other.

We drank in the beauty

along with the Rosé

            from fragile glasses.

We didn’t set them down

before we kissed, the sweet

            crisp wine fragranced

our lips like forbidden fruit.

We were durable,

            as red cedar in rain,

but we forgot

that the chains binding us

            would rust.


Poet’s Notes:  My sister, when she lived in Westminster, Maryland, had a lovely garden and a red cedar swing for two. And there’s something romantic to me about being on such a swing. I imagined my sweetheart and me on it as I wrote the poem.


The original structure was a single narrow verse, but after reworking the line breaks, I settled on indenting some lines to give a sense of a chain and/or an intertwining rope or vine to complement some of the contents.


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Slickrock Wilderness

John C. Mannone

            After ‘Trees’ by Joyce Kilmer


The ascent into rich virgin forest

did not seem sacred, at least at first,


but it was. When Kilmer wrote about

the stately oaks and maples, no doubt


their striking kingly majesty, and some

so full of leaves—each one a poem


that bursts to life each lovely Spring,

those metaphors—those birds that sing


among the nestled branches into eves

of summer, the sultry breeze through trees.


They wait for Fall to fall and catch below

the scarlet sunlight, swaths of yellow


exploding in poetic words arranged, and full

of flavonoid, and carotene, and xanthophyll


that speak in a rustling, colorful tongue

to their creator, a psalm of love, a song


even into the withered cold when only

their crooked trunks are shown, and lonely


air blows through their limbs, yet still

they raise their arms on high—skies fill


with praise. They leave a legacy of poems

so they can live forever—their souls roam


rooted deep into earth. So when I touch the cold

bark of that old tree, its five-hundred-year-old


skin, I feel its heart pulse, hear it breathe—

susurrations of its words dropping soft as leaves.


Poet’s Notes:  The inspiration for this poem came from a recent hike in the Joyce Kilmer National Forest. I thought “how poetic” these lovely trees. On one of the trails in the Slickrock Wilderness, there is a memorial to Joyce Kilmer and a posting of his poem, “Trees” (pictured).  So, in part, this poem is also an answer to that poem, especially concerning the spiritual references, and its rhyming couplets. You can read his poem here


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There Are No Bananafish Here

John C. Mannone


Today is a perfect day, the sun’s underwater.

Its crimson-gold silk dissolving in the North

Atlantic warms the waters, at least for a moment.


Today is a perfect day, the moon’s underwater.

It’s full platinum yellow dissolving the crazy

love in all that salt, yet the passion is unquenchable.


Today is a perfect day for the stars underwater.

Their silver streaks the depths, dissolves in open

eyes sparkling in frozen palaces deep, in April.


Today is a perfect day, all the universe lays under

water, even its uncaring black holes dissolving all

hope when unseen icebergs laugh their cold laugh.


Poet’s Notes:  The title of this poem is influenced by a short story by J. D. Salinger, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” The main character speaks of "the very tragic life" of bananafish that gorge themselves on bananas. They become too large to escape their feeding holes, and die. I was thinking about the greed of the builders and ship line owners that led to the death of their “unsinkable” ship, Titanic.  In the third verse, “stars underwater” is a subtle allusion to the White Star Line, the owners of the Titanic.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Lana the Poetry Dog, In Memoriam

Farewell My Noble Beast
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
For Lana
She was the smallest of her litter.

My son and I watched her mother

Correct her.  She was independent

Even as a pup.  Her father, resplendent,

Red as an Irish terrier, magnificent.

We adopted her and named her Lana

Took her from her Wisconsin farm a

World away.  To Kansas we traveled that day

Where she would live with us and stay.

There she met her human mother

And there was too a human sister

And her human family loved her.

Dark at first, she grew tan and blue

And from her father streaks red of hue

With a white blaze across her chest

She was the prettiest and the best

A tribute to her pedigree and breed.

Within her human pack she filled a need--

Rough and tumble playmate for new brother,

Soft and quiet cuddle pup for new sister,

Constant companion for new mother,

Noble philosopher beast for new father,

She inspired all with her poise and grace

Was admired for her beauty and fair fuzzy face

But she had a lupine heart, a hunter’s mind

Would point and set and dig after her kind.

Low-pitched and rumbling loud her mighty bark

Guardian of her family in light and dark

Her life had purpose, and with quiet dignity

She lived past her eleventh year with the energy

Of that small pup she once was, Wisconsin born,

Her eyes did never dim nor look forlorn.

Strong she was until the very end

My little wolf, my little furry friend.

And now her ashes fertilize a tree--

A Wisconsin Wolf River Apple now is she

With bark strong but unlike her bark of old

She watches o’er the land she once patrolled.

Without her winter will be long and cold

But then when spring arrives--behold!

Her leaves will burst from buds; soft bowers

Will from her lithesome branches’ shading powers

Form, and bloom will soft white red-tinged flowers.


Poet’s Notes:  Lana the Poetry Dog, my beloved Airedale terrier and our plucky Songs of Eretz mascot, died on September 22, 2020 at the age of eleven-and-a-half after a brief illness.  A Wisconsin Wolf River apple tree now marks the spot where her ashes are buried in my backyard in Kansas.  I miss Lana’s quiet companionship, noble dignity, confident voice, deep intelligent eyes, and most of all the unconditional love she shared with my family and me.  May her memory be a blessing, and may her tree blossom and bring forth sweet fruit; for in life, she was a blessing, such a beautiful flower, and so sweet.  SWG


Artist’s Notes:  Most of my photographs of Lana are cute ones of her lying down. I have fewer of her being active, since those were more difficult to capture. For this piece, I didn't want to draw a picture of her lying down. I wanted to draw her active and full of life, the way she usually was. I had a few photos of her walking and facing me, but this drawing, based on a photo of her trotting away, felt fitting.


Lana was always independent and marched to the beat of her own drum. She was often annoying, but I loved her more than anything. She is in a better place now. I hope I will see you again one day, best friend.  JAG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
 Other Fine Poets

Aphrodite’s Pearls

Colleen Anderson


There are secrets in doves and swans

wings dip so low you touch

mysteries in the roses at your feet

scents that wrap around you


Spring’s waking in all shapes

buds unfurling from heat’s kiss

soft and silken petalled jewels

drink the moisture beading up


Floes above the ocean’s treasures

crash and cascade into light

melt slowly coaxing dreams to settle

born from darkness nursed by time


I whisper to your nacred shell

as ineffable rain nourishes all

then in languid heat all creations flourish

you are born, pearl of the world


About the Poet:  Colleen Anderson has a BFA in writing, and her poems have been published in such venues as Mirror Dance, Polu Texni, The Future Fire, HWA Poetry Showcase, and others. She is a Canada Council and BC Arts Council grant recipient for writing and has performed her work before audiences in the US, UK and Canada. Colleen’s collection, I Dreamed a World, will be published in early 2021. Colleen has also published fiction including the collection A Body of Work (Black Shuck Books)


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Spring Fever

Maureen Anne Browne


The sun slips over the equator

and day slips into its nightclothes later:


ice lids dripping, slithering into oblivion

to free up rivers for the rush of herring;


fragile awakenings: tiny radicals writhing, poking,

breaking out of their seed coats;


numberless embryos in shells and soft underbellies

pushing at the walls – small Samsons bursting their bonds:


the light brings them on – acres of full-eared corn,

cattle and sheep at ease in their fields, the air full of calls

and song – skylarks, warblers, trumpeter swans, frogs,

and the colours return to us as if they have just been born.


Day slips into its nightclothes – heaven changing,

the author of nature writing a new arrangement:


Leo replacing Orion, winter's signature, with a curlicue,

a stars' invitation to consider the heavens, and we do.


Poet’s Notes:  I love nature. This pandemic has helped me to appreciate the beauty close at hand. How a rhododendron comes in a six-point star of dark, the birds still flock to the feeder and the evergreens are still green. These things uplift us in these difficult days, and poetry is a wonderful medium to express the joy that is still to be seen. I believe a good poem can change the world.


About the Poet:  Maureen Anne Browne is a Christian, a member of Ards Writers, and, before the pandemic, attended poetry workshops at the Seamus Heaney centre for poetry at Queens University Belfast. She has read her poetry at The Festival of the Peninsula, Swaledale Festival, and summer season at La Mon Hotel. Her work has bee displayed in public places in Havant, won various prizes in competitions, been published in magazines – Pulsar, Orbis, Writing Magazine,  Honest Ulsterman, and various anthologies, including Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands (Shabda Press), and received an Honorary Award from Washington for her poem “Evil Under The Sun”. She is currently working towards her first collection.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Terri Lynn Cummings


It happens every time

when in tune or not

seasons lift their veils


Mowers groom summer

rakes scrape fall

tomes hold winter at bay


Those busy hands

snub what they must not say

until evening’s promised storm



mixes with noodles, sour

disappointments lure them to leave


even tones

civil affection

bored blanket


True lovers know

sharp, short lived holiness

besotted with nature and themselves


Now, an old movie of love

has no meaning

until they say it does


They don’t expect change

but wish for more that exists—

laughter, perhaps


an understanding

the mind defends anything

the heart defines everything


Self-pity’s comfortable chair

begs them to spend the night

avoid any hint of light


Heartache hinges

on slammed doors, elusive locks

every sharp edge and angle—


its secret urge to destroy

courses through blood

like a virus that shutters spring


when every little thing

pops out of hiding

and is seen


Poet’s Notes:  Like many who endure the COVID-19 pandemic from a home’s boundary, I brood. Even the best marriage or relationship is strained now and then, especially when couples are quarantined together multiple times.


Editor’s Note:  I like the way Terri captures the emotional turmoil and disaffectedness of the spring of 2020 here.  I hope her implicit prediction that the spring of 2021 will be even worse turns out to be inaccurate.  Yet, many people fear the worst, and this poem may help them through it.


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To Bee

John Delaney


The bee that tends to

my blueberry bushes

carries a bulging basket

of pollen on each side,

yellow-orange powder

shaken like smelling salts

at nodding heads of buds—

aye, so they will waken.


I weed while she works

her magic nearby,

a nurse making rounds,

motherly and manic,

with patience and panic,

a knack for knowing

what ripens on its own.

Nay, like a flying nun,


called to sibilant prayer,

with monastic devotion

to kindness and love,

her vows will bear fruit.

When I lie down at night,

a gentle buzzing hovers

in my head, darting, flitting.

Aye, this mindfulness.


Poet’s Notes:  I had never been so close to a bee and its bags of pollen till the day described in the poem. I watched it intently for a few minutes, and its “buzzing” was still in my head that night. And I thought, to buzz, to nurture, to love, to be.


About the Poet:  John retired to Port Townsend, WA, after a lifetime in the East, where he was curator of historic maps at Princeton University Library.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Reflections on a spring stream in flood 

Jane Dougherty


Who could watch the faces in the changing stream,  

the silken streamers, green and blue  
dancing serpentines of twisted light,  

hear its water voice of bird-bells pealing,  

the chatter and splash of happiness,  

and still insist the world belongs to Man 

when all this chattering bird-flung light cries out 




Look deep into the water, dip  

beneath the glitter-glaze, reflecting 

shed cock feathers of iridescent preening  

and see the imponderable beauty,  

raveling and unraveling of water travelling, 

in quest of nothing but being. 


"Daffodils in Vancouver" | Digital Photograph | Gary Bloom

Poet’s Notes:  There are places along the stream I check in on every day, muddy banks and burrows, just to see who has been about in the night. One of my favourite spots is a pool overhung by alders and poplars, always full of birds, where the pattern of light on the water sings back at the birds. The irrepressible beauty of nature.


About the Poet:  Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have appeared in various publications, and her début chapbook of poetry, thicker than water, was published in October 2020. 


Artist's Notes:  This photograph was taken on a sunny spring morning in Vancouver, Canada, in one of its many beautiful parks.


About the Artist:  Gary Bloom was born in Minneapolis and attended what is now Minnesota State University - Mankato, where he majored in sociology. He later studied computer science at The University of Minnesota and The University of New Orleans.  He has been a teacher assistant at a state psychiatric hospital, an English teacher in Taiwan, and a computer programmer and database administrator.  His articles, photography, and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines, and websites, including:  Grit, Milwaukee Magazine, Pif, The Buffalo News, The Grand Rapids Press, Mankato Poetry Review, Art Times Journal, and Black Diaspora.  He is retired and lives in Pass Christian, Mississippi.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Melanie Faith


That was the night we sped barefoot
down the embankment
across the rolling lawn
past the fountain outside the dining hall, past
Diana the huntress

her bow and arrow pointed perpetually
skyward.  Her aim: a silvery spattering of almost-
summer stars. Our aim: celebrating the end
of semester. Our aim: disruption. Each shimmer
of water from rotating sprinklers

a world within a world we had yet
to step into, landed light
and wet on our bare
shoulders. We were a spinning
folly before equilibrium, the best kind.

The brick-tower clock struck two. Someone
squealed from the impact of the cold,
another someone shushed, but it was half-
hearted, against the mirth. Diana
and her bow, at the top of the hill, steady

she kept watch, peering the other way,
head tipped upward to her map of constellations:
ever-aiming into the many night spoils.
Enough stars to gather and gather again
in our open arms.


About the Poet:  Melanie Faith is a poet, prose writer, editor, photographer, and professor. She is also the author of Poetry Power, a craft book designed and written for poets of all writing-skill levels. Her three reference books for writers are available at Amazon in one volume, the Flash Writing Series Collection, which includes tips and prompts from In a Flash!, Poetry Power, and Imagery-Making/Photography for Writers. 


Melanie’s photography is currently featured in the Don’t Take Pictures photo exhibition, A Show of Hands, through February 23, 2021. Her writing and photography are forthcoming or appeared recently in Change Seven, Menteur, Burgundy Balloon, Molecule, Poetry in a Time of Pandemic, Verse of Silence, Burning Word, and Thin Air. Learn more about her writing and photography projects at:, and


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Spring in the Mountains

Mark A. Fisher


broken hopes this winter bring
the sky itself broken and gray
looking forward into spring

about the mountain slopes still cling
snows untouched by sun’s ray
broken hopes this winter bring

snowbirds each morning start to sing
migration taking them on their way
looking forward into spring

bear cubs this year’s offspring
come out of dens to see the day
broken hopes this winter bring

wildflowers waken across everything
all their colors on display
looking forward into spring

life still spills from its wellspring
striving still against dismay
broken hopes this winter bring
looking forward into spring


Poet's Notes:  While there may be some reason for "dismay", winter becoming spring does bring new hope.


About the Poet:  Mark A. Fisher is a writer, poet, and playwright living in Tehachapi, California.  His poetry has appeared in: Angel City Review, A Sharp Piece of Awesome, Altadena Poetry Review, Penumbra, Unlikely Stories Mark V!, and many other places. His first chapbook, “drifter”, is available from Amazon. His second, “hour of lead”, won the 2017 San Gabriel Valley Poetry Chapbook Contest. His poem “there are fossils” came in second in the 2020 Dwarf Stars Speculative Poetry Competition. His plays have appeared on California stages in Pine Mountain Club, Tehachapi, Bakersfield, and Hayward. He has also won cooking ribbons at the Kern County Fair. 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


 I Come

  Gene Hodge


  I come out of the spring

  Singing with the Larks,

  And drifting lightly as Dandelion seeds

  Across perfumed meadows.



* * * * * * * * * *


The Memory of Spring

Gene Hodge


Fell right out of this cold November morning . . .

Settled on the rooftop of my thoughts

Like a heavy frost.


Buttercups lined the roadside,

A family of robins played in the yard.


Across the fence . . .                       

Down in the pasture—

At the pond—

Bullfrogs croaked,


Crickets chirped.


I heard the rushing of sap

Rising in trees . . . .

Witnessed the bursting of buds on high branches.


Felt the earth’s heartbeat



Anxiously . . . awaiting spring.


Poets Notes:  Sitting on these cool, sometimes cold, dreary days of fall, it’s soothing to know that it won’t always be this way . . . and it’s only a season.  Watching the fire in the fireplace and looking out the window of my poet’s imagination, it’s refreshing to recall the glory of it all . . . spring.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Gail Jardine





Parched rustling seedpods,

spring interrupts in purple—

all flower, no leaf.







Like parched leaves, last summer’s seedpods droop.

Their withering defies the sprightly weather.

A touch would rustle the papers. But not mine.

Time froze on this tree, this wintry mount.

Then what’s this purple sparking up the slope,


Too vibrant to have faded a whole year,

Scattered between the gray, lighting every peak.

Without stirring the pods, it breaks the scene.

How flippant’s this deep violet next to brown—

Imprudent, flowering, while seeds still hang

And the shy leaves don’t yet dream to show their green—

Lighting the dry, dry branches—not bare wood—

It’s clear the tree’s survived for such a state,

Is budding still, not dormant or deceased.


Poet’s Notes:  I was travelling along a residential hill with which I wasn't familiar. Between the many pretty gardens, a tree that wasn’t green seized my attention. The tree seemed to form its own world of brown and wood and dry leaves, elaborate as an antique; but it, too, was alive, and the bloom was bright.


I like to fit a sonnet and something like haiku on the same page of a notebook. “Paused” is such a set.


About the Poet:  Gail Jardine practices music and mathematics by woods and water. Her poetry appears online with Sylvia Magazine, Quatrain.Fish, and at


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Gerri Leen

I remember the flutter of wings, the splash of water, the scent of early roses
And if we looked just right, the mountain, framed between buildings.

We'd rush through lunch so we could get to the birds. They recognized
Us as we came, with our extra pieces of bread for them because no one knew

Yet that it was bad for them. This was the eighties. So many things were bad
And we didn't know it. The pigeons would fly up, hovering and we'd vie for who

Could tempt the most onto our hands, gray wings flashing iridescent under spring
Seattle sunshine. A rarity, so we enjoyed it outside like everyone else on campus,

Our smiles twinned, our burdens eased by birds. Had you told me then that I
Would spend half my life without you, I would have laughed—and maybe cried.

But I have. And you have. And there's nothing left between us but anger and regret
And the memory of pigeons cooing as they landed gently on outstretched hands.


About the Poet:  Gerri Leen hails from Northern Virginia.  She has poetry published in: Eye to the Telescope, Star*Line, Dreams & Nightmares, Songs of Eretz, Polu Texni,, Neo-Opsis, and others. She also writes fiction in many genres (as Gerri Leen for speculative and mainstream, and Kim Strattford for romance) and is a member of HWA and SFWA. Visit to see what else she's been doing.


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Quartet in Late Spring

Karla Linn Merrifield


I am the one called declensionista,

bending, sloping, moving downward;

my body a land eroding with gentle,

but inevitable declension toward the sea

through eons of indigo nights, I promise.




I am one gingerly decompressing

in northern spring’s chilly slow

leafing out of maples and gingko, late-flowering

weeping cherries, forsythia’s delayed yellow mantle;

but, half-past lilac time when iris bloom, find me rooted.




I am one quoted as saying,

Grief is grief. Ye tho’ Roget’s slings synonyms,

one growled syllable suffices to express

oceanic turbulences of loss—but you listen, ably

hear between my lines a benthos moaning.




I am the chanteuse singing

Tout est possible, tout est permis,

while earthily dancing with myself

a samba’s swaying promise of life.

I slip into a mighty stream in hope.


Poet’s Notes:  This poem recalls springs remembered from the twenty-six years I lived on the south shore of Lake Ontario in Western New York (pictured), before I became a snowbird wintering toward spring in Florida. Due to ice build-up on the lake, spring comes tardy to the shoreline; patience is required. But, oh, the joy, when it does arrive, blossoming with hope for another season of fertility and growth. Returning in my imagination to that place, those many springs, felt especially healing now, during the COVID pandemic, and my hope greater in recollection of those late-arriving blooms.



* * * * * * * * * *



   Karla Linn Merrifield 


   Day after day

   a murder of crows rises,

   roused from palm roosts,

   flock of cacophonous patrols

   upstream on clockwork wings

   lifting fog’s skirts

   above misted fronds.

   Day after Florida day

   the sun also rises.

   I marvel, follow suit.



Poet’s Notes:  I’ve long been a fan of all members of the Corvid family—such intelligent, handsome birds are those jays, crows, ravens, jackdaws and magpies! And so often the noisiest in the neighborhood. They make for a natural way to awaken to the world, more so, I think, upon the return of the sun with the onset of spring.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Vivian Finley Nida


Soft rains hum low as shadows whisper, spring

Gray winter, weary, closes eyes and sleeps

Deep breath swells dream of fragrance warmth will bring


Beneath the crumpled leaves a burgeoning

A leaf tip works through earth as moisture seeps

Soft rains hum low as shadows whisper, spring


This tunneled birth endures no suffering

The bulb trapped in the darkness never weeps

Deep breath swells dream of fragrance warmth will bring


As leaf appears, if cold winds bite and sting

push fear aside.  In freezing cold it keeps

Soft rains hum low as shadows whisper, spring


A month and daffodils start coloring

They’re yellow, white and orange—diverse motifs

Deep breath swells dream of fragrance warmth will bring


Blooms trumpet silently, a reckoning

for flowers, foliage die, their course completes

Soft rains hum low as shadows whisper, spring

Deep breath swells dream of fragrance warmth will bring


Poet’s Notes:  Narcissus, daffodil, and jonquil are common names given to flowers in the amaryllis family.  Beautiful, like Narcissus in Greek mythology, sweetly scented, they are favorites, the first to welcome spring.


* * * * * * * * * *


Spring Variations

Vivian Finley Nida


Sky wrapped itself in greenish black

like the wool jacket

that warmed her shoulders before spring


Tornado watch turned to warning

No one could stop the roar

of the monster that gobbled neighbor’s trees


yet vaulted over her farmhouse roof

May nights, battering wind, weeping leaves

shake thoughts she must allay


At dawn’s first blush, she walks

In pasture, bees hum

on flowering blackberry bushes


Indian paintbrushes splash red-orange

Grasshoppers leap like gymnasts defying gravity

She looks up as warble sweetens southern breeze


Goldfinch flies in, dips up and down

bounces in arcs like a roller coaster

His drab olive coat gone


He sports season’s yellow

bright as forsythia, unlike wings, tail, cap

dark as midnight’s deep bruise


Here to feast on thistles, he grips a stalk

shimmies to seed head

bobs bill to gather, split, devour


Satisfied, he swoops away

above the lull of time’s moss-scaled rocks

ragged grass, towering trees


Poet’s Notes:  Weather in Oklahoma varies, sometimes from hour to hour.  Usually, May is a beautiful spring month that invites people to enjoy numerous outdoor activities, including bird watching.  However, May is also a month for tornadoes, which rightfully keep people on edge.  Since 1950, in May, 1,706 tornadoes have struck the state, leaving death and destruction behind.  Thankfully, warning systems and shelters have improved, but nothing is safe in a tornado’s path.   


* * * * * * * * * *


Through the Window

Vivian Finley Nida


Should we say the redbud is more pleasing

than the pine that revels in the spill of sun’s

long, thin needles


Petite redbud gently reminds us

of deep pink dawn

tender kisses on bare limbs

envied crown of hearts, gleaming 

vibrant, easy to love

a sip of sparkling champagne


No, if we consider a chilly reception

hearts stricken by cowardice flee

but majestic pine remains constant a century


Woody cones, fragrant boughs commune

in sanctuary filled with trilling chorus


blind to tabby at the sill, twitching tail


Poet’s Notes:  The Eastern Redbud greets spring with pink blossoms, followed by heart-shaped, glossy leaves.  This lovely, small deciduous tree is used in landscaping and grows in valleys and ravines across Oklahoma, the only state to choose it as its official state tree.  On the other hand, the pine, with many varieties, is the official tree of ten states, and its cousin, the spruce, of three more.  Evidently, for many, the pine is more pleasing.   


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


New Spring Leaves

Martha Patterson


Today I examined green maple leaves, with  

Veins extending palm like toward their tips 


Dusting the passing air with life and

Trembling beneath the ragged sun.


They’ll be gone in fall, turned to gold

And ash, like all that fades and dies --


But meanwhile we’ll anticipate the spring!

That herald of life and all that’s new...


I read once of a hungry cat that tried to eat a leaf,

And failed - cats are not built for eating leaves. 


But that cat had not been fed in days

Unlike the maple tree, watered by March rain,


And these spring-grown leaves were vibrant, 

And soft to touch, like velvet cut with shears --


Surrounded by naked buds, jittering in the

Easterly wind of spring; they seemed a thing


For dwelling on, like memories of my mother

Cautiously dusting her living room antiques.


About the Poet:  Martha Patterson's work has been published in more than twenty anthologies and journals, and her plays have been produced in twenty-one states and eight countries.  She has two degrees in theatre and lives in Boston.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Kathryn Sadakierski


The hollow drumbeat

Of slush-edged rain on roof

Is louder than horses’ hooves

Pounding on a dirt track.

Softly goes the dark of night,

Into its last velvet breath.


When the last webs of night,

Like the moss of willow trees,

Fall away, winnowing into dawn,

In the manner of a skittish fawn

Hiding away, disappearing like mist

Into the wooded underbrush,

New light,

A curtain of sun,

Opens the door to a new day,

Singing the world awake.


Morning is a rising tide

That washes away sleep,

With a rosy smile

Benevolent as the promise

Of a road unfolding before you,

Painting the melting spring snow

A softer gold

With a maternal hand

That grasps the land

In its embracing hold.


Poet’s Notes:  In being a time of rebirth, spring is a season that summons change. With change, there is opportunity for hope. My poem celebrates this anticipation of re-growth and metamorphosis after winter, the sense of promise that spring carries in nurturing new life, and new hope for the future.


In the midst of the pandemic, when there is a great need for hope, spring has taken on further layers of meaning, coming to represent resilience, the flowers that rise from adversity. The beauty of the natural landscape touched by spring is a kind of panacea for the spirit, evoking hope for better days ahead.


About the Poet:  Kathryn Sadakierski’s work has appeared in Critical Read, Halfway Down the Stairs, Literature Today, NewPages Blog, Northern New England Review, Origami Poems Project, seashores: an international journal to share the spirit of haiku, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing, Spillwords, The Voices Project, Visual Verse, Yellow Arrow Journal, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Bay Path University and is currently pursuing her master’s degree.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Wave Hill in April

Beth SKMorris


the sharp blue sky invades

my nose, my throat, fills

the space between my ribs;

the air pure, anonymous,

no taste or hint of blossoms—


the cardinal high atop

the birch invents a new

song, redrafts his notes

to woo an unknown mate

nowhere in sight—


the river below lies

motionless, waiting

for summer’s tides to carry

the sailing ships down the Hudson

to the Battery—


the sun not warm

enough for girls to flaunt themselves

on the bows of boyfriends’ boats,

racing up-river for a Saturday night

in Cold Spring—


Crocuses are here, poking their purple

and white heads above the still

snow-hard ground, but they’re alone:

no forsythia, no lily-of-the-valley,

no buds on the birch— Not yet.


I want to stay ‘not yet.’

Ten years away from spring,

I don’t know how to face the flowering

when it comes. I want to keep ‘not yet,’

put my hand inside the clock,


stop the pendulum,

because I dread the sight of new-born grass,

the opening of lilacs, peonies, and roses,

because I’m afraid the scent of May

will crush my soul, and I’m not ready—


Not yet.


Poet’s Notes:  "Wave Hill" is the first poem I wrote when I returned to New York after living in Florida for ten years. 


About the Poet:  Beth SKMorris is the author of two poetry books: In Florida (2010), and Nowhere To Be Found (2014).  Another book, In the Aftermath (forthcoming in 2021), chronicles her volunteer work at Ground Zero after 9/11. Her poems have been published in Artemis, Avocet, Broadkill Review, Crosswinds, High Shelf, Pank, and Poetica, and will appear the North Sea Scene Press commemorative edition for the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Beth is a member of Poets House and the Hudson Valley Writers Center in New York. 


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   Resting Place

   Elizabeth Spencer Spragins

   ~Mount Rainier National Park, Ashford, Washington

    breezes wade barefoot
    through this field of wildflowers—
    a rainbow river
    that sweeps away the winter
    scatters petals on his grave


Poet’s Notes:  As we come to the end of a brutal year that has cost so many so much, I find myself wrestling with complex emotions at the intersection of grief and hope. This poem addresses that tension.


About the Poet:  Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a fiber artist, poet, and writer who taught in community colleges for more than a decade. Her written work has been published extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America. She is the author of With No Bridle for the Breeze: Ungrounded Verse (Shanti Arts Publishing) and The Language of Bones: American Journeys Through Bardic Verse (Kelsay Books).


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Signs of Spring

Howard Stein      


Spring is a sign

Winter has passed through

And will do so again –

But is a long time until then.


New green sprouts everywhere

Infant, toddler, juvenile –

Gentle pastel hues before

Leaf and grass harden

Into summer’s deep green.


Spring is no time for memory,

Only for promise,

For renewing hopes

No winter could conceive.


In giddy spring,

Who thinks of somber fall?


Poet's Notes:  Although this is explicitly a poem about spring and its many forms of Nature's renewal, it is equally a poem about signs, looking and hoping for signs--of hope, of rebirth, of escape from imprisonment.  On the South Plains of Oklahoma where I have lived over forty years, spring is also a perilous, unpredictable, frightening, violent time of severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding. As metaphor, in this brief poem, spring is antidote to winter, yet I wonder whether I have exaggerated its up-beat moods. Although I enjoy its lightness, I also mistrust it!


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Two Bradford Pear Trees (Pyrus calleryana)

Howard Stein


Two Bradford Pear trees

Have long stood watch

In the front yard

Of a wood frame farmhouse,

Surrounded now by city.

Today white blossoms burst

Their wintered crypt,                                    

Proclaim spring's arrival.


I have had the same delight

As I walked by these trees –

Nearly always pausing –

For over thirty years.


In this hall of time's mirrors,

I can see far back,

Remember seeing farther back.

I gather all those years of blossoming

Into a comforting wreath.


In the front yard

Of a weathered farmhouse,

Two Bradford Pear trees

Renew me once again.


Poet's Notes:  This poem is ostensibly about an ordinary, recurrent event in spring in Oklahoma, and much of the US--the brief, resplendent white blossoming of Bradford Pear trees. It is about my own long history with two specific trees, contained within the history of an old wooden farmhouse now surrounded by an expanding city. I later realized it is about my own ageing and of the city's immense change since I first arrived here in 1978.  Where the Bradford Pear trees dwell was once part of separate town.  The poem likewise recalls the momentary sense of renewal as I walk or drive past the old house and its two Bradford Pear trees in early spring.



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Easters Weekend UVA 1968

Tyson West


The Tet Offensive exploded that February well

before equinox and kept burning bright

bridging our Big Weekend.

Somewhere to the south coloreds crossed steel bridges named for klan grand wizards

into German shepherd teeth while

Jimbo’s knuckles, steel bar bleached, moaned

“Get me out of here.”

1968 we all wondered at times about getting out.

I left bail money and cab fare

with a fat bespeckled jailer whose grey mustache

recited as rote as a Hail Mary that they had

to hold him twenty four hours by law

to sober him up college boy or no.

In this microcosm of dying old dominion tradition

we were still all college boys

except nursing students who need not wear coats and ties, nor

even smile to get a date.

Kay’s long legs and easy smile

cruised the Friday bus from Farmville

and my sorry ass had enough fratty club friends along Rugby Road

to play us to parties there,

where she and I slow danced

to The Temps and Four Tops

scented with Bacardi in our Cokes.

Evergreen magnolia blossoms glowed the deepening dusk while

we college kids paled on our lily pads.

Negros carried signs and

a Mexican family wallowed across the Rio Grande unseen.

Our true Texan president determined never to lose to

“them slanty eyed dwarves” had my bros slog

through some night earth paddy called Nam – where

F-4 Phantoms wrought freedom in napalm blossoms

over commie lies.

Walter Cronkite’s pipe smoke swirled

its question marks for the TV camera

as he recited each day’s dead boy count

showing inferior commie guns

sometimes worked good enough.

Martin Luther King’s death hit harder than tet yet

while agent orange crushed and blacks burned their barrios,

we lit Marlboros in a plague of young flesh packed frat houses over

Sunday tub ice shards melted in the embrace of

big sweet cans of Hi-C grape and orange

geared to goof with Hawaiian Punch and the spirit

of Everclear 190 proof swimming our worship

beyond the wines of Dionysus and Disney.

Kay and I clutched hands at church

hidden in our folded arms reminiscent

of Jesus’ recurring resurrection

before her sober bus south.

My coat and tie, and her skirt and nylons and blouse posed

in snakeless formal gardens confined of

serpentine walls precise slither

her sinuous words infiladed my defenses to climax

the bag carrying final kiss.

I skirted the Mad bowl mud bath of freshmen football flounders

to my lone dorm deliberation of spring’s new chances

where God placed me alone to answer the phone

for Jimbo’s salvation.

The phone cop almost apologized for arresting him but

he shouldn’t have been directing traffic.

The My Lai massacre bubbled unknown as we drank and danced

peasant corpses covered up by fine commissioned officers.

Bobby Kennedy met his bullet in late spring.

Funny when filled with 1970s coeds

UVA’s partying dragged

so much mud from the Mad bowl roll

dorm drains clogged until

the administration ended Easters Weekend with the war –

refugees from Vietnam arrived

to run liquor stores and

racism metastasized like the invisible man.

I married Susan…

but that was a disaster for

a later spring.


Poet's Notes:  The year 2020 with all the COVID and election madness reminded me of 1968 with its war, student protest, riots, and assassinations.  Looking back at my feelings of uneasiness, worry about flunking out, the war in Vietnam, and young love, I can laugh about my feelings over a half-century later.  I also understand the seemingly rash urges of young people now to party in the time of COVID.  We are all immortal at eighteen.


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The Elder’s Spring Cleaning

Tyson West


There I stand costumed in Pieter’s contrived foreground

gauged shovel in hand smoothing dirt to demur

to the lady of the manor’s command.

Then in varied clothing, clean shaven, I stand to the right forcing spade into soil

Gretchen behind me grooming ground.

To the left near the sheep a new me rakes

my Gretchen costumed and slimmed by the artists device as mistress acutes

and obtuses carving of angles of earth for the garden of her vernal visions.

We images level images of loam to set bulbs and bushes ready to explode in Pieter’s

aesthetic of pastoral perfection.

All false – my woman and I no longer be peasants

callouses dissolved by easier tasks and time but

never a lady or lord.

Like spring we be nothing more

than the pretense of beginning

for all springs lead in time to ice and bitter wind.

Should the truth be told

the brightest seasons I swirled from chore to tankard

be the pigments ground and brushes I cleaned indoors

for Pieter dead these decades

too young yet his guildsmen call him the Elder.

Master of layered landscapes and rough hands

Pieter like peasant bread too crusty

for the court of Henry the English king

unlike Holbein the Younger’s trim tempera.

True, he drank too much at the Guild Hall of Saint Luke –

I led him home past the night watch many a moonrise.

Yet his hand and eye in shaping the dark earth of our dreams

and cardinal sins committed at the Kermiss

shined brighter than icons colored in minstrel songs of knights and dragons.

The greasy hands that shear sheep

do not raise madrigals in Latin lyrics

of the beauty of a cold and rainy pasture.

The brown landscape he never colored

of Mert, April, and Maii

destined for the lithographer’s stone

glows warmer tintless than blurred of his sons smeared hues

none of whom could craft so clearly or new

as the old man’s discerning eye even washed

with too much bitter beer.

When I told him he crammed too much into the canvas

laughing he nodded but art dances

not just to please the muse’s eye

but also for the guilders.

He bequeathed Gallows and Magpie to his wife.

Gretchen and I may reminisce with joy

at our modeling and chuckle at

changes of clothing in which we posed yet neither we

nor his guildsmen can deny the genius of his question mark of snow geese

looming over hands under orders to

force spring earth to implicate

the warm days’ return.


Poet’s Notes:  The work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (pictured) has been a rich source for ekphrastic poetry.  Auden was inspired to write "Musee de Beaux Arts" by several of Bruegel's paintings. William Carlos Williams' last book for which he won a Pulitzer was Pictures from Brueghel and other Poems.   Being of Northern European peasant stock, I identify more with Bruegel's subjects than the Tudors or Hapsburgs. With a theme of spring for this issue and a Bruegel drawing with the same title, I felt compelled to jump into the pool.   


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The Hillyard Mickey D's

Tyson West


The blocky red Dodge pickup rodeo bumper sticker

with the snitty Subaru SUV biting its tail

pass under the golden arch drive through, COVID or no.

Their riders can't help sense late April grass, spotted knap and skeleton weed taking shape

in turn sculpting the vacant lots lying south of Bridgeport Avenue.

To our burger kiddies the green glow floats as nothing more

than urban landscape backdrop

for boxed humans to order Quarter Pounders

and hijack Happy Meals with no sense

of past beltane fire that brought them here

nor of flames soon to blaze.

Black locust left from long burned houses hold back

clean white blossoms soon to

smell like mother salacious Saturday night perfume.

Siberian elms set their samarae

as father did his endless hope in the words of Christ.

Pops never did the math why Jesus legend weavers

set nativity for winter solstice

and resurrection for Eostar.

I haven't the heart to tell the pseudo Dodge cowboy

pristine Stetson, Walmart jeans and heavy metal tats

that a few cow counties south

calves conceived last beltane

fell from their mothers on the cold earth of Candlemas

hoping for Saint Paddy's whiskey warmed equinox

are ringed in ropes of real cowpokes.

Sore dirty men spitting snoose on broken basalt

fry mountain oysters, brand and ear tag them doggies.

Machineries of cowflesh rise and mow on

through cheat grass and weeds sucking pacific scabland rain

into flickerings of light and dark and the flow of fattening maize.

Soon enough their skulls will meet

the sudden steel rod –

a kinder killing than ripped of wolves or great cat.

Steers broken then carved into hamburger patties ground, formed and frozen

drop at the Hillyard store with sugared potato strings

for acned high school day dreamers to fry.

The polished factory dance lies untelevised of the ancient bond

between the sweetest predator and the kine they groom.

If we did not love the flavor of their fat,

we would have offered them extinction.

Next year's crop of calves beltane conceived

arrive in nine months

just like human babies who will devour them.


Poet’s Notes:  Both cattle and humans share the same gestation period of about nine moons.  Cattle and humans are linked because cattle can convert weeds, grass, paper and other forms of cellulose, which humans cannot digest, into fat, milk and sweet tasting meat. Our fast food restaurants blur this deep bond in their slick advertising. Cattle and humans as species keep each other alive.  This bond is most apparent in spring.


I live in the inland northwest where we have a lot of loggers, wheat farmers, a few cowboys (stockmen), and a few hard rock miners.  Many of these men are of Scandinavian descent.  When I went to school in Virginia and worked in the summer, we mostly smoked and some of us chewed tobacco.  My favorite was Apple plug.  When I got out here I had quit tobacco in all forms, but many of the people with whom I interacted would chew Copenhagen and other chewable snuff. 


We have some of our own local names for things and we call Copenhagen snuff and skoal "snoose."  I understand in Swedish the word is “snus” which is pronounced “snoose”, which is how we spell it. I suppose it all goes back to J J Hill who said, "If I had enough Swedes and whiskey, I could build a railroad to hell."  


Incidentally, in the circles in which I normally run, I don't run into a lot of tobacco users, but I happened to be down to the Union Gospel Mission's Men's Shelter last week. I was speaking with an 82-year-old gentleman from Montana who was telling me how he pulled a budgeted amount of money out of his social security check to buy snoose each month. His father was a Wyoming coal miner. Not everyone out here hangs out at Starbucks.


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Frequent Contributor News


Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce the following publication credits among its current and former Frequent Contributors.

FC Gene Hodge

Gene has taken on a role as a “frequent contributor” of sorts for his hometown Tennessee local newspaper, “Sparta Expositor” [], at the invitation of its editor.  He has and will have poetry appear in the newspaper, beginning with his poem, “October the First”, for the first day of October 2020. 


Former FC Mary Soon Lee

Mary's poem, "Mended," was published in the November/December 2020 edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction; another poem, "Cavall," was published in the September/October 2020 edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction; yet another poem, "How to Commemorate the Big Bang," was published in Uppagus #42, October 2020,; yet another poem, "After Zhuangzi," was published in Eye to the Telescope #38, October 2020; a further poem, "The Seven Deadly Sins: A Cat’s Perspective," was published in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Volume 7, No. 2, Issue 20; and another poem, "Dicing with the Devil," was published in Polu Texni, September 14, 2020,; and finally, a short story, "The Boy Who Went to Mars," was published in the September/October 2020 edition of Analog.

FC Karla Linn Merrifield

Karla has seen a flurry of poems published online in addition to a spate in print journals and anthologies. You can partake of her poems in Mason Street Review, Grand Little Things, Quill & Parchment, Blue House Journal, and Poetry and Places. ;;;;


FC Vivian Finley Nida

In the Oklahoma City Writers, Inc. 2020 contest, Vivian was awarded first place in the Juvenile division with Rainy Day at Grandma's, the script for a children's picture book, and an Honorable Mention in the Poetry division with "The Metronome."  

Former FC John Reinhart

John was recently awarded an honorable mention in the annual Topsham Joy of the Pen Writing Contest for his nonfiction piece, “Odds” [].


FC James Frederick William Rowe

After serving with distinction for the past two years as our Associate Editor, James has stepped back from his editorial duties with hopes of achieving a better life balance and to devote more of his time to writing, rather than editing, poetry.  James has been enthusiastically welcomed back to the Frequent Contributor ranks, of which he was a Charter Member.  Assistant Editor Terri Lynn Cummings has agreed to take his place as our new Associate Editor, as has already been indicated on the masthead.


FC Howard Stein

Terra Nova Publishing recently published another poetry collection by Howard titled, Presence -- Poems from Ghost Ranch.  Meanwhile, a poem of Howard’s, “Exile in situ: A Protest Soliloquy”, was published in New York Parrott on November 7, 2020



Featured FC Charles A. Swanson

Charles A. Swanson has two poems, "Chance Meetings" and "Repartee" in the Summer 2020 12.2 issue of Floyd County Moonshine [], and his poem "The Unjust Sentence" in the special edition on “Crime and Punishment in Appalachia” of the Appalachian Journal, Volume 47, Numbers 3-4, Spring/Summer 2020 [].  In addition, AvantAppal(achia) recently published four of his poems in the special issue called YES(ABLED), an issue that looks at disability.  The four poems are: "Stick Figure Man Hikes with the Boy Scouts," "The Stick Figure Man Plays Hangman," "Balance Lessons Before Surgery," and "My new pacemaker." []


Featured FC Alessio Zanelli

Spinozablue, published three poems of his in August [].  Slant 2020 includes a poem of his [].  Another poem of his appeared in the 2020 edition of Sanskrit, [].  North Dakota Quarterly published two of his poems, “The Abyss” and “The Swan”, in its fall issue.  Finally, his poem "All Hallows' Chores" was featured in the October/November issue of Eclectica,

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Lana the Poetree
Forthcoming & A Year in Review

What an amazing year 2020 was for the Songs of Eretz franchise!  We tripled our daily readership, going from an average of 200 views last year to 600 views this year, and blew by the half-a-million total views mark by adding close to 150,000 views for the year--double the figure for 2019.  Our June “Love” issue received so many submissions that we had to close early, and using that issue as a vehicle, we raised and donated several hundred dollars to a charity that fed many hungry people in an impoverished town in Maine hard hit by COVID-19.


Sadly, in addition to bidding farewell to Alessio Zanelli, Ross Balcom, one of our last remaining Charter Member Frequent Contributors (the others being John and James), left us as well.  Fans of his eclectic, macabre, quirky, delicious poetry will not want to miss the “Ross Retrospective” section of our March 2021 edition (we just had too much going on in our December 2020 issue to include it there).  Ross had been with Songs of Eretz since before the beginning, and he will be dearly missed.


We also lost our mascot, Lana the Poetry Dog, this year.  Her ashes were buried in her Kansas home beneath the apple sapling above pictured, named "Lana the Poetree" in memory of our furry friend.  Lord willing, the picture will be updated as the seasons pass and the tree grows.


Topics for our quarterly issues for 2021 have been chosen and posted in our Guidelines section.  They are:  Circles, Love, Religion, and Place, for March, June, September, and December 2021 respectively.  Submission windows have been shortened to only two weeks (instead of three); so, those of you who wish to contribute should be careful not to miss them!  New next year, in addition to accepting poetry congruent with our various themes, we will also consider a small number of “general submission” poems.  So, if certain poets find a theme too restrictive, there will be another option.


Also in the works for 2021, under the direction of James F. W. Rowe, we are pleased to announce the commencement of the Songs of Eretz Ion Internship, designed to help prepare community college students/recent graduates for further studies in literature and philosophy.  Learn more about this unique academic opportunity in our “About Us” section  


As discerning readers may have surmised from our masthead, James has stepped back from his editorship with Songs of Eretz and rejoined the Frequent Contributor ranks.  The move should improve James' life balance and, I predict, increase his productivity in the poetry writing arena.  So, we should be able to look forward to more of James' signature brand of poetry in 2021.  Terri has been promoted from Assistant to Associate Editor.


Our growth this year would not have been possible without the excellent help of my fellow editors, Jason, James, and especially Terri, who were instrumental in keeping up with the increasing demands on our time and resources that were necessary to continue to produce a quality product and service.  I am proud to say that every poem submitted in accordance with our guidelines, whether rejected or accepted for publication, still received personal feedback from the editorial staff, a practice we intend to continue no matter how much we grow.  Special thanks, too, to our cadre of Frequent Contributors who continue to supply their best work for Songs of Eretz and to set the bar high for the quality of the poetry we have the privilege to publish. 


Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our ever-expanding readership for enjoying and spreading the word about our plucky little e-zine.  There would be no Songs of Eretz without you.


Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


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 query for details.

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