Saturday, March 14, 2020

SPRING 2020 "FANTASY & FAIRYTALE" ISSUE



Spring 2020 "Fantasy & Fairytale" Issue
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Editor-in-Chief
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Art Editor
Jason Artemus Gordon
Associate Editor
James Frederick William Rowe
Assistant Editor
Terri Lynn Cummings
Featured Frequent Contributors
John C. Mannone & Charles A. Swanson
Other Frequent Contributors 
Ross Balcom, Gene Hodge, Karla Linn Merrifield, 
Vivian Finley Nida, Howard Stein, Tyson West, & Alessio Zanelli
Biographies of our editorial staff & frequent contributors may be found in the "Our Staff" page 
http://www.songsoferetz.com/p/about-our-editor-frequent-contributors.html.
Cover Art:  "Long Tailed Gull" (Watercolor & Ink 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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"Book Fairy" (Digital Photograph) by Tracy Whiteside

Table of Contents
A Letter from the Editor
Featured Poets
John C. Mannone
“The Horned Turban Shell”
“Flowersong”
“A Valentine's Day Play”
“Words Can Kill”
Charles A. Swanson
“Countryman in the Grotto”
Guest Poet Jane Dougherty
“Children of the North Wind”
“Ophelia”
“Andromeda Dreams”
Other Fine Poets
Ross Balcom
“Fairy Food”
Guest Poet Kim Malinowski
“Tempting Persephone”
Guest Poet Sharon Cote
“Ghost Dancer (Attempts to Communicate)”
Guest Poet Christina M. Rau
“Like Clockwork”
Returning Guest Poet Gerri Leen
“Going Under”
“Elemental Uselessness”
Special Guest Poet Mary Soon Lee
            “How to Destroy a Dragon”
Returning Guest Poet R.S. Mason
“Might”
Shlomo ben Moshe HaLevi
“Oseh Shalom”
New Frequent Contributor Tyson West
“Spinning”
“Hansel's Choice”
Guest Poet Colleen Anderson
“Three's the Charm”
James Frederick William Rowe
“The Conjurer’s Chastisement”
“An Act of Will”
“The Gods are Mad”
Karla Linn Merrifield
“Cum Toccoa”
“I, Urania”
Alessio Zanelli
“Apparitions at 5 Pennine View”
"Presence"
Vivian Finley Nida
“Three Little Pigs Go Hog Wild”
Guest Poet LindaAnn LoSchiavo
“The Ash Maiden”
Guest Poet Melanie Bell
“Reaping Early”
Howard Stein
“Fly Fishing Lesson”
“Keeping Time”
Terri Lynn Cummings
“Dementia: What the Wolf Does”
Returning Guest Poet Jennifer Crow
“Iron Teeth”
Guest TOC Artist Tracy Whiteside
Frequent Contributor News
Forthcoming

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A Letter from the Editor
One thing I find most appealing about folktales, fairytales, and fantasy literature is the room they afford for the imagination to roam. By their departure from the normal, every day reality in which we all find ourselves, these genres allow writers and poets so much freedom of expression to use the magical and strange, to imagine what could have been if life had been so much different, and to draw upon our hopes and fears alike to paint a unique picture of how the world could be organized. Through these tales, we are able to part the veil from the actualized world into that of mere possibility. Shunting aside the metaphysics of whether these worlds truly are possible, I will simply be thankful that our minds are not so tightly bound to the laws of nature that we have this gift of fantasy, which allows us so rich an experience by our ability to walk through the enchanted paths that line the infinitely fecund realm of fancy. 

How curious it is, though, that these tales, so rooted in the imaginary, can somehow also be the most psychologically motivating. That is, somehow this exercise of imagining what is not can nevertheless be so powerful a tool to speak to what is, or what is part of, the human experience; that even though we are conceiving of things so different than what we experience in our lives, it still speaks to us deeply in a way that is truly timeless. I use the term “timeless” for specific purpose here, for scholars have evidence that certain fairytales go back as far as six thousand years of human history, making them among the oldest of artistic efforts. How is it that something which is, by its nature, false to life—supposing that which is not, for that which is—be nevertheless so true to it?

I cannot answer that question in so limited a space, but what I can do is present to all readers of Songs of Eretz what I take to be a superb and fine assemblage of poets making full use of their imaginations, to both retell the old tales that have won our interest from forgotten aeons past, or else to craft new and compelling ones of their own. It is through this presentation that I hope to demonstrate so much of what I was talking about before in the value of the imagination, and to show the process at work, rather than detail its workings, of how such fantasies of all sorts continue to resonate so deeply within our minds and spirits.  And with that, I invite you to enjoy the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review “Fantasy & Fairytale” issue.

James Frederick William Rowe
Associate Editor 

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Featured Poets
The Horned Turban Shell
John C. Mannone
   Inspired by the Japanese legend of the Sazae-oni

She hid in the carpet of red algae
before the divers came to steal
and sell her children in Okinawa.

her hard shell with expanding
clockwise whorls transformed
to sequins partly draping her

no-longer-mollusk body,
but voluptuous and naked
desire pulsed through the sea.

Purple gorgonia and sea whips
swayed the sexual desire; divers
on the seabed could not resist

the temptress. When close enough,
she snatched their testicles
with the horned remnants of her shell

and held them hostage. Nets dropped
from their hands. Her children floated
gently to the safe, soft grasses below.

Poet’s Notes: This poem is not a redaction of Japanese mythology, which portrays Sazae-oni as a demonized mollusk-turned-sexual temptress, but rather a benevolent undersea creature that can similarly shape-shift (every thirty years) to protect her children.  The genesis of the poem occurred while researching turban shells (Turbo cornutus) to satisfy my marine biology curiosity.

Editor’s Note: There is a nice interplay of the erotic and the imaginative in this poem that I find almost as alluring as the divers find the Sazae-oni. JFWR

Flowersong
John C. Mannone

The morning sun illumined her sinuous body
"Grassland Siren" (Watercolor on Paper)
clothed in sheer leaf-silk, almost translucent.
Her silhouette tinted lush-green like her wings
feathering the air.

This mystic creature nestled in tall grasses
rippling with breezes from the ocean below.
Her auburn hair drifted with meadow flowers.

Her breath scented the air; her spellbinding
songs seduced hearts. No one could resist
the music of the flowers. I know. I was there
as her notes sifted through the morning mist,

each dewdrop resonant with her flute-song.
She let me see her one day. Her onyx eyes,
refulgent in the light, beckoned me from rest

on a flat stone, mesmerized by her magic.
Her wings strummed the air; soft cadences
funneled through the jonquil stems. All
the flowers sang her enchanting melodies.

Her eyes spoke to me only in whispers,
yet I understood.  She once was a siren
deep in the sea before she dissolved

to vapor, turning into rain from heaven,
falling as the summer fairie I had seen.
I came to this place seeking some solace.
I was empty, my eyes wet with loneliness,

yet her song filled my heart. She left
her name impressed there for me to call
upon: a butterfly-soft kiss sweet as nectar.

Poet’s Notes: When my grandchildren were young, I’d take them hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One particular trail, Grotto Falls Trail, was magical for us; we would imagine gnomes and fairies living among the moss-covered rocks and behind the waterfalls https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/grotto-falls.htm. It was so full of joy and laughter that I have gone back there in my mind when I feel depressed. I think that is the genesis of this poem. The structure wasn’t based on any particular subtext, but rather I was looking for something regular that felt right. Perhaps the alternating 4-3 lines subconsciously were chosen to refer to a musical composition.


Editor’s Note: The brilliant use of language elevates the sensuous beauty of a poem that sings the seductive allure of the natural world. JFWR


A Valentine’s Day Play
John C. Mannone

            Act I, Scene 1: Our Love Affair is Cliché
  < under a lover’s moon >

 [She]    We have to stop meeting like this
 in your den, it’s too dangerous.

[He]     I know, if we get caught, what will others say?
But come away with me, my love; you give me fever.

[She]    Yes. You, too! I know a better secret place—
a hideaway deep in the woods where we can cave in
to our lusts. It’ll be like when we met in London.
Do you remember?

[He]     How could I forget! You swept me off my feet,
I was flying high. Whenever you near me,
hairs on my arms stand straight up. I claw
the walls when you are gone.

[She]    You make my blood run hot
as it courses through my veins.
And when you’re gone, my heart bleeds for you.

[He]     I love your kisses.

[She]    And I love your big brown eyes.

[He]     Making love to you under the full moon makes me howl.

[She]    And by its silvery light, my heart aches.
 Quickly now, the night is short and the sun will soon rise.

[He]     Okay, Sweetheart, my Countess, my Love.

[She]    And you, my wolf, bite me… and I will, you.

            < they embrace under her leathery wings >

            End



Poet’s Notes: This play written as a poem is rather experimental. But unlike a play, where the characters are identified, they are revealed at the end for the surprise—an affair between a he-werewolf and a she-vampire.

Editor’s Note: I am diverted beyond words by play-as-poem. I think nothing like it has ever graced the pages of Eretz, and I am pleased to bring such originality to this journal. JFWR



Words Can Kill
John C. Mannone
After “Diamonds and Toads,”
 a French fairy tale by Charles Perrault

            Those who consider themselves religious
and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues
deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
                        — James 1: 26 (NIV)

Julie rests on a log after a walk
in the woods, a quiet lovely girl
lonely for her mother’s attention,
her mean-spirited sister’s, too.

And below the hickory and pine
that mats the cool fall ground,
there trills a high-pitched tune—
a pulsing voice as if crying

for its lover. Julie spots the toad—
brick red on mottled brown & black
camouflaged among the leaves;
its mouth throating a balloon.

Leaning closer, she sees glitter
on its back—sun-spun gems.
For a moment she imagines
his intonations saying, “Kiss me!”

Who wouldn’t kiss a diamond
studded toad? She thinks
It’s only a fairy tale
about a prince imprisoned

in a Bufo terrestris body sparkling
with gems on each wart.
“Why not,” she says while closing
her eyes and kissing the toad.

Julie lets the toad go and runs
home to tell her mother and sister
what she had done. They curse
her for not keeping the valuable toad.

And as they rail on her, their words
fly out of their mouths like hornets
swarming straight for Julie’s heart,
stinging her kindness. She cries

as her family’s vile words turn
around and sting them over and over
until death quiets their screams;
tongues swell with remorse.

Julie ducks into the woods, her tears
streaking down cheeks to her lips,
turning every word into honeysuckle
petals as they slip off her tongue

scenting the air. “I’m sorry, Mother,
I love you,  and you too, Angie.”
And no sooner said, she finds
herself embraced in the arms

of a prince standing by the log
with a diamond necklace and gold
wedding band in his hand. He says,  
“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Poet’s Notes: Subverting fairytales is something I like to do or at least let them inform a different story or sometimes simply poeticise a fable. The quatrains were chosen to resemble a ballad structure, which is perfect for storytelling. The fairytale can be read here: https://fairytalez.com/fairies-diamonds-and-toads/.

Editor’s Note: Wouldn’t it be nice for those who spew venom to receive the poison themselves? Perhaps that isn’t the moral of the story I’m supposed to take, but then again I am liable to such interpretations. JFWR

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Countryman in the Grotto
Charles A. Swanson

I.  The Treasure of the Cave


How far the flicker of rock-roof-
reflected sunlight will extend,
he can only guess, poling away
on nothing more than a few lashed
arm-thick bamboos.  The greenish
water swirls against his staff,
and he stands with legs spread,
arms tense, holding something
solid, as he searches the dimness
of uncertainty.  Back here in this cave,
so his map says, back in this belly
of the whale, Poseidon’s grotto,
is the talisman he seeks, shaped
like an amphora, around the neck
of a skeleton.  He wonders, as his
jeans slog from the splashing current,
how his foolhardy streak, as strong
as it is, should bring him here,
alone, far from the Texas sun,
to this Caribbean coast, how two sheets
of parchment covered with spidery
script, the confessional of a buccaneer,
with map full of lines, old place names,
and skull-and-crossbones for an “x,”
how something found in the garret
of a western ranch house could get
his wild blood pumping for adventure.
He wonders, as he pushes on against
the jade green of darkening water.

II.  Man Up

La Tortugas, water-locked caverns,
water dripping down limestone,
stalactite and stalagmite crystals,
all of it so otherworldly, as he
pushes away from sunlight, around
a corner.  He flicks on his headlamp,
halogen bright, and he marvels.
His map to gold and jewels, booty,
man-fashioned treasures, to the charm,
like an anchor now around the neck,
the charm left as a warning to looters,
the charm shaped like an amphora, but
inset with a watching eye, an evil eye,
the charm he wants so badly, settled
on a dead man’s bones, and yet
all around him, this interior world,
shining with natural wonders, as if
the cavern’s folds were diamond
mines.  “Man-up, Big Man,” he says
to himself.  “Get your head in the game.”
Yes, here he is, Emmanuel Countryman,
a guy with two “man’s” in his name,
a kid his dad called “Little Man.”
A football player his classmates jeered at,
“You call yourself a man!” as he fumbled,
or was stopped short inches from the goal.
“Man Man,” so he went through life,
as his friends—jerks—shortened both names.
“Man!” When he said it, he meant himself.

III.  Into the Awesome

Like a third eye, the headlamp shines,
centered, above his two bluebonnet
irises.  A gift, just like his last name,
the eyes of his Anglo father, his freckled lean
father a true Texan, Baptist born and raised.
His mother, she who cherished the name
Emmanuel, gave him his warm-sand skin
tones, his full hair falling over his brow,
dark with just a hint of his father’s red.
He pushes the pole against the bottom,
looking among the reflected sparks,
his beam a searchlight, but one confused
by the fireflies of rock crystals.  Each
movement of his head, his third eye,
causes the crystals to take flight,
It is like a kaleidoscope, mesmerizing,
a land of pendants and fire drops, of
opals and pearls and diamonds.
His wonder begins to bubble prayer-like,
not exactly addressed to God, but
expressive of something elusive,
something hitting him like a flush,
an overwhelming sense of awesome.
The crucifix around his neck, the one
his mother gave him, the one she whispered
over, telling him about Emmanuel,
the child who was born Prince of Peace,
he touches the crucifix as he eases
the pole, stops the raft, and breathes.

IV.  Vaya con Dios

And there, finally, around a bulge of blaze,
ice-cold shimmering rock formation,
sits the skeleton, bones white as the white
of eyes, perfectly intact, with a shred or two
of dark cloth hanging still, but all flesh
gone.  The chain Big Man hoped to see
hangs in huge links around the neck.
The promised amphora is there, too,
but in some tarnished metal, dark as canker.
He had feared the evil eye, superstition
like arthritis in his own bones, but he
sees the dim pattern on the talisman,
and it strikes a chord like a tuning fork.
He’s taken back to childhood days—
he and his mother making God’s eyes
of two crossed sticks and yarn.  This
is no evil eye, and he approaches
the grinning frame, jaw fallen open,
in less fear.  When he unstoppers the flask,
and turns it gently sideways, a small drop
of oil oozes forth.  Olive oil?  It is then
he notices a second charm on the chain,
a small box.  Inside, still preserved on fragile
parchment, the dead man’s last message
to the world.  My friend, my buccaneer,
you are a man to find me. I praise you,
for you have seen, better than jewels,
the original hand of God.  I leave you no
baubles, only the blessings of this cave.

Poet’s Notes:  I like the burden of writing a poem every day, although I do not subject myself to such rigor often.  National Poetry Month (April) is one period of the year when I challenge myself, and sometimes I sneak in another month of intense writing. 

The task of writing consistently opens the doorways to possibilities, especially of the imagination.  I step further away from my own world, and from the many subjects that interest me, and start into fantasy, the realm of “What if?” for a story line, and “What is he (she) like?” for a character sketch.  Usually, in the midst of that is the additional fascinating question, “Where?”

This poem started on a raft, with a man standing and poling.  It started with the semi-darkness of a cave’s mouth, and with the translucent green of swirling waters.  From there, the image had to take additional flesh.  Who is this man?  Why is he here?  What is he looking for?  What will he find?  All of these are just basic questions of a story.  The answers can be surprising to the writer as much as to the reader.


Editor’s Note: A poem about a treasure hunt that turns and twists into a tale of a man and what he can discover of himself in the pursuit of the legendary. What a unique and special idea, presented so ably and with such poetic aptitude! JFWR


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The Children of the North Wind
Jane Dougherty

Listen to the music falling,
brambles singing,
tanglewood and rowanberry,
they have caught up the moon in a silver net.
Listen to the laughter
of the children of the north wind
with the gold hair of the northlands
and eyes as green and narrow
as strands of riverweed.
Listen to the sighing
of the west wind on the mountain,
as the sickle moon leaps, a fish-arc
from their thrice-clapped childish hands
into her deep pool made of night
in the dark behind the sun
and splashes them with stars.

Poet’s Notes: The children of the north wind are the children of the Aos Sí, the mythological other side of human nature, the wild and the dangerous, but never cruel. We have turned our backs on the wild and the magical side of humanity and we have made a poor bargain.


Editor’s Note: The vivid imagery of the magical play of the fae children evokes a rich vision of the scene so described. This poem opens a window to the fantastical. JFWR


Ophelia
Jane Dougherty

Take me to the river, she said, and her mouth filled with tears,
blossoming hot and red as heart’s blood or never-never flowers.

He smiled and took her in his arms, carried her to the narrow
boat and set her down. This will be better than the dark, he said

and filled the boat with flowers. He never asked if she saw
his dancing demons. Never considered she had thoughts at all.

Take me to the river, she said, where sunlight dances in golden
points and damselflies hover, gaudy jewels. Take me through

the veil of grey sorrows to where hares leap and bees blossom-dip.
She looked into his eyes where no light shone only the grinning,

maggoty core and turned her face away, saw beauty in the green
water smiling, for a moment at least, before he brought the dark.



Poet’s Notes: The world is still full of Ophelias, the silent victims who have the life squeezed out of them by fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, who know so much better than they do what is best, respectable and customary.


Editor’s Note: I always remember the cruelty of Hamlet, and Ophelia as the chief victim of the “kindness” engendered by his misanthropy. I love this poem in many respects, with “And her mouth filled with tears” being a particularly evocative description of Ophelia’s sorrows. JFWR



Andromeda dreams
Jane Dougherty

My fingers riffle through fabric folds,
Soft as feathers, while sandalled feet
Pace silent rooms bedecked in gold.

I recall waves’ broken roar
On rock, as black as ravens’ wings,
And cold as deeps where dragons soar.

They tied my hands and bound them tight,
I played the part of helpless maid,
Pale as foam and feather-light.

I saw him break through stormy cloud,
Crowned with sun, his golden hair,
His horse was winged and feathered-proud.

His eyes, I saw them from afar,
Were cold as dragons’ sea-damp wings,
His sword, a brilliant, bloody star.

What saw this man with feathered horse
And sword so bright with dragon’s blood—
A woman-prize to make blood course?

He plucked me, helpless, where waves played,
So light, he thought, spindrift for thoughts,
Night comforter, a foam-pale shade?

He took his prize, I would or no,
To roll me in his ocean bed—
The years once fleet now run so slow.

I languish now among rich drapes,
Folded away until I die,
A pinioned goose in farmer’s yard,
That calls to the winds of the wild March sky.

Poet’s Notes: Andromeda was the expendable offering, then the offered prize, then the unasked bride, the booty of a heroic and manly exploit. She existed only to be used, much like lob worms—to be stuck as bait on a fish hook.


Editor’s Note: The depiction of Perseus here in all his heroic coldness, a bloody instrument of conquering violence against so many supernatural foes, strikes me as underscoring the lack of agency Andromeda experiences throughout the tale, as she, too, holds no hope against the hero’s destiny. Always the toy of fate, Andromeda, in so overlooked a feature of the tale. JFWR

About the Poet: Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, Hedgerow Journal, Tuck Magazine, ink sweat and tears, Eye to the Telescope, Nightingale & Sparrow, the Drabble, Lucent Dreaming, and the Ekphrastic Review. She has a well-stocked blog at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/.

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Other Fine Poets

Fairy Food
Ross Balcom

assaulted
by fairies

swarming
like tiny stars

stripping
flesh from bone

skeletonized
in the park

run, run
from the fairies

terrorized
by the tiny

eaten
by the wee

skeletons
litter the green

blood,
blood and screams

run, run
from the fairies

carnivorous
and unstoppable

fairies
gone feral

consumers
of human cattle

stampeding
blindly, crying

run, run
from the fairies

from the fairies

run


Poet’s Notes: If you are interested in fairies, I recommend becoming a member of the Fairy Investigation Society www.fairyist.com/fairy-investigation-society as I am.

Editor's Note:  “eaten / by the wee” has somehow managed to be trapped in my mind since I first read this. JFWR

Editor’s Note:  This poem ranks with Ross' best, signature combinations of satirical fantasy and horror. I know Ross eschews allegory, but, oh, the political symbolism one could draw from this gem!  If James had not taken it for his "Fantasy & Fairytale" issue, I would have snapped it up for my "Political" issue, forthcoming in September.  SWG

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Tempting Persephone
Kim Malinowski

She wanted to lick the forbidden.
Hades held the pomegranate,
juice sliding down his fist.
Beguiling scent—the fruit or his?
Demeter thundered ice somewhere—
but here, darkness cocooned.
He leant back—her in—six seeds
tapped her tongue.
She clutched Hades,
lips returned them with kiss.
He plucked seeds from between his lips.
Snow fell, death remained death,
but Persephone was his.

Poet’s Notes: I was always taught in art and literature of “The Rape of Persephone.” I do not want to take away from that narrative of consent or lack of it. I do want to offer an alternative perspective. I want Persephone to have agency and choice—power over Hades. In the end, I want her to love willingly and be loved equally back.

 
Editor’s Note: There is a profoundly erotic element to this poem, where a passion is catches fire between captor and captive who finds herself now so willing to give in to the ripe fruit on offer. Such a passion is well celebrated, even in the face of Demeter’s wrath. This breathes new life into one of the best of the Greek myths. JFWR

About the Poet: Kim Malinowski earned her B.A. from West Virginia University and her M.F.A. from American University. She studies with The Writers Studio. Her chapbook "Death: A Love Story" was published by Flutter Press. Her work was featured in Faerie Magazine and appeared in Mythic Delirium, Mookychick, Calliope, and others.
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The Ghost Dancer (Attempts to Communicate)
Sharon Cote

(I am) the shadow silhouette glissade
the dove-wing dip of vaporous arms
(if you see) the pirouettes of fog at dawn
(will you join) my sempiternal dance(?)

(you’re) the skeptic sunlight shadows
the daily worldly blind intent
(my love!) un-timeless tired march of motives
(Let me break) fell mundanity’s spell

Poet’s Notes: This poem began for me with the image of a spectral dancer, both beautiful and eerily compelling, but it only really took shape when I allowed this spirit to have thoughts and feelings, to present and represent a more sympathetic struggle—the struggle to explain our art (and hearts) with ordinary words.    

Editor’s Note: The most avant-garde of all the poems in this issue, and one which I think is brilliantly and uniquely composed. I can picture the ho-hum world shattering before the dancer. JFWR

About the Poet: Sharon Cote teaches linguistics and speculative literature. Her poetry has won Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge and has appeared in Songs of Eretz, Star*Line, Deep Water Literary Journal, and Avocet, as well as in other journals and anthologies.

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Like Clockwork
Christina M. Rau

Quiet, the moss the deep woods fill.
A blinking blur twinkling after day,
the nymphs frolic as fairies will

fly down low, unseen, a thrill
for them as they tinker away.
Quiet, the moss, the deep woods fill

with buzzing, subtle, almost still
as only the keenest ear can say
the nymphs frolic as fairies will.

Luminescent, gossamer, a magic drill
of wonderment—they giggle, won’t play
quiet. The moss, the deep woods fill

up with daffy zipping zooting skill.
Under the moon, an impish soiree,
the nymphs frolic as fairies will.

They simmer down only when sun breaks ill.
Then they rest in delight but only a bit. Stay
quiet! The moss! The deep woods fill!
The nymphs frolic as fairies will!

Poet’s Notes: I wrote "Like Clockwork" when I immersed myself in all things critters, creatures, and other worldly. I wanted to challenge myself to write in a form, which I rarely do, and I thought the daily routine of the woodsy world would lend itself to the structure.


Editor’s Note: I find villanelles tremendously difficult to compose, and here language is used to musical brilliance, with the refrain a most harmonious and well-tuned choice. I marvel at the poet’s achievements in so difficult a form, which I further find so well adapted to the content of the poem. JFWR

About the Poet: Christina M. Rau is the author of the Elgin Award winning sci-fi fem poetry collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017) and the chapbooks "WakeBreatheMove" (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and "For The Girls, I" (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared on gallery walls in The Ekphrastic Poster Show, on car magnets for The Living Poetry Project, and in various literary journals. Find her links on http://www.christinamrau.com.

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

Going Under
Gerri Leen

The water, warm, sucking you down
You would've drowned but for me
I held you up, I pushed you out

Did I fall in love too fast? Of course
This is a fairytale; love's always instantaneous
And not always requited or requested

I may have been a stalker but still
I was willing to give everything
For you, my prince, my beautiful one
But I had it backwards
Your life belonged to me
If a debt was owed, it wasn't mine to pay

Why did I have to become like you?
Why couldn't you become like me
What would the sea witch have wanted for that?

But there I go again
Inflicting my desires on you
You didn't even know I'd saved you

I had a voice, the most beautiful voice
Why didn't I think to use it?
To woo you, to seduce, to turn affection to true love

I lacked a soul, but would you have cared?
Your beautiful princess may have been your first waking sight
But it was I who ensured you could still see at all

And about that soul, just because I didn't have a human one
Do you truly think I lack any?
That heaven is only for your kind?

Actually, now that I've lived this long
I know it's just for humans because none
Of the rest of us want to spend eternity with you

We have the sky, the stars beyond this word
Infinite avenues to explore
And you have your little section, sequestered

Prisoners, as it were, in a paradise
Of your own making
While the rest of us are free to roam

To swim eternity as I once did the sea
The air maidens thought I had to stay with them
To serve man to earn my chance for heaven

But the whispers of other creatures, mystical
And beautiful and terrible lured me away
And I have never looked back

You and your princess are long dead
But not by my hand—I had a choice
And I chose to let you live

If those are the actions of a soulless creature
Then perhaps souls are not so critical
You two fell out of love, after all that

My death was for nothing—but at least
I'm finally free, neither cloistered in heaven
Nor foam on the sea

Free to roam eternity
As whatever I want to be
For however long I wish to be it

Poet’s Notes: As I prepared to write a new poem for this call, I reread "The Little Mermaid" to refresh my memory of what was Andersen and what was Disney, and as usual when I read HCA's original work, I became angry on so many levels.  The loss of a voice, the perpetual pain with each step, the problematic choices, the human-centric view regarding souls.  And, as happens when I get a little enraged, a poem just poured out.  They say anger isn't the best emotion for our overall health, but it sure is beneficial for my muse.


Editor’s Note: Embrace your anger, o poet! if it will give us poems such as this. As a philosopher, I love the metaphysics of this poem, and the intriguing thoughts on the nature of the soul and its purpose for a creature so different from mankind, who suffers so much all in vain. Perhaps indeed the wilds beyond the ken of human souls are beautiful in their terrible freedom. JFWR



Elemental Uselessness
Gerri Leen

Skies open, winds pulled down
By my murmured commands
The ragged sails fill and the plague ship is forced
Into open ocean, away from this coast
I wish the story were over, I wish I'd arrived
Before the sick and dying had jumped into the shallows
Desperate animals seeking escape
From a foe that had already defeated them
Some fell after only a few steps on the sand
Resembling dolls strewn by a bored child
But a few reached the settlement
Enough for critical mass
I can work the elements but for this we
Need a first-class healer, and he died
In the first wave of sickness

I seek advice from the elements
Wind's already employed, eventually stirring
Waves so water can drown the ship before it
Lays waste to another town
Fire will immolate this town's dead, earth waits
To receive the ashes
But to stop this illness?
I can do nothing
I can only hope that some are fated
To survive, to go on

As I sink to the sand
And monitor the progress of the ship
I feel a tickling in my throat like
Dust raised by my winds
A growing warmth when I haven't
Yet reached for fire
Am I sick too? In body or just heart?
Manifesting sympathetic symptoms
So these people won't suffer alone?
I invoke water to moisten my throat
Earth, to stifle the perhaps-fever
With the sensation of cool loam
And wait for what will come

Poet’s Notes:  Even the most powerful can fall to disease.  She did everything she could to help.  Hopefully, that doesn't end up as her epitaph.

Editor’s Note: This poem seems strangely prophetic in uncertain times and the looming threat of coronavirus, yet even shunting aside its timeliness (and indeed—if things get worse, this poem will reflect circumstances eerily!) I loved the hopelessness of it all. Sometimes a looming defeat is so romantic, and the failure of the narrator to affect a change, and perhaps indeed to be cut down by the same foe, just tickles my love of a sad and miserable ending. JFWR

About the Poet: Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle. She has poetry published in Eye to the Telescope, Star*Line, Dreams& Nightmares, Songs of Eretz, Polu Texni, The Future Fire, and others. She also writes fiction in many genres (as Gerri Leen for speculative and mainstream, and Kim Strattford for romance). Visit gerrileen.com or kimstrattford.com to see what else she's been up to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
How to Destroy a Dragon
Mary Soon Lee
Dragonpox blankets.
Sapper mice to mine its lair.
Counterweight trebuchets.
M1 Abrams battle tank. 

Poet’s Notes: this poem is one of many that I've written based on the September 14th prompt in "The Daily Poet" by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano, a prompt that suggests writing a "How To" poem. As you can see, not all of the resulting poems are serious and weighty. 

Editor’s Note: KABOOM! I can think of no better dragon slayer than a sabot round. I laughed aloud when I first read this poem. JFWR.

About the Poet: Mary Soon Lee was a Charter Member of the Frequent Contributors to Songs of Eretz and served in that capacity from January 1, 2016, to December 7, 2018.  She was born and raised in London but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. She writes both fiction and poetry and has won the Rhysling Award and the Elgin Award. Her latest book is Elemental Haiku, containing haiku for the elements of the periodic table, published by Ten Speed Press.  Visit her website at http://www.marysoonlee.com.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Might
R.S. Mason

All I ever wanted
was to keep you safe.
We were always surrounded:
enemies without, traitors within,
monsters prowling the wilds,
but so long as I was there
(and I would always be there)
with my sword in hand
you would never come to harm.
Not from them.

And I did fight for you, didn't I?
Didn't I earn my place as your knight?
How many of them tried to stop us?
How many broke against me?
Eventually it seemed
they were afraid of my strength.
I thought we had won.

When the whispers started you asked me
to let it go. As if I could.
I tracked them down, and I
did what I know how to do:
I fought. I won. They died.
Could I have known the whispers
would become shouts?

I could not read your face
when you exiled me.
I took my sword
and wandered
and no matter how I searched,
I could never find a way
to put it down.

Poet’s Notes: My poem is a narrative meditation on a theme I've always found fascinating. Our narrator finds that he is trapped by his nature: so proficient with violence that he had perhaps become to believe that he needed no other skills, so devoted to his charge he is unable to react appropriately to a threat. And now that he has had the revelation that this path leads to destruction, he is unable to find a way out, even after it's too late.  

Editor’s Note: Our destiny can lead us astray when what our heart most yearns for is destructive of our joy. Yet what is life without being what you were made to be, even for all the tears that will follow? A hero earns his sorrows. JFWR 

About the Poet: R.S. Mason draws inspiration from the many beautiful environments of the Pacific Northwest, from the windswept desert highland east of the mountains to the temperate rain forests of the coastal lowlands.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Oseh Shalom
Shlomo ben Moshe HaLevi 
For my father, may his memory be a blessing.
The once scrappy Holocaust survivor,
now an old man in a hospital bed,
let out his final breath with a sigh.
His had been a long, hard life,
but he left it surrounded by his wife and sons--
sons whose very existence
was his ultimate revenge against the Moustache
and the Nazi thugs who had made him an orphan,
who had made his childhood a living hell,
and who had haunted him until this, his dying day.

With the words of his eldest’s recitation of
the Mourner’s Kaddish echoing sweetly in his ears,
the shade of the old man rose,
took the hand of Elijah the Prophet,
and the two made their way toward Heaven.
With each step, age and sorrow melted away.
By the time the two reached the Gates,
the Prophet was holding the hand
of an innocent boy of about six years of age.
The old man’s parents were there to welcome him,

 whose faces, in life, he could never quite picture in his mind.
“Welcome, Moshe,” his mother said with love.
“We have been waiting for you, my son,” said his father.
“But you are long dead,” replied the old man,
his high-pitched voice sounding strange in his ears.
“The Nazis, they killed you, the whole shtetl, they...”
Elijah the Prophet placed a finger over the boy’s lips,
erasing the nightmare of the Holocaust from him forever.
“Go to them, my angel!  Go to them and live your life
as God had intended it to be!  There are no Nazis here.”


Poet’s Notes:  The Holocaust forever scarred my father, the scrappy, brave orphan boy who survived against the might of the Nazis, against the death, against the destruction, against the pestilence, against the starvation, against the despair--against all odds.  Ironically, after surviving all of the horrors, he died of complications of bacterial endocarditis caused by a dental infection, perhaps ultimately caused by the malnutrition that the Nazis forced upon him in his childhood.

In this fantasy, I picture the old man, finally at peace, being led to the Gates of Heaven by Elijah the Prophet, perhaps still able to hear me reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish over him as he takes the Prophet’s hand.  Upon reaching Heaven, I fantasize that my father is given the chance to relive his life as it might have been had the Nazis never existed.

All records of my father’s little village, or shtetl, were destroyed when the Nazis overran it.  Only one photograph of my father’s mother and not a single photograph of my father’s father survived the war.  I often asked my father to describe his father’s appearance to a professional artist so that his likeness could be recovered in that way. Finally, after asking him for the umpteenth time, he told me that he could not remember what his father looked like.  The expression on his face when he told me that broke my heart. 

Editor’s Note: When met with such a powerful, personal poem, I was actually at first taken somewhat aback. It's difficult to formulate a response to a poem that is so spiritually rich and grabbing. In fact, I even wondered whether it was the right fit for the issue, not because of its quality, but because what it sets out to portray—the homecoming of a Holocaust victim to the parents who were robbed of him—is so poignant and emotionally demanding upon the reader, that I felt that it almost transcended the notion of "fantasy" as expressed in the other poems. 

In the end, though, the sheer emotional power of this depiction of a spiritual hope that God might not just revenge the past, but resolve the harm itself, transcends any reservations I might have, and I am quite proud that such a poem that speaks to the greater justice of a wise, and loving deity, and the potential to wipe the tears from our souls and make right what once went wrong, was featured in this issue. I feel enriched for having read it and I hope our readers will feel the same. JFWR

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

Spinning
Tyson West

Oh Honey, I just love your hair –
natural curly honey blond, my favorite flavor –
not to mention lice free unlike that certain countess of …
well we need not mention her family’s bar sinister coat of arms.
Oooh! We don’t need a magic mirror to tell
your skin is the fairest foundation of them all.
Just between you and me, the problem with this nobility thing is that
we artists end up working on a lot girls who,
quite frankly, do not have your natural talent.
It takes a more than threads and accessories plus hair and makeup to style my girls into a fantasy.
Debutants really believe, if you’ll pardon my French, their own bullshit.
A commoner with good bones and brains like you fakes it smartly
To become the sickest of them all.
I just love this shade of azure – the crystal color of a July sky
just after a raging thunder storm.
I’ll smear some on the back of my hand so you can see
this eye shadow with kohl eyeliner will make your baby blues pop,
Simply gorgeous!
Honey, you were lucky when your mom was whacking on you
because you knew your aesthetic had grown beyond spinning,
and doubly lucky when she lied to the queen who just happened by,
and who bought your momma’s fairy tale
that she could not keep you in flax.
You had a low spot, Honey, when the queen stuck you in those three rooms
with their Matterhorns of flax expecting you to reduce it all to thread.
Yes, you have what we call a smoky eye in blue
it looks great with your beachy hair after we add a touch of product
I conjured up just for you.
You don’t need fake eyelashes after I apply this.
I know you don’t want to be her spinning monkey and came up with a good excuse
but a glib tongue is not always enough to get by – even with your luck.
The greatest gift of all, Honey, and all of us servants love you for it,
is your willingness to trust us to do our jobs.
Oh my stars and sunshine, let me work on those eyebrows, Sugar
just a little bit of plucking, I am so sorry this will hurt a teensy bit but
once I shape and darken them just a smidgen, the sting will be worth it.
Then you have sprezzatura, so natural you seem
as you effortlessly calculate your every curtsey and wink.
A lot of duke’s daughters should have it
but spray out a mist of arrogance instead like cheap perfume.
Honey, you remember we are here to help
for a bed and bread and cheese and a warm place to play with our art.
We love you for inviting us all to the wedding
including those three maids who spun all that flax.
Even with Jane’s fat lip, Liza’s great thumb and Anne’s big foot
you claim them as your aunts and call us all by name.
Nobody cares about the lie, Sweetie,
just how kind you are when you tell it.
Keep doing this when you are queen
and every one of us will spin for you forever.
Oh my stars and garters! Let me try a subtle flash of blush on those fabulous cheek bones
although at your age you hardly need it.
We elves have the charms to spin commoners like you
Into an A list princess, but
it takes your sense to know magic when you see it and
to run with it long and hard and, above all,
not to let anyone see you sweat.


Editor’s Note: I can’t help but love the hairdresser here. I can picture a salon for fairy tale princesses. It would be every bit as delightfully bitchy as this. JFWR



Hansel's Choice
Tyson West

The first time father walked with Gretel and me into deep forest
we were lucky I had a pocket full of pebbles to light our way home.
We could not understand why father seemed so cold as we greeted him at the gate.
He must have gotten distracted by step mamma’s worries of turnip blight.
This trip they had us wear our most threadbare clothes,
but father and step mamma were kind to give us these crusts of bread.
I left mine in bits along our trail just in case we were lost again.
There must be a dozen ways to die in these woods.
Jack Frost’s fangs seemed bared for us as the sun fell behind the mountain.
At moon rise we tried to distance the howls of wolves.
Werebears may linger by craggy cliffs waiting for our stumble to smear
our flesh before them.
Was it father’s quirky love to lead us to this candy cottage
and the old lady with her big oven?
But she did not as father does with swine
strike my head then hang me by my heels and slit my throat
to catch blood to make sausage.
Her mistake leaves me free to turn
so Gretel and I may force her into the fire.
Pockets full of fudge and wrapped in the old lady’s winter cloaks
we reach the fork in the forest path as the snow starts its fall.
To the right the meadow lies where father farms with step mama
to the left a long dark thread where Gretel senses a town lies open.
We need no magic mirror now to tell us
father thinks it time for Gretel and me to move on.



Editor’s Note: Doesn’t this poem underscore how screwed up Hansel und Gretel really is? It really is quite the horrifying story. JFWR

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


Three's the Charm
Colleen Anderson 

The first time someone kissed her
beyond familial fealty
was to bestow protection

The good witch laid her charm
lips like a cool dewy tear
from the northern lands she nurtured
in her winter years, advice and patience
a crone’s wisdom she hoped to confer
staining Dorothy’s forehead

But that brand worked in opposition
as spells of complimentary magic often do
It sparked an ember burning softly
through the farm girl’s vision
firing her to find a way home

She had not yet discovered
that every path that’s left behind
can never be traced again
each step changes who you were
propelling you from the familiar

The next kiss in the Emerald city’s
blush, ripe color flushed everything
in promise and growth Dorothy viewed
the girl clothing her in silk
a dress prettier than gems
She kissed the maiden on the lips
a butterfly’s flutter alighting
in the castle for several days waiting
their fingers explored the summer of their youth
blossoms opening amidst indolent sighs

She said it was for goodbye
yet was stingy with her kisses for anyone else
who had guided her to the golden road
but gave freely to the girl
who pressed garments and food
and heat into her hand

She thought more of that girl
as the first kiss still permeated
impregnating her heart with thoughts
that shivered her limbs ‘til she was torn
between going back to Kansas or on to Oz

She was never sure in years to come
if it was her wish or her desire
kindled by a kiss that spurred
her fingers pressed her lips
rooting for an imprint, a memory
to stir to life her motivation

The last to kiss her in that enchanted place
Glinda, a fit ending to journey’s start
The southern witch oversaw her departure
like a mother bird, let Dorothy find her wings
beat them against her kiss-warmed breast

The kisses three from crone and maiden
mother all magic brimmed Dorothy
brought to her womanhood’s glow
she clicked her heels and set out to complete
the circle, learning that it’s sometimes best to say
goodbye to one life before moving on anew

She waved to Aunt Em and the farm
set her back to the gray Kansas sky
then went in search of the kiss
that had released in her a maelstrom


Poet’s Notes: I’m fascinated by symbolism, myths and fairy tales. In many of these women must fit a particular role as role model, and while The Wizard of Oz was a newer fairy tale where a girl was the main character, she was still at the mercy of others. I saw much that could wind down another road where a young girl’s innocence dissolves and she finds her strength and self.


Editor’s Note: I never thought I’d read a subtly Sapphic poem about Dorothy of Oz. I am most intrigued by this unexpected take on the story, and the way her journey is framed by magic evoked in a kiss. JFWR

About the Poet: Colleen Anderson edits and writes fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in over 250 publications with some recent and new works in Polu Texni, On Spec, Thrilling Words Really System, and Nameless. Her collection, A Body of Work, is published by Black Shuck Books. She has edited three anthologies and will be the 2020 Creative Ink Festival guest of honor in Vancouver.   Find out more at www.colleenanderson.wordpress.com.

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

The Conjurer's Chastisement
James Frederick William Rowe

On wings
On wings
Of airy gauze
Of wool-spun dew, of airy gauze
The Sylph passed through a stormy cloud
Bound
On her path to the Alchemist's home

Upon
Upon
A bubble bed
Undine slept upon a bubble bed
Waking to the beckoning shouting
Pouting
She ne'ertheless swam the currents swift

Within
Within
Deep dark earth
In vaults of stone and deep dark earth
Gnome amidst precious treasures kept
Leapt
To answer the summoning call

Beneath
Beneath
A log he burned
Bathed in flame, a log he burned
Salamander emerged black and smoldering
Shouldering
A burden of fuel for the trip abroad

They came
They came
All four in number
The elementals all four in number
And standing before the summoner proud
Bowed
The alchemist to the spirits assembled

For what
For what
Have you called to us?
To what purpose have you called to us?
You have brought us here at your command
Demand
We all an answer to what end you have in mind

My goal
My goal
Is to know all things
For knowledge supreme, to know all things
So that then I might within my grasp
Clasp
The power of the world as mine to own

But say
But say
What have you done?
To merit this reward what have you done?
Have you faced the torrent's splashing
Crashing
About you as you struggle for breath?

Have you
Have you
Met a blaze?
With dauntless resolve met a blaze?
While all around you the inferno flamed
Tamed
Your fear and emerged from it unscathed?

What heights
What heights
Have you climbed?
Past the clouds have you climbed?
Gaining the summit were then you shouting
Flouting
Your supremacy before the raging wind?

What depths
What depths
Have you plumbed?
Through caverns cramped have you plumbed?
And in chthonic theatres was your singing
Ringing
Amidst the riches hidden in the earth?

All this
All this
It matters not
That I have not, it matters not
For through my magic I am master
Caster
Of spells of might and grandeur!

But see
But see
You are so wrong
In this matter you are so wrong
For it means much to we the elemental four
More
You will learn this lesson now in our wrath!

And so
And so
He was punished
By the elementals he was punished
That he might be taught that wisdom is earned
Learned
He the lesson well by their chastisement

First he was dropped from a height:                                                                     Much to Sylph's airy delight
Next was Salamander's turn:                                                                                Suffered he a grievous burn
Undine conjured waves to crash:                                                                  Several bones of his were mash'd
Then the earth consumed his home:                                                                By the workings of the Gnome

They left
They left
With mocking laughter
Heaping scorn and mocking laughter
Leaving the alchemist broken and alone
Atone
He must now in his agony

And now
And now
He saw his folly
Through anguished tears he saw his folly
But far too late came this revelation
Desolation
Was just desserts for his hubris

Poet’s Notes: This poem is about unearned power--about a reckless desire for knowledge in one lacking the experience necessary to gain such knowledge, and by extension, the power that comes with it. The alchemist thinks he is above the need to prove himself, to master the elements before commanding them, but learns by their wrath that power cannot be so arrogantly gained. The harsh and degrading punishments are just for one who demands power, rather than gaining it by right of knowledge and experience.  

The structure of the poem follows my own scheme that I first introduced in "Ever and Anon this Way with Shades" (http://www.songsoferetz.com/2017/05/ever-and-anon-this-way-with-shades-by.html).

Each stanza is 7 verses long.
The first two verses are two syllables long and are repeated.
The 3rd and 4th verses are related to one another, with the 3rd verse being repeated, or at least partially incorporated, into the 4th.
The 5th verse is longest and the concluding word is rhymed with a single-word 6th verse.
The 7th verse concludes the stanza and continues from the single-word 6th verse.
This metrical scheme is retained except for the paired couplets, which are separated by a large break to draw the reader's eye to the complement of each verse and to emphasize the difference in metrical scheme with the rest of the poem.
I love the song-like quality the scheme imposes on the verses. I also chose the last verse of the ultimate stanza specifically to end the music, ending flatly in line with the humiliation of the alchemist.


An Act of Will
James Frederick William Rowe

There is a name for every demon
And a description
For all afflictions
That your soul is tormented with

But the conjurers were wrong
Their Goetia is a lie
There is no power in their names
This knowledge is impotence

Cast your circle with salt
Your tears shall supply all that is needed
And your sobs and sighs
Shall suffice for your incantations

Sorcerer!
You are a fool!
The only spell is to endure your suffering
To overcome it the only magic: an act of Will.

Poet’s Notes: The names of demons external to oneself are as nothing. The real demons are internal to us—our afflictions and sufferings—and the real act of will—of a sovereign, conquering will—is to overcome that, not to impose some artificial will on some other being.

The Gods Are Mad
James Frederick William Rowe

"The gods are mad"
Indeed they are
To ask of us such a thing as this
Two lovers yet unwed
Their love unconsummated
To feed the waves their blood
And we to join our tears

The oarsman took them to sea
Upon waves far unequal
Of those that warranted this act
Standing at the bow
By their ankles they were tied
Their garments stripped
And made to embrace

When it is done we shall feast
Drink wine, sing songs
So must we celebrate our sorrow
For the priests say that the Lord of the Dead
Presides over their nuptials
And the wrath of his wife of the waves is assuaged

A knife to filet fish
Now to slit throats
A single slice to sew
A smock of their blood
To cover their nakedness
And to sanctify the salt of the sea

Plunging into the water
They sank with the stones
But died before they could suffocate
As their bodies were lost to the deep
The froth became pink
But then returned to white


Poet’s Notes: The idea of human sacrifice is something I have explored in multiple works of mine.  I return to this theme, because it is intensely horrifying yet so profoundly and fearfully human. Sacrifice has been with us since the dawn of time.  This instinct to be willing to sacrifice everything in fear of the forces that seem to hold no care for our lives and purposes, is within us all; thus, I think that treating it explores a dark and twisted, yet sadly understandable, part of the human psyche. 

This poem contrasts the need of the sacrifice with a strong appreciation for what it entails in the emotional lives of those who are party to the sacrifice. The narrator is sorrowful, yet he does not oppose what is done, nor do the victims, who are deliberately not mentioned as struggling. Everyone seems resigned that this is what must be done.  This resignation is thus a condition of the acceptability of the practice, with succor provided to the survivors by the tale told that the gods will accept this sacrifice gladly--a comforting lie, perhaps?  
 
The poem consists of five stanzas of six verses each, chosen with no metrical scheme specifically in mind, but presented in such a way that I thought most suitable to the poem and relying on my aesthetic intuition to make it work.  The poem’s title is a play on words--the gods being both mad in the sense of angry and also in the sense of being insane.  The gods so referenced here are drawn from my fantasy world, not from any actual figures in practiced religions, despite the disturbing parallels to actual historical practice.

Editor's Note:  I find this poem to be quite sobering and disturbingly thought-provoking.  Afterall, consider the three "great religions." Judeism began with the near human sacrifice of Isaac--the fact that God ultimately intervened to prevent it takes nothing away from Abraham's willingness to perform human sacrifice and Isaac's willingness to become a human sacrifice.  Christianty began with the willing human sacrifice of Jesus, however "divinely" ordained the Christians might suppose it to be.  Then, of course, there is Islam, many of whose adherents willingly participate in human sacrifice every day in the name of their religion, and few of whose adherents publicly condemn it.  SWG

            

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Cum Toccoa
Karla Linn Merrifield
            after Wang Wei, “A Green Stream”
I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers
into northern Georgia in a Blue Ridge valley
where the blossoms are daffodils tossed
into green waters far upstream by a woman

much like me who then floats the course,
tumbles through the gentle rapids,
heading down, down to eddy out
onto the shore below a cabin in the hemlocks.

I have visited that Temple to the Earth
where lives the mountain monk who would
instruct me as a novice in the ways of elves
and fairy creatures – he would make of me

his sprite so that we both may take delight
in the metamorphosis of the seasons, as beings
partly human, partly wild little beast, Pan’s
children.  For the lessons learned are beneath

His soughing boughs in spring when the
Yellow Flowers runs clear and we see its way.

Poet’s Notes: Here is yet another poem inspired by one of my greatest muses, poet and friend Beau Cutts. He now dwells in the great beyond, but his lively spirit-of-a-sprite in the Georgia woods brought a sense of whimsical fairytale into my poem. Toccoa is a small river in northern Georgia whose voice you could hear from Beau’s secluded cabin.


Editor’s Note: I, too, feel as if the current takes me on the journey, so composed is the imagery of this poem. JFWR


I, Urania,
say this is so: that I, a celestial body,
neither angel nor goddess, but a simpler spirit,
traveled improbable distances to this planet
to take a woman’s form.  I, Urania, followed
a single cone of night to arrive in time
on Honey Island.  I found myself floating
from a tussocked prairie just east of the source
of Bee Creek, to arrive on shore inevitably
in the groin of the prehistoric Okefenokee.
The quaking earth awoke to my quick tracks.

You awoke, trembling.  By starlight, I, Urania,
lay with you.  By a sliver of moon reflected
in the waxy leaves of a dahoon holly –
your Ilex cassine – by the Milky Way, a sheen
on the watery corridors beyond the lip of land,
we rested.  You sang to me of your home;
Taxodium ascendens, Taxodium districum,
you intoned.  Mine was more the music
of the spheres.  You folded your body
around mine.  You named my breasts, named

my hips, named my thighs.  All of the strange
human shape I had taken was flesh.
Oh, so this is what it is to be warm-blooded.
Here are my bones; burn them.  Like one
among the flora of that swamp, you knew me.
Later, I, Urania, remember dreaming with you
of cypress domes and blackgum coppices.
And you, my beloved, dreamed the birth
of the universe.  Together, we slept.
It was I, Urania, who gave you a memory

in return as I was supposed to do, so that
the next morning, when you returned
by foot, by canoe, in full sun, destined
downstream on the Suwannee River
to the estuary at the Gulf of Mexico,
you could bring back with you our fantasy.

--Karla Linn Merrifield


Poet’s Notes: This poem was inspired by friend and poet Beau Cutts, sadly now gone to the great beyond. He was a veteran stargazer who helped me find my way across the night sky on many a night in his native Georgia, opening my eyes to the wonders of our Universe with stories as well about the naming of stars, planets and galaxies. Those tales led to these lines.

Editor’s Note: The lucid and eloquent depictions of the natural world are artistically matched only by the intense eroticism of the verses.  Who would not want such a celestial visit amidst Southern swamps? JFWR

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Apparitions At 5 Pennine View
Alessio Zanelli

Phantoms. Whether from the ceiling,
slanting, or from the floor, standing.
Greedy of heed, livid-faced, shades
neither light nor darkness will black
out. Me, spectator, expectant in awe,

not fear. Fear is of the dead. I am one
who can descry. On all fours, groping
in a corner, the eyes sealed, William,
after a vision, the missing one, fails
to recognize himself as it. Damned

like all accusers. Agape, the face
against a wall, unlike his mate the
eyes wide open, Edgar Allan shakes
with dubiety. The shadow or the soul,
the genius maybe, what he has always

obsess'd about. More and more unsure.
A widow's cap still on, afloat overhead
amid the room, not the Prince but the
crown Victoria's looking for. And her
cherished nickname, rather than the

Empire. Somber. A regular since he was
gone, I was but five, mad about his teeny
nephew, Uncle Lino pays a visit wherever
I am, provided there is a curtain through
which to peep. Static on the interior sill,

he watches over me, unseen. Happy.
Afraid of the others, perched on the
chandelier, skinny Alfredino grunts
he hopes some stronger hands will
pull him up, out of the well. Genuine.

None are funny, it's said. Untrue. Take
Neil, for one. He hovers higher than the
nanny, asking why on earth he has been
left alone to wander on the moon, where
his two comrades are. Disconcerted. And

there is Jon, who quit a few weeks before,
sitting on my bed, inquisitive-gazed, as if
wondering where the bloody keyboards
are, the Hammond above all, but never
speaks a word. Blue and angered. The

eighth and last of them, lying at my side,
silent all the time, really constitutes some
mystery. His quite old visage calls to mind
no name. I like to think that they can travel
either way, so that he could be simply me.

What they claim isn't clay, nor a passage
back, but something they were forced to
leave behind, or unfinished business of
some kind. Spooks seek no revenge or
redress, solely help and human touch.

Poet’s Notes: Most of the ghosts can be easily recognized, but some are strictly personal, and there needs a bit of explanation.

So the apparitions, in order of appearance, are those of: William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, Queen Victoria, my uncle Lino, Alfredino Rampi, Neil Armstrong, Jon Lord, and myself.

I had been dreaming of all these people over the two to three nights preceding the day I wrote the poem, some of them quite understandably (for example, I had read an article about the Apollo 11 Mission lately), some others really inexplicably (for instance, I can't remember the time I had last read something about Queen Victoria, mysteries of the oneiric realm...).

Uncle Lino died at thirty-four, when I was just five. He used to live with us, so his premature death impressed me a lot--to say it in a familiar way, he's a "frequent visitor" of my dreams.

Alfredino Rampi was a six-year-old child who tragically died back in 1981. His sad case kept the Italians paralyzed in front of their TV screens for three nights and two days.  He'd fallen into an abandoned, unmarked artesian well, and the Italian state television covered the whole event. They tried everything to rescue Alfredino from the hole, but eventually he died, alone, in the dark and the cold of the bowels of the earth, fifty-five meters below the surface. I still see his smiling face in my mind, the only picture they ever showed of him black and white.

Jon Lord is the unforgotten, legendary keyboard player of Deep Purple, a classical music composer and the inventor of the hard-rock organ, distorted using a device for guitars. Curiously, he died in 2012, about a month before Neil Armstrong.

5 Pennine View is the address of my parents-in-law, in a village in South Yorkshire, near the barren moors of the Peak District, where my wife Jane and I use to spend a few weeks in the summer, and where I experienced the apparitions.


Up there, during my solitary runs over the deserted moorland, having no one to talk to and share the road with for longish hours, every now and then I happen to come across the last one of the ghosts--myself, back from some point in the future. Sometimes he follows me home and, seeing how exhausted I am, accompanies me to bed.

Editor’s Note: I love a good ghost story, and this achieves a marvel of referencing so many tales whilst not at all feeling cluttered or without purpose. JFWR


Presence
Alessio Zanelli

Their whispers draw near gentle, melded
with the low rumble of thunder, incessant
although still distant. All of them. From a
really long way. A twofold, circular one.

It takes just space for time to lapse, elapse
for memories to persist. Time of return, and
time of turn. Of quick reckoning, stern but
dispassionate. The future put aside for once.

Judgment arrives like a storm. There’s no
reason to bolt, as there’d be no escape. I’ve
dreamt of faces, sound of voices, weight of
phrases. A peaceful but inexorable parade.

Remembrance hasn’t got evoking
force enough for life to summon
death. A harsh head-to-head, but
straight. Terrific, but liberating.

And under long-awaited lightning, as
the sky slakes the earth, on my turf at
last, I’ll obtain a fair verdict. I’ll dispel
all doubts, or I’ll get over it. Untried.

I’ll figure out what the past has taken from
me, and what it has spared me. The correct
sequence of missing events. There will be no
setback and no succor, just sheer occurrence.

Come what may, I’ll rid myself
of their impalpable but relentless
presence. A pristine aura after me
from the cradle. Guilty or innocent.

I’ll let go of those blaming whispers
forever, with the clouds dissolving
behind me at sunset. Then, and only
then, I’ll turn my eyes to the horizon.

 
Editor’s Note: If only it could be so easy to liberate oneself from the past. But then again, who would we be without one? JFWR

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Three Little Pigs Go Hog Wild
Vivian Finley Nida

Hernando de Soto sails to Florida
with three little pigs, first swine to take steps
in New World. Pampered, they happily travel
with Spaniard, crossing wide river
Father of All Waters, before fever ends his life

Expedition continues, rafts down Mississippi
leaving pigs behind.    They follow custom
preparing shelter first.    One gathers straw
another sticks, third bricks.    Unfortunately
houses encroach on wolf’s territory

Next day wolf appears
His piercing eyes threaten
but pigs feel safe until he blows down
house of straw and house of sticks
Hooves clatter, hearts quake darting

to last sanctuary where pigs huddle
No other wolves in sight
This one hunts alone
Large pot of water steams
as fire blazes in fireplace

Wolf huffs, puffs to no avail
He laments living by himself, not going
north with pack, cramping from hunger
Pigs remember how wolf tricked Red Riding Hood  
They hear claws, sharp as knives, scrape up chimney

He leaps, splashes into boiling water
Spine-tingling howls explode
as pigs crack his head with cast iron lid
drag him out, gore him with tusks
Having killed the wolf, they race toward horizon

like six million other feral pigs today
roaming wherever they want
omnivorous, aggressive
ravaging flora and fauna
with no natural predators to stop them

Poet’s Notes: Two years ago, feral pigs reached our farm in north central Oklahoma. If they continue spreading at today’s rate, it is predicted that in thirty to fifty years, they will be in every county in the continental states. They are already in Hawaii.  Feral swine cause about $1.5 billion in damage each year and are moving farther north and west quickly, partially due to few natural predators and a warming climate.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will fund $75 million for a pilot program to eradicate and control feral pigs. Most of the money will go to soil and water conservation districts. To learn more, see December 18, 2019 article by Brigit Katz in Smithsonian Magazine, “Feral Pigs Are Invasive, Voracious and Resilient.  They’re also Spreading.”

Editor’s Note: I love the blending of the tale of the Three Little Pigs with the real, and actually quite scary, state of feral pig populations in America. On the plus side, I will note that I could use some boar bristle brushes for my shoes and hair and I’m sure they’re fine eating. If we are to be rid of them, let’s not be wasteful! JFWR

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Ash Maiden [La Cenerentola]
LindaAnn LoSchiavo

Her Cinderella-soul adrift, she sits
Among cold ashes, motherless, bereaved,
Repeating prayers shared with her rosary.

Her pappa, led by lust, rewed. Now loud
Lovemaking tells la cenerentola
More than she wants to know. How sad she feels
In bed when overhearing generous
Affection that is never aimed her way.

Unceasing love from mamma now lies still,
Interred beneath the churchyard’s marble slabs.

Imagining unwaking scares this child.

Observing mamma’s grave, tall oaks stripped bare
Send shadows — branches grief stricken from lost
Leaves, skeleton trees as bereft as she.

While hurrying through chores ungratefully
Demanded, the ash maiden dreams husbands.

Will hers be willing to shake the thorns off loss,
Repair hope’s broken stem, kiss hurts away?

Sweeping the steps, she’s watching birds alight,
Glide smoothly through sky blue abandonment.
Formations give the aura of a bridge.
Cold rain-soaked graves behind absorb it all.

Poet’s Notes:  "La Cenerentola" vs "Cinderella" --  Ashes, a powdery residue, can be brushed off cleanly, whereas cinders retain combustible matter, leaving the clothing and body blackened with soot. Think of a chimney sweep.

My Neapolitan grandparents grew up with an Italian fairytale whose focus is a child mourning her mother, symbolized by her sad nickname: "La Cenerentola" or "Ash Maiden."  Tears watering the mother's grave produce a magical tree that, eventually, will blossom with gifts.

By renaming his heroine "Cinderella," Walt Disney turned a grieving youngster into a dirty child covered with cinders.

My poem draws on the Italian version I grew up with.

Editor’s Note: There is something poignant about this version which so fixates on the loss of the mother. This poem conveys that message beautifully, especially in overhearing her father’s enthusiastic embrace of the new wife who treats her so coldly. The poet has introduced me to a beautiful take on a tale I thought I knew so well. JFWR
  
About the Poet: LindaAnn LoSchiavo is a dramatist, writer, and formalist.  Her poetry chapbooks "Conflicted Excitement" [Red Wolf Editions, 2018], "Concupiscent Consumption" [Red Ferret Press, 2020], and "A Route Obscure and Lonely"' [Wapshott Press, 2020] along with her collaborative book on prejudice [Macmillan in the USA, Aracne Editions in Italy] are her latest titles.  She is a member of The Dramatists Guild.  Find out more about the poet here https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/interview-with-lindaann-loschiavo

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

Reaping Early
Melanie Bell

Elaine:

Guinevere, she always got the good-looking ones.
I’ll tell you, it makes a woman’s chest clamp up to see life parading by
and her, waxen hand cleaved to his
on the shores of the lake where her husband got that sword.
Wasn’t too polite of them to unruffled sacred grounds
though it’s possible she never asked their story.

Guinevere:

His eyes are sealed, allowing hands of vine
to sap across my body unimpeded.
Fingers numb outside my sleeves, exposed.

Don’t ask me how it happened—
I’ll be cursed if I know.
Cursed if I don’t, either, I suppose.
Some say Fate lurks in the algae-mottled lee of the lake.
Others reckon it’s a giant squid.
But sure as dawn batters slabs of tower walls,
casting a sundial in the room where I sleep alone,
it was no squid that shut me here,
chucked a weaving loom beside me
and bid me to do as I will.

Hurl praise at him formulaic, giggle rote.
Water rises and we clasp each other as if sap were left
while sap flows strong in forests far from here.

The commands of its will are my secret:
there are none.
Only, when I knock against the windows,
a sting runs through my scalp.

Fingers stutter. Legs point one way, then the next.
Orpheus would have lived, had his heart been mute.
Neither he nor I would have looked back.

I weave the world in clumps, because
there’s nothing else to do.
The view from here slices crisper,
though I miss the proximity of song.
In the strains that carry up-forest, her voice melts to his.
I can no longer distinguish
his low notes ring flat,
her highs, sharp.

There's singing from the tower sometimes, too.
In dreams I'm looking down on fields of barley,
throat full of the keen air that means alone.


Poet’s notes: The figure of Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, has appealed to me since I first read Tennyson's poem. I wondered if she might have witnessed Guinevere and Lancelot's affair, and if each woman had something the other wanted - whether that was companionship or a "room of one's own."

Editor’s Note: There is always a spot in my heart for Arthurian legend, and this poem conveys such an interesting take on the two chief figures of Lancelot’s heart. I am especially stirred by the verses, “Orpheus would have lived, had his heart been mute. / Neither he nor I would have looked back.” JFWR

About the Poet: Melanie Bell holds an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University and has written for various publications including Autostraddle, Cicada, The Fiddlehead, Every Day Fiction, and CV2. She's the co-author of a nonfiction book, The Modern Enneagram (Althea Press, 2017). You can visit her website at InspireEnvisioning.com. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 Fly Fishing Lesson  
Howard Stein  
In memory of Dr. Robert Young
A wheat farmer fly fishes
In his favorite pond –
The only vacation he knows –
Wades near the shore,
His fly line out fifty feet
Into the water, the deceptive fly
Floating, lazy on the surface –

A scene that could be
Lake Placid, mirror-glazed,
Still, serene, the farmer
Waits, unhurried in his reverie,

For an unsuspecting fish
To lunge at his
Hook-concealing fly.

In his zone of suspended time,
The farmer could not
Know of the drama
Unfolding beneath the surface
Of this tiny
Sea of Tranqulility.

Not far below,
An unusual fish hesitated
To leap at the apparent fly
That lay motionless
Above him.
He had studied
This eerie situation
Many times before,
As one after another fellow fish
Pounced upon the fly,
Only to disappear instantly
Straight out of the water,
A hook piercing its mouth,
Attached to some sort of string or line.
But then taken to where?  He wondered.

He imagined his fate to be theirs
If he succumbed to his appetite
Instead of to his eyes.
Though he was hungry,
He would wait.
His would be a better fate
Than that of his fellow fishes.

For now, he would sit back
Observe, and ponder
This unusual sight.
If this fish could not discern
The hook behind the lure,
He would at least
Not take the bait.

The farmer, feet firmly planted
On the bottom of the pond,
Out-waited many fishes.
After a few hours,
His vacation over,
He left for a few weeks
To work his farm,
He always returned
With a full box of flies,
Ready to resume
His calming sport of deception.

Meanwhile, the canny fish
Continued to encircle
Each new fly he saw,
Inspected it, waited,
And only went at the fly
He knew was safe to eat –

The fish knew nothing
Of the farmer
And his brief
Respite from toil –

He only knew that
Sometimes it is good
For a fish to learn
When not to bite.

Poet’s Notes: Fly fishing is a staple in the lives of countless American farming families, as well many others who love to fish. When I first arrived in Oklahoma for a new job in 1978, I soon learned of its significance. In this poem, there is an unspoken dialogue between a farmer-fisherman and an inquisitive and wary fish who swam near where the line rested atop the water.  I came to write this poem after reading an essay on an unconscious psychological process called “projective identification,” written by Dr. Robert Young, a brilliant and creative psychoanalyst and organizational psychoanalyst whom I met and learned much from at professional conferences as well as from his writing. Dr. Young also became a close friend, though he lived in the UK, while I lived in Oklahoma.

In his essay, Dr. Young used fly fishing to illustrate how the complex concept works in disturbed human relationships. One person casts out, projects, a line that contains both bait (in fishing, a fly) and hook. Another person, emotionally vulnerable to this projection, is lured by the bait and is caught by the hook!  The relationship is destructive! 

Writing and completing the poem took on special urgency for me when I learned that Dr. Young had died.  The poem is both a little memorial to our friendship and an acknowledgement of his influence on my own thinking.

Editor’s Note: This is a fine and beautiful tribute; however, it also makes me realize I’ve never gone fishing, and I must remedy this when the weather is better. JFWR


Keeping Time    
Howard Stein  

Wall clocks
Floor clocks
Table clocks
Tenor tick
Bass tick
Snare drum
Kettle drum
Cymbals
Gong
Chatter
Heavy footfalls
Steady pulse
Metronomic stroke
Pianissimo
Fortissimo
Rapturous klang

Throbbing din 
Steady pulse
Time’s heartbeat

Then
As if obeying
Some peremptory command
All clocks cease ticking
In unison
Fall lifeless to the floor
Their hands stiff in rigor mortis
Their gears locked in cardiac arrest
Their faces frozen in fixed stare

Still as a corpse
All the clocks have
Run out of time

Poet’s Notes: This poem begins with a fantasy that has recurred to me for several years in the late 2010’s.  It always begins with the reassuring concatenation of ticks and tocks in an old-fashioned clock and watch repair shop.  Then, as in a horror movie, the ordinary and comforting transmute into chilling fear. 

I have been reading William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming” (1919), frequently in recent years.  It speaks to me of what much of contemporary life feels like. Especially the lines, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,” crystallizes it for me.

So, in a sense, my poem is ekphrastic. But in a larger sense, it is a meditation on our times, or at least my experience of them. From the outside, one could easily conclude that the clocks represent a metaphor and a fantasy. From the inside, as I wrote and read my poem, it felt almost unbearably, palpably real.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dementia:  What the wolf does
Terri Cummings

Breadcrumbs lose him
not the other way around

He tries to return
but fails to find his way

A curse condemns, locks the door—
drops the key in jaws of an ogre

who grinds it into slivers
spits them from clouds like sleet—

each bit a strike like a bite
from the apple of spells

Breadcrumbs fail Hansel, Gretel
Hop-o’-My-Thumb, too

Cunning and craving
not crumbs, lead them to safety

Yet his mind splutters, drains desires
without a clue to place crumb on tongue

Even strangers hunger for him to feast
when final homecoming arrives

Deceased, he never forgets our names
or bares his teeth

or tells the tale about disguised wolf—
how it tricked him. Swallowed him alive
Poet’s Notes:  Sometimes, the smallest detail in a story leads to the telling of another. This is what happened when I searched for a way to write a poem related to a fairytale. Once, I had wished my father-in-law remembered how to eat the tiniest crumb of nourishment.

Editor’s Note: There is more mercy in a wolf’s maw than in dementia’s teeth. It is an enemy worth eradicating, and one I hope to see at last defeated one day. The weaving of a fairy tale with the theme of dementia is a stroke of brilliance. JFWR

Editor's Note:  In my medical career now spanning nearly thirty years, I have witnessed first hand the ravages of dementia.  Worse still, I have seen many patients, sadly most of them military veterans, labeled with dementia who have never had a proper workup to search for possible reversible causes, common ones being hypothyroidism, subdural hematoma, and pseudodementia or depression-related cognitive dysfunction.  Dementia is a wolf, but the tendency to rush to apply the label is a pack of hyenas.  SWG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Iron Teeth
Jennifer Crow

The season of ripe grain has passed,
insects have fallen silent, birds
sweep south, dark wings against
a sullen sky. You worship summer’s god
too late, and his chapel
stands empty, nave a mosaic
of dead leaves and broken nests.

When winter bites me, I return
wound for wound, my iron teeth
gouging bits of cloud
to reveal the cold silver bowl
of the moon, brim-full of sorrow
for the summer child.

Listen closely when the wind
stills, and you might catch
the clatter of my iron jaw
hammering out painful truths
in the flesh of the world.
I am my own wild hunt, hungering
for the give of soft skin
and the salty tang of blood.

Run if you must. My appetite
only grows with the delay,
and my altar waits
for the offering promised
by winter’s gathering darkness.

I know the planes of your face
as I know the plains of this land,
and though you cannot trick me
I might give a boon to one
so fair of heart, who does not flinch
to see my iron grin. Bend close
so I may whisper the secret of flight
in the pink curve of your ear,
and we will travel the night
together, witches born of fate’s
meddling hand, unbowed
and full of rage.

Poet’s Notes: "Iron Teeth" is about the Russian witch Baba Yaga, one of my favorite characters in folk and fairy tales. She's always appealed to me because she falls outside the stereotype of the wicked witch--though she sometimes acts with cruelty, she also helps and rewards those who come to her seeking justice, so long as they are brave enough to face her skull-lined path, her hut on chicken legs, and her strong iron teeth.

Editor’s Note: The imagery of the seasons wonderfully sets the stage for Baba Yaga’s entrance, and the poem concludes with such powerful verses that sing to the witch’s promises of satisfied wrath. JFWR

About the Poet: Jennifer Crow lives beside a waterfall in western New York in a house with a big front porch, where she can sit and watch the world go by. Her poetry has appeared in a number of print and electronic venues, including Uncanny, Liminality, and Asimov's Science Fiction. She also reads poetry slush for the latest incarnation of Amazing Stories.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Guest TOC Artist Tracy Whiteside

Artist’s Notes:  Fairies are a fantasy.  Tinkerbell, Puck, and the Blue Fairy figure prominently in our childhood.  They represent innocence.  I am drawn to fantastical, magical, dream-like images that often lie on the dark side of the imagination. I am exploring what makes us human--not our biology but our minds.  In particular, I am interested in females---our experiences, emotions, hopes, and fears that make us who we are. 

About the Artist:  Tracy Whiteside is a Chicago-area photographer with over fifteen years of experience.  She works in many genres but specializes in creative images.  Her art has appeared in over fifty different publications in just the last year.  Check out her portfolio at https://tracywhiteside.myportfolio.com. You can enjoy her irrational mixed bag of images on Instagram @whitesidetracy.
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Frequent Contributor News  
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce the following publications by current and former Frequent Contributors.
 
FC Ross Balcom
"I Want to Taste October" and "The Egyptian Splendor," appeared in Spectral Realms #12 (Winter 2020), published by Hippocampus Press https://hippocampuspress.com/.
Assistant Editor Terri Lynn Cummings
First place for adult poetry category with “The Voice” in the Santa Fe New Mexican Pasatiempo Magazine 2020 Writing Contest https://www.santafenewmexican.com/pasatiempo/writing_contest/.
Presenter/featured reader for poetry at the 2020 Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference, Albuquerque, NM, February 19-22, 2020.
Former FC Sierra July
“What’s the Buzz?” published in November 2019 by Harbinger Press.
Former FC Mary Soon Lee
"How to Decorate the Moon" published in Eye to the Telescope http://www.eyetothetelescope.com/.
"Jumble," a poem about King Xau, who appeared in several Songs of Eretz poems, published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly http://www.heroicfantasyquarterly.com/?p=2976.
"How to Hide the Milky Way" published in Uppagus https://uppagus.com/poems/soon-lee-hide/.
"How to Go Twelfth" published in the March/April issue of Analog Science Fiction.
Former FC Lauren McBride
"To My Shipmates at Journey's End" published in Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2020. 
"A Stitch in Space" published in Spaceports & Spidersilk, February 2020.
"New Jet Car" published in Star*Line #43.1, Winter 2020.
Seven minimalist poems published in Random Planets.
Former FC Vivian Nida
Village Books Press published Vivian's first collection of poetry, From Circus Town, USA.  The title comes from her hometown, Hugo, Oklahoma, which serves as winter headquarters for several circuses.
Vivian judged the 2020 Oklahoma Writing Project statewide poetry contest for grades six through twelve and teachers. Winners will be recognized at OWP’s Spring Conference on April 1, 2020.
Former FC John Reinhart
"Sestina for the Future" appeared in issue 37 of Taproot Magazine  https://taprootmag.com/collections/magazines/products/issue-37-spark.
FC Howard Stein
"Four Haiku," was published in Floyd County Moonshine 11(2) Fall 2019: p. 111.
"Four Poems by HF Stein": "Cardiac Care"; "Long Hall"; "So Welcome a Spring"; "Toward Thanksgiving" were published in Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine, Volume 18, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Fall 2019: Pp. 95-98 www.ouhsc.edu/bloodandthunder.
"Disappeared," published in The Journal of Psychohistory 47 (2) Fall 2019: PP. 154-155.
"Too Short," published in Families, Systems and Health 37(4) December 2019: p. 347.
"Trouble Breathing," published in Family Medicine 52(1) January 2020: p. 68.
"The Second Flood," published in The Journal of Psychohistory. 47 (3) Winter 2020:  Pp. 232-233.
FC Charles A. Swanson
“A Million Silver Lizards out of Snow” and “Summer Corn,” published in the Fall 2019 issue of Speckled Trout Review https://speckledtroutreview.com/fall-2019/#CharlesS
“Crackling Cornbread” published in the Winter, 2020 issue of Change Seven Magazine https://changesevenmag.com/
“Squirrel Brains” published in Floyd County Moonshine, Fall 2019, 11.2. http://www.floydshine.com/issue11-2.html.
New FC Tyson West
"Moon Garden" published February 2020 in Tales from the Moonlit Path.
"Late Arrival at the Ephrata Taco Bell" and "Airway Heights Lunch Crowd August 2, 2019" published in the February 2020 issue of Taco Bell Quarterly.
"Burlesque 1967", "Googleus Nuncius", "Deception Snow", and "Avalanche" published in Issue 35 of The Fib Review
FC Alessio Zanelli
Two poems in the leading South African journal New Contrast issue #189, Autumn 2020 http://www.newcontrast.net/.
His collection, The Secret Of Archery has been reviewed by British essayist, poet, critic Neil Leadbeater in the 2020 issue of Contemporary Literary Review India, available both in print and online
“The Spirit” published in issue #43, Winter 2020 of Tipton Poetry Journal http://tiptonpoetryjournal.com/& https://issuu.com/tiptonpoetryjournal/docs/tpj43.
“Cybernetics” published in Star*Line, issue #43.1 http://sfpoetry.com/starline.html.
“The Mutable Tinnitus Of Time” published in the 2020 edition of Global Poetry Anthology, published in Kerala, India, and edited by Seena Sreevalson https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Art/Global-Poetry-Web-117139733001051/.
“The Road And I” published in the 2020 edition of The Transnational, a bilingual (English/German) literary magazine based in Germany, whose editor is Dr. René Kanzler https://www.rene-kanzler.com/& https://www.the-transnational.com/.
“Recurrence” published on the front cover of the poetry magazine The Journal, based in Wales http://thesamsmith.webs.com.
A poem published in issue #190 of Orbis http://www.orbisjournal.com/, UK.
A poem published in the 2020 edition of Phenomenal Literature, India http://phenomenalliterature.com/.
“Run’s End” and “The Cart Pusher” published in issue #40 of the British literary magazine Dream Catcher http://www.dreamcatchermagazine.co.uk/html/contributor.html & http://www.dreamcatchermagazine.co.uk/.
New Zealand Alpine Journal chose Alessio as the featured poet for the 2019 issue, publishing “World Of Dreams”, “The Climb”, and “The Mountain” https://alpineclub.org.nz/product/new-zealand-alpine-journal-2019/.
“A Trekker's Thought” published in The Lyric, Volume 99, Number 4.  Founded in 1921, The Lyric is the oldest magazine in North America in continuous publication devoted to traditional poetry https://thelyricmagazine.com/.
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Lana the Poetry Dog
Forthcoming
Songs of Eretz Poetry Review will re-open for submissions from April 10 to May 1, 2020 for our "Love" themed issue, which will be published in mid-June 2020.  Assistant Editor Terry Lynn Cummings will be the lead editor.  The Muse of Love has inspired many to compose some of the most beautiful and memorable poems in existence.  She has also "inspired" some of the worst.  Terri will be looking for poems that bring something fresh and new to this old theme.
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