Sunday, June 14, 2020

SUMMER 2020 "LOVE" ISSUE



Summer 2020 "Love" 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 Contributor
John C. Mannone
Other Frequent Contributors 
Ross Balcom, Gene Hodge, Karla Linn Merrifield, 
Vivian Finley Nida, Howard Stein, Charles A. Swanson, 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.
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 Lead Editor

A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

 Featured Poets

Steven Wittenberg Gordon
"Sister of Romulus"
"Virgin"
"Kiss Me"
"Fifty Years Wed"
"Ever Brighter"
John C. Mannone
"Even at the Speed of Light"
"X's and O's"
"By the Gold and Silver Light"
"In Praise of Aphrodite"
Other Fine Poets
Returning Guest Poet Jane Dougherty
“Love is a place in the bones”
Debut Poet Vibha
“in full bloom”
Alessio Zanelli
“The Head Of The Family’s Sense Of Duty”
Guest Poet J. Federle
“Ghost of the Tortoise’s Caregiver”
James Frederick William Rowe
“All Love is Theft and We Thieves are the Better for It”
“What I had Loved”
Guest Poet Louis Girón
“Sappho Gazes at the Shore as Her Lover Leaves”
Guest Poet Ann Howells
“Love Poem #26”
“The Plot Holds”
Ross Balcom
“love electric”
Charles A. Swanson
"The Stick Figure Man Confides, 'I know a Woman Lovely in Her Bones'"
“The Winter of Our Content”
 “The Quilting Wife”
Guest Poet Jennifer Lagier
“50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love”
Gene Hodge
“Morning Coffee”
Guest Poet Ann T. Halvorsen
“May Day”
Returning Guest Poet Gerri Leen
“The Choices Between Lives”
Vivian Finley Nida
 “Eros”
 “Price of Love”
Guest Poet Mary K. O’Melveny
“Ticker Tape”
Karla Linn Merrifield
“In So Many Words:  Caretaker”
“The Time-of-Death Head Game”
Guest Poet Shannon Lise
“To Have and To Hold”
Guest Poet Sheryl Guterl
“Stripping”
Guest Poet C. T. Holte
“Lucky Boy!”
Guest Poet Anna Teresa Slater
“A Couple of Decades”
Tyson West
“Ductile”
“Momento Mori de Amor”
“Summer Love-Summer Death”
Howard Stein
“Love’s Decorum”
“Love Song to the Rocks of Ghost Ranch, NM”
Guest Poet Julie Weiss
“Messenger”
Guest Poet Pat Daneman
“this is not a love poem”
 “Orchard Idyll”
Terri Lynn Cummings
“Loving”
Guest Poet Sue Chenette
“one is rounded and mended”
Guest Poet Dawid Juraszek
“Atthis”
Guest Poet Kristoff Misquitta
“Abandoned Miles”
Guest Poet Bekah Ballard
“Far Gone”
Guest Poet Wesley Sims
“Resurrection”
Guest Poet PK Robbins Walzer
“Gull Love”
Frequent Contributor News
Forthcoming

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A Letter from the Lead Editor
Opportunity alights on pandemic’s wall as we isolate ourselves. COVID-19 highlights the marginalized, poor, elderly, sick, "the least of us," the most vulnerable. Although this fact is not new, it is now a focus of daily, worldwide communication. When found, a medical vaccine will serve as an answer of sorts, but more is needed to help mankind through its dark tunnel.

In my mind, the poems within this issue provide a cultural vaccine that guides us toward the light. In this issue, some authors identify the challenge of coping with life in a way that does not repel love. A few discuss the hurdles in taking steps that allow love to flow throughout lives and relationships, with ease, vulnerability. Many connect love to meaning and fulfillment, which brings the authors (or their characters) closer to those (or what) they value—human, animal, place, etc. 

Others describe an emotion that drives a person's past selfishness or self-interest on behalf of their loved one. To nurture will result in positive self-esteem and a sense of well-being. To deceive will splinter one’s sense of reality. After time spent within these poems, I hope readers consider how well they meet their own standards for ‘being loving.’ 

Too often, love is relegated to a near passive state of being as opposed to a conscious choice. If regarded as something we “fall into,” we may slip into a routine with loved ones. This often places respect at a disadvantage. Over time, relationships suffer or die. Is that not what happens on a global scale, when humans, and the natural world, are disregarded, abused, ostracized, forgotten?

So, if love is perfect, but humans are not, what is the solution? I believe it is to act with love and act our best in a constant manner. And in this particular instance, spread goodwill from page to action. As poets, as readers, I pray our voices, our persistent actions, help to unleash a cultural vaccine—one that eliminates disparity, deepens relationships with humanity and nature, and builds resilience, insight on how to embrace uncertainty with mercy.

Terri Lynn Cummings
Assistant Editor
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 A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
 
When I decided to use Songs of Eretz as a vehicle to feed the hungry of Calais, Maine in these trying times, I was unsure what the response would be.  It turns out I need not have worried.  The response from current and former Frequent Contributors, the editorial staff, and the readership was overwhelming.  In particular, far from discouraging submissions, the idea of supporting such a worthy cause through the donation of guest poet honoraria and other personal donations produced such a spike in submissions that Songs of Eretz was, for the first time in its six-year history, forced to close early for submissions.

All who participated in this outpouring of love will be proud to learn that together we raised nearly $600 to feed the needy in Calais, Maine.  Crumbs Café & Bake Shoppe in Calais used our donations to provide over 200 meals.  The Calais Advertiser recognized our philanthropy by publishing a nice article about our efforts in its April 22, 2020 edition.

Speaking of love, Terri Lynn Cummings, acting as lead editor for this love-themed issue, loved so many of the poems submitted that she accepted nearly twice as many poems by guest poets than are usually allotted for publication.  Add that to the fact that every Frequent Contributor managed to get at least one poem into the issue, and the result is our first ever double-length issue.  That’s a lot of love!

Finally, while I do make it a priority to publish one or two of my own poems in every issue, I feel that I must comment on the fact that this issue prominently features my own work; something that I have never before considered doing and probably will never do again.  My work as a poet, writer, and editor comes from a place of love, regardless of the genre or form I may choose for each individual one of my creations.  I ask for your indulgence here, just this once.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD
Editor-in-Chief

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Featured Poets
Sister of Romulus
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
                                   For Lana

How elegant your gait 
Digital Photograph "Steve & Lana" by AR Gordon
each foot placed 
just so.

How deep your eyes
that peer into 
my soul.

Would that I could read 
your mind--would 
I find

in the foldings of your brain
the Chase, the Hunt, 
the Kill

in one so gentle
one so noble
as you?

Someday too soon
You will be gone 
to roam 

Orion’s stars with
his Pack Eternal
to run

with Canis Major & Minor
and I will see your soul’s 
true form

as I gaze into the sky
my loyal friend
my little wolf.

Poet's Notes:  We all love our pets.  I almost lost Lana, our Poetry Dog, to an overwhelming infection last November.  Major surgery was required to save her life.  I began to wonder what would become of her soul once her body finally failed?  And I have no doubt that dogs have souls and go to heaven, or to the heavens.

Editor's Note:  Gordon chooses his language wisely in weaving a poem that avoids the prosaic--a difficult task when writing of personal love, human or otherwise. TLC



Virgin
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
I hear 
the snow 
kiss the ground 
as it falls 
on the mountain.

A sea of white
reflecting the rays
of the xanthic star
that lights my way
forcing me 
to paint my face
wear tinted lenses
as though it were
a bright summer day
not dead of winter.

Why “dead” of winter? 
I have never felt more alive! 
Crisp cold air fills my lungs and 
I am
at once
the sun
the sky
the air
the snow
the mountain!

Virgin

I will have you         I will take your gift          that you can give

only once.

I set my 
        downhill pole 
                           and glide!





Poet’s Notes:  There is something transcendent, ecstatic, and rapturous, as one stands alone atop a mountain looking down on a blanket of virgin snow--a primordial, almost sexual thrill.  Dare I say, love?


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Kiss Me
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

The online service found matches
based on various compatibility factors 
such as tastes in art, music, and literature, 
political leanings, education, profession, religion.
Ten responded to my image.
Three possessed certain essential attributes.  
I met the first in a restaurant lobby,  
introduced myself, and asked him to kiss me.  
He asked me to let him buy me dinner first.  
I replied what would be the point
if we have no chemistry?  
He repeated his request.  
I said goodbye, his muttered “crazy bitch” 
piercing the sounds of the city.  
I met the second in the same place the next day,  
introduced myself and asked him to kiss me.  
To my relief, he immediately complied.  
The earth did not move.  
We both knew without saying a word 
that we were over before we started.  
At least let me buy you dinner, he offered.  
Save your money, I said.  
He politely nodded and left.  
The next day I met number three. 
He was there when I arrived in the restaurant lobby.  
He waved to me awkwardly.  
Kiss me, I said.  
He froze.  His mouth opened and closed without a sound.  
Why waste our time and your money 
if we don’t have any chemistry?  
Kiss me, I repeated.  
Our lips met and lingered.  
Hungry? he asked.  
Oh, yes, I replied.

Poet’s Notes:  In this day and age of computer dating, I had fun illustrating the reality that no matter how good the matching program may be, the chemistry still needs to be there.  I also had fun making use of a female speaker in this one.



Fifty Years Wed
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Said the husband:  “You were a ballerina in those days, descendant of Rachel.  For over two decades had I waited for you, and suddenly there you were, drawing water for me from the Well of Forever.”

Said the wife:  “You were dashing, cocksure, confident in those days, descendant of David.  How could I not fall for you, your eyes flashing as you drank me into your heart?”

Said the husband:  “My thick, dark hair has long since thinned and turned to silver, and the strength of my youth is gone, but still I would have you draw water for me, and still I would drink you in with my failing eyes.”

Said the wife:  “And gladly would I yet serve you, though my bones have grown weak and my hands tremble as I hold the cup.  My reflection shifts in the well’s waters to that of someone I hardly recognize--no dancer she.”

Said the husband:  “The vessel you carry is solid gold, far too heavy for such a delicate flower.  Bring me your water in the rudest, lightest cup, and I shall be satisfied, for she who bears it is the love of my life.”

Said the wife:  “But the cup has ever been one of simple earthenware, so light that our youngest grandchild could carry it on her little finger with ease.” 

Said the husband:  “But in your hands, the cup is gold.”


Poet's Notes:  There are allusions to the meetings of Isaac and Rebecca as well as Jacob and Rachel if you know where to look for them.





Sunflower Field | Digital Photograph | SWGordon
Ever Brighter
Steven Wittenberg Gordon

A field of sunflowers bursts with gold 
But once a year in full ripeness of seed and flower 
Then too soon fades and withers. 
Not so my love for you! 
It will outlast both sun and flower 
Blooming ever brighter for all of eternity.

Poet’s Notes:  Now that I have returned from the far reaches of Maine to the Sunflower State, I recall with fondness how my family and I enjoyed spending a magical day one summer visiting a sunflower farm just a few miles from our suburban home.  The view upon arriving there was stunning--acre upon acre of gorgeous yellow sunflowers crowded together in full bloom, each flower as tall as a man, each blossom as wide as a dinner plate.  The memory of wading into that flowery sea and losing myself in its fecund beauty is a thrill I will never forget.  But as breathtaking as that experience was, it could not compare with my love for my wife, swimming through the field beside me.

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Even at the Speed of Light
John C. Mannone

When lightning flashes air
you’ll hear the backlash
of thunder one second later
for every mile you are away,
away from the disturbance.

Sometimes there’s just a low
level rumble, cloud to cloud,
like the trembling in my gut.
Sometimes the sky just cracks,
empties out its heart

as a door slams, or a bullwhip’s
tip tears out the backbone
of air. Even whispers can lash
as boisterous pricks of empty
words if unmeant, like I love you.

Just a line of poetry falling apart
from loud cries of clichés carried
to extremes even in my spaceship
now rushing fast with solar winds
from alien suns. A rash of thoughts

of you, my voice cracking like
thunder when I yell your name,
when that lightning-fast kiss I sent
won’t reach your lips for years.
Even then it might dissolve

into a blur of hiss. And your smile
may never reach me even at
the speed of light. Nothing is
as deafening as the hush
through all those light-years.

Poet’s Notes:  Science, in general, is a virtual reservoir of fresh metaphors, so I often tap into them (because I am a scientist and am blessed to be privy to them). What was the prime mover in the creation of this poem? Was I thinking of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” or was there a subconscious push from having seen a space exploration movie or was there a strong latent impression after reading one of Tracy K. Smith’s poems? 

Editor’s Note:  Mannone's deft use of metaphors roar within emotions. TLC

Editor's Note:  Long distance relationships are tough to maintain.  100 miles might as well be 100 light-years.  SWG 
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X’s and O’s
John C. Mannone 
Circle O’s around the numbers, mark X’s in the squares 
of the calendar hanging on the wall, urinal-n-crapper next 
to the bunk to assuage the miasma that permeates the air. 

Only thirty days, a lousy month before parole, yet it’s time 
between each day that dilates as if subject to Einstein’s 
special relativity kicking in as my thoughts runaway 

near the speed of light. It’s been so damn long since I’ve 
kissed you or even held you tight. This prison doesn’t 
allow close contact, just like the coronavirus but with 

a more enduring social distancing…I can’t breathe.

Poet’s Notes:  Though not directly a poem about coronavirus, it nevertheless was the impetus behind it. The seclusion at times, even in the “safety” of my own home, feels like a prison. And not being able to be with the one I love has been exceedingly difficult, even depressing. This poem emerged during one of my darker moments. Of course, the thirty days refers to the length of time to remain sheltered-in-place, but I know that doesn’t apply to me. I’m part of the vulnerable population.

Editor’s Note:  About isolation from loved ones, a theme that resonates around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mannone reminds us of those who already live with it for years or lifetimes. TLC



By the Gold and Silver Light
John C. Mannone
                After William Butler Yeats

When you get there, tread lightly, ever
so lightly, its geography is uncharted.
By the banks of the river, you will find
a quiet eddy, a place to rest. Search
yourself in the reflections of the pool.
And if you see fire, stare into its eyes
until it is quenched; be careful not to fall
into the flames, but dream along with me.
Yes, when you get there, tread softly,
the geography of my heart is uncharted.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was inspired by the William Butler Yeats poem “Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven.” From my research in various places on the Internet, I learned that Aedh (a child of Lir) was a Celtic God of Death. Yeats seems to have used this character in some of his stories and describes him as fire reflected in the water. When you read his poem http://allpoetry.com/poem/8453643-Aedh_Wishes_For_The_Cloths_Of_Heaven-by-William_Butler_Yeats, you will see other connections.



In Praise of Aphrodite
John C. Mannone
Santa Catalina is awaiting for me
Romance, romance, romance, romance.
—Glen Larson and Bruce Belland

The song rings in my ears
as I slip into jello’d waves,
kelp beanstalking from sixty feet.

I sink softly into the Catalina sea
that stretches her arms toward me.
Aqua sun shafts through the cold

blue solarium. Kelp swaying bronze
leaves in swift current, wisping
like your reddish-gold tresses.

I am safe in this forest with damselfish—
flamed Garibaldi flitting at reflections.
But I am not safe with thoughts of you.

The late sun venetian’d by fronds
draws the blind. Darkness hulks.
In stealth glides through the greening.

Sleek, this indiscriminating monster:
head triangular, obtuse; mouth gaping
with rows of serrated teeth

ready to trammel, to gnash
much more than flesh, bone.               
Her nostrils stamped deep

into her thick sandpaper skin.
She smells my blood, I’ve been bleeding
inside ever since you left me.

Perhaps she hears my heart
still thrashing from last night’s dream.
I make no sound today, not even in my head.

But she sees, even with her eyes closed.
The aura of me haloes the sea, inflames
sensors that guide her to me.

I am spent. Suspended by waters,
wall of sea shrinks as she approaches.
She comes in perfect symmetry.

I am offered
to a mythical goddess,
to her swift execution.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem uses the extended metaphor of a great white shark for a past failed relationship. A beautiful woman, a goddess if you will, can be as dangerous as a ruthless shark. I chose the kelp beds off Santa Catalina islands as the setting because of the ubiquity of the great whites (one of their high-density spots are the nearby Farallon Islands) and also because of the love song in the epigraph.
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Other Fine Poets


Love is a place in the bones
Jane Dougherty

I love this place, tree-striding, buttercup sprawl,
filling ditches with gold, meadow sweeping
with orchids and flax flowers, scraps of sky,
and the glorious swooping flight of wood pigeons.

Love is this passion of tumultuous living,
the building and singing, sweeping and soaring
from waving tree summit to galleried earth.
This is where I would plunge beneath the skin,

stretch until feathers fledge and song bursts from my lips,
where I would shape my shape to the shape of the earth
and the sky, hide among green fronds where the deer glide,
and the honey scent of bedstraw fills the dusky air.

Love is all this, the arms that hold its breadth,
the height of its trees, and the cord, subtle as gossamer,
that joins us, you, me, the crouching hare,
the stars in the endless wheel, so tight, so strong,

that there is no difference
between the light in your face
and the reflection of a hovering kestrel
in a pool of still water.

Poet’s Notes:  Having had love from parents, love from a partner, and then children, I thought I knew what it was all about. Then I found love in a place and I learned that this place is full of life, that everything is connected, leaves, hearts, stars, by an elusive thread that is the essence of love. I used to think love was about exclusive relationships, expectations, giving in order to receive. Love is much bigger than that, it’s about living in harmony with everything else in the world, asking no questions, and expecting no answers.

Editor’s Note:  Dougherty's elegant understanding of love shines from this poem. TLC

About the Poet:  Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. In addition to being a featured poet in the spring 2020 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, 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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in full bloom
Vibha

my mother always dreamed of having her own garden.
she yearned to watch her flowers 
dance in the rain
reckless and graceful
to breathe the magical air
that settled like mist 
around fresh leaves 
to have dew dipped grass
tickle her bare feet
to see twisting vines 
grow wildly around her warm embrace.

she ached for a majestic tree
with bounteous shade in the summer
she longed for buds bursting
at the mere mention of spring
hummingbirds and butterflies 
rejoicing
in her palace of marigolds.

she wished for earthworms
to garnish her soil
and thrushes
to find home in her branches
and bees to relish
the sweet nectar 
of her blossoms.

but we lived in a small home
and she never had the chance
to have a garden of her own.

so, like the garden of her dreams
she raised me
alive
fierce

and graceful.
  
Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem as a birthday present for my mum but never really showed it to her that day. I hope you like it ma :)

Editor’s Note:  Vibha's mature artistry blooms beneath her mother's love. I hope humanity will find a measure of peace by reading and listening to more of her poetry. TLC

Editor's Note:  It is always an honor to debut a poet, especially one with such promise.  This poem resonated personally with me.  I, too, always wanted to have a garden, but my life turned out to be too nomadic.  Perhaps in retirement...  SWG

About the Poet:  Vibha is a 17-year-old student from Bangalore, India. She has always dreamed of being a writer, and this is the first time her work is being published. She is a dedicated slam poet and performs her work regarding social issues and current problems at various local events and runs her own YouTube channel for the same--UntoldVerses. She has an Instagram handle, @untoldverses, where she posts her written work. She has been working on a collection of poems and a novel, which she hopes to publish someday.

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The Head Of The Family’s Sense Of Duty
Alessio Zanelli
Cremona, Italy
                 To dad

When you were young, toward lunchtime, grandma
lined up half a dozen loaves of bread beside the
plate, full of boiling soup to the brim. All was
ready, neatly set on the tablecloth, perfectly on
time, so that you could start to eat as soon as you
got home and, in that one hour, also take a little
nap, before returning to the building site. Today
it takes you hours to digest a single piece of
bread, and you had to give up on your beloved
broth many a year ago. What's left of your stomach
dislikes it. And yet you still spend your life on the
site, the one within the home, twenty-four-seven, like
nothing happened. There is no shortage of work, not
even while you're dreaming, or when memories, about
as old as your wedding ring, all of a sudden picture a
furtively tender smile on your shrunk but luminous face.

 
Editor’s Note: "Luminous" is the word that makes this poem for me.  There is a warmth that this poem exudes.  I can literally feel the love.  SWG
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Ghost of the Tortoise’s Caregiver
J. Federle

Old friend, on our first meeting, your brown 
mountainous back wobbled in the sun—
that is how I knew 
you were not a rock.

I came to you bitter 
at what I carried. The cane, the pills…
Conservationist of what, I wondered,
spitting at my feet, at their drag and ache
on cold mornings. That disease 
eroded more than my muscles.

But over the hours, your back 
(a knot in the bark of an ancient tree) 
plodded long-tread paths—showed me 
a better way:

Bask. Drink. Store warm light 
within the temple of yourself. Rest
when you must, and trust 
the warm rafters of your ribs.

Old, old friend, outlive me another fifty years. 

I know how to wait now. And how could I not
wait on you? Here am I, cool shimmer
in the morning fog, breeze to rock you 
back upon your feet.

Let us conserve ourselves. 

Let us, together, pass a thousand hours more
focusing on a single red hibiscus, 
bringing by the width of grass blades
what is sweet and bright
closer to your bony mouth.

Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem reflecting on my sister's experience with sudden heart failure last year. Although she's doing well now, this event triggered a permanent, unwelcome, and traumatic transformation in both her body and her 'self.' The gentleness in this poem is what I wished for her during this startling transformation. I wished for the kindness of herself to herself, for support from whom she was to be extended to whom she was becoming, without judgment or shame.

Organ donation was key in my sister gaining more time outside the hospital than inside. Anywhere I'm permitted, I make the same plea: https://www.donatelife.net/.

Editor's Note: Federle's originality is indeed loving and transformative. I signed up on the organ donation registry. TLC

Editor's Note: As a poet/philosopher, I am reminded of Master Oogway from the movie Kung Fu Panda (pictured and taken from a royalty-free source) as I read this one.  As a physician, I also recall the advice I have given to many of my patients who, through the aging process or disease or injury can no longer do certain things that they once enjoyed.  My advice?  "Concentrate on the thousands of things you still can do rather than on the dozens you cannot."  SWG

About the Poet:  J. Federle, born and raised in Kentucky and earned an MA in 19th-century Poetry in Bristol, England.  When she writes, Romanticism meets the US South, and Gothic and Greek imagery fuse with folktale humor. Her years in Peru, married to a supportive Limeño, have improved her Spanish, if not her ability to dance.

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Rape of the Sabine Women by Luca Giordano
All Love is Theft and We Thieves are the Better for It
James Frederick William Rowe

Sabine women
And ecstatic dancers
Alone know honesty
Amongst women

To be carried away
Whisked in powerful arms
Whether man or god
How can a woman be satisfied
With anything else
Anything but?

Who amongst us
Has not felt like
A wife stealer
Absconding with our bounty
When we have won
The heart of a woman?

Precious, our pilfering
But perilous also
There is theft in love
A hanging offense
And to risk one's neck
For but a trifle
Is dire foolhardiness

Be laden with love
Heaped with its haul
To warrant the risk
Of so dangerous an enterprise
There is no virtue
In half measures
Drown beneath the trove
Of love overflowing

All love is theft
And we thieves
Are the better for it

Poet's Notes:  I had written much of this poem a long time ago and, if I recall correctly, the first stanza came to me on the subway. I had not returned to it for quite a while, nor did I entitle it until I was ready to submit this for this issue. 

This poem thinks of love in the context of being carried away and carrying away. I think it is best to conceive of love as rapturous to capture the sense in which love overwhelms and takes hold of us as if it was literally abducting us. I then shifted the sense so as to make ourselves active participants in the theft, so as to emphasize the importance of accepting this element of love and immersing oneself fully within it. As I said in another poem, "love is a demon and it needs to possess."

Unlike most of my poems, I did not attempt to restrict the poem into even stanzas. I had initially written it without stanza breaks but I found that it did not emphasize the separate thoughts which each stanza represents, which in turn could not be restrained within any formal and even division. Accordingly, I chose to break my unspoken rules in order to present this poem in the way I thought it most natural to do.

Editor's Note:  Rowe's questions titillate the imagination. TLC

Editor's Note:  On its face and without attention James' signature thorough poet's notes statement, this poem could easily be misinterpreted as sexist, even misogynist, particularly in the post #MeToo era.  James is brave to allow it to be published, and I daresay I was brave to publish it.  SWG




What I had Loved
James Frederick William Rowe
When it comes time to bid adieu
To the man I am at time of death
Though all he was be gone
And never more appear
I hope I will recognize in you
What I had loved as he
And you will recognize in me
What you had loved as she

Poet's Notes:  This came to me with a sudden inspiration after thinking over Ralph Cudworth's ruminations on resurrected bodies. Given the fact that the person who we are is a composite of our soul and this specific body, there is a sense that we do lose ourselves in part when we die, even if we persist or are born anew. I translated this concept to the yearning for a love that will be remembered even with this shift in identity, and that love is faithful to the soul that remains even when the persona dies.

I only mildly altered the poem as necessary to refine it for publication. It was written otherwise in less than a minute and was entitled shortly after. 

Though not principally a rhyming poem, the concluding line's unforced rhyme felt appropriate to retain for the sake of its musical quality that nicely punctuates the poem's simple message. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sappho Gazes at the Shore as Her Lover Leaves
Louis Girón
After a fragment of Sappho, “if not winter”

“…if not winter in May,                                                        
then merely your shadow walking
as if in a waking dream,

barefoot toward the sea
to your bridegroom, away.  

You do not look back
toward me, the other shadow

of our shared dreams
now about to be forgot.

My lyre twists; the chord
bloodies my fingers. Strung

with false strings, the lyre
can hold no tone, no melody,

not one measure, … so bitter the song.

This spring brings no rosebuds;
this day, only clouds.

The mist and the boat stole May
and left me winter. About this island,
the Aegean, once blue, is gray.

Night will bring neither joy nor sleep.
Aurora cannot take away tears;
nor can a thimble, a sea.

Sparrows will neither sing nor fly.

Of your touch, damp ashes cling
where once our fires had no end.

The Sisters weave both dense and tight—
my fingers still feel each strand of your hair.

My bread is salt;
our bed, cold.

Behind my performer’s mask,
no song, no breath.”

Poet’s Notes:  Sappho, as poet and person, has always fascinated me, even more so since I heard re-creations of ancient Greek music. Haunting, eerie, heart-grabbing, beautiful, timeless--just as I have imagined Sappho. In her time, poems were recited or sung to such music. The scene I re-enacted recalls a role attributed to her as a teacher of fine arts to young women of high station. The island is Lesbos.  It imagines a love affair torn apart as the younger woman—without regrets, leaves for her arranged marriage. Sappho is inconsolable. 

Editor's Note: Girón's depictions haunt mind and heart. TLC

About the Poet:  Louis Girón grew up in San Antonio, was a battalion surgeon in Viet Nam, spent his professional life in the Midwest, and now lives in Western North Carolina.  His poems appear in Aji, Chest, Perihelion, Redactions, Revue (Kansas City), Still Point Arts Quarterly, Sunflower Petals, The Amsterdam Quarterly, The Great Smokies Review, The New Guard Literary Review, The New Millennium, The Potomac, The Same, VietNow, Warscape, and Winning Writers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Love Poem # 26
Ann Howells

I want to dip from the well
beneath your tongue,
touch that hollow
at the base of your throat
where mirthful laughter burbles
and voices
of speckled salamanders sing,
I want to caress
the soft curve of your shoulder,
kiss velvet moss and fiddlehead
sprung from the pool
of green eyes
forever moist & secret
as that first morning after.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was written as I thought about my fifty-seven-year marriage to my husband, Dennis. If I had it to do over, I'd marry him again. It hasn't all been roses, but then again, more roses than thorns.


Editor’s Note:  Howell's rich language coats this poem with early love. TLC

Editor's Note:  This is a nice modern take on the sonnet form.  I enjoy the impishness, whimsy, and touch of erotica here.  Dennis is a lucky guy!  SWG




The Plot Holds
Ann Howells 

We met, pheromone attraction,
brief novella, beach read to be enjoyed
and placed on the shelf amid other slim volumes.
But romance caught us off guard:
quirky characters, unexpected plot twists.
The story expanded, developed,
extended into War and Peace with skirmishes,
battles, truces.
Red herrings. False denouements.
We never guessed, back then, that midway through, 
we’d require reading glasses for fine print,
unwritten subtext between lines.
We turn page after page:
jelly-stained with children’s fingerprints,
dog-eared to mark memories 
that make us smile or scowl. A few pages
hold pressed flowers. We no longer expect
a tidy conclusion to tie up subplots.
We go around once, single draft, no rewrites, 
and we must ignore misspellings and typos, 
hope the plot holds.
But we are invested, will read to the final chapter, 
pray these pages
reveal more comedy than tragedy.


About the Poet:  Ann Howells edited Illya’s Honey for eighteen years. Her books include Under a Lone Star (Village Books, 2016), Cattlemen & Cadillacs, an anthology of D/FW poets she edited (Dallas Poets Community Press, 2016), So Long As We Speak Their Names (Kelsay Books, 2019), and Painting the Pinwheel Sky (Assure Press, 2020). Her four chapbooks include "Black Crow in Flight", published through Main Street Rag’s 2007 competition and "Softly Beating Wings" which won the 2017 William D. Barney Competition (Blackbead Books). Ann’s work appears in Spillway, Little Patuxent Review, and The Langdon Review among others.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
love electric
Ross Balcolm

rapture of lightning
striking a tree
the smell
of burnt limbs
her form
expired in my arms
a lurid glow
in her dead eyes
I buried her high
on the hill
shrieking my pain,
my loss
clawing 
my naked body
the electricity
in me crackling
for another love,
another victim
another tree
in the storm

Editor’s Note:  I know Ross eschews allusions and symbolism in his poems but cannot help imagining the poem as a secret ending to the myth of Daphne and Apollo, with the horn dog Zeus attempting to release Daphne from her tree with disastrous results.  SWG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Stick Figure Man Confides,
"I Know a Woman Lovely in Her Bones"
Charles A. Swanson 
                            —Slightly Misquoting Theodore Roethke 

I looked for her everywhere.  She liked to hide,
mischievous grin, a crayon mark across
her cunning face.  She didn’t choose things wide
like barns to crouch behind.  She would get lost
in colonies of stalks, green swaths of bamboo,
the knob-kneed patches of corn. She posed among
the thorns of blackberry canes, breathed out “yoo-hoo,”
hiding her voice in nature’s whispering tongues.
She hid inside as well.  I’d find her some days
beside the brooms and mops.  She merged like slats
in front of vertical blinds.  She turned away
to show her angles—not a bit of fat.
I loved her games, her every bone and stick.
I’d find her slowly, but I loved her quick.

Poet’s Notes:  Stick Figure Man appears in quite a few of my poems. I first conceived the series when I wanted to turn my usual writing style on its head. My work is usually replete with concrete images.  The poetry vegetation is dense. What could I do if I pared down the language, wrote a poem without (ha!) using words?

Stick Figure Man soon appeared to me. In the hands of capable artists, the stick figure becomes life-like, despite the minimal lines. My first poem was about how Stick Figure Man wanted to “live,” like Pinocchio. He wanted to take on flesh. He wanted to become more than just a few straight, spare lines on a page. Soon I was writing more and more poems, exploring the way the graphic figure might interact with the world around him. Stick Figure Man is often pictured with a Stick Figure family, especially on the back of SUVs. How did he meet and court his wife? This poem offers a clue.

Editor’s Note:  This sonnet reminds me of Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott, a short but weighty tome and among the most important and influential books I have read.  SWG


                                                           
The Winter of Our Content
Charles A. Swanson            
         Our first home, life in the trailer park

How small the space contentment needs.  Or youth
in dewy optimism laughs at challenges.
Not much went right, to tell the honest truth.
I’ll color it up, make disadvantages
sound like young love.  We laughed at how we slept
with one of us clinging to the mattress slope, 
the other in the crack. The flimsy thing upset
us as it moved, but what was that?  We coped
in bed as with the shower, two sleek seals
in one quick rinse.  The ten-gallon water tank
recovered slowly—not like us.  Weird smells
of pickles, Swiss cheese, onions, lunchmeat stank
throughout the ten by forty-eight in lovely ways.
I’ll not forget our closeness in those days. 

Poet’s Notes:  For some autobiographical events, not much is embedded in the flash of memory:  The way a dogwood tree—ghostly white against the yellow-green of new leaves—looked from the edge of a field while I plowed. The musty smell of hay bales, especially the leafy, powdery alfalfa leaves, in the barn loft. The way we called the cows—“Soo, cows. Soo. Soo. Soo”—when we wanted them to come to the stable, or soothed a cow at milking by saying, “Saw. Saw. Saw, cow.” Unforgettable tidbits, yet a challenge to render as a poem because each image is so tiny.

Other events are larger, and such was this one, our first year of married life, our first home, small and needing repairs.  Rather than one glimpse, one detail, I had many, many memories to choose from, and that made writing a sonnet less a challenge.  That was a year of laughter—so many inconveniences, so many challenges, so many oddities that are hard to forget.  We laugh at the troubles that didn’t hurt us too badly, and sometimes we laugh at the ones that did.   

Editor’s Note:  This sonnet puts credence to the old saying of young lovers, to wit, "we'll always be happy as long as we have each other."  Nevertheless, kudos to Mrs. Swanson--I believe she is a rare woman.  SWG


The Quilting Wife
Charles A. Swanson
            
I love your words—your claim of well-being stitched
in faded blocks of cloth.  You repair a seam
your grandmother’s hands had sewn, and you flinch
only slightly, pricking your finger.  The dream
of DNA to DNA, of blood
to blood, this is your reverie.  I nod
my head.  My crochet hook reflects my mood.
The days of glowing wood fires, Grandma, God,
a connection that stirred beneath the skin.
My mother, aunts, your grandmother, we swap
our stories.  Back we go, bringing forth kin,
their thrift with remnant cloth, with yarn, with scraps
they saved, not lost.  I watch as you pull through
the shining needle, stitching me into you.

Poet’s Notes:  My wife and I are well-suited to these days of isolation, of self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. We each have our crafts, always having projects underway.  Right now, she is doing Quick-point, making a granddaughter a rug for a Barbie playroom. I’m crocheting a pillow top for a grandchild to remember his other grandfather by, who died recently. I’m crocheting the grandfather’s initials and the child’s initials in raised popcorn stitches. A heart of love will join the two representations of names.

My wife has also made quite a few COVID-19 face masks. She made one for me according to my choice of cloth she had on hand—a green leopard print. I didn’t want anything plain.

Editor’s Note:  Swanson stitches this poem with lasting love. TLC

Editor's Note:  I hope readers appreciate the command of the sonnet form that Charles demonstrates in this series of love poems.  His use of enjambment is particularly skillful.  SWG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love
Jennifer Lagier

Fifty years past that magical summer,
aging hippies gather at effete bistros,
spring $5 for a cup of free trade,
organic coffee served by tattooed barista.

Viagra and Estrogen vaginal cream

aid geriatric free love.

Failing mental acuity
has changed the meaning
of mind-altering drugs,
LSD trips replaced by acid-reflux tablets,
psychedelic mushrooms, Maui Wowie
supplanted by high-fiber drinks.

We’re now the Medicare generation,
have forsaken our erotic outlaw selves,
become depleted senior citizens
like those we once dismissed
with arrogant, invulnerable youth’s

contemptuous scorn.

 
Poet’s Notes:  This poem wryly expresses the angst of once being part of the Summer of Love and now turning 70. At this age, our bodies are now rejecting us, an organ or appendage at a time. I live near Santa Cruz where many of us aging hippies have washed ashore. So much of the story captured in poetic form reflects musings during frequent coffee house therapy sessions with friends.

Editor’s Note:  Lagier's word, "dismissed", catches in the throat upon the reading. TLC

About the Poet:   Jennifer Lagier has published seventeen books. Her work appears in From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Missing Persons: Reflections on Dementia, Silent Screams: Poetic Journeys Through Addiction & Recovery. Newest book: Dystopia Playlist (Cyber Wit). Website: jlagier.net.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Morning Coffee
 Gene Hodge

The aroma of morning coffee
fills the air . . .
as its vapor rises
to embrace your sleepy face.

May I be the cup
that kisses your lips?

 
Poet’s Notes:  This simple ritual holds a near-universal appeal. I particularly like the metaphor at the end.

Editor’s Note:  The ending metaphor is indeed breathtaking, Shakespearean, as in, "O, that I were a glove upon that hand That I might touch that cheek!" [Romeo and JulietSWG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
May Day 
Ann T. Halvorsen 

Two city blocks down
An unseen engine by the old hospital judders to a start
Waking the cracked-window morning 
Like some lawnmower behemoth,
Drawing me to the absent scent of new-mown grass
Conjuring a father’s call to the weekend, close-cut yards,
Bouquets of bicycles at street’s end;
Late May in a leafy college town
The day he moved on.

Stretched out to a v on the floored mattress
Our legs wove a first stitch 
He read to me-
Cummings, or Frost- 
While I, hammocked between verse
  and languid talk after love, 
Unpracticed, set in minor key-
 Lay bewitched.

Telescoped time, lacquered in song 
Moved behind ice-sketched window maps,  
Dissolved into a barrage of blooms
Leaning resolutely toward the late May days
 Where light streams puddled around us,
Scattering leftover shavings of sweet dark air.
The months shrank to his packed suitcase
Set to open hours from there
Sighing our scent through wrinkled shirts.

He locked the rented house behind us.
A street-sweeper trundled past 
Shoveling its anteater snout
Down the blossom plastered road.
First light struck the slick sidewalks
Pooling in crevices; firing flashbulbs-
Staying us –
And moved on. 
                     

Poet’s Notes:  Spring in San Francisco does not carry the wild and welcome, sometimes overnight changes of the East Coast where I grew up, nor the Midwest where I was an undergraduate. But there is the rare April or May morning here when, with city windows open to traffic and little fog, a random sound comes through on a breeze with memories of a different spring.

About the Poet:   A New York native, Ann relocated to San Francisco four decades ago for doctoral study in disability and education. Teaching, research, and her work with inclusive school communities were themes of earlier publications. Now a Professor Emerita with a Bay Area university, she has returned to poetry; her poems have appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Writers’ Café, Broken City, Trestle Ties, the After/Ashes Anthology following the Paradise, California fire, and others.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Choices Between Lives
Gerri Leen


I have a choice this time
I weigh options in the place between lives
I don't have to follow you
Into the burning building that is our love
I have earned my reward: freedom
(Read: loneliness)
You can go on in your path
Wherever it may lead
(Certainly not to me)
And I can find a new star to follow
Chart my course away instead of toward you
(The water looks calmer—why do I have to
Interpret peaceful as boring?)
But that burning door that leads to you
It's a challenge—it's a mission
It's something I have to do
To love you is to hate you, to lose you is to keep you
And if we fix this, if we figure it out, just once
Just one life that ends with no rancor or hatred
The fire will go down a little and somewhere
In the background of our burning hellscape
Will be beauty, will be forgiveness
Will be love
The door beckons, the flames flicker
The heat is overwhelming
But I hear your voice, so precious despite everything
And I know I'll give it one more try
 
(I say that every time, don't I?)

Poet’s Notes:  I've learned over the years that love is messy.  And soulmates aren't always what you think.  And that some paths will always beckon, will always burn brighter--possibly because they're the path you're supposed to be on.  Or possibly because they're on fire.  Or maybe a little bit of both. 

Editor’s Note:  Leen's deft word choices show the interplay among love, regret, relief, and loneliness. TLC

About the Poet:  Gerri Leen is a poet from Northern Virginia. In addition to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, she has poetry published in Eye to the Telescope, Star*Line, Dreams& Nightmares, Polu TexniNewMyths.com, 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 doing. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Eros
Vivian Finley Nida

Beneath a slip of silver moon, they kiss
as Venus, star of evening, burns so bright
they’re blinded on the brink of love’s abyss
embraced by trill from nightingale’s delight 
And thus it’s born, the passion of romance
Bouquet of roses, fragrant joys arrive
with thorns that must be tended to advance
past hurt, sustain commitment and survive
Champagne and cream filled chocolates might mask doubt
Please talk, share tasks, set goals that can be reached
Beware if friends and family aren’t about
and flee, if like a whale, the truth is beached
With this in mind, if harmony persists
then take the leap. Have faith that love exists.

 
Poet’s Notes:  Edith Hamilton (1867-1963), author of Mythology, says that the Greek philosopher, Plato, born between 429 and 423 BC, best explains love when he writes, “Love—Eros—makes his home in men’s hearts, but not in every heart, for where there is hardness he departs. His greatest glory is that he cannot do wrong nor allow it; force never comes near him. For all men serve him of their own free will. And he whom Love touches not walks in darkness.”

Editor’s Note:  Nida's sonnet poses the challenge between faith and faithlessness that resonates in this world. TLC

Editor's Note:  I've probably read thousands of Shakespearean sonnets over the years, gagging on the cliches, feeding the doggerel to Lana the Poetry Dog, eyes glazing over at the lack of anything new.  And then a love sonnet like this comes along and restores my faith in the form.  Thank you, Vivian.  SWG


Price of Love
Vivian Finley Nida

Today the vase Grandmother
brushed with delicate roses 
crashed, burst into splinters 
You, hours gone  
will never know 
how empty I feel 
missing you
inhaling sweet breath 
of iris rising above fluted lip
They say 
to deal with grief
one must understand loss
I watch as future shatters
Coronavirus explodes  
delivers death, heaviest load 
Body bags shroud regions
I mourn alone 
shared rituals abandoned
Weighted with grief
I see your hands
reach out as babies take first steps
turn pages in favorite book
tend tomatoes, squash, beans
cast, reel, untangle line
helping me 
adapt to change
forge ahead

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ticker Tape
Mary K. O’Melveny

I hope I remember 
everything I need to
return to when it
is too late to venture
outside   when it is too
dark    or too risky  or
too uncomfortable
maybe just too tiresome
to call it all back up
like so many dewey
decimal system cards
urning pale yellow in
the back alley  tossed there
once the library went online 

I know I don’t want 
the sordid stuff of
bankers boxes that rested 
like aging warriors 
in our basement 
calendars   tax returns
drafts of articles   notes 
of meetings    memos to files
leaflets calendars flyers
shrinking down turning brown   
a shredder truck shuddered
one afternoon in our alley
as we watched it all
morph into party confetti

What I want to recall
is how you loved me
how we drove to Cooper Lake
as trees turned to copper
and russet    how we 
stared into the water’s 
mirror as if we might
watch our story play out
before we had to live it
on dry land    how I took
your hand and decided
to alter the parade of my life   
how lucky we are to be able
to celebrate each other

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is part of a collection-in-progress about the many ways memory defines our lives and diminishes them when it fades out. About a year before this poem was written, my spouse and I moved from our Washington DC home of thirty years, clearing out an incredible amount of debris that once passed for necessary pieces of our lives. Such sorting and discarding inevitably lead, one hopes, to a greater appreciation of the essentials that shape us and the choices that we were privileged to be able to make.

Editor’s Note:  Clutter may remind one of love for a few moments, but clasped hands remind forever. TLC

About the Poet:  Mary K O'Melveny is a retired labor rights lawyer. She lives in Washington DC and Woodstock New York.  Her poems have appeared in many print and on-line journals and on blog sites such as The New Verse News and Writing in a Woman's Voice. She is the author of A Woman of a Certain Age and MERGING STAR HYPOTHESES (Finishing Line Press 2018, 2020) and co-author of the anthology An Apple In Her Hand (Codhill Press 2019).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In So Many Words: Caretaker
Karla Linn Merrifield 

Inside Hollybrook House on its suburban half-acre,
I sit at my desk scouring photo files of treks
up the Amazon, another down the Nile. I retrace
our pathways on African safari, Antarctic expedition—the arc
of the planet, our seven oceans and ten thousand islands—the art
of connubial love to the ends of the earth, then—whoosh!—home to the terra
firma of a hospital bed, you facing sunny-side, our front yard, your gingko tree,
as I watch you fading—so swift— glimpses of you now rare.
I know full well from many expert sources: dementia leaves no trace.
Too soon, too soon, my husband, you are—

Poet’s Notes:  One of the hardest thing about writing a poem about death and dying is to apply some constraint to the rampant emotions that flood the heart when the mind is studying the subject. It’s so easy to fall into Hallmark-card sentimentality. Poetic form is a constraint that I find helpful to avoid that pitfall. In using the decastich form, limiting myself to 10 lines and 10 lines only, no more, no less, I was able, I think, to avoid the plunge into a three-hankie tear-jerker.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy Merrifield's use of the decastich form to tell this story. Her adroit use of language avoids the prosaic when discussing the heart-rending loss. TLC

Editor's Note:  The final Dickinsonian dash expresses more than words can say.  SWG

* * * * * * *

The Time-of-Death Head Game
Karla Linn Merrifield 

Will the Proust sextet outlive my husband by so many pages?
Or will my beloved outlast In Search of Lost Time?   
T.O.D.: Volume VI, Time Regained, page 246.
Which comes first, starvation or pneumonia?
Neither. He made his last-minute decision.
T.O.D.: Evening twilight’s loneliest time of day.
Does the rock let go or does he let go of his rock?
Both. I am limestone, he the fossilized shell chipped away.
T.O.D.: Eons from this here and now.

Poet’s Notes:  Sometimes a poem writes itself to teach the writer something she hadn’t realized. As a woman watching my husband dying of dementia, I had no idea the kind of weird head games my mind would be playing on me as I tried to distance myself from the pain. The poem taught me: It can’t be done. There was no escaping the reality we were facing as a couple, the reality I was facing as a widow-to-be.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To Have and To Hold
Shannon Lise 

And yet one arrives somehow. 
Coming quiet to the back porch 
to find the screen door unlatched 
after all. 

Stepping softly through broken skies 
wound with color to find one thing braver 
than even flowers.

Our long days locked in each other’s
arms, still dreaming of streets that end
in the sun.

Editor’s Note:  The stillness in this poem adds to its beauty. TLC

About the Poet:  Originally from Texas, Shannon Lise spent twelve years in Turkey and currently lives in Québec City. Her recent work has appeared in The Sunlight Press, Sandy River Review, Foundling House, The Ekphrastic Review, and Ink in Thirds.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Stripping
Sheryl Guterl

Bedsheets need changing.
Grab top sheet and pull down to foot end.
     Remember coolness on bare skin,
     the comfort of being cocooned,
     and the hug with him,
     who shares the cozy.
Work free the snugged ends of bottom sheet.
     At each corner, pause
     to remember your dream,
     his caress,
     touching toes, entwining legs.
Pull off both sheets and drop them to the floor.
Remove his pillowcase.
     Recall the softness of his hair,
     his smooth ear lobes,
     his scratchy beard.
Then remove your pillowcase.
     Attend to the soft cotton spot
     that smells like your shampoo, and his,
     the fold that worried your cheek
     in the night.
Add cases to the sheet pile on the floor.
Bend and scoop all into a bundle.
     Hug them,
     thank them
     for holding all the memories.

Poet’s Notes:  Love alters perception.  In this poem, we have an ordinary activity, elevated by thoughts of love.  Following the death of my first love, I was alone for eleven years.  A new love entered my life, and colors became brighter, sounds more cheerful, and everyday activities took on new meaning.

While "Stripping" is meant to be a "how-to" poem, it can also be seen as a meditation for one who practices mindfulness and gratitude.  

Editor’s Note:  Guterl employs excellent sensory memory in this poem. TLC

Editor's Note:  "Stripping" has another meaning in the bedroom, too.  I like the playfulness and subtlety of the double entendre.  SWG

About the Poet:  Sheryl Guterl is a retired elementary school teacher and counselor living in enchanting New Mexico. When she is not writing, she enjoys hiking, biking, singing, being a docent at the local museum, and tutoring adults in English as a Second Language. Her poems have appeared in The Teacher's Voice, Months to Years, Workers Write!, The Ravens Perch, and several local anthologies.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lucky Boy!
C. T. Holte
(for SPG, with love and gratitude) 

I am crazy about her!
It bothers her a bit at times.
When I act inappropriately in public,
she finds it inappropriate. 

What she has not understood:
I had long lived most appropriately—
had followed the prevailing wisdom,
the proper ways of doing things,
the behave du jour
and forgot to show who I was,
to acknowledge that I needed to be me.

Now I care only for
the implications of this new day,
hoping her heart will tell her
that my impropriety is appropriate
to an old man’s body with a young man’s soul—
a four-square geezer turned latter-day fool,
clown-cloned by love’s hand–
a man with little enough time
(however much time it may be)
to tell her with my voice, my eyes,
and (yes!) my hands that she is loved
and loved and loved.

Ooh—not now!  Someone might see us!
Let them watch!  Let them see!
Let them request an eight-by-ten glossy
of my lips on your soft neck,
my arms holding you unseemly tight,
my hand on your sweet buns,
caressing recklessly.
I will gladly autograph it—
a collector’s item after the fact—
as evidence of a man reborn to care.

Use your inside voice, please.
Hah!!  I will shout it from the rooftops
if I please—
no need to climb, since I can fly!
And I do so please!  

See this woman?  I love her!
See this world spinning madly around me?
She is its center!

Hear this old heart beating young?
It beats for her, because of her,
and this Lucky Boy is blessed! 

Want me to sing? Just ask. 
Song comes easily to me now;
I make up the words and music as I go.
I will even dance for you
in time to my own tunes.  

Poet’s Notes:  “Lucky Boy” is basically a short autobiography of the last few years.  It picks up after I had been widowed and waiting for the bus for about ten years, then reconnected with a then-and-still gorgeous college classmate (another English major) from many moons ago who had also been widowed. Proof of its veracity is that when I got back to my office the week after we had re-met, one of the first questions I heard was, “What happened to that grumpy bastard that used to work in your cube?”

About the Poet:   C. T. Holte was born in Minnesota in the age of black-and-white TV; grew up playing under bridges, along creeks, and in cornfields; went to school and more school; and has juggled gigs as a teacher, writer, editor, strategic marketer, and a few less wordy things.  A recent transplant to Albuquerque, NM, he enjoys sunsets and chiles, and tends to write about trees, blue water, and special people.  His poetry has shown up in publications including Words, Touch, California Quarterly, and Survival (Poets Speak, vol. 5), and has been hung from trees to celebrate the Rio Grande Bosque.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Couple of Decades
Anna Teresa Slater

Twenty years later and the rhythm of your voice
still taunts, its echo utters on repeat: we’re like 
a radio duo on the 6 o’clock beat. It was always like that 
with us. Twenty years later and I still scrape away 
the nicotine from our morning show smoke, your fingers 
a jazz-ginned spider on guitar as my toes dance electric 
sizzles up the wall. Sunrise triggers topless japes 
and love-dirt tease, rings come in from bedroom 
fans. With us the day was ever now. You Elvis, I Janis, 
we Madonna we Sting. The tripwire shirts on the floor 
that twirl us closer into blush, knot-blot our knees, nudge
us dimpled past noon. Twenty years later, you’re still here, 
humming into my ear, calling a girl back.

Poet’s Notes:  For many of us, that first love long ago involved a kind of wild innocence. Music also often accompanied all of those messy emotions, which heightened the perfection of each moment spent together. This poem is a tribute to our youth and to the special people we met along the way. 

Editor’s Note:  Slater's use of imagery jazzes this piece. TLC

About the Poet:  Anna Teresa Slater is a high school teacher from Iloilo, Philippines, and a postgraduate student in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Her work is published or forthcoming in Channel Lit Mag, Ghost City Review, Shot Glass Journal, The Fib Review, The Literary Nest, Door is a Jar, Nightingale & Sparrow, Poetica Review, Better than Starbucks, The Big Windows Review, and Nine Muses Poetry, as well as in anthologies by Kasingkasing Press and Hedgehog Poetry Press. She lives on a farm.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ductile
(A Rondel)
Tyson West

When young I longed to catch the magic word
Yes, “Love” – and all the change that it implies.
With shining hair Jane’s calculating eyes
assessed if she should cut me from the herd.
Her scent, shy smile and interest in me blurred
my gut that groaned our pairing was unwise.
When young I longed to catch the magic word
Yes, “Love” – and all the change that it implies.
My ductile lust and her resolve had spurred
us on to bond before I could surmise
my Jane unsheathed that word to hide her lies.
Although my croaks now resonate unheard,
yet still I long to hear that magic word.

Poet’s Notes:  The rondel form is one of the medieval French forms that uses repeating lines and only two rhymes. Related forms include the triolet, rondine, rondeau, and villanelle. I enjoy working in these forms as they sharpen my skills in word choice and metrics. As I was working on love-themed poetry, I read up on how English has one word for love while the ancient Greeks used a plethora. I wonder if English has not evolved many words for types and shadings of "love" because of the value of having one powerful but ambiguous word used in often sloppy human interactions outweighs the need for clarity.


Momento Mori de Amor
Tyson West

Each rising sun illuminates my fears
which mote of flesh malfunctioned in my sleep?
I check how much my eyes have blurred and ears
distort the music of her voice to keep
my usefulness intact. My balance holds
as legs still lift without the tug of hands.
No lesions have erupted in my folds
of skin. My feet obey my brain’s commands.
The love I promised would forever last
depends upon my living more good days
than sad. I toil to recall passion past
in bursts of sweetness between pain and haze.
Our love chops live so long as I pull breath;
dementia sets to absolute in death.

Poet’s Notes:  Feelings exist because a living brain has the capacity to grasp and recollect those emotions. I work a lot with memory-impaired individuals.  Dementia means loss of memory which can take many forms and degrees. Dementia is not a cause but a symptom of some malfunction in flesh.  Lewy body dementia and Alzheimer's are not the same diseases as the intermittent loss of memory due to vascular issues. People with vascular dementia have good days and bad. As we lose people in our lives, the memory of our loves become more important just as our flesh loses its ability to retain it.  I tried to set out this feeling in this Shakespearean sonnet.

Editor’s Note:  West combines fear, frustration, love, loss, and dedication in the murky soup of dementia. TLC




Summer Love-Summer Death
(A Curtal Sonnet)
Tyson West

My wild old lover died at eighty five–
I mourn in serviceberries grazed that day
along Loon Lake in dying August light
as evening silence kept our love alive
beneath lithe sugar pines whose tops sashay
in zephyrs lassoed at the cusp of night.
So young, I grieved our summer tryst would end
she laughed that love time never fades away.
Years caterpillar – now I know she’s right.
Through summer death our summer love, my friend,
burns bright.

Editor’s Note:  Those interested in learning about the Curtal (Curtailed) Sonnet form would do well to visit https://www.britannica.com/art/curtal-sonnetSWG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Love’s Decorum
Howard Stein    

The centerpiece is a soup bowl
Atop a spotless plate, then
To their upper left a butter dish.
In front of the plate,
A lustrous drinking glass,
A crisp cloth napkin inside,
Opening like a flower.
To the right of the plate, a knife
And two spoons, the closer, and larger,
For soup; the farther, a teaspoon, for coffee.
Between the plate and glass, a dessert spoon,
Perfectly perpendicular to the other utensils.
Every place setting at the table is identical.

Impeccable logic, this
Domestic mealtime geometry,
A perfect marriage,
Everything in its place –
As if to stray a single spoon
Would betray the entire show.      

Appearance is all –
Where once was love,
There shall decorum be.*

*I have taken poetic license with Sigmund Freud’s famous dictum, “Where id is, there shall ego be." From New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, 1932.

Poet’s Notes:  Your first question as a reader will rightly be: How on earth could this be considered a poem about love?  Its tone about love is biting, sardonic, and ironic.  It is about the absence of love, or perhaps the enactment of "ritualized love," the pretense of "love."  To my mind, its spirit draws on writers from T.S. Eliot to John Updike, who are keen observers of the smoke and mirrors that offer manners and mannerisms as dissimulated love. Yes, "Place Setting, or Love's Decorum," is a poem of protest.


* * * * * * *
 Love Song to the Rocks of Ghost Ranch, NM
Howard Stein     

In the high desert
Of northern New Mexico,
On the floor of
A tropical inland sea
Dinosaurs once called home,
Red sandstone and shiny rose quartz,
Mesas and canyons,
Buttes and spires,
Speak in the tongue
Of two hundred million years.

Monuments to time tower here –
Fathomless sky crowns
The kingdom of stone below.

What tough skin, these old rocks,
Faces weathered and pockmarked.
I touch you,
You touch me back
With your craggy, coarse texture.
Your ruddy glow in a low sun
Unmasks your tender countenance;
Mute rock cannot conceal
Your comforting presence.

How to wrap my arms around
The “Valley of the Shining Stone”? *
My eyes do no better
Than my outstretched arms,
To embrace a space
Not even mind can hold –
You are beyond compass.

*“el Valle de la Piedra Lumbre”  (Spanish), in the Chama River Basin

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is one of several dozen poems I have written over more than twenty-five years during, or about, my visits to Ghost Ranch, NM, for the annual fall retreat of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology. Songs of Eretz Poetry Review has published several of them in recent years. This poem is unabashedly a love poem to a place, and a sense of place, that is the most spiritual I have encountered in my life. 

The poem is about a relationship, not a description of some altogether external object.  The place is ineffable; no words are ever enough, yet I am driven over and again to write poems about how this place feels to me, spirit embodied in stone and sky, sensory -- to be touched by Ghost Ranch. If Ghost Ranch is not a person, it is nonetheless personal. I have loved this personal place since my first encounter here long ago.

Editor’s Note:  Love of place finds a home in Stein's heart. TLC

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Messenger
Julie Weiss

Do you remember that day in December when you lost
your composure and flailed your arms against

the wind? I had been sitting next to you in the snow,
writing another poem, curling letters into the shape

of something that would resemble love. When words
lost their footing down the slopes of my mind;

when I couldn't clear a tunnel through the avalanche
of emotions, I doodled hearts and roses and rainbows

around the edges, all interlaced with her initials,
reminiscent of the art we used to make for each other

in kindergarten. I could feel you breathing over my shoulder.
How childish you seemed to say, spraying my face with

frost. A sprinkle of leaves, laughter you couldn't stifle
or maybe you were simply proclaiming your treeness,

shedding the last of your foliage, a metaphor I was too
young to fathom. Unlike you, I was bundled up in red

wool, a splash of color on a dazzling white canvas—
I'm watching this, a shadow hand painting a picture

of a younger me onto my memory. Afraid to recognize
the coat, the snow, your bark wedged under my fingernails,

I rewrite myself in third person so that the girl could be
any girl, creasing pieces of notebook paper, binding them

as though strangling her poems. It´s no use. My face
resurfaces again and again, like a body underwater.  

The string, too, would tie my thoughts in knots
of symbolism; would grow and twist and multiply into

the rope that tightened around the throat of my nightmares
until I startled awake, remembering. Gasping for air.

I like pretending she spotted me there, tossing snowballs
at a tree. Longed for those whimsical girlhood battles  

as much as I did. That she glided down the hill, all tinsel
and bells and Christmas cheer, with some sparkling

trinket that represented remorse for three years of silence;
love, requited. Pretending myself into the body of the boys

whose lips warmed hers year after year, while I sit here
with your unwavering treeship around my shoulders

which should be enough, but isn´t. Some might call you
savage, but the blood you drew across her cheek as she ran

along the trail between her house and mine seemed at once
a miracle and a prophecy, the second chance that would

change everything. I should have helped her to her feet,
wordless. Applied snow to her wound, watch her flee—

I'm confessing now so you won´t forsake me later.
If you don't kiss me again, I think I'll die, I said instead,

tucking my voice under my breath, hiding it even from you,
my lifelong confidante, who has watched me grow

like a flail of windblown branches, every which way
but out of my heart. Before we part; before I go away

for the last time, I offer you this bundle of poems.
May you, on your journey upward, send my love homeward.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was born out of an image of a tree poised in snowfall, bereft of leaves. Its branches cradled a packet of papers, bound with string. The image inspired sadness, yearning, and that's what I tried to convey in this piece, through a coming-of-age story of unrequited love. 

About the Poet:  Julie Weiss was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series in 2020 and nominated for Best of the Net in 2019. Her most recent work can be found in ArLiJo, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Random Sample Review, and Kissing Dynamite Poetry. She also has poems in a handful of anthologies. Originally from California, she works as a telephone English teacher in Spain. You can find her on Twitter @colourofpoetry or on her website at https://julieweiss2001.wordpress.com/

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
this is not a love poem
Pat Daneman

not a memory poem                 it does not matter how many rooms 
you’ve left behind                     or the names of streets or cities— 

you still dream of her with tenderness 
you wake with the feel of the top of her head in your hand—

every city has its parks and fountains              gray blocks 
with dying shrubs where trash collects            you always pack 

the lamb’s wool hat that smells of your father’s hair oil,
the gloves yellowed and soft that your grandmother wore 

a hundred years ago                she held you in her lap 
when she was old                    cupped the top of your head with her palm 

as she blessed you in a language you would never understand


Poet’s Notes:  This poem started as a protest against all of the sentiment that memory brings tumbling down, especially as life forces change on us. I have moved many times and I've noticed there are some objects, with their attendant memories, that always come with me. So that is where an anti-love poem became its opposite. Some moments of human contact cannot be negated.

Editor’s Note:  Daneman's choice of format provides excellent visual clues in her poem. TLC



Orchard Idyll
Pat Daneman

From the moment you reach for her hand, 
one of you will be the first to die. The velvet ribbon
caught on a branch has no meaning, even though it is 

the color of the lake. The lost button
was loose when you pulled on your shirt 
before breakfast. The swans aren’t mocking you 

for being shy with her, or laughing at her 
for spilling wine. The ants in their perfect line 
have no interest in your clumsy kisses. 

This feeling—which your hand on her hair 
seems to magnify—will blur into shadow. 
Fate smiles with crooked teeth.  Come September, 

the grass will be brown and there will be ladders
up the skirts of every tree. Somehow the swans know 
when the lake will freeze. The ants won’t last the winter.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is an expression of the anger I felt when my mother died, leaving my father in deep grief after fifty years of a happy marriage. I saw all at once how their story began and how it ended. And how that's the way it has to be for every one of us who makes a lifelong commitment. 

When we first fall in love, we are giddy and blind. When we start to imagine being with another person for the rest of our lives, the future—the “till death” part—seems impossibly far away. Love is an act of trust that is doomed simply by the passage of time.

About the Poet:   Pat Daneman’s recent poetry appears or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Freshwater, Bryant Literary Review, and Typehouse. Her collection, After All (FutureCycle Press 2018), was first runner-up for the 2019 Thorpe-Menn Award and finalist for the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award. She is author of a chapbook, "Where the World Begins". For more, visit patdaneman.com.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Loving
Terri Lynn Cummings

He smiles, says, Mama, Daddy
Two small words
render the dream false
He looked younger than fifteen years
when last arranged
displayed on table
Funeral home a lonely country—
wired lilies supporting weeping heads

How little the fantasy knows
about our child’s language 
In his alphabet, letters rose and fell 
without a word. Anywhere 
further than earshot broke us open—
melons ripened by his needs
We, his mouth
held more than possible

Far away as myth:
drowsy lips on breast
soapy, milky scent
fingers tugging locks of hair
rich and dark as polished wood
We resign to now, its trappings
our quiet concession—
the memory of loving him

Poet’s Notes:  Twelve years have passed, but the love for our special needs son never leaves.

Editor’s Note:  A beautiful elegy for a beautiful son--may his memory be a blessing.  SWG

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
one is rounded and mended
Sue Chenette

Among small things, tchotchkes
latched, tasseled, and glazed, one     
is rounded and mended, not 
smooth, not elegant, and when
it fell and shattered we sighed            
and put the fragments in a wastebasket,
but when we saw them scattered there,
we lifted them out again, to 
examine edges that might
have broken cleanly or along a supple 
curve but instead showed us 
juts, notches, jagged fracture.

It was a question of where it had been placed.
Of light falling on it through what window,
and were blinds drawn, or at first 
muslin curtains, soft dustlight.
It was a question of what it had held. 
Of having forgotten to notice 
bright spirals painted on its white belly, 
its spindly legs, tilted ears. 
It was a question of glue
and fiddling, and patient 
holding to make it 
stand again, almost whole.

Editor’s Note:  Sometimes a bowl or plate hurts one when harmed--love's significant symbol. TLC

Editor's Note:  I completely feel the sentiment of this poem.  One of my favorite teapots recently suffered from an accident on its way back to Kansas from Maine.  Fortnuately, it was easily repaired with glue and is still functional.  While performing my editorial duties for this poem, I came across the Japanese art of kintsukuroi and, working with the Art Editor, found the above illustration.  SWG

About the Poet:  Sue Chenette is the author of Slender Human Weight (Guernica Editions, 2009), The Bones of His Being (Guernica Editions, 2012), and the documentary poem What We Said (Motes Books, 2019), based on her time as a social worker during Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.  A classical pianist, poet, and editor, she grew up in northern Wisconsin and has made her home in Toronto since 1972. Her collection, Clavier, Paris, Alyssum, is forthcoming from Aeolus House in fall 2020. 

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

Atthis
Dawid Juraszek


who loved you
when your flowers grew
where your trees stood
your graces enjoyed
by famed sojourners
we politely acknowledge
your gifts consumed
by nameless peasants
their voices silenced
in the fading imagery
we dare not recognize
our complicity
your tomb
is where we are squatting
but our numbers alone
guarantee
what's left finds a lover

 

Poet’s Notes:  Having first encountered Atthis in a poem by Sappho, I then saw in her a reflection of and on "our" relationship with the landscape.

Editor’s Note:  Juraszek's poem captures an alluring interplay of erotic and imagination. TLC

About the Poet:  Dawid Juraszek is a bilingual author and educator based in China. A published novelist in his native Poland, his fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in multiple outlets in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and Ireland. His collection Medea and Other Poems of the Anthropocene is forthcoming with Kelsay Books. Visit https://amazon.com/author/dawidjuraszek.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Abandoned Miles
Kristoff Misquitta 

I left this car behind years ago,
believing oil like amber needles beneath evergreens
choked its steampunk heart,
not beating
Too young too free too soon I
let the loving embrace of fescues
mask its scars,
rolled the windows down for the eternal waves
of our silent confessions to escape.
I let the stories etched in asphalt from
         races on the I-95 and
         laps in the Walgreens parking lot and
         the errs of my brother learning to drive
melt into petrol and return,
letter by letter,
to the earth.
Now I turn on the ignition with the keys
I forgot to lose in the wildness of youth,
just to watch the skyline light up in a silence
pure and unbroken by exhaust.


I think it’s most beautiful through cracked glass:
the colors of family road trips
and debates over which turn to take
and roadside memories I once never cared to love. 

Poet’s Notes:  My father covered more than 250,000 miles with his 1995 Volvo S70 before bequeathing it to me, rusted and leaky. I promised to repair it for years, though I was certain it was destined for Craigslist or the junkyard. Only recently, when I opened the hood and mustered the courage to dial the towing service, did I realize it was the last record of childhood memories the whole family had long forgotten. It is still parked in my garage. 

Editor’s Note:  Misquitta uses a car as a vessel to hold memories, show scars, and make confessions. The final stanza is particularly moving. TLC

Editor's Note:  A car certainly can come alive, as did my faithful 1996 Ford Taurus.  She deserved an elegy after our final ride together, which I published for her in last year's "Love" issue with my poem, "Goodbye Old Friend" http://www.songsoferetz.com/search?q=goodbye+old+friendVolvo owners definitely understand the poet's sentiment here--my first car was the family 1979 Volvo 244DL.  It broke my heart to trade her in for the Taurus.  SWG

About the Poet:  Kristoff Misquitta is a lover of starry nights and afternoons in coffee shops. A lifelong resident of New York City, he finds poetic inspiration and relief from the urban din in quiet evening walks and occasional escapes to Central Park. 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Far Gone
Bekah Ballard

and do you see now why I leave so many things unsaid 
do you understand
that it is the chill of cold and of dispassionate statements which 
put out the fires of contentment
reach their icy pronged talons into the throes of memory
and jolt them into tomorrow

do you see now that I loved you when your hands held
for a time now forgotten 
some inexhaustible grip that to me
could have plucked the moon out of place
let the tide stop for a moment when you looked in my eyes and said
nothing

can you see now that I loved you when you loved the starlings
and it broke your heart for them to fly away when you opened the blinds
only just to look
and when you reached into the river to marvel at the salvelinus fontinalis
to have them gaze back up at you in fear or in boredom
we don’t know which

and can you see now that I loved you when you let me realize
in bewilderment that ours was a tired stage production
a comedy already played out by you and you
rolled away the props 
sent the players home to retire

while time has passed that I’ve been loving you 
(do you understand)
like the Silver Dollar Queen once sang 
and she savors the hot taste of words that flow silkily 
past a tongue that proclaims year after year 
too far gone, too far gone 


Poet’s Notes:  Salvelinus fontinales is the scientific name for Brook Trout, which is a species native to the Appalachian Mountains. When you catch them—and it is rare to catch a wild one—you can see the vermiculation on their backs, and you can look in their eyes and maybe understand some ancient wisdom. We think they know some secrets about these mountains that we never will. They are delicate and beautiful creatures that we hope will go on living. 

About the Poet:  Bekah Ballard lives in Boone, North Carolina, where she teaches at Appalachian State University for the Rhetoric and Composition department. She recently earned an M.A. in English, writing about the scientific works of John Steinbeck and the environment. 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Resurrection
Wesley Sims 

The skirt of lush green grass
trimmed, he scrubs with vinegar
solution the dust and stains 
from every letter carved in granite.
Washes and polishes her monument
as though it’s her new house,
until it gleams in slant of evening sun
like the angel brooch she often wore.
Places a bouquet of robe-white roses,
kneels in front of the shiny marker,
back bent with crippling grief
heavy as a wooden beam.

Touches the emblazoned cross emblem.
Runs his fingers over the cuts
of epitaph as though reading Braille,
his eyes blurred by streaming tears. 
He begs again her forgiveness
for the wrongs that strained
their relationship at times, 
for salt sprinkled in open wounds.
And for his sins of omission—
the many times he denied a warm
embrace, an unrestrained kiss,
a heartfelt I’m sorry.

How often he missed looking
into pleading eyes, declaring
with heartfelt emotion, I love you.
Now he pours passion 
into too-late words and misplaced works
as if a tidy gravesite and contrite heart
might call forth a resurrection.

Poet’s Notes:  Last year my cousin and I published a book about the cemetery where many of our relatives are buried. We spent many hours in the cemetery reading stones, collecting records, and some stories. It was an interesting and rewarding project. For most of a year, my mind was heavily immersed in those names and details, which has resulted in several poems. Something I read recently triggered the image of a man mourning at the gravesite of his deceased wife. That seed started this poem and my imagination took over.

Editor’s Note:  There is a sobering moral lesson here that all lovers should heed.  SWG

About the Poet:  Wesley Sims has published three chapbooks of poetry: "When Night Comes" (Finishing Line Press, 2013); "Taste of Change" (Iris Press, 2019); and "A Pocketful of Little Poems" (Amazon, 2020). His work has appeared in Artemis Journal, Connecticut Review, G.W. Review, Liquid Imagination, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Novelty Magazine, Poem, Poetry Quarterly, Bewildering Stories, and several others. He lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Gull Love
PK Robbins Walzer

Two silhouettes on the sand
Side by side but separate
Feet, eyes, hearts drawn
To one another

Shunning their bickering brethren
They improvise a discordant duet
No fighting, just flirting, as they shuffle ever closer
To one another

The sky softens as the sun sinks
A misty sickle moon demurely looks away
Furtively, I too leave them to declare their love
To one another


Poet's Notes:  Sitting on the beach one evening, I spotted a pair of gulls so preoccupied that they were oblivious to me.  A raucous flock bustled and bickered not fifty meters away. But these two crooned and capered in such an intimate way that it could only be construed as romance: like no other gull could or ever would exist for them. As they shimmied ever closer, the sun sank, the moon rose, and I felt myself a guilty voyeur. 

Editor's Notes:  Walzer captures the scene and turns it into a fine metaphor. Since the gull is the symbol for Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, I decided to place his poem as a second bookend for this "Love" themed issue. TLC

About the Poet:  PK Robbins Walzer writes poetry and prose with a particular interest in the unusual and the inexplicable. Her work has been published in reviews and anthologies, including the Bronx Memoir Project and pacificREVIEW. She juggles words at http://www.cityislandlines.net.


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Frequent Contributor News
Songs of Eretz is pleased to announce the following publications.

Editor-in-Chief Steven Wittenberg Gordon
The Calais Advertiser published three of Dr. Gordon’s poems: 
·      "Legends of the St. Croix River Trail ", April 2, 2020, p. 12. 
·      "The Inmate", April 16, 2020, p. 16.
·      "Bane of the Abenaki", April 23, 2020, p.12.

Former FC Mary Soon Lee
Lee’s epic fantasy, The Sign of the Dragon, was published as an e-book in April 2020. Songs of Eretz Poetry Review readers will have enjoyed some of these King Xau poems here over the years. Mary will donate the income from 2020 sales to Doctors Without Borders, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and the Trevor Project. The publisher's webpage for the book is http://awfulagent.com/ebooks/mary-soon-lee#POE. Listen to the opening poem at http://marysoonlee.s3-website-us-east1.amazonaws.com/audio-Interregnum.html.
Lee also had the following poems published:
·      "First Contact" is in Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June 2020.
·      "Ford" is in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #44, May 2020.
·      "Humpty Dumpty" & "How to Imagine Barnard's Star b" appeared in Star*Line #43.1, Winter 2019.
·      "How to Advertise Titan" appeared in Star*Line #43.2, Spring 2020.
·      "How to Question Asteroid 16 Psyche" & "Patroclus" appeared in Mithila Review, Issue 13.
·      "How to Weave the Stars" appeared in NewMyths.com, Issue 50, March 2020.
·      "Without Worship" appeared in Space & Time #136, Spring 2020.
·      "How to Tease Jupiter" appeared in Uppagus #39, April 2020.
Lee’s short story, "Instructions for Time Travelers" appeared in Daily Science Fiction, 4/16/2020.


FC John C. Mannone
“Night of the Lyrids” [American Diversity Report (Apr 2020)] https://americandiversityreport.com/category/night-of-the-lyrids-poem-by-john-c-mannone/
“Saksak” [Anak Sastra Issue 39, last page April/May]
“Letter to April” [As It Ought To Be Magazine]
“My Father Was the Best Barber I Ever Knew”; “An American Painting”; “Biomass” [Atunis Galaxy Poetry]
“Diminshing”; “A Box of Photographs”; “Outside the Control Room at Arecibo Observatory” [Azahares: spanish language literary magazine, pages 22, 47, 49]
"On Writing Christian Poetry" (craft of poetry) [Credo Espoir blog May 19, 2020]:
"Hope [a homily]"; "Hope [an arthropod's perspective]"; "Whispers"; "Morning Has Broken" [Credo Espoir, Issue 5, pages 3, 22, 46, 52] https://issuu.com/credoespoir/docs/credoespoirissue_5_final
"Too Many High Priests" [Door Is a Jar Magazine (Issue 14, April 2020)]
"A Campfire Breakfast by the Lake"; "Perejil: A Discourse on Parsley"; "Lamb Chops, Potatoes and Peas: A Memory; Distraction"; "Rice" [Foreign Literary Journal (Apr 20 2020) pages 19, 21, 23, 24] https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0874F4XPV/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=foreign+literary+journal&qid=1586902577&sr=8-4
"Feeding the Hungry"; "Morning of the Fourth Day" [Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, May 2020]
"Black" [Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest poetry winner]; "After Reading the Gospel of John"; "An American Flyer"; "The Hill" (fiction); "Miracles of Carbon" (imaginative nonfiction) [Impressions Literary Magazine pages 18, 60, 198, 199 https://10f59b3a-de8a-4f6d-84b9-e293b0016e7a.filesusr.com/ugd/acfd45_26565e3dee5e40d0bce023928485c91d.pdf
"The Night the Stars Fell"; "Black Smoke on the Horizon" [North Dakota Quarterly pages 142-144, April 2020]
"The Word[s]" [Poems for Ephesians, April 8]
"Virtual Reality"; "Longing"; "Algebra; Sound of Silence"; "Scavengers" [Setu: A Bilingual  and Peer-Reviewed Journal of Literature, Arts, and Culture]
"Out of the Woods" (microfiction) [The Rye Whiskey Review, May 5]
"What Have I Done to His Handiwork"; "Earth Day"; "Ruach" [The Scriblerus Arts Journal, May 5]
"Newspaper" [Wax Poetry and Art Magazine: 45 Poems of Protest: The Pandemic Anthology]
"Breakfast at Midnight" [Wilda Morris's Poetry Challenge, May 2020 Contest Winner]


Former FC Lauren McBride
McBride had the following poems published:
·      "More Than a Feeling" is in Space & Time, issue 136, Spring 2020 http://spaceandtime.net/.
·      "silver sunlight" is in Silver Blade, 46, Summer 2020 https://www.silverblade.net/2020/05/silver-sunlight/.
·      "Asteroid Miners" is in Eye to the Telescope, 36, April 2020 https://eyetothetelescope.com/index.html.
·      Three poems in Star*Line #43.2, Spring 2020.
·      Two poems in Failed Haiku, issue 53 https://www.haikuhut.com/FailedHaikuIssue53.pdf.

Former FC John Reinhart
·      Reinhart recently had his review of David Sloan's latest poetry collection "A Rising" (Deerbrook Editions, 2020) published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Cafe Review http://www.thecafereview.com/past-issues-cafe-review-2020-spring-issue/.
·      His poem "Sestina for the Future" was printed in Taproot issue 37: Spark, https://taprootmag.com/collections/magazines/products/issue-37-spark.
·      John is currently the chair for the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association contest https://www.sfpoetry.com/contests.html.

FC Howard Stein
Dr. Stein had the following original works published:
·      "Mind Tricks," "Be Mindful," miller's pond poetry magazine. Winter 2020, Vol23, Web1, http://www.millerspondpoetry.com/index.php/current-issue/vol22web3#HowardF.Stein.
·      "Body Language," The Journal of Psychohistory 47 (4) Spring 2020, pp. 329-330.
·      "Chaos Theory," Harbinger Asylum, Winter 2019. pp. 27-28.
·      "Syllogism," & "Mindfulness," & "Our Lives in Silos," internationalpsychoanalysis.net.  
·      "Gliding," miller’s pond poetry review, Spring 2020, Vol.23, Web 2  http://www.millerspondpoetry.com/index.php?page=vol23web2#HowardF.Stein.
·      "Coronavirus (COVID-19) 2020, or the Natural History of Disease", Clio's Psyche, Volume 26 Number 3, Spring 2020, pp. 321-322.

FC Alessio Zanelli
Alessio Zanelli had the following poems published:
·      “Hiker And Lines” appears in Vol. XLIII, No. 2 of Blue Unicorn, https://blueunicorn.org/.
·      “The Loss” in issue No. 564 (March 2020) of Quadrant, and “Little Ode To My Plain”, “Run’s End”, and “The Shell” in issue No. 566 (May 2020) https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2020/.
·      Paris/Atlantic published “Wing Loser”, for the 2020 edition, which also features a painting of his, “The Commixture Toast”.  Here's the link to the digital version of the journal, better viewed using Chrome (the painting is on the last 2 pages) https://issuu.com/parisatlantic/docs/file_pa_2020_final_2.
·      Sentinel Literary Quarterly, an online and print journal, has published six poems of his online https://sentinelquarterly.com/.
·      Focus has published six poems of his for the issue #70, https://bsfa.co.uk/bsfa-publications/focus/.
·      Three marine poems of his, titled “Roadstead By Night”, “On The Foreshore”, and “The Shell”, appear in The Caribbean Writer, Volume 34 https://www.thecaribbeanwriter.org/.
·      “In The End We All Arrive”, is included in the latest issue of Pacific Review https://pacificreview.sdsu.edu/casa1.html.



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Lana the Poetry Dog
Forthcoming
Our fall 2020 quarterly issue will have a “Politics” theme in anticipation of the upcoming general election.  We will open for submissions on July 25 and close on August 15.  The issue will be published in mid-September.  Our Editor-in-Chief, Steven Wittenberg Gordon, will be the lead editor.

The intent of the Politics issue is to elevate the level of debate and discourse between what has become essentially two groups of citizens with diametrically opposed points of view on the direction that these United States should be heading.  There are no better people than poets to lead the way and set the example in this regard.  We will be looking for reason rather than rancor and for hard, documented facts rather than convenient, partisan-serving fiction.

Our hope is to show our readership and by extension America and the world at large that ranting, shouting, name-calling, personal attacks, open bias, and snide remarks are not the best or most productive vehicles for the advancement of political causes.  Such trashing of the spoken and written word is beneath us as poets.  Our hope is to demonstrate that there is a better way.

Poems that support any and all points of view will be considered for publication if, of course, the poetry is good, and any claims made are documented by proper citations.  Examples of what we mean by this may be found here http://www.songsoferetz.com/2016/04/poetry-review-special-feature-she-talks.html and here http://www.songsoferetz.com/2018/01/a-poem-for-martin-luther-king-day-by.html We call on you to sharpen your quills and your wits, resist the urge to rant and rave, and to send us your best politics-themed work.





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 Editor@SongsOfEretz.com for details.



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