Sunday, March 14, 2021





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Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Art Editor

Jason Artemus Gordon

Associate Editor

Terri Lynn Cummings

Featured Frequent Contributors

Tyson West, John C. Mannone, & Charles A. Swanson

Additional Frequent Contributors

Gene Hodge, Karla Linn Merrifield, Vivian Finley Nida, James Frederick William Rowe, & Howard Stein

Biographies of our editorial staff & frequent contributors may be found on the "Our Staff" page


Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are the work of our Art Editor or taken from "royalty-free" open internet sources.

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Table of Contents

A Letter from the Editor

Featured Poets

Ross Balcom — A Retrospective

The Poetry of Tyson West

The Poetry of John C. Mannone

The Poetry of Charles A. Swanson

Distinguished Guest Poets Vlora Konushevci & Arbër Selmani

Other Fine Poets

Guest Poet Donna Faulkner née Miller

“Cleansed By Atonement”

James Frederick William Rowe

“I Start Again at the Beginning”

Guest Poet Jimmy Pappas

“Human Compasses”

Returning Guest Poet Jane Dougherty


“From one Imbolc to the next”

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

“Winter Breath”

Karla Linn Merrifield

“The Transcendental Constant of Circles”

“Serpent Eating Its Tail”

“Disposable Not”

Vivian Finley Nida

“Family Circle:  Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wool”

Howard Stein

“First Snow of Winter”

“Diminution in Autumn”

Guest Poet Sharon J. Clark

“And the world keeps turning”

Returning Guest Poet Maureen Anne Browne

“No Title”

Guest Poet J. A. Sutherland


Terri Lynn Cummings

“de Bhaldraithe”

Guest Poet Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

“Duet in Circles”

“Circle Faster, Circle Fainter, O Earth”

Guest Poet Hollis Kurman

“The Pupil”

Guest Poet Virginia Boudreau


Special Guest Poet Doris Ferleger

“In the Listening Heart of the Circle”

Poetry Review

Everything really Me! by Gene Hodge, Reviewed by Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Frequent Contributor News


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A Letter from the Editor

“Circles” turned out to be one of our most popular, thought-provoking, and creativity-stimulating quarterly themes to date.  Kudos to Associate Editor Terri Lynn Cummings for coming up with the theme and for the difficult task of choosing the dozens of poems that made it into this issue from the several hundreds of poems that were submitted.

In addition to a retrospective tribute to recently retired Charter Frequent Contributor Ross Balcom, the poetry of three current Frequent Contributors is featured in this issue.  Readers are sure to enjoy these mini poetry collections of these exceptional poets.

Readers will also enjoy the stunning general submission (off theme) poetry of two distinguished guest poets from Kosovo, one of whose poems appears here in translation--a Songs of Eretz first.  In addition, poets from The Netherlands and New Zealand grace these electronic pages for the first time.  These poets really help to put the “eretz” in our name.

The poems in this issue take many approaches to the theme.  Some are quite literal. Others are deeply metaphorical.  Still others stretch the interpretation of the theme to its breaking point.  You may find yourself “circling” back to peruse this issue again and again.  Enjoy!

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD



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Featured Poets


Ross Balcom--A Retrospective


About the Poet:  Ross Balcom was a Charter Member of the Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor group from January 1, 2016, to November 16, 2020.  In addition to his many, many appearances in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review and its first iteration, Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine, his poems have appeared in Poetry Midwest, Spectral Realms, Star*Line, and other publications. In addition to poetry, his interests include science fiction, parapsychology, and the Hoosier erotic arts.  He lives in southern California.


Jefferson Turnip

Ross Balcom



He appeared in the gloom

of the abandoned farmhouse.


Slender, sombre, pale,

a boy in his early teens,

semi-transparent, a ghost.


He spoke but once:

"My name is Jefferson Turnip,"

and then he vanished.


His disappearance

left a crushing weight

in the night-dark room.


I fell to my knees

and wept; long, long

and sorrowfully, I wept.



Boys are the heralds of life;

they should not die.


Had I the power, I would restore

dead boys to life, would grant them

an eternity of sunlit fields and playgrounds.


This boy, Jefferson Turnip,

a child of the soil, a rural splash

of wonder, his voice like a rainbow

arching over the fields, his laughter

bright with the promise of

still greater joy, this boy

whose home is the world,

the one true world, this boy

the world's salvation, a sun-bright

heart embracing all...


...this boy I would call my own.



Alas, the ghost I saw

was only the flickering afterglow

of what once so brightly shone.


Wan, dim spectre, treading

hallowed dust and mouse droppings,

a stranger in his own abode...

Jefferson Turnip.


He honored me, a mere interloper,

with his presence, breaking and entering

my heart, rousing paternal waters.


And my tears profusely flowed.

Lord God, they flowed.



I see him dead,

laid in a box,

pale turnip

returned to the soil.

I pray eternal day

will follow

the loam's

dark night.



Bless you, Jefferson Turnip,

bless you forever.

You gifted me

with your presence,

you made yourself known.


Though but a ghost,

you have a face and a name,

and that face and that name

belong to a boy who,

long ago, was loved.


Poet’s Notes:  I had a dream in which I encountered a ghostly boy in an abandoned farmhouse. He said, "My name is Jefferson Turnip," and then he disappeared. I was inspired to write this poem.

Since writing the poem, Jefferson Turnip seems increasingly like a real person/presence to me. Maybe we are all "authored" into being. There is nothing mightier than the pen.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes, a dream cups its hands around broken pieces of truth and fiction, then arranges them into something so sincere, it demands to be written. TLC

Editor’s Note:  I hear echoes of Whitman and Poe here, but this poem is still one hundred percent Balcom.  “Jefferson Turnip” first appeared (in the form of poem, not as a ghost) in the May 2014 issue of the now retired Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zineSWG


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Birds of Indiana

Ross Balcom



Everywhere I look,

I see birds of Indiana.


Their numbers

overwhelm me,

these birds of Indiana.


Where is "Indiana"?




are the birds of Indiana,

but their shadow

is one.


Dark, dark

is their shadow.



Camped outside her heart,

I wooed her with song.

She laughed at me,

laughed at me.


Her heart was pledged

to the birds of Indiana,


to the damnable birds

of Indiana.



My bloody testicles

were flung in my face

by the birds of Indiana,


by the cruel birds

of Indiana.



I called the police.

"Save me from the birds

of Indiana."


I was told,

"You get what you deserve

from the birds of Indiana."



Many are driven to suicide

by the birds of Indiana.


Others stand tall,

and fall like towers

struck by airplanes.


No one is safe

from the birds of Indiana.



I sought solace

in my mother's arms.

I found only her skeleton,

picked clean


by the birds of Indiana.



Note to self:


You will never find

your way back

to love and sanity.

Your trail of bread-crumbs

was eaten by the birds

of Indiana.



Chased out of town

by bird-lovers,

I sit by a dying campfire

in the woods,

telling myself stories

of the birds of Indiana.

The terrible birds

of Indiana.



The world exists

to nourish the shadow

of the birds of Indiana.


Poet's Notes:  I was born in Indiana and have an interest in birds, so I suppose it's not surprising that I decided to write a poem entitled "Birds of Indiana." The resulting poem was darker than I had anticipated, but I enjoy surprising myself.

Editor’s Note:  The tone of Ross’ poem reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds, dark and spooky. TLC 

Editor’s Note:  I especially enjoy the way that the use of refrain here creates a relentlessness that enhances the impact of the story and how the abrupt turn changes the tone but does not disrupt the continuity of the piece.  “Birds of Indiana” first appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review on January 12, 2015.  SWG


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the farm

Ross Balcom




where the river bends

laughing itself silly


where the wailing turnip


with the corn-silk Madonna


where tractors

rust and weep


where the boys

first stood

their legs uncertain


and gazed

long and speechless

into the eyes


of the incomparable daughter


Poet’s Notes:  This is the first appearance of that iconic figure, the Farmer's Daughter, in my poetry.  I hope she drops by again. She's beautiful.

Editor’s Note: Ross’ unexpected final line gives this poem an added layer of beauty. TLC

Editor’s Note:  “the farm” first appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review on February 23, 2016.  SWG


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Teen Donuts

Ross Balcom


We use to hang at Teen Donuts,

exploring holes in reality and ourselves.

We opened new pathways,

helped countless doughnuts escape

to freedom; our "underground railroad"

was the dough of legend. They caught us,

of course; the adults, they punished us.

They even killed my friend Froglice.

We needed revenge, and we burnt

Teen Donuts to the ground.

They came for us, of course;

the adults, they captured us

and sentenced us to death.

They'll cut our throats as if we're hogs;

they'll trash our names, and sing

the praises of commerce and life

as new Teen Donuts rise

in every town from here to Hell. 


Poet's Notes: This is a stark, brutal take on a familiar theme: pure-hearted, freedom-loving young people in revolt against an oppressive adult world. "Teen Donuts" manifested one morning shortly after I awakened. God bless you, Froglice; I'll burn down a Teen Donuts in your name.

Editor’s Note: Ross’ voice would suit a Steven King novel. What an imagination!   TLC

Editor’s Note:  This one is quite a departure from his usual style but is still recognizable as a Balcom poem by its rhetoric and content.  I enjoy the narrative here and the "fight The Man" motif.  It appeals to my rarely manifested but secretly strong rebel side.  “Teen Donuts” first appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review on March 15, 2017.  SWG


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Editor’s Note:  The following is a special, bonus, and never-before-published poem by Ross Balcom.  SWG 


Crop Circle Children

Ross Balcom



making love

"Gallery Of Transient Art" | Digital Photo | Richard LeBlond

in a crop circle



of the new race


alien voices

control us




their circle

my seed


our (discoid) 




flying saucers

our children


flesh discs

rimmed with eyes




hearts throbbing

blood surging


to the skies

they soar


to the void




of the cosmos


all Earths

their home


Editor’s Note:  Ross’ imagery in Part 2 left my head spinning. Wonderful flying saucers metaphor. TLC

Artist’s Notes:  The photography is inspired by natural landscapes, especially places that beckon, the portals. I am also attracted to regions where human culture is in harmony with its natural setting, where people live with the land, instead of just on it. Newfoundland, Labrador, and the U.S. West have been inspirational for both of these themes.

About the Artist:  Richard LeBlond is a retired biologist living in North Carolina. His essays and photographs have appeared in many U.S. and international journals.

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The Poetry of Tyson West



Tyson West


To someone who has swung a scythe arc under circling sun

dropping shafts of straw ordered into radii of rows

then gleaned each precious grain head for the grace of warm bread,

crop circle oppression of each plant sacred

against northern winter seems

a sin unpardonable.

The cause cannot be the malice of wee folk

for they love to steal sips

of strong drink that springs from the fermentations

of seeds we glean.

We honor here in dust and sweat

the god who has gone into the grain

and mourn leaves of grass dried in the August wind that

whispers away the chaff.

Mill stones roll kernels from our ball of soil

until our priestess bids us circle after we form the cake

shared once she spins the spell to draw down the moon.

When the circle opens to the truth of common need

we return an arc of cake

to the mourning doves who color the compressed discs for morsels

the predawn artists cast in homage to chaos of the wild

where we balance in our unsquare dance in

intertwined rings.


Poet’s Notes:  Circles are the natural form of pagan worship. Pagans do not worship in square halls but in covens of thirteen or fewer in a form called a Circle. Circles can be cast anywhere. At the end of a ceremony, a circle is opened, and words are spoken: "The circle is open, but unbroken."

Editor’s Note:  Tyson’s articulate imagination harvests only the choicest images. TLC


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A Thing for Pixies

Tyson West


Pure longing pulled me in the pixie ring

where I paid dearly for my lover’s kiss

my want spun lost until I heard the hiss

of pixie play. A spark glint off a wing.


Her flick of tongue commanded me to cling

I freely danced her toadstool white abyss.

Pure longing pulled me in the pixie ring

where I paid dearly for my lover’s kiss.


I tasted subtle sweetness in our fling

she chose my soul to steal but not dismiss

the sheath of flesh that conjured up our bliss

trapped in exquisite circles mushrooms bring.

Pure longing pulled me in the pixie ring

where I paid dearly for my lover’s kiss.


Poet’s Notes:  When I discovered that the theme was circles, I thought of one of the more delightful cameos of circles in mythology as fairy rings that appear on lawns and forests. A fairy ring starts with a single point of a spore and grows outward in rings of mushrooms over years, usually circular in form.

Fairy rings or pixie rings as they are sometimes called, have certain darker legends attached, one of which involves a mortal stepping inside one, joining the pixies or fairies in their dance, and never being allowed to leave, unless a handsome prince or clever maiden comes along to break the spell. This topic lends itself to a short-form poem. I used the rondel supreme with varying refrains.

Editor’s Note:  Tyson’s rondel supreme is the perfect vessel to swirl this magical poem.  TLC

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Circles in Motion

Tyson West


My metaphysics prof stood before us forever

class after class throat bound in the same black polka dot polyester tie

dribbling down his white shirt to flat black belted charcoal slacks

gloved in the same gray sports coat – horn rimmed glasses still

unpolished – he seemed himself a universal truth.

He bore forbidden fruit – neoplatonism

spread across soft minds open

to ferment ideas stranger than some white bearded god

sending his only kid to die in Palestinian dust.

Beyond human sentience, he preached eternally

exist universal constructs like numbers unshadowed or defined

by black ties, white shirts, and gray sports coats –

my pagan lungs inhaled this heady vapor

only to blow hormonal breath into constructs

of six directions and the extension that if numbers be

unchanging as the 1950’s Roman Catholic Church

so must their patterns possess everlasting existence

beyond minds that mark them.

All this spun back at three score and ten

in the winter's tale of two brothers

busting full of business success and family and Jesus who flew

to kneel in dry Dakota grass

spotting pronghorn through scopes on their 7mm magnums

before squeezing the new moon trigger to let fly

a copper wrapped lead cone on its super sonic

twist down the lands of chromium steel tubes.

The bullet mushrooms as it explodes in the heart

before the creature even heard the sound of the shot.

Spirals of DNA in its cells cease their corkscrew laddering

then after the hunt, carcasses skinned

heads slit off to mount for trophies – the hunters spirits spiraling high –

cold air spins into compressors of the turboprop circling the propeller down the runway

into the gyres of jet stream pulling down Arctic air

around the swirl of Pacific moisture that looped this far inland

until the proud aluminum shell screws itself into the earth.


Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem over a year ago as a result of hearing of a tragic accident where a couple of brothers went hunting on the Great Plains. Their turboprop took off in bad weather and spiraled into the ground. I began seeing all of the inner relationships between the motion of the hunters and the motions in the machinery and the motions of events that took place that led them to that point.

I thought back to my metaphysics professor in college, and his concept that there exist certain universal truths that would be the same in alien or human perception. The poem’s original title was “Spirals”. A spiral is a shape made from one point on the circumference of a circle, rotating and moving forward.

Editor’s Note:  “Circles in Motion” shoots the reader with Tyson's metaphysics, numbers, patterns, and trophies, all expressed in his own particular (and circular) language. TLC


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Crop Circle Tourism

Tyson West


Please don’t present such evidence to me

I sense what shaped these circles in the grain.

Our truth’s best cut by hands we cannot see.


Our spirit guides led us across the sea

to find what druid bones and spells remain.

Please don’t present such sketchy tales to me.


Old Stone Henge and rye fields fresh feathery

designs captured our souls inside the plane.

The truth’s best cut by hands we cannot see.


You say stout tipsy pranksters on a spree

with planks at dawn stomped out this fey domain.

Please don’t lay out such common plots to me. 


I’ve felt the ley lines flow beneath this lea

as lotus formed I chanted in the rain.

The truth’s best cut by hands we cannot see.


The pub blokes laughing where we stopped for tea

swear blood that raised old cromlechs flows again.

Please don’t lay out such evidence to me,

the truth’s best spun by hands we cannot see.


Poet’s Notes:  When I learned the theme of circles, crop circles immediately came to mind. I started reading about them and discovered that a cottage tourism industry exists in southwest England near Stonehenge where a lot of these crop circles appear. Apparently, artists are locals who go out early in the morning using planks with rope handles on them to compress the grain. Tourists will visit the area to meditate and feel the energy inside these crop circles. Like many of the new-agers I have encountered in the past, they have a tendency to believe what they want to believe about astronomical phenomena, weather, and natural and human phenomena, and assign meaning to them based on their feelings. People with more imagination tend to build elaborate explanations, such as space aliens, for simple phenomena.

Editor’s Note:  All of Tyson’s poetic elements combine for a rich read in this villanelle. TLC


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Private Hells

Tyson West


In ‘69 he answered to Bruce and I Billy

drinking in grooves of vinyl discs dumped by shagged out poets

who fingered chords to mark time

while we curved our claws around

PBR, weak weed, and ideas to die for, in hopes

of bending it.

I watched him fail at setting fire to the ROTC building

long before his meditations led to the thought fall

he must have basketed Chippewa dna.

I recruited into ranks of pirates of proper papers

dull grey suits who shimmered homage to image

and drank wine from corked bottles.

In shamanship we rejoined to compass new center

from his weatherman suplex over ivy walls

and my skyscraper plate glass lack of transparency.

My drum shaped of baltic birch

distilled power through the name of my indoeuropean tribe I remember still.

We asked no questions of each other and invoked no prophets

so sure were we of the steps we danced

and throat sung hosannas we harmonized.



I missed his barefoot walk west

and rode the rails from library to ledge but

arrive we both arcanaed.

Each of us had traced the cracks of a different cliff face

to inhale the same amanita sky.

Making our fire, fierce this time

he with bow and I with steel and flint, we watched flames climb for

every hurricane and level of hell rotates around its eye.

Lotusing together in visions quested through wire rimmed glasses

my night lynx shared the secret of my name.

Two eagles mirrored each other’s gyre

in thermals from the perch that pulled him up

Superstition Mountain soundlessly centering next to my drum.

My brother’s angel looked homeward

my pixie spun silently

to join keeps where our male egos

meditated koans pure over dust and smoke and sweat.



We both wondered when the spirit of the mushroom left us

naked and alone in cold shadow

had we chosen the spinning clouds around us

or had some great geometer curved our paths to

the discs of hell we claimed as our own –

all metaphysical fibers we flayed and flew

lead to a crystal we sobered sure

the greatest area enclosed by the least long line be

a circle of which the center is me.


Poet’s Notes:  I knew many a longhaired and bearded extremist in the 1960s. I knew members of Students for a Democratic Society from which a group called "The Weathermen" broke off. In turn, "The Weather Underground" splintered off from The Weathermen. Students for a Democratic Society protested for left-wing causes that now seem moderate and almost quaint. The Weathermen, who took their name from the line in a Bob Dylan song, "you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" were big on running towards the police in protests, breaking windows, and doing minor vandalism. The last group, however, would set off bombs, rob banks, and were a much more extremist group that would now probably be called terrorists. Many members served time in prison. 

In my wanderings in the desert of Eastern Washington, I at times sweated with a gentleman who had been a member of The Weathermen. He lived in a teepee and was pursuing a Native American spiritual route. We sweat together in the same groups from time to time.  This poem is built of fragments of our relationship, and of course, is way more organized than anything we ever did.

Editor’s Note:  Tyson’s poem is like a waterfall of images that spill onto the page, an exploratory freefall into 1969. TLC


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The Shape Surreal of Time

Tyson West


My final fetal climb rose with a drop

from the globe theater of flesh called womb

ball of my sentience swelling from chance singularity.

Unfocused mewling surrounded in circles of primate arms evolved to climb for fruit

I perceived blurred bubbles of light and darkness

rolling through cold and warm

eclipsed in green clouds of solstice needles

or brown skeletons dancing at 15 degrees of Scorpio,

until ice flakes float down to forgive

all filth for a white while.

Floating never fighting the flow

even in rectangular boxes where arms on a disc

long and short fingered numbers

crawled above Miss Fair’s whistling radiators.

A child’s anticipation moves in time signatures

doubled or tripled hoping for Disney promises popped in props

before wasp winged Tinker Bell ripped

he billowing fabric of Walt’s castle

with the egg tooth of her wand.

At times when Tinker homogenized the hook of hell

I had hoped I could see behind

her veil to another world

a purer world where my fidget and the scar on Judy's cheek

would wash away to a pieta carved in never rancid butter.

Against the spinning sky we sensed

the aposty of numbers curving forward

suddenly counting backwards at times to swell

into a radioactive amanita of ecstasy

rounding out the radius of my night terrors.

Recalling my feelings as I face the chimera

who calculus the contortions of tides left for me to remember

I watch my children decay discerning

light emitting diodes in sequential streams

on digital displays signed in seven four time

through eyes focusing through floaters.

I have learned to keep chronology clicking for

a pool of dust and decay must swell

to mold feet and cue the round dance steps.

I sense the final fragments

of the parabola beyond the mirror of my mud puddle

knowing what will remain of my bones once

my consciousness no longer spins

will find no novelty in the cold grey circumference of a pewter urn.


Poet’s Notes:  When I learned the theme for this issue was circles, I immediately thought of surrealism. I enjoy working in the grotto of poetic surrealism, perfected by Philip Lamantia. I feel that surrealism, as a movement, is kind of like a trip to New York City. It's pretty hard to live there, but sometimes we need to go there to recover perspective. Because of the circular nature of time and being, I thought that this would be a good approach to the theme of circles.

Editor’s Note:  Tyson’s veins of surrealism shape this poem from birth to urn. Tyson rocks the reader in swells of "time signatures”. TLC


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The Poetry of John C. Mannone


White Grapes

John C. Mannone


From the dark edge

            of memory, the sweet 

                        & sour taste in the circles

of shadows texturing landscape,

            a precipitous terrain

                        in half-light, I remember


my mother’s art decorations—

            green onyx marbles from Mexico

                        fashioned into clusters,


grapes bound together with intricate

            (and hidden) wire for branches

                        unlike some asteroids, bound


gravitational aggregates, if shattered

            with well-meaning nuclear rockets,

                        would fall apart, shower


heavy debris into ocean

            coaxing tsunamis walling the coast

                        hundreds of feet high


before crashing down, drowning

            dreams orbiting memory—a cluster

                        of thoughts about my mother.


That asteroid comes in

            three hundred times faster

                        than I can think.


I don’t have the nerve

            impulses traveling any faster

                        than hundred meters per second


or images in my eyes

            registering in my occipital lobe

                        before 13 milliseconds pass by;


unfortunately, pain

            travels much slower, lingers.

                        Perhaps this is simply


a bunch of white grapes

            ready to burst in my mouth

                        to nourish and not kill me


with such thoughts of self

            destruction. Maybe they’re the pulp

                        of memories that let me live


while at the same time, the only thing

            that could break

                        would be the skin

of my tears.


Poet’s Notes:  This past summer I was enchanted by how some fruit in my kitchen reminded me of space borne objects, like a peach, when positioned just right on a blacktop stove, resembled a yet-to-be-discovered planet in the Kuyper Belt; or how an orange, whose skin was marred, resembled the cryogenic topography of Titan; and how the close-up view of a ripening banana fooled many into thinking it was the sun spot surface of our Sun. Well, with all of that precedence, when I fetched a clump of white grapes from the fridge, I naturally thought about astronomy. However, at the same time, I remembered my mother’s jade-green onyx decoration of grapes. There’s no surprise that these two ideas merged in “White Grapes.”

Visualizing the projection of those somewhat spherical grapes and/or their shadows as circular geometries satisfies the theme. The structure of the poem was chosen to remind me of grape clusters.

Editor’s Note:  “White Grapes” bursts with circles and John's imagination. Excellent use of space on the page. TLC


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John C. Mannone

For my father, who served as a Sergeant in U. S. Marine Corps while still an un-naturalized immigrant from Sicily.

“Foreign-born soldiers composed over 18 percent of the U. S. Army during World War I.”

—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


                        I have never seen you

in an airplane, but I crawled into one

of your nightmares, Father, you, inside

a Sopwith Camel, I, your wingman.

We climbed high, hid above a cloud deck

where, inside another dream, I could see

your thoughts all tangled with aspirations

of being an actor after seeing Greta Garbo

in a film about love and war. I don’t know

why you didn’t join the air command but

your sense of duty to America was clear

even while we flew over France dropping

out of the clouds spitting machinegun fire

at the enemy below. The four Fokkers,

when they saw us, broke hard right, we

countered with barrel rolls and vertical

loops for a firing solution. It rattled the air

screaming past their wood-ribbed bodies,

smoothed fabric doped-up without a wrinkle

except for the frayed 50-caliber holes gaping

through the ripped canvas. The dogfight

lasted twelve minutes; we all took a bad hit.

Sputter and smoke, like the Germans, we fell

out of the dream, sweat pooling like blood

                                    on our foreheads.


Poet’s Notes:  I actually do not know if my father served overseas during WWI, but this is an imaginative/fictive piece anyway. And it is in dreams and nested dreams. He did serve as a sergeant in the Quartermasters corps, and it does have a connection to France.

I am an instrument-rated pilot and often think about my love for flying. My admiration of my father as a WWI veteran convolved with my passion, and this poem was born.  In satisfying the theme, “Dogfight” takes on a physical aspect of circles—military maneuvers in the air, in particular, the vertical loops and horizontal barrel rolls.

Editor’s Note:  John’s descriptive thoughts board us onto a flight that spins into history’s nightmare, WWI. TLC


* * * * * * * * * * 


Ode to a Broom

John C. Mannone

After Pablo Neruda's "Ode to My Socks"


Lonely in the corner

waiting for the light

of morning, the broom

bristles to life

when I take her

carefully in my hands

and sweep her off

her feet. We sashay

unto the sunlit floor,

start with a cha-cha

finish with a waltz

dancing in circles

to get the floor ready

for the mop up—

the smooth wood

of her back flexing

with the flow.

I cherish her, she

taking my lead

as we clean

our home together

until there’s no dirt

left. And shaking

the dust off her shoes

she waves her dustpan

hands goodbye

for just a little while.


Poet’s Notes: I am awed and inspired by Pablo Neruda’s command of the ode to everyday things. Many of his odes have short lines, so my structure follows suit somewhat. Of course, “Ode to a Broom” is not simply a humorous or fanciful poem about a broom; the broom is a metaphor for the narrator’s significant other.  This poem originated in a workshop on odes and praise poems at the Tennessee Mountain Writers conference some years back.


* * * * * * * * * *


Water Ritual

John C. Mannone


Her warm rumors

always come with the wind

            and the oceans

give back their tears

to the sky,

            to their creator, salt

            traced drops coalesce

            as a breath from stars

while she’s still whispering

like the wind. Inhales

            the joy, the sadness

            until she bloats

with impatience, flowers

to a fury before

            windows of heaven

            pull open.

Defenestrated, raindrops

rush with

            thunder, flash

            with anger, deluge

            the mountains,

till it too seeps

deep into earth,


            rills and streams

rivering to oceans.

And the sun sparks

            the waves that undress

            before the light,

their soul susurrates




Poet’s Notes:  I am fascinated by the water cycle and have written about it before; the challenge is to do it fresh every time. I wanted a continuous verse, yet I wanted the images to breathe, so I used an indented structure.

Editor’s Note:  John captures the spirit of Earth’s water cycle in this poem. I particularly liked the arrangement of lines that ebb and flow. TLC


* * * * * * * * * *


Circling Back

John C. Mannone


After the dream, I only remember clichés, the voice of memory still gruff until noon. Thoughts river in torrents but the rain doesn’t soothe. I am hungry. I like my oatmeal cooked for a full five minutes, not like the instant junk, there’s enough of that floating in my life. I want the spice in there too: cinnamon and clove dusted in with dry fruits. Raisins are good, but prunes are better, and not because I am old. I want the smooth fresh peaches, too. The steaming bowl sweetened with drizzles of chili-hot honey or tarry blackstrap molasses. Then, a splash of milk to silken the mixture. Don’t let the spoon be swallowed by the mixture, it’s not thin like soup, but thick like quicksand. Don’t wallow in depression but I am sinking fast in a bowl of oatmeal. Fear tints my face like jaundice but is almost morning sunshine as I am mashed down and pulled under into the quickened oats. Perhaps there will be a resurrection in my reverie, a reveille as my soul clambers up to the top, to the lip of the blue-rimmed bowl where I can stand up and rejoice above the grave, sing poems and hymns of life. For a moment, I circle back, and I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts raising a mug of beer with my poet-friend, Henry, remembering the light of stars. No longer do I have to worry about tempus fugit, memento mori. Here, time only stands still, and death is a fleeting memory.


Poet’s Notes:  I love to cook and have been known to say, “food is another form of poetry.” In any case, food shows up in many of my poems, often because they trigger good memories, but at other times they provide a metaphor. “Circling Back” is such the case.

“From My Lonely Kitchen”, a near-daily Facebook posting of recipes while in lockdown from the Coronavirus, was an attempt to connect to the world in a depressing time. This stream of consciousness prose poem was born out of my contemplation over a bowl of oatmeal I had prepared on one of those mornings in late August 2020. I was particularly depressed but fought it hard. 

There is a “circling back” on several levels in the poem, such as starting and ending with a memory-dream, as well as a circling back to a redemptive reality from the pit of depression, or perhaps from the reality of depression to a redemptive dream. The reference to Longfellow’s poem, “The Light of Stars” offers a kind of solution to my depression, at least at that moment.

Editor’s Note:  John’s prose poem mixes well with oatmeal and the conceit of a spoon. His reference to Longfellow’s “Light of Stars” is a nice touch. TLC


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


The Poetry of Charles A. Swanson


Running the Rut

Charles A. Swanson


I have allowed myself the ease of the rut.

I was raised on ruts.  The two-bottom plow

cut a rut, one where I hung my wheel

on each successive pass.  I learned how 

I could sleep from field edge to edge,

nudging my front tire against the dirt wall,

a doze, sleeping enough to catch a bucket

of winks—dimly aware of the need to wake

for the turn.  The turn from night to day

and day to night, those were ruts, running

at times to throw feed to the pigs.

As seasons turned, breaking the rut,

my rut remained, but I walked in darkness

when days were short.  Work was long.

Discipline.  A mental commitment

to go round and round, knowing the day

hangs on the night, the summer hangs

on the winter.  Knowing that the dogs

will bring the rabbit round again,

that circular pattern, that cycle

of buck coming to sharpen his antlers

on the bark of a sapling, the bear

shaking off his winter sleep that only 

seems to last forever.  Sometimes I need

a frost to kill the weeds.  Sometimes

I need a rain to sprout new seeds.


Poet’s Notes:  I remember a Presbyterian Church elder who told his Sunday school class that he had a fixed pattern in how he prepared for each day.  If he brushed his teeth out of order (for example, placing that task ahead of shaving), then he might forget to brush his teeth altogether.  The pattern helped him complete his necessary preparations. 

As I became more grown-up, my father gave me greater responsibilities.  A time came when I bargained with him to take over the hog operation.  Dad was bi-vocational, and Mom carried many of the farm duties on her shoulders.  I was in eighth grade when Dad and I came to our agreement.  

From that day, until I finished my first year of college, I fed the pigs every morning before school.  I carried my aura of responsibility around with me as determinedly as I did the unmistakable odor of the barnyard.

Discipline, the day-to-day necessity of completing tasks, is important to me.  Getting the job done is a commitment to repetitiveness, but it is also a mark of maturity.

Editor’s Note:  Charles’ straightforward, narrative style put me in the moment. TLC


* * * * * * * * * *


The Watchers and the Watched

Charles A. Swanson


I. The Little Boy in the Picture


I’ve come to accept the stocky, wide,

fat kid in the photograph.

I didn’t love me at the time, certainly

not that awful still life.


I look at the picture, see some signs

of surety, but more I see

awkwardness, in the mismatch

of flannel shirt and tweed coat.


 II. Those Awkward Teenage Years


Later, I watched a guy run a dozer,

clearing land on our farm.

The tracks clanked, the blade piled high

oak stumps, fine dust chalked


the late summer air.  I watched,

secretively, coveting

his brown hair, limber frame, easy

nonchalant posturing.


I thought, what could be cooler

when he took his breaks,

leaned back in his Corvette Stingray,

napped in dark sunglasses.


A spray of hair, a sunlit wave,

trembled like a breath

as it cascaded from his baseball hat—

hat, sunglasses, hair,


body stretched at ease, unconscious

of my admiration.

I was nothing like that, too stocky,

ungainly, unwatchable. 


III.  Clearing Land on a New Farm,

            A Summer Between College Semesters


But later in life, not so much later,

but enough so that some

of the pudginess had thinned out,

but still, as they say, stout,


wide as a barn door, still thinking,

as I ran a bulldozer myself,

bush-hogged briars with a tractor,

plowed fields for sowing,


stirred up a whirlwind of dust

and debris, and had it

coat me like fuzz on a hairy goat,

I was nothing to see.


Later in life, I say, I learned 

as I operated my equipment,

I, too, was being watched—four eyes,

two teenage neighborhood girls,


hiding in the forest undergrowth,

the border of dreams, peering.

I went round and round, oblivious,

a figure in their field of desire.


Poet’s Notes:  The creation of an image, fading as the image might be, seems a lifelong obsession with me.  I am bound to the frailty of the flesh, even though my hope is in an eternal destination.

I have long been fascinated by the “caught” moments of life.  I remember key words and phrases and examples I’ve heard from a teacher, a parent, a minister, and I’ve realized that the speaker had no way of knowing how those few words would stick with me.  

I am also responsible for creating impressions and images in the lives of others, but rarely do I learn what I have said, or done, or how I’ve looked, that has lodged in the mind of another person.  

When someone tells me, “I remember when you ____,” the first part of that statement is a gift—as long as the memory that follows is something positive or even humorous.  

Editor’s Note:  Charles skillfully threads the three sections of his poem to form a circle. TLC


* * * * * * * * * *



Charles A. Swanson


Now, forty years I’m looking back.

That first afghan still holds,

the tight stitches, chains,

double crochets, a pattern,

loops, knots, worked in squares,

a pattern of columns and holes,

an easy pattern for beginners.

Make one, two, three, ninety squares—

somewhere in there the shape

becomes rote, as do the twists

of wrist, the slide of yarn

over the finger holding taut

the thread and emerging weave.


That first afghan, something

of dream and quest, of creative

juice and craft, of tension

and release, of conversation

and silences—matched

by the substance and the holes,

the windows and the walls

of the pattern.  And then

the colors—autumn in full fall—

oranges, yellows, goldenrod

and cinnamon, browns like leaves,

all bordered by static black,

with some squares wholly black,

so night comes to this farmhouse.


I made that first afghan for you,

Mom, you and Dad, those years ago.

I sat the tedious, sweet and timeless

hours before the fire in Grandma’s house,

that house you love, that house that’s peopled

though desolate, beside that woman 

you keep seeing, reaching her hand 

from a place immeasurably bright.  For you, 

your twenty-fifth anniversary.  The black

squares, yes, the mystery

for I see through a glass darkly,

and you have lostness in your face.

But I cling to what you’re also seeing,

the brightness, the yarn of a dawning sun.


Poet’s Notes:  My first afghan was made in one of the easiest crochet patterns, the granny square.  Each separate block starts with a circle of yarn that is then quickly squared off.

I learned to crochet from two of my aunts and then I worked on that afghan through many hours at my maternal grandmother’s house.  We sat in front of a fireplace through winter evenings, both doing handwork and talking about the events of our days.  

At the time, I was nineteen, a sophomore at the local community college.  When I finished the afghan, I gave it to my mother and father for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  

Years later, as my mother went through her last months of life, her sense of time warping, she kept going back and back to that same house of her mother’s, and to her mother’s ability to sew, quilt, crochet, and do embroidery.  Many times, as I crocheted beside my mother in those memory-filled hours of both confusion and strange enlightenment, she would say to me, “My mama would be so proud of you.”  Those words keep coming back to me now, and I know my mama was proud of me, too.

Editor’s Note:  Charles’ use of repetition and metaphor enhances this poem. I appreciate his reference to “through a glass darkly”. TLC


* * * * * * * * * *


What would I put my hand in?

Charles A. Swanson


I’d put my hand in to work, and I’ve done it.

Pulling tobacco, the gummy tar building on the hand so thick I could roll it up, a black ball tacky between fingers and thumb.

Washing dishes, hot water almost scalding.  I hand-dive for a fork.  The steam from the water fills my head with the pleasantness of soap, scent, morning light.

Mashing together food particles, eggs or onions or bacon bits, from the sink basket to pick them up, running my finger around the drain’s smooth flange, no matter how dishwater-       gray or squid-black.

My hands have learned there’s little harm in the hairball of my daughter’s long strands, left limp in a soap circle of the shower drain.

A long way up the birth canal, my hands have gone to touch wet skin, the slickness of hair, the anxiousness of the cow’s insides, the struggles of the unborn calf.  These hands, so uncertain, that twist and tug.  These hands too occupied to aid in prayer.

What once was unthinkable, the hand has learned to touch.

The hand, the hand, the hand has taken care of the body.

Like my Aunt Peggy, I can change a baby’s diaper with one of these two hands; eat a peanut butter sandwich with the other.

“Employees must wash hands before returning to work!”

Before loving that lovely dough, that yellow yeast ball that needs kneading, that needs the hands to punch and pull and, yes, caress the warmth, the fragrance, the promise of sweet rolls.

Hands that hold the yarn, the hook, one hand a distaff, a cradle, for the smooth yarn to thread through the friction of callused fingers, providing the necessary tension; the other hand darting the hook, learning the feel of metal and the twist of hand to grab and knot and fashion the mind’s dream of stocking hat, prayer shawl, or afghan.

“Busy hands are happy hands.”

No more pleasure than the slip of sharpened knife under apple skin, of slices thin as parchment to mount crisply in the bowl.

No more happiness than the preparation of hot peppers for pickling, even though the burning chafes the hands for hours.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”

You have to trust these hands, trust when I hold the holy handkerchief across your nose and mouth, trust when I take you under the baptismal waters.  God must raise you clean, but I must lift you out.

And now my dear, my one and only, my wife, watch these hands.  They stir the chocolate filling.  They are patient, holding the wooden spoon.  The spoon goes round.  The chocolate thickens.  Slowly, the clock’s hands move.  Every minute, my hands are saying love.


Poet’s Notes:  If the original inspiration is strong, then the poem seems to find good soil.  The sprouting of the seed, the unbending of the fragile stem, the opening of the poem to sunshine all seem like good timing, as if spring warmth has readied the page for the miracle.  Thus I felt when I was writing this poem.

I am reminded of the words of William Ross Wallace, “the hand that rocks the cradle / Is the hand that rules the world.”  The hand in service is a wonderful thing to behold.  The hand in service, when the hand serves the purposes of love, the hand opens like a flower. 

Editor’s Note:  Charles’ facile prose is beautiful and relatable. TLC


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Distinguished Guest Poets Vlora Konushevci & Arbër Selmani


Editor’s Warning:  Some readers may find the language and imagery of Konushevci’s poetry to be disturbing.


Quails, Grapes, A letter from Quarantine

Vlora Konushevci


1. Quails *

Only my eyes are alive, 

everything else in me was murdered.


My mother witnessed 

savages dumping their filthy seed

inside me for twenty one days 

in a row. 

Only her voice is alive now 

to cry out my name as a call to a prayer

every time I get near the well.

Nine times I tried to take my life.

But death has many doors

her wail horrified the well  

I saw the edges of my soul flattened 

in a rotted blood land 

my father’s land 

my grandfather’s 

their corpses rotted too. 

Ten times I tried to take my life.


Rozafa* is forgotten 

The mother’s curse

shall bury you alive 

on judgment day 

just as you buried alive 

the horror 

the sinfulness. 

In the land of rotted roots 

Rotted are the living. 

I don’t try to take my life anymore 

A sip of water is all I want! 


 2. Grapes 


Cruel is the sound of rain 

hitting your soul put out for sale 

even to the devil if he were bidding, 

or exchange it with immigration, 

crumbs of bread, a cup of tea, 

a slice of freedom. 


A grim death dances around 

naked refugee camps!


Cruel is the sound of prayer

to an absent God at the border,

heavy are the abandoned souls to 

carry through the lake of rushes, 

bitter is the taste of agony on 

an empty stomach. 


An insatiable death dances around 

naked refugee camps!


But then someone brought grapes 

pieces of peace as they released 

an ecstasy to a dry mouth

and we ate it, otherwise, 

peace would be just a fragile dream 

in naked refugee camps 

where nobody ever sleeps. 


3. A letter from quarantine


I just can’t stand tight clothes anymore 

narrowed minds,

I’ve spent the whole day dusting 

with a cloth which smelled of honey, 

if it were Sunday I would go for a walk

in Germia, I would shop for groceries,

but it’s just a workday in the museum

of frozen dreams. 


The city is bathed in sluggish cries

of the government to keep the distance 

imposing limits on life.

Spring has just set its foot

the longest day of the year,

the world is facing a plague

a tragedy in the Greek sense.


Aunt Emine has just died 

I couldn’t even say goodbye  

your filigree pieces are passing away 

mom. It’s just another workday,

a Thursday after a bleak anniversary.


Our generations that endured the war,

famine and genocide survived to face 

not only the pandemics today

but ourselves, the monstrosity   

we created through the voting booths.


No earthly deed have we granted to this word!

We bestowed only sorrow, silence and immigration

as an obscure end from the ashes of fire

we bestowed on ourselves.     


Poet’s Notes: 

* “Quails” is a story written by Gazmend Bërlajolli, based on authentic testimonies of women raped during the war in Kosovo.

*Rozafa: Rozafa’s Castle is a castle near the city of Shkodër, Albania, which according to the famous legend was built by three brothers. They set down to build a castle but despite working all day the foundation walls fell down at night. 

They were told by an old man to sacrifice a woman for the walls to stand. They decided to sacrifice one of the wives who comes the next day to bring them lunch. It was Rozafa, the wife of the youngest brother, who left her infant son at home.

She didn't protest but, worried about her son, accepted being immured on condition that they must leave her right breast exposed so as to feed her newborn son, her right hand to caress him and her right foot to rock his cradle.

Editor’s Note:  Konushevci’s sharp lens, precise language, and tight imagery sculpt the many faces of humanity, and then leave us with a decision, a choice. TLC

Art Editor’s Note:  Pictured is a close-up of the Heroinat Memorial in Pristina, Kosovo, which honors the sacrifice and pain endured by Albanian women during the Kosovo War (1998 - 1999).  More information about the fascinating construction of this symbolic masterwork may be found here

About the Poet:  Vlora Konushevci is a famous regional poet and translator from Kosovo, winner of the UN Women Kosovo Poetry Contest on Peace. A feminist activist, she is the founder of, a web page featuring female Albanian poets.  She holds a BA degree from Prishtina University in English Language and Literature and is a master’s degree candidate in Linguistics.

Konushevci’s poems and translations have appeared in local and national cultural platforms and literary magazines.  She regularly participates in poetry events in her country.  Her first collection of poems in the Albanian language, sponsored by the Albanian Ministry of Culture, was published on February 11, 2021. She lives in Prishtina, Kosovo, with her husband and son.


* * * * * * * * * *


When my father died
Originally in Albanian by Arbër Selmani

Translated into English by Fadil Bajraj 


When my father died,

a part of me died,

my mother and my sister died a little too,

his shirts died

my last salary died in my right pocket

the blessed day died,

apologies, hard slaps, the wishes I had

the dreams that I didn’t have died

the morning shopping died, and the whole morning died on that day.


When my father died,

An oak tree died somewhere in the holy mountain,

Something good has died, a goodness, a tale that no longer was told,

The body died which never got anything good from life,

Because it cannot be called a life

When every five years, misfortune finds its peace upon you.


When my father died,

I died piece by piece on the bathroom carpet.

I crawled to the faucet to wash my face,

To see my death,

To forget that the body was dying on the same day.


When my father died,

No one had limpid mind in my house anymore,

The last quarrel died, a scholarship to America died

The school diploma, which today is useless as a piece of rag, also died.


The weak men of this world died,

The women who were being kicked more and more by nature, died.

My happiness also died with my father,

The seas where once I swam with my tiny body, died.

The fields where I grew up happily, died.

My forgotten beloved died,

My wife, the one that will never exist, died.


With the death of my father an old piece of me died.

With my father the beauty died,

Marx’s Capital died,

Every Rumi’s poem died,

When my father died,

I felt the sting in my soul and harsh hand of God

In front of me I saw those who are not as beautiful as my dad

Because no one is more beautiful than the divine beauty of my father,

Because all of them had an easy life, but not my father

Because when most of them were hugged, my father shed tears,

Because luck walked barefoot in the town but didn’t meet my father.


When my father died the white fairies turned into a long black snake.


When my father died,

I overturned the furniture in the house and I didn’t find him,

I took a plane, but there was no place for him even in that other country,

I picked up pieces of uneasiness and put them together,

When my father died

A deity somewhere up above that got tired of living, also died.

And an Eros whose good days were numbered, also died.

His friends died, his women friends died, his close relatives died, the ones who were never really close.

When my father died

I sat by the river of my tears and cried.


About the Poet:  Arbër Selmani is an award winning journalist and poet from Pristina, Kosovo. He has published three books: Why grandpa is sad, & Kosovo in 14 cultural stories, 1, & Kosovo in 14 cultural stories, 2. He has participated in numerous literature festivals in Europe, naming POLIP – International Literature Festival in Pristina, LITERODROM – Literature Festival in Slovenia, and the XV Biennale of young artists from Europe and Mediterranean in Rome. He has been translated to Slovenian, Turkish, Italian, Bosnian and Serbo-Croatian. He has a literary book of poems, journals and short stories forthcoming this year. 

About the Translator:  Fadil Bajraj is a renowned translator from English into Albanian, Albanian into English, and Albanian into Serbian. He is perhaps solely responsible for introducing the Beat Generation to the Albanian-speaking world with his translations of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Baraka, and others.  He is also responsible for the works of Ezra Pound being translated into Albanian.

Bajraj has also rendered selected works of James Joyce, ee cummings, Raymond Carver, Frank O’Hara, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Ernest Hemmingway, among others.  He most recently translated the works of Gregory Pardlo, and Lou Lipsitz.  In addition, through the publication of the Anthology of Rock Lyrics, Bajraj has introduced Albanians to such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, and Bruce Springsteen, among others.


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Art Gallery Section

Coming Soon!

Please see our Forthcoming Section for details!


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Other Fine Poets


Cleansed by Atonement

Donna Faulkner née Miller


A flash of cold steel . 

Bad blood letting , 

flesh rips a 

restrained gasp . 

It’s echo reverberates around the cold room , 

made ready .


The strategic cut self inflicted , 

halting my inward breath .

The wound superficial , 

clean enough to heal in time.

More than just a scar 

this will be 
a masterpiece 

My tattoo of self acceptance.

 My hearts racing - 

as breath returns 

the shock subsides. 

A pulse 

pushing blood . 
Cascading down 

braided streams staining pale skin . 

Hidden within the nucleus of every spilt drop, 

generational sins lie dormant . 


Tainted blood . 

Gelatinous . 

Bright red now

 exposed . 

The flow is steadying 

Calming .

Blood dripping slowly now. 

Slow dripping - like a faulty tap .


And I observe it all 

from outside .


Synchronised with my shallow breaths 

returning to their natural rhythm . 

The ancestral curse 

surrendered .


An amateur Picasso

painting the floor 

with imperfect circles of red redemption. 

Blots of clotted blood spreading . 

Expanding - like my consciousness . 

The alchemists transforms sacrifice

 into enlightenment 

 and I feel lighter.


Beautifully raw , 

this process of atonement.


Editor’s Note:  Normally, I don’t like to see a space before a period or a comma, but in this instance it works.  Faulkner née Miller uses punctuation as a superb metaphor for a drop of blood. This poem lingers…. TLC

About the Poet:  Donna Faulkner née Miller immigrated to New Zealand in her teens and currently lives in Rangiora with her husband Victor. The couple is at their happiest when exploring New Zealand on the Harley together. 

Donna has had poetry published in fws: Journal of Literature & Art, Havik:  The Las Positas College Journal of Arts and Literature 2020, Other Wordly Women Press, Written Tales Magazine, and Tarot Poetry Journal. Donna also occasionally posts to Instagram @lady_lilith_poet.


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I Start Again at the Beginning

James Frederick William Rowe


I start again at the beginning

     Though my steps take the straight path

     Though my life follows the same


I start again at the beginning

     Returning, I find myself starting

     What has always remained undone


I start again at the beginning

     Once again I see it all undone

     And never once my goal is reached


I start again at the beginning

     My path has never veered

     But all must be a curve


I start again at the beginning

     My straight ever a circle

     To futility always bound


Poet's Notes:  Going around in circles is an exercise in futility. You end up where you started time and time again. I thought to capture this sense of futility in a poem which links such circular motion to a sense of personal failure.

Aesthetically, this poem consists of stanzas marked by an initial repeated line of "I start again at the beginning" to underscore the sense of futility this poem embodies. Besides that, each stanza consists of two further verses offset from the left, with the story of someone's failure expressed throughout.

The poem was inspired by the repeating line coming to me before I came to bed; I then I forgot about it for almost an entire day but somehow managed to retrieve the notes from my muse the day after. This is a rare occurrence, so I am thankful.

Editor’s Note:  James’ choice of form and space played well within the circle. TLC


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Human Compasses

Jimmy Pappas



Giotto's O. The perfect circle. One arm remained fixed,
the other swirled a red O. Even the Pope was impressed.

John Donne understood the compass. Two people,
one soul. One part centered, the other part moving,

but never separate. But even Donne doubted at the end.
Wrapped himself in a shroud, had a statue created

so he could stare at his dead body for hours at a time.
The youthful lover long gone. The pious priest taking over.

He must have worked hard to convince himself the center
would still hold, the circle would maintain its perfection.


Editor’s Note:  Pappas did his research and then wrapped two stories together to form a circle of events. TLC 

About the Poet:  Pappas won the Rattle Poetry Contest’s 2018 Readers Choice Award.  He won the 2019 Rattle Chapbook Contest for “Falling off the Empire State Building”. His interview with editor Tim Green is on Rattlecast #34.  His book Scream Wounds contains poems based on veterans' stories.


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Jane Dougherty


In the grave-dark and lamp-flicker,  

where stones breathe deep and slow as millennia, 

asperities rubbed smooth by aeons-dead hands,   

where the air is steeped in stars already dust,  

and the threshold opens  

to embrace the winter moon,   

I stand, 


finger poised to follow the carven whorls,  

round and round,  


to feel the endless, eternal truth in their simplicity,  

to drift with the circling wave, time-tide,  

back to the dark night,  

when the world was simple, harsh and stark,  

and fierce as the light of winter stars.


Poet’s Notes:  I have never felt closer to the beginning of things than in the passage grave at Newgrange in County Meath. The antiquity is palpable. I have breathed the Neolithic air and traced with a finger the same whorls as a Neolithic finger, trying to understand the magic symbolism in the figure. Roots are more than a house and familiar faces. They go deeper and further to a time we only recognize in our bones. 

Editor’s Note:  Dougherty returns with her usual lyricism and imagination, honed with imagery, personification, and a provocative ending. TLC


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From one Imbolc to the next

Jane Dougherty


Above the earth, beneath the sky,  

she walks on goddess feet  

these days of rising milk,  

flood waters and the juice of trees,  


the cycles and circles,  

rippling round in whorls of stone,  

valves and bivalves carved by the sea,  

and seashell-knotted hearts of oak.  


Red the colour that detaches  

from the gentle water greens,  

the stirring mud,  

blue of sky haze and dunnocks’ eggs; 


a gown, perhaps a slipper, 

wild tulip petal fallen,  

a glimpse of the magic  

behind the wind.


Poet’s Notes:  Brigid, one the major figures of Irish mythology, has always fascinated me. She wasn’t restricted to the usual female deity roles of fertility and healing; she was also goddess of wisdom, poetry, fire, metalworking, and animals. No wonder she was not allowed to survive Christianization and had to be transformed, in different versions of her story, into a holy woman, a resigned forgiving wife of a violent husband, or a nun.  

Editor’s Note:  Dougherty give us beautiful imagery throughout this reoccurring pagan holiday. Her word choices are creative as well, such as “juice of trees”. TLC

About the Poet:  Jane Dougherty lives and works in southwest France. Her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, the Ekphrastic Review, ink sweat and tears, Nightingale & Sparrow, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Songs of Eretz. Her poetry chapbooks, “thicker than water” and “birds and other feathers” were published in October and November 2020. 


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Winter Breath

Steven Wittenberg Gordon


I exhale.  

Mist from my body pours into the air. 


The wind blows.

The mist from my body rises into the sky.


The mist cools.

My mist condenses around tiny dust particles.


A cloud forms.

Tiny droplets from my breath are captured by a cloud.


The droplets freeze.

Ice crystals grow as water vapor condenses on their surfaces.


I am snow.

My flakes float down to me and melt on my tongue.


Editor’s Note:  Steve's couplets, combined with imagery, drift like snow to shape the end of his poem. TLC


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The Transcendental Constant of Circles

Karla Linn Merrifield


The circumference of the Earth,

the antiquity of a sequoia’s diameter,

the time of day on grandfather’s clock face,

the value of doubloons and euros,

and the full moon’s silvered disk.


True to the sun, its eight planets, and the rings 

of Saturn, in every circle is the unknowable 

number— the never-ending pi, π of all life’s 

mysteries, including the blissful irrationality

of marriage, of our encircling cosmic romance.


Editor’s Note:  Karla’s poem includes a nice mix of circles, from micro to macro in imagery and metaphor. TLC


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Serpent Eating Its Tail

Karla Linn Merrifield 


Again smoke rings, orbit of Pluto,

our own Earth’s equator or its


Arctic Circle, growth rings

of redwoods, my wedding ring –


I am thinking in circles, starting

out & ending where I began back


at zero often by inches, often by miles

of journeying through time 


changing me along the way to myself.

I’m spinning off again on a traffic rotary,


rubber gasket, rim of a bone button

or corolla around December’s full moon—


because I cannot stop traveling toward 

the throbbing core where I’m afraid, not afraid,


ignorant, knowing,

youngster, crone,


the same old, different poet

I always am & never will be again.


Editor’s Note:  Karla’s choice of the word, ouroboros (or uroboros) for the title of this poem is superb.  I particularly like how she traveled from specific circles to her personal travel through time, making a full circle. TLC


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Disposable, Not

Karla Linn Merrifield 


I fish it out of the kitchen bin

a second turquoise napkin,

completely crumpled, a wad

of color I want to save because

there lie the crumbs of another batch


of months, two dozen this time,

the outline of his lips beneath

a Covid-grown beard, which is behind

a mask lifted to sip and nibble

and leave again his famous grin


in the four-ply fold—you’ll recall

paper-thin, heaven’s sake.

This imperfect souvenir cannot be pressed

between the pages of a Moleskine journal

dated August 2, 2020, full sturgeon moon,

in this era, or at the back of this volume,


Brockport Years, XIII, begun on the 13th,

a Friday, December 2019 in NoFoMy, Florida,

continuing to today—everything is artifact.

With this petite serviette in my left hand,

I remember in the fleeting moment:


We shall not perish. From my fist

into a Ziploc baggie it’s stuffed into the rear 

pocket of this black book. Ephemerality

o’erleaps fragility—social distancing

does not apply to old souls; we put our bodies aside.


Take a deep breath and remember to recycle the story: 

Once a circle, silver-embossed or otherwise, always.


Editor’s Note:  I appreciate Karla’s use of artifacts to describe her life during COVID-19, the sturgeon moon reference, and the act of recycling as a metaphor. TLC


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Family Circle:  Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wool

Vivian Finley Nida



Making her way around twenty bolts of fabric

even with eyes closed

Mama’s thumb and fingers know which is wool



Under three clouds 

like fleece 

Great-grandma spins yarn



Lamb, destined to be Grand Champion

mills around tufts of green

serene as David’s 23rd Psalm



Finishing loop through museum, I realize

Van Gogh and his brush

are one

Van Gogh, his brush, and The Sheep Shearers

are one



Husband is not sure which stirs emotions more at county fair 

Grooming sheep perfectly to highlight proportions, muscles

Showing poise in ring with stubborn sheep

Hearing judges’ decisions

or just after



Frost on window pane creates opaque whirls

as Grandma’s knitting needles fly

darning holes in small wool socks

Soon bare patches of ground 

boast blanket of white 

and children squeal

flinging snowballs 

again, again



Oh, frontiersman

why embrace lassoes and cattle 

Hear the sheep’s bleating hymn of praise

Accept flock’s tithe

milk, cheese, meat, wool



I know Grandpa’s horse carried him 

back and forth from Indian Territory 

to Clarksville Academy in Texas

and I know, too, that sheep’s wool 

for his saddle blanket was part of the circuit



After shortening wrap-around skirt

Grandma sews the wool scraps 

into kangaroo, encloses joey in pouch



Thick wool cardigan hugs Sister

as northern lights swirl

Even Jason’s Golden Fleece

dims beside them



In wool topcoat, fedora

Daddy unveils new Chevrolet

I think that he and Dinah Shore’s

“See the USA in your Chevrolet”

will roll forever, but her TV show ends 

a month after heavy lid of casket 

closes over his wool suit, ashen gray



Quarterback is crossing goal line

Cheerleaders in pleated wool skirts

must be turning cartwheels



As clock hands sweep round, round, round

those of us counting sheep finally spiral down

weave through folklore:

receive good luck meeting a flock of sheep 

good weather when sheep lie peacefully in the field


Poet’s Notes:  When the theme of circles was announced for this issue, I first thought of a photograph of my great-grandmother at her spinning wheel, holding a strand of wool yarn.  Thoughts of other family members followed, with wool at the center.  I gratefully acknowledge borrowing the shape of one of my favorite poems, Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” to tie these diverse images together.  

Editor’s Note:  Vivian uses multiple poetic devices as she references a circle in each section. In some stanzas she incorporates shape and haiku. Admirable take on Wallace Stevens’ poem. TLC


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First Snow of Winter

Howard Stein


New Year’s Eve, I went to bed early,
The hard-caked earth, barren and dry.
I awoke to delight, six inches of snow,
Treacherous wonderland, but wonderland still.
Sky Painter had done his job well,
A thick canvas of white
Left little room for darkness – 
Mostly south sides of tree trunks,
And undersides of branches.
The gale that blew in the snow
Had passed eastward hours ago – 
Now, only stillness and brilliance
From an unimpeded sun.

Seventy-five years of this same moment
In all the places life and work took me,
Each first snow, a new canvas,
A fresh painting, not a print; 
Recurrence, an illusion – 
Though our earth had completely
Encircled the sun, and winter
Arrived right on time.

I do not know how routine becomes amazement,
How old once again becomes new.
Am I the child who long ago 
Encountered this scene for the first time,
And now each year’s first snow
Revisits this forgotten enchantment 
In new delight? – 
When now becomes then
And back to now once again?
I end with amazement just as I began – 
Unable to surrender wonder to cliché,
When each year’s first snow
Is like none before.

Editor’s Note:  Howard builds a frame for the circle of life within a familiar scene, the first snow. His use of imagery is particularly appealing. TLC


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Diminution in Autumn

Howard Stein


The rhythm of seasons
Soothes me in its cycles –
Spring, summer, fall, winter,
Lost, but later found,
Leaving, then returning,
Blessed Assurance,
Promise unbroken.
In Nature’s circle,
I am completed anew
For another year.

Autumn, though,
Sometimes is different –
Fall makes no vow for spring;
Yields only to winter,
As far into the future as it
Is allowed to see.
Maybe there is no Promised Land,
Nothing beyond a wall of ice.
Endings cannot assure beginnings,
When endings are all they know.

Maybe spring will not follow
This year. Even circles
Have exceptions.
A pungent scent rises
From decaying leaves,
Soggy from recent rain –
Maybe this is the best
Any fall can do.

Maybe full circle is
Wager and conceit,
Our geometry wrong:
Sometimes a tangent
Drifts so far from its circle,
The circle vanishes –
From sight, from thought.
Did the circle ever really exist?

How can autumn yearn
For a spring it can no longer imagine?
Sometimes a tangent,
Lost in space and time,
Cannot find its way home,
Or even remember home.
Only autumn and perishing
Remain of what
Was once a full year.

Editor’s Note:  I appreciate Howard’s universal metaphor of this poem. TLC


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And the world keeps turning

Sharon J. Clark


Cymbals clash in a cacophony of celebration

as marshmallows burn above the belly of a fire pit

a Mobius strip offers invitation to an eternal journey

safety on the inside, exclusion beyond the

circumference of society where white spheres of fungi

swell on the forest floor – sustenance or toxin – 

the revolving doors of life and death.


Poet’s Notes:  Written during a time when our freedom of choice has been curtailed by a pandemic, this poem is an attempt to capture the circular nature of our lives – both physical and spiritual dimensions.

Editor’s Note:  Excellent imagery, such as “belly of a fire pit.” Clark digs down to the floor of the world. TLC

About the Poet:  Sharon J. Clark is a poet and short story writer with a first class honors degree in humanities with creative writing. Her work has featured in a number of anthologies, and she serves on the steering group of the Milton Keynes literary festival.


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No Title

Maureen Anne Browne 


The world she walks

is mapped different:


her school a wooden hut

with no windows,

books non-existent,

or the tattered cast-offs

from white children.


Nevertheless, delighting

in her year two reader,

carrying it home holding

it close, but hidden

under brown paper.


Drawn to whoops and cries

she stands on the other side,

her nose tight against the wire,

eyes, laden with longing,

widen, and widen at children


flying high on swings,

shooting down slides,

spinning round and round

on painted horses, colours

whizzing into dizzy rainbows.


Her eyes drop down,

she picks up her parcel,

half-looking back starts to go,

stops, starts, walks slow

the road home, kicking the stones.


Poet’s Notes:  I came across a photograph of a little black girl on the other side of a wire fence longingly watching white children play in a Whites Only playground. It brought home the ugliness of segregation, and I have tried to capture this in my poem.

Editor’s Note:  Browne offers a brief snapshot into poverty and racism. A vicious circle and timely topic indeed. I appreciate the metaphor of a book covered by brown paper versus that of a colorful playground. Effective ending. TLC

About the Poet:  Maureen Anne Browne is a member of Ards Writers and attended poetry workshops at the Seamus Heaney centre for poetry at Queens University, Belfast. She has read her poetry at The Festival of the Peninsula, Swaledale Festival, and summer season at La Mon Hotel. Her work has been displayed in public places in Havant, won various prizes in competitions, and received an Honorary Award from Washington for her poem “Evil Under the Sun”.

Browne’s poetry been published in several magazines, among them Pulsar, Orbis, Writing Magazine, and Honest Ulsterman, and in various anthologies, most recently Nuclear Impact: Broken Atoms in Our Hands (Shabda Press). She is currently working on her first collection.


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J. A. Sutherland

      On viewing “Darkness Visible” by Christopher Orr  


She drew a perfect circle in the air 

          and left it there 

the circle wasn’t without form or void 

          and so she toyed 

with what she thought she couldn’t see 

           – eternity –  

although she thought it wise to draw the circle 



It hovered like a halo in the dark and though 

          it cast a glow 

beside her as she studied its circumference  

          no luminescence 

emanated from within nor light as she peered deeper 

          fell upon her 

nor an inkling or epiphany or flicker of enlightenment 

          for what it meant 


          It was a perfect circle that she drew 

and looking through 

          brought nothing new to her and yet 

she couldn’t let  

          her eye be turned from its mesmeric stare  

– she didn’t care –  

          it was a perfect circle in the air 

and nothing more 


          She did not pause 

to wonder why she never saw venn diagrams 

          – a hexagram –  

of other overlapping spheres 

          since only hers 

appeared to her a single singular paradigm 

          of broken time 

that neither was a moon nor sun nor clock 

          but was perhaps 

a moonbroch or an aureole of a lunar eclipse 

          that hinted at  

a deeper storm or darker threat 

          of things to come 

that only she could see by looking through 

           – beyond – to where  

another woman drew a perfect circle 

          in the air…


Editor’s Note:  I enjoyed the form that Sutherland chose for his poem, which closed a circle in the final lines. Excellent conceit at the end. TLC

About the Poet:  J. A. Sutherland is a writer and performer, based in Scotland. Using artifacts, visual art, and photography for inspiration, Sutherland has produced three limited-edition, hand-stitched art-books that have formed the bases for various collaborative performance ventures. Another set of poems, 26 Doors, formed an exhibition/performance/print project, which has been widely shown throughout Edinburgh. Sutherland’s blog is called


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de Bhaldraithe

(Irish Celtic:  Fairy ring)

Terri Lynn Cummings


Best avoided by humans

a ring of mushrooms

ascends from fairies’ 

steps on potter’s field


An ancient rite—

the spores of life 

and death circle

sacred ground


Wedded synchrony

beneath shrewd moon

shifts from waltz 

to Irish jig


Only immortals frolic

in the middle of this phase

nearer to the grassroots of Eden

than humanity


Poet’s Notes:  Last spring, I found a fairy ring in our front yard. My mother, who was from N. Ireland, raised me on tales about these wondrous circles.


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Duet in Circles 

While listening to Brahms’ Cello Sonata No. 1 Op 38

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios 


Allegro Non Troppo


They were beautiful…

two sleek porpoises,

powerful, dark boned, 

glistening from 

their unbound bonding,

fountain-sprung as the gushing 

of dark songs from a singer’s mouth 

trembling in ecstasy. 

Curling into themselves,


they exult in perfect harmony, 

of a language all their own.

She, straddling the big-hipped creature, 

gently touches the singing strings,

he replies, with flurried grace.


Their backs in paired graceful arcs

glide in perfect rhythm 

to the water’s caress,

wreathed in translucent sprays .


Allegretto quasi Menuetto


Green waterspouts of music 

open the salt-blue gates 

to expose a view of 

the universe 

before land was,

before water was.

Two swimmers 


sharing the dizzying churning 

of white water phrases

rising and submerging 

in an exquisite mating ritual.

Conversed in a harmony 

that seems to rise 

from the deep crater of the singing sea, 


the droplets of sixteenth notes 

glittering in the fugal depths 

of the music,




yet together.




A fluid upheaval of 

descending octaves

fill the air and sea 

with circles of sound

in thundering conclusion

rippling against our beings

until we, 

sole survivors 

of the merging spheres 

are broken against the shores 

of our mortality.


Editor’s Note:  Kirkpatrick-Vrenios weaves an elegant cello sonata through a mating ritual. Imaginative employment of the senses in this poem.  TLC

Editor's Note:  A recording of Brahms’ Cello Sonata No. 1 Op 38 may be enjoyed here


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Circle Faster, Circle Fainter, O Earth

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios


I am a Dwarf Planet    

called woman, 

who, shrouded in your shadow,

                                                            circles in silence.

A small celestial body               out of reach

of pitching stones.

Arctic,                                                  naked,

            I orbit beyond the stars 

glistening                                            like ice.


You, my birth sphere,

mother of iron and phlegm,

eclipse from the world

            your black-holed temper

your unpredictable fire.


 (Could it be that only I have seen it?)


You long to be the moon, 

but are the sun,          a buckle-hot light

whose blazing yellow mouth shrieks.

You strut love-bellied,                        but empty.

You, a dominant star demanding


            can also incinerate.


I cannot circle faster than who           I am,

waxing small                           out of the skirts

of the telescope’s dark eye.               The silence

I've only ever imagined

now audible,

reveals the  constant thrum of           my distant orbit.


Editor’s Note:  Kirkpatrick-Vrenios spins imagery and imagination into beautiful, warm cloth. TLC

About the Poet:  Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios is a Professor Emerita from American University. She has performed as a solo singing artist across Europe and the United States and currently resides in Mendocino, California.  Her poetry has been featured in such online poetry columns as Ekphrastic Review, Abyss and Apex, Kentucky Review, Form Quarterly, Scissors and Spackle, Foliate Oak, and in issues of Poeming Pigeon, Unsplendid, and The Edison Review. Yellow Chair Press published her prize-winning chapbook, “Special Delivery”, in 2016; her second chapbook, “Empty the Ocean with a Thimble”, is pending release in April 2021 by Word Tech Communications.  


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The Pupil

Hollis Kurman


Through the open window, a lesson.

Vowels in the trickle of a fountain,

chasing mosquitoes over a fake pond:

‘A’, ‘E’, ‘AA’, ‘EE’, ‘EI’, ‘IJ’, ‘UI’...

Bueno. De nuevo. The low drone of a plane,

too close to the city on its way wherever,

distracting, vuelos y viajes, here in the wet

breeze in the wet leaves, anemic sun

a tease through the grey, those vowels

are just not round enough, twisted as 

the church bell, whose half hours sound 

like one o’clock, always one o’clock, 

hints of a lunchtime not yet deserved,

missing a radio’s stadium static, el partido.   

A bird screams, I’m landing, and lands.

Bracelets jingle, silvered circle punctuation 

between enunciations. Try again, mija.

A motorcycle boasts the wrong way down

a one-way street, ay no mas, not this time, 

‘O’, ‘OO’, ‘OE’, out of reach.


Poet’s Notes:  “The Pupil” is one of my migration themed poems, a subject that is an important part of my family history, my life interests, and my writing. My Cuban neighbor in Amsterdam and her efforts to learn the Dutch language and culture are what inspired this poem. Those vowels are just not round enough...

Editor’s Note:  Kurman constructed a poem filled with fine descriptive language and the senses. TLC

About the Poet:  Hollis Kurman is contributing Editor at Barrow Street Books.  She serves on the Board of Trustees of Save the Children Netherlands, the Fulbright Commission NL Board, and the Human Rights Watch Global Advisory Council for Women’s Rights. She is also Chairperson of the Ivy Circle and moderates literary events.   

Kurman’s poems have been published in multiple journals, including Barrow Street, Rattle, Phoebe, the Ocean State Review, VIA (Voices in Italian Americana), Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Global Poemic, and the current/winter 2020-21 issue of Lilith.  Her début picture book, Counting Kindness:  Ten Ways to Welcome Refugee Children (US: Charlesbridge), will be published in at least nine countries in 2020-21. The book is endorsed by Amnesty International, was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2021 (UK), and won a Northern Lights Award (US) for 2020. 

Kurman lives in an old canal house in Amsterdam and can be found online at /IG: holliskurman_writer /Twitter: @HollisKurman. 


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Virginia Boudreau


old tree alone on the hill’s

cusp bent branches shield 


new apple, furred with luago

delicate, like the coat 


skimming newborn skin. red

blush stains emerald cheek. 


flesh gathers bounty round

a seeded heart. tiny sphere 


smaller than a coveted glass

marble. I remember the day 


grandpa shot a complicit wink 

and with silver soup spoon dug 


a shallow pit in the soil, all the pink 

earthworms recoiled in sudden light. 


I chose my favourite alley, jade 

green alabaster swirled with white 


and ruby stripes. his was solid cobalt, 

transparent and clear as the spring 


sky overhead. I squatted and rolled 

the small orb, felt anticipation 


shimmer in the air, fresh between us, 

like stones skipped on a still pond


circles widening.


Editor’s Note:  Boudreau’s poem has a nice metaphor in the title. I enjoy how the poem starts out with something unexpected, like an apple (another metaphor), and then comes full circle with a marble. TLC

About the Poet:  Virginia Boudreau is a retired teacher from coastal Nova Scotia, Canada. Her poetry and prose have been published extensively in international literary journals and anthologies, both in-print and on-line. Some credits include The New York Times, Palette Poetry, Westerly, Claw And Blossom, Grain, and UnderStorey. She placed first in The Bacopa Literary Review competition for Flash Creative Non-Fiction in 2020.


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In the Listening Heart of the Circle

Doris Ferleger


In the belly of Box Canyon, in the womb 

of boulders, in a circle of women, one by one,

we tell our stories. In the center of the moon-circle, 

a fire burns. A flickering sun, A rising sun. 


Of boulders, in a circle of women, one by one,

some are still afraid to speak at all. 

A fire burns. Each one, a flickering sun, A rising sun.

In the center of the circle of our hearts,


some are still afraid to speak at all.

All are still afraid to speak of some things..

In the center of the circle of our hearts,

we place trust. We place kindling.


All are still afraid to speak of some things..

In speaking, each by each, we transform,

we place trust. We place kindling.

No longer fitting into familiar fictions. 


In speaking, each by each, we transform,

we embody ourselves. Take full breaths, 

no longer fitting into familiar fictions, 

memories pour from our mouths, 


we embody ourselves. Take full breaths, 

Like marbles spilled from a child’s pockets, 

memories pour from our mouths, 

tiger-eye fierce-swirl, jewel-blue joy. 


Like marbles spilled from a child’s pockets, 

colors we keep creating to survive.

Tiger-eye fierce-swirl, jewel-blue joy. 

We must not let ourselves be washed away.


Like colors we keep creating to survive,

tiger-eyes’ fierce-swirl, jewel-blue joy,

a baby’s  eyes seeing for the first time.

In the belly of Box Canyon, in the womb. 


Poet’s Notes:  I was inspired by the Circles theme to revisit, reconstruct into a pantoum, and totally revise an unpublished poem I had written after attending a three-week memoir writing retreat with Natalie Goldberg at Ghost Ranch, a 21,000 acre retreat center adjacent to where Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted. The experience of writing together, meditating together and sharing our stories with seventy-three women among the boulders of Box Canyon, in a large hall, in our separate rooms, and on long walks through the sagebrush, was extraordinary. The Circles theme inspired the idea of writing a pantoum, which is a circular structure that perfectly fit the poem’s concerns--writing and sharing in a circle of women, circling back to our childhood stories, encircled in the womb of boulders, circling the fire, and the circles or cycles of life.

I had abandoned the original poem not knowing what needed to happen to make it what it was meant to become. The Songs of Eretz theme of Circles was bashert to bring this poem into being as a tribute to that extraordinary experience in the circle of women. May it be a blessing of inspiration.

Editor’s Note:  Ferleger shares her heart through metaphor, trust, clarity, and love. Her voice reminds us of how language redeems. TLC

About the Poet:  Dr. Ferleger holds an MFA in Poetry and a Ph.D. in psychology and maintains a telehealth Imago and Dialogue psychotherapy practice.  She was the winner of the now defunct Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest in 2018.  Her numerous literary prizes include the New Letters Poetry Prize, Robert Fraser Poetry Prize, and the AROHO Creative Non-Fiction Prize. 

Ferleger’s book, Big Silences in a Year of Rain, was a finalist for the Alice James Books Beatrice Hawley Award; she is also the author of As the Moon Has Breath, and Leavened, as well as a chapbook entitled “When You Become Snow”. Her work has been published in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, L.A. Review, and South Carolina Review. 


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Poetry Review

Review of Everything really Me! by Gene Hodge 

Reviewed by Steven Wittenberg Gordon


Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor Gene Hodge’s latest collection of poetry, Everything really Me! (Gene Hodge, 2020), is subtitled, “Poems from the soul.”  The collection opens with an introductory statement and introductory poem with distinct echoes of Walt Whitman, and there are numerous such reverberations throughout its pages.  My friend Gene, God bless him, has not (yet) reached Whitman’s level of proficiency in his craft; as an editor, it is easy to spot rookie mistakes in Gene’s work that Whitman would never have made; but, I daresay that were Gene to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the result would be a poet that just might be hailed as Whitman’s successor.

There is immediacy to this collection.  The poet must share it.  The reader must read it.  This sense of urgency begins with the introduction (which should be read more than once, rather than glossed over) and carries the reader on a less than smooth bullet train ride from the book’s hopeful beginning to its thought-provoking and surprisingly dark ending. 

Two sinusoidal waves of emotion run throughout its pages--one of optimism, hope, and togetherness, the other of cynicism, depression, and profound loneliness; the former attempts to cancel out the latter, but, alas, even though Gene tries desperately to bootstrap his natural exuberance and optimism to combat the relentless negativity that life sometime rains down on us, even he must sometimes admit defeat.  “Walmart”, which describes how the titular corporation destroyed the spirit and soul of his hometown, and his chilling closing poem, “It Is Finished!”, which opens a disturbing window into the senseless destruction of war, are two powerful examples of how, as Forrest Gump would put it, “sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

From a “meta” level, Gene includes several pieces that poetically describe how poets see the world differently from everybody else.  These poems are often his most optimistic.  Gene teaches us that the world around us may be dirty, ugly, noisy, dark, and violent, but a poet can always find beauty and love even in such depressing environments.  Gene invites, even begs, the reader to see the world as a poet does, to find beauty and love even in the most desperate situations.

As did Whitman, Gene chose to self-publish his book rather than wait, perhaps forever, for it to be released by a commercial publisher.  As a result, it may be difficult to find outside of Gene’s home of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee.  It is available in a perfect bound trade paperback of approximately ninety pages in length.  Those interested in obtaining a copy should contact Gene directly at P.O. Box 802, Soddy-Daisy, TN 37384.


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Frequent Contributor News

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

Editor-in-Chief Steven Wittenberg Gordon

His poem, “Mashpee Beach Sonnet”, was published in Cape Cod Times on February 22, 2021.

FC Gene Hodge

Gene recently published another poetry collection, Everything really Me! 

Former FC Mary Soon Lee

Her poem "On Reading Le Guin" was anthologized in Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin.

Four of her poems appeared in Star*Line #44.1, Winter 2021.  One of them, “What Aliens Read”, was an Editor's Choice poem and so may be read online at

Her poem "How to Forfeit the Future" appeared in, Issue 53, December 2020

Her poem "Heroine" appeared in Uppagus #43, December 2020

Her poem "The Reaper's Cat" appeared in Mirror Dance, Autumn 2020

Her poem "Why We Resist" appeared in Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Volume 31, Number 4, Winter 2020

Her poem "The Middle Kingdom" appeared in Polu Texni, January 24, 2021

Her poem "Brighton" appeared in Constellations, Volume 10, Fall 2020.

Her poem "How to Colonize Venus" appeared in Andromeda Spaceways #81, December 2020.Her poem "Directions to the Underworld" appeared in Eye to the Telescope #39, January 2021.

Her short story "Just Desserts" appeared in Daily Science Fiction, December 2020

Her short story "Red" was anthologized in Twilight Worlds: Best of NewMyths Anthology Volume II, December 2020.

Former FC Lauren McBride

Her poem, "We Chose Titan Together" is in Asimov's March/April 2021 issue, Vol. 45 Nos. 3 & 4.

Her 100-word short story, "Our Alien Friends Honor Us with a Visit", won 2nd place in the Drabble Harvest Contest: Diplomatic Immunity for Extraterrestrial Visitors, February 2021.

She has three poems in Star*Line, 44.1, Winter issue.

She has five poems in Scifaikuest, February 2021 print issue.

FC Karla Linn Merrifield

Karla has embarked on a podcast series, My Body the Guitar, in collaboration with British guitarist Paul Garthwaite. Five episodes have been published to date, which you can view here:

FC Vivian Finley Nida

Vivian recently judged primary writing and high school and teacher poetry entries for the Oklahoma Writing Project's 2021 Write to Win contest.  

Former FC John Reinhart

His poem, “Cardboard Universe", was printed in the Vol. XXXVII, #1 of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature (

His poem, “Heart Tree", was printed in the February “roots” edition of Taproot Magazine (

FC Howard Stein 

His poem, “Exile in Situ”, appeared in New York Parrott on November 17, 2020  
His poem, “What a Leaf Tells Me” appeared in miller's pond poetry magazine Vol 24 Web 1 (
His poem, “A Dot’s Journey” appeared in A River Sings on February 7, 2021
Howard and Seth Allcorn co-authored a poem, “Black Walnuts”, which appeared in AWEN, Issue 111, February 2021.  Another poem by Howard alone, “Straight Party Line”, appeared in the same issue.

FC Tyson West

Tyson had two poems anthologized in Childhood USA published by The Poet Magazine, "Sunday Fire" and “Dinosaur Dreams.”

He participated in his first zoom poetry reading in December 2020 of his poem “The Carpenter's Wife", recently anthologized in Mother Mary Comes to Me.

His short story, “KEK versus CTHULHU”, was recently anthologized by Rogue Planet Press.

He has five poems in the fib review

His poem “Wind from the Sea” was recently published in The Ekphrastic Review.

Former FC Alessio Zanelli

Alessio’s poem, “The Rage”, was published in the Winter 2020 edition of Nunum

His poem, “The Arrow Of Time” appeared in Vol. 20, No. 2 of Taj Mahal Review

His poem, The Vixen”, was featured on the cover of The Journal, issue #62.


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"Lana the Poetree" | Digital Photograph | R.E. Gordon


“Love” will be the quarterly theme for our forthcoming Summer 2021 issue. Editor-in-Chief Steven Wittenberg Gordon will be the lead editor.  He will be looking for poems that express love in all of its various aspects.  Although romantic love poetry will be welcome, romantic love is not the only kind of love.  Successful poets must bring something fresh and new to the party.  Poets are encouraged to be creative.  General (off theme) submissions of poetry will also be considered, but they will have to be extraordinarily good to make it into this issue.

One of the things that makes Songs of Eretz Poetry Review unique is that we do our best to enhance the enjoyment of our poetry by pairing every poem with an illustration.  In the past, these illustrations have come from royalty free Internet sources or were created especially for the purpose by our Art Editor.  Recently, we have sought submissions of and provided honoraria for art by guest artists.

Beginning with our Summer 2021 issue, we will be expanding the opportunities for guest artists to participate in our quarterly themed offerings.  We will consider cover art not only for the “front” but also for the “back” of each issue.  In addition (as some readers may have noticed from the announcement in the middle of our current issue), we will publish an Art Gallery section in each issue.  It has been frustrating to turn away so many good art submissions that were on theme but did not match any of the poetry.  Now, such pieces of art will have a potential home.  These changes should increase the opportunities for guest artists to be published in Songs of Eretz by at least an order of magnitude!

Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon will be keeping his mind wide open as he considers art submissions for the “Love” issue.  He hopes to be able to fill its Art Gallery section with as many creative representations of love from as diverse a group of artists as possible, adding a whole new dimension to the enjoyment and appreciation of the quarterly theme.  Remember, cover art (front and now also back!) must depict a seagull or seagulls; inside art need not.  Also remember, art submissions must be on theme; we do not accept general submissions of art as we do for poetry.

We will begin accepting submissions of poetry and art for our Summer 2021 issue on May 1, 2021, and the narrow submission window will close on May 15, 2021.  That said, “Love” was our most popular quarterly theme of 2020--so popular, that we had to close for submissions early.  Accordingly, we recommend that you begin planning now and do not wait until the last day of the submission period to send us your best!

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