Friday, June 25, 2021

SUMMER 2021 "LOVE" ISSUE



SONGS OF ERETZ POETRY REVIEW

SUMMER 2021 "LOVE" ISSUE

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Front Cover:  "Seduction Gull" |Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon
Back Cover:  "Proud Mother" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon


Editor-in-Chief

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Art Editor

Jason Artemus Gordon

Associate Editor

Terri Lynn Cummings

Featured Frequent Contributor

Charles A. Swanson

Additional Frequent Contributors

John C. Mannone, Karla Linn Merrifield, Vivian Finley Nida, James Frederick William Rowe, Howard F. Stein, & Tyson West

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.

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is best viewed on a computer screen.  There have been reports of word wrap when viewing on a Smartphone. 
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Table of Contents

A Letter From the Editor

Featured Poets

Gene Hodge — A Retrospective

The Poetry of Charles A. Swanson

Frequent Contributors

Art Gallery

Guest Poets

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

“Love That Sweet Sugar Satchmo”

“Epithalamion of Never”

Lorraine Jeffery

“Unworn Love”

Anita Jawary

“Passion Flower”

“Two Roses”

Sandy Deutscher Green

“Pairings/Parings”

Paula Rudnick

“Love Sandwich”

Mark A. Fisher

“solar winds” (General Submission)

Thomas R. Willemain

“Molly”

Dawn Vogel

“Pinnacle”

Ken Cumberlidge

“A Map of South America”

Colleen Anderson

“Courtship”

Tamiko Dooley

“Kayobi (Tuesday)”

Bob McAfee

“Foot Loose”

Gerri Leen

“Loving, Leaving”

Carol Lavelle Snow

“The Love Trap”

Frequent Contributor News

Forthcoming

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A Letter from the Editor

 

As it did last year, our summer “love” theme generated a groundswell of interest.  Over 26,000 visits to our site were recorded in May, blowing away our previous monthly record.  We enjoyed over 1,000 visits a day most days.

 

In this issue, we bid a formal and fond farewell to long time Frequent Contributor Gene Hodge.  Five memorable poems, hand-selected by Gene, are reprinted here.

 

Once again, we are proud to feature the poetry of Frequent Contributor Charles A. Swanson.  Charles shares his love for the subject of love from four different angles with as many wonderful poems.

 

Speaking of sharing the love, you will find love expressed in many original, refreshing, and often surprising ways within these pages.  The opening guest poet poem by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios is my hands down favorite--an intoxicating tribute to a jazz musician and a love song honoring jazz itself.  But there is almost certainly something for everyone here.  To paraphrase an old TV show ship captain’s catchphrase, “the course is set for love.”  Enjoy!

 

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Editor-in-Chief

 

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Featured Poets

 

Gene Hodge--A Retrospective

Editor’s Note:  Soddy Daisy, Tennessee resident Gene Hodge was a member of the Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor ranks from January 1, 2018, until March 27, 2021, when he decided that it was time for him to pursue other projects.  A prolific self-publisher, several collections of his poetry are available through Amazon.com; he is currently working on a book of inspirational poems.  His free and easy, whimsical blend of Imagist and Whitmanian styles of poetry added an approachable, simple, yet elegant element to these pages.  Gene selected the following poems, previously published in the Review, for his farewell retrospective.  SWG

 

Allow Me To Love You

Gene Hodge

 

Allow me to love you

the way I cherish

my books of poetry,

hold you in my hands and 

stare at you with the passion

of a child’s first Christmas gift,

touch you with the tenderness

of my dreams;

and after you resolve yourself

to my trust . . .

I’ll open your sacred life

and loosely as a leaf falling,

touch each page,

live what your heart

reveals to me in nouns and verbs

of your imagination.

 

I’ll sit and hold you in the quiet of morning, 

listen to you

beneath shades of lamp light in the mellow night,

carry you faithfully through the day

and share you with only the park bench

or some oak tree 

that loves the touch of my back.

 

I want you 

more than an empty page

needs the written word,

more than a book cover seeks its title.

And with a stroke of this pen . . .

I give you my heart—

bound in chapters,

bold, underlined sentences.

 

Poet’s Notes:  In this poem, I wanted the reader to feel special--so special that a poet would compare the reader to his book of poems.

 

Editor’s Note:  Even the best poems about romantic love are tough sells these days, but this one comes across as sincere, nuanced, and passionate, and has a beautiful poetic conceit.  SWG

 

 

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Copyright

Gene Hodge

 

Before you awaken . . .

     before the morning

     steals the smell of your skin,

the way your hair

swirls across your neck  

and caresses your breast; 

      let me bottle your fragrance,

photograph your beauty

      and copyright this moment.

 

Poet’s Notes:  As an entertainer/singer and artist, I am aware of copyrighting one's creations.  This poem's intent is not to own but to hold the passionate beauty of the moment in a personal copyright.

 

 

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Antiques, A Wedding And Three Flat Tires

Gene Hodge

 

She said, “My headaches stopped the day my husband died.”

I stood there, arms crossed, smiling,

while her frail body shuffled through the antique store,

found a 1943 dressing stool and sat down.

With youth’s mischievous sparkle still in her eyes


she continued,  “We drove trucks as a team—

we were together seven days a week.

I once asked him if he knew what happened this day 60 years ago,

he said he didn’t.

I said you ought to; we had three flat tires on the way to get married.”

 

Then slowly lowering her gaze to the hardwood floor,

she paused . . .  and murmured,

“You would’ve thought, we would’ve turned around and went back . . .

but we didn’t.”

 

I never gave her story much thought—

only saw the humor, the irony of the moment—

until I began to write this poem

and my pen searched an empty page for a closing line.

 

Not once, did I hear the word love, fun or happiness.

Only if I read between the lines

do I find a hint,

and that was...

 

“My headaches stopped the day my husband died.”

 

Poet’s Notes:  The beauty surrounding us amazes me.  People are poetry and they are the living examples of life.  I am intrigued by every step, wrinkles on their faces, and the movements of their lips as they write for me and become the poem.

 

Editor’s Note:  This one reminds a bit of William Carlos William's work.  The narrative is interesting, and I also like the little bit of ars poetica here.  SWG

 

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Pop

Gene Hodge

 

The phone rang at three a.m.

A chill, darker and deeper than the morning’s stillness

erupts within my stomach.

My wife answers,

turns to me and whispers. . . ,

“He’s gone.”

 

For a moment, the silence overtook me.

I saw him, not there, lifeless in a hospital bed,

ninety-two years old.

But twenty-two, full pack, iron helmet and rifle,

courageously riding the waves in a Higgins boat;

the doors to drop down

upon the beach at Normandy.

I hear his heart, like thunder over his comrades praying and crying;

see in his eyes, the fear of knowing that

hell is only moments away.

 

I recalled his look of sadness and hopelessness,

as the medical team lifted his frail body into an ambulance.

The wind of many miles ruffled his silver hair

as they closed the door.

I wept, as I told the driver

the terror he faced in the war,

how young and proud he was

to now be reduced to this worn-out body of flesh.

 

Here I stand . . .

looking down upon the grave where he sleeps.

I know that he is happy here on the mountain he loved so.

My heart, heavier than the stone above his head, breaks

and the earth trembles beneath my feet.

 

Poet’s Notes:  My father (pictured) was a gentle soul, a quiet man with an air of mystery about him.  He, like many other veterans, spoke little of the war.  If asked, his only reply was that he was in the Army. 

 

After his demise, I found locked in a cedar chest a book and map describing in detail the maneuvers and battles of the Cannon Company, 320th Infantry as they forged across the European theater of operation.  This poem is a tribute to a silent hero who never claimed fame; who fought and lived that others might live; to give me this golden moment to say to the world, “I am proud.”

 

Editor’s Note:  Elegies are usually a hard sell as they are so specific to the deceased and those known to him or her, but Gene has captured a certain universal quality with this one, one that made me think of my father and how he looked so dashing in his military uniform.  Will my son one day think of how I looked in mine?  SWG

 

 

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The Poet

Gene Hodge

 

I watched him on the balcony of Days Inn,

from my apartment window across the street.

Early it was—6 am.

Everyone sleeping

but noisy blackbirds

on rooftops and power lines.

Oblivious to passing traffic

he sat reading a book,

sipping coffee

and occasionally looking-up

to see if he was missing something.

Laying the book aside

he stood, holding the handrail . . .

scanning the street’s double yellow lines,

white parking spaces,

cracks in the sidewalk,

bouquets of morning glories

hanging from each lamp post,

a runner with tattooed arms chasing the morning

and a grey Siamese cat with three white mittens

tip-toeing across a porch roof;

gutters hanging loosely

from antique houses

where peeling, painted bricks

checkerboard the exterior.

He thought about the dirt and cigarette butts

laying in the parking lot,

who was the last to turn the parking meter knobs.

 

I saw his lips move

as he peered into the sky.

I thought . . . he’s praying!

Then with his head lowered,

smiled and returned himself

to reality—

disappearing through sliding doors

behind curtains of the day.

 

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The Poetry of Charles A. Swanson

 

Constancy

Charles A. Swanson

 

How are you constant?  More than tidal waves

with cadence I can clock, you do not wash

the sand from under me.  You do not crave

my shoreline, carving under stubborn trust

and resolution, pounding until cliffs fall.

How are you constant?  More than yellow sun

or harvest moon, your firefly lovelight, small

as that, pulses like a beacon, calling home.

How are you constant?  No, I wouldn’t place

you up against lunar pull that moves the tides,

or Sol whose mass creates planet tethers.

No, you are bound by time.  Your lovely face

is wrinkled.  Some say your attraction hides

in yesterday.  I say it lasts forever.

 

Poet’s Notes:  A sonnet still seems a good vehicle for an exploration of love.  I admire the love conceits of the Renaissance poets, and I had several sonnets in my mind as I wrote this one.  The sonnets I felt the most kinship to were Shakespeare’s Sonnets 18 (Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s… | Poetry Foundation) and 130 (Sonnet 130: My mistress' eyes are nothing like… | Poetry Foundation), and Edmund Spenser’s Sonnet 75 ( Sonnet 75 - Poetry Archive). 

 

I chose to use a rhyme scheme that is a combination of the Shakespearean and the Italian, and I favor slant rhymes and enjambment to lessen the impact of the rhyme.  Nevertheless, rhyme has the kind of noise that is effective when it occurs in places that need the clash of a cymbal.

 

I wrote a good portion of this poem in the old-fashioned way, on scrap paper with a pen, the way I used to write all my poems.  I was sitting in my truck at the time, waiting for some men of the property committee to come and trim the shrubbery in the churchyard. In my composition, I had so many cross-outs, write-ins, and arrows pointing to what comes next that the pages looked quite dense and indecipherable.  The text was somewhat like the bushes and debris from the work of the hedge clippers after the landscape crew arrived and did their work.

 

I admit to having become spoiled to word processing programs with add and delete features, and the functionality of being able to insert new text, moving the old down the page.  Sonnets are a brain tease, certainly for the writer, and sometimes for the reader, too.  The compact music of a sonnet can have lasting power—like any great song.

 

Editor’s Note:  I really enjoy the intricate rhyme scheme Charles employs here.  SWG

 

 

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The Childless Aunt

Charles A. Swanson

 

I first recall a family reunion

where she was quick to give her firm opinion

"Matriarch" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon
what foods work best, a bright pimento cheese

and vinegar barbecue. I said, yes, please.

At four or five, I was ready to sample

and begged for more than just the offered nibble.

I had, of course, to wait until the dinner.

And such she taught.  Although she wasn’t a spinster,

for she and Unk were always a pair, she’d teach

with firmness, quite the overbearing reach,

which Mama tolerated well.  She could

tuck lessons into tidbits such as food.

She’d almost died with fever as a child,

and poor as well as sick, what kept her alive

were doses of potato soup.  She loved things green

and she could twitch her nose while snapping beans,

or grating cabbage, like a speckled rabbit

(for she wore glasses).  She had a habit

of searching all the farm for things to eat.

Persimmons at her hand were made a treat,

an autumn cookie bar just like a brownie,

and she could fish the pond as well as any,

for she had patience.  Perhaps of all the things

that I remember, the one I like the most

was her great white hunter joke.  She’d often boast

that she could bring more game home than the men,

who went out with their guns.  This happened when

we’d drive the woods for deer.  The men would wait

for any that we flushed—a fleeing shape

escaping noise we made.  We’d tromp the woods,

a cheering troop, the beagles’ barking good

for scaring deer.  My aunt stepped with a stick

for balance.  One dog, Bubbles, was so quick

he’d run down a rabbit at first jump, and then

he’d give the still warm catch to Esther.  When

she stepped out from the woods, she’d claim

it only took a stick to bag her game.

The great white hunters hadn’t seen a thing,

and she, a woman, put them all to shame.


Poet’s Notes:  I admire Chaucer’s tight rhyming couplets in The Canterbury Tales.  In today’s world of poetry, such pronounced rhyme might seem archaic.  I also remember hearing that many poets imitated Pope’s heroic couplets, but few could write them as well as he did.  They are a challenge.  I think the formal rhyming can add a sly twinkle to a human portrait, so the strong rhyme is worth the risk.

 

I have great regard and love for my Aunt Esther.  She was very good to me, and she didn’t mind giving me advice as if she were my mother.  I hope some of the respect and admiration I feel for her come forward in this poem.

 

Editor’s Note:  I feel the love in this poem as well as the love that went into composing it.  It is well paced, and the rhymes help it flow nicely.  The narrative is humorous with just a touch of melancholy.  SWG

 

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Please Sleep on Me

Charles A. Swanson

 

Put your head to my heart,

I want to say this

to my grandchild, (or my wife). 

The words, the whisper,

I say to myself—I just hope

for that tender head. 

My invitation to intimacy

must be acted, with a pat,

an arm rotation

like a circle of embrace.

Don’t you want to nap?

 

That sweet head, hair tousled

with webs of gossamer,

sweat warming my shirt,

my slow heart beating tic, tic, tic

as he snuggles deeper, clutches

a snatch of cloth, all this

slowness, this lazy afternoon,

it’s the measure of clocks,

the swinging of screen doors,

drowsiness of bees.  It is

humming bass notes of

my Southern lullaby,

I gave my love a baby

with no crying, the gentle

tremolo, the slumbersome

slowness of air-strummed

voice-box, the susurrus

of my lazy, easy heart.

 

Poet’s Notes:  I know of few sweeter moments than those of sleeping with a baby or a small child lying against my chest.  This grandpa is not as soft and cuddly as the children’s grandma, but he does have a heart that beats with an unusually slow pace.  When a child is asleep, everything relaxes.  The earth even moves more gently on its axis.

 

Editor’s Note:  What a beautiful, peaceful moment Charles captures here!  I feel all snuggly.  SWG

 

 

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I don’t care if you hate it; I love it.

Charles A. Swanson

 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people.

                          --Psalm 149:4, RSV

 

Eyes closed.

My daughter sits,

a pink soft sweater

catches the pink blush in her cheeks.

Still life.

 

Awkward,

one unguarded pose,

not camera friendly,

not photogenic.  She hates this

picture.

 

I love

her fragile look,

no look with eyelids dropped,

no window into the soul, so

Ramsey.

 

Her aunt,

her grandmother,

both closed tissue paper

lids across puzzled eyes to find

right words.

 

She sits,

my daughter, still,

the creaking heirloom chair

stilled, her grandmother’s mother’s chair

so still.

 

Olive

and honey skin,

trace of Melungeon,

brown eyes call forth my wife’s people,

but eyes

 

are closed—

one unguarded

moment caught—revealing

by being vulnerable, more,

oh, more.

 

Poet’s Notes:  The camera waves a kind of magic over the magician’s hat.  Until the picture is taken and viewed, one can hardly guess what exact image will pop up out of the vessel.  Sometimes the inexact representation (I say inexact because it is somehow skewed by a poor pose, or by improper lighting, or by a flinch and a blur) says something unexpected, something precious, something fleeting and yet just nebulous enough to suggest spirit, and not just physical manifestation.

 

Editor’s Note:  This stretches the boundaries of the theme, and I like that. The love of the speaker for his/her daughter comes through obliquely yet enchantingly.  SWG

 

 

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Frequent Contributors

A Mother’s Prayer

Terri Lynn Cummings

for Conor Cummings

 

 

It’s 4:00 p.m.

"Dissolved" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon
Autumn’s light

drowses on bare skin

Soon, night will slip

through eyes, ears, lips

 

Seconds devour

themselves from within—

diseased

One remains

 

Its cloak of silk

unravels thread by thread

from the child’s cocoon

A shell remains

No, more than mortal

 

Whisper in his ear

replace his voice

recirculate veins

re-pace his heart

 

Leaf after leaf

falls to earth

locked in a season

that lost its battle

to breathe

 

Poet’s Notes:  I continue to write about the loss of our son and doubt I’ll ever stop. The process pulls the longing from heart to page.

 

Editor’s Note:  It is tragic that it takes such a profound loss to inspire such a beautiful poem.  SWG

 

 

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A Mother’s Love

Terri Lynn Cummings

 

Summer is short, we mothers warn

but such language makes no sense

to a child whose hours stretch like taffy

and birthdays arrive once every hundred years

 

Hummingbird visits feeder

for a brief snack by window
"Fleeting" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

I try to explain they arrive and

leave in the delicious snap of time

 

Clock’s hand seconds our existence

but how do I persuade my child

to value this flowering tick

resolute and careless

 

Since March, termites

transform walls into papery havens

driven by what they don’t understand

thinning as they feast

 

I say, Like them, we are blind

until we use our senses. Grandmother

guides us through pictures filled with war

Spanish Flu, depression, privation. She says

 

Mine was a simpler world—

well-mannered, slow, unlike today

when traffic jams

garage door betrays

 

repair service drags its feet—

all pesky distractions

My child walks in

I don’t like school

 

How will I

teach endless summers lose their resolve

promise nine lives

full of harrowing splendor?

 

Poet’s Notes: Our grandson graduated college, and our granddaughter graduated high school this May. We were present in their lives, but they grew up in the snap of a second. Too fast, too fast.

 

Editor’s Note:  Terri captures a universal moment in such a personal way--a perfect balance.  SWG

 

 

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love you are the first

sweet sip of hot chocolate

on a snowy day

snowflakes feel like your kisses

as they touch my glowing face


love you are the first

sweet sip of cool lemonade

on a summer’s day

sun rays feel like your caress

as they touch my exposed skin

 

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

 

Poet’s Notes:  “The somonka form consists of two tankas. They are relationship poems, exchange songs. In the first stanza, a lover conventionally addresses the beloved. In the second stanza, the beloved replies.” [https://poets.org/edward-hirschs-poets-glossary]

 

 

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The Shattering of Light

John C. Mannone

 

Nobis alius quartus modus illuxit, quem nunc proponimus, vocamusque; diffractionem, quia advertimus lumen aliquando diffringi

 It has illuminated for us another, fourth way, which we now make known and call "diffraction" [i.e., shattering], because we sometimes observe light break up

                                                                      —Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1665)

 

Light falling spills its blood

across the sky. Nature speaks

of secrets in a language

            of equations—physics

the interpreter, but that alone

doesn’t translate emotion. Waves

of clouds escort sentiment

            as orange and persimmon

settle from a Rayleigh-scattered sky,

while distant points of light

from racing automobiles

            diverge into two rings

as demanded by the laws of diffraction

for what was once one bright spot,

its devolving into two separate lights

            still trying to kiss

the darkness that remains silent

which might be as incomprehensible

as the darkness itself.

 

Poet’s Notes: “The Shattering of Light” is part of an ongoing collection called The Physics of Longing. All the poems allude to relationships using metaphors of light characteristics and/or phenomena; in this poem, it is an aspect of the circular diffraction of light that limits resolution. In particular, when you look down the highway at night and see an approaching car, you will see a single nearly circular blur of light in the distance, but as it approaches, that extended point source of light separates/resolves into two circular blobs of light (one for each headlight). It’s much the same thing that a telescope does (by bringing the image of the star closer to us, so to speak). When you look up and see those stars with your naked eye, more than half of them are really two or more. Robert Frost wrote about it in his poem “The Star-Splitter.” Here is an excerpt from it:

 

            That telescope was christened the Star-Splitter,

            Because it didn't do a thing but split

            A star in two or three the way you split

            A globule of quicksilver in your hand

 

 

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How to Lose My Love

Karla Linn Merrifield

 

"Withered" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon
Like a rare penny idly

tossed in a change bucket,

now turning me into another

of your tarnished one-cent women.

 

Like a delicate orchid,

so scarce, but left sun-withering,

my moist pink petals

you abandon drying of thirst.

 

Like a priceless porcelain

figurine bargain-priced

amid the chipped and cracked

at your yard sale of love's detritus.

 

Like a vintage Spanish guitar

its heart strings sprung,

mine the body of a woman

warped by your silence.

 

Just like that. Exactly like that.

The silence, the silence.

 

Editor’s Note:  Such sass!!  I especially like Karla’s choice of "drying" instead of "dying" in the second stanza.  SWG

 

 

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Arc

Karla Linn Merrifield

 

Your first kiss—the reddest of all—is turning

forty-seven this spring-green morning.

I press it to my crinkled lips, this time

halfway between laugh-line wrinkles,

just below a whisker Nair must have missed.

 

Your first kiss till fully wetly clings

like lilac perfume of that lilac time—

May 22, 1965 – Dear Diary: He loves me.

In 2012 my skin’s the dried brown blossoms

clasped by yellowed pages unlocked again.

 

Your first kiss, a short boy’s straining

on tip-toe, eyes open, to his taller girlfriend,

twelve-going-on-thirteen with boobies

now going on blue-veined sixty in full sag.

No violet-colored glasses now, only trifocals.

 

Your first kiss was a tongue-tasting

of Mandarin oranges come all the way

from China to the indigo bowl

of my virgin mouth, seventh grade, sipping

illicitness. Late-mid-life, my sole vice is memory.

 

But somehow I yet see: your first kiss, its rainbow.

 

Editor’s Note:  Karla captures a universal moment with whimsy and poignancy without tripping on the clichĂ©.  No easy feat!  SWG

 

 

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From the Vine

Vivian Finley Nida

 

Morning, full sun

I search ten tomato plants

clamoring out of wire cages

 

Beefsteak, Cherry, Roma, Celebrity

blush in gallon bucket, then rest on window sill

above kitchen sink until fully embarrassed 

 

This beauty sparked controversy in 1883

Botanically a fruit, but for import tariffs

US Supreme Court deemed it legally a vegetable

 

A vegetable I mostly shunned as a child

without knowing that for two hundred years

rich Europeans called it poison apple

 

Perhaps Snow White was given one

If Seven Dwarfs used pewter plates

acidic tomatoes leaching lead from them

 

would poison, cause death or heartbeat

too low for pulse to register, resulting in

being buried alive, yet it was also a potion

 

for ladies luring princes with love at first kiss

I knew nothing about this when I refused

Mama’s green tomato chow chow

 

and ripe tomatoes sliced, roasted, stewed

but I begged for her red spaghetti sauce

like ambrosia to gods on Mount Olympus

 

If Mama were here now, we’d be in the kitchen

preparing her recipe with my vine ripe tomatoes

It grieves me to know she will never

 

When I stretch to reach a new cookbook

Tomatoes, 50 Easy Recipes, I imagine

her contagious laughter, picture her

 

hands in sudsy water, calico apron

tied at neck and waist, face turned to me

eyebrows raised, asking, What have we here

 

For me, this will have to be enough—

picking through tangle of salty light­      

to harvest her voice

    

Poet’s Notes:  Stream of consciousness allows this poem to stray from tomato plants to court cases, lead poisoning, favorite recipes, and my mother, whom I greatly miss.

 

Editor’s Note:  Ah, the tomato!  Slang for "lady", the color of love and blood, once a forbidden fruit, a fairy tale fruit.  What a perfect metaphor to use in a love poem!  Karla’s final stanza, metaphorically summarizing how much the speaker (presumably Karla) loves and misses his/her mother, takes my breath away.  SWG

 

 

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Looking for Signs Amid COVID-19

Howard F. Stein

Signs, we look for signs,
Moments of reprieve,
To help us make our way,
Hints, that is all,
Beatific flickers of loving
And of feeling loved,
They vanquish no disease –
Masked and gowned,
A nurse or doctor
Gently pats a dying patient’s forearm,
Offers a kind glance into a patient’s eyes –
They redeem by grace
What they cannot cure.
Love is medicine, too.

 

Editor’s Note:  Despite being about the now worn out topic, there is a freshness here that I enjoy immensely.  Here is love as medicine and medicine as love.  SWG

 

 

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Half Life

Tyson West

 

I got to ride shotgun

after dad loaded the lead

eggs through our Buick's two tone tailgate.

White walls rolled our town’s radium needles from Greenville to Grove City

to frost their cancer blossoms.

Since dad never fished nor scouted

I could only learn mansplain

doing man and boy chores.

Gripping the wheel at ten and four as he decreed I must as well when I learned to drive,

he foretold my shaving soon

recalling the red toilet paper bloom across his face his first time

victim of grandpa's straight razor and mustache cup

thank God for King Gillette blue blades

and Barbasol. He pondered

Mother’s thought my first blooding could wait.

He suddenly shifted to extoll half lives

of radioactive elements how

in some isotopes gamma rays

blink out in nano seconds

but alpha and beta particles of others linger like

Tellurium 128.

Its half life longer

than the end of the universe.

As he rambled double beta decay and chemical contrast

I noted the pleasure I sensed in the dactyl meter

in the six syllables of “radioisotope.”

He went quiet at septillion seconds.

My best friend Billy's dad would have tapped his Pall Mall on his wrist watch,

lit it with his Pittsburg Steelers Zippo, then

draw pungent blue smoke to cloud

the physics of bobbysox and black leather.

As dad now inhaled his talk

of decay and time

I thought he might unsecret sex

but he already fled

that pole dance by giving me an AMA pamphlet

clinicing the details of very very much.

He shifted straight to he and mom married newly

under big war's prancing shadow.

She baked him peach and cherry pies cooled

as they negotiated their nest

to Walter Winchell, Norman Rockwell, and Bishop Sheen blessing their

proper American love.

He flicked to his first flame

Frannie from Falmouth who I felt may have faded faster than fluorine 14

her cameos always amused mom

who alluded once to me privately

of a young cobber’s proposal she reluctantly declined.

Dad measured mom’s weight telling me

I should vector mothers of girls

my shaved face may fancy to prove the end element of my love’s decay.

When we reached Grove City elms where dad

handed off the eggs to their radiologist to hatch,

adult eyes must have

restored Dad’s layers of lead.

Still, I heard his lecture before my lab.

Someday I dreamed, I would no longer decay

in the half life of breathing

outside a woman’s love.

 

Poet’s Notes: I remember a ride sixty years ago with my father from Greenville to Grove City. He would use such opportunities to lecture me on “lessons of life”. Of course, he never directly spoke to me of his relationship with my mother, nor did I ever know the details of their dating history, other than with each other, but we heard reflections and echoes of their own private mythology. In any relationship, passion has a tendency to fade away after a while. It is just a question of how long a half-life it may have.

 

Editor’s Note:  I finished reading On the Road recently.  This poem has the same Beat feel and even a similar narrative.  SWG

 

 

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Carthusiana

Tyson West

 

Wise were fathers and brothers who cherished Saint Bruno's statutes

that distanced me until my lifeline crossed 23 great circles.

I danced free in flowering fields

longing amongst rivers and rills all nymphs

blurred beautiful through royal jelly rubbed over the lens of my logic.

God’s beckoning seemed simple to we of wide angle lenses

days of breath viewed as a puff against the mountain range’s

eternal stretch.

Once I accepted that premise my soul must sail far

from folding flesh into that of woman

to form envelopes for such souls

as God chooses to stuff into them,

I must take the convoluted passage to barren fields of

dust blown in katabatic wind.

Knowing the greatest gift I cry out to my Lord

grows in silence,

I mint my days

as so many identical prayer patterns

words and annunciation in my heart

never changing.

Hours before the rough day sloughs off the wonder of climbing sun

I struggle to find some novelty

in my never changing God,

and Father Polycarp’s tin ear and tongue ever off key.

Always must I doubt

any alteration I perceive in the platitude of pleasures

each time I ponder the same old sacrifice on a cross.

My monkey mind each day pops the point

why care about this botched execution?

I doubt you my God as a husband doubts

the words of his woman, deceptive by nature

words my love lacerates and recasts as truth

to preserve our passion.

I adore hours of sleep to rise in darkness

routine of simple food

weekly walks where we may speak

in our rows of ever rotating couples

the mass we cry out in Latin unaltered

among a planet full of billions of ever slanging tongues.

I cherish cuddling with trinity and our lady

and second cousin saints,

the punctuation of weakness and desire and doubt

against the habit of my heartbeat and breaths in

a silence shaded only by pentatonic chords our fathers' and brothers' voices chant,

peppered of bird calls and thunder.

I thank my God for his gift of the candle of this capacity to love

I could have chosen to burn for woman, child, dog

all creatures great and small

or even my image in silvered glass.

Surely, he will welcome my imperfections I struggle to cleanse

until this perfect path ends when love flies silently away from this flesh and

my brothers place my unembalmed corpse into the boil

of fungus and bacteria laden soil

under a plain white cross

that will never bear my name

for God

claims it already.


 

Poet’s Notes: Carthusian monks, who live in a world of isolation and silence strictly ordered of Saint Bruno, fascinate me. The fathers live in cells, almost like convicts, in a world of solitary confinement provided for by brothers who provide them with food and other necessities singing the same Latin Matins each day. Yet even these institutionalized hermits share the ritual of a weekly walk where they speak with one another, in rotating pairs. Human minds share the foothills of a love for their group and one another to some degree, and require some social interaction, even against the 8,000-meter peaks of God’s love. Many members of religious orders, even Mother Theresa and Father James Martin, also confronted feelings of doubt just as every spouse at times wonders if he or she made the right commitment.

 

Editor’s Note:  I can feel the human longings and conflicts of heart and spirit as the speaker describes his devotion to God and isolation from all else.  SWG

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Galahad 2021

Tyson West

 

I linger more at ease

with your wild hair, Merlyn, than tonsured priests

confessors who never have balanced choice with sword nor wand in hand.

Still your grotto reeks of

smokes bequeathed of esoteric herbs fumed

in your meerschaum pipe

altering the fabric of space time but not my destiny.

In that fabric’s weave we bequeath

those priests power to hold off our sword strokes and spells

by faith in their manipulation of grain and grape gleaned

from filthy fingers of sinking serfs

into the essence of our Savior's guts and gore.

You foretold much to me slipping deosil in the stream of hours

I worry not the fate of my flesh

knowing in my asexuality I will not wring hands over

my child’s failure nor allow ego to swell

when my boy makes the buzzer beating basket.

I angst more where and how my image warps

in the eternity of print and illustrations hence.

You have hinted that felon Malory's inscriptions

Caxton shared with those few literate souls

in the rack of years you call renaissance

tinkled far purer

than the distortions of 19th and 20th century pulp mills

illustrated of Wyeth or Pyle picturing me

as some clean shaven girly man.

And Camelot! What does an alp hugging songster and amphetamine sucking lyricist

know the smell of horse piss or the fear a knight feels in his steel wrappings

holding in heat stroke and sacrificing mobility for some

illusion of invincibility.

We constantly guard

filthy peasant pikes or mercenary billman

jerking us off horse to slit our throats for their lord’s pleasure.

At least Lerner and Loewe had the sense

to cast Goulet as my father, a Frenchman, albeit from Quebec

with the same fluid morals...

Yes, you are right

it all comes back to father

since our last session I prayed

and meditated in the chapel

of the convent where my aunt the prioress raised me

and sweet sisters smacked my wrists with rulers

for being born a bastard doubling my burden of original sin.

No, I sense my mother and Guinevere bear the sin of Eve on steroids

father for all his faults rode faithful in his adultery with his queen.

Elaine’s lust for Lancelot unchained could

triumph only through the delicacy of Dame Brusen's deception

luring my dumb shit dad into mother's bed.

In a sense, old Lance’s passion rose on

thinking Elaine was his solo squeeze Gwen

perhaps making my true mother the queen after all

can I really blame that foolish warrior grown weak on the mounds of Venus?

I've shifted such devotion to my God

dare I face my feelings towards Him

the one who predestined my illegitimacy?

I will let slip my soul into the pride of purity

and neither Elaine nor Lancelot nor Guinevere

will spoil any grandchild from me.

I will end their lines and pursue this chastity priests and prophets

extoll into their gospels and proverbs

it so much easier to endure

than riding under the perfume of a Lady’s favor.

The grail no matter how many times it be found

always escapes just like the Questing Beast.

My feelings stir as clear as a mud boiling creek still

I know this brook will pass rapids and water falls

to some quiet pool where silt will settle.

My old man

no matter how bright and beautiful his sword play and joust

never will say, “I love you, son”

nor will he challenge me.

For I alone repose, in the Siege Perilous, consequence free

he knows he can never match my speed and strength

nor purity.

 

Poet’s Notes: Arthurian legends and ideas of relationships have changed over the centuries. When Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur in the 1400s, he mostly reported the facts of stories he heard and did not probe the relationships and feelings between the characters.

 

The 17th and 18th centuries were not so infatuated with Arthurian legends. The 19th century romantics rediscovered the Middle Ages to inspire works from La Belle Dame Sans Merci to Wagnerian operas. Galahad appears a proud, almost arrogant figure in Tennyson’s imagination, but only a minor figure in White’s The Once and Future King. In 2021, we are not so focused on jousts but on feelings. What did Galahad really think about his father and mother? Did he feel unwanted? How did he process his emotions?

 

Editor’s Note:  I was simply transported as I read this one.  It has made me rethink the legend of Sir Galahad, a knight I always thought was kind of holier-than-thou and arrogant and therefore unworthy of the Grail.  This poem is a real game-changer for me.  SWG

 

 

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Art Gallery

 

"Moment Series--Wish and Shadow" | Melanie Faith | Photograph


Artist’s Notes:  One night, during the golden hour when natural light is most magical, I glanced down and spotted this perfectly-formed dandelion that had gone to seed and yet retained a spherical shape and all of its wispy seeds. Carefully, I plucked the plant, found a wall and my camera, and set to work before dusk. The limited amount of light before sunset meant an intuitive (and quick) photo shoot. This photo’s composition was inspired by the photos of Saul Leiter, puppet theater, and silhouette portraits. I hope it suggests doubling/pairs, reality vs. hopes, childhood memories, and a certain indomitable, playful part of the human spirit that remains, even during tough times.

 

About the Artist:  Melanie Faith likes to wear many professional hats, including photographer, poet, prose writer, professor, editor, and tutor. Her latest published book is Photography for Writers, available through Amazon.com. In 2021, her fine-art photographs have been featured online in the PhotoPlace Gallery, “The Poetry of the Ordinary” show, and in the Don’t Take Pictures photo exhibition, “A Show of Hands”. Learn more about her projects at melaniedfaith.com.

 

* * * * * * * * * *



"Proud Parents" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon


"Governmental Matrimony" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon



 

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

 

 

Guest Poets

 

Love That Sweet Sugar Satchmo

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

  

Verse      Slow Drag

 

give me some sugar      sweet sugar baby

            i blow 

that superfine            

                                    whine

over                the slow 

turpentine 

shine

it be sweet 

            as spit polish 

on my dancin' shoes

sweet as popcorn

            sizzle   on the skillet

as champagned          fizz

                        a rumswizzle

that drizzles the air

the slooow kisssss of apple wine

 

 

Refrain               Fast and Hot

 

diggity-dug it    my man      dig it

honkity tonk-honk from New Orleans 

sparkety   tokety blue

i'm the bobbin' and diggin'  man

smokin' and tokin' man

corkscrewed  horn blowin'

fitful  twist of mumbly

tumbly

man

ya da do do zed zad zed, ba buh

is you is or is you ain't.

beedle dee bee

biddle dee      bee        bop  

 

verse     Slow Slide and Dig

 

my key-lime paradigm

rusty 

            saw-dusty hinge of a sound

mumble-crusted , 

            sweet tasting twinge

                        wet against 

my lips

when youre smilin       the whole world 

            smilezzzzz      with you

galvanizzzzze that grooooove  

waltz that slow sugar 

                        back into dynamite 

whispered silk  

kissssss,      yesssssss

            my plead 

                        to dream

sibilant fire

            charred 

                        on my tongue

 

 

Coda              Bring it Home

 

twine 

            the  grapevine's 

                        treacled shine

 

don- diddle -dee       dom dut dee

 

sweetest riff you ever dug         baby

 

dream a little dream of me

 

Poet's Notes: I appreciate the music in Louie Armstrong's delivery of words--it is as erotic and sweet as his horn playing.  There are moments when music and poetry are so finely aligned that one can hardly determine the difference.

 

Editor’s Note:  This is easily the best poem on the love of jazz that I have ever read, surpassing even the work of Jack Kerouac.  I was transported as I read this poem, as though jazz were circulating through me.  SWG

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Epithalamion of Never

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios

 

Tell me Beloved, why should we marry?  

My heart's already worn through with years 

of waiting, our chiffoniers strange

with clothes and secrets.

Our mantle of darkness and salt 

now frayed at the edges where stars play 

their threadbare games of hide and seek.

Our moon already grown overripe and sour.

                                                                                                             

If you ask, My Love, I now know why 

I will not lose these dead wings of my name

nor bear a dim candle into a tomb.

It is because I have waited too long for a promise

where a hope of love might live forever

and you have made a promise with never.

 


Poet's Notes:  I read so many sonnets and odes about love, how wonderful, how beautiful it is.  The epithalamion in particular intrigued me – a poem written for a bride or a wedding. But, what happens when the woman never becomes the bride–what happens then?  In this case – I felt the form should turn on its head –  lose its flowery optimistic sentiment and become bitter.  Here is a rant from a never to be bride – perhaps “the other woman?”

 

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy this modern take on the petrarchan sonnet form, clinched with a rhyming couplet.  Sadly, the narrative will read as all too true for many people.  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios is professor emerita from American University in Washington DC, having chaired the vocal and music departments. Vrenios’ solo recitals throughout the US, South America, Scandinavia, Japan and Europe have been acclaimed. Featured in Tupelo Press's 30/30 challenge, she has been published in such journals as Clementine, Cumberland River Review, The Feminine Collective, The Kentucky Review, Into the Void,  Unsplendid, Edison Literary review, Passager, NILVX, and Unsplendid, and featured in such anthologies as The Poeming Pigeon, Love Notes from Humanity, Stories of Music, and the American Journal of Poetry.  Her chapbook "Special Delivery", prize winner with Yellow Chair Press, was published in 2016, and her second chapbook released in April 2021, "Empty the Ocean with a Thimble", by Word Tech Communications. As the artistic director of the Redwoods Opera in Mendocino, California, she has influenced and trained vocal students across the country. 

 

 

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

 

Unworn Love

Lorraine Jeffery 

                                                                                                      

My mother watched her sisters-in-law

dump their work clothes on the floor,

don new rayon dresses, peep-toe heels,

and hurry to learn the lindy, jive, jitterbug,

meet returning soldiers.

 

She cared for her child, went to church,

cooked meals, cleaned house and

hugged her young husband,

but sometimes—her eyes followed

the lines of those fancy dresses.   

 

I wish I had a pretty dancing dress,

she told my dad.

 

His brow furrowed,

But, if you had one—

where would you wear it?

 

Mom laughed.

I know, we can’t afford one and

even if we could, I wouldn’t have

any place to wear it. Silly!

 

Still, Dad saw longing in her eyes

and took her shopping. They bought

two showy dresses and she beamed

when he told her

how pretty she looked.

 

Sometimes, when no one was home,

she’d put one on, stand in front of the mirror—

twirl and smile. They hung in her closet,

unworn for thirty years,

and were finally discarded.

 

He’d been gone twenty years when she

confided, They were the most

extravagant, impractical things your

dad ever bought me. Silly!

 

She had laughed,

while tears eased down

the furrows of her cheeks.

 

Editor’s Note:  I like the narrative of this poem, a kind of Cinderella story, but with a different ending.  The repetition of “silly” is nicely done, as its meaning is slightly different each time.  The final stanza asks the reader to cry along with the speaker, which I did.  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Lorraine Jeffery delights in her closeup view of the Utah mountains after spending years managing public libraries. She has won poetry prizes in state and national contests and published over one hundred poems in various journals and anthologies, including Clockhouse, Kindred, Calliope, Canary, Ibbetson Street, Rockhurst Review, Naugatuck River Review, Orchard Press, Two Hawks, Halcyon, Healing Muse, Regal Publishing, and Bacopa Press.

 

 

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

 

 

Two Roses

Anita Jawary

 

Two roses on your rose bush,

after all this time!

Even in your shady slouch hat

you burned hotter than the sun when you dug it in.

That pendant droplet of sweat, gleaming on the tip

of your long bony nose

like a hovering dew drop.

But no, you did not accept water,

and pressed your shovel into the stubborn soil with your boot,

you, so broad and strong against the sun,

that I thought

I could stand in your shade forever

and never get burnt.

 

Two roses on your rose bush!

Think of it!

The one, older,

parched, scarred by aphids, battered by wind,

and her petals, blackening at the edges. 

She hangs her head.  

So much promise.

So much loss.

You can see her end came just at the point

when she might have opened her mouth to sing.

 

But the other rose, a younger bloom, looks the sun square in the eye,

leads him on, curls her crimson lips,

lipsticked for the dance, and lures that distant sun

to extend a long tongue, and lick,

 lick, lick

along the quivering furls of her bud,

and coax each petal

to open

with his hot, wet breath.

He has all day to play,

with fiery fingers along their edges,

back and forth, back and forth,

like an accomplished zither player,

caressing and plucking the strings

till the notes fly up to the stars

and the rose bursts open in glorious song to the sun.

 

I don’t know where you are,

or if you’re alive,

or if you even remember.

 

Today, a newborn bud

thrashes about, rebounding like a madwoman

under the fists of a pugilistic morning wind,  

and with no morning sun to orchestrate,

she can hold no tune.

 

But had you come back,

and had you said sorry,

and had I said sorry,

and had you begun to dig in my garden again,

to rake

to  weed

to plant the seedlings and break apart the roots and replant here and there

to create a veritable chorale of colour…

well, I think you knew,

that while those blooms would have sung all day to the sun,

they would have sung only one song,

and it would have been your song,

never ever mine.

 

Editor’s Note:  While love poems involving roses are as old as love and roses, Jawary has managed the near impossible by bringing something fresh and new to the metaphor.  There is a tasteful eroticism here, too--again, no simply feat!  SWG

 

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Passion Flower

Anita Jawary

 

 You floozy!

Sunning your sensitive stamens and stigma

in full view

of every bee, bird or butterfly

that comes your way!

Extending your arms

to curl round the staid old olive tree

who had no time to look up your name in his ancient dictionary,

you wove yourself around

and in and out of his venerable branches

and kissed and caressed him long enough to draw out his dormant tongue now alight with lust

before you tied the knot and moved on 

and left him to find his own way home.

 

Then it was the cumquat tree.

Your fingers, curling, as was their wont,

round his finely patterned trunk,

creeping slowly upward.

Strumming your lyre the while, you sang all day of love and desire and fruitful plenty

so that his swelling fruit hardly noticed

when you pulled at the knot

and cut off

its only supply

of sustenance.

 

You even played around with my clothes line,

and practiced your spirals and arabesques

all along its metallic lengths,

threading and knotting yourself along the way round its old plastic pegs and sullying my clean sheets and towels

and singing at the top of your voice

and never doubting your right to make your way

to my wisteria!

 

Well I know you don’t speak English.

Your family can all vouch for you?

Yes I know, you’re brimming

with LAAAHV.

Yet there isn’t one plant in my small back yard

that hasn’t suffered

the strength of your passion.

My secateurs mean nothing to you.

They only encourage you to flourish and to sing,

and to reach notes higher than La Stupenda.

Don’t you think that as an immigrant

you should be a little more circumspect?

 

I do not call on the militia lightly.

Soon, the gyrations of their electric saws, like rounds of barraging bullets

will cut off your song,

and those high notes of yours, of which you are so proud,

will twist into  mad cries for help.

 

Today, in the stillness  of my small back yard,

I sip my tea at nine,

while the staid old olive tree, his trunk still tangled

in knotted repression,

still wears his dull sleepy grey.

The cumquat, in neat pots, will give me one jar of jam next year

and the wisteria will display

her sweet lilac blooms

like a debutante, till the night wild possums descend

and debouch her tenderness.

 

Was it simply envy on my part

that made me cut you down?

I do miss your purple passion

and those high notes you sang all day.

Are you still alive in Paraguay?

What do you say? Can we try again?

 

My dear Beautiful Passion Flower, don’t you know?

That nowhere on this planet

will you find

small back yards

large enough,

no, not even mine,

for a passion as big as yours.

 

Poet's Notes:  I wrote both these poems during our 2020 lock-down.  Each morning, I would sit in my old red velvet armchair and look out at my garden.  I became intimately acquainted with each plant and weed there and made many friends. 

 

Editor’s Note:  Jawary uses personification brilliantly here, resulting in a poem full of love, jealousy, lust, and tasteful eroticism. SWG

 

About the Poet:  Anita Jawary is a Melbourne writer and artist. She has published over 200 journalistic articles, is author of The Perpetual Table and creator of The Dickensian Challenge. She has had ten solo exhibitions and has been involved in several group shows. Through all her creative pursuits, Anita strives to share her continued awe and astonishment at the shimmer and magic of this glorious, bedeviled world.  

 

 

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Pairings/Parings

Sandy Deutscher Green

 

The orchard enters our kitchen bustling through the side door

sweeping keys and recipe cards from the counter

 

tree roots clutch fists of soil
high branches tangle with our hanging pots

 

apples thud to the floor

we scramble to gather them to wash and crush for cider

 

He tosses them in the galvanized tub

runs cold water from the sink, picking out twigs and leaves

 

but the orchard demands we make French apple pie

We politely decline, and it scrapes away through the door

 

Pie is good but we’re more 

the doughnut and ice cream type:

 

I’m the four apple cider doughnut balls plump and sweet

sliding like ice skaters on a mulled raisin butter puddle

 

he’s the scoop of ice cream

veins of cinnamon cutting through the cream

 

topped with a crisp apple chip beret

instead of dusty baseball cap

 

which he doffs to me and says:

Good harvest this year

 

We’re the perfect pair, cakey soft heat plated

next to his suave chill, a spicy fire in the snappish air

 

indeed… as I sweep stems, twigs, and apple peelings

out the door, and he gathers them to burn.

 

Notes: My daughter is a pastry chef, and I wanted to honor her work with a collection of poems. This is one poem in a baker’s dozen.

 

Editor’s Note:  The apple is, of course, steeped in love lore since Eve offered one to Adam, but Sandy does amazing, fresh, and new things with the metaphor.  The personification of the orchard is exhilarating.  And the dessert stanzas near the end ruined my diet (thanks for that!).  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Bio: Sandy Deutscher Green writes from her home in Virginia USA where her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and appears in Bitter Oleander, Paper Dragon, Neologism, and The Lake, as well as in her chapbooks, Pacing the Moon (Flutter Press, 2009) and Lot for Sale. No Pigs (BatCat Press, 2019).

 

 

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Love Sandwich  

                 Paula Rudnick                         

 

When I think about my father  

he’s not in the Veteran’s Home, 

green eyes bouncing down  

the rail-lined hallways 

looking for his bearings.   

He’s at our summer house 

folding sandwiches in plastic wrap  

tight as Army cots, 

flags of tissue wicking blood, 

hoping thin sliced cold salami  

will communicate his love for me  

without the awkwardness of hugs. 

 

We didn’t march in close formation 

on the mowed parade ground  

of suburban life post-war. 

Once he packed away his rifle, 

he built other battlements to keep him safe 

from enemy attack or friendly fire. 

I tried to make him proud  

with commendations and awards,  

but when I won, I forfeited  

my special spot as underdog

the team he always rooted for  

in snowy weekend football games. 

 

I want to climb into his lap now 

so we can yell together 

at the nightly news,  

snap our country from the spell 

of flimflam men and thieves, 

show him that the values  

he insisted we embody  

are etched into my backbone  

like the rest of what he fought for,  

deep as memory of lunch meat  

spread with mayonnaise and mustard 

on a bruised linoleum counter. 

 


Poet’s Notes:  My father wanted to be Don Draper in “Mad Men”, but wound up working for my mother’s uncle, a former Boston bootlegger, after attending West Point and earning a Bronze Star in Korea.  He passed away in 2014.

 

Editor’s Note:  I like this poem about the love between child and father.  Paula also captures the way serving in the military can carry over into civilian life in a good way.  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Paula Rudnick is a former TV producer whose credits range from late night rock and roll to Emmy nominated movies.  She is a political activist and has served on numerous non-profit boards.  Her poems have been published in Halfway Down the Stairs, LA Jewish Journal, Kosmos Quarterly, as well as in anthologies by Darkhouse Books, Truth Serum Press, and Constellations.  Paula lives in Los Angeles.

 

 

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GENERAL SUBMISSION

solar winds

Mark A. Fisher

we sail upon the solar winds
all through the infinite worlds
boundless in the starry sky
eons in instances pass

all through the infinite worlds
evolution takes its time
eons in instances pass
civilizations come and go

evolution takes its time
on fragile blue little worlds
civilizations come and go
while extinction leaves its holes

on fragile blue little worlds

dreamers each cherish their hopes
while extinction leaves its holes
where once were beautiful dreams

dreamers each cherish their hopes
boundless in the starry sky
where once were beautiful dreams
eons in instances pass

 

Editor’s Note:  What a beautiful, flowing, impeccably constructed pantoum!  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Mark A. Fisher is a writer, poet, and playwright in Tehachapi, California. His poetry has appeared in several journals, including Songs of Eretz; his plays have appeared on California stages from Bakersfield, Tehachapi, Pine Mountain Club, and Hayward. His short poem "there are fossils" came in second in the 2020 Dwarf Stars competition for short speculative poetry.

 

 

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Molly

Thomas Reed Willemain

 

Six years now Molly’s gone.

It feels wrong that

he thinks of her, now,

just a few times a day.

 

There was a time she’d

been on his mind too much,

him asking for help with this

and that and where’s my whatever.

 

She’d always said yes dear

Yes just a wee minute dear

Something’s on the boil.

Ah, “yes” and “boiling”!

 

Not that she was a Molly Bloom

but “yes” and “boiling” call up

dusty memories of yes

I’m boiling yes and yes all those years.

 

The boil seems distant

most days but not all.

Now and then a spark,

quick to pass but noted.

 

He was grateful she thought

the boil a gift, a present,

a thing never certain but

never gone for long.

 

He hopes it not now gone,

that this form of enthusiasm

will fire him again

before his quiet.

 

He thinks enthusiasm too little

appreciated because a woman

can look a gnarled stump

but save everything with enthusiasm.

 

He never indulges such thoughts

but sometimes he gets close

if the God of Supermarkets gives him

the right girl to bag his oatmeal.

 

He doesn’t feel disloyal about that

because Molly cheated and went first,

leaving him a man of cold ash

and lost enthusiasm.

 

Editor’s Note:  I am quite moved by this love story / elegy.  The language is simple, sincere, understated, and powerful.  The ending, with the twist on “cheating”, is memorable.  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Thomas Reed Willemain, PhD is an emeritus professor of statistics, software entrepreneur, and former intelligence officer. He holds degrees from Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poetry has been published in Sheila-Na-Gig, Typishly, Eye Flash Poetry Journal, Panoplyzine, Idle Ink, Constellate Literary Journal, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Backchannels, Dillydoun Review, and The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics. A native of western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York. Web site: www.TomWillemain.com.

 

 

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Pinnacle

Dawn Vogel

 

Atop the lonely mountain,

no other souls in sight,

we find the vented place by its scent.

 

After sacred cool clouds surround you,

I warm to you with soft hot smoke,

and we join together, as one.

 

Our desire a wild sky,

devouring, all consuming,

through these moist breezes.

 

Yet you and I

were like steam and fire,

and morning's rosy-fingered blush.

 

About the Poet:  Dawn Vogel's academic background is in history, so it's not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-runs a small press, and tries to find time for writing. Her steampunk adventure series, Brass and Glass, is available from DefCon One Publishing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle. Visit her at http://historythatneverwas.com.

 

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A Map of South America

Ken Cumberlidge

Well, this is awkward.

I had it all planned out: the casual catch-up,
you with coffee, me with tea...

the venue: quiet; unhurried vibe – and, crucially,
well off the beat of anyone we know, might see
us
accidentally

the day and time: made sure we'd both be free
all afternoon, had nowhere urgent else to be.

It all had to be right –
for you of course, but mostly, yes, I guess, for me.

I had this thing to say, you see,
about the way things are – or, maybe, possibly...you know...could be?
between the two of us?  er... you and me?  Yeah.  Obviously.

Though mostly about how your eyes make me forget
how words are s'posed to work and how that doesn't
matter anyway to someone made half misery, half glee

but before we’d even ordered you were talking, so excitedly,
about this time next month and where, by then, you're going to be.

You pointed at the map.

"They have a lot of coffee there," you joked. "You know:
like in the song." – and, laughing, smiled at me.

So I smiled too, with you – for you

and sipped my tea.

 

About the Poet:  Sixty-three-year-old recovering actor Ken Cumberlidge was born in Birkenhead, UK and cut his performance teeth on the Liverpool pub poetry scene of the 1970s.  He has been writing poetry, songs and stories on and off for over forty years.  Examples of his work have appeared variously in print and, more recently, online in venues including Algebra of Owls, Allegro, As Above so Below, The Fiction Pool, Impspired, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Message In a Bottle, The Open Mouse, Picaroon, Rat's Ass Review, Runcible Spoon, Spilling Cocoa…, Strange Poetry, and Snakeskin.  Since 2011, Ken has been based in Norwich, but can be lured out of cover by good company and an open mic--a proclivity that has led him to become an habituĂ© of the slam/spoken word scene

 

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Courtship

Colleen Anderson

 

Predawn, the first taste

sun licks the shoreline’s lips

the time it takes to draw a breath

the moment before beginning

an errant rooster crows

and crows slight fury at night that ends so soon

as every night has, since it found its voice

 

The sun encroaches further

resolute to slowly stroke the shore

murmurs, its warm breath tickles

the long woody necks of trees

as they shiver ever so slightly

from a breeze

the subtle serenade of solar love

 

Throughout the languid summer months

the seduction continues

the rooster always crows

his anger at the sun’s brazen touch

but nothing stops the shore from warming

or the trees from blushing a full heady emerald

replete with loving caresses

 

The time of courtship passes

though solar romance discounts the seasons

everything is not the same

in the wavering heat so deep

the rooster has lost vigor to crack that silence

the trees bend low, burgeoning

then drop ripe coconuts upon the sand

 

The sun moves off

not so close as it once was

now a time of biding begins

of trees aloof and sun unheeding and rooster striding

impotent until the dance is renewed and the offspring

of a cyclic courtship and serenade

drop once more to the sand

 

Poet’s Notes: Nature (both flora and fauna) is one long courtship of growth and renewable. Our greatest love should be for the earth which sustains us all, regardless of who or what we are.

 

About the Poet:  Colleen Anderson lives in Vancouver, BC and has been nominated this year for the Aurora Award for poetry. She is a BC Arts Council and Canada Council grant recipient. Her writing has been published in four countries and such venues as Polu Texni, Cascadian Subduction Zone, HWA Poetry Showcase, and American Diversity Report. Her fiction collection, A Body of Work (Black Shuck Books) is available online. Her poetry collection, I Dreamed a World, will be published in 2021-2022. www.colleenanderson.wordpress.com

 

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Kayobi (Tuesday)

Tamiko Dooley

 

The bedtime story isn’t told
Perching on the edge of his wipe-clean mattress
Or from the dinosaur beanbag

In the corner of his room.
She doesn’t need to avoid the
creaky floorboard on the way out.

Instead, as his eyelids flutter
And he steals away to today and yesterday,
To what will and could be,
She peers into the screen
And watches his grip on kuma-chan loosen
As one by one his fingers drop.

 

Once his shallow breathing beats a regular rhythm,

He’s yume no naka – in his dreams.
She stays awhile, drinking him in
From the other side of the town,
Singing Komori-uta, a lullaby, and brushing her
Fingers across the stuffed Totoro

He left at hers a year ago -
Only intended for a short stay, to be washed properly.

He hasn’t been picked up yet.

She tries to recall the feather of his cheek,
The tickle of his overgrown mop,
His heaviness on her lap,
the scent of the soap he uses for eczema.

When the screen flickers

And she’s staring into darkness,
She thinks of Kayobi, hachi-ji, next Tuesday, 8 o’clock,
and it wraps futon-like around her
And keeps her warm.

 

About the Poet:  Tamiko is a half-Japanese mother of two, born and raised in England. When there’s no pandemic, she’s hired as a wedding pianist from time to time.

 

 

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Foot Loose

Bob McAfee

 

I like to think of myself as a foot fancier,

a fetisher without the kinky connotations.

 

There are two types of feet: yours, 

fleshy and firm, with evenly spaced toes

 

and what I have, skin-covered bones,

random toes, spurs on the outsides and heels,

 

a gift from my dad

about whom my mother said,

 

“If I had seen his feet before we were married,

it wasn’t going to happen.”

 

Fortunately, you are a leg fancier,

and my foot limitations are somewhat offset

 

by my muscular legs which ended

in tennis shoes when we first met. In a rash

 

of good fortune, it worked out that for you

to place your legs against my legs

 

I got to place my feet against your feet, 

and here we are dancing barefoot on the beach,

 

your feet on mine as the metronomed tide advances,

my feet slowly melting into the sand.

 


Editor’s Note:  I like the whimsy of this poem, balanced by a serious, if somewhat comical, moment.  The poem is exactly twenty lines--one for each toe of each spouse--which adds a nice meta aspect.  SWG

 

About the Poet:  Bob McAfee is a retired software consultant who lives with his wife near Boston.  For several years he made an hour train commute to and from Boston and developed the habit of writing in that fixed time. He continues to try to write two hours every day.  

Bob is the author of several poetry collections available through Harvard Bookstore (Harvard.com).  His latest collection, Natural Worlds, is available through bookbaby.com (2021).  His poems have been accepted by The Lyric, The Blue Mountain Review, The Burning House Press, Liquid Imagination, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Minute Magazine, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal.

Email Bob at bob.mcafee@comcast.net; enjoy his website at bobmcafee.com.

 

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Loving, Leaving
Gerri Leen


I was alone and you found me
Out of love, still seeking
From two, one
Life turned technicolor
From shades of gray
Was it too good to be true?
So many couples like us didn't last
But we were so in love, how could we fail?


We were so in love; how could we fail?
Like so many couples, we didn't last
It was too good to be true
Life turned from technicolor
Back to shades of gray
From one, two
Still seeking, out of love
You found me and I was alone

 

Poet’s Notes:  I really wanted to see if I could play with a sort of form--I'm far more a free verse type--where the same basic words could mean the opposite thing and have some resonance. I'm still new at this, and at times the form overtakes the beauty for me. I was really pleased with the way this one came together and love the idea of how neutral words can be until they're paired with a situation.

 

About the Poet:  Gerri Leen is a poet from Northern Virginia who enjoys horse racing, tea, and collecting encaustic art and raku pottery. She has poetry published in Strange Horizons, Dreams & Nightmares, Polu Texni, NewMyths.com, and others. She also writes fiction in many genres (as Gerri Leen for speculative and mainstream, and Kim Strattford for romance) and is a member of HWA and SFWA. Visit gerrileen.com.

 

 

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The Love Trap

Carol Lavelle Snow

 

Like light filtering through trees

as day begins

or a quiet, gentle rain.

Not red splashed across

the western sky

or the noise and bombast

of a thunderstorm.

 

No, it began quietly

just a few words

not even touching

but warmth that came

on gradually

and, yes, surprise--

the delight of being caught.

 

About the Poet:  Carol Lavelle Snow has an MFA in drama.  She played Aunt Eller in Discoveryland’s production of Oklahoma! for eleven summers.   She has published fiction as well as poetry in journals including The Lyric, Texas Poetry Calendar,  and StepAway Magazine.

 

 

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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.

Associate Editor Terri Lynn Cummings 

Terri and FC Vivian Finley Nida presented a joint poetry reading from their first poetry books, From Circus Town USA by Vivian, and Tales to the Wind by Terri, along with discussion and photographs. This was presented April 27 via Zoom, as part of Oklahoma City University’s 2021 book review series, One of My Favorite Books.

 

Editor-in-Chief Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Steve’s short story “Results Are Guaranteed” was anthologized in It Came From Her Purse!, edited by Terrie Leigh Relf & Marcia A. Borell (Hiraeth Books), available in trade paperback for $13.00 at www.HiraethSFFH.com.  “The Antenna”, a poem by FC John C. Mannone, also appears.

 

Former FC Mary Soon Lee

Mary had four poems published in Star*Line #44.2, Spring 2021.

Her poem "Mythic Book Emporium" was published in DreamForge Anvil #2 and is online at https://dreamforge.mywebportal.app/dreamforge/stories/show/mythic-book-emporium-mary-soon-lee.

Her poem "Alien Armada" is in The Future Fire, Issue 2021.57, April 2021 and is online at http://futurefire.net/2021.57/fiction/alien.html.

Her poem "How to Enlist in Andromeda" is in Dreams & Nightmares #118, May 2021.

Her poem "Haiku in the Time of COVID-19" is in Uppagus #46, June 2021, and is online at https://uppagus.com/poems/soon-lee-haiku/.

Her short story "In My Tower" appeared in Daily Science Fiction  https://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fairy-tales/mary-soon-lee/in-my-tower.

Her poem "How to Mourn Kepler's Supernova" appeared in Penumbric, Volume V, Issue 1, June 2021  https://www.penumbric.com/currentissue/leeSupernova.html.

 

FC Vivian Finley Nida

Her poem “Monarch Butterfly” appears in Oklahoma Humanities magazine, Spring/Summer 2021 edition.

 

Featured FC Charles A. Swanson

Charles had one essay and five poems included in the print anthology Writers by the River: Reflections on 40+ Years of the Highland Summer Conference, edited by Donia S. Eley and Grace Toney Edwards (McFarland Press, 2021, Writers by the River – McFarland mcfarlandbooks.com.   

Former FC Alessio Zanelli

Alessio is the featured poet with eight poems in Volume 44/45, No. 1, Fall/Winter 2020/21 of The Nashwaak Review, published at St. Thomas University of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada https://www.stu.ca/english/the-nashwaak-review/.

His poem “Cosmic Nemesis” is in the 2021 edition, Vol. 51 of Sanskrit, Literary-Arts Magazine, published by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte https://www.sanskritmagazine.com/.

His second bilingual selection, Ghiaccielo/Skyce, was released by Impremix Visual Grafika, a publisher based in Turin, Italy https://www.impremix.it/prodotto/ghiaccielo-skyce/.  The book contains the best poems from his last three original collections published in Britain (in 2005, 2012 and 2019), with the Italian translation (by Laura Riviera) in parallel. The preface has been written by Michael Swan, famous linguist based near Oxford, England, author of several reference grammar books for Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press, as well as a poet himself.

He has a poem in Italian Poetry Review (USA/Italy) https://www.sefeditrice.it/collane/italian-poetry-review/16.

He has a poem in Artemis (USA) https://www.artemisjournal.org/.

He has two poems in Concho River Review (USA) https://www.angelo.edu/departments/english-modern-languages/concho_river_review.php.

He has a poem in Slant (USA) https://uca.edu/english/slant-a-journal-of-poetry/.

He has a poem in The Comstock Review (USA) http://comstockreview.org/.

He has a poem in The Lyric (USA) https://thelyricmagazine.com/.

He has a poem in New Contrast (South Africa) http://www.newcontrast.net/.

 

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Forthcoming

 

 


For those of you following the progress of Lana the Poetree, an historic, record-breaking cold snap in Kansas this past February shriveled the buds that would have formed her leaves and flowers this spring.  I was almost ready to call Lana a total loss, but a tree expert told me last month that there was still life in her.  Earlier this month, a nice bit of sucker growth branched off of her base, proving that the old girl is still with us, in spirit at least.

 

Our fall 2021 issue will have “religion” as its theme--a Songs of Eretz first.  Submissions will open August 1, and close August 15.  Associate Editor Terri Lynn Cummings will take the lead for poetry, Art Editor Jason Artemus Gordon for art.  Both will have their eyes out for thought-provoking, unique approaches to this often-controversial subject, so send in your best!

 

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SONGS OF ERETZ POETRY REVIEW

SUMMER 2021 "LOVE" ISSUE

 

 

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