Tuesday, January 11, 2022

WINTER 2021/2022 "PLACE" ISSUE

 

 

 

SONGS OF ERETZ POETRY REVIEW

WINTER 2021/2022 "PLACE" ISSUE

  

 

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Front Cover: “Flight of the Seagull” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

TOC: "Mile-High Squawk" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

Back Cover: “Memorabilia” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

Unless otherwise indicated, all art is the work of our Art Editor or taken from "royalty free" internet sources.

 

Editor-in-Chief 

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Art Editor

Jason Artemus Gordon

Associate Editor

Terri Lynn Cummings

Assistant Editor

Charles A. Swanson

Featured Frequent Contributors

James Frederick William Rowe

Charles A. Swanson

Vivian Finley Nida

Tyson West

Alessio Zanelli

Additional Frequent Contributors

John C. Mannone, Karla Linn Merrifield, & Howard F. Stein

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

 

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Table of Contents

A Letter From the Editor-in-Chief

A Letter From the Art Editor 

A Letter From the Assistant Editor

Featured Poets

James Frederick William Rowe:  A Farewell Retrospective

Charles A. Swanson

Vivian Finley Nida

Tyson West

Alessio Zanelli

Frequent Contributors

Art Gallery

Guest Poets

Poems about Place

Greta Bolger

“Saginaw”

“Where I come from”

 

Judith A. Lawrence

“Red Light - Green Light”

 

Sharon J. Clark

“Early morning in Milton Keynes”

 

Rosalind Adam

“The Passing of Time on Peddars Way”

 

T. S. Burkhardh

“Apple Orchard, November”

“Stable Existence”

 

Marc Janssen 

“Cape Perpetua”

 

Lucia Coppola

“The Fountain”

 

Denny McDermott

“Crash Vigil” 

 

Gerri Leen

“A Piece of Home”

 

Laurel Feigenbaum

“Travelogue”

 

Jaya Avendel

“Wrong Time”

 

Justine Gardner

“Prepare Yourself”

 

Martha Landman

“After Two Days Walking Venice’s Labyrinth”

 

Anita Jawary

“Lemon Tree”

 

General Submissions

 

A. J. Fife

“Memoirs of a Sapling”

 

Karen Mandell

“Evil Eye”

 

Writeliketello

“Perspective Contact”


Donations

Frequent Contributor News

Forthcoming

 

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A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

 

 

A Comment On Submission Guidelines


The term “guidelines” is what is used in the industry, but the term is a misnomer.  Submission guidelines are not “optional” or “suggestions” as the word may seem to imply.  Following them is expected.

 

Unfortunately, our screeners wind up rejecting about 10% of our submissions for failure to follow our guidelines, a number that I would like to see dramatically reduced.  So, I thought I would take this opportunity to comment on our guidelines, submission guidelines in general, and the reasons for them.

 

Songs of Eretz asks that submitters resist the urge to include anything with their submissions that we do not specifically request, especially bios and credits.  The reason?  We want to be able to read as blindly as possible and to treat the novice and the experienced equally.  We also prohibit explanatory notes, advising that if a submitter believes his/her work requires an explanation, that it be revised it until it doesn't. 

 

We also ask that work be submitted in separate emails with specific subject headings.  The reason?  If these instructions are not followed, submissions get misfiled or lost in our tracking system.  In addition, we ask that poems be submitted in the body of an email rather than as attachments.  There are two reasons for this.  First, we cannot risk viruses being introduced into our computers by opening attachments.  Second, attachments tend to get lost in our tracking system.

 

So, if you choose to submit to us, or to any other venue for that matter, please help the editors to help you by following the submission guidelines.  There are good reasons for these rules, not the least of which is that failure to follow them demonstrates a certain sloppiness on the part of the submitter, a characteristic that editors must assume extends to the submitter’s work.  After all, if you don’t care, why should we?

 

A Year in Review

 

2021 was another banner year for Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.  We averaged between 500 and 600 views per day, nearly 200,000 in total.  We blew by three quarters of a million views since our inception in June 2014 and are well on our way to passing the one million-view mark in 2022!

 

The Frequent Contributor program continued to thrive, despite the loss of FCs Gene Hodge, and James Rowe, whose farewell retrospective may be found within these pages.  I did not find the need to replace them, as the number and quality of guest submissions has continued to increase, and many guest poets opted to pay their honoraria forward, allowing us to publish a greater number of them.

 

Our art program made some real strides in 2021.  The introduction of the Art Gallery section allowed our Art Editor greater freedom in placing submitted artwork within the issues, and our back cover another opportunity to publish larger pieces.

 

Place

 

This, our winter 2021/2022 issue, has a theme of “place”, and the theme proved to be popular!  We received hundreds of on-theme guest poet submissions.  The top “sweet” sixteen appear here.  In addition, three wonderful general submission poems appear in a separate section, including our first from a Nigerian poet.  We also chose poems composed in England, Australia, Thailand, and France, once again putting the “eretz” in the publication.

 

We are also pleased to feature the poetry of five Frequent Contributors!  In addition to James Rowe’s retrospective, returning featured FCs Charles Swanson, who has done a superb job in his new role of Assistant Editor, and Tyson West contributed lovely selections.  FC Vivan Nida is featured for the first time.  And former FC Alessio Zanelli returns with a nice sampling--a real treat!

 

The poets, both FCs and guests, interpreted the theme in many different ways, some broadly, some narrowly, but all beautifully and creatively.  "Place" to these poets could mean where they live, where they’re from, a train platform, a horse stable, landscapes, seascapes, cozy at home or star struck in a foreign land.  Within these pages, there are poems that interpret time as place, and ritual as place.  There are places of beauty, and places of horror.  Enjoy!

 

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Editor-in-Chief

 

 

 

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A Letter from the Art Editor

 

Place is a wonderfully broad theme, one for which I am happy to make art. Four years after graduating college, I have finally made what I consider to be my first true 'series' of illustrations, which will be found in the art gallery section of this issue. It has taken me a while to find my exact voice as an artist, but I am happy with what I’ve found. Some astute Songs of Eretz readers may recognize a few of my earlier works foreshadowing this series.

 

I am also making an Etsy shop! It should be up and running later in January 2022. There, the originals and prints of many of my pieces found in Songs of Eretz will be sold. Links to my social media, as well as the link to my Etsy (once it's ready), can be found here on my Linktree page: https://linktr.ee/JasonArtGo. If anyone has questions about commissions or purchasing any of my work, feel free to email me directly at JasonArtGo@gmail.com.

 

Jason Artemus Gordon

Art Editor

 

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A Letter from the Assistant Editor

 

 

I almost feel as if James passed me the baton in an energetic relay, as James first introduced me to Songs of Eretz, where Steven welcomed me to the team.  Encouragement is wonderful, and I sense the desire to encourage poets in the plan and execution of this poetry e-zine.  Now, in my new role of Assistant Editor, I hope I can encourage and promote strong work and multi-tonal voices.

 

Place is a powerful theme.  Many times have I read that settlers coming into the New World looked for a place friendly to their bones, as if a peculiar lay of land were somehow imprinted in their DNA.  Place has such a strong pull, but how does one embed the importance of place in a poem?  That is the trick--to move the feeling in the heart to the feeling on the page. 

 

I read many fine poems in helping to prepare this issue, and my applause goes out to each one who sent us his or her loved and labored work.  I say to each of you, published or unpublished, thank you for helping to make this issue worthy of reading and reflecting.

 

Charles A. Swanson

Assistant Editor


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Featured Poets

 

 

 

James Frederick William Rowe: 

A Farewell Retrospective

 

Farewell Letter

 

 

It has been a long time since I first appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review. Before there were frequent contributors, before even the contest, I was an upstart poet eager for the world to hear my voice—way back in 2013!  Steve was not the first editor to grant me a stage, but he was the most consistent, and in time my participation grew: from just a regular poet, to a contest finalist, to frequent contributor, and finally to an editor. All the while, Songs of Eretz gave me a regular place to see my poetry in print, greatly expanded my audience, and helped me hone my craft.   Songs of Eretz became the home for my poetic endeavors for eight fruitful years.

 

In my departure, I have chosen several past poems that I believe best speak for my time with Songs of Eretz. I am also proud of my later role as editor and the many fine issues I helped shape, and, most importantly, the talent I helped to discover and bring on board. I take special pride in the latter, as aiding and assisting these poets has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time with Songs of Eretz. Just as Steve once gave me a place to showcase my poems, I did the same for many fine poets.  

 

Farewell, Songs of Eretz. I will remember you fondly! And if ever I feel wistful about the past and what I now leave behind, I will assuage such bittersweet memories by remembering that my time was well spent and that I built a strong foundation here. I hope to return with a poem or two every now and then.

 

With gratitude,

James Frederick William Rowe

 

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Artificiality

James Frederick William Rowe


I got no fever but a frenzy

That churns inside

Like a 3 o'clock bender

But I ain't never been drunk

And I wrote "3 o'clock" instead of two

Only on the account

It sounded more depraved

 

I took heroin last night

No, I didn't

That was a lie

It sounded right to say it

More depravity, more desperation

It suits this persona

This false face

 

There ain't a word for people like me

No wait, there is:

Liar

"I am a liar"

Says I

Tell me if I am speaking the truth 
If you dare



Poet’s Notes:  Artificiality has a special place in my heart. Not only was the poem a break with my usual style, but also it apparently impressed my father so much that he posted it on Facebook. At the time that I wrote this, my father and I had not spoken for several years. We later reconciled, shortly before his death, and I came to realize that he had been following my poetry career all this time and had liked this poem the most. As such, I thought it fitting, that in my farewell feature, I would present a poem that resonated with so personal a fan of mine.

 

Editor's Note:  This poem is a real departure from what I have seen from Mr. Rowe, and I applaud his experimentation with this different style--reminiscent of the Beats of the 1950s & 60s, but with a modern flavor.  "Artificiality" first appeared in the now defunct Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine Volume 1, Issue 7 (July 2014), and again June 7, 2015 in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review when it was still a daily.  SWG

 

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The Bone Cutter’s Lament

James Frederick William Rowe

 

When I begin

I know that I

Must discard

More than God has taken

That they might walk

My saw shall cut

Inches higher than the wound

That muscle and flesh

(This too must I waste)

(And regret the loss of healthy flesh I do)

Might unnaturally join

Over cruelly shortened limbs

And form a stump

A useless end that has yet a use

To stabilize a peg

 

The war has taken many lives

But far more limbs are daily cut

And of these limbs

I know for each

How much excess bone is lost

Inches of bone

Bone which men beg me not to touch

And for which they cry when I remove

(Their agony I sympathize)

(But cut I must for their own good)

As they thrash and screech

And implore divine intervention

But God has already given unto me

Dispensation for this waste

This waste of precious bone

 

Allow me now to muse

Upon a subject most macabre

How many men have I wasted

In the bone I have removed?

I mean to say their skeleton

What weight in bone have I attained?

Is it enough to fill a man?

I dare say that it is more

(Far more indeed I reckon)

(Oh what misery it is to know!)

My surgeon stink I offer as proof

It follows me far beyond the table

And shall not be washed away

No, not so easily discarded

So unlike the bone

 

I am the bone cutter

And such is my lament

 

Poet’s Notes:  Not only has this poem been important for my career, but I think it is amongst my best work, blending my interest in history, with what I take to be such a delightful musical character that enhances the horror of the real agony it details, both for the patients who suffer and the surgeon who narrates his own misery in having to cause such pain and waste.

 

Editor’s Note:  As a medical doctor, I can personally attest that Mr. Rowe has captured the conflicting feelings that accompany the agonizing decision to “waste” healthy tissue in order to achieve a better overall surgical outcome. "The Bone Cutter's Lament" first appeared in the November 2013 issue of the now defunct Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine, and again in May 17, 2015 in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review when it was still a daily.  SWG

 

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Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards

James Frederick William Rowe

 

Seven heartbeats and a hundred yards

Astride a beast swollen and wild with strength

The thunderclaps herald storm-clouds of smoke

With whirling winds alive with ball and shot

 

Fly, the wing'ed sabre on charging mount

The angel of the grave is a sluggard

Only once must death be met ‘fore the shock

Trust the saviour of the sword: Sainted Speed!

 

Collide, and in the collision shatter

The line can not endure the hammer-blow

In disarray the mob of muskets fall

Flashing swords! The Harvest of Rout rejoined

 

The reaping blades sever red poppy heads

Scattered, the blossoms fly from scything strokes

Stalks spread and strewn beneath the tramp'ling hooves

The stray petals shall not escape the same

 

Seeped in the scarlet liquor of lifeblood

And amidst brother blades jointly jutting

Now the war-winning sabre skyward swings

Jubilant, these hearts unpierced at eight beats

 

Then above the din of battle is heard

The blaring bugle's boisterous beckoning

Calling the cavalry to chance the charge

And exchange triumph for the chase renewed

 

Another seven heartbeats pounds the chest

Another hundred yards recklessly raced

With dauntless daring they dash death anew

Bravery buys glory – the sabre fame!

 

Poet’s Notes:  Once again, a poem firmly rooted in history, and, in this case, I can say that this might be my favorite poem that I have ever had published in Songs of Eretz.

 

I believe this poem successfully manages to convey the wild, frenzied courage of a cavalry charge. The cavalry man had to have a certain disdain for death, knowing that he would be fully exposed to a deadly barrage of shot, but if he trusted in his speed, he had only to endure one such volley before the enemy would be within reach of his sword. My intent was to convey exactly this disdain for death and to imagine the exhilaration of the subsequent slaughter that signaled survival and success. 

 

Editor’s Note:  “Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards” really captures the thrills and dangers of a cavalry charge and saber battle.  The words of the poem leap off the page and plunge the reader into the heat of war.  This is not easily done.  The words "Shakespearean" and "epic" come to mind.  I am reminded of a passage in a biography of Theodore Roosevelt that I read some time ago that describes the former president’s famous charge up San Juan Hill.  “Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards” was first published in the November 2013 issue of the now defunct Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine and again in April 9, 2015 in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review when it was still a daily.  SWG

 

 

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Cave Painter

James Frederick William Rowe

 

In the perennial cold

Of a glacial night

The only warmth to be found

Is in the flicker of the fire

 

And light, these are no stars

In these caves, just fire

Which casts strange shadows upon the walls

The images of their sleeping dreams

 

And my waking ones

For my mind is alive as they slumber

With forms of beasts and fowls

Things true and false

 

And man, witness of all things

Thinker, dreamer of all things

So I dip my finger in dead embers

To mark my dreams, to trace my shadows

 

And so I paint, first with ash

Then with dye which stains my outlines

Gives life to images once so dead

Now in motion, caught in the act

 

And I their trapper

Or am I the one trapped?

Lost to the visions which compel my hand

They will think me mad

And they will think me holy

They have not erred in either case

I am possessed of mighty thoughts

Of dreams which must be seen

 

And kept, and preserved!

For all ages, for all time!

My dreams must not be lost to waking

They must not fade with the years

 

And so I, the painter

Have now become a priest

Of the magic of these forms

The enchantment of these lines

 

And for a thousand generations

This world of ice and sky

Of man and beast and wind-swept fields

Shall not fade away, shall not be lost

 

And I shall be known in these images

Preserved after the same fashion

The painter who marked the wall

Who stole life from time

 

Poet’s Notes:  What would it be like to be the painter of those immortal paintings, traced on cold stone in glacial nights, when art first set fire to our spirits? Older than history, these first sparks of creativity have left an eternal testament to a past all but forgotten. I imagine this primordial painter inspired by a spiritual yearning to make permanent what is so transient in this world, which perhaps even he knew would one day be forgotten, though it was all he and all others knew. Art testifies to the spiritual in man, and I take this primordial painter to be in a sense a priest of the deepest mysteries of life. 

 

Editor's Note:  "Cave Painter" first appeared in January 12, 2016 in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review when it was still a daily.  SWG

 

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Transcendental Aesthetic

James Frederick William Rowe

 

Immanuel Kant
I am told I cannot know you

That you are but a representation

A translation of an unknown thing

By a mind that can know no other

Than its structure reflected

In the world it observes

 

I do not know your lips

The warmth of your arms

Is as fabricated as your form

All a lie within which I am trapped

Even as I am likewise ensnared

In this illusion of love

 

I cannot love you

Unknowable, Thing-in-Itself

For I cannot know you as you are

My love for you is a construct

Cruelly imposed upon

These phantasmic phenomena

 

That you are a thing at all

Is but a postulation

Of a practical faith

That for its good

Must need believe

In that which it can never know

 

No wonder Kant died without

Knowing the love of a woman

A man devoted to truth

Cannot be enrapt by a lie

Nor be entwined

By mere appearances

 

But I am not content to allow

An impoverished knowledge

To steal from me my love

That it might survive through the theft

No, I shall not be treated as a means

To even transcendental ends

 

So I shall evict the vagabond faith

He called in from the cold

To shelter in the vestibule of ignorance

In the mansion of metaphysic

I will not tolerate such a tenant

In my house of wisdom

 

And though I myself be barred from entry

I shall find the key

Then I shall lay full claim

To these halls, these walls

Which I shall share alone

With whom is beloved of me

 

And I shall know you then

For what you are

Not what you appear to be

No mere representation

But the reality wherein truth resides

In the love which wisdom reveals

 

Poet’s Notes:  I dare say that not many love poems take their inspiration from Immanuel Kant. In fact, I imagine this might be the only one ever so written. Yet here it is: a poem which speaks to the yearning the lover has to know for the beloved, and to deny therefore the limitations on reason that Kant had written into his critical philosophy.

 

I do not frequently write poems about love. Perhaps it is because I am too cautious when it comes to love, too shy and unwilling to allow my heart to stand exposed in such a manner. Nevertheless, this poem speaks to what I truly have felt in my own experiences with love--a yearning, a desire to possess and to know the beloved in a way that no system of philosophy could ever hope to refute. 

 

Editor's Note:  "Transcendental Aesthetic" first appeared in June 2, 2017 in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review when it was still a daily.  SWG 

 

 

 

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The Poetry of

Charles A. Swanson

 

 

At the Nursing Home

Charles A Swanson

 

I. Child Care


 

Baby,

she coos.  Dolly,

tucked into a blanket,

cuddled in her crepe paper arms.

I’m shocked.

 

Dentures

work forth a smile,

watery eyes hold light,

like the sunshine of contentment.

She looks

 

herself,

how she was once

and still is in her mind,

how she cared once for real babies,

not fake.

 

 

II. Music Care

 

Warbles,

reedy quavers,

come from the old man’s throat,

but tuneful, and his smile highlights

the song.

 

Boogie

bounces his feet,

feet bound by a wheelchair.

He’s not too cool to boogie—Taste,

Honey,

 

mouthful

of song, of words.

He was speechless before—

he’s lost, in the Fifties, somewhere,

in youth.

 

  

III. Pet Care

            

Useless,

that’s the cat’s name,

or ought to be.  He rolls

belly upward, curving his back,

stretching.

 

Liver

spots touch gray stripes.

Her hand strokes tender notes

as if this were her childhood pet.

She sighs.

 

He purrs,

automatic

pilot for contentment

in a cat.  But something puts her too

on purr.

 

 

IV. Pastoral Care

 

Hallways,

wheelchairs, patients,

I should say residents.  

Some kind of living.  I nod, smile, speak.

Response?

 

Some stare,

some rock dressed dolls,

some cry for help—what help

I can’t decide.  In one dim room

she waits

 

half deaf.

Talk stalls.  I speak

louder, slower.  Despite

what she can’t hear, she says, Preacher,

please pray.

 

  

V. Angelic Care

 

Aloft,

looking earthward

to loved and worn afghan

comforting the bed, to loved one

fading.

 

Cotton

gingham apron

bow-tying her middle

she’s pinned to the curtain, resting

her wings.

 

Guardian

of long dark nights,

the angel, like mama,

whispers to her in her dreaming,

Come home.

 

 

VI. Perpetual Care

 

Doorways

look much the same

down a long row—name plates

identify occupants.  Doors

and doors

 

death doors

in some cases,

for this is the last stop.

Soon the residents will reside

beneath

 

name plates

plastic flowers

and manicured landscape.

The promise: Forever we’ll tend 

your grave.

 

  

VII. Eternal Care

            --Papal Inauguration, March 2013

 

She joked,

watching the pomp

in her nursing home room,

she would turn Roman Catholic.

The pope

 

robed white

looked like the Host,

and she needed the lift

to higher planes, to saints or angels.

I heard

 

subtext

she needed me,

her pastor, to visit,

to talk of glory, her own sure

heaven.

 

Poet’s Notes:  I’ve visited in nursing homes often.  Almost every visit is difficult because the end stage of life is on display.  In addition, many of these people that I know and love have encountered a change in personality, not to mention in physicality.  Some suffer from dementia.  Some have become nervous and afraid of being alone.  Some sleep most of the day away.  Some are depressed.

 

Almost every one of the residents responds to some type of stimulus.  Therapy can take the form of dolls, pictures, stuffed animals, angels (in imitative form), music, and visitations from pets.  Most precious are visits from family.  In my poem, I have attempted to touch on some of these therapies—whether the somewhat unpromising (such as the perpetual care cemetery) or the much more promising (such as the reassurance of heaven).

 

I call it therapy, but the therapy doesn’t necessarily improve a resident’s physical function.  The therapy helps with comfort, state of mind, assurance, and preparedness. 

 

As hard as the visits tend to be, I am often the one blessed.  My own end of life does not seem to be so daunting because I’ve entered that space of life with others.  Because I see them as people of worth and value—not just old people—I see them through the eyes of love.  My role as a minister is not just to visit, but to reassure residents of their own individual worth, and to bring with me a reminder of God’s eternal care and provision for his saints. 

 

Editor’s Notes:  I too have visited many nursing homes as a physician.  I am sure Charles and his holy brethren do the inmates more good than most doctors.  Charles captures the profound sadness and sense of loneliness and loss of those places.  SWG


 

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The Poetry of

Vivian Finley Nida

  

“Tarantula” | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon
 

At Brown Tarantula’s Burrow
Vivian Finley Nida

 


Tall prairie grass and sumac shrubs have space
to breathe and rise from cracks in sandstone art
Flat red, festooned with lichen’s gray-green lace
rock’s edge flanks inch-wide hole, a place to dart
Tarantula’s outside this hideaway
well camouflaged in shades of brown, stock-still
Silk web at entrance warns of passing prey 
If suitor startles her, she’ll eat her fill 
Her venom’s weak, so bite’s like sting of bee
If threatened, she rubs legs and flings barbed hair
It pierces skin, an itchy malady 
She hisses, warning others to beware
Her thousand eggs will hatch and crawl to light
evoking gasps. Both fear and awe unite

 

Poet’s Notes:  Walking along the road through our farm, I was studying the rocks, watching for snakes.  Instead, I was amazed to see a brown tarantula, well camouflaged, perfectly still about a foot from the burrow.  Now, every time I pass that rock, I search for the spider, but I haven’t seen her again.

 

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Beneath the Raspberry Bush

 Vivian Finley Nida

 

After sun swallows morning dew

raspberry bush languishes

I start to water but step back

 

Stretched beneath like rubber hose

pale tan snake, banded with black zig zags

basks in calm meditation

 

Not seen before, yet recognized

Horrid rattler warns

Don’t Tread on Me

 

American Revolutionaries

post this threat 

on yellow flag under snake

 

coiled with thirteen rattles

prelude to clatter of dry bones

Raspberry bush can wait

 

Poet’s Notes:  This was the first rattlesnake seen on our farm.  Perhaps warmer temperatures have tempted them to travel farther north.

 

Editor’s Notes:  I enjoy the way that Vivian introduces a fourth dimension, time.  SWG


 

 * * * * * * * * * * 

 

In the Park

Vivian Finley Nida

 


The Island of the Big Bowl rests

beside the River Seine

Parisian park with gauzy leaves

begs wilting heat to end

 

While monkey can’t escape his leash

three dogs roam free to sniff

around the people—all with hats

who pose like cardboard—stiff

 

No face is shown with smile or frown

but in their hands they hold

umbrellas, knitting needles, cane

trombone, a fishing pole

 

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte*

The center says it all

Young girl, white dress, like parchment—blank

stares out with saddest pall

 

She cannot change as river flows

or dim from noon to dusk

For her, no answer, what to do

she’s trapped within a husk

 

*A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (1859-1891)

 

Poet’s Notes: For the theme of place, I chose to write an ekphrastic poem about the park in Seurat’s painting. I learned that on the first day he exhibited it, May 15, 1886, Emily Dickinson died.  Because of this coincidence, I decided to use poetic devices common to her work to describe his.  Thus, lines alternate between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme—although some are “slanted,” and dashes lead to the description.  The girl at the center of Seurat’s painting wears a white dress.  Dickinson was known as “the woman in white” because of her obsession with that color.  The last stanza applies to the girl and is also in memory of Dickinson.  I find Seurat’s paintings and Dickinson’s poetry fascinating and enjoyed exploring their works to write this poem. 

 

Editor’s Notes:  What a tribute to both Seurat and Dickinson!  The painting is fairly well known, which makes it a good choice for an ekphrastic piece, but Vivian’s poem can stand alone regardless.  SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Wheat Field

Vivian Finley Nida

 


Indian Meridian’s north-south line

splits windswept plains 

 

too dry, too cold 

for rice, corn

 

but in late summer’s blistering dust

tractor’s low rumble reverberates

 

Disk harrow breaks earth’s crust

Grain drill plants seeds

                                                

Before frost, hard red winter wheat 

bursts from field, then sleeps

 

nudged by grazing cattle

until warm, rainy days rouse stems                             

            

They vault toward summer

as lush green rolls to gold

 

Millions of acres, millions of bushels 

Give us our daily bread

 

Poet’s Notes:  The farm place in north-central Oklahoma where my husband grew up faces the road that runs north and south along the Indian Meridian line.  This is wheat country—beautiful when green, breathtaking when gold.

 

Editor’s Notes:  I really enjoy the transition described from winter to spring.  SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

“Killdeer” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

 

Bird Watching at the Farm

Vivian Finley Nida

 


Earthworms for breakfast

berries for lunch, robin feasts

in tilled garden rows

 

After coldest spring

purple martins disappear

Empty birdhouse waits

 

Ants’ formic acid

rids parasites from feathers

leaves crows drunk, wobbling

 

In pasture’s short grass

killdeer distracts, runs from nest

feigning broken wing

 

Over tree’s bald pate

blackbirds huddle close, block chill

like soft, snug beret

 

On top of hay barn

peacock roosts all year—heat, cold

sleet, snow—on night watch 

 

Poet’s Notes: Sometimes my husband and I just get a glimpse of a bird, so this poem is a series of haikus. The last one comes from stories about his childhood peacock, which adds a twist to the title. 

 

Editor’s Notes:  I enjoy the way that each haiku could stand alone, yet together they form a coherent whole.  SWG


 

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

 

 

The Poetry of

Tyson West

 

Guided Tour of the Land in Between

 Tyson West


 

I

 

At 12 degrees refrozen snow

crunches under heavy steps

across ice covered avenues

unsilenced further by the slip

of a late night adulterer kissing his way out

of a darkened house

to the silence of the dog in the night.

I pass a bathrobe bundled smoker on her piazza at the corner

torn lucky enough to billow blue smoke

from the butt of her Natural American Spirit.

Under shadows patterned like the webs of funnel spiders

glittered with the hoar frost’s whisper and creak

the idea of death imminent takes shape.

 

II

 

Reason sleeps and monsters wake to my

chest x-ray shadowboxing its dark spot

an infinity of neuroses bleed from its chimeric tickle

unknown night dragons 

puff me to proofs and possibilities and denials

of cut flesh—chemical baths

and drugs to pickle a hand into a claw that can no longer caress

lips that no longer kiss

save in Halloween the 13th

 

III

 

Please walk with me my strange friend

my Hekate, lead me into the alien gorge to river

through your triple sight

where I once fished and swam naked

blurted out prophecies around the driftwood fires

drizzled in droplets of the hops of eternal life.

You have ridden far longer at the dark rodeo

of great bulls with twisted horns

where torn clown eyes bleed blue and yellow ice

queen of this realm of the ill.

Between the laughter and assurance time has no end

do we wager the purchase

of a small amphora of olive oil

with the sense that one may not have use of it all,

save anointing the cracked skin of one's corpse?

The cancer that shattered your low flying flesh

lurks in your blood like the curse of lycanthropy

ready to arise when the moon is less immune.

Lead me now with your queer coils of cells

explain this sound of running water

the mists and vapors that rise in the frozen air

we both see the darkened mass of the cemetery's edge

and laugh at the false promise of the fifty-foot cross on the hill,

for you have lived longer asking the question

whose answer is always yes

"Am I dying?”

 

Poet's Notes: In 2012, I had a chest x-ray, the radiologist spotted some mysterious grey shadows in one lung. I scheduled a second x-ray a month later at the physician’s advice. During that month, my imagination went wild. I entered into the realm of contemplating my sooner rather than later demise and my moving into the realm of the sick. Members of our human herd who suffer from cancer or other chronic illness live in a separate place than the healthy. The shadows in the x-ray turned out to be nothing, but I have never forgotten my anxiety hanging at that way station on the celestial railroad.

 

Editor’s Notes:  Tyson’s word weaving is, as usual, magically wonderful.  I particularly enjoy the play-on-words in line 2 of part II.  SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Seal Beach

Tyson West 


 

I

Anticipation in Appalachia

 

Not every sphere into which I have tangoed

has orbed before my eyes arrived yet

I kent the conjunction of sky and sand and brine, called Seal Beach

through dreams of selkie dalliance

as my flesh skipped hills and rills of Appalachian spring.

Groundhogs burrowed between Scotch Irish bones at Shenango Valley Cemetery 

just below Theil College in the vale of crafters of steel box cars where

I found the first bronze triangulation station

to Mr. Jefferson's academic village 

where the brass benchmark appeared

in a cloud of piedmont drunken discourse

whether his dark skinned scions welcomed his start of skeletal defleshment,

July 4, 1826, as their Independence Day.

Long trance time bent angles

to sweven space westering toward shape change

triangulating the point inevitable as the death of ChristSeal Beach.

The wraith behind the glass darkly pulled my sad sack

to the city of hills on the peninsula from which all dead had been deposed to Colma

leaving bay and bridges to the dying in hallucinations they call life.

So in a rumble of ethics, authority, and opera seria

I thrashed to surface in atmosphere less polluted than the stacks of Hastings College,

ashtrays at Flaherty’s glade of Guinness, or the theatre obscura on Market Street

where a Tuscan lion reconstituted

the half continent of mountain and desert stretching unseen boiling to my east.

 

II

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

 

The Saturday trolley bus sips Fulton Street and

jettisons my fellow crawlers in chunks of velocity eddying the Tenderloin

to western the last few blocks before manifest mass and energy I staked as Seal Beach.

Golden Gate Park windmills to the south

spin for all lost miners

of Sierra Madre where they traded rock scratches for whiskey contriving

to carry silver to this shore.

Deluded as they, I mark sand hissing waves

from far off typhoons bearing broken shells teasing me

and fellow bare feet.

The new moon sliver cuts

the prospect of stratocumulus clouds

rising eastward from the breath of leviathan

above our coastal range.

Feathered Asian dragons

whip worshipping kite tails trailing

gulls sail still in wind from the sea.

Neat aluminum signs spread this strip of sand, Ocean Beach

arrows point north to Seal Rocks Beach beyond Sutro Baths.

I ask no place names of the Mayan mother wincing in the wind

leading her child’s braids and Cabrillo’s DNA northward

or the wet suited surfer blonde siren bouncing the water's edge.

Gang life would not depart the comforting delusion of

concrete fire ring catchers of cigarette butts

as lenses for acid laced illusions.

I hallucinate with feet, eyes, and ears this sand

into whatever shapes my myths deign to mint.

In swells far out, a fur seal floats etching foam

I apprehend transformation

to mortal woman for humans be

the most fearful of all monsters.

Odysseus never yclept this earth tremored point still

beyond the Fallerone stench over the horizons

I glimpse the top sail of the Golden Hind

Drake leaving behind the ghost of his nomenclature

a screen we followers overpaint with monikers of our making.

No matter how far the west swells forward

the yellow metal markers in stone punctuate a new center

to cast lines westering to points nameless until our sails 

and the wind tack their way.

We beach browsers will stake claim, slice and contrive titles

bearing our eventual end and sublimation of species

into a race of pinniped apes

tussling with elephant seals in rookeries

as sinews of sky swell in the heat to come.

The ocean offers always its amniotic fluid of life everlasting

under shining of sun forever spinning beyond our bones

bearing cries of sea birds in the fog.

 

“Birds in the Fog” | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon
 

Poet’s Notes:  When my early 20s flesh lived in San Francisco in the early 1970s, I rode trolly buses to a beach to walk along the ocean. I could not remember its name, but recently recalled, "Seal Beach". On Google Earth, I retraced my steps to discover it called, "Ocean Beach" but to its north lies, "Seal Rocks Beach". My walking that beach was inevitable based on my passion to go west. The U.S. Geological Survey places benchmarks at various sites around the country. Using triangulation, one can use geometry to find a place from two such starting points. Seal Beach 2021 thus is an amalgam of imagination, memories, and feelings shaped by the geometry of time and old age.

 

Editor’s Notes:  I enjoy the profound sense of place here, and I mean sense as in "the five senses" as well.  I was transported as I read.  The fourth dimensional elements are expertly woven into the piece.  SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

 Camelot

Tyson West 


 

Merlin, I tarry once more to exhale

in the herb smoke stale of your lair where

I plan not too deeply to inhale

pondering over and over why, of all orphans,

fate tormented my hand to grasp

the sword I would never have dreamed touch

save for Kay’s forgetting to bring his own to tournament.

That impulsethat desire to please

that choice to chance a solution to my master’s misstep

scaffolded this brow with this accursed shackle of gold

for which Dragonet mocks me each day

safe in his impenetrable harlequin armor.

Would not have this crown set less unstable

had its wearer been chosen

like the chief of a band of brigands

by vote of the pod of pirates he leads?

Yes, I see the wisdoms of concealing Uther Pendragon’s DNA

in Wart’s slender neuroses.

Not being raised with my stepbrother’s entitlement

I cringed with all servants Kay cuffed and demeaned for our failure

to wipe his charge's flanks with artful prompt

my beardless face endured his sharpest slaps

yet it trained me to the ken

of holders of such a place.

Still you never swelled with the loneliness I feel

at this pinnacle of authoritygangsta in chiefover a band of thugs and egos

I never much cared forsave Lancelot.

King, emperor, caesar, chief, or capitan

whoever in title stands at the highest point

in a gaggle of geese, flock of seagulls, or murder of crows

faces constant pecks and nips

of the fools and free jailbirds

who dream to flap and roost on Yggdrasil’s crown.

I've dreamt of the pyramids you showed me

rising along Afrique’s river great

and the pinnacle always most naked stands

to sandstorm, haboob, and lightning flash on all sides.

I miss that comfort I cuddled in the cold whisps of my youth

upon a time snuggling with the masses at the base.

Once we join the dead, all names minstrels harmonize

feel no shame or pride nor thrust of our passions or situs

or lack thereof.

My place among men will become

occasion for a clever rhyme or plot twist in a ballad I no longer hear.

I stepped as king duty bound to the scaffold of marriage

with bride appropriate to position and pomp.

Love her? Yes, as a sister I do, or were I to convent

my passion for her to religion

I would feel for Guinevere as I do towards the Magdalen

lustlessly longing for not the feeling of firm flesh

but the abandonment of my sword's balance and solemnity of armor

to treasure chastely her pose and her love lock

curving around perfumed ear set for Lancelot’s step.

I know what I feel as I drink my Guinevere’s charms

and in my affection for her lover

my best friend whose quick sword and quicksilver passion

rides nowhere near the forest of my contemplation

where I feel the greatest pleasure wandering alone.

I love him too for that never failing blood coursing through

the truest heart in my kingdom.

You have sketched, Merlin,

with all the cunning of that Medici consigliere, Machiavelli,

how easily I could have both burned or beheaded together

for treason, the special name to which the sin of adultery rises

when the cuckhold wears a crown.

Yet I will let my foolish love for them both

cloister me warmly in the chapel of my asexual calm.

To conceive Mordred

the looming menace I had to be dragged and deceived and drugged.

If I held a spoon instead of a scepter, my fond feelings

would carry no more consequence

than the selection of herbs and blossoms from the knot garden

outside my scullery door.

I confess my anger in those moments in our sessions when

I sense your indifference to my pain

I who temperamentally best

would've made a magnificent Monsignor

a celibate and uncircumspect cleric

who instead had thrust a blade of iron into a smooth sensitive hand and

the stiff obligation to impregnate a queen.

I may have found a plump novice before we both bespoke our vows

who would have cherished my serpentine thoughts

and massaged my low libido enough to breed

respectable scion for us both to cherish

in a comfortable cote and acre obscure.

Instead I be bonded to a beau ideal for whom I feel no inkling for intimacy

whose passions for Lancelot

I cherish for they set me free from jagged desire

I am placed duty bound to feel.

Merlin, your wisdom in condemning me

to stand this makeshift monarch blesses Camelot as it curses me

as I have no desire to project power or to breed or to kill,

all in this kingdom are blessed I of all wear this circlet of gold perilous.

 

 

Poet’s Notes: Place, of course, refers not only to physical location, but an individual’s spot within a social structure. The Arthurian cycle fascinates me. Although the ideal of being a king is the wish of every snooky clinging to a bar, to be actually so placed and be temperamentally unsuited for it is an occupational hazard. Usually, the best person to put into absolute power is the person who least wants it. If Arthur sat down with Merlin like a modern counselor and expressed his true feelings of asexuality, it might sound something like this poem. Camelot, after all, existed because Merlin used Arthur to build it.

 

Editor’s Notes:  There is place in Camelot, place in Arthur's position within it, and place in time.  I find the narrative riveting and will never think about the Arthurian legend in quite the same way again--I am not sure whether to thank or curse Tyson for that!  SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 


Fixer Upper Astral Temple

Tyson West 


 

I staked ley lines for its footings

when my treble spoke to mother of visions

of rhyme and sin and grace.

Her mechanics of propriety moshed for a moment

as a thousand screws rasped into muscle memory

my hairless arms could not kill her mockery’s hope

to cool my gang affiliations.

Mother's plaid discount store shirts I wore

like prison stripesno jeans as

gangling fifteen year old eyes beheld

the hodful of mestizo masons

at La Iglesia De San Pedro Claver slowly

accrete rose colored bricks on the Jesuit launch pad

for all colors of souls to soar to their myth of stars.

The harelipped novice, a few years older than I,

in broken Spanglish lisped this church had been under construction

for two centuries

its base bricks placed of enslaved black hands long rotted

in the northern Andean soil.

Red clay envelope alive with its relic and ever replenishing chalice of Jesus

seemed a gift from dream clouds of powdered wigs and knee britches.

As far as astral temples go

mine will never flash as even a footnote

in a letter to the editor of Architectural Digest.

When my bipolar ex-priestess, whose holiness swevened

she alone had been bestowed the blessing to be beloved of Michael Jackson,

commanded I craft a temple for my soul’s repose, I shimmered for

its construction had commenced in

my once and future past lives.

Grateful to her for that brilliant cut of Goddess insight

though flawed be the mouth and fractured the mind

as her message filled the vestal virgin’s sieve,

I finish my DIY remodel

of the octagon library at the basement of Cabell Hall, where

Inanna’s eight pointed star rendezvoused with me

after we dropped Milady off with Artemis among columns at Ephesus.

Often we admire moon light

streaming through clear crystal windows so bright without fluorescents

we browse bound volumes of Life Magazine from the 1920s to its weekly death.

The scratched blond oak tables and chairs

stand sturdy and glow against the polished maple floor.

We feel more comfortable even without upholstery

bound among bones of trees

than iron, plastic, and caustic blue electronic screens.

Perhaps we will Disney a tapestry

of heroes and neutered monsters most amiable.

We count sands and shimmers of ideas

jelling into castles in our bonded mind a safe space

against the world beyond the clear windows where white kings and princes

decree and color land wars in Asia

which even decades after our first visit and

the steady drip of prayers and platitudes

couched in prophecies of Milady and a thousand other holy folk,

rage on.

 

Poet's Notes: Pagans build astral temples as a safe space for one’s spirit to rest in meditation. We construct and decorate them as we wish over a lifetime. When I was 15, I visited the Church of San Pedro Claver in Bucaramanga, Colombia (pictured). As with many Latin American churches, its construction never ends. Its foundation had been laid by slaves who were the property of the Catholic Church. Ultimately, my astral temple was crafted from memories of a library where I used to study alone late at night at the University of Virginia. I have no idea if this library still exists, but the 1960s version will live on with me in my meditations, to be remodeled in this and all my future lives.

 

 * * * * * * * * * * 

 

Stag at Summit

(General Submission)

Tyson West

(For Targa)

 

Fat on gleanings of cottage gardens

lingering the drop side of the galvanized steel guardrail

his dozen sharp points lord darkly over shadow does

ticks tight riding his haunch through frozen night.

His silver exhales salute the first blue ice full moon after solstice

winds sullen the dried bunch grass

then nudge the ponderosa pine herring boning along the river gorge below.

Pooka’s wraith and I stalk to point then touch

his horns hold below the burned-out streetlight

against empty malt liquor can’s street rattle

a trinity of heart beats rise in anticipation

he will bound to

the arpeggios of garlic on my breath

and admire Pooka’s spirit rising to point.

Less than a full moon ago

auburn fur streaked in grey and

great heart became ash to fill a red plastic heart shaped box

her sculptured wolf bred with soft falling ears of eternal puppy

even as his muzzle silvered.

We three share the wild huntour haven from the hearth

under Wotan’s or Hecate’s command

hart destined to lead man and hound

and god chase

along the course eternal.

As our ancestors rose in ochre sketches

on sorceries of limestone labyrinths within our mother

in portraits of the union of horns and heart and cunning

so shall we share shadow and starlight in the southern sky

Orion and the Big Dog brightly rising to flush the stag celestial

hiding in the thicket of the Pleiades.

We sing to chase and chase to sing the dream of wild

once stag and I join your quest in flame and flies and flesh picking ravens

we three shades will climb the cave wall of the southern sky

forever against the falling of the sun.

 

Poet's Notes: I used to walk my friend’s vizsla. After old age took him, walking alone on one of our usual routes, I came across a huge stag at a bench of the river gorge. This stag standing under a broken streetlight and memory of Targa’s spirit recalled the wild hunt myths of Northern Europe. Odin and more recently Hecate lead spirits in pursuit of stag running ahead, always uncaught. Good dogs never live long enough and their memory never leaves us. The place here is the wild hunt itself in the sky. 

 

Editor’s Notes:  I read this poem as a moving elegy rather than a place poem.  I find the explanation in the notes for the poem fitting the theme to be a bit of a stretch.  Be that as it may, this poem is powerful enough to work as a general submission.  I was reminded a bit of a poem I wrote about Lana, "Sister of Romulus", that contains similar mythological elements and appeared in last summer's issue http://www.songsoferetz.com/2020/06/summer-2020-love-issue.htmlSWG


 

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

 

 

The Poetry of

Alessio Zanelli

 

Why   

(General Submission)

Alessio Zanelli



Who knows where she came from, 

if a suburban slum of some megalopolis in Bengal 

or the inhospitable heights of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Places Westerners shell out thousands of bucks to visit 

and she’s traveled thousands of miles to quit, 

part maybe on foot and the rest by makeshift transports, 

to end up begging change opposite a corner bar 

of a small-fry town holed up in the fog of the Po Plain. 

Why? Was she led to or did she chance upon it?

She watches you walk past her spot, impassible, 

never smiles or shows a grimace of distress, 

only mutters incomprehensible words 

while extending the arm and holding out a plastic cup. 

You wonder whether she can’t speak a word of Italian 

or just has a serious speech impediment, 

whether she has a roof somewhere

and children waiting for her. 

Above all, however, you wonder why

In the sultriness of July as in the frost of January 

the head scarf enveloping her raven hair 

is always the same, as is her imperturbable mask. 

No shades of light ever gleam in her chocolate eyes. 

I see about having a coin or two in my pocket 

every time I go there for a snack or a coffee. 

I don’t expect to understand the few words she babbles 

or have to say something other than you’re welcome

Yet I’d really like to know simply why.

 

Poet’s Notes:  The poem is about a real young woman who stays begging some 100 yards from my office, 365 days a year, whatever the weather.


Editor’s Notes:  This poem is more about condition than place, but I find it quite moving.  The places mentioned, evocative of the theme if not on point, are exotic and add mystery and an air of sophistication to the piece.   SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Mom’s Place

 Alessio Zanelli


 

An exact exactor, the sun broils the half-empty yard—

time and again, though not every given day—

toasts the gravel, sautés the sparse blades of grass. 

Songbirds rattle off their sweet refrains—

indefatigably, every aurora through the morning—

from the poplars just outside the enclosure wall. 

The unmistakable early-summer odor blend 

of baked concrete and cut flowers incenses the air. 

Most marble plaques run along the meridian, 

on the western side, facing the crack of dawn. 

Mom’s five square feet lie in the first row down, 

in the penumbra of the basement gallery, 

where newcomers wait to don their final attire. 

They’re all packed and stacked—some alone, 

some in twos—like on a vertical Scrabble board. 

Good neighbors in the end, 

nevermore intemperate or jealous, 

nevermore eager to move somewhere else.

Sheltered from wind and rain, starblind, starred,

only snowflakes may pay them a call from time to time, 

fluttering in through the apertures at the top of the wall.

Within time freezes, space liquefies, becoming sublimes. 

And we external strangers fail to understand, 

however often or seldom we betake ourselves there.

 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem simply describes the place where my mom rests, and the surreal relationship we (the living), and I in particular, have with such a place. I wrote it a few weeks after my mom passed away (June 1, 2021) after a long struggle against Alzheimer’s. It may be interesting for the images carried, certainly for those who have never visited an Italian cemetery.

 

Two small notes: “starblind”, because from the basement where my mom rests you can hardly see the sky; “starred”, because many plaques are ornated with star-shaped knobs, normally placed on the four corners.

 

Editor’s Notes:  This poem captures the terroir of the place described.  The language is rich and beautiful yet straightforward and easy to understand.  SWG


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

The Choice

 Alessio Zanelli


 

The long ascent begins among thick shrubs and small trees,

which step by step make way for beech and birch,

then for silver fir and spruce, at last for Swiss pine and larch.

Meantime the narrow valley broadens up,

the broad dirt road narrows down,

the steep incline turns gentle,

until an ample basin heaves into view.
Further on the slopes come closer and steepen again,

eventually shaping a perfect V,

the wood trail shrinks to a rough mule track.

Above the tree line grass and herbs prevail awhile,

yet stones and boulders soon take over.

Now a precipitous footpath shows the only way,

zigzagging on naked rock up to the watershed crest,

from where the climb becomes a scramble,

over slides of hardened snow and translucent ice

alternating with spikes and blades of serpentinite and granite. 

Once the final tapered wall is won a tiny level spot is revealed

in all its terrific, mind-devastating beauty. 

Beyond that point nothing is left to rest one’s feet upon,

and in the end a tough choice needs to be made

between the heaven and the chasm. 

The former bespeaks the future, the latter summons the past,

even though they are just twofold facets

of that very present, impelling, disburdening instant. 

 

Val Ventina, in the Lombard Rhaetian Alps, Italy | Digital Photo |Alessio Zanelli

 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was written in August 2020. Besides running, I love hiking in the mountains, either alone or in good company.  It’s liberating, for both body and mind.

 

It’s also inspiring.  Many poems of mine have been pictured on my mind while trekking or right after a long demanding walk up a track.

 

The  picture (I took it in August 2020) is of the actual place where the hike described in the poem ends. I’ve been there dozens of times since I was a child.  The glacier has withdrawn by over half a mile in the meantime.  The farthest pyramid-peak, on the right of the blue rift in the distance, is where you have to make your choice...

 

About the Poet:  Alessio Zanelli was a Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor from January 1, 2018 - December 19, 2020.  He is an Italian poet who writes in English. His work has appeared in nearly 200 literary journals from sixteen countries. Greenwich Exchange (London) published his fifth original collection, The Secret Of Archery, in 2019. For more information, please visit www.alessiozanelli.it.


 

 

 

 

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Frequent Contributors

 

 

 

The Old Recliner

Howard F. Stein

 

My old recliner, 
Sanctuary and refuge,
Nesting place,
Worn upholstery, but still soft,
Polyester velour,
Once plush and deep blue – 
I never thought of it
As furniture.

I slept there for days
After many surgeries, 
And year upon year 
Of winter pneumonias – 
But never alone, my cat-person Luke, 
Companion, comforter, sentinel,
Asleep at my side, or
Upon my undulating chest.
His virtual sister, Leia,
Spitfire daredevil,
Slept on a close-by chair,
Eventually joined us in my lap.

When I was not resting,
My open laptop sat
On my thighs; I tried to work – 
They had other ideas.
Sometimes Luke lay content
Between my belly
And the keyboard
While I typed – 
Though my long arms had
Limits on how far
They could stretch over him.

As soon as I left the chair,
Luke hopped up, took it over,
Claimed squatter’s rights, 
Later, eminent domain, 
Occupied it for hours, protested
Briefly when I returned,
Hoisted him into my arms,
Lowered him into my lap.
Luke promptly dozed off
As though nothing had changed.

As to whom the recliner belonged,
The possessive “my” remained
A matter of question.
Still through years of property disputes,
Luke, the recliner, and I,
And sometimes Leia, knew
We belonged to each other.
Each morning, Luke was there,
Lying atop the recliner, waiting for me
To open the door from the hall
And welcome me to the day.
They were my compass. 

At 16, Luke came down 
With kidney disease, 
Soon grew gaunt, skeletal,
Listless, ate nothing, 
And died. Leia lingered but a year,
Warmed up to me somewhat,
Took blessed naps with me
In now her blue recliner,
Mammal comforting mammal – 
Then she erupted with the same
Disease that took Luke.
Leia died within a month.

Now, in my study,
The blue recliner has
Only me for company.
It still faces the large window
We three used to look out
Together; it carves a solitary figure
Edward Hopper could have painted.
I sit in the recliner alone – 
If I sit there at all.

No more a place – 
Just the piece of furniture
It was when it was
First delivered.

 

 

Poet’s Notes:  When I first learned of the place theme of this issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, my mind became immediately flooded with possibilities. What they had in common was a sense of place, one rich with image, meaning, and emotion. I realized, of course, that the idea of place could also have a narrow denotation, such as geographic meetings points of lines of latitude and longitude, or towns I drove through on my way to somewhere else, which were full of personal significance. 

One of the first images that came to me was an old blue recliner, which was for many years the place where my two cats, Luke and Leia, and I would be together, whether napping, or when I tried to work with an open laptop that vied with them for space. They both were feline-human companions to me--certainly never mere cats or pets.

They also had both died recently within a year of each other. Life and death, presence and absence, saturated a place that could also be construed to be a mere “piece of furniture.” The poem took me where it and I needed to go – as a memorial that could never be enough.


* * * * * * * * * * 

 

The Blake Place

Howard F. Stein


When they homesteaded in the 1950’s,
Theirs was the only farm around:
Unpainted wood frame house, barn,
Corral, a few horses, unattended front yard,
Scattered scrub oak trees as hardscrabble
As the Blakes were.
Beyond the yard, a dirt road;
Across the road, a wide sea
Of more prairie grass.

In every direction, only a few wheat fields,
Wild grasses, and critters;
A mile or two away, another farm.
The Blake place was
Far enough away from anyone
For them to feel secure.
It was not empty, just uncrowded.

Ron Blake ran a small herd of horses
On a property in southeast Oklahoma,
Brought a few at a time to his farm
In central Oklahoma to breed.
Ron, Ella, the horses, and the scraggliest
Excuse for a dog you’d ever see – 
The entire cast of characters.
It stayed that way for over two decades.

Though only a handful of acres,
The place felt big. Beyond the Blake
Property, they could see
Everywhere unimpeded.
They liked it that way.
Their world was the world.
“Town,” for Saturday shopping
For essentials, was “over there,”
And they wanted it to stay there.

Then the city several miles away
Began making its way in their direction.
People settled in Oklahoma
From other states and countries.
A few houses cropped up nearby – 
Some, small, simple wood frame, 
Others, large wood and brick
One-story homes often
Surrounded by tall fences.
Then came more, and with them,
Loud noises from construction.
At the corner where
Two paved streets met,
Then soon up and down the road,
A hodge-podge of establishments grew: 

Gas stations, fast-food restaurants,
Car service garages, cleaners, donut shops,
Quick stop grocery stores,
Fortune tellers, store-front churches,
Automobile parts stores,
Interspersed with houses and driveways.
The area sprawled for miles,
The Old World gone,
A New World in its place.

Blackjack, post oak, and scrub oak
Trees mostly vanished. No more
Fields of weeds for running cattle
And space for growing wheat. No more
Could you see “forever” in all directions.
Within two or three decades, the region
Has been occupied, overtaken.

For decades, the Blake place
Was the only farm around;
Today it is empty, an exception, an eyesore,
Reduced to mostly parched grass,
Occasionally mowed by the realtor.

Long before it was torn down,
It had already been erased from history.
Today, only the metal corral fence remains – 
House and barn bulldozed to rubble,
An entire world hauled away to the dump.

The Blake place is not worth remembering.

 

Poet’s Notes:  When I learned of the place-theme for the winter issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, one of the first ideas that came to mind was a long-germinating and percolating poem I had wanted to write for years.  I had wanted to bear witness and to memorialize an elderly farming couple who had lived nearby and who raised and bred horses next to their farmhouse. Despite the ostensible cultural chasm between us – they, rural Oklahoma Christian folks, and I a transplanted urban Jew from “Back East” – we became close friends.

I would often visit them in their small, wood frame house at the top of a hill, or sit with them on rusted chairs out on their scruffy front grass. They loved to talk about their lives, their home, their farm, their horses, and their world. I loved at least as much to listen, and simply to be with them. They both have died, and the entire farm leveled.  Here, like so many other places, history has moved on, “progress” triumphed. Their world deserves to be remembered, not left behind.


 

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Where Place Is Time, Ghost Ranch, Northern New Mexico

Howard F. Stein

“Zum Raum wird hier die Zeit.” (“Here time becomes space.”)

--Richard Wagner, Parsifal

This place once grew giants –
Their anatomy,
Layer upon layer of mostly
Mudstone and red sandstone.
Giants have ruled the eastern
Colorado Plateau
For over 200 million years.
They all have names:
Mesas and plateaus, hoodoos and spires,
Gorges and canyons;
These ancient titans
Define the place.

The voice of place is
The voice of time.
Buildup and breakdown,
Sedimentation and erosion.
Time deposits sandstone cliffs,
Then time destroys them.
Time creates giants;
Time flattens giants.
Even giants’ days are numbered.

As place becomes another place,
Invincible giants dissolve.
Ages before high desert,
These badlands were tropical
Inland sea and swamp:
Ferns and dinosaurs ruled.

People from everywhere
Make pilgrimages here to witness
Their dreams reach
Far into the sky –
Longing for permanence,
Seduced by magnitude,
We dream in monumental stone.
But maybe we already know
What we wish not to know:
Even giants are transient visitors.

The lesson of place is time.
Solid rock flows. Here is where,
But where is always when.
Without time, there is no place.
Place is noun; time is verb.
Time prevails.

Still . . . in the valley of fleeting giants,
Grandeur is no delusion.
To dwell among these giants –
No matter how temporary
They are in geologic time -–
Is more real than anything
Imagination could make up.



Poet’s Notes:  The monumental scale of stone and sky in the northern New Mexico badlands has seized my spirit during the more than twenty-five annual fall retreats of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology that I have attended at Ghost Ranch. The vastness and spiritual sense of place are inescapable to virtually everyone who visits and makes pilgrimages to its 21,000-acres. Yet, the uncanny geology of mesas, canyons, voodoos, and pinnacles could not exist without space’s companion that sculpts and creates the place--inexorable time.  Time is an inherent part of the sense of awe evoked by the gigantic formations of sedimentary strata.

 

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humanity’s ash

warm summer snow in Auschwitz

angry tears of God

 

--Shlomo ben Moshe HaLevi

 

 

Poet's Notes:  It was said that in Auschwitz (pictured), the ashes from the crematoria had the appearance of snow in summer.

 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Erased

Shlomo ben Moshe HaLevi


 

It had been some time since I had seen my friend.

I, the son of a survivor of the Vilna Ghetto, 

Had recently married a Jew whose grandparents 

had once been guests of the Polish Czar.

 

My friend introduced us to his bride-to-be.

She was refined and supermodel gorgeous

A Polish national who spoke the exact and perfect English

Of the upper class who learned it as a second language.

 

When I discovered her heritage and I told her of mine

My friend’s fiancé replied through an ice crystalline smile, 

“There were never any Jews in Poland.”

My friend opened his mouth but said nothing.

 

My wife and I stared at each other in disbelief.

My friend did not invite us to his wedding.

 

 

 

Poet's Notes:  Before World War II, 350,000 Jews flourished in Warsaw, Poland, making up 30% of Warsaw's population.  It was once one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, second only to New York City https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/warsaw.  80,000 Jews were crowded into the Vilna Ghetto in Poland (pictured) by the Nazis.  Only about 1,000, including my father, survived the Nazi's liquidation of it.

 

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The Dawning

John C. Mannone


 

           10:30 PM, April 18, 1775

            local Boston time

 

The three of us vault over gunwales,

our boots lunging against the sandy grit.

The skiff’s sleek hull creases dark water

 

sluicing through the throat of the Charles

—its mouth at young flood.

Wooden paddles slip deftly, slicing

 

the three-knot flow. Inside covert shadows

of Copp’s Hill, our silhouettes are suppressed

in the low-angle moon of betrayal.

 

Beyond the edge of disappearing dark,

blue-indigo water sparks a patchwork

of white reflections; our coats mute red.

 

A sixty-six gun battleship dwarfs us—

HMS Somerset, bridled by its anchor lines,

rowboats and canoes tethered to its sides,

 

bucks in the tide like a warhorse, winds into

current slapping at its flanks. Soon, its cannons

will thunder, and muzzle-smoke from iron

 

nostrils will fill the dawn. But for now,

strips of cotton silence our oars, our cries

muffled, our hearts screaming for freedom.

 

Poet’s Notes: The place here is north Boston where Paul Revere and his two rowers launched their rowboat to cross the Charles River to the Charleston side. The Man-of-War battleship had moved from Long Warf in Boston Harbor to the Ferry channel the previous Saturday (just before Easter). Revere had ridden that night to meet with Col. Connant to devise a plan to alert the patriots how the British regulars would be mountain their attack (by “land” through Roxberry or by “sea” through Charleston Neck). I am fascinated with history and the dawning of the American Revolution. I embellish my physics lectures with historical events such as this to make the physics lessons far more interesting (especially those who fear equations).

 

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Annapolis, May 1780, at the Cock ‘n Bull

Karla Linn Merrifield


 

Spring brings the sooty, war-calloused seamen,

Patriot ’n Loyalist, cap’n ’n swabber allied, delivered

from Chesapeake’s capricious squalls to plod                       

along wobbling wharves, through miry mud,

 

onto landlubber cobblestones, to one bold step 

upon the broad marble slab at hearth’s threshold.

I serve my many boys frothing flagons of limey lager,

rich, thick cakes of slave-picked, succulent bluefin crab,

 

and these ample rosy bosoms poised to overflow

their prim ruffle-crimped linen bodice— As sole                              

Madam Publican in this bloody-raw, new-proud 

Commonwealth of Maryland of Independence,

 

I wonder who will be abouncing with me

in eider-down bedding for our bodies’ briny nonce.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Lanai

Terri Lynn Cummings


 

Mongoose slinks up steps 

sleek and low, stretches 

next to a pair of feet—

two sunbathers too lazy to move

‘alone time’ raised to something new

 

like the pencil in her hand

with a poem to portray—

swelling humpback by kayak

a colossal one-eyed warning

as baby whale-tails fountains

 

Clouds gather, scatter, fist, ease--

puffed-up gods defy gravity

Breezy plumeria’s perfume

perhaps ignored if not snipped and

arranged in Sunday’s indolent, salty net

 

Midwest ears grow used 

to Maui’s rise and fall of waves

that storm the beach below

Fingers point. Look! Look! 

Swish and slide, dolphins ride

Sea turtle rests upon a rock

 

Friends, beach towels, books

that open other worlds. Drowsy

bookmarks, soothing sunscreen

Chips crunch beside

small crop of apple cores

 

Nothing the same as hours ago 

tucked within a morning’s glory

before mimosas, overstuffed omelets

Golden Age shuffled from bed

paused at Dawn in all her coral splendor

 

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Intensive Care Waiting Room

Terri Lynn Cummings


 

It’s that place, where

 

carpet, sprawled on its back, rolls its eyes

sick and tired from being walked on

the television, frozen as a mind in shock

snaps back to numbing dialogue

chairs share their occupiers

with fusty food odors, bored crumbs

 

a season of hope

passes from one hand 

to another

around the room

as seconds, like supplicants

lie stretched on the rack

 

a whole group rises 

in a single motion

scatters like a flock of birds

picks and pecks at food, dull

as the conversation one table over

fly back to their cage of angst

 

prayers bruise

tender as a newborn’s lips

and promises thrive

in the long chill of delay

or die

smothered below blankets

 

green scrubs greet

and the room leans

knots

fists

blanches

like a flag of surrender

 

 

Poet’s Notes:  We spent a lifetime in Pediatric Intensive Care waiting rooms in different hospitals. In the end, they were all the same.

 

Editor’s Notes:  Having lived through an agonizing week while my daughter was in the NICU (she is now twenty and doing fine), I know from firsthand experience that Terri has captured the terrible combination of hope and despair that is the waiting room of the unit.  SWG 


 

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Front Porch

Terri Lynn Cummings


 

On our street, one bulb

burned over doors 

the brightest ours, as if

Father’s thumb pressed

a wire into greater service

 

First kiss from a boy

a foreign country

witnessed by sister

peering past drapes

in the slow hour of night

 

A porch a theater

for command performance

precise disorder of lips

and tongues, an altered realm

on four feet of concrete

 

Editor’s Notes:  I especially like the double meaning of "four feet" in the final line.   SWG 


 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Starting Here 

Terri Lynn Cummings & Vivian Finley Nida


 

this is what I remember                                              this is what I remember

Cimarron River

                                                                                   Red River

A potbellied cloud shades the water

                                                                                  Turtle, red-eared slider

                                                                                  suns on log

like paint on canvas                                                    like paint on canvas

Letters flake from forgotten name 

of beached boat

Dandelions drowse 

in summer’s breath

                                                                                    Waves lap cattail roots 

                                                                                    in cool shallows

Breeze carries                                                              Breeze carries

                                                                                    cotton fluff 

                                                                                    from their velvet coats

                                                                                    to my feet on dusty trail

memories into blue

where golden eagles soar

 

I know                                                                         I know

weeds tumbling on yellow patches

black lava flows

dinosaur footprints and bones 

at Black Mesa

                                                                                  fuzzy red ant, dung beetle

                                                                                  horse fly and rose rocks 

                                                                                  that bloomed

long before humans treasured                                    long before humans treasured

warm symmetry of earth’s caress                               warm symmetry of earth’s caress


There’s no leaving

                                                                                  I have no desire to exit

                                                                                  this triumph

this land                                                                     this land

of cattle, copper, and coal                               

                                                                                  of wild, red-orange 

                                                                                  Indian paintbrushes

                                                                                  the ones Native Americans used

                                                                                  to charm love, poison enemies

this highest view 

where mountains meet prairie

a no man’s land

this wonder                                                                this wonder

like fire at creation’s core                                           like fire at creation’s core

 

 

 

Poets’ Notes:  This Two-Voice poem transports readers from the northwest panhandle to the southeast corner of Oklahoma, the state we have both lived in all our lives.

 

Editor’s Notes:  As a rule, Songs of Eretz does not consider poems by a collaboration of poets, but I made an exception for this one.  I enjoy the way one speaker hands off the narrative to the other.  There is a nice sense of place.  Terri composed the left column, Vivian the right.  SWG 


 

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Art Gallery

 

“Presence of Sheeb” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon



Artist’s/Art Editor’s Notes:  If I had to give this series a name, it would be “Roaming”. There is not necessarily any deep meaning with this series. It is simply surreal escapism meant to evoke awe, or a chuckle, from the viewer. Like a lot of my work, there are also themes of human-made vs. nature. This piece uses my sister’s Shiba Inu and the plains and rolling hills of Kansas as a subject.  Prints of this piece will be available for purchase when my Etsy shop opens soon at https://linktr.ee/JasonArtGo.  I gifted the original to my sister.  JAG

 

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“Emergence” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon



Artist’s/Art Editor’s Notes:  Roads also unintentionally became a major theme for this series.  This piece is 12” x 9”. The original and prints of this piece will be available for purchase when my Etsy shop opens soon at https://linktr.ee/JasonArtGo. Feel free to email me at JasonArtGo@Gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing the original piece.  JAG

 

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“The Visitor” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon


Artist’s/Art Editor’s Notes:  This is the first dip of my toe in the “Vaporwave” aesthetic. I look forward to playing around with these elements more in the future.  Prints of this piece will be available for purchase when my Etsy shop opens soon at https://linktr.ee/JasonArtGo.  JAG



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“Highway Patrol” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon



Artist’s/Art Editor’s Notes:  This piece is 12” x 9”. The original and prints of this piece will be available for purchase when my Etsy shop opens soon at https://linktr.ee/JasonArtGo. Feel free to email me at JasonArtGo@Gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing the original piece.  JAG


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“Lord of the Summit” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon



Artist’s/Art Editor’s Notes:  This piece started as a sketch that I liked so much, I decided to finish it. Sadly, this was in my normal sketchbook, rather than on my mixed media paper. I had to be careful about not getting it too wet or applying too much watercolor, but with the power of many binder clips, I managed to avoid letting this get wrinkled!

 

This piece is 9” x 12”. The original and prints of this piece will be available for purchase when my Etsy shop opens soon at https://linktr.ee/JasonArtGo. Feel free to email me at JasonArtGo@Gmail.com if you are interested in purchasing the original piece.  JAG


 

 

 

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Guest Poets

 

Poems about Place

 


Saginaw

Greta Bolger

 
It’s nothing to write home about, a childhood spent in Saginaw. 
Yet if I am to write of home, I’ll have to write of Saginaw. 
 
Not many to write back to now – dead, dying, moved away. 
And yet for there, I would not be. My parents met in Saginaw, 
 
a town named by Ojibway, lumbered down by lumberjacks 
divided by a river that sliced through the heart of Saginaw. 
 
The war was done, she wasn’t young, their match as good as any. 
They made it quick, Angola wed, and drove drunk back to Saginaw. 
 
He gripped his wrench and she her pen, and made a life and me, 
and Heidi, Don and Sarah, in the halcyon days of Saginaw 
 
and then the chestnut trees died out and auto plants went dark. 
The factory that poured molten iron no longer glowed in Saginaw. 
 
The children left for bigger towns, or smaller towns, or jail 
and race enflamed the peace and calm that once found space in Saginaw. 
 
Pardon to those who shout me down for shade thrown on that place: 
It’s still your home. You stayed and gave. But G is free from Saginaw. 

 

Editor’s Note: An appreciation for the poet's hometown comes through in the poem, even though the speaker says she is throwing “shade.”  This ghazal shows how we can have a hate/love relationship with the place that helps make us.  The poem also is a microcosm of small city America and the problems associated with the exodus of industries.  CAS

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 


Where I come from

Greta Bolger



I come from the Old Country, from German Russians who settled in the Volga Valley at the invitation of Catherine the Great, who much later fled the Bolsheviks and settled in the US, in another valley where the crop they knew – sugar beets -- could be grown. I come from the time between the great wars, when a child was born to an unmarried niece and given over to my barren grandmother, a red-headed boy destined to go to war himself. 

I come from the obsessive order of immigrants -- immaculate homes, laborious food, doilied furniture, under-lit rooms stuffed with old Germans, spotted hands on knees, speaking a language I refused to learn. I come from the strictures of the Lutheran church, the tightening noose of Sunday school, confirmation class, my own red bible, left behind like discarded garments. 

I come from the chaos of the barroom, the POW returned home to swallow his pain, the click of pool balls, the grit of the shuffleboard table, orange pop and potato chips in turquoise bags purchased to placate my sister and me, Hershey bars, sunlight straining in through dirty bar windows, backlighting a dozen curling trails of smoke. 

I come from the blue-collar, pink-collar world of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, lost jobs, broken down cars, broken dishes, mean meat and potatoes, metal kitchen cabinets, carpetless rooms. I come from feral at ten, adulting by twelve, and a long ascent up the social ladder which has never felt steady under my feet. 

I come from uneducated, unprivileged, unsophisticated, unrefined, unmonied farmers and workers, some kinder and smarter than others. I come from a mother my brother calls “a hero.” I come from a hero.I come from the library books she brought home to me, the world of words that made my life, my living. I come from his fathomless fury, her unfathomable love.

 

Poet's Notes:  The ghazal form has long been a favorite; the poem “Saginaw” makes use of it to reflect on my infamous hometown with not much fondness. 

 

The longer prose poem, “Where I come from”, follows a poetic tradition to further my family history, mystery, misery, and gratitude. 

 

Editor’s Note:  This is an excellent use of the “Where I’m From” poem model made popular by George Ella Lyon, a former Poet Laureate of Kentucky.  I especially like how this poem pairs with “Saginaw.”  Through these two poems, I feel I have met Greta Bolger.  CAS

 

About the Poet:  Greta Bolger has written and published poetry for decades, both online and in print publications, including Eclectica, Sea to Sky Review, Thema, Juice Box, Literary Bohemian, The Mom Egg, and others. As a long-time participant in The Waters Poetry Forum, she has been recognized by the Interboard Poetry Competition multiple times.  Greta lives in Michigan.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Red Light - Green Light

Judith A. Lawrence


 

Waiting for the red light

to switch to green



at a street corner in Philadelphia

the shades of summer twilight

stream through my windshield

casting a bewitching blend

of green, gold, and coral shimmer.

 

Through the haze

I spot a group of children playing

Red light – Green light

and slip down reverie’s corridor.

 

I see my clingy hair still damp

from the late afternoon fireplug dunking

the cotton ragtag dress straps

slipping off my small shoulders

my shoes slapping pavement in step

on a street just like this

the chalk outline loosely drawn

the staccato commands

echoing in my head

red light, green light

the fireflies winking in time.

 

We played all summer evenings long

up and down the short narrow row house street

stopping briefly to rest on

adjoining polished marble stoops

to eavesdrop on the Italian tribe of elder

women still in their red gravy stained aprons

slipped over long black dresses

matching hair buns, and little black shoes

honoring husbands long departed

deep in husky conversation

broken up by raucous laughter

settled in their lawn chairs for the day’s gossip

unaware of the hours expanding

well beyond our bedtime

the games made more delicious

by the passing hours.

 

Editor’s Note:  This poem takes me to the place of childhood, a place made specific by the rich details of the “Italian tribe of elder / women.”  I love how the poem slips into the rhythms of the game in the penultimate stanza.  CAS

 

About the Poet:  Judith A. Lawrence is a writer originally from Pennsylvania, now living in Florida. She currently is compiling a volume of short poems with watercolors plus a manuscript of short stories, some which have been published. She has completed a memoir and is working on the last chapters of a murder/mystery novel.  Her most recent publications were two poems and artwork in The Linnet’s Wings, A Christmas Canzonette issue, and a love poem in A Love Letter (Or Poem To)… anthology by Sweetycat Press.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Early morning in Milton Keynes

Sharon J. Clark


 

They cradle reusable coffee cups filled at Starbucks

in exchange for hard-earned cash. Yes, they could brew

their favourite blend at home but the ritual is more precious

than morning prayer. They solemnly stand, heads bowed,

in silent contemplation on Platform 2, awaiting

the arrival of the seven-twenty-seven to London Euston.

Eyes closed, the world shut out, inhale, sip, communion

with the dark acidity of Arabica is transportation. A return

to the comfort of domesticity, the caress of soft

bedding, the warm skin of a slumbering lover. In that paradox

moment, both present and absent, the promise of a homeward

journey is birthed, strength to survive another  commute,

another slowly dying day.

 

Poet’s Notes: Having been a commuter in the past, I wanted to capture the ritualistic aspect of daily travel in this poem, together with the sense of being between two worlds at the start of the day.

 

Editor’s Note:  Some poems make me jealous.  I often think coffee is a great subject for a poem, but how to write the poem?  Here is place—home—in a cup of coffee, even though the setting is a platform where commuters wait for a train.  CAS

 

About the Poet: Sharon J Clark is a poet and short story writer living in Milton Keynes, England. Her writing has been published in a number of anthologies and online literary magazines. She is active in her local writing scene, including being part of the team behind the Milton Keynes Literary Festival. Read more at www.sharonjclark.co.uk

 

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The Passing of Time on Peddars Way

Rosalind Adam



Clinking of masts undulate with the cries
of gulls, avocets and terns.
The sounds battle against the relentless
cheek-stinging gusts of wind.

Within sight of Blakeney we pause
at our favourite Norfolk spot.
Strange that the saltmarsh plants smell
less pungent than they once did.

I still have the photo taken of us at this spot,
both wearing waterproofs and sturdy boots,
standing beside the abandoned boat,
its blue paint crackling shabby-chic style.

Today its body is bare, its hull skeletal.
We hold hands as I falter on uneven ground
and I wipe away a tear passed off
as chafing from a North Sea gust.

 

Editor’s Note: In this small poem, place serves for the passing of time.  Adam strikes the note of nostalgia with a single tear.  Too many tears would leave me cold, but I feel the one tear, biting like the North Sea gust, and assigned to the wind of nature rather than the wind of time.  CAS

 

About the Poet: Rosalind Adam lives in Leicester, England. She is the author of three children's books and has had poetry published in Allegro, Green Ink, The Copperfield Review, The Pomegranate London, 100 words of Solitude, the Ekphrastic Review, and in a 2022 issue of Literary Mama. In 2018 she won the G. S. Fraser poetry prize and was awarded a distinction for her MA in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester.  Blog: rosalindadam.blogspot.com  Twitter @RosalindAdam.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

Apple Orchard, November

T. S. Burkhardh



Hardly heroes, we came to harvest:
Gangly Minnesotans and old white men
joining Mexican youths, Honduran women.
Outside the orchard, on opposite ends,
huddled in trailers, our wood and drywall halls,
trying to forget tomorrow’s treetop chores,
we consume bagels, tamales, cake frosting.
After sleep, we face the finger-freezing cold
leaching through soaked sweatshirts, latex gloves.
How balmy September was, how simple,
despite the innards of tree parasites decorating
our hands and sleeves. Now we wake to the hacking
of an elderly employee, the ever-present smell
of mud, autumn, and anti-intellectualism.
Wearing buckets, wobbling along,
stepping over apple guts and accompanying slugs,
inspecting for deer dung, ignoring chafed shoulders,
we hear the roar of residents on the road,
small-town steady-job-holders,
regulars at libraries and restaurants,
partaking, we imagine, of all this century’s plunders,
having that habit of half-thinking they are utter deities.
And yet, some harvesters, high-ladder stunts just a stint,
will deftly rejoin the delusion.

 

Poet’s Notes: This poem describes one of the more dramatic experiences I have been granted, and I have been wanting for some time to evoke its setting. However, at some point after I began using a style reminiscent of alliterative ballads, I found myself struggling. The situation behind the poem is complicated, involving people of different cultural backgrounds and degrees of involvement. Ultimately, I hope the combination of narrative brevity and descriptive language works favorably. There are of course others who could tell much more of this story.

 

Editor’s Note: What grounds this powerful poem is the evocative concrete images.  In such a complex world, a little philosophical pondering finds root for a strong hold.  I love the reflection that those in one world envy those in another, thinking that the other world must hold the key to fulfillment.  CAS

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Stable Existence

T. S. Burkhardh




They moved Antsy from the old stables, that hodgepodge
of timbers, termite furrows, encroached anatomy and loamy
depreciation (appreciation?), marinating in the rain,
surrounded by the shivery drip,
plunk,
sqwunch,
squelch of it.

Antsy is in the new facility now.
Staccato architecture.
The steely needle-seam handshake
of glass, aluminum, stone.
Hygienic, and…fascinating for a horse?

Antsy, do your meals here seem more meager?
Or does this airy shell spur the appetite,
seasoning by contrast your alfalfa
with a robust relish?

When the lights snick off,
can you call this diamond darkness
home? Or do you require
the breath and brogue of soil, board
to sweeten the night,
unshackle thought?

 

Poet’s Notes: Both places in this poem are fascinating to me. I was eager to attempt to describe them both in rich language without necessarily denouncing one or the other.

 

Editor’s Note:  I could pick out many examples of wonderful language use in both of Burkhardt’s poems.  A favorite one here is “brogue of soil.”  “Brogue” is both a shoe and a regional dialect—and what could be more apt for a description of the idiosyncratic nature of soil?  I’m also intrigued by “Antsy,” the horse who might be uncomfortable in his new surroundings.  Or is he?  If Antsy where Mister Ed the infamous T.V. horse, he would give an answer back.  CAS

 

About the Poet: T. S. Burkhardh lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and usually attempts poems with a detailed setting, character development, or a setting that acts as a character. He is also engaged in several fiction projects in underutilized genres such as YA retro sci-fi, faith-based surrealism, and the workplace fable. Please feel free to visit: carewornmuseum.wordpress.com.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

Cape Perpetua

Marc Janssen 

 

Water always falls 

Away from unreachable 

The unreachable. 

 

Pacific, 

Churning churning 

Brushing the furthest part of you 

The raw uncovered part. 

 

There is nothing here 

That is contained; 

This shoreline scar  

Bridge 

Where water and land wear at each other 

Scrape at each other 

Rip and heal each other. 

 

So much is hidden from the shore 

Vast prairies networks of rivers 

Mountains and peaks, deserts.  

And on my side, glinting surface 

A little rough near the shore.  

Flat as the eye can see.  

 

This clawing strip is where we are: 

The two of us 

One raking 

The other resisting 

One strong 

The other mutable.

 

Editor’s Note:  I love how Janssen catches the tension of the verge, the borderland where give and take, ebb and flow, push and pull, dominate the landscape.  CAS

 

About the Poet: Marc Janssen's poetry can be found in Pinyon, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast, and Poetry Salzburg. His book, November Reconsidered, was published by Cirque Press. Janssen also coordinates the Salem Poetry Project, a weekly reading, the annual Salem Poetry Festival, and was a 2020 nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate. 

 

* * * * * * * * *

 

“Bethesda” | Photography | Lucia Coppola 
 

The Fountain

Lucia Coppola



no way out of a dark road 

with no one on it but us -- 

no guidance or help to forgive or apologize -- not a sound 

from anywhere as the grass is numb to what we’ve said or done

and makes us want to scramble out of the wilderness, down stairs 

to the town square for some solace, a path, consolation or 

just an indication perhaps to go

to the fountain



where the angel at Bethesda pours healing water 

into the pool at the park and washes over 

our reflections getting twisted together with waves in the dark

that touch even the branches as we crack through ice and make 

oxygen flow once again between us and ourselves 

with no beginning or end to these

seasons or reasons where sorrow goes 



for frost and fire to blend 

with hang drum and saxophone at the square 

with clinking coins in the man’s cup that lead us closer to one another 

as we move with paralytic gestures starting to get more in tune 

and the fountain spills into the pool, and the pool makes a clapping sound 

because at least now we’re no longer in the monotone mode 

of the darkening road of feeling so alone  



but onto a new start 

with more heart --  tam tams and jazzy voices 

as we let go of what needs to be gone and move on -- to sing more

I’m thinking as we look at the water that covers the cracks 

at the fountain floor and settles into a place that seems like closure to me 

when it’s all said and done

and we just let it be



I say that I’m sorry too 

and feel I move more freely now

sensing you agree there’s a different tune from the one before 

a deeper tonality played on wood at the bottom of the steps 

in a more tawny, bright way of tenderness and mercy, more soulful 

in the key of A Minor perhaps with no right or wrong, perfect pitch 

or judgement at play today when just showing up at the fountain 

is already like singing a whole ‘nother song

 

Poet’s Notes: I wrote this poem thinking about the Bethesda fountain in New York City. It’s  close to where I grew up and, like so much of Central Park, has always been a place of restoration and healing. In writing the poem, I was exploring the human dimension of mercy and its regenerative power.

 

Editor’s Note: Coppola has a fine ear for rhythms and how such poetic movement can create a song within the soul.  The nod to a-minor catches me where I live, for much of life seems scored for a minor key, a tone of mystery, of regret, of wandering reflection.  CAS

 

About the Poet: Lucia Coppola is an English as a second language (ESL) teacher who is originally from New York City and has lived in France since 1985. She has a professional background in dance and body techniques. Her writing is informed by nature and traditional storytelling. Some of her work has been read on the Clocktower New River Radio and published with Inspirelle, The Parliament Literary Magazine, Plants and Poetry Anthology, and Soul-Lit.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Crash Vigil 

Denny McDermott




Candlelight flickers to the beat 

of a prayer’s verse

A small circle forms 

Consisting of

bleeding hearts

They dot the sidewalk with

red roses

A dozen less

for next year’s Valentines day



Just yesterday 

Shattered glass 

was the only 

twinkle

You'd catch from the streetlights

A memory swirling

Like the plume of smoke

Imprisoning the placid air

A silence that wasn’t 

quite silent

lingered over the

blistering summer night



A street so close

to the limelight of the city

Now hollow

The only echo

A name etched

in spraypaint



It almost feels wrong

to drive by a crash vigil

 

Editor’s Note:  The scene of the crash vigil comes to life through the description, but it is the reflection of the speaker in the last two lines that catches my attention the most.  Trying to enter into the circle of grief seems only human, even if I do not know the one who has died.  CAS

 

About the Poet: Denny McDermott is a Connecticut based writer. A two time Yale Writer’s Workshop alumna, she also spins fantasy and crime fiction stories, weaving poetry into those works as well.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

 

A Piece of Home

Gerri Leen



When you drew me down
To your domain, tempted
Me with pearls and sea fans
And the prospect of eternal
Youth and beauty, to life
With you, under the sea
I didn't consider how
Much I would miss the
Land before I said yes
But I did miss it, increasingly
And I wanted it back

You forbade me nothing
Except for setting foot on
Dry land so I lured a boat to me
Crewed by evil men—a drowning
Was more merciful than they
Ever were—I sank it
In the shallows where the
Land is near but never dry
Then I asked your creatures to
Bring soil and seeds, I called
Birds to fertilize and begged
The rain clouds to hover gently
And slowly a forest grew in the sea
Too slowly for a human to enjoy
But I'm eternal now
I watched it with love and joy
As first saplings and then
Great trees reached for the sky

Now birds nest in the safety
Of my sea trees, secure from
Predators of the terrestrial kind
They bring me seeds from their
Migrations and I plant them
In the few blank spaces and am rewarded
With a riotous burst of floral colors
Their scent soothing me as I
Sit half out of the water
Leaning against the dry bark
And once more feel the happiness
I knew when you first offered
Me your heart and the sea

 

Poet’s Notes:  This poem was prompted by a picture I saw of a wreck of a ship with the most beautiful garden and trees growing on it. I started wondering how such a thing could be, and my mind took me down fantastical pathways of possibility. Those pathways collided with memories of moving from the Seattle area to the mid Atlantic region in the late '80s and missing things like espresso on every corner and sushi and even something as prosaic as Nordstrom. It was my first time experiencing how the fabric of a place colors an experience and how not having that fabric can add to loneliness. 

 

Editor’s Notes:  I’ve read origin stories similar to this enticing poem.  I think particularly of the Iroquois myth, “The Earth on Turtle’s Back.”  I am pleased to think how place can create us, but how we can also create (that is, modify) place so that we feel at home.  CAS

 

About the Poet: Gerri Leen hails from Northern Virginia and has poetry published in Strange Horizons, Dreams & Nightmares, Polu Texni, Liquid Imagination, NewMyths.com, and elsewhere. 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.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Travelogue 

Laurel Feigenbaum


 

On Shabbat in the Mea She’arim, 

     Jerusalem’s orthodox enclave,   

     men in black satin robes, 

Cossack hats and fringed shawls 

      bow with rhythmic verve 

      chanting in Hebrew. 

 

I sit in a gallery of women 

     screened from view–– 

     heads covered in wigs of belief. 

Shared sprigs of geranium spice-scented, 

     pepper the air, erase time, supplant place–– 

 

Memories of our San Francisco garden  

      the familiar scent of my mother’s 

      Martha Washington geraniums–– 

my silver-haired father 

       leaning against the fence. 

Bouquets of wild blue lupine picked 

       in sandlots stretched to Ocean Beach.  

       Baking soda baths 

       to mollify sand flea bites. 

 Lilacs at Nanny’s on Oak Street,  

       gardenias, yellow courting roses  

       from long-gone boyfriends. 

 

Editor’s Note:  Some poems move by rounding back to the theme, but others move onward with hardly a look back.  I like how this poem begins with the black of Hebrew robes and ends with the yellow of courting roses.  The turn, that is, the strong scent of geraniums, moves the poem from one place to another.  CAS

 

About the Poet:  Laurel Feigenbaum credits her father, UC Berkeley, and Wordsworth for her love of poetry.  After family and careers in education and business, she gathered late-life courage and began writing. She is a past board member of the Marin Poetry Center, author of The Daily Absurd (2014), and a chapbook, Matrimony (2020). Her most recent work appears in Silkworm, Amsterdam Quarterly, and the MPC Anthology. She lives in Corte Madera, California within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Wrong Time

Jaya Avendel



I twisted my ankle
In a golf hole and fell to the ground
On the spot where my father’s
Ball once stopped halfway down a hill and
Refused to score.
 

I felt the purple bludgeon and the
Sun push against my skin. I
Counted ants that were really stars
Cut myself
On velvet turf,
Bled into blades of grass that
Spike the lifetimes beneath me.

 

Editor’s Note:  This quirky poem bristles with perspective.  A fall can turn the world upside down.  A fall can be visionary, especially as it causes one to consider eternities and endings.  CAS

 

About the Poet:  Jaya Avendel is from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. With writing published online at Rebelle Society, Green Ink Poetry, and Free Verse Revolution, among others, and in print anthologies, she writes to share the slices of life closest to her. Find her poetry, prose, and writing guides at www.ninchronicles.com

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Prepare Yourself

Justine Gardner


 

For when it’s gone, that home you built

with your own hands

on land, not yours, but leased, lent

for the privilege to grow corn for others

tend the cows of others

To put your feet up on the porch

you made for yourself

(but really for others)

For the others who come after,

sifting what you left behind;

children sneaking past their mother’s eye

to pull crabapples from your tree

(that wasn’t really yours)

 

Prepare yourself

for when the home you built

is caved in and carted to the dump

In its place: a prefab metal shed

on the land that was your land (but not)

The cornfield will be given over to pumpkins,

your cows (but not) sold after the barn burned

(not arson, no, never that)

 

Prepare yourself

for when the only sign you’ve lived at all

is your name on the tongue of a stranger

as she leans into another at the new bar in town:

“Cecil Traveller lived there.”

 


 

Editor’s Note: The repetitions and the parentheses prepare the reader for a tale of undoing.  I cannot help but think of warnings, especially ones such as those given at Y2K, when no one knew how many systems would fail with the turning of a new millennium.  The words, “Prepare yourself,” are ominous.  CAS

 

About the Poet:  Justine Gardner is a writer and poet who divides her time between her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, and a creaky little house in the northern Catskill Mountains. Her work has been published in a variety of online and print journals, such as The Wild Word, Lucent Dreaming, Prospectus, and Ligeia. Her short story “Collapse” won the Sunlight Press 2021 flash fiction contest. You can find her on Twitter @JBGrumpstone or visit her website at www.grumpstonegazette.com.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

“Outside the Old City Walls” | Photography | Ruth Fogelman

 

After Two Days Walking Venice’s Labyrinth

Martha Landman


 

I find the Jewish Ghetto

a space within a space, I’m in a bubble,

unexpected repose. Under a whispering sycamore’s

shade, an Orthodox rabbi reads the Torah,

prepares for Sabbath. How befitting its meaning —

to cease, to rest, to end.

 

I turn to the bounce of a ball.

Pre-bar-mitzvah boys shooting goals,

their yarmulkes and long side-locks in cadence

their faces oysters holding pearls.

A waiter in pristine white shirt joins them.

A grandfather’s eyes guard the youngest,

‘Have you seen that?’ he bounces

higher than the ball after every score.

 

The blue Star of David on street candelabra

takes me back. I’m 30 years younger in the old

Jerusalem where I walk the Via Dolorosa, post

a prayer at the Wailing Wall. Much younger still

in Sunday school, not yet knowing our 

small community isn’t God’s chosen people. 

 

And here in the Ghetto

where once Nazis corralled Jews for deportation,

synagogues surround the square —

Schola Canton, Schola Italiana, Levantina,

Spagnola and Tedesca, a sacred embrace

as the mountains surround Jerusalem

our preacher’s favourite entrance to sermons.

 

Recesses in the walls where portals once hung

hold the Ghetto’s history —

once a foundry, junkyard for Jews.

Now a refuge; washing on lines strung

between windows, kosher bakeries,

Sabbath celebration.

Unhurried, the postman     

delivers mail from door to door.

 

Poet’s Notes:  Having heard of the Ghetto when I visited Venice, I expected it to be a derelict area. What a happy surprise to find it such a beautiful part of Venice! A true repose. It has a calm atmosphere that is difficult to describe. I could sit there for hours.

 

Editor’s Notes: I wish painful history were always washed in peace as it is in this poem.  The spirit of the unconquered moves in the bouncing of a basketball and the delivery of mail.  Hope that is seen is not hope.  The worshiper refuses to lose faith.  CAS


About the Poet:  Martha Landman writes in Adelaide, South Australia on Kaurna land. Her work appears in anthologies and online journals, the latest in The Poetry Village, Blue Bottle Journal, and Sparks of Calliope. She was shortlisted for Emerging Older Voices in Queensland, Australia. Her chapbook "Between Us" was published by Ginninderra Press. 

 

Artist’s Notes:  I was walking towards my home in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City one crisp night last January. I looked up at the full moon, its pink glow illuminating the cloud, and at the illuminated Old City walls and palm trees.  I felt as if I were walking within a poem. 

 

About the Artist:  Ruth Fogelman holds a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from the Shaindy Rudoff Creative Writing Program at Bar Ilan University.  She has lived in Jerusalem’s Old City for most of her life.  Photographing Jerusalem's beauty is one of her passions.  Ruth's photography may be viewed on her website:  https://jerusalemlives.weebly.com/photo-gallery.html.


 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Lemon Tree

Anita Jawary

 

The sun was blazing hot when you dug it in,

and your shorts exposed bony knees  

that wobbled on thin legs to support your fatherly corpulence.

 

It seems like yesterday that you came to bless my home, and help

secure my nest,

and every house, you said, should have

a lemon tree.

 

After you were gone,

all its branches broke out in swollen, ugly knobbles,

eruptions of pain,

as though anguish and loss could burst the arteries

of a tree.

 

Today, I caught sight