Friday, April 1, 2022







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Front Cover: “Carrot Gull” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

TOC: “Carrot Mark” | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

Back Cover: “Ferret & Gull” | 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.



Steven "Wittyberg" Gordon

Art Editor

Jason "Arty-moose" Gordon

Associate Editor

"Merry" Lynn Cummings

Assistant Editor

Charles A. "Charlie Brown" Swanson

Featured Frequent Contributor

Charles A. "Charlie Brown" Swanson

Additional Frequent Contributors

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

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


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Table of Contents

Letters From the Editors

Featured Poet

Charles A. "Charlie Brown" Swanson

Frequent Contributors

Art Gallery

Guest Poets

Judith Sanders

“Guide to My House”

Templeton Moss

“The Snake Washer”

Maija Haavisto

(General Submission)

 “Things You Can Be Eaten By”

John Delaney

“Buying Golf Clubs: A Test of Faith”


Frequent Contributor News



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A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief


I almost did not allow this issue to go to publication.  In a world that has allowed the tragedy of the unprovoked and immoral Russian invasion of Ukraine, publication of an humor themed poetry issue suddenly seemed crass and in poor taste.  However, upon reflection, I ultimately decided that publication was the right thing to do.


Humans have invented terrible weapons of war, some of the cruelest of which are currently being employed against the innocent Ukrainian people.  However, arguably the most cutting human weapon of all is humor.  When directed at a tyrannical regime or dictator, humor can diminish or even erase their power.  This is why one of the first acts of tyrants is to control the content of speech, especially poetry and art.  Dictators live in fear of being mocked, because they know that people ultimately will not fear or even respect leaders that are objects of ridicule or the butt of jokes.


In this issue, readers will find not only poems that are humorous but, perhaps more importantly, also poems that metaphorically and literally illustrate the power of humor.  There are poems herein that will make you laugh, but even more that will make you think.


Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD



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A Letter From the Associate Editor

Intentional humor is hard for many of us. I’m lousy at repeating a joke and worse at writing humor. Unintentional, on the other hand, is another story. So is sarcasm.


Everybody is funny in his or her own way. Yet, once humor is placed on the page, it works or it doesn’t, depending on the audience or editors in this case. Sometimes, it makes one laugh-out-loud. Or it’s dark, ironic, satirical, a bit amusing.... 


Although I rejected many submissions for the SOE "humor" issue, my poems didn’t make it to publication either. Ha! 


In all seriousness, I congratulate every person who submitted in this round. It’s not easy to let strangers read your work and harder still when it's supposed to be funny. 


Terri Lynn Cummings

Associate Editor

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A Letter From the Assistant Editor


When my daughter was in the eleventh grade, the same grade as my Honors English students, I asked her what they were saying about me.  She said, “They think you’re funny that you think you’re funny.”  Later, as they ate their lunches, some of those same students were heard repeating the punch lines of stories I had told.  What happened?  I didn’t become a better comic.  The students had grown accustomed to my type of humor.


Some of our famous comedians have built a routine based on their idiosyncratic personalities.  They have trained their audiences.  Our guest poets, for this issue, had a much harder job.  They had to persuade three editors that the poems they presented were humorous enough to create a presence.  I fear that I was the first line of “offense” for I sent many fine poems back to their poets for one reason or another.  I thank each of these poets who shared their talents with us.  Reading all the submitted poems was a pleasure for me.


Charles A. Swanson

Assistant Editor


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Featured Poets

The Poetry of

Charles A. "Charlie Brown" Swanson

Hudson Roast

Charles A. Swanson

Coming in from fieldwork, we found him,

a cousin, Mama’s age, not mine, twiddling,

jumpy, twitchy, at the old picnic table.

Excitable, he boomed a hello across the drive,

and I wondered who this long-limbed man

with the loud mouth was.  He corralled us,

not with rope or boards but with insistences,

we must not go in the house.  A surprise

waited for us, but we had to wait.  Wait

outside, wait as he spun nonsense, folderol,

or what the Ramseys say about themselves,

foolishness.  Mama was tolerant of this man,

despite his nervous, alcoholic crazy talk.


How drunk was he?  Perhaps not at all.

Perhaps his pores oozed booze from yesterday.

Perhaps he needed drink to calm his nerves.

Perhaps the liquor caused the flighty talk.

The Ramseys liked their drink as well.

The ones that didn’t scorned it like the plague.

We waited, listening as he went on and on.

I knew Mama loved her cousins, despite

the hair-brained ones.  So Hudson talked,

and I twiddled, too, waiting for the sun,

the hot, slow baking sun to move a little bit.


Finally, after hours--two if I remember,

two hours, but surely two days—or more?

Finally, he let us into our own cool kitchen.

Maybe not so cool, but a fan stirred hot air.

We didn’t flick a switch.  Indoor shadows

made a mirage like cool, clear waters.

Beef odors wafted sweetly from the oven,

and the surprise Hudson hinted about,

over and over for hours and hours slid 

into view.  His big hands pulled out the pan,

a roast seasoned with his special spices.

Oh, yes it was good.  But a wise cook

makes the eater wait until he’s starving.


Poet’s Notes:  We still have Hudson’s recipe for beef roast in our cookbook.  He said he wouldn’t share the secret of his special spices but he couldn’t resist.


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Nicotine Apples

Charles A. Swanson


This is a story about dried apples,

or about drying apples.   Screens 

on grandma’s front porch and slices

yellowing and browning and curling

and drying in the hot summer sun,

bees whirring busily so that I walked

a broad path around the batch,

and yet wanting some—and hearing

how they brought money, these leathery,

juicy bits stored in a white cotton sack,

and then the savory pies Mama fried

in her hot skillet, the pie crust delicate

yet toasty, the apple juice oozing 

like a tobacco chew or grasshopper spit

in color, amber, translucent, jeweled,

and rich and dark in taste, and, well,

and, well, I just loved it all.


So Mama, once, had the bright idea

that apples would dry even better

in a tobacco barn than on screens

laid in a hot place.  She tried first 

a bag in a conventional barn 

where air flows up on heat currents,

from bottom to top, fueled by flames

of blue-burning natural gas.  Already

the tobacco was setting, smelling

sweet and wholesome, sending

out deliciously vibrant notes.

The apples dried like potato chips,

and shook like rattlesnake rattles.

When Mama made pies, she thought

she'd found the best new way to dry.


So once again, a bag of apples,

a barn of tobacco, the new barn

this time, the barn where air blew

hot and sickly sweet with the green

of leaves just loaded into racks.

Compressed leaves and forced air

blown by a heavy-duty fan, not

natural but efficient.  Such air

can smell like silage curing,

vegetable like that, the next thing

to rot.  These apples, too, dried

with a convincing sound, a bag

of wood chips, a baby’s rattle.

But when they were fried in pies,

when they were eaten, the non-smokers 

reeled like first-timers on a drug.

Those pies, those tempting pies,

had the deep dark bite of nicotine.


So the story goes, except doubt.

Could such a tall tale happen?

Just like apples can be dried,

preserved into a rich taste

that smacks of summer days,

this story needs keeping.


Poet’s Notes:  I could file this story under the heading: “You Won’t Believe Some of Things That Happen on a Farm.”  I have a friend who found this true story unbelievable, or unbelievable to the point that he had to ask “experts” if nicotine could truly enter drying apples through a barn’s curing process.  I had never doubted the story myself, although I was not at home when the pies were made.  I had never doubted it, not only because my mother is a truth teller, but also because I had been sick several times from nicotine entering my skin during the pulling (harvesting) process.  I was not the only one who sometimes became sick from carrying wet tobacco leaves.  The drug can seep through the clothes a worker wears, and even rain gear may not be an impervious barrier.

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Sestina for a Teenager, Trapped in a Chicken House

(Prince George, Virginia, early 1970s)

Charles A. Swanson


You just never know about the closing of a door—

this one swings shut, right while I am singing,

just as I expected it to, but shuts my singing out

when I realize the latch is caught.  Locked

by a flimsy latch in this wooden chicken house.

Will rude surprise daunt this self-sufficient man?


Well, I had told myself I was such a man

when I stood with the milk pail at the stable door,

before I left the barn to come back to the house.

I had done the chores and my pride was singing

because of my independence.  The farm was mine, lock

and key, or so I fancied as my dreams poured out.


You see, with Dad, Mom, and Bob visiting out

in Callands with our kin, I was to be the man

of the place.  My younger brother and I had locked

our heads together, deciding to part at the door.

We divided the work—he went to the field singing,

I went the rounds of kitchen, barn, and chicken house.


So, having done all the chores but the chicken house,

I stood at the stable door as a Lord, looking out

at my dominion.  At its work, the sun was singing,

ironing spider webs.  And all the thoughts of a man’s

potential, handy with gun or axe, to hew doors

and corridors through rooted wildernesses were unlocked


inside my head.  But the rasping of that joker lock

brings test to the pioneer.  The humored hens of the house

cackle at their wheat.  I sit and stare at the door

while the jocular sun presses dust motes from the out-

of-doors through my prison screen.  If I were a man

alone in the wild, would even the rocks be singing


as they fell down to cover me?  Is the singing

of the pioneer for his losses—loved ones locked

in forgotten graves?  Surely, I’m enough a man

to dislodge a roost pole from this chicken house

and punch wire loose, to jab the roof and knock out

the rusty tin, to ram my shoulder through the door?


Is that his singing voice coming toward the house?

“Hey, Roy, I’m locked in the chicken house.  Let me out!”

And the self-sufficient man waits—eager at the door.


Poet’s Notes: The teenage years are a great time of life for dreaming the big dreams.  Reality has knocked the pins out from under me a time or two, but I’m confident I needed the rebuke.

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Stick Figure Man’s Ode to Odor

Charles A. Swanson


His hand can give me motion—

with blurgits and briffits—

at least I look like I’m moving,

and he can give me odor


with wafterons.  But you can’t

smell me.  Now, if he only

laid down his black pencil

for a scented marker


how sweet!  Perhaps tangerine

or muscadine?

Or if, on my head, he painted my lips

with a scratch and sniff,


I’d have strawberry breath.  But

what I really want

is the locker room smell, deep

as beavers’ castor sacs.


Just let me step out, shower-fresh

a bit of Black Versace

on my lines, then man, oh man!

I’d smell like a man!


Poet’s Notes:  Perfumes date back thousands of years.  I read recently that certain perfumes may have been as costly as gold.  Thus, the gifts the Magi brought to honor the new-born king of the Jews in Matthew 2 were, all three, kingly.  The frankincense and myrrh were as lavish as the gold.  Usually, art has to hint at the smells that enliven us.  I like, indeed, the advertisements in magazines that include a fold-out page where I can get a whiff of the perfume or cologne that the cosmetic company is peddling. Can Stick Figure Man come to life without an accompanying body odor?  I dare say not.


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Frequent Contributors


I Woo Thee!  Woo Woo!

Steven "Witty-berg" Gordon


Oh, love!  How like the very, very thing!

Oh!  How it doth always, sometimes, never!

Oh, breaking of the wind by bird on wing!

Oh, twice the fortunate and half the clever!


You are a dish awashed in golden Dawn!

And like a bed of roses red.  You smell!

And ay yi yi! Eyes as the greenest lawn!

Deep as the deepest deep artesian well!


And what a body!  Woo woo! Made for sin!

Oh that I could your pancreas possess,

With juice digestive and sweet insulin!

Oh!  How wonderful I’d feel, I guess.


And like the plumpest chicken how I’d cluck!

If only we could bed and read a book!


Poet's Notes:  William Carlos Williams and PDQ Bach inspired this poem. The former is known for, among other things, his humorous love poems.  The latter is known for making hilarious musical jokes.  Both achieve hilarity by breaking the “rules” of their respective media.


Right off the bat, the title of the poem, with its two different meanings of “woo”, alerts the reader that something unexpected is about to happen.  The first line opens with a melodramatic exclamation followed by a simile that makes no sense and uses the forbidden word “very” (ref: Mark Twain) not once but twice.  The second line attempts to lead to something spectacular but never arrives.  The third line contains an “accidental” fart joke.  The fourth line is essentially an insult.  And the overuse of anaphora in the stanza is unifying but not in a good way.


The metaphors in the second stanza almost seem to sing the praises of the object of the speaker’s desire.  However, the comparison to the beauty of “Dawn” reads like a comparison to the dishwashing liquid rather than the goddess or the natural phenomenon.  The punctuation in the second line turns a would-be compliment into an insult.  The third line compares the object’s eyes to a lawn--not exactly the most romantic metaphor.  And no good poet would repeat “deep” so many times in the same line as we see done in the fourth.


The third stanza attempts to be romantic but winds up being crass, insulting, absurd, and a bit weird.  Even the speaker seems unsure of his words here, ending the stanza with, “I guess.”  And while the pancreas is an important organ, most lovers would compare the objects of their affection to almost anything else.


The final couplet sets up a classic bait and switch joke, completing the poem with an ending of which PDQ Bach certainly would have approved.  The reader “knows” what is coming in the set up of the opening line and (hopefully) laughs when this expectation is not met in the closing line.  The “punch line” is made even funnier by the use of consonance rather than the expected hard end rhyme.

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Support Industry!

A Valentine’s Day Card

Steven "Witty-berg" Gordon


Why not buy chocolates on this rosy day

Supporting industry and all of that?

Perhaps purchase an overpriced bouquet 

Or maybe buy a nice expensive hat?


Perhaps a card that knows just what to say

(Unlike this one that’s written by a rat)

For isn’t it the patriotic way,

Supporting industry and all of that?


Or how about a weekend get-away

For twice the price!  With heart-shaped welcome mat!

How else will the hoteliers grow fat

By doing half the work for twice the pay?

So buy some chocolates on this rosy day!


Poet’s Notes:  Every day should feel like Valentine’s Day if you are truly in love.  It certainly does in my marriage.  Nevertheless, the choco-holiday-industrial complex mandates that fattening chocolate, dead flowers, “greeting” cards written by underpaid poets, and rip-off romantic getaways be ritually purchased by those under Cupid’s spell every 14th day of February.  This rondel mocks this dubious, industry-serving tradition.


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A Creation Myth

(General Submission)

John C. Mannone


This is how it all begins: the Cow is playing

fiddle when she jumps over the moon

while her fickle bull is left behind to work

the labyrinth. He’s always on the run chasing


another ‘brown cow’ stuck in the maze.

But, Holy Cow, she keeps flying through

the heavenlies, clanging her bell with a spoon.

She stops for a moment at Lyra to strum

and sing a song of poems along with Jack

Horner (who’s Jill he had left in the corner

of the universe). He sits alone minding his own

business eating his curds and whey


when along comes Miss Muffett who pulls out

a star, plum steals it away from the spider;

it is big & bright and sweeter than all the other

stars in the bowl.


Three blind mice balance on the black edge

of a hole full of green cheese and ham. They play

a violin too—the one they stole from the cat

who would pluck his own whiskers like a bass fiddle


until Mother Goose and Corvus the crow

both heckle and jeckle the feline as if the dog

days of summer aren’t enough. The Cow

by now is feeling homesick and moos quite a bit,


but learns that she’s home after all—she catches

the eye of Taurus the Bull, with his super big

red star that some will call Aldebaran.

He swoons and soon she gives birth


to many new stars and breast-feeds the dark

now gushing with light of the Milky Way.


Poet’s Notes: “A Creation Myth” is a conflation of nursery rhyme images, where the rhyme is internal, and aims to produce a fanciful yet delightful poem for adults as much as for children. Judicious choices of where to break the lines enhance those surprises.


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(General Submission)

 John C. Mannone

After finding a frog in my lonely kitchen


When I first saw her, those captivating eyes,

bulbous and lily-pond green, then felt her

heavy breathing, I knew she came for me.

Her dainty fingers/toes clung to the glass

tray through which she throbbed. She must

have thought this a dream. She had nestled

in the nook of my kitchen’s stove keeping

company with a couple of stiff-winged moths,

and at her side, a crumpled paper towel.


In thrumming sleep, she might have dreamt

or somehow thought it was an early snow

to have morphed into a clump of white.

I almost discarded her as spent paper

but when I tried she awoke and sprung

to the other side of the stove, changing

mid-flight into her true colors—earthy

toad-green, with a yellow gleam all over.

I trapped her inside a temporary prison—


a glass, castle-ornate with princess-pink trees

and kingly green ones too, but upside down.

Her world upside down. I photographed

the princess before she became mere memory.

I studied every mark on her beautiful body.

She was craving for me, I felt it. I would’ve

kissed her had we not been separated

by the glass wall.


When she lept for freedom, I could swear

that she waved goodbye before disappearing

into the brush. I was the wrong prince.


Poet’s Comments:  The epigraph says it all when coupled to a wild imagination, and sometimes fantasy evolves from organized silliness or is it the other way around?]. In the poem, there might be some poetic license with the interchanging of frog with toad. Technically, I saw a toad, probably Bufo terrestris and not a frog, like Rana pipiens.


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#: The Gizmo Girl of Shorthand Signifiers

Karla Linn Merrifield


Techno/Internet savvy #

is the glittering technicality


of Cyberspace. As hashtag 

hatch mark, # presses


the pound key

of the #twitterverse.




But # still flashes triplets –###–   

to indicate The End


to every journalist’s news story.

# is this blogger’s goodbye.


# enables the three-stroke

### pauses for scene shifts


between fictive sections,

poets’ stanzas.




# lightens avoirdupois.

# unlocks phone system menus.




# is key.


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¶s and ÷s Together

Karla Linn Merrifield


Obelus— ÷— and 

Pilcrow— ¶—

the odd couple who live one stanza down 

in my personal topography.


¶ is a stocky dominatrix; ÷ is strictly

into division, prefers meat in smaller portions.

¶ indents to change topics;


÷ devises diminishing ruses.


¶ casts eyes down;

÷ slides toward nothing.


Or are ¶ and ÷

like two old married transsexuals?


You know the kind?

Didn’t think so. Me neither. No matter.


But ¶ and ÷ cohabit; after all,

¶ too is a ÷.


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Alice’s Old School Adventures 

Vivian Finley Nida


Slide down the rabbit hole 

to my pre-World War I school building

One room per grade

Windows open for breeze

closed for heat from Franklin stove

We were warned, but Danny was cold

His singed shirt made us cough


Desks, like railroad cars were linked, nailed to floor 

No painted graffiti on wooden tops, but carved initials

That meant summer sanding and varnishing 

Once, Peggy had a cold and brought Mentholatum 

She dipped her finger in the jar 

rubbed the pencil groove, liked the gleam

so polished the whole top, passed it on to me

We fumigated the room


Our desks faced the pea-green cloakroom door 

narrow with high ceiling, dim with grimy transom 

single light bulb with on/off string

Hooks held coats, slickers, sweaters, caps 

Teacher had a shelf in the closet 

where she kept a bottle of red liquid

After lunch, she’d take it to the girls’ bathroom 

One student told her that her grandmother 

also kept a bottle of red wine to sip each day

The teacher, smiled, “This is Lavoris” 

That made us wonder.  Was it French or Italian?


Cloakroom hooks also held drawstring bags 

filled with yo-yo’s, marbles, jacks, baseball gloves 

and jump ropes that teachers threw for us to master 

hot peppers and double Dutch while we chanted

Cinderella dressed in yellow went upstairs to kiss her fellow

I don’t remember how many kisses she gave him

but the new girl came outside late and announced 

she’d kissed my boyfriend’s notebook twenty-seven times


Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union, and we left

for Mad Hatter adventures in Junior High

when rotary dial phones changed our numbers 

from three digits to seven, fashion swept hair into bee hives

and a student, who frequently dashed to the restroom

informed us and teacher, he had irritable vowel syndrome


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Mother Goose

Reveals Secret Crush on Elvis

Vivian Finley Nida


Love, fragile as the egg that slipped from wall,

leaves high-classed hound dogs crying all the time.

His blue suede shoes survive the tragic fall,

and I’ll be blue without him Christmastime.

All horses and all men had to give up.

They could not put together what was lost.

Bad luck, but I’m in love. I’m all shook up.

I’m weak, can’t seem to stand. This is the cost.

I do not envy cat beneath Queen’s chair

or wonder who put Pussy in the well.

Concerning Bo Peep’s sheep, I just don’t care.

I’m off to Lonely Street, Heartbreak Hotel.

Don’t write.  I’ll send it back—address unknown.

I’ll mark it—No such number, no such zone.


Poet’s Notes:  I had fun juxtaposing a tabloid-like title with a formal sonnet.  Mother Goose and Elvis are known for rhythm and rhyme, so it’s not hard to imagine she would love him and know his lyrics.


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Dictating Humor
Howard F. Stein
         After “Humor," by Yevgeny Yevtushenko; Symphony No. 13, Dimitri Shostakovich:
         Tsars, Kings, Emperors,
         sovereigns of all the earth,
         have commanded many a parade,
         but they could not command humor.

Laughter erupted in the party congress,
Didn’t matter who the speaker was – 
Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Milosevic,
His joke was always funny, ribald humor,
Often its bite – maybe later, its gun – 
Aimed at a dissident or defector
Or THEM, the enemy religion

Or nation or race.

Nothing was funnier than
Their leader’s grotesque cartoon
Of the collective enemy, a menace
Who threatened them both from the inside
And from outside.  Mockery made way
For rally, to defend, to protect, to attack,
Which drew vigorous, sustained applause.
Often the faithful even leapt to their feet,
Pumping the leader to tell even bolder jokes
And to draw with his words 
Even more outlandish caricatures, 
Followed by an even more urgent
Call to arms – with him 
As their uncontestable leader.

Spontaneous laughter and applause
Were cued with precision – they knew
When to laugh, just as they knew
They were being watched by spies
Who would report if their response
To his humor was not enthusiastic enough.
Laughter on command – what a strange notion,
They briefly allowed themselves to wonder.
If you want to live, you’d better laugh – 
Or get expelled or shot dead.

This humor was serious business.
As time went on, it was hard to tell
Who was a loyalist,
And who an opportunist.
Sometimes they didn’t even know
Themselves whether they were
True believers. They did know 
Their leader’s humor had to be funny . . . 

. . . Just like at work, as we sit dutybound
Around the corporate board room table
In a meeting run by our CEO,
With his strict, printed agenda – 
Though he never lets a chance go by
To first crack a few jokes, 
Wait for our obligatory approval,
Then warn us about our fate 
With our competitors
And our shareholders,
Who we can never feed enough – 
Just as our overdone laughter 
And sustained applause
Can never sate our CEO’s
Ravenous appetite for approval and power.

At last, meeting over, we walk in open air,
Visit over coffee or a drink,
Truthful humor can return to our
Lips and voices, and laughs
Feel like our own again – 

Though we still look
Over our shoulders, to check
Whether someone might be following us,
Listening for forbidden
Thoughts that made their way
Into our words and laughter – 

Vigilant and wary,
Humor is never safe.


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The Marx Brothers Come Home
Howard F. Stein


         “Let me help you out. Which way did you come in?”; “You should go far – and I hope soon.”
         Ruth Stein (the poet’s mother, circa 1950’s)

No one could have
Planned it to come out this way – 
My son, Zev, now 28, 
Incarnates the Marx Brothers.
It proclaims itself everywhere:
In his gestures; in phrases 

From all their films, in his quick wit
From Groucho’s television
Quiz show, “You Bet Your Life.”
Twenty or so years ago I bought him
A boxed set of Marx Brothers movies – 
He soon memorized them,
Enacted scenes from them.

       “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” (Chico Marx, Duck Soup)

He does not quote or imitate;
Their words flow from his mouth
And gestures from his body
As though they were his own – 
By now they are. His timing 
Is impeccable. Caricaturist 
And social critic, he is
Unassailable because he looks
So irreproachably ridiculous.

        “If any form of pleasure is exhibited, report to me and it will be prohibited." (Groucho Marx, Duck Soup)

Take Groucho’s deep, stooped posture, 
His body bent nearly 90 degrees at his waist,
His exaggerated long steps,
One hand in the small of his back.
When I watch Zev’s identical stride,
For a second, I do not know     
Who I am observing.

        “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.” (Groucho Marx)

Since Zev’s childhood, the Marx Brothers’
Zany movements and pithy quips
Have long taken up full time residence
In our household – he caught my every move,
Then took them in for himself,
Still does, first in his visits from college,
Later in his meals at home
On holidays from work,
And now in his role as my caregiver,
When in my seventies, I became beset 
With illnesses and disabilities.
His humor lightens their weight.

       "Why don't you bore a hole in yourself and let the sap run out?" (Groucho Marx, "Horse Feathers")

So, who are the Marx Brothers?
Actors, characters, dream team – 
Audacious language and bridge
Between father and son,
Their humor, now
Life itself.

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At Least

Tyson West


At least when the Nazis took over

communist thugs no longer roamed the streets.

At least when Hitler became chancellor

we no longer worried Hindenberg's senility.

At least when the mob smashed the windows of my shop

I did not have to wash them again.

At least when I sent Louis and Rachel to America

I need not listen how their classmates abused them.

At least when the SS sent me and Judith to Westerbork

we need not clean our shop or home.

At least when the Nazi mob demolished the Assen synagogue

they used the lumber to build the stage for concerts and cabaret.

At least when they sent Judith east on the train

she won't be jealous if I admire Mitzy Rosen's singing.

At least if the SS hadn't sent Johnny and Jones to this camp

I would never have seen them sing Westerbork Serenade.

At least with my children in America

I won't have to change my grandchildren's smelly diapers.

At least when the capos and guards force me on the eastward train

I won't have to put up with their pokes and sneers.

At least when I laugh in their faces

they can do nothing worse than kill me.

At least when I meet the God in heaven

I can tell him what a bad job he has done on earth

and thank him I’ll have no need

for laughter there.


Poet’s Notes: Humor has a very dark side. Articles about humor in concentration camps point out there is no humor in heaven because humor is not needed. Humor arises from sorrow and is a tool we use to get through life on earth. Laughter that is something that tyrants cannot combat. Authoritarian leaders fear it because they cannot control it. The Nazis made it a crime to insult their regime. Hitler was deathly afraid of laughter, unless of course he was laughing at somebody he was abusing. 

I was surprised to learn that, at Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, many talented Jewish entertainers put on a cabaret for the prisoners. The SS encouraged this. I also discovered some videos on YouTube of Johnny and Jones, two Jewish men from Amsterdam, who sang songs based on American jazz. More laughter rings in hell than there ever will be in heaven.



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Tyson West


Seriously we listened seriously to

wooden cabinet laugh tracks dancing through

round cathode tube pictures in various shades of grey.

Annette, Jimmy and Roy chuckled in mouse ears while

smiling Walt whose hands we never saw claw a cig or sixgun

popped his dream box with wit we kiddies groked never too darkly.

In clouds of smoke from Camels and Luckies

grey screen newskies in grey flannel suits

read rumors turncoat commie spiessecret formulas

Coke and H bombs and gangs and double breasted aliens

Khrushchev and Molotov who our brave Ike, Senators and Generals kept

from dominating us, a place our old white men were privileged to keep.

Clever Nana torqued the flickering box to calm our fidget 

when her daughter flickered off

shopping plans layered across father's income

to project her inner image of our image before neighbors who laughed at us.

Mom architected a moat of drapes and dishes and modern appliances

gods of Kenworth, Kelvinator, and Crosley the box foretold would save our face.

Our cereal box full of Tom and Jerry, Laurel and Hardy

but mostly Larry and Moe and Curly, sometimes Shemp

slaps and eye pokes clipped banter and lines lifted

of their vaudeville shtick cocktail long before clouds ever mushroomed.

Silly Stoogies the old lady called them, high voiced nasal nudniks,

would somehow sour sorrow our souls should sweat for Jesus' sacred heart

and wholesome white log cabin mists of Davey Crockett and Gunsmoke’s

lead bullets blowing away black mustachioed bad guys and nameless Injuns.

Born here Nana and mom looked down at dad's mommy

who first plucked potatoes from Baltic sand

then smelled boiled cabbage, pasta, tomato sauce

and fart filled air of steerage.

Grandma Anna shared vignettes of her village

and separate but equal shtetls where

Catholic and Jew alike dreaded drums of soldiers of the Czar.

Grandma knew bone biting winters of thin soup, cold kugelia and blinis,

her mother’s joining club 27 in dreams

of black bread thick with warm butter.

Poor Jew and Catholic peasant eyed each other only at the market place. 

Moe was short for MosesHoward for Horowitz

their uncle could have sold Anna’s cousin kerosene from the Caucuses

or knives from the Netherlands.

American white light and standard English laugh tracks 

Helped teach us shmucks what’s a hoot

this side of the Sargasso Sea.

Up step Curly, Larry, and Moe slapping for a rain of quarters

from the second balcony where we addicts hope to score

our fix of absurdity against white curtains

gone with the wind printed of powdered wigs

and knee britches distilled through the radiator of a Model T

into the Creole of American laughter.


Poet’s Notes: When I thought of the subject of humor, I remembered my watching The Three Stooges in the 1950s. They were a fixture on many children’s shows in black and white. I later learned that Howards were a Jewish family from Lithuania. Lithuanian peasants and Jews were all poor and lived in separate villages, but came together in the market place. In the new world, we come together as entertainers and audiences. The Stooges’ humor was not of the borscht belt genre but universal slapstick.




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Art Gallery

Artist's Notes: For some reason I decided to challenge myself by taking on the theme of humor in a serious yet facetious way. I did not want to just make humorous artwork.  I wanted to analyze humor.


I imagine this series of artwork was likely confusing for those of you that are less well read on “meme culture”. Garfield is a peculiar character on the internet. He is a character that the internet has warped and transformed into all manner of interesting and horrifying things. If you have an hour to kill, I highly recommend this video by YouTuber Super Eyepatch Wolf where he discusses this surprisingly interesting phenomenon (content warning, there is some grotesque ‘horror’ imagery in the video):


My little comic adventure is a musing on the repetitive nature of comedy, as well as the absurdity of meme culture, all through the lens of Garfield. The reason I chose the old Garfield design for the beginning of the comic is simply that I really like the design and I wanted to draw it.


A big thank you to Jim Davis and his incredibly relaxed attitude to the copyright of his intellectual property. His attitude allows me and many other artists to transform his characters into, erm, informative work such as this. This paper discusses Jim Davis’s attitude to copyright in its third chapter:  JAG

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Guest Poets


Guide to My House

Judith Sanders


My house is a three-star attraction not to be missed.

It is a marvel of ordinary workmanship.

You may check your coat, if you can find a hanger. 

The tour begins in the underground crypt,

in the Museum of Bygone Technologies,

with its turntables, box speakers, and cathode TVs.

Archived in cardboard vaults are artworks

created by the noble heir in his youth,

as well as the sacred remains of my dissertation.

Let us ascend to scullery, recently re-opened,

since the sink has been emptied of crockery.

Here the lady of the house—that would be me—

prepares feasts with her own soft hands. 

We can see the remains of one such feast,

a creamy paste of legume, spread upon

a wheaten loaf, still extant upon the counter.

Note also the glassware of rich Ikean design.

The grand salon is a highlight of our tour.

It is furnished from diverse periods:

Yard Sale, Grad Student, and Thrift Shoppe. 

Observe the antique futon, certified by experts

as The World’s Most Uncomfortable Couch,

which can be opened for visiting dignitaries

only by mechanical engineers.

Now let us ascend the grand staircase

to the noble family’s private apartments.

Here are the baths, a caldarium followed

by a frigidarium, if a shower takes too long. 

They are decorated with charming mosaics

of beige bathroom tile.  Adjacent

is the lord and lady’s bedchamber,

strewn with garments and leathern footwear.

Family tradition forbids making the bed.

The antique humidifier sprays moldy vapors

and gurgles, as it has for centuries, like a dying fish.

The nursery is stocked with heirloom playthings. 

Researchers have deduced that decks

of previous eras never contained 52 cards,

and chess sets were irregular.

Enjoy the view over the enclosed gardens

with their picturesque ruins of a swing-set.

The chain-link fence keeps out wild beasts,

such as rabbits and stray dogs.

The surrounding lands are stocked with game,

principally squirrels and chipmunks,

who fatten on acorns produced in profusion

by the towering oak, which, should it ever fall,

would smash the roof.

The carriage house is not open to visitors,

as they might step on a rake or knock over a bicycle. 

Before you go, do purchase a snack in the café

where today’s special is graham crackers

and a glass of water, much as the family

was known to consume in its heyday.  

For a souvenir, consider a vintage dust bunny,

light, durable, and available free for the sweeping

from under any bed.  We hope you enjoyed your visit.

Comments cannot yet be posted on Trip Adviser,

and please be sure not to tell your friends.



Editor’s Note: The lady of the house speaks eloquently of the expedient and mundane.  The elevated diction provides a wonderful example for students of language about how the right words can make the ordinary seem stupendous.  I admire the consistency of the hyperbole.  CAS

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The Snake Washer

Templeton Moss


“Snake washer!” he cried as he walked down the street.

“I’ll clean up your snake till its shiny and neat!

So, bring out your cobra, your green snake, your boa,

And whether you’ve named him Nathaniel or Noah,

I’ll scrub every inch, polish each little scale!

(You can pay me today, or I’ll bill you by mail.)

I’ll rinse out a rattler or clean a constrictor!

Heck! I’ll even sanitize vipers named Victor!”


For forty-four years, he called out in this way

As he pushed his small cart through the village each day.

And when he went home when the day’s work was done

He had washed zero snakes. Not a bit. Not a one.

For no one, it seemed, be they poor or quite posh,

Had a dirty pet snake that they needed to wash.

And when no one in town needs the service you sell,

The fact is your business won’t do very well.


So, one day, I asked him, “Please, tell me, what is

The reason you stick to this snake-washing biz?”

“You want to know why?” He held his head high,

“Because I’m a snake washer. That, sir, is why.

I’ve been a snake washer since I was so high,

And I’ll be one, I guess, till the day that I die.

So, I’ll push my old cart through the streets of this town

And I’ll smile as each citizen here turns me down.”


“I don’t understand, sir,” I ventured to say,

“Why you’re wasting your life in a job that won’t pay.”

“Well,” the man said to me, “I suppose it is clear

I should give this job up for another career. 

But before I do that, let me ask you: Pray tell,

Just how many poems you’ve managed to sell?”

The moral, I think, is as clear as they come:

People do what they like…even if it seems dumb.



Editor’s Note:  Even if you’re not a fan of a rhyming poem, you may be more permissive if the poem is funny.  The meter and rhyme of this poem are masterful, as well as other sonic devices such as alliteration and assonance.  Of course, what really makes me laugh and smarts at the same time is the bon mot at the end.  Oh, yes, I don’t get rich at this job, but I love it anyway!  CAS


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Things You Can Be Eaten By

(General Submission)

Maija Haavisto

lion; mountain

bear; grizzly
bear; polar
bear; bug
dragon; Komodo
feral hog
black hole
thoughts beginning with “what if”
thoughts ending with “if you weren’t garbage, you wouldn’t be thinking this”
thoughts that are just “...” but somehow that space and the dots can still eat you
everything between quotation marks
quotation marks

(also, cannibals)


Editor’s Note:  Perhaps the tone of resignation in this poem overshadows the humor.  I do find the idea of being eaten by footnotes to be terribly funny.  The ending of the poem is also a great lesson on the power of both postscript and parentheses.  As I heard someone once say, “Sometimes a whisper is louder than a shout.”  CAS


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Buying Golf Clubs: A Test of Faith

John Delaney


I begin with the ranked disciples,

then add Big Bertha, their patron saint.

A strong selling point is their forgiveness


of the faults, both ingrained and perfected,

in my swing, which have sentenced many balls

to instant deaths, directly off the tee,

carom-ing in the deep woods, kerplunking

in the dark water, banana-slicing

out of bounds. I seek the straight and narrow,


but have found so many ways to stray,

so many hazards. May the larger

sweet spots on these clubs be my redemption.


Absolve me of these sins: the chunk, the flub,

the duff—though greatest of all is the whiff,

for which I promise to keep my head down


and my mind on the ball—rather, my eyes,

which tend to follow my expectations

(that are undeservedly high) for each shot.


Goodbye to the double bogey and snow man.

I hope never to see a double digit

again. I am done with Mr. Mulligan


and the dumbfounded look that I get

when I slash out a crater-size divot

and need both hands to replace it. Yes,


the rough will catch and the traps, the greens

will break, lies remain impossible—but,

I can see my future in the fairway.


The salesman is happy when I leave,

thinking he has added to his flock.

I didn’t have much faith in the game

when I came. Now I can believe.


Editor’s Note: A poem about a sport is always a nice addition.  Do poets play?  Certainly.  Whether well or not.  CAS


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Songs of Eretz Poetry Review operates at a considerable loss of several thousand dollars per year and is sustained entirely by donations made by our editorial staff, loyal readership, and family of poets and artists.  Our four quarterly issues take hundreds of man-hours to produce.  That is what it takes to be able to offer our readers a quality experience and our featured and guest poets and artists a place where they may be proud to publish their work.


Please consider making a modest donation in support of our mission, which is “to bring a little more good poetry and art into the world.”  Those interested should use with as the receiving address.


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Frequent Contributor News


Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce up to five publications, awards, and/or presentation credits among current and former Frequent Contributors and staff.


Former FC Mary Soon Lee had poems published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April 2022 and Asimov’s Science Fiction March/April 2022.


Former FC Lauren McBride was Featured Poet in Scifaikuest online, February 2022. The issue also includes an interview of McBride, located after her poetry.


Former FC Alessio Zanelli had poems published in Phenomenal Literature and Verbal Art ( New Delhi), Atelier (Italy), The Journal (Wales, UK), The Nashwaak Review (Canada), and Honest Ulsterman (N. Ireland).


FC Poet Karla Linn Merrifield had a new full-length poetry collection titled, My Body the Guitar (Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series) available on Amazon. Signed copies are available from her at


FC Tyson West had two bre doubles and one free verse poem published in Shot Glass Journal, January/2022.


FC John Reinhart had a re-release of Horrific Punctuation (Arson Press, 2021) in a longer edition. His poem, "Heart Tree", first published in Taproot Magazine, was nominated for a Rhysling Award this year. Also, Reinhart just helped usher Kelley McKenna’s  Cobbled Bridges:  A Multidimensional Travelogue (Arson Press, 2022) into physical form.

FC Gene Hodge recently published a new book of poetry, Poems of Inspiration, available on Amazon.

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Lana the Poetree Spring 2022 | Digital Photo | SWGordon



The theme for our summer 2022 issue was going to be “second person point of view”.  However, since proposing this theme, the world has turned particularly dark and ugly.  Songs of Eretz has decided to take a stand.


Our summer issue will be a charitable fundraiser with the “Invasion of Ukraine” as its theme (general submissions will not be considered for this special issue).  A donation of at least five dollars per submission will be expected.  Under normal circumstances, there is no fee to submit, but these are not normal circumstances.


One hundred percent of all funds raised will be donated to the Medecins Sans Frontieres aka Doctors Without Borders Emergency Relief Fund in support of its mission of mercy in the war-torn country of Ukraine  Songs of Eretz will also donate its entire honoraria budget to the cause, so no honoraria will be paid for publication for this special issue.


Although one hopes that the war may be over by the time our summer issue goes to publication, it is doubtful that this will be the case.  The evil Russian tyrant Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has made it clear that he will accept nothing less than the complete and unconditional surrender of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people, led by the surprisingly brave and defiant Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, have vowed to fight to the death rather than surrender.  Even if the war does end before the publication of our summer issue, and we all hope to God that it does, the mission of Doctors Without Borders will still be ongoing in the region for months if not years.  Our donations will be welcome and needed whenever they come.


Despite the language difference, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review has a surprisingly large following in Russia and Ukraine, with 58,100 Russian and 29,000 Ukrainian views of the e-zine in the past year.  These numbers have fallen dramatically since Putin’s media blackout began, but there is still a chance that our poetry and art will reach and strengthen the hearts of the Ukrainians and perhaps soften the hearts of the Russians. 


The submission window for this special issue is May 1 - May 15.  The donations to Doctors Without Borders will be made on or about May 16.  Please be generous and submit your best.  May the power of our poetry and art and the generosity of our poets and artists help to mitigate this disaster.  


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