Tuesday, June 28, 2022





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

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



Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Art Editor

Jason Artemus Gordon

Associate Editor

Terri Lynn Cummings

Assistant Editor

Charles A. Swanson

Featured Poet

Tyson West

Frequent Contributors

John C. Mannone, Karla Linn Merrifield, Vivian Finley Nida, &

 Howard F. Stein

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


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


Table of Contents

A Farewell Letter From the Editor-in-Chief

The Poetry of Tyson West

Frequent Contributors

Art Gallery

Guest Poets

Lauren McBride

“Limo Driver”

Tony Daly


Harris Coverley


Suzanne van Leendert

“Sunflowers in Flaming Fields”

Gurupreet K. Khalsa

“Young Soldier Sent to Fight Her Neighbors”

Elizabeth Caplun

“Sixty miles to Tiraspol”

M. L. Brown

“Women’s Day”

Bonnie Larson Staiger

“At Once, Distant and Doorstep”

VA Smith

“Jersey Girl”

“Orthodox Lent”

Frequent Contributor News



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



A Farewell Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

My Dear Friends of Eretz,


Songs of Eretz began over ten years ago as my simple personal blog.  Back then, I was a novice writer/poet/editor who wanted to learn while bringing more good poetry into the world.  My journey was a slow but pleasant one, at times humbling, at other times bumbling, but always rewarding and personally fulfilling.  Through Songs of Eretz, I made dozens of friends, tens of thousands of acquaintances, touched the lives of hundreds of thousands, and helped to raise and/or donate thousands of dollars to promote exceptional poets and exceptional poetry. 


Songs of Eretz has also helped charitable causes, most recently the Doctors Without Borders Emergency Fund in support of its mission of mercy in Ukraine.  Thank you to all who participated in this worthy effort.  Between the number of individual donations and the donation of our entire honoraria budget, together we raised $700 for this important cause.


However, as much as I have enjoyed my role as Editor-in-Chief, I feel that the time has come for new blood to invigorate that position.  I am pleased to announce that our current Associate Editor, Terri Lynn Cummings, has graciously agreed to a promotion to Editor-in-Chief and will assume operational control of Songs of Eretz after a hiatus of several months.  Charles A. Swanson, our current Assistant Editor, has agreed to stay on staff as her Associate Editor.  Our Art Editor, Jason Artemus Gordon, will move on with me (we are actively recruiting for another artist to fill his position).


While I am definitely looking forward to having more time for other projects, I will still remain involved with Songs of Eretz as Chief Executive Editor, and the strategic vision and control of the magazine will still be mine.  I also plan to continue to contribute some of my own poetry to the e-zine from time to time.  However, with minor exceptions, decisions regarding our day-to-day operations will now rest with Terri.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank my past and present editorial and frequent contributor staff, without whom Songs of Eretz would have been much more difficult to produce and the quality of the product much more difficult if not impossible to maintain and grow.


Jason--You brought a whole other dimension to Songs of Eretz, taking it from a simple poetry e-zine “with art” to a remarkable poetry and art venue.  Your beautiful original illustrations and uncanny way of finding or creating the perfect art to accompany the poetry enhanced the quality of our project immeasurably and put us on par with some of the best lit mags out there, online or in print.  Rare is the father who has enjoyed such an opportunity to work on a creative project like this with his son.  I had so much fun and am so proud of you!


James--You were there with me from before the beginning and jumped in as my first junior editor at a critical time in the e-zine’s development.  You were instrumental in making Songs of Eretz the powerhouse that it has become through your thoughtful editorial decisions and wonderful contributions of poetry.


Terri--You’re going to be great!  You were a wonderful Associate Editor, and your signature poetry contributions have enhanced the quality of our little project in so many ways.  I am looking forward to seeing what you will do in your new role.  


Charles--You have an astonishing editor’s eye and insight into what makes a poem a good poem.  I have learned so much from you.  And your poetry is some of the best I have ever read--Mark Twain and Walt Whitman rolled into one.  I look forward to seeing what you will do as Terri’s Associate Editor.


Frequent Contributors past and present--I cannot thank you enough for always sending me your best work and for your willingness to make Songs of Eretz a home for your wonderful poetry.  I don’t mind sharing the secret that the Frequent Contributor program saved Songs of Eretz during its awkward stage when there were not enough quality guest poets making contributions.  Simply put, Songs of Eretz would not have lasted long without you.  Most of all, it has been a pleasure to be your editor and even more so, your friend.


Finally, I must recognize our thousands of readers and hundreds of guest contributors.  Without you, Songs of Eretz would have been nothing more than a vanity project.  With you, we are making something really beautiful, aren’t we?




Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


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

The Poetry of Tyson West



Tyson West

I love you more my grandchildren, bright Maksym,
bold Galyna, and little Boryshko, than your cousins in Idaho
for we’ve adventured together here our dark native soil.
Promised you I did camping and Black Sea swimming
as gulls and pelicans wheel over waves
where Russian warships and our brave sailors once
sailed at distances respectful but uneasy.
If Crimean wind whisps that carried once the Argo to Colchis
dance too dicey to let you darlings
splash while I lay a little summer shandy on my breath
pasty pudge around my chest
reddening in late spring sun,
we would bundle to conquer
the crumbling bricks of the old fortress
where Cossacks once watched to contest
sea dogs packed up conniving to plunder
riches distilled of our thick Ukrainian soil.
At moonrise we would roast shish kabobs and sausage over glowing
campfire coals where I raise shadows of water spirit songs
I’ve heard luring young warriors like you three
who forget too often their prayers.
When your mother frowns I will embellish my fable a happy ending
dissonant to me yet its soft landing
will let you three flashlight your tent
while your mother and father rest nearby to tuck you in
when your giggles and fay fights dissolve into dunes of sleep.
I'll snore alone after pushing myself way too far for an old man
under the lengthening light of our southern shore.
In spite of rockets and wild shelling my lambkins
and Putin's winter dreams mangling our map
still I have taken your mother and you camping.
That this Polish field has no beach near is not great hardship
for the weather shudders too cold for any hope of swimming.
We all share the same tent and though
your father has not been able to leave his new trade as javelin hurler,
your mother need not ask
for all stories I spin around this precious fire will end happily.
We stand sure your laughter and hope,
my strong heroes and my fair damsel
will sail back to Kyiv in time for apple blossoms
once Russian missiles visit us no more.


Poet’s Notes:  When the topic on the war in Ukraine was declared, I immediately thought of the Ukrainians camping as we would for pleasure. Camping presents change and a chance to get refreshed from day to day life in artificial hardship. I am sure the refugees now long to get back to their boring lives indoors from the all too real hardship of fleeing their homes in this winter war.


Editor’s Note:  The camping metaphor perfectly describes the horror in a unique and chilling way.  SWG


* * * * * * * * * *


This is a Country for Old Men

Tyson West

This is a country for old men.
This is a country for teenage men.
This is a country for men between.
Last week skinheads I despised roared their motorbikes

past my garden’s placid beds where I pruned raspberry canes for summer sweets

(though their seeds get caught between my teeth)
flashing their gang tattoos and baggy jeans.
Yet when Putin’s tanks pierced the membrane of our borders
suddenly they rise as fellow soldiers standing bravely.
My sixteen-year-old grandson’s hormones and my seventy-year-old bones
prompt each of us swap lies
the other falls within age appropriate ranks.
I never voted to place the clowning dancer who most
my neighbors applauded
in the Presidential Palace at Kyiv.
Poor Putin will never grasp
playing Czar as his minions kowtow to his gilded palace
we have the right to cheer the turd we chose.
Though he speaks a fool's voice, he does not flee
or command conscripts, armor, and mercenaries to invade his neighbor’s gardens.
Putin, he serves us who are not your serfs to starve.
I choose to await my heart attack or next pandemic variant
launching a Javelin missile to kill another Russian general
facing the risk of artillery boxing my position.
I love not my neighbors, nor the direction I feel my country drifts
so much as I love the place I choose to complain
our young tribesman acting like fools.
Putin, I choose our silly sons and daughters over
the dry gangrene of your dreams.
Perhaps your serfs can choose nothing else than a czarling who unshirts his macho

we can no more give up our freedom to pick a fool to lead us.
We will die for it with the same grace and courage as we lie about our ages.


Poet’s Notes:  As I age, the first line of Yeats’ poem “Sailing to Byzantium” becomes more my reality. Although Byzantium is located a little south of Ukraine, this line now brings to mind men in wars throughout the centuries who lie their way into the military to fight in spite of their age. In most wars, teenagers lie themselves older and older men lie themselves younger, all to join in the fight. If this were my fight, I too would lie to join up.


Editor’s Note:  This poem speaks to the desperation of the defense, that even the youths and elderly have to / want to fight.  The poem made me recall the history of the desperation of the US during our last world war, when we drafted men up to age 45, which at the time was the equivalent of 65 today (life expectancy in 1940 was about 60 years).  SWG


* * * * * * * * * *


The Mountains of Ukraine

Tyson West

You lambkins laughing through the rye field's golden echoes
and sunset smells of cooking cabbage warm me.
Nutrients from black soil we furrow
flow into our blood to carve bone
and shape sinew becoming a tribe
our tribe you my grandchildren
in your hand-holding and tears will someday couple up to carry on.
Our ancestor's chose this slice of steppe for husbands and wives to quarrel, mate
and pray to our god's promise
of what happens to serf souls when they scratch soil no longer.
I often wish this lovely loess loam lay
without its great river highways instead
in the jagged fortress of the Alps
where Swiss pikemen butchered armies
of tiaraed tyrants in the thin cold air.
No, we curl up and groom our yeasts and grains into our daily bread
in this dangerous leveling of land
among the Dniester, Dnieper, and Bug
where Viking longships once penetrated
pirating our precious blue eyes
glowing from grains and turnips of our earth
to be traded as slaves to the Turks.
The Golden Horde, Khanate slave traders, and Huns
all found us from the east.
Such small mountains we claim lie worthless to the far west
so when the Russian tanks arrive
we men and someday you my children’s children must
stand tall
to face central Asian thugs
who try to belittle our right to our truth
with the strength of the eight million souls Stalin starved
adding to the mountain fortress we build
with our bones.


Poet’s Notes:  Flat places like China, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine located between warring powers are popular areas for armies to cross and fight. These countries do not have the luxury of a great mountain range like Switzerland or being an island like New Zealand or Great Britain. These countries become targets for invading armies and are nicknamed “cockpits”.


Editor’s Note:  This one gets to the point fast enough.  I like the way the earth itself--the terrain--is the subject of the poem.  It is a small step (steppe?) from there to the devastation of the territory of Ukraine.  The allusion to Stalin's persecution of the Ukrainians adds an ironic nod to the past.   SWG


* * * * * * * * * *


Old Weapons

Tyson West

War's oldest weapons bite the deadliest still.
While long spears and clubs no longer strut
runways of today's well dressed warrior

mannequin face unmove over jewel glittering katanas
or sailor boy cutlass
accessorizing their cammies,
still blade unblooded edges shine true

not so false flags, blatant lies and propaganda
among the gangs we call our heroes and
the inhuman scum who come here to die.
Like green cross gas, wars are fought in toxic clouds of
cartoon sergeants raping young mothers
and bayonet impaled babies at the order of
some illegitimate Nazi government and their Jewish president.
Time and truth in war twists to a dance of instants as
the old lady chooses to run for water
the Russian tank turns the corner

raw explosions, blood smears and body bags
become silent dots for words to pattern.
Each side's reporters and commissars display proudly
dysentery of anecdotes no one can spare the hours of basement boredom
to confirm yet the saddest stories tumored
onto our shelters are those charismatic power grabbers smear themselves.
The corporal
the KGB agentthe racist narcissist genocider
who gritted their fandango above generals grey heads
climax as they barricade their bravado
into bunkers where the last lies
of Mein Fuhrer or Czar or il Duce evaporate
as the angry subhumans they dismissed
behead their tanks and Kyiv blasted and bombed stands.
When reality climbs out of its trench
all tales of terrible twists and tiny triumphs at the last death
retreat to minstrels and scribes
to ferment and distill into elixir
quaffed to raise the next generations’ armies
ready to gangrene the oldest truth

whose hands till this black soil?


Poet’s Notes:  In Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Black Mischief, the civil war in his mythical African country was won with two of the world’s oldest weapons, lies and long spears. While not many long spears are deployed in Ukraine, lies are all over the place. Unfortunately, some of the leaders who should know better are the ones who operated in fabrication. I am sure that Putin blames someone else for his bad decision, just as Adolf Hitler blamed the German people before he committed suicide in the bunker for the loss of the war that he so foolishly started.


Editor’s Note:  I would have said lies and beans, but Tyson’s poem drives home an important point about the propaganda that fuels war.  This is especially true in our Age of Information.  I think this angle on the war is important to tell and food for thought.  SWG

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

Frequent Contributors


Peace Movements

Karla Linn Merrifield


This will not stop the tanks

in Ukraine but bounces on wings

of early butterflies, dragonflies

off Army steel, olive, camel flanks

of decommissioned armored vehicles


come to an artificial halt

at Georgia’s Memorial Veterans

State Park.  It does not deflect

the bombs into Andromeda from

surgical trajectories toward insurgent


strongholds near Kyiv, being

as it is of catbrier tendrils, spider

silk as it glides off the fuselage

of a B29 Superfortress parked

behind barbwire just beyond


twin howitzers my husband

was taught to repair during

the first war after the war

to end all wars of his boyhood.

It merely flutters, darts, twines,


spins away from commemorative

military grounds, battlegrounds

half a planet away, into the

longleaf pinewoods to stitch

a peaceful morning after.


Editor’s Note:  Great message!  The threat of war is what preserves peace.  The demand for peace usually does little to stop a war already in progress, and has about as much influence as the distant stars.  SWG


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


Fear in Ukraine as Russia Invades

Vivian Finley Nida


Billions of dollars in aid

travel thousands of miles to Ukraine

where Fear walks tightrope


High above war’s abyss

Fear scrutinizes Grim Reaper

swinging scythe in wide arc


like needle on Geiger counter

after enemy captures

Chernobyl nuclear plant


Fear sees a split second become eternity

when Russians, like violent tornadoes, explode homes

burn schools, cripple hospitals, shatter bones


No whiff of savory broth rises, Fear breathes

rancid air above cratered earth where Russians

torture, execute, and toss civilians into mass graves


Fear understands high wire’s tension

There’s no changing and no desire to change

attachment from beginning to end


Tightly holding weapon for balance

Fear takes a step to safeguard dignity

then steps repeatedly to secure freedom


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


Bridge of Toys

Charles A. Swanson


Meeting each child, a bridge with toys,

            plush animals, stuffed with kindness.

The givers’ intent, perhaps, is joy

to meet each child, this bridge of toys.

Little refugees, girls and boys,

            flee here.  This wooden walk is dressed    

to meet each child, this bridge of toys,

            plush animals, stuffed with kindness.


Romania is not Ukraine,

            not war-torn, but still not home.

Dad is not here.  He must remain.

Romania is not Ukraine.

Each child picks a toy, tucking pain

            into glass eyes.  The toys make room

in Romania, not Ukraine,

            not war-torn, but not home. Not home.


Poet's Notes:  Many stories come out of a war-torn country, but the stories of the children's plight touches me deeply.  I'm so glad that those in neighboring countries such as Romania understand that small gestures can help soothe the pain of loss and separation.  Truly, the bridge of toys is a bridge of consolation and hope.  https://universul.net/romania-welcomes-ukrainian-refugee-children-with-fluffy-toys/


* * * * * * * * * *


To Survive

Charles A. Swanson


I wasn’t there when his leg fell off, casually,

a bit of everyday awkwardness.   He made

college life easy, or so my son told it.


I wasn’t there when he slipped from a rolling box car,

somewhere in Ukraine. 


I’m not there today to hear his opinions about the war,

this boy I met from Kerch, from disputed Crimea,

his father a Russian oligarch.


I remember his dark hair, his wide smile,

the way he walked, as if he had no prosthetics,

the way his Junior Olympic muscles and clear skin

spoke of youth, magnetic beauty, the way his imperfections,

tragedies, hid like survivors under wide pants’ legs.


A dream, a nightmare, imagining him a little boy,

a train yard, rails and engines, cinders and dust,

seeing him jump into cars, lose his grip and plummet 

under a turning wheel, iron and unforgiving,

see him crawl his way home, trembling, clenching

teeth, muscles, mind—dragging his mangled body

through the grit, grime of Crimea.


He stayed with us several days on a college break,

a friend of our son, his distance too far from home.


Surely, he has opinions about Ukraine,

one of his adopted countries, and about us,

the land of his higher education.  How

are we failing him?  I wonder.


I’d love to hear him speak, tell me

about his childhood accident, about

loyalties and loves, about the war.


But if I saw him, I’d think and think

about legless men in conflict, men whose

bodies lie bleeding, men who cannot

find a way home with their bloody stumps.


Poet’s Notes:  I’m not on the battlefield in Ukraine, so I feel unfit to write about the conflict.  I know that pain, injury, and devastation lie heavy on the countryside.  The way I can access some small part of the sorrow is to write about someone I know and his journey.  This is how I often begin to see the larger picture—by looking at a small part of the scene.  I can empathize with the pain of one person more successfully than with the pain of many.  I cannot fathom the pain of a multitude.  I’m not strong enough.


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


Zog Nit Mariupol

Shlomo ben Moshe HaLevi


As we huddle in the silence and the damp

As we watch the glowing fade from our last lamp

As our enemy surrounds us and draws near

Our song beats out the message, “we are here!”


We are prepared to fight, prepared to die

With our last breath our mighty foe we will defy

Be it our doom tomorrow or be it today

Cossack honor will show us all the way!


We will never see the sun again, we know.

We will never see the moon, its silv’ry glow.

We will never see our homeland, oh so dear!

Yet our hearts beat out the message, “we are here!”


The battle ends with us but not the war

And no one can be sure of what’s in store

But one thing is sure as we all disappear

That the echo of our song rings, “we are here!”


Poet’s Note:  This song is modeled after the Yiddish song “Never Say” (“Zog Nit Keynmol”) that my father, in his high-pitched little pre-adolescent voice, and other Jews sang in the Vilna ghetto to keep up their spirits as they resisted the Nazis.  Please visit http://arlsoft.com/mbr/public/songs/Zog_Nit_Keynmol-RosenthalTranslation.html & https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFiTUuuwIHc.


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



John C. Mannone


            Drinking a Bulgarian pinot noir

            with my pasta dinner while listening

            to ABC News, 2022


We all fight monsters.

Mine has needles for teeth

that puncture skin but the pain

of fear is a far greater ogre.


On TV, a blur of images

continues to haunt me. I shake

off the idea of ghosts—

electrified nitrogen beings

from The Outer Limits

when the syringe injects

pain, instead of vaccine

against microscopic demons

into the arm of a man, I cringe,

though it could’ve been

an alien-infected human

changing into monster. Changing


stations, the static noise

is not from an afterhours

Zenith set from the 60s,

but rather the black & white

raster of smoke from Russian

bombs pummeling Kyiv.


Sometimes monsters growl

and sometimes they hiss

like a snake. At the moment

I wonder why the Russians

feel cornered by hostile powers,

they’re the ones crushing civilians,

destroying hospitals—they shouldn’t

be military targets. How long


before Poland and Romania fall

to the rabid dogs of war? How long

before we feel their hot breath

glowing across the Atlantic?


Poet’s Notes:  In the poem “Monsters,” I talk about something else, a different monster, that affects me personally, and use it to set up the fear, the mood, the outrage for the monster lurking in the Ukraine, whether thought of as war or as Mr. Putin. The transition from my monster to that monster will hopefully catch the reader by surprise.


What prompted the poem was a TV news broadcast about COVID vaccinations and my painful booster experience from a vaccination a few weeks earlier. This broadcast was at the heels of the war situation in the Ukraine. War too produces suffering on unsuspecting and trusting humans but on a much more egregious scale. This poem alludes to the fear of a growing threat that could go global.


Editor’s Note:  The imagery is chilling, and I am afraid that the final stanza is all too prophetic.  SWG


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


The Pity of War, Ukraine, 2022

Howard F. Stein  

“My subject is War and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the Pity” (Wilfred Owen, British poet, World War I soldier and victim) 



The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When aging leaders 

And generals send 

Their youthful men to kill 

The foe’s youthful men, 

And in turn to offer themselves 

As blood sacrifices 

To their sacred mother country. 


The pity of War is  

The pitilessness of War, 

When the blank face  

And taut posture 

Of Russian President Vladimir Putin, 

Schooled in total control, 

A demeanor of carbon steel  

Forged into an invulnerable 

Machine, impeccably appointed  

In fine suits and ties,  

Walks down a long hall, 

As applauding loyalists line  

Both sides of the corridor. 

This Pretender Czar of a 

Resurrected Russian Empire, 

Approaches a table to deliver  

A speech about why      

Russia must invade Ukraine 

To save Russia from the West, 

Crush refractory Ukraine,  

And expunge Russian history 

Of all violation and shame. 


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When Russia’s 

Futile quest to rid itself 

Of an ever-present past 

Haunts every present moment 

In a trance that cannot lift. 

To President Putin –  

Vladimir the Great incarnate –  

NATO and the US only repeat 

The frozen tale of a Russia 

Surrounded, hemmed in,  

Suffocatingly swaddled 

In place and time, 

Certain of the next invasion. 


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When a well-tuned orchestra 

Of bombers, fighter jets,  

Missile launchers, carpet bombs, cluster bombs, 

Waves of tanks and troops –  

All doing what they are made to do –  

Create swift rivers 

Of warm, flowing blood, 

Mutilate bodies, buildings, city blocks, 

Burn everything in their path.   


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When Ukrainian babies’  

Disfigured corpses,     

Strewn along empty streets, 

Are lovingly placed inside plastic bags, 

Gently lowered into  

Long, deep tranches –  

Like the mass graves  

Of civilians, Russian soldiers  

Shot – executed –  

Then tossed into open pits. 


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When over four million Ukrainians 

Must flee their saturation bombed cities, 

In hope that neighboring  

Countries will offer them asylum. 


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When unsuspecting Ukrainian refugees  

Are betrayed by Russian soldiers who 

Shell upon them exploding mortars 

As they flee on escape roads 

Called “safe passage,” 

Reassurance, a trap; 

Protected route, invitation for ambush. 


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When people crowd into 

A theatre, seek safe haven from 

Missiles and bombs that  

Still find them, ravage 

Their sanctuary and their lives –  

This shelter, no shelter. 


The pity of War is 

The pitilessness of War, 

When the Ukrainian landscape 

Is a canvas of bombed out  

Apartment buildings, hospitals,  

Schools, stores, train stations, 

Razed cities, ashen worlds; 

When even on a television screen 

You can smell smoke, 

Touch brokenness, 

Ingest this panorama in videos 

Taken from planes far above 

The rubble of grief.  


The pity of War is –   

But when? –  

To awaken from 

The thrall of pitilessness. 

Only if the dream 

Of restored glory 

Becomes a nightmare, 

Can closed hearts 

And shut eyes open 

To the atrocity 

War has always been; 

Only then is 

The pity of War 



Editor’s Note:  Howard captures the senselessness of war and treats the aggressor with understanding but not acceptance--something no other poet who submitted has done.  SWG


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

Art Gallery

"Kyiv" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

"Swallow's Nest Study" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

"Motherland's Tears" | Ink on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

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

Guest Poets

Limo Driver

Lauren McBride


"Thank you," he said, voice soft,

accent thick, when I complimented

his driving - smooth despite

rush hour. I hadn't meant to start

a conversation, but then he was

telling me how he'd only been

here a few years. His wife

was still in Ukraine.


What does a person say to that?

Right then I knew that I would

see his face at every mention

of Putin's war: wonder if his wife

was still alive, wonder if he

would have a country to go

home to someday.


"The tip is included," he stated

when I held out the bill in my hand

at the end of the ride.


"I know," I said, thinking of the other

drivers over the years who had all

taken the tip.


"I can't accept this," he protested.


"Then send it to Ukraine," I suggested.


He smiled then, and so did I

despite the smallness of the gesture.


Poet's Notes:  One of my goals when putting pen to paper is to try to write something worth reading, whether it brings a smile, shares the beauty of nature, or in this case contributes to a noble cause, thanks to the vision of Steve Gordon. With "Limo Driver" I sought to put a human face to the tragedy unfolding overseas by approaching the war on a personal level, a chance encounter as it happened to me.


About the Poet:  Lauren McBride finds inspiration in faith, family, nature, science and membership in the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Her poetry has appeared in dozens of publications including Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Your Daily Poem. She enjoys swimming, gardening, baking, reading, writing and knitting scarves for troops.  Lauren was a Frequent Contributor to Songs of Eretz from 2016 - 2018.


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


Tony Daly


Nightmares begin when sleep ends – 

thunderous explosions shaking dust 

hidden for generations in ceilings, 

falling like rain upon families huddled 

underneath dining room tables – 

once gathering places for laughter, 

for prayer, for coming together 

and discussing fluid dreams 

of aspirations not yet undertaken, 

of expanding the table 

for a new spouse or child 

who no longer needs a seat. 


Poet’s Notes:  This poem was inspired by images on the news of war-torn Ukrainian communities and blown out homes; coupled with mental images of family get-togethers we haven’t been able to hold for the past several years--overlapping the images, and imagining others’ plight. Imagining the pain, the loss, and the fear. 


About the Poet:  Tony Daly is a Washington, D.C. area poet and short story writer of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and military fiction/nonfiction. His work has recently been published in Poetry for Ukraine from the Poet Magazine as well as in Star*Line, Paddler Press, and The Horror Zine. A retired U.S. Air Force medic, he has been an Associate Editor with Military Experience and the Arts. For a list of his published work, please visit https://aldaly13.wixsite.com/website or follow him on Twitter @aldaly18. 


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



Harris Coverley

For Vitalii Volodymyrovych Skakun


Duty is

The leap

Between man and manhood


The ultimate in


And faith


And towards Life’s finality


To give it all

For everything immediate


Farmland and factories

Forests and sands

Brothers and sisters

Spouse and offspring


Even for one’s own local enemies

When facing that greater evil


And when the act is done

When the sacrifice is granted

In a grind of flame

And fearsome rage


With the blessings of Saint Olga

Our Lady of Defiance


When the steel

And the tarmac stops dropping

The soil scraping

The wash spraying

And the dust clears at last


Your own red

And white dust is scattered

Amongst the rest of the cosmos


And only the gods will know

Your final thoughts


Or maybe perhaps

Upon the pebbles of the riverbed

The wreckage will know


Breaking that roadway

Letting those free waters flow

For another day at least


One long river

In one wide land

And one brave man

And one brave people

Know why.


"Vitalii" | Ink & Watercolor on Paper | J. Artemus Gordon

Poet’s Notes:  On 24th February, 2022, Vitalii Volodymyrovych Skakun, a military engineer, was in charge of setting the explosives on the bridge outside the port city of Henichesk to slow the Russian advance from occupied Crimea into the Kherson Oblast. Realizing that he did not have enough time to withdraw from the bridge, he radioed his comrades one last time and blew himself up with his target. His sacrifice enabled his battalion to re-group and carry on the fight against the invaders. Owen was wrong—dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is not an "old Lie".


About the Poet:  Harris Coverley has had verse published in Polu Texni, California Quarterly, Star*Line, Spectral Realms, Scifaikuest, Novel Noctule, The Five-Two, The Cannon's Mouth, The Crank, Apocalypse Confidential, View From Atlantis, and many others. He lives in Manchester, England.


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


Sunflowers in Flaming Fields

Suzanne van Leendert


Having climbed all the way out of darkness,

they took time to grow,

to feel the ground beneath their feet.  


With heart-shaped leaves,

they embraced life, all together

and in sync turned towards the light.

Lined up in yellow uniforms, they learnt

how to stand tall, to keep their backs straight,

above them a clear blue sky.  


Only when the late light disappears,

they bow their heads like one big sun,

still shining but invisible in the dark,  


waiting for morning to come,

all the while knowing,

it will.



About the Poet:  Suzanne van Leendert lives in Utrecht, the Netherlands. She writes in Dutch as well as English. Apart from being a writer, she's an award-winning documentary maker. Using images and language, she questions life and tries to give it meaning. Visit www.uandeyemedia.nl for more information.


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


Young Soldier Sent to Fight Her Neighbors

Gurupreet K. Khalsa

A “Golden Shovel” Poem


So perish all whose breast ne’er learned to glow

for others’ good, or melt at other’s woe.

-- Pope, Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady



The news displays blasted neighborhoods, so

gray and brown, blossoms doomed to perish

amidst choking ash or smoke, all

certainty upended, and for those whose

hearts ache within the communal breast

we weep, we suffer, as sunlight or Spring ne’er

pierces through shadows. Each new soldier learned

to forget from a distance, to shoot, to kill, to

reject war’s reality, blocking the glow

of compassion as she bombs, not stopping for

any town or neighborhood, refusing others’

pain; mud and camo and guns good

to demolish delicate red roses. Psyche broken or

grown too icy in columns of rolling tanks to melt

her young heart, she does not see at

daybreak a glimpse of recognition in taking others’

lives, destined to carry burdens weighted with woe.


About the Poet:  Gurupreet K. Khalsa is a current resident of Mobile, Alabama, USA, having lived previously in Ohio, Washington State, India, New Mexico, and California. She holds a Ph.D. in Instructional Design and is a part time instructor in graduate education programs.


As a poet, she considers the intricate complexities of inner space, family space, world space, cosmic space, and semiotic space. Her work has appeared in The Poet, TL;DR Press, New York Quarterly, Far Side Review, Necro Productions, IHRAF Publishers, aurora journal, Last Leaves, Delta Poetry Review, Ricochet Review, Pure Slush, and other online and print publications.


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


Sixty miles to Tiraspol

Elizabeth Caplun

In the darkened dawn
I feel your angst
mother of three
as you’re fleeing in your packed car

your three boys not yet soldiers
no longer children as of today

Where are you going
Mother of three
Your thoughts black and frozen like the road?

The road is jammed with cars like yours
Wide-eyed children squeezed in the back
wear lion-themed jammies
under heavy parkas
Children’s dreams awaken too early
flee through exhaust pipes
mixed with lead not yet bullets

And you sleep-deprived mother
hands clenched on the steering wheel
you avoid your fears like potholes

You hugged their father goodbye
There was no time for tears
Twenty miles out you’ll learn to hope
and lie to your children
for their sake and for your own
Everything will be alright you'll say
You’ll say daddy will find us
Daddy is busy making peace
He’ll bring you a new bike

And you, mother of three
chocking on words you’ll fight
to put a smile in your voice

One eye on the road
and one on the rearview mirror
where home fades into smoke
you pray your children sleep
the sleep of children
You pray you have enough gas
to make it to the border
You hope small hopes
because that’s what sustains you
You hope small hopes
because big ones seem hopeless

Hang on to hope
mother of three
Sixty miles to Tiraspol


About the Poet:  Elizabeth Caplun lived in four countries and on two continents before settling in Bishop, California, a small town on the East side of the Sierra Nevada. Recently retired, she devotes her time to writing, heading the High Desert Mussar circle, hiking, and tending her garden. Her writing weaves memories and stories of displacement with a yearning for a place called home.


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

Women’s Day

M. L. Brown


On a day in March

   that wanted to be spring

the earth said, Get away from me.


In Kyiv, men picked uneven numbers

  of snowdrops for their sweethearts,

but the sweethearts had all fled.


On a day in March in Moscow

  the street said, Get off of me. Your rubles

are worthless. Go find the truth. Go!


On a day in March

   that was Irpin in rubble, a mother

lay covered in blood and dust.


  The earth said, Come into me.

      Here, here, you are mine.


About the Poet:  M. L. Brown is the author of Call It Mist, winner of the Three Mile Harbor Press Book Prize. She is also the author of “Drought”, winner of the Claudia Emerson Chapbook award. Her work has appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Nonconformist, and Cave Wall among other journals and anthologies. When not writing, she devotes her time to raising funds for a nonprofit healthcare organization. More at www.Emelbrown.com.


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


At Once, Distant and Doorstep

Bonnie Larson Staiger


What right have I to sigh at the sight

               of bright sun melting winter’s snow

and listen to robins in full-throated exuberance


while Ukraine is being bombed – air choked with smoke

               blood glistens on fresh snow and apartments in rubble

A mother writes family contacts on her toddler’s back


in case she is killed and her child survives              

               Others birthing in hospitals sprayed by shrapnel

and grandmothers fight back making Molotov cocktails


How can I enjoy happy hour cocktails with friends

               when my dreams are fraught with falling downstairs

or a man holding me to the ground – to write


a number on my stripped back with a marker

               or racing to get my grandsons dressed

because Russian soldiers are coming up our street


Where would we run? Where could we go?

               My friend’s grandparents walked for days

to escape Cossacks invading that same L’viv in WWII


or those who survived but were forever tormented

               by nightmares and marked for life

by numbers etched on their wrists – admonishing me


               Never say never because you don’t know

               what you might have to do to survive


How long will I have the right to write without fear

               when poems like Ihor Kalynets’ were written

on cigarette papers and smuggled out of a Soviet gulag


I claim the right to turn off the news when dithering leaders

               grovel before a madman again – cut deals with devils

while Americans fret over the threat of cyber attacks


About the Poet:  Bonnie Larson Staiger, a North Dakota Associate Poet Laureate and ND Humanities Scholar, is the recipient of the Poetry of the Plains and Prairies Award from North Dakota State University Press (2018), the Independent Press Award: Distinguished Favorite (2019) for her debut collection, Destiny Manifested. Her second book In Plains Sight (NDSU Press 2021) was nominated for the PEN America Literary Award and is a 2022 finalist for the Midwest Book Awards.  

Her award-winning poems have been included in numerous anthologies, literary journals, and publications. Most recently, she received the Poetry of Courage Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society. 

She thrives on the Great Plains not far from the Badlands of North Dakota. There she often writes of the poignant subtleties of life on the high plains of the New American West, as well as a view of the world observed from that place.


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


Jersey Girl

VA Smith


CNN blazes blocks of buildings

shredded by Russian missiles, 

only steel arches standing,


smoke snaking across rubble

like sci-fi disaster movies.

Watching bombs light my


country on fire from our 

East Orange condo, my

past six-year plan


looks like vain blonde ambition:

from Kyiv to my J-1 Au Pair Visa

and job, a fast found marriage,


Green Card, naturalization, also

nursing school. Now I witness

Kharkiv apartment balconies


spew children’s sleds & skates across 

bombed sky, onto charred ground.

From safe America, I see this.


New friends’ texts crowd my phone,

sad emojis & “we’re with you.”

“No,” whispers my gut, “you cannot be.” 


My family, there have no heat or food 

through freezing nights. Putin’s mortars

explode teen flesh fleeing Mariupol,


maternity hospitals also, where dark

crowns push vulvas as mothers’ breasts

tear open, blood flowing like milk.


Do Americans want points when 

they swarm my screen with 

“Zelensky’s a f’in rock star!”


What should I say to that?

Yo, ya, he’s our homeboy! 

But when Kate MacKinnon


opened SNL with “the Ukrainian

Chorus Dumka of New York,”

sunflowers clustered in tall glass


beside girls in vyshyvanka dresses,

singing “Prayer for Ukraine,” 

burning votives spelling Kyiv,


like church. Not since a child

had I knelt, formed a cross

on my chest, prayed to darkness.


* * * * * * * * * *


Orthodox Lent

VA Smith


The St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church

cradles 24th & Ringgold’s corners,

gold onion dome & spires 

flashing Byzantium across

our brick row homes,

giving what for

to the sun setting off

our roof decks. 


These days tiny yellow & blue rectangles

twitch like prayer flags on clotheslines

across St. Nick’s church garden, 

vinyl signs draped

over its iron fence declaring

Humanitarian Aid Dwindling

for Ukraine, then a rare bid

to enter, April 8-22, 2022:

pierogies for sale.


Crossing the vestibule, I step down

in darkness to the 50’s kitchen,

Formica counters lined with

thousands of potato-cabbage pillows,

dough rolled, stuffed

and packaged by aproned & stooped

congregants, my face flashing red

when the customer beside me asks

to pay with Venmo.


The half-block home

I hold my pierogies

tenderly, shaded in shame

at my pleasure in Redbud branches

twisting with plenitude,

with tight pink pods

about to explode.



About the Poet:  VA Smith is an award-winning, retired professor of English at Penn State and founder of Chancellor Writing Services.  VA has dropped poetry into dozens of literary journals and anthologies, among them: Blue Lake Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Mobius, Oyster River Pages, Calyx, Quartet, The Southern Review, Verdad, Third Wednesday, Tipton Poetry Journal, Feels Blind Literary, West Trade Review, and Evening Street Review. Kelsay Books published her first poetry collection, Biking Through the Stone Age, in 2022. She is currently searching for a home for her second collection, American Daughters.


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


Frequent Contributor News


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


Former FC Mary Soon Lee


Her short story "Paw and Prejudice" is in Daily Science Fiction:



Her poem "Vintage Science Fiction" is in Star*Line #45.2, Spring 2022.


Her poem "Jingwei Tries to Fill Up the Sea" is in Uncanny Magazine #45, March/April 2022, https://uncannymagazine.com/article/jingwei-tries-to-fill-up-the-sea/


Her poem "Anodized Titanium" is in Eye to the Telescope #44, April 2022, http://www.eyetothetelescope.com/archives/044issue.html


Her poem "After Inventing Time Travel" is in Apparition Lit #18, April 2022, https://apparitionlit.com/


Her short story "On the Disappearance of Dragons" has been published in Daily Science Fiction, 4/28/2022, https://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/sf-fantasy/mary-soon-lee/on-the-disappearance-of-dragons


Her poem "Ming Dynasty Cats" has been published in Rune 2022, the literary magazine of Robert Morris University.


Her poem "A Reimagining" has been published in Utopia Science Fiction, April/May 2022, https://www.utopiasciencefiction.com/product-page/apr-may-2022-digital


Her poem "Phalaenopsis Orchid" has been published in Uppagus #51, May 2022,



Her short story "Tea and Bamboo" has been published in Daily Science Fictionhttps://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/virtual-reality/mary-soon-lee/tea-and-bamboo



Former FC Lauren McBride


Her poem, "To The Makers of Bath Products," Your Daily Poem, April 18, 2022 https://www.yourdailypoem.com/listpoem.jsp?poem_id=4059   


Two of her poems, "How I Got Rich Selling Lipstick" & "show me, I said", Dreams & Nightmares, issue 120. https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/2022/04/041322.html


Her poem, "My Country Retreat", Kaleidotrope, Spring 2022. https://kaleidotrope.net/spring-2022/my-country-retreat-by-lauren-mcbride/


Three of her poems, "Ginny Goes to Mars," Altered Reality Magazine, April 7, 2022.    https://www.alteredrealitymag.com/ginny-goes-to-mars-by-lauren-mcbride/ & "To Mars on MAVEN," https://www.alteredrealitymag.com/to-mars-on-maven-by-lauren-mcbride/ & "Transplanted to Terraformed Mars Too Soon," https://www.alteredrealitymag.com/transplanted-to-terraformed-mars-too-soon-by-lauren-mcbride/



Former FC Alessio Zanelli


His poem, “September”, has been translated into Persian and published in Tashdid


He has four poems in the latest issue of The Stray Branch, published in Dayton, Ohio.  https://www.thestraybranch.org/current-issue-2/29-spring-summer-2022/


He has five poems in the latest issue of Gradiva: the original English poems are published in parallel with the Italian translations, either by myself or by Dr. Laura Riviera (a translator and critic based in Turin). https://www.gradivapublications.com/


His long poem, “Transition Hendecapoem”, has just been published online by Poetica Magazine, https://www.poeticamagazine.com/alessio-zanelli


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


Lana the Poetree Summer 2022 | Digital Photo |SWGordon



A Message from the Editor-in-Chief



Songs of Eretz Poetry Review will be on hiatus until the spring of 2023, while we transition operational control of the e-zine from me to Terri, and I assume my new role at the strategic level as Chief Executive Editor.  Our submission window for our spring 2023 issue will be February 1 - 15, 2023.  The themes for 2023 have yet to be determined, so stay tuned! 


I am sure that Terri will want to put her personal stamp on the e-zine--that’s the best part of being an Editor-in-Chief!  She will have free reign, within reason, at the operational level.  She is full of fresh ideas, and I anticipate with excitement the different directions she may choose to go.


We will be actively recruiting for a new Art Editor, as Jason moves on to other projects.  Full disclosure--we do not provide stipends for any of our editors or staff, but the Art Editor is uniquely situated to make the position pay.  Songs of Eretz Poetry Review enjoys an average of 400 to 800 “hits” a day, which is excellent exposure.  The Art Editor has the opportunity to sell his or her art through Songs of Eretz, with 100% of the profit going to the artist.  The artwork made for Songs of Eretz often sells well outside of the venue, too.  Jason made thousands of dollars during his tenure.  Finally, being our Art Editor can be a stepping-stone to greater things, an excellent bullet point for an artist’s resume.


The ability to marry art with poetry is a special talent that not every artist possesses.  Artists that believe they may have what it takes are welcome to send their resumes directly to me at SWGordonMD@Gmail.com for consideration.


Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


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






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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.