Friday, March 31, 2023






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Unless otherwise indicated, all art is taken from "royalty-free" Internet sources. 


Chief Executive Editor

Steven Wittenberg Gordon



Terri L. Cummings


Associate Editor

Charles A. Swanson


Featured Frequent Contributors

John C. Mannone

Karla Linn Merrifield

Tyson West


Additional Frequent Contributors

Vivian Finley Nida & Howard F. Stein


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

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Table of Contents


Letters From the Editors


Featured Poets


John C. Mannone

Apartment Housing”

“A Book of Poems”

“Dare to Dream”


Karla Linn Merrifield

“A Pair of Perennials”

“Botanical Social Call with Konicek-Moran”

“Three Men and a Woman”


Tyson West

“Garden of Beauty and Evil”


“The Smell of Old Man”


Frequent Contributors


Vivian Finley Nida


“Snowdrop Flowers”


Steve Wittenberg Gordon

“The Tree of Life”


Terri L. Cummings



Howard F. Stein

“Reality and Dream, Ghost Ranch, NM, 2022.”

“Reappearance in Fall”


Charles A. Swanson


“The Stick Figure Man in Quarantine


Guest Poets


David A. Goodrum

“Turning Over”


Sherry Poff

“In Arrears”


Colleen Anderson

“First Day of Spring”


James B. Nicola

“O Youth”



Stephen Schwei

“Lilacs for Us”


Wendy A. Howe



Rachel R. Baum

“Sitting shiva: after the Tree of Life shooting”


John Delaney


“The Sedentary Life: or Musical Chairs”


Olivia Payne

“To Flower After Fires”


Melanie Faith



Dana Wildsmith




Shaurya Pathania



Noel Sloboda

“Transfer on I-15”


Marc Janssen

“New Grass on This Old Earth”


Gary D. Grossman

(General Submission)

“To the Careworn Oak Trunk Washed Up on Morro Strand”

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Frequent Contributor News


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A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

This is the first letter to you that I have written as Editor-in-Chief. What a delight to place this issue in front of your eyes. As you will see, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review continues the mission Founder & Chief Executive Editor, Steven Wittenberg Gordon, M.D, established in 2012, “to bring a little more good poetry and art into the world.” This issue would not have been possible without Dr. Gordon’s guidance and Charles A. Swanson’s (Associate Editor) close support and major contributions as Lead Editor and trusted colleague.


In addition, all Frequent Contributors expressed their enthusiasm to continue SOE’s journey together as we launch the first theme, ‘growth’, on April Fool’s Day, 2023 (no chicaneries intended). I cannot imagine a better theme to represent SOE’s evolution over eleven years.


We urge those who wish to submit their poems to reacquaint themselves with recent changes under the Submission Guidelines. The biggest one, for now, is the suspension of art submissions until a suitable Art Editor is found. As stated above, art is part of SOE’s mission, so we will continue to furnish copyright-free art until then.


In closing, I thank Dr. Gordon, Charles Swanson, and Frequent Contributors, John Mannone, Karla Merrifield, Vivian Nida, Howard Stein, and Tyson West, for maintaining a sense of humor when I fumble and then cheering me on. No one makes a better Pep Squad than you!


I wish everyone a delightful spring.

May the road rise up to meet you, *


Terri L. Cummings


* a traditional Irish blessing

from an untraditional Irish person


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A Letter From the Associate Editor

 Lead Editor for This Issue 


Themed submissions stir my imagination as I grapple with how a poem fits a theme.  The task is a bit like drawing the parameters for a new game.  The imaginary lines are meant to rule on whether a poem is in bounds or out of bounds.   Then a poem comes along that seems to stretch or redefine the restrictive lines I’ve laid down beforehand.  As a poet myself, I review my own poems and admit to the fact that I often judge a poem’s fitness for the theme in a more intuitive than mechanical way.  After all, what is poetry for but an exploration of the imagination?


With the theme of growth, the easiest applications seem to be (1) spring when the earth buds, sprouts, and turns green again; and (2) stages of human maturity, especially childhood and adolescence, when growth is most apparent.  We have several poems that match these two scenarios.  We also have several poems that question the stagnation of growth, or that look at growth in its demise.  These poems turn the theme on its head, and I like that.  A few poems might cause you to ponder as you ask the question I asked, “How does this poem represent growth?”  Perhaps those poems will please as they puzzle.   

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Featured Poets


Apartment Housing

John C. Mannone

It's a seller's market
sustaining an influx
of out-of-state opportunists.
Even junky places
are flipped by unscrupulous
entrepreneurs, and realtors
offer rehearsed apologies
to the less fortunate
(the elderly, students, the poor).
Though there's a leveling
in the rate of price increase,
I expect my already too high
rental cost will continue to go up.
After all, old buildings
with inferior construction
still need to be maintained.
I shouldn't be so tough
on my landlady--she doesn't
mean to be a slumlord
I might be exaggerating
a bit. Nevertheless, my pockets
are being emptied. So much
for the Inflation Reduction Act
that'll cost us a fortune
in this socialistic system
while not reducing
food & energy bills.
I'm in a marginalized group
but not one recognized
as such—an old white man
living alone on a fixed income.
I don't expect any deductions
for being blind
                          to this irony
and I pray too (but that could be
leveraged against me
if I was caught).
I want to go back
to my childhood, find my father
to help me build a tree house—
pine board walls and tarred roof
shingled with flattened tin cans
for the music of rain when it storms,
screened-in windows for the cool
refreshing on sticky-hot nights.
Entertain my best friends with
Moonpies and RC colas.
I stop. Around the corner
from my apartment, watch
the woodwork frames
go up for a new apartment
complex. Sawmill scent
in the air. Just the ribs
of wood are standing
but I simply smile, wish
then drive on.



Poet’s Notes: “Apartment Housing” reflects the growth of the real estate business in TN, and elsewhere, to ridiculous eves; it might be a temporary boom [or bloom] for urban speculators but a gloom for so many looking for affordable housing. The poetic structure reflects a tall high rise. 

Editor’s Notes:  John’s poem hits a nerve with me.  More than a few states and cities in our nation are experiencing rent increases, so much so that pay raises, where they exist, cannot keep up with housing costs.  Gentrification of neighborhoods can lead to the poor losing their communities.  “Renewal” comes with more than just a building cost.  There is also the cost to those who need affordable housing.  CAS

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A Book of Poems

John C. Mannone


The art of reading poetry

and watching you closely,


while sensing your feelings

of the impact of words


as if music on your soul,

is a joy rivaled only by a kiss


of words onto the flesh

of paper. Ink, its blood,


sorbed into the pages,

seeps out with longing.


Like music. Nature writes

poetry, her seasons


are sections, as well as

Vivaldi’s violins.


Reading you a book

of poetry—Marge Piercy’s

The Crooked Inheritance or

Shakespeare’s sonnets—

is an act of poetry itself.


Feeling the emotional

impact reminds me that I am


a book of poetry too

with a narrative arc:


each poem with lines, breaking

like my heart, yet strengthened


by restructuring. After all

Jesus said I am his workmanship


his poetry: there are so many

inexpressibles to express but here


is a book of me, each utterance

a poem that tries to do just that,


and each poem opens, unfolds

like a flower, just for you.



Poet’s Note: There are all kinds of growth in this poem: growth in maturity, growth as a poet, growth as a lover.

Editor’s Notes:  In the Bible, I don’t see poetry listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit.  (I’ve looked many times.)  Nevertheless, I consider poetry as the one certain gift I’ve received—and must use.  Poetry can be a transformative instrument, as John’s poem shows.  CAS

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Dare to Dream

John C. Mannone

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream. We are all made of      dreams.

 -—Shakespeare (conflation of three quotations from Hamlet and The Tempest)


         It is the rich who have dreams and rockets. (Bramante to Bodini)

          —The Illustrated Man, The Rocket, by Ray Bradbury


Coalmining-town-poor “rocket boys”

looked up at Sputnik hurled into low

Earth orbit by a Korelef R-7 rocket,

dared to dream and launched 35

rockets into October skies.



Bodini stared at high-up dreams

to ride a starship. No money, but rich

with imagination. He scraped

all his savings to buy a priceless

dream—a $2000 rocket prototype.

Told his children to imagine

the smell of the engine, to hold on

to the rib-shaking experience

of launching into outer space.



Me too watching Rocky Jones

and Flash Gordon on space

flights. I’ve read the Hardy Boys

plans to fly to the moon from

their backyard with junkyard



I dreamed of flying there, too.

          I’m a rocket man

the kind that looks for life

on Mars, sailing with

my Viking ship. But where

do I drop anchor

to search in the wake

of hydrazine fuel afterburn

mixing with Martian sunlight:

recipe for amino acids?

          I’m a rocket man

looking for a darker place

to land. And it’s pretty

cold out here. And after this

where do I go? To the moon

of a distant planet.

          I’m a rocket man

lonely here in outer space,

a voyager touching the night

between the stars.


With allusions to “Rocket Man” by Elton John



Poet’s Note: The three vignettes in the poem address an implied growth of imagination, a necessary precursor [in my opinion] to the realization of our dreams.

Editor’s Notes: One of my favorite English professors claimed that we understand poetry better and better as we read, grow in knowledge, and make connections.  Allusions ask for our broader breadth of knowledge.  Here, John’s poem is replete with allusions, and each adds to the poem.  How much richer a reader is who resonates to these allusions!  Such a lucky reader steps more deeply into John’s world of imagination and dream.  CAS

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A Pair of Perennials

Karla Linn Merrifield



A perennial who grows old near me

into this not-so-golden age

says she’s a few weeks off from semi-normal.

A month of days or more to graduate

from crutches to cane,

from bootie to sturdy shoe.


Senior is passé, elder borders

on phony and/or a misappropriation,

so I too am perennial, one slowly navigating

a similar rocky path to another new normality.

I step gingerly; I do not want to fall

into the wrong arms of loneliness.

                                    for Laury A. Egan



Poet’s Notes: What do we call elderly women? Gray panthers? Seniors? Golden girls? I was never happy with any of those options so came up with the term “perennial.” I see us 70+-year-old women, in the poem depicted as a girlfriend and myself, both widows (tho’ I don’t delve into that aspect of our lives) as sturdy women who return, like perennial flowers, year after year with all of life’s vibrancy. 

Editor’s Notes:  Some perennial plants form colonies.  As a “perennial” myself—if men may be admitted into the colony—I appreciate the jokes made at the expense of the elderly.  We usually tell such jokes on ourselves—and laugh at the truthfulness tucked inside the humor.  CAS

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Botanical Social Call with Konicek-Moran

Karla Linn Merrifield


On the fire road

along the ecotone

of sawgrass and pinelands,

wildflowers grow in profusion

after November’s burn.

In winter bloom,

endemic and Caribbean alike

line our path.


You, who know them well,

introduce me to your lady friends

so I may greet the native women—

Good morning, Miss Blueheart, Miss Purple Thistle—

and say to the exotic señorita, petite Grass-Pink,

Buenos Dias.


Poet’s Notes:  This short poem is in the form of a cameo, a poetic form I created, for a long series of small portraits (a cameo!) achieved with 100 syllables, no more, no less. Here, the cameo is of a botanical artist I worked with during my time as a poet-in-residence at Everglades National Park. We made quite the synergistic team of creatives out in the field as she taught me about the beautiful if diminutive flowers native to the world’s only “river of grass.”

Editor’s Notes:  Karla’s poem form reminds me of the “minute” form—a poetic structure of sixty syllables—like the sixty seconds in a minute.  Poems show us that more can be said with less.  Here, in one hundred syllables, we enter the world of flower and water, of season and renewal.  CAS

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Three Men and a Woman

Karla Linn Merrifield


The Princess Frog met three sad men

one day in early spring when she was fresh


from winter mud at edge of stream,

rana pipiens emerging in her leopard skin.


The first had come to fish, snag

enough protein on the line for sustenance;


still suffering the pangs

of a man newly freed from prison,


he longed for more than bread and water,

craved a meal rich on the bone.


So she granted his wish

in the form of a rainbow trout

that swallowed his humiliation.


The second garnered bunches

of watercress to spice up his life;


because he lamented the passing

of his salad days,


sensed a wilting on the vine,

he desired and ached for the raw zest.


So she granted his wish

in the form of a lotus bud

that perfumed his vagrancy.


The third merely sauntered down

to quench his prodigious thirst;


all whiskers and whiskey

and peppering too many mild curses,


he danced among the stones

without a partner looking at the past.


So she granted his wish

in the form of a thick mist

that masked his beautiful loneliness.




But that day in early spring when she was fresh,

the Princess Frog also met a woman.


Although she sorrowed,

for women can be so profoundly sadder,


she trailed her cloak of integrity

and with it enveloped the Princess, later


sautéing her and feeding

one garlicky leg each to the men,

savoring one for herself,


and then realizing we have a responsibility

to nurture others with more

than fairy tales about royalty-in-disguise.

We are granted our wish;

we eat tonight once more with relish;

we begin to help each other grow old.



Poet’s Notes:  This poem represents one of my rare forays into the realm of folklore and fairy tales. Once again we meet a princess in the guise of a frog—but her mission isn’t to be kissed into being human by a prince, rather to use her powers to heal three men and then join her powers with another female on behalf of all humanity: “we have a responsibility to nurture others with more than fairy tales.”

Editor’s Notes:  Fairy tales entertain, but they also implant a bone-deep structure.  Even the most chilling ones teach us something about how to live.  CAS

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Garden of Beauty and Evil

Tyson West



That seventh summer unsealed

my first spectacles suddenly sharpening

blurs of green goodness in father's garden

smeared in solstice sunglare.

Rows of potatoes, cabbage, and tomatoes flickered alive

above Pennsylvanian clay and father's black visqueen carpet next to

the pasture hawthorne saplings crowned with thorns.

White butterflies flit our cabbage. Black and white blister beetles swarmed to pleasure

among our Irish Cobblers and Katahdins justly

I slayed thousands with leaded gasoline dripped off q-tips.

Yet tomato hornworms, caustic green unicorn protoplasm throbbing

worthy of drive in B movie horror, stripped

our pungent vines’ promise of red fruit

into globs of dark green bug dung.

Father bountied a nickel for each large worm and one dime for each of the young.

Silver the small merited as embryonic evil

lurks much harder to discern.

Once the chrysalis of the full moon cooled our sweat

father unfolded green bills to my brother and me with a smatter of silver

above bats cavorted in contorted flits.

As Jimson weed moon flowers’ opened in white fragrance on our wilderness edge,

we heard a humbuzz sudden from bloom to blossom.

Even then I knew the sky glowed too dark

for hummingbirds’ ruby throats to swallow.

One such sound source silenced for an instant

to squib a silver hawkmoth sipping nectar―

its full fur, cerulean spots, and tangerine abdominal rings

took away my breath.

Before I could ask, father preached

hornworms angel into these adults.

Catechismed in the cosmic chasm

alive in my mind's model of planets, stars, and hell,

God and Walt Disney's universe boiled

with the righteous or the rancid alone.

In struggle to reconcile demon worms of day

with this demigoddess of July

night swirling darker and cooling

I sensed spirits striding beyond my sight

against the oak and sassafras forest dissolving before us.

Feeling I did the first twitch of excitement

at the possibility truth and beauty be gifts

from an indifferent god.


April, 2021



Poet’s Notes: In my childhood, my parents had a hundred acre hobby farm near Conneaut, Pennsylvania where we grew a huge garden. Half the farm was heavily timbered. A lot of growth a child suffers is moving from his black and white worldview to perceive the ambiguity of real life. I have always felt more comfortable in a world sculpted from the hands an indifferent god. 

Editor’s Notes:  Tyson’s poem brings to my memory the bug bag we had behind our garage.  It caught, by means of an attracting blue light, these very moths that were part of the life cycle of the tobacco (or tomato) horn worm.  The wire bag filled, and the smell that emanated from the dying moths was as unlovely as the damage the worms did to the green plants.  Farming—hobby or otherwise—has its beauties and its scarrings.  CAS

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Tyson West


My quest for heroes striding my bloodline

could only do so much with circumstantial evidence

but given Nana spoke a poor historian, mother an unreliable narrator,

and father detractor, Grandpa Pete's lingering relics set all I had to work with.

I fidgeted neatly organized bins of industrial fuses in his garage and traced

his gravestone inscription of sudden death at 52 as my flesh chased his half century behind.

I did not object to hearsay he lay buried in the tux he wore to sing on stage―

that monkey suit missing, I'm sure, the sad sport coats and silk ties abandoned in the   closet

of the spare bedroom where my brother and I dreamed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone―

Pete's coveralls and work shoes long discarded.

Our painted steel head board and naked box springs guarded the attic door

cracks old newspaper stuffed to moat out wasps nesting dusty rafters above.

One visit David and I gumptioned the courage

to roll the stone from that portal to find the nail

on the staircase wall hanging the white steel helmet and varnished hickory billy

leather strapped relics from big war that swept

father and his brothers to soldier or sailor off somewhere in the Pacific.

Too callow to march a dough boy―too essential to GI,

Pete―fortyish civil defense air raid warden patrolled dark avenues

blacking out Norwood's windows to deceive Nazi Heinkels and Dorniers

that never found us.

When I asked his end mother pronounced broken heart―

his only son had to marry Aunt Julie depriving Pete's issue of college hijinks

and Norman Rockwell perfection.

Father by the backyard burning barrel snickered cirrhosis.

Like Mary over Jesus’ juvenilia I held in my heart their words and Pete's white helmeted authority

to rank him among the imperfect hoplites forming my family phalanx

even if he had a few pops with his disciples or bandmates

before his unsteady key opened the lock

to his keep on Prospect Street.


July, 2022



Poet’s Notes: My mother's father died a couple years after I was born, and I still don't know the true circumstances of his passing. He worked as an electrician in a factory, fished in Buzzard's Bay, and reputedly had a tuxedo and sang on stage. I know nothing about his music. Developing my portrait of him was a growing experience. I synthesized sometimes contradictory accounts of his life from relatives and the possessions he left at my grandmother's house. Then I had to decide how I felt about my creation. I learned sometimes ambiguity is truth.

Editor’s Notes:  The search for heroes can take us down strange paths.  Along the way, we develop our own definition of a hero—whether we put that definition into words or just tuck it away into an interior consciousness.  Tyson’s description of his grandfather includes many traits of a hero who might tantalize and fascinate.  CAS

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The Smell of Old Man

Tyson West


The nose of my house mate, whose eyes

ascertain specks on mirrors, magic and mundane,

detects scent of old man in my harlequin garb.

Her scolding tumbles me to sixth grade again

where first I perceived failings eternally lie, a great beast, in wait for us all.

Of all my teachers, Mrs. Thompson's ghost burns brightest still

slender bearing and Lady Clairol blonde perm

of women who had yet to worry

the Asian war in our future.

I could not now pick her out in a lineup to save my life

yet excitement never died nor my shuddering as

she spun open locks to Keats and Frost.

My ADD monkey mind sipped for once

sprites of intoxicating ideas,

square dancing rumbas of vowels and consonants,

to the first lapping of hormones in the great tides to come.

Her cop husband my parents whispered badly

behaved towards their vows our mill town hills

permitted no one escape.

I never suckled how vigorously had she beat the drum of my reality

until that morning Old Man Bagnell slouched

before our Disney doped eyes

substitute for her pinched nerve, his drone and old man smell

grinding away her sparkle, smile, and Chanel.

His grey flannel suit frumped from Advent to

Groundhog Day teaching us only

"Gone with the Wind" was the greatest movie ever made.

Cowbell cowbell sound for me

at my crouch before the realm of grey-haired men

drooling behind the sharp young sheriff

giving the press the straight scoop

glistening the occurrence at Owl Creek School

a case long chilled to all

save me.


November, 2022



Poet’s Notes: People in my life have noted that, occasionally, when I don't bathe regularly, I have that scent I found emanating from old men when I was young. In sixth grade, when I flirted with my addiction to poetry and literature, our beloved teacher ended up with a pinched nerve. I can sympathize with this since I recently experienced a pinched nerve that led to a back operation. I also can sympathize with our substitute teacher, as I have become a bit of a long winded old wraith myself.  Having my inspiration taken away from me, and my feelings of disappointment having to go to school with the boring substitute who took her place, were all part of my growing up.  You don't always get what you want or need.  The poem starts briefly in the present then moves to the past feelings of a 6th grader, then in the last seven lines the mind of an insecure old codger processing tween angst ferments into a surreal meditation. 

Editor’s Notes:  The smell of an old man is a strong hook—perhaps because I “resemble” one.  My wife used to call me “goat boy” after a three or six mile run.  Little did she know how “goat” would be transformed into “greatest of all time.”  I like very much Tyson’s appeal to how the gates of inspiration can be opened—or closed—through the offices of a teacher.  CAS


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Frequent Contributors




Vivian Finley Nida


Today you wear Grandfather’s boots

classic western with tapered toe

pitched heel and fancy stitching

on cowhide leather

not midnight black with no moon

but sunset blazing with pride

his legacy for you


Those burnished boots hug your feet

as you stride through big bluestem grass

to barn that holds what you need

to feed, wash, brush, calm your first show calf

nicknamed Stubborn for resisting halter

but finally agreeable due to your patience

and routine practice for competing at county fair


Now you’re both ready to revel in admiration

Calf’s coat is fluffed, trimmed

Your tucked in shirt shows off tooled western belt

Straight jeans cover shaft of Grandpa’s boots

but heel and toe gleam as you lead calf into ring

When he aligns legs properly, posing before judges, you smile

then guide calf forward, confidence growing step by step


Editor’s Notes:  I use the expedient strategy of Occam’s razor when I’m trying to decide on the subject of a poem.  Here, because Grandpa is a man, and the subject wears Grandpa’s boots, I assume the young person is a boy of fifteen.  But I first read the poem thinking that the young person is female.  I still like that thought.  Maybe Grandpa had small feet!  This poem draws me in because of the tribute to the aged as well as the growth of the young.  CAS

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Snowdrop Flowers

Vivian Finley Nida


Resilient snowdrops don’t require much care

Green stalks pierce crumbling leaves or lasting snow

Each tip holds one white bud that dangles there

Its fragrant bloom, bell-shaped, sways to and fro

and has since ancient time when Greeks used plant

to alter consciousness, to clear the mind

Odysseus consumes it to supplant

the drug from Circe that turns men to swine

Victorians thought snowdrops brought bad luck

but time changed that to hope and sympathy

Today from bulbs, an alkaloid’s plucked

that helps Alzheimer’s patients’ memory

Dismiss despair, the moan of winter’s gray

Remember snowdrops nod spring’s on the way

Editor’s Notes:  This tribute, in sonnet form, to the snowdrop develops the flower’s appeal in interesting ways.  I especially like the poem’s historical and literary references.  CAS

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The Tree of Life

Steven Wittenberg Gordon


The space mangrove fruit

Became a shrieking ball of fire

As it hit earth’s atmosphere.

Lake Michigan could not quench it.

The vast waters instantly boiled away,

Sending a column of superheated steam

Into the stratosphere.


Chicago and Milwaukee were destroyed in an instant,

Vaporized along with the eight million souls

Who inhabited those cities and the surrounding areas.  

Much of Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin were aflame.


Water from Lakes Superior and Huron

Came flooding in to fill the void

Left by the evaporation of Lake Michigan

Half filling the basin, once nine hundred feet deep. 


The charred remains of the space mangrove fruit

Crumbled away revealing the seed. 

The seed sent out a gigantic root spike

That pierced the lakebed

And burrowed deep into the earth.

Almost immediately thereafter, the seed coat split

And a sprout, if that is the right word

For a seedling with a diameter of four hundred feet,

Hurtled upward toward the sun. 


Thick, shiny, dark, green, leathery leaves

Sprang out on the ends of branches

That had sprung out from the ever-expanding trunk.  

Aerial roots by the thousands,

Then tens of thousands,

Then millions

Shot from the trunk

And walked across North America

Like an infinite nest of giant daddy-long-legs. 

The entire continent was covered in a single day.


The tree and its ever-expanding branches

Reached higher and higher,

Eventually piercing the lower layers of the stratosphere. 

The roots, each a juggernaut several miles in diameter,

Pushed inexorably to the south,

And in less than two days

Encased the entire southern hemisphere

In a tangle of impossibly large wooden beams.


The roots drank the mighty oceans,

Extracting the salt and using the filtered water

To quench the equally mighty thirst

Of the space mangrove tree. 

Soon, gigantic salt crystals were excreted

Through the pores in its leaves,

And as the winds blew and loosened them,

They cascaded down like immense hailstones.


Every ecosystem of the earth

Was catastrophically disrupted.

Those creatures able to fly--

The birds and many insects--fared the best.

Wood-boring insects--termites and carpenter ants--

Also did well.

In the ribbons of rootlets that filled the oceans,

Crustaceans and mollusks thrived,

As did the bonefish that preyed upon them.


The human population did not fare as well.

Handfuls of dazed survivors crawled around

In the tangle of roots here and there.

A few humans who had been sailing the high seas,

Whether in the world’s navies or on pleasure cruises,

Also managed to live through the initial root spread,

Wandering in shock over the wooden lid

That now formed a cap over the sea. 


My fellow astronauts and I on the international space station

Are doomed to remain in space forever. 

We watched with horror as these terrible events unfolded,

As the awful, parasitic tree clawed its way toward us. 

We added another hour to our day

As the tree created a lever arm,

Slowing the rotation of the earth,

Proving in a grim experiment that Newton was correct

In that angular momentum must be conserved. 

But although our day was prolonged,

Our days will not be.

It will be only a matter of a few months

Before we run out of food. 


Even as we rationed and conserved our resources,

The grotesque tree exhausted those of earth.

And then it blossomed and bore fruit,

Impossibly large, dark, green pods by the millions. 

With horror, we watched as the pods swelled and exploded,

Each one releasing an aerodynamic yellow fruit into space.

Will Europa be next?  Will our moon? 

And how many extra-solar planets will be ravaged--

Have been and are being ravaged--

By these monstrous mangroves from space?

By some miracle, or some curse,

Not a single fruit hit the space station,

So we were left to wonder.

Editor’s Notes:  In this marvelous piece of fantasy, I especially like how Steve has given us a believable speaker.  In such a catastrophe, who survives to tell the story?  Steve’s invention of a narrator who is crew member on the space station helps to ground the fantastic in the realm of the possible.  In good science fiction, the writer creates a set of rules for experiences that defy the imagination, but then he follows those rules.  Therefore, the make believe has order, and order evokes realism.  I hope we are not invaded by a space mangrove fruit any time soon.  CAS

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



Terri L. Cummings


The 1960’s upheaval of social norms
cultural behaviors, and war, bled into 

the early 70’s, my university years

famous for disco, bell-bottoms

digital watches, pocket calculators--

a future archaeologist’s treasure


Pennies counted toward food, rent, car

but books were priced like precious jewels

filled with facts, figures, dates, concepts

Professors published or perished

in the ‘captive sales’ scheme


Tomes held up to six pounds of paper

printed on heavy-weight gloss, spines straight

and dense as sentences they secured

Many were worth the read, especially if 

pupils improved with colorful clues


Sentences illuminated yellow

Paragraphs starred red

Margins penned with notes 

Entire chapters enlightened 

subjects, poised at crossroads

of Equal Rights and Opportunity

This is where Information Age was born


This is where I lived, huddled cold in a corner

of a college library, tepid tea between hands

reading “Method and Theory in American

Archaeology” by Gordon Willey, Phillip Phillips

who wrote, Archaeology is anthropology

or it is nothing


That shift from mining artifacts for collections

to mining them for information about humans

and their society. And I, that twenty-something

who reached for a marker, splattered tea across type 

the second I knew, I Will be that archaeologist!

Editor’s Notes:  I like how Terri uses artifacts from her university years to build toward the conclusion.  Archaeology is more than things.  It is the people who used those things.  But we learn something about those people through the examination of the things they used.  I have found my poetry to follow a similar evolution.  Once, I was content to write about a flower.  Now, I am rarely happy with one of my poems unless it has a person in it.  CAS

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


Reality and Dream, Ghost Ranch, NM, 2022

Howard F. Stein                                        


In the Valley of Shining Stone *

Time’s towers reign supreme,

Though no empire lasts forever –  

Cliffs and tent rocks,

Mesas and canyons,

Buttes and spires.


Am I asleep?  Or am I awake?  

Do I imagine? Or do I observe?

Am I dreaming this world,

Or is this world dreaming me?

Have sandstone titans

Seized me into their grasp?

Or have they taken up

Residence inside me?


From where comes their magic?

In this long monument valley,

Where do mesas dwell?

Awe is the conversation

Between real and dream.


I come here to witness;

I come here to dream.

I hear my dream speak

In the language of stone;

I hear stone speak

In the language of time.


*Piedra Lumbre



Poet’s Notes:  When I first learned of the theme for the Spring 2023 volume of Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, “growth,” I almost immediately thought of this recent poem, “Reality and Dream, Ghost Ranch, NM, 2022.” How could a poem about the harsh high desert region of northern New Mexico, with its monumental sandstone mesas, buttes, canyons, and pinnacles, possibly depict or embody growth?


Although, obviously, the poem’s subject matter was not literally a biological life form which grew and developed like a human baby or a tree, to me it grew in my Spirit as a Sacred Sense of Place. Transcendence became Imminence, Presence, what the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer termed “the Beyond in the Midst.” Until the COVID-19 Pandemic struck and made professional in-person conferences impossible, I had attended for over 25 years the annual retreat at Ghost Ranch, NM, held in late September or early October.

 In my lived experience, the spiritual yet palpable sense of Presence continued to grow/develop within me, and inspired over a hundred poems, many of which were published in many genres of journals and magazines, and in several poetry books and chapbooks, culminating in 2020 with the publication of Presence – Poems from Ghost Ranch (Terra Nova/Golden Word Books, Santa Fe, NM). When the time arrived to submit poems to Songs of Eretz Poetry Review for this theme-issue, I felt that this poem had an uncanny fit with the theme.

Editor’s Notes:  I am reading, one after another, novels by the western writer, Zane Grey.  His love of the nature and geography of the West is forefront in all his novels, and I keep googling sources to see more exactly the geography he loved so well.  Howard’s poem transports me to this West, a West that gets burred into the skin, a West that blossoms in the heart.  CAS

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

Reappearance in Fall

Howard F. Stein 


Fall, season of waning,

Loss of all gained

Since last spring.

Summer fullness,

Winter emptiness,

Between them,

Less and less

To anchor by.


Outside my back window,

My streetlamp

Tells a different tale –

Emergence from

Total eclipse

By a thicket

Of scrub oak

And blackjack leaves,

Tough as leather,

Opaque as death.


Summer darkness confers

On me only night blindness:

No lighthouse

To guide me by,

No beacon,

To warn me of peril.


Come autumn,

Open sky reappears

Between branches –

At last, I have space enough

To breathe again;

Now my streetlamp

And I can touch

Each other in a

Direct line of sight.



Poet’s Notes:  Few things are what they first appear to be – or are culturally required to be. Consider the seasons of autumn and winter. The brief burst of spectacular colors in fall leaves, and winter World Renewal Ceremonies and Christmas notwithstanding, these two seasons are widely experienced and felt as a long stretch of decline, fading away into deeper and longer darkness, dying and ultimate death:  Winter as Nature’s rest before spring far less seizes our imaginations.


My brief poem is something of a reply and protest to this dismal portrait of fall and winter.  The chief protagonist of the poem’s story-arc is a lone streetlight I look for most nights in late fall through early spring out my bedroom window. I have long felt its reassuring presence throughout the twenty-five years I have lived in that house. From spring through mid-fall, my streetlamp becomes totally eclipsed by a dense thicket of scrub oak, blackjack, and post oak leaves. Throughout these months, I am saddened by its disappearance and long absence, and gladdened by its gradual re-emergence and return. It is as if I have some sort of relationship with the streetlight and the forest of trees – with which (even, with whom) I am on intimate terms.


The poem, in short, reverses the more common emotional “charge” associated with the seasons.  It is as though, with the gradual return of the streetlamp and of the increasingly wide spaces between the branches, a strange type of “growth” is taking place. It brings me joy and comfort – and especially reassurance that I am not so closed in. I continue to be amazed by the often seemingly trivial sources of inspiration poems have.


Editor’s Notes:  Howard’s tribute to fall and to the reappearance of the streetlamp is a nice reversal.  Spring bursts with growth, but the growth of assurance doesn’t necessarily follow the budding of trees.  The bareness of trees in the fall reveals what was hidden when luxurious growth ran riot.  Many important treasures must be uncovered.  CAS


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



Charles A. Swanson

Dad (Letter dated April 24, 1943, Fort Lewis, Washington):


I am glad Whicker and Prent are going to Sunday School and I will try to go to church in the morning. J.C. Austin and I are at the Service Club now.


Son (December 2022, Callands, Virginia):


This is a conversation I find hard. Did I ever feel I had earned the right to lecture you?


Instead, I’ll give you two windows. One is the stained-glass window in Grace Baptist Church, Cumberland, Maryland. I remember suffused light, and I remember Jesus’s hands in prayer. Church seemed a still and quiet place, not like a Service Club. The other window is the one you stared through the Sunday I stayed at home with you. You had a beer, and you had a faraway look. We didn’t play. The house was still and quiet, too, but it was empty. I wondered what you were thinking while Mama was in worship. After that, I chose to go with her. I may have said more at five than I did since, but I don’t remember.

winter, looking out

the window bars outside snow

the house, too, is cold


Poet’s Notes:  My father’s letters date from his army service.  He was a soldier in World War II.  I’m lucky to have some of the letters he sent home, and he wrote quite a few while he was in training.  The experience of reading a letter from my nineteen year old father is unsettling.  Because the letter above dates before my birth, I am afforded a glimpse into a man I both knew and didn’t know.  I’m having a talk with him--though, sadly, it is a one-way conversation.

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

The Stick Figure Man in Quarantine

Charles A. Swanson


The box lid is down,

the hollow space inside, dark

and mute.  He wishes


for someone to come,

open the closed-off kingdom—



let him breathe again.

He could give if he could live

in the lines of art,


help the sufferer

who takes up the pencil, pen,

or peeled-off crayon.


But he’s just as shut

away as anyone.  How he

longs for fellowship.


It isn’t sickness,

is it?  No virus, or plague,

this loneliness?



Poet’s Notes:  Stick Figure Man continues to teach me how beautiful art can appear shorn of many of art’s trappings.  Stick Figure Man is minimalist—the bones of the body, the limbs of trees in winter.  Beauty is in the bones.  There is also imagination, and Stick Figure Man—perhaps more precisely, line art—can speak to the heart as well as the eye.  


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

Guest Poets

Turning Over

   David A. Goodrum  

Some think it’s all run to seed

and become bitter.


A crop wasted

through careless oversights.


Though well past bloom

I’m still working it


barely scratching the surface

of cultivating my garden.


Many would tell me

(my horticultural therapist included)


that I need to dig deeper

get to the old roots of things


add some fresh air, and break down 

what would best decompose.


But till I agree, cultivating is something

to do throughout the year


does not require special tools

and best done with one’s own hands.


Poet’s Note:  Cultivating vs tilling, just how deep to go, a question for the garden and the soul :-)


Editor’s Notes:  Many years ago, I saw in Herman Melville’s poem, “Shiloh,” how a parenthetical insertion could bear the most significant line of a poem.  I love Goodrum’s sly aside, “(my horticultural therapist included).” CAS


About the Poet:  David A. Goodrum is a writer/photographer living in Corvallis, Oregon. His poems are forthcoming or have been published in The Inflectionist Review, Passengers Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, Eclectica Magazine, Spillway, Star 82 Review, Blue Mesa Review, Ilanot Review, and Red Rock Review. 


Even before his early thirties, he was certain he would never write poetry again. He continues, it seems, to be wrong. About most things. See additional work, both poems and photos, at

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In Arrears

Sherry Poff 

She was no good—

Trashy talk, trashy habits.

Never paid her rent.


                        She had a kitchen garden

                        laid out with patient care

                        in neat green rows.


You should have heard her.

Every morning yelling at her kids--

language I won’t repeat.


                       Eyes hungry for acceptance

                       saw hope in fertile ground,

                       promise in bright green sprouts.                   

Dogs tied out back,

Garbage in the yard.

How can people live that way?


                        But the fence she built

                        from sticks and twine

                        would not last the season.


The neighborhood sure is better

now she’s gone.

We'll get the place cleaned up.

                        A crop of emerald fruit,

                        pendant among the weeds,

                        is all she left behind.


Come on down and get some peppers;

Help yourself.

                        She ain’t comin’ back.

Poet’s Notes:  "In Arrears" is based on a real conversation over my back fence. I had admired the garden in the poem on my frequent walks but never took time to get to know the gardener. To learn that she likely had a troubled life caused me to wish I had made the effort to reach out to her. The words of one speaker interspersed with the thoughts of another helps show the two sides of every story. Thus, the growth in the poem refers to not only the peppers and other vegetables but also to the things I learned and the ways I hope to have grown. 

Editor’s Notes:  I am a fan of conversational poems.  I heard one writer say that dialog is the hardest thing to write.  I can agree, but I also love the payoff when dialog is done well.  A good dialect exposes place and time, as well as attitude and innuendo.  CAS

About the Poet:  Sherry Poff writes in and around Ooltewah, Tennessee. She holds an M.A. in writing from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is a member of the Chattanooga Writers' Guild. Her work has appeared recently in the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild Anthology, Artemis Journal, Stone Poetry Quarterly, and Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel.

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

First Day of Spring  

(for Dennis)

    Colleen Anderson

the bee is logy

weighted still by cold shadows

memories of winter

the safety of hibernation


it starts and stops

confused by blooms and light

the new world of spring

I rescue it from a heavy foot


carry it to primroses

daffodils, bright signs of life

it only crawls from stalk to flower

to pot’s rim, tumbling now and then

falling, unable to make the next move


the blossoms paint the day with color

but offer no nectar, decorative

even for bees who haven’t yet mapped 

the area, the table, the pot will be its prison

its demise unless I bring sustenance


jam diluted in water a last attempt

the bee on its slow awakening sips long

sugar floods its system, it shivers, revived


then flexes its wings, flies free and is gone



my brother is tired

weighted by his body’s burden

memories evaporating 

the safety of sleep denied 


he talks then stops

confused by misfiring synapses

each new word beyond reaching

I cannot rescue him from time’s infection


if I could carry his pain I would

bring him bright signs, thoughts, stories 

he crawls under fatigue the same 

as Sisyphus tumbling under the load

or Atlas unable to bear this world


his day dilutes, fades, no color, grey

offers no succor, relief, beauty 

even for this man who hasn’t ever napped

memory loss, his brain becomes a prison

his demise without dream’s sustenance


conversations dilute in those last days

exhausted from endless waking battles

he lets go, drops the dead weight, relieved


then flexes his wings, flies free and is gone


Poet’s Notes:  This poem is a true story. In 2019, I came home to find this bee struggling to move in the chill spring air. Daffodils and primrose didn’t seem to have any nectar for it to take and gain strength.


I went upstairs, dissolved some jam in water and brought it down for the bee. The bee supped, moved around a bit, and then was able to take flight. Little did I know until later that day that my brother in another city died unexpectedly around the same time.


He had struggled for years with such severe sleep apnea that even with a C-PAP and medication, he was unable to sleep at all. His interest in life was waning because he was a thinker and couldn’t think. He was losing memory and his sense of taste. We were worried for him, but it was still very sudden.


One way I handled my grief in the next couple of years was to write more poetry. I miss my brother a lot, and I hope that he did take flight from his pain and darkness. Having this particular poem published means the world to me. 


Editor’s Notes: Here the clearly-rendered metaphor is presented by a fully-fleshed description of a bee, followed by the like description of the brother.  I once had to create a theological metaphor that would capture, in all of the points of the metaphor, the scope of ministry.  Usually, a metaphor breaks down at some point.  The assignment kept my brain whirring for days.  This metaphor by Colleen holds together marvelously.  CAS


About the Poet:  Colleen Anderson lives in Vancouver, BC, and has a BFA in writing. A multiple award nominee, her work has been widely published in seven countries, in such places as Lucent Dreaming, and the award-winning Shadow Atlas, and Water: Sirens, Selkies & Sea Monsters. “Machine (r)Evolution” is in Tenebrous Press’s 2023 Brave New Weird. Colleen’s poetry collection, I Dreamed a World, is available from LVP Publications. A new collection, The Lore of Inscrutable Dreams, will be out in 2023 through Yuriko Publishing.


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


O Youth

James B. Nicola


O Youth, triumphant tapestry unfurled,

AnOmaly and hOpe of all the wOrld


Which spins, O mighty One, Only for Thee,

Awarding all an O-deserved degree.


Will you, O youth, be able to learn hOw

To fill the O, the way we've made you nOw?


Poet’s Notes:  Over the course of my career as a stage director (including several stints as guest faculty at drama schools), I have been frequently impressed and amazed when I get to know a young person and they turn out to be disciplined, compassionate, articulate, generous—and unruffled by dark media influence, ridiculous peer pressure, or the culture of cruelty and corruption that seems so pervasive.


Lately, I have been keeping my finger on the pulse of youth through hosting a writers' circle twice a month at my local library branch (Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan). All ages are welcome, as are walk-ins. We get a lovely mix of folks from all over the world, full of talent, enthusiasm, and caring. They help me answer the ultimate question of "O Youth" in the affirmative.


Editor’s Notes:  The letter “O” is such an evocative letter.  I think of literary apostrophes—those direct addresses to something not human.  I think of Romeo and Juliet when the Nurse says to Romeo, “Why should you fall into so deep an O?”  I think of the throat’s ululations, of endless O’s streaming from a mountainside.  I love how Nicola plays with the “O,” using it also for the big Zero.  CAS

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



James B. Nicola 


I’m now rarely exorbitant. In spurts

that can’t be helped, perhaps. But penalties

I have incurred have been—exorbitant.


To one who lists and notes, no lesson hurts

as sharp as the repeated one. I freeze

at nodules of such cycles, cognizant


I’ve lost a soul, seen others lose their shirts,

the vortex making, draining, energies.

But living’s made me less disposed to vent.


I only wonder where the wanting went.

Poet’s Notes:  Poetry is fictive, of course, so the persona of "Exorbitance" is not necessarily myself. It may be anybody: someone I knew once, someone you know now, or even yourself.

You may wonder what exorbitance the poem is implying (behavior, yearning, something else?), not to mention what "penalties," "lessons, "wanting," and so on. Alexander Pope elicits similar questions with his perfect parallelogram, "Man proposes./God disposes"—proposes what, and disposes how, Alexander? The possible answers, both personal and universal, are for all of us, perhaps, to consider.


Editor’s Notes: A poem that looks back to the exuberance of youth seems an apt companion for a poem about youth’s potential.  Harnessed energy is productive. Unharnessed energy is destructive.  But isn’t energy a wonderful thing to have?  I wonder, too, sometimes, “where the wanting went.”  CAS


About the Poet:  James B. Nicola’s poems have appeared in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews; Rattle; and Barrow Street. His seven full-length collections (2014-22) are Manhattan Plaza, Stage to Page, Wind in the Cave, Out of Nothing: Poems of Art and Artists, Quickening, Fires of Heaven, and Turns & Twists. His nonfiction book Playing the Audience won a Choice award. He has received a Dana Literary Award, two Willow Review awards, Storyteller's People's Choice award, one Best of Net, one Rhysling, and ten Pushcart nominations—for which he feels both stunned and grateful. A graduate of Yale, he hosts the Hell's Kitchen International Writers' Round Table at his library branch in Manhattan: walk-ins welcome.

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

Lilacs for Us

Stephen Schwei 


I snipped lilacs at their woody stems

for you, mother, placing them

in a simple clear vase on the table.


Fragrance lands on each of our plates

with the ease of the evening meal,

the hearty bouquet lasting two to three days

before turning acidic, casting

violet petals from the heavens.


I will replace them in the morning,

hoping they still bloom

outside my open boyhood window,

knowing soon I’ll have to wait

until next spring’s abundance

to gather fresh blossoms for you.


Editor’s Notes:  Growth here seems cyclical—as nature’s growth often seems.  Here, the recurrence of the lilacs leads backwards to boyhood.  The present lands on the plate with fragrance.  The future is the hope that these dinners, these times of togetherness, will continue.  CAS


About the Poet:  Stephen Schwei is a Pushcart-nominated Houston poet with Wisconsin roots, published in Wax Poetry & Art, Beneath the Rainbow, Hidden Constellation, Borfski Press, and the New Reader Magazine. He has published one volume of poetry, Bluebonnet Whispers. A gay man with three grown children and four wonderful grandchildren, who worked in Information Technology most of his life, he can be a mass of contradictions. Poetry helps to sort all of this out.

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



Wendy A. Howe


Across the sea

children draw rainbows

along the village street 

where blackbirds watch

from a lilac tree, some sparrows

         from the hedge. But here


in the high desert,

it's the weather. Constant showers

have interwoven a rainbow

of grass ranging

         from purple clover

         to mint-green weeds. Gold 


dandelions to a blue

spray of flax. Over the field,

hawks fly looking

        for lizard or snake


who've disappeared

with the dry dirt, its dust

turned to clay. And in the middle --

        an observance


as Joshua trees bend

like tribal women

to inspect the colorful thread work

of their Mother's loom, to inhale


       the fertile scent

       of earth.


Poet’s Notes:  The first lines of this poem were inspired by an article I read on  the BBC website about children drawing rainbows on the sidewalk during the pandemic. The rest followed when I went outside and observed the landscape of the California desert.

The heavy rains (which came earlier in the winter months) had cleansed the terrain. Fields became rainbows of colored grass sporting different species of flowers, weeds, thistles, and shrubs. A green spirit overtook the land while the Joshua trees leaned forward, appearing to honor the change;  marvel in their own way at the handiwork of earth.


Editor’s Notes:  I especially like the riot of color in this poem, and how a dry, barren soil can burst with growth when rain and warmth combine.  CAS


About the Poet:  Wendy Howe is an English teacher and free-lance writer who lives in Southern California. Her poetry reflects her interest in myth, diverse landscapes, and ancient cultures. Over the years, she has been published in an assortment of journals both on-line and in print. Among them: The Copperfield Review, Silver Blade Magazine, The Poetry Salzburg Review, Eye To The Telescope, The Interpreter's House, Sun Dial magazine, and The Orchards Journal.  Her most recent work will be forthcoming in SageWoman and Polu Texni later this year.

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


Sitting shiva:  after the Tree of Life shooting

Rachel R. Baum


Even when no one asks, she arrives at the house first, plugs in the electric kettle for tea, arranges slices of lemon on a plate, pours cashews into a bowl, peanuts in another, unwraps a platter of cheese and fruit, turns the oven on to warm the casseroles, checks to be sure the mirrors have already been covered and they are, so she finds a slip of paper and writes in black marker please do not knock or ring the bell,  just walk in and tapes it to the front door, because you don’t want to disturb the service that will take place later this afternoon, or the family of the deceased, who will sit on the low stools the funeral home provided, not on the borrowed folding chairs she lines up to face the backyard - in this house, East is in the dining room - where the table has been pushed against a wall, and on each chair, she lays a prayer book for the men and women who will come to this house of mourning to pay their respects, as they have already done with the ten other congregants murdered that awful day, and now everyone knows the routine of the funeral and the cemetery and the shiva call, and wishes they didn’t, but they must do this one more time, for the eleventh soul, so familiar and dear, who thought that God would look kindly upon them all by going to synagogue every Saturday morning, and that was the hardest part, these were friends you looked forward to seeing and praying with, and later, filling a paper plate with tuna salad, a piece of challah, maybe some grapes, and always a little chocolate babka, a treat, and then sat and kibitzed with, and yet, in a moment, the mourners, returning from the cemetery, will park their cars and adjust their faces, they will be tired, hungry, and devastated; she will see them from the window and briefly look up to search the sky above the street, for a glimpse of sunlight filtering through a blur of leaves.


Poet’s Notes:  My daughter Ariel wrote her dissertation about the aftermath of hate crimes, and how not just the victims’ families, but whole communities are affected by this kind of violence. I was thinking about her work, and about the congregation of the Tree of Life synagogue; their personal ordeal contending with the loss, in such a horrific way, of so many of their own.


Editor’s Notes:  One of the delights of poetry is that a poem can come in so many shapes, so many voices, so many syntactic structures.  I like the unchained, unspooling single sentence that connects the sorrow and community in this prose poem.  CAS

About the Poet:  Rachel R. Baum is the editor of Funeral and Memorial Service Readings Poems and Tributes (McFarland, 1999) and the author of the long-running blog BARK! Confessions of a Dog Trainer. Her poems have appeared in One Art, Poetica Review, Raven’s Perch, Plainsongs, Jewish Literary Journal, Jewish Writing Project, and others.  Her first poetry chapbook will be published by Dancing Girl Press in Fall 2023. She chaired the committee that selected the first Poet Laureate of Saratoga Springs, New York. For more information, visit 

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John Delaney


When its world was shaken,

snow began to swirl

around the boy with his sled.

Another winter wakened


under the dome.

He was leaving home

for the woods and a distant hill

to climb.


When the storm settled,

everything stood still,

held down

by what might then

get loose or lost,

like time.




It will snow, it has snowed, it is snowing—

the child is caught in the conjugation.

Before his sled he stands, gripping its rope

like a leash. Pine trees graduate the slope.


But the sled won’t track his destination

down, for the boy will never finish towing

it to the top of this childhood hill.

He will never test the sled’s potential.


There’s not the slightest wind nor hint of cold.

Such weather, purified in memory,

is now part of what a man has his hold


on: a stocking cap, a pair of mittens.

He shakes the ball—tossing to the flurry

his vision—and wipes his self-pity lens.


Editor’s Notes:  I love the visual quality of this poem, the snow globe and its whirl of snow, the stationary figures, the stasis that seems unfrozen through the shaken snow, through the reflexive quality of memory.  The intermittent rhyme and the subtle line breaks aid the stasis versus release I see in this beautiful, memorable poem.  CAS

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The Sedentary Life, or Musical Chairs*

John Delaney


How fast the rocking horse races

to the rocking chair . . .


It begins in a high chair, face-to-face

with Mother tendering a silver spoon.

Deprived of that vista, who wouldn’t cry?


In school, it’s too difficult to sit still

among the graded rows of assigned seats

where every chair is mentored by a desk.


At work, chairs start to swivel and wear wheels.

Money can reserve a seat (or buy it),

though many times a coat will save a place.


The bar stool, the Deacon’s bench, the summer swing,

a Morris, a Hitchcock, a Windsor—

seats are customized in the Sitting Room.


It ends in the arms of an easy chair.

(Alas, to fall into that from the pew,

despite all posturing to sit upright!)

Sunk in the sanctum of its recesses,

we put our feet up and repair.


when the music stops, to be old

but safely seated, one guesses

that those left standing will, in future, too.



*To be read sitting down.


Editor’s Notes:  I know a poet who does not care for epigraphs.  I know another writer who rarely looks at titles.  To miss the gems (doubled title, epigraph, and even a footnote) which John has used to wreath this poem is to miss much of the poem’s delight.  CAS


About the Poet:  After retiring as curator of historic maps at Princeton University Library, John moved out to Port Townsend, WA. Since that transition, he has published Waypoints (2017), a collection of place poems, Twenty Questions (2019), a chapbook, and Delicate Arch (2022), poems and photographs of national parks and monuments.

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To Flower After Fires

Olivia Payne 


The grass tree starts with caution

Pretending to be a stunted palm

With straggling skirt of thin green leaves

That only after years of waiting 

Shoots forth a spear

Calling for the fires, the room to grow 

Unimpeded, it turns into a tower

Above ruins covering

Itself in six-pointed stars


In the new earth it asks

What else are you going to eat?

Take me, have me, spread me

I’m the only thing left

And you’ll love me


To flower after fires is risky 

But they can survive the centuries waiting —


I ask for the flames to find me now

Burning the winters behind me

Forcing the buds to blossom


What flowers will I have to offer the springtime

In return for feeling the heat in the world once more 

Licking jam off fingers freed from gloves

A heart only troubled with loving everything

Too much at once

When the rain comes as a promise not a threat

And Brigid brings her blessings to something as slight

As the ribbon I can use to tie back my hair

Clearing it from my eyes

To see a future again


Can I also be white flowers even

Over burnt ground

Willing myself to be eaten

To stay alive


Editor’s Notes:  I did not know the life cycle of the grass tree, but its habit and habitat were worth a quick look-up.  I had previously learned about a plant--the longleaf pine--that prefers a good forest fire to perpetuate its species.  Such specialty is wonderful to me.  Wonderful, also, is the use Payne makes of the grass tree to build a striking extended metaphor.  CAS


About the Poet:  Olivia Payne is a librarian working in London. She's an alumnus of the Faber Academy and proud member of the Write Like a Grrrl community. She's previously had work published or forthcoming in places including Uncharted, The Amphibian Literary Journal, Cobra Milk, Ellipsis Zine, Corporeal, Alphabet Box, and Sonder Magazine.

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(For my darling nieces)
Melanie Faith

Tonight as I write, you
are at Family
Skate until 10.

You are more
than 10; you have
another half year on you.  Another 6 inches

since last we hugged. Your mom
says the last 10 minutes
they dim the rink lights

and the disco ball
descends, and they call out
everyone for Final Skate. Everyone. Then, wobbly

kids in striped or character socks, moms/dads/aunts/
cousins/sitters holding up tiny kids, and kids in
rental skates still smelling of funky spray inside soles

join in and make final frenzied laps, letting go
of the railing--
she says you, too, like all of us

are learning to let go of the railing.


Poet’s Notes:  One of my favorite surprises of the 2020s has been the resurgence of the popularity of roller skating. I was delighted to learn about my nieces' new hobby, and it brought back some good memories of childhood hours skating, both at rinks and in the (bumpier) backyard. The more serious, letting-go elements of the last lines were also a surprise. I love it when a poem teaches me something unexpected.

Editor’s Notes: The theme of growth has many entry points.  I like how I am taken to the roller-skating rink for this poem.  Many, many times, I took church children roller-skating, and I held the hands of little ones who were wobbly on their feet—not that I was wonderfully steady myself.  Finding one’s balance in life is quite the dizzying accomplishment.  CAS

About the Poet:  Melanie Faith is a night-owl writer and editor who likes to wear many hats, including as a poet, photographer, prose writer, professor, and tutor. She’s been a doodler for years but just recently got brave enough to share her perfectly imperfect doodles. She loves to write about both modern and historical settings in poetry and prose.


This winter and spring, she's teaching a publishing class and a class about writing historical fiction and time-travel stories. Three of her writing craft books were published in 2022 by Vine Leaves Press, including From Promising to Published. She enjoys ASMR videos, reading, and tiny houses. Learn more about her books, art projects, classes, and writing at, @frompromisingtopublished99 at Instagram, or @writer_faith at Twitter.

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Dana Wildsmith

  I likely love the name more than the tool,
  too scary with its risk of snapping back,
  its ratchet clacking as the chain unspools
  so wildly every uncle snatches back
  his hand in every memory-- wooo, Lord--
  until the metal tongue holds still
  among its metal teeth and then once more
  it winches what won't move to what now will.

  Each poem begins where steady ends. A whim
  when workaday is boring as a fence.
  A maybe mired in now. A note of song
  that rings alone until I come along
  to harness up the mental tools I own
  and word by word pull the poem home.



Editor’s Notes:  There is much to love in this poem.  The first three words catch me, for I immediately think of Juliet’s line (from Romeo and Juliet): “I’ll look to like if looking liking move.”  There’s something very poetic, yet conversational, in the words, “likely love.”  Another wonderfully sonic line is line 8: “it winches what won’t move to what now will.”  Wildsmith captures the tension both of tool and sonnet beautifully in her metaphor.  CAS 

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Dana Wildsmith



It shouldn't be your laugh that follows me

today from living room to memory room.

It should be you. Instead, you chose to leave

your house too soon. You closed your empty rooms

and walked away. One too many times

of being left behind had taught you how

to be the one who leaves. You were kind

to yourself for once by bowing out

of pain's relentless squirreling in your mind,

so how could I fault you for that? I don't. I'm just

confused. Sadness took you away, but I

keep seeing you laughing. It's a gift, I guess.

One final present from friend to friend. You left

your laugh in lieu of you, to make amends.


I can't be mad at you.  Fire on fire

just feeds the blaze that made you take yourself.

You'd answer: No, not angry then. Tired.

I'd say your weariness was anger left

to simmer years too long, all the juice

cooked down, a heavy mess too thick to stir.

But we can't have this back and forth of views

about your death because you're dead. You were,

and now you aren't, but I still am. Am what?

I'm weary, too, from trying to adjust,

confounded by the time it took for us,

to grow no time at all to fall to dust.

And just in case you hear my voice--

I'm lying. Dying was a selfish choice.

(Not) Us

I'll sing you to your rest.  At nightfall, all's

forgiven. Heaven is a vespers hymn,

a psalm of supplication, the falling calm

of sleep at last. The gift of an amen.

Editor’s Notes:  The art of one-sided conversation is here.  It is dramatic monolog where the unspoken lies close to the world of the spoken.  I think of looking into a pond and searching for what doesn’t break the tension line of the surface.  The meaningful stuff is under there, but it’s only partially available.  Such is the poignancy of loss.  We can talk, but we strain to hear the voice of the one who’s gone.  CAS

About the Poet:  Dana Wildsmith's newest collection of poetry is With Access to Tools, from Madville Publishing. Wildsmith is the author of five additional collections of poetry, a novel, Jumping, and an environmental memoir, Back to Abnormal, which was Finalist for Georgia Author of the Year. She has served as Artist-in-Residence for Grand Canyon National Park and Everglades National Park, and is a fellow of the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. Wildsmith teaches English Literacy to non-native speakers at Lanier Technical College.

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Shaurya Pathania


My mother never liked

my feet,

She loved me,

At least this is what seemed, 


I wanted her to love me whole, 

Not by ostracizing my body parts, 

Amputating soul from sole, 

So I spied at 

other people’s feet, 

How did they look and why mine

aren’t neat, 


Mine were pale & broad, “manlike, 

no man will ever like

them as they look”, she said—


I started cutting my feet

with a small knife, 

heavy skin by side of the last toes, 

I started tying my feet 

with laces meant for shoes, 


Stabbing and strangling

did hurt me but my feet 

appeared scarlet now, 

I thought mother would like them, 

when I showed her redness, 

She gasped, she loved me

but didn’t she love me already?


I live alone now and I feel

I’ve always liked my feet and I adore them 

more now, and even if my mother

does not, I still love her. 


Editor’s Notes:  Some poems speak to me through their polish.  Some speak through their rawness.  Here, the broken nature of the hurt is caught in image and in language.  I’m convinced of the poem’s importance.  CAS

About the Poet:   Shaurya Pathania is a student of MA English who likes to sleep and eat most of the time. He has a keen interest in poetry. His poems have been published in Drip Lit, Synchronized Chaos, The Chakkar magazine and elsewhere. 

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Transfer on I-15

Noel Sloboda


With Mom gone, you have nobody  

beside you today but me.  

You say you could keep on driving—  


but I know when you are lying,  

prepped, even before you drift   

toward the shoulder, for your surrender  


for the first time on this westward passage,  

for the first time either of us remembers.   

I too feel the drag of more than two hundred miles  


since we left Las Vegas for San Diego.  

The elevation has dropped 2,000 feet  

then climbed again just as much  


making my ear drums feel like cheap plastic  

shopping bags split down the middle.  

The desert sun has seared my face  


nearly melting my eyeballs 

as if we were in some B-grade horror flick.   

You say you could keep on driving  


once more, but I know you are beat 

and I can’t help but snap: You  

should just take a nap in back! 


My words draw me into memories,  

all those weekends when we barreled   

up and down the New England coastline,   


you in love with the road (if not maybe Mom), 

me hunkered down on the floor behind you.  

From Maine to New Hampshire  


we hurtled toward beaches  

Mom cherished but rarely saw  

after another one of your shortcuts   


stranded us inland for hours on end, 

after another race across town lines  

because gas cost too much here or there, 


after another slow loop round the block  

when you would not pay a quarter to park— 

until at last you gave up   


and concluded it was too late for us  

to stop anyhow. I make sure now  

the passenger door is unlocked for you 


before I come over to the other side,  

before I crank back the driver’s seat.   

I don’t need to be on top of the wheel  


like you with your creaky shoulders,   

cramping legs and rheumy eyes.    

I make sure the rearview is set  


just for me. I lie: I am happy  

to take a turn as pilot  

so long as you can handle  


tuning the radio to find us  

something distracting 

for the rest of the trip.

Editor’s Notes:  Two lives are examined, and two periods of growth.  The growth of the father is seen through decline.  The growth of the son is through incline.  Many of us become parents to our parents.  We become the caregivers to the ones who cared for us.  Sadness and memory are evoked, and this poem beats with those notes of sadness and memory—and, yes, resignation.  We move forward into territory we did not choose, but that we must embrace.  CAS 

About the Poet: Noel Sloboda has published two poetry collections as well as seven chapbooks, most recently Creature Features (Mainstreet Rag Publishing Company, 2022). He has also published a book about Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. Currently, Sloboda is an Associate Professor at Penn State York, where he coordinates the English program. 

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New Grass on This Old Earth

Marc Janssen 


Babies love me- 

            And they can’t help it. 

I have warm hands. 

Babies love warm hands- 

            And beards. 


They look up with wild  

            And searching eyes. 

So much is just outside of their focus 

            And listen for the regular thump-thump 

Of their mother’s heart, 

            And are unsure of the low and dogged 

Sounds of a father’s voice 

Singing of robins and cherries. 


Babies are time machines: 


Holding us 

            What we are 

Who we were  

            Our faces and jokes; 

Forward, always forward 

            Bringing us with them  

Until they sleep like I sleep 

            Deep with legs atumble and deep. 


That is when we are finally released from this  

            Old and tired world.

Editor’s Notes:  A poem about babies and old folks seems apropos for such a theme as growth.  The babies keep us young—and, if not young, as least reflective.  CAS

About the Poet:  Marc Janssen has been writing poems since around 1980. Some people would say that was a long time but not a dinosaur. Early decrepitude has not slowed him down much; his verse can be found scattered around the world in places like Pinyon, Slant, Cirque Journal, Off the Coast and Poetry Salzburg, also in his book November Reconsidered. Janssen coordinates the Salem Poetry Project- a weekly reading, the occasionally occurring Salem Poetry Festival, and was a nominee for Oregon Poet Laureate. For more information visit,

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To the Careworn Live Oak Trunk

Washed Up on Morro Strand

(General Submission)

Gary D. Grossman

If the world hadn’t called me away—injecting knowledge

and career, I’d be with you now, resting quietly on

your trunk, tranquility rolling over my limbs—a salving

fog—do others feel your emanations or is it all

just ether from my lungs?


In my beach year I sat every evening, embraced by

your second branch from the end—the solid one—me

looking edge-ward where ocean licked sky.


Storms teach us both the necessary and accessory.


Anchored atop a finger bluff—fifteen feet above the

spring tide line—did you insult Neptune only to be flung

up here in gang-banger impetuosity, or

perhaps it was a rogue wave spawned four hundred and twenty seven

miles mid-ocean—regardless, what a view you have—on

mica-thin winter days Hawaii is almost within

my grasp, and I imagine psychedelic fishes,

afternoon breezes tart as just-ripe pineapples, and all the poi

my lank stomach will hold.


I’ve dropped by again—been too long I know, but time

never exceeds the speed limit, and here you are, still

resting on the strand—unaged by both our year together

and the ten years since—perhaps the Appalachian love

ballads I sang you out of loneliness, aided your stability.


Both algebra and full hearts require constants.


Poet’s Note:  I'll have to ask someone if that tree is still on Morro strand, but it did rest there for many years.

Editor’s Notes:  Morro Strand is on the west coast, so Appalachian love ballads may be a surprise.  However, we are a composite of where we’ve been and what we’ve read and the people we’ve known.  We carry the world in our pockets—and in our hearts.  This poem has a long sweep and a large view.  CAS

About the Poet:  Gary Grossman is Professor Emeritus of Animal Ecology at University of Georgia. His poetry has been published in 35 literary reviews. Short fiction in MacQueen’s Quinterly and creative non-fiction in Tamarind Literary Magazine. Gary’s micro-fiction piece “Mindfulness” was just nominated by MacQueen’s Quinterly for inclusion in The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2023. For ten years he wrote the “Ask Dr. Trout” column for American Angler. Gary’s first book of poems, Lyrical Years, is forthcoming in early 2023 from Kelsay Press, and his graphic novel, My Life in Fish: One Scientist’s Journey, is available from Website:

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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 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 three publications, awards, and/or presentation credits among current and former Frequent Contributors and staff.


FC Karla Linn Merrifield

Karla sends word of three of her recent publications:

Karla Linn Merrifield is delighted to have three poems in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of Red Wolf Journal, along with the poem “Mastering” in Embryo Concepts, and forthcoming, two poems in Musing Publications’ Bloom & Blossom edition.


FC John C. Mannone

John has had many published works since our last issue.  Three of John’s recent publications have appeared in the following:

The Mobile Library Magazine [The Aerogramme Center For Arts And Culture]
Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival 2023 [Boundless, print anthology]
Anthology of Appalachian Writers XV [print anthology honoring Barbara Kingsolver]


FC Howard F. Stein

Three of Howard’s four recent publications are the following:

"Never," AWEN (Atlantean Publishing, Essex, UK). Issue 119, February 2023.

"In Your Presence," The Applied Anthropologist. 42(1-2) 2022. p. 4. 

"Earth, from Orbiting Satellite," The Journal of Psychohistory. 50(3)2023Winter 2023: 238-239.   


FC Tyson West 

Tyson West had three publications and awards as follows:

Tyson had a tanka and a senryu published in Cattails in October 2022.

In November 2022, his poem “November Swirls” took second place in the monthly Wilda Morris Poetry Challenge behind first place, (Songs of Eretz FC) John C. Mannone.

In February 2023, Tyson took second place in the monthly Wilda Morris Poetry Challenge for “Ocean Beach San Francisco March 4, 2020”.


Associate Editor Charles A. Swanson

Three of Charles A. Swanson’s recent poem publications, “Basic Training for a Virginia Boy,” “A Long Way from a Kiss,” and “Late Night,” may be found at AvantAppal(achia), Is(sue) 12, Cur(rent) Is(sue) (


Former FC Mary Soon Lee

Mary Soon Lee was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and won the 2022 Rhysling Award for her poem "Confessions of a Space Station AI" (Uncanny Magazine and the Dwarf Stars Award for her poem "What Trees Read" (Uppagus She has also had 27 new poems and 6 short stories published. Her website continues to be

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      ‘Second person point of view’ is the theme for Songs of Eretz Poetry Review’s summer edition. This literary device forces an immediate connection between narrator and reader. The reader is meant to feel part of the story with the use of 2nd person pronouns (you, yours, yourself, yourselves). However, careless use of 2nd person point of view can distance the reader from the poem. The reader may say that they don’t belong to the narrator’s group in which the poet is including them. Perhaps this is why most poets don't use it as often as 1st or 3rd person points of view.


         Second person point of view influences narrative elements such as theme, tone, and tension. It establishes intimacy between the narrator and the reader. Or it uses a friendly, conversational tone to build a sense of irony as if the narrator is trying to hide something from you, the reader. 


         If you aren’t used to writing from 2nd person point of view, the internet awaits your questions. Give it a go. See what happens.


Deadline:  May 1 – 15, 2023 

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