Friday, December 15, 2023

WINTER ISSUE "Winter Solstice" 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

Charles A. Swanson


Frequent Contributors

Terri Lynn Cummings

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Yoni Hammer-Kossoy, former FC

John C. Mannone

Karla Linn Merrifield

Vivian Finley Nida

Howard F. Stein

Charles A. Swanson

Tyson West


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

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Table of Contents


Letters From the Editors


Featured Frequent Contributors

Vivian Finley Nida

“Winter Solstice Prayer”

“Stone Age Life and Winter Solstice”

John C. Mannone

“Observing the Sun’s Path”

“Longest Night”

“Moon Shadows” 


Frequent Contributors

Howard F. Stein

“Orion’s Longest Night Ride”

“Prayer to the Sun”

Tyson West

“My First Priestess”

“Crossroads Blue”

Karla Linn Merrifield


Steven Wittenberg Gordon

“The Fall of Fall”

Terri Lynn Cummings

“Winter Solstice”

Charles A. Swanson

“Embracing the Pocket”

“Toward Winter Solstice”

Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

“Golden Hour” 

Guest Poets

Connie Jordan Green

“How You Might Spend the Winter Solstice”

“Early Morning”

Oliver Smith


Sarah Das Gupta

“St Lucy’s Day”

Keith Melton

“Key Bridge”

Mark A. Fisher


Mantz Yorke

“Winter Solstice, Derbyshire”

Paul A. Freeman


William Doreski

“Dolor at the Solstice”

Colleen Anderson


(general submission)

A J Dalton

“Valkyrie Love”

(general submission)

Sarah Das Gupta

“Into the Darkness”

(general submission)

Book Reviews

Vivian Nida


When Distant Hours Call




by t l cummings


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Charles A. Swanson

(Associate Editor)


The Book of Noah




by Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

(Former Frequent Contributor)


Frequent Contributor News




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A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Each year, on December 21, winter solstice marks the “turning of the sun.” Meteorologists claim winter begins earlier and spans December – February. Yet the seasonal significance is the gradual growth of daylight until the summer solstice in June.


Although winter is a dormant season, the days grow longer after winter solstice. Celebrations of returning light have been popular throughout history and continue to this day. Pagan societies celebrated a 12-day festival around the winter solstice, recognizing the rebirth of the sun god. Today, Christians celebrate "The 12 Days of Christmas," which begins on Christmas Day, welcoming the birth of Christ, the "Light of the World" (Jn 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).


Whether we are religious or not, the return of light brightens our way during this festive season. I believe that my light shines brighter when I share time, food, clothes, or money with those in need, especially homeless children who have no address to put on their letters to Santa.

Terri L. Cummings



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A Letter From the Associate Editor

 Lead Editor for This Issue

I like to be generous in our interpretation of a theme, but we did look for a direct connection to winter solstice (this year on December 21).  Many submissions were discarded because they were about winter, but not about winter solstice.

Along the way, I learned that the beginning of winter is named according to an astronomical calendar, and that date coincides with the winter solstice, or by a meteorological calendar, with a date of December 1 (Winter Solstice 2023: When Is the First Day of Winter? What Is the Winter Solstice? | The Old Farmer's Almanac). When a poet sees the starting point of winter as December 1, then winter solstice can be perceived as midwinter.

I also learned more about standing stones and Celtic culture, about Wiccan observances, about Chinese (and other Asian) celebrations (dongzhi), and about St. Lucy’s Day.  Some of the poems reference traditions that surround winter solstice.  Other poems reflect the emotional state that can be swayed by light or darkness, by short days and long nights.

Charles A. Swanson

Associate Editor 

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Featured Poets

Winter Solstice Prayer

~In memory of Jeanne Hoffman Smith (Sept. 4, 1929 – Jul. 30, 2022)


Vivian Finley Nida


Lord, help me focus on what’s most important.*

Sun lies so low that sorrows surge inside.


            Bare trees, wind-scuffed, mourn perished leaves.  Inside,

            warm comfort’s found in fragrant lentil soup.


Arthritis interferes with spooning soup,

and hand, like bird’s foot, scratches when it writes.


            This shortest day leaves little time to write.

            Blue parakeet has settled for the night


with quilt draped over cage.  Through longest night,

let hopeful dreams prevail, despairing yield.


            Now winter wears the laurel wreath; fall yields.

            Today the sun has turned around once more.


With greater light, each song of praise hums more

Lord, help me focus on what’s most important.


*Jeanne Hoffmann Smith’s final prayer.   

Poet’s Notes: This Duplex poem is in memory of Jeanne Hoffman Smith, the founding donor and inspiration for Oklahoma City University’s Center for Film and Literature, renamed Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series in her honor.  Since 1999 it has brought poets to the OCU campus. Jericho Brown, who invented the Duplex, was the last poet she chose, but sadly did not live to hear.   

            Previous poets beginning in 1999 include: Robert Pinsky, Jane Hirshfield, Michael Ondaatje, Mark Doty, Naomi Shihab Nye (’03, ‘22), Li-Young Lee, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, Joy Harjo, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Charles Simic, Natasha Trethewey, Carolyn Forché , Claudia Emerson, Terrence Hayes, Tracy K. Smith (’14, ’18), Richard Blanco, Marie Howe, Simon Armitage, Chris Abani, Alberto Rios, Nikky Finney, Ellen Bass (online), and Jericho Brown.  

            Future poets: April 3, 2024, B.H. Fairchild and 2025, Ada Limón.  These events are free and open to the public.  For more information, go to or contact

Editor’s Notes:  Prayers often rise from need.  Prayers are mixtures of despair and hope, of regret and promise, of failure and redemption.  Here, what is most important rises out of caring, of nurturing, of service.  One prayer leads to another.  I find the poem beautiful, achingly beautiful.    CAS 

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Stone Age Life and Winter Solstice

Shakespearean sonnet

Vivian Finley Nida


Five thousand years ago on Orkney Isle

some Scottish Neolithic farmers dwelled

in Skara Brae’s ten flagstone homes, same style—

stone hearth, bed space, and cupboard, one room cell

with toilet and a drain that flushed to sea.

On venison, beef, boar, and birds, they dined,

ate fish and berries, honey from the bee

fermented beer from barley they could grind.

Their Standing Stones of Stenness, most assume

was public place to gather and to view

the grassy mound of Maeshowe, chambered tomb.

They stooped in Maeshowe’s passage to get through.

Inside they watched on winter’s shortest day

as light struck chamber’s wall, and dark gave way.


Poet’s Notes:  My husband and I recently visited Scotland’s Orkney Island and visited several of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Sites.  From the Standing Stones of Stenness on the west mainland, between the gap in two stones, we saw Maeshowe, a large grassy burial mound, our next stop.  The most impressive of the Orkney cairns, Maeshowe was constructed five thousand years ago before the Egyptian pyramids.  The ditch that circles it originally held water, possibly to separate the living from the dead.  The entrance is narrow, long, and low.  We had to stoop to enter before standing in the large central chamber with three side chambers built into the walls.  About three weeks before and after the winter solstice, the sun’s last rays penetrate the entrance and shine on the central chamber’s rear wall.  Many theories exist about why it was built to align with both the stones and the winter solstice’s setting sun, but most think it served as a kind of calendar to mark the old year’s end and the new year’s beginning with more light and a return of life to the land. In case you decide to visit, be sure to purchase tickets well in advance. Tours are limited.  


Editor’s Notes:  I had long known about Stonehenge before I discovered that other sites of standing stones occur in the British Isles.  This poem takes me to one of those other places where standing stones also, as at Stonehenge, seem linked to winter solstice.  CAS

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Observing the Sun’s Path

free verse

John C. Mannone


The sun appears to stand still

in the summer, and in winter,


before reversing it’s trek along

the ecliptic. Imagine Helios,

his chariot blazing the heavens

who knows his path well

[unlike his reckless Phaethon]

—so slowly to our eyes we need

to photograph its position in

the high noon sky at the same

time, same place every day

for the entire year. This yearly

culmination, a choreography

across the sky tracing a figure

eight—an analemma—showing

the knot of equinoxes midway, 

 and solstices—high and low

                                                             where the sun stood still.

Poet’s Notes: A short science lesson in verse using a bit of Greek mythology and allusions to Psalm 104:19 [learn more about the analemma here:].


Editor’s Notes:  The scientific information in this poem makes a nice complement to the Wiccan details in Tyson’s West poem, “My First Priestess” (see below).   CAS

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                         Longest Night

                              modern ballad

                             John C. Mannone

                                 After England Dan & John Ford Coley



                    The chill in the air ushers in snow.

                    The solstice sun is holding on

                    to its light much longer. Its arc

                    across the sky much lower.


                    I cannot see the fire or feel it

                    like before. Clouds have quenched

                    the light and my eyes blur from

                    tears. When will I see you again?


                    There’s an icy north wind seeping in

                    the cracks in my room, windows

                    to my heart rattle in the cold.

                    Nights are forever without you.


                    I didn’t know it would be so strong.

                    I wonder and wait for the longest

                    night to be over, for sunlight

                    to fall like rain, to wash me clean


                    of grief. I can’t stop thinking about

                    you. I am hoping, waiting for a warming

                   embrace, for passion, for this winter

                   solstice to be over.


Poet’s Notes: There is something about the England Dan & John Ford Coley love song that resonates, sonically, with me. It must be the chord progression. I adopted the ballad form, which felt right for the short love poem, but it’s stripped of its meter and rhyme. Listen to their poetry here:


Editor’s Notes:  I keep hearing the England Dan and John Ford Coley song in my head.  John’s poem pays great tribute to these recording artists.  CAS 

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Moon Shadows

prose poem

John C. Mannone


I love the full moon. My dream is to ride the trans-Canadian railway at winter solstice during a full moon, and watch moonlight on snow. If I could write poetry, I’d write about the magic of moonlight on snow, and the healing of loneliness and dark thoughts.

                —Linda McKenna Donovan

It’s the beginning of winter and the nights will be getting shorter but the whole night, horizon to horizon, a lightning storm covering the sky, illumines tracks plowing through Canadian prairie snow. After the thundersnow clouds part, it is magical—lakes with a winter’s stillness and ice-crusted shores, dense pine forests betrayed in moonlight, in daylight, the river valleys boast green in the summer, but now, rolling white blankets; rugged peaks of majestic Rockies envelop quaint towns. Changing landscapes are witnessed through glass-domed lounge cars, and straight up, the stars in that crisp twinkle, and the moon full of glory. Tomorrow finally comes. The long cold moon turns copper in Earth’s shadow, a thousand sunsets captured, while the Sun ducks behind Earth. The perigee moon looms in the wee hours before the veiling. 

I don’t ever think of the thousands it cost—Toronto to Vancouver in a four-night passage; this won’t happen again until 2094. Nor will I think dark thoughts, except perhaps for light-pollution-free skies to see stars’ glitter, even in your eyes, and of you, my love, in my arms in the shadows, whether of an eclipsed winter solstice moon, or under no moon at all.

Poet’s Notes: it took a visit to a free [virtual] venue, Francis Coppola’s American Zoetrope— a private place where we could write and share and learn to critique; and though a member since March 2005, I became inactive in 2016. I recently returned to it to find a correspondence about a winter solstice with a fine fiction writer friend, and English teacher who appreciated astronomy. I found it and the instigating statement that triggered this poem—it appears in the epigraph. I’m not Canadian but if I were, I’d save up for such a ride! Because there is a travelogue component to the poem, I felt a prose poem format was more fluid and fitting for a scenic train ride.

Editor’s Notes: A total lunar eclipse occurred at winter solstice in 2010 (Winter Solstice + Lunar Eclipse—First in 372 Years (   As John indicates in his poem, the next one is forecast for 2094 (Winter solstice eclipse 1st in 372 years | CTV News).   CAS

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Frequent Contributors

Orion’s Longest Night Ride

free verse

Howard F. Stein 


Tonight, the longest

Winter night of the year,

The great hunter

And his dogs

Course their widest

Arc across the sky.


Companion and friend

Since my childhood,

Orion rides the celestial path

Of our turning earth,

His stars, presences

Of my memory

And of tonight,

                            Winter solstice –                            


This is the

The moment of Orion’s

Most treasured

Gift to me – time,

Our most enduring

Time of the year together.

We keep each other

Company in the long cold.


Editor’s Notes: A long, long night may present itself as something unpleasant to endure.  However, the gift of time, in whatever garb it comes, can be a blessing.  CAS

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       Prayer to the Sun

        free verse

        Howard F. Stein


        Your earth tilts

        Farthest away

        From you today.

        The longer you stay away,

        Our anguish of your

        Absence swells.


        We begin to wonder:

        Will you soon

        Disappear forever,

        Abandon us

        To a winter that

        Yields no more to spring?

        Is darkness destiny?


        We await your return,

        But you have come home

        Later and later each day,

        Spend less and less

        Time with us.

        Will you ever relent?


        Each year at this time,

        We ask the same question –

        But fail to remember

        We’ve asked it every year before:


        Will this be the final time

        Winter is but a season

        To be outlasted till spring?

Editor’s Notes: During these winter days, the weather and the dark nights feel like a vise.  Howard captures that sensation well.  CAS

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My First Priestess

free verse

Tyson West

That's my first priestess―

gnawing the edges of my winter dreams since

for I had tumbled awake once my ethanol mist 

fled to Cloud Islay and other islets of disharmony.

Were my impulse to colonize sobriety I knew

I best knead a deity from the mud, silly putty,

and Plato's play dough lining my play pen.

The usual suspects creeped me

for their lust to love me tender

very, very much haunted my illusion of choice―

so much collateral damage.

I have no recall of how the coven found me

in the Coeur d'Alene bungalow temple where

Lady Artemis Wolf Dragon eyed

my geist from the ramparts of her scarves and mirrors

parsing the pungent sweet grass smudge

while her lieutenant and lover

calculated the mist of my sexuality and soul

against the raven feather on the scale―

still all placed their pinkies

in the fissure in my dark side.

My first sabbat as acolyte fell to Yule

birthday of the Blue God

a perfect portal to paddle into the craft of the wise―

top spin in the wheel of the year rolled

to proof if I spiral home deasil or widdershins.

At some shabby aside in our journey

our Priestess sporting her gold tattoo

confided her visions Michael Jackson was to

moonwalk somewhere in her astral.

While we foot witches, watchers, and listeners

never never questioned her dream could ascend his Ferris wheel

to her face―we whispered elsewhither in our jolly corners.

After all her glib fortune telling side hustle

would stub our tarot on her taste for cups of lacrima christi.

With faith and fiction, any arcana, minor or major, can become truth.

We learned her plagiarized lessons, sword

playing the mysteries of the woman behind the curtain,

and bundling forever forest wands

until horrified of her own possibility

we might function in perfect love and perfect trust in spite of

her pentacles of self sabotage,

she one by one borderlined each of us away.

After my sky clad Eostar initiation she lay foundation

to that June esbat, a fortnight before Litha

when she seemed suddenly shocked

she had initiated my cisgender ass

in the name and eight point star of a Sumerian goddess who spoke

then and ever to me in my fine young deliria from five millennia ago.

Our coven hugged until Mabon

then peeled off one by one through Samhain until

we reformed elsewhere without our lady and her lover

to cast our first circle at the crossroads of the following Yule.

In our invocation to the watch towers of the four directions

incense smoke stinging our eyes

the Great Goddess of the Neolithic

enveloped us in a wreath of holly and ivy and faith's persistence.

No matter how imperfect the priestess inhaling the tripod vapor

words of the Goddess chime true.

Consistency crafts greater salvation

than the flashbangs and fantasias

of a pretender suddenly afraid her sideshow charisma

may materialize the tiara and garter

her night sweats prophesied.

Poet's Notes:  In the mid-1980s, I joined a Wiccan coven. Our priestess had quite a few character flaws. As with any religion, if a seeker focuses on the spiritual leader and not on a consistent set of beliefs, any coven or congregation can turn into a cult. Our priestess lacked the charisma, cunning, and competency to become a cult leader. Part of the honesty of the Pagan religion is its disorganization and spontaneity. It is a religion without converts. Pagans are not missionaries. They don't have to be. When people who are true Pagans in their hearts hear their beliefs articulated, they say, "That is what I am." In our coven, none of us were deeply concerned about her narcissism and borderline personality. Together, we received wisdom from the Goddess at the edge of the ice, even as our priestess cannonballed into the chilly lake alone.

Editor’s Notes:  West’s poem provides an opportunity to learn about terms associated with the Wiccan calendar, terms which also take us back in time.  Winter solstice is found under the term many associate with Christmas, Yule.  An issue dedicated to winter solstice would not seem complete without references to how various people groups observed the shortest day (or days) of the year.  CAS

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Crossroads Blue

free verse

Tyson West


That caustic June afternoon
I grokked great grace from a gnossienne
Alder, my dance partner, tangoed as we
shared a quart of ice cold Olympia in my Dodge step side
vintage cruise to the river's conjunction with Hangman Creek.
She groused her lover's sudden bursts of anger while
I listened and nodded, but long had learned
a woman's agitation spins as enigma to be appreciated
but never solved.
Alder bled her feelings on me before as had
her lover, Cedar, butch bravado notwithstanding,
vomited her frustrations on my shoes.
These daughters of bilitis felt secure
wrapped in the plaid flannel comforter
of my cisgender insensitivity.
Suddenly, Alder ceased her whine
and in witchy voice proverbed
summer solstice be but a crossroad in time
light ceasing its expanse
at midsummer night's madness
beyond the sigh of ordinary order.
In the buzz of our third quart
and glare of semi-desert sun
over the river's wet rocks and warbling
I grasped equinox irrelevance―
they jot but midpoints to more
of the same.
Only the pillars of Hermes and Hecate corner
a solstice―true mirrors of light and dark―
so sweet bit Alder's truth
so strong the Great Goddess sets
her plays planting a pause here―a gavotte there―
before wrapping her calf around mine
six months later
at that flip in December darkness.
I must murder my thirst and hunger―
suicide my gimcrack portrait of the artist as a young ego
before I may depart on a clear walk at ten degrees
snow screaming under foot to embrace
such pain and wisdom my Goddess brings.

Poet's Notes:  I was friends with a lesbian couple years ago. Each of them would confide in me their occasional unhappiness with the other. I took no one's side. I simply listened. As far as our human tribe is concerned, equinoxes, while nice, don't have the impact of the solstices. Winter and spring days all get longer from the winter solstice to the summer solstice. From the summer solstice to the winter solstice, days get shorter. An equinox is only a half way point in more of the same. Yule is the best point of the year; it is the first point in the year after which days get longer.


Editor’s Notes:  With West’s poems, I often run to the dictionary, or to the Internet, and I did so with the term gnossienne.  Wikipedia described gnossienne as a musical composition written in “free time” and “lacking time signatures or bar divisions.”  “Crossroads Blue” has a similar tension, lacking the qualities of formal poetry, but focusing on something keyed strongly to a rhythm—the lengthening or shortening of days.  I see the push and pull of tension, as well, in the relationships West describes. CAS

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free verse

Karla Linn Merrifield


The Continental Divide seizes

the Rockies’ snowmelted streams

and hurtles her infant rivers

east or west according to the wishes

of indifferent mountains who answer

only to gravity. On the morning flanks

of the San Juans, voracious rushing

Wolf Creek seeks the Rio Grande, glutted

with last night’s new white inches,

fattened, craving more, clawing onward

in a northerly direction through solid rock.

There, through a shadow of darkness

at winter’s solstice cast by

frozen cliffs eclipsing the sun,

I come skidding to a halt. Ice! Jacknife-ice!


On a roadway scant miles from the summit,

I brace myself by watching a gossamer waterfall,

jewelling moss with mist in a narrow cleft,

submitting with me to gravity. Down and through

the falls go along the granite fault to instant death,

into a greater depth, into the current on that other side.

But up and over the pass, down seven melting miles,

ever so slowly in low gear along the dizzying steep grade,

I arrive at still waters. These easy San Juan River riffles

reach  for the ever-westward-flowing Colorado;

I go through, through, with the elemental Divide’s

great peaks at my back at last.


Editor’s Notes:  I am transported to times I didn’t think I’d make my destination.  The snow controlled my car’s tires as much as did my steering wheel, an adventure more like sledding than driving.  CAS 

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The Fall of Fall

free verse

Steven Wittenberg Gordon


Two years ago, the trees seemed confused.

October and November passed in Kansas,

But the trees clung to their greenery,

Apparently forgetting to bloom.


Even as the winter solstice came and went,

The leaves shriveled, turned brown,

Half littering the ground in a crunchless carpet,

The rest sullen derelicts on the branches.


Juncos arrived late that year, and the Robins lingered. 

This year in Kansas the trees made a compromise,

Some turning, albeit late, others retaining their verdure,

Still others hedging in a harlequin patchwork.


Indian Summer was once a welcome break,

As overcoats gave way to shirtsleeves one last time

For a precious week early in November.


Now summer lasts too long for its Indian counterpart to manifest,

As a tide of rain that should have been snow

Falls during the Tide of Yule, a harbinger of the drought to come.


Editor’s Notes:  We see these weather shifts here, too.  Summer keeps interrupting winter.     CAS

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Winter Solstice

free verse

Terri Lynn Cummings


I want

more    of you.

More good years

with un-fused back

two original hips

mid-night lips.


I need

your     light

to gather, grow

show the way

past a winter’s

cold corpse.


I open

wide the heart’s

mouth, free

what fails to serve

re-tune the chorus

of nature.


I soar

to the beginning—

re-learn you

re-earn you


than before.


I savor

you, mindful 

of each second

clasped together

like the    lovers

we were born.


Let’s slow

your clock’s hands

my    hands. Linger

over every hidden

moment in the

day’s roused dawn.


Forty years—

that’s how long

I slept.

Tell me

this time you will

be mine, once again.


Editor’s Notes:  This love poem appeals to me.  Some of the poem’s power comes from well-chosen images and metaphors.  Love in later life can know—should know—a “roused dawn.”  CAS 

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                Embracing the Pocket

                  free verse

                Charles A. Swanson


                I sit down to practice, the score

                before me.  The key

                signature I note first, the sharps

                or flats, those namers


                by number—signs—one, two, three,

                even six.  This moment’s sign,

                one sharp—the signature a lessening,

                adjustment—the key


                of G today, and I roam the white

                plain with the one black

                recurring bump. An old friend,

                this familiar key.  I still


                finger errant notes, as I plump

                down chords or run

                arpeggios.  It is adventure

                as much as anything.


                But hide and seek, a melody

                ought to emerge,

                but not so.  The sheet music

                lies spread before me,


                as certain as days shortening

                toward winter solstice,

                a pattern, a familiarity, a song

                I know, a stricture


                of sorts, but sweet as well as sad.

                I reach for it, find

                melody and rhythm pocket

                and settle into smaller


                spaces. Fingers caress keys

                for quiet moments, stroke

                crescendos for heart-pounding days,

                still a life full of choices.


Poet’s Notes:  No virtuoso pianist, I nevertheless have gained a little more skill over the years, even if I often feel my improvement is in tortuously small increments.  When I’m playing for myself, I usually begin by exploring the chords—harmonies and dissonances—in the key of the song I am about to play.  Perhaps my free-wheeling is nothing more than a warm-up exercise, but I hope to find the song within the song before I even attempt the notes written on the page I have spread on the music rack.  Settling into the written song is both pleasure and confinement.  Likewise, as days shorten I find both pleasure and confinement.

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Toward Winter Solstice

free verse

Charles A. Swanson


As days shorten, the two dogs

tickle me.  The rust red

worn-down jeans they stole

last week, they tug and tug,


canine teeth baring, gums exposed,

growls and gutturals

skittering like the gravels they churn.

It is pure game and joy.


Each leg goes opposite, gripped

and slobbered.  I doubt

they mind the grime or sweat

they gnaw and masticate.


More clay, more litter, more grit

interweave the fabric,

tough as rope, tough as leather,

tough as any chew-toy.


They don’t know they take me

long days back to childhood,

to past dogs and past loves, past

shortening days I see now.


Light dwindles, hours darken,

sober thoughts come first.

A reel, the tug-of-war goes on,

                                two dogs in the waning sun.                                


Poet’s Notes:  When my dogs first absconded with my jeans, I looked for the jeans everywhere I thought a dog might go.  Only a few weeks later did they reappear, and by that time, I assigned them to their new status, the dogs’ chew toy.  Fortunately, the jeans were already worn-out, full of my own years of work and sweat.  I saw a small irony in the fact that the jeans were the “Lucky” brand.  Lucky was also a much-loved dog from my childhood years.

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                    Golden Hour

                        free verse

                       Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

                       former frequent contributor


                        And on the fourth day:

                        sun, moon, stars. Or in other words


                        time, love, yearning. Many chapters later

                        I was at the beach trying to catch


                        the shortest day’s light in a net.

                        Of course I didn’t. I’m just a poet.


                        But maybe one of the couples dressed in white did.

                        They gathered for hundreds of kilometers


                        up and down the sea’s eastern brow.

                        Searching for a sandy place


                        where the air isn’t so heavy

                        with language or country.


                        Searching for a perfect picture. Searching

                        for a before known only by its after.                                   

Poet’s Notes: "Golden Hour" takes its name from that time of day just before sunset when the light is goldilocks-right and all kinds of seeing and understanding are at least fleetingly possible.

Editor’s Notes: I like the admission, “I’m just a poet.”  Perhaps it’s a confession as much as an admission.  Perhaps, we fear what we attempt and attempt what we fear.  We approach the unknowable as if to know it.  CAS 

About the Poet: Yoni Hammer-Kossoy is a poet, translator, and educator. A past Songs of Eretz Frequent Contributor and winner of the 2020 Andrea Moriah Prize in Poetry, his writing appears in numerous international journals and anthologies. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Yoni has lived with his family in Jerusalem for the last 25 years. Yoni's first poetry collection, The Book of Noah, is now available from Grayson Books. [See below for a review of Yoni’s book. —Ed.]

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Guest Poets

How You Might Spend the Winter Solstice

free verse

Connie Jordan Green

            a cup of hot chocolate at your elbow,

            a book open on your lap


like a moth on the kitchen window, 

wings the color of old oak bark


            on a horse galloping across the pasture,

            summer’s last growth rattling 

            loud as the bones of winter


like red-capped lichen on a weathered

fencepost, British soldiers on parade,

barbwire festooned with icicles


            in a bathtub filled with warm water,

            your only light the full moon 

            at your window


like the first snowflake of the season,

your design yours alone, a stranger

come to grace this good earth

Editor’s Notes: And this poem plays counterpoint to Green’s poem above.  Here the person is active, ready to embrace the weather.  CAS

 Green uses the senses, and she puts the reader in each scene. TLC

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Early Morning

free verse

Connie Jordan Green


If in the slip of light sliding

     through the eastern window,

          the room warm against the wall

of cold that has come to stay

     this December morning, you

          recognize a body pulling on


heavy socks, gloves, hair tucked

     beneath a knitted hat, eyes 

          bright, step lively, you will

know you have come upon

     a worshipper of the winter 

          solstice, a spirit going out


into the world to pay homage 

     to the coming of light, grace

          and gratitude in every breath

while stars fade from the sky,

     sun already rising a little higher

          than the day before, dawn trailing

               along holding tightly to her skirts.

Editor’s Notes: And this poem plays counterpoint to Green’s poem above.  Here the person is active, ready to embrace the weather.  CAS

Green hooks the reader from the start. TLC

About the Poet: Connie Jordan Green lives on a farm in East Tennessee where she writes and gardens.  She is the author of two award-winning novels for young people, The War at Home and Emmy; two poetry chapbooks, Slow Children Playing and Regret Comes to Tea; and two poetry collections, Household Inventory, winner of the Brick Road Poetry Award, 2013, and most recently Darwin’s Breath from Iris Press. Her poetry has been nominated for Pushcart awards. She frequently leads writing workshops. 

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Free verse

Oliver Smith


As we breathed a soft breath of midwinter,  
the last cruel ember sank; ghostly sick sun 
extinguished beyond the dark western hills.     
From the wooded grey of the Severn Vale,  
the far-friendly fires glowed on the edge of the home.   
Yet in the night, each threshold light burned alone.

One by one those doors closed; bolts shut,
locks shot, way barred, as hill to stream to sea,
winter darkness flowed. The bare twig, the branch,
the leaf, the withered grass turned to crystal,
and every frozen blade gleamed; a pale knife,
and the old oak and beech endured, white

as icy bones; wind carved, sea changed, and wrecked,
as if caught in the wild, wide ocean’s claws 
and cast away, on grey Antarctic shores
among cold, basalt stones and hungry storms.
We sat, kissed by ghostly lips of midnight frost
where stars blazed in ice and the sun seemed lost.

The spring forgotten beneath the cold soil.
Harvest’s song lost on bluing lips. The world;
an empty house; tiles blown off; windows gone.
Across the doorstep, the north wind creeping,
the roof, a moonbow; spectral, shrouded, still 
in the long barrow shadow, on the frozen hill.

We should have gathered wood, blazed our fire bright
to welcome the reborn sun in a beacon glow
yet the fading fire’s flame kept just at bay
last year’s dead dream ghosts, that edged so close
that, nursing our embers, we could do no more
than hope for the new day’s dawn.

Poet’s Notes:  I grew up near Cooper’s Hill (where the famous Cheese Rolling takes place in the spring). The hill rises 800 feet above the flat valley and like many of the hills in the area was an iron age hill fort. Sometime in the 1980s, the lights of the Severn Vale spread out below from the Forest of Dean, to the Malvern Hills, and from the towns of the vale. The stars were all visible and bright in the winter sky away from much of the light pollution of the village. We built a fire to keep warm but the frost was far harder than we had expected. It would have been a long dark walk home so we piled more and more of our gathered wood on the fire, built it higher and higher to keep warm. But, burning so bright, it consumed itself leaving only embers.  I woke in the morning with the foot of my sleeping bag melted from getting too close to the hot ashes.

Editor’s Notes: Although this poem encompasses more than imagery, it is the imagery that draws me in.  When poetry sings, it says more than prose can say, for it begins to thrum in the blood.   CAS

Despoina’s half-sister is Persephone. Despoina is a lesser-known goddess in Greek mythology and was known for fertility. TLC

About the Poet:  Oliver Smith is a visual artist and writer from Cheltenham, UK.  He is inspired by Tristan Tzara, J G Ballard, and Max Ernst; by the poetry of chance encounters, by frenzied rocks towering above the silent swamp; by unlikely collisions between place and myth and memory.
        His poetry has been published in Abyss & Apex, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Strange Horizons and Sylvia Magazine and has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
        He holds a PhD in Literary and Critical Studies from the University of Gloucestershire.  For more information see his website: 

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St Lucy’s Day

free verse

Sarah Das Gupta


The shortest day

of a long year.

Only St Lucy’s light

to prevail against

the liquid dark.

From the far horizon

night rolls in

like a spring tide

flooding fields and cattle,

obliterating the individual,

drowning that lone oak

in dark anonymity.

In the pastures

sheep huddle,

backs to the driving

east wind’s chill.

In the slate quarry

a whirlpool of black

covers old scars.

From the refuge

of lighted rooms,

we look blindly

into our lost world.


Editor’s Notes: Although St. Lucy’s Day is celebrated on December 13, Wikipedia notes that this feast day originally coincided with winter solstice (Saint Lucy's Day - Wikipedia). See below, following “Into the Darkness,” for Das Gupta’s biographical sketch.  CAS 

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Key Bridge

modern sonnet

Keith Melton


Each stone a redoubt against the current

Icy winds scouring every knoll   

A rooftop, a turret, in view of monuments

Masons boasting a talent of steel

Beyond horizon’s rampart, its message

Silent, across a great republic

And her plain of rivers.  Winter’s fame

In snowy bursts, whispers numbing as quick

Tides scour, mystery in dark refrain

Ready to receive what the solstice hides

A rising fog to mark its silver reign--

Seasons in ever bruising shards of ice.

For the bridge remains our parapet

Its gate narrow, our days peninsular.

Poet’s Notes:  In my work, I seek to explore the lives and circumstances of everyday people aka “Essential Workers” as well as the natural, manmade and spiritual beauty that often sustains them. While exploring the challenges they face a certain tension often becomes evident.  To me, this tension is worthy of exploration and an image will startle the poem to life.   As the inspiration comes, the structure of the poem begins to unfold – and word choice may suggest its direction.  Also, a note about place-making is in order.  The interaction of the subject in his/her surroundings fascinates me.  Cities and natural landscapes have stories to tell which shape everyday people.  In this poem “Key Bridge,” I have tried to illustrate both the manmade and natural environments in the space of the poem and how the bridge in winter is a symbol of both triumph and humility. 

Editor’s Notes:  I usually think of a bridge in a somewhat clichéd way.  A bridge (a bridge event) opens a passage to something beyond, some new potential.  However, Melton reminds us that a bridge is also a narrowing (“our days peninsular”), as well as a position suited for defense, and, therefore, a digging in of our heels.  CAS

About the Poet:  Mr. Melton holds a Master’s in City Planning from Georgia Tech and a BA in Economics and International Studies from the American University.  His work has appeared in numerous publications including Amethyst, Compass Rose, The Galway Review, Kansas Quarterly, Confrontation, Mississippi Review, Grand Little Things, The Miscellany, Big City Lit, Cosmic Daffodil, Cape Rock Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, Poet’s Artists and MadmenSiren’s Call and others.  

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


Mark A. Fisher

solstice morn-

ing cold wint-

er sunrise



ingrained in



it takes mag-

ic to bring

the sun back 

Editor’s Notes: In Fisher’s tight form, I catch the short day of winter solstice.  I also feel the shiver of winter, the chattering of teeth mimicked by the hyphenated words.  CAS

About the Poet:  Mark A. Fisher is a writer, poet, and playwright living in Tehachapi, CA. His poetry has appeared in: Reliquiae, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, and many other places. His first chapbook, drifter, is available from Amazon. His poem “there are fossils” (originally published in Silver Blade) came in second in the 2020 Dwarf Stars Speculative Poetry Competition. His plays have appeared on California stages in Pine Mountain Club, Tehachapi, Bakersfield, and Hayward. His play Moon Rabbit won Audience Favorite at the Stillwater Oklahoma Short Play Festival in 2023. He has also won cooking ribbons at the Kern County Fair. 

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Winter Solstice, Derbyshire

free verse

Mantz Yorke


That spring we ambled beside the river

to the viaduct that’s now part of the trail

between Bakewell and Blackwell Mill.

Beside a fishing pool the scent of may 

hung heavy in the air: we lingered there, 

watching a jet’s trail, brilliant white 

against the mirrored deep blue sky, 

till it wriggled across the rippling

ahead of the dam’s lip and was gone.


Today, the alders on the bank are leafless 

silhouettes against a brackeny tan, 

their empty cones clinging to the twigs.

The low midday sun has been snuffed out

by dark cloud swept on a bitter wind 

from the north. Snowflakes quietly hiss

against my waterproofs and, thickening, 

are turning the landscape monochrome.

I walk on into the wind. My cheeks are wet.


Editor’s Notes: In Mantz’s poem, “the scent of may” refers to the hawthorn tree.  One season is contrasted with another, one pleasant emotional state with a bitter one.  CAS

“…. My cheeks are wet.” This last sentence, this last image says so much. TLC

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Shakespearean sonnet

Paul A. Freeman


December 21st, the shortest day;

a neolithic site on Salisbury Plain.

Twixt rimy sarsens, Druids spot a ray

of sunlight and their sacrifice is slain.


In Wales and England standing stones were hewn,

conveyed to their expansive Wiltshire home,

erected to a bearded shaman’s tune

beneath Earth’s black-and-blue revolving dome.


This monumental ring of stones reveals

by movement of the stars, the moon and sun,

the moment that the winter solstice seals

that season’s fate, and shortened days are done.


Stonehenge’s upright stones and lintels still

announce when we’ve survived midwinter’s chill.


Poet’s Notes:  The national monument at Stonehenge has always fascinated me. It was a pleasure to write a poem as structured in its way (a sonnet) as the standing stones at Stonehenge with its concentric rings of sarsens and lintels.

Editor’s Notes:  Yes.  This issue needs a poem about Stonehenge.  CAS

The Druids, the dark assurance “… we’ve survived midwinter’s chill,” seemed to call for this black-and-white image of Stonehenge. TLC

About the Poet: Paul A. Freeman is an English language teacher. He is the author of Rumours of Ophir, a crime novel which was taught at ‘O’ level in Zimbabwean high schools and has been translated into German.

In addition to having two novels, a children’s book and an 18,500-word narrative poem (Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers!) commercially published, Paul is the author of scores of published short stories, poems and articles.

He is a member of the Society of Authors and of the Crime Writers’ Association, and has appeared several times in the CWA’s annual anthology.

He resides and works in Mauritania. 

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


Dolor at the Solstice

modern accentual verse

William Doreski


Bored by icicles drooling

their slick clichés, deadened

by the rasp of terriers barking,

tired of browsing the Sunday Times,

I stroke my unshaven chin

to strike a spark from the stubble.


You stand at the sink and mutter

curses on my wayward habits.

But confined by weather and plague,

we ought to share our little space

with literary, literal gusto

we both find in Joseph Conrad.


Evil lurks by the frozen pond

where one glacial erratic taunts

the inadequate crust of snow.

I should pitch my all-season tent

in the middle of the pond and dare

an early thaw to displace me.


You would never follow me

to the pond, the purple early dark

filling our pockets, the ghost-tracks

of migrating geese still glowing

in vapors that smell like ghosts.

No more thick old novels


to distract from the rasping

of tree trunks too closely grown.

The evil that lurks here consists

of drownings that haven’t occurred.

Camping on the ice would reclaim

the courage I lost with aging.


But maybe I’d better stay home

and toy with the image of thrusting

an icicle into my brain

to scald away the nonsense

that you protest by washing dishes

so roughly that some of them break.


Editor’s Notes:  Here, the feelings brought on by winter and short days are given fuller scope.  I like the interplay of tensions between domestic partners and how that is echoed in the weather.  CAS

About the Poet:  William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Venus, Jupiter (2023).  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals. 

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general submission

by Colleen Anderson


silver limned crescent

Moon’s boat crests night’s ocean

nets winter starfish

Poet’s note: I always love seeing that sickle moon in a clear night sky. Sometimes it’s tilted in such a way that it looks like a silvery boat. What would a sky boat harvest as it sailed through the galaxy? I wanted to capture the beauty and mystery of night exploration.

Editor’s Notes:  Even though only the breadth of a haiku, this poem adds a certain charm to this issue. CAS


I like the word “limned,” which goes unused these days. I, too, have seen the moon boat. TLC

About the Poet:  Colleen Anderson is a multiple-nominated and award-winning author with writing widely published in seven countries in such venues as Andromeda Spaceways, Lucent Dreaming, the award-winning Shadow Atlas, and Water: Sirens, Selkies & Sea Monsters. Her Rhysling Award winning poem “Machine (r)Evolution” is in Tenebrous Press’s Brave New Weird. Colleen lives in Vancouver, BC, and her poetry collections The Lore of Inscrutable Dreams, I Dreamed a Worldand fiction collection, A Body of Work, are available online. A new poetry collection is coming in 2024.

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Valkyrie Love

free verse

general submission

A J Dalton


When Brunehilde finds you in the very heat of battle

bringing you a horn of mead, to slake your tortured thirst

thank her kindly, but show her shield and sword in either hand

raise them high, and launch yourself again

like a longboat leaving shore, for foreign lands and plunder.

She’ll laugh approvingly, and beg to be your shield-maiden

so you might have a moment’s relief, yet still put her off

singing a war-cry to stir the blood of those around you

–her voice might join yours in giddy kinship

fiercely charged in challenge, chorus and allure:

yield not to her, though, brave one

–and the raven swirling darkly over her shoulder?

Dare not let it alight, not for an instant!

It is the greatest glory to be chosen by her

to be led to Odin’s table in Valhalla, to that honoured feast

where the bounty, boast-toasting and fellowship are forever

–alas, it will mean you lie slain upon the muddy field

your comrades and clan bereft of your strength

and that damnable crow pecking at your corpse

so, weak youth, smile gently upon the pressing and winged Brunehilde

saying, “Nay, dear one, ask me another day.”


Editor’s Notes:  Love poems may be done to death, but who doesn’t love a good love poem?  I like the warnings strewn throughout this siren song of love.  CAS

About the Poet:  A J Dalton ( is a UK-based SFF writer. He has published the Empire of the Saviours trilogy with Gollancz Orion, and various collections with Kristell Ink and Luna Press. He also runs the online storytelling community on behalf of Middlesex University - all welcome! He lives with a monstrously oppressive cat named Cleopatra.

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Into the Darkness

free verse

general submission

Sarah Das Gupta


In the growing gloom,

marble knights sleep through history.

Winter light, glinting on their chain mail,

splinters into sudden iridescence.

Ladies rest on pillars of alabaster

dappled by colours filtered

through stained glass.

Christ hangs in agony

through the centuries

on the Cross above the altar.

In darkening glass windows,

horned devils prod and torture

writhing, suffering bodies

in a medieval hell.

Musty prayer books

slowly decay and rot

as motes of dust dance

in the final shafts of light.

The names of the Glorious Dead,

recorded on polished oak,

echo ever more quietly

through changing generations.

At the back, bell ropes hang sleepily,

waiting for ghostly ringers.

Around the font throng souls

of infants whose bodies

lie waiting in the cold graveyard.

Here time past and time present

merge in the winter darkness.


Editor’s Notes:  A closed church is one of the saddest things to me.  In Das Gupta’s poem, the particular details, haunting in their literal descriptions, gather to form a telling picture.  Yet, due to present and progressive verb tenses, the picture is more cinematic than static.  CAS

Often, I’ve stood in the middle of a church’s remains and wondered about its congregants. Tombs and headstones may never sum up a life, and I am saddened by it. Perhaps knowing that I, too, will be forgotten one day is what bridges the past, present, and future (for me). TLC

About the Poet:  Sarah Das Gupta is a retired English teacher from Cambridge, UK. who also taught in Kolkata, India, and in Tanzania. She started writing a year ago while in hospital, following an accident. Her work has been published in over fifteen different countries and in many magazines, journals and anthologies including: The American Literary Review, BarBar, New English Review, Waywords Literary Review, Berlin Review, Pure Haiku, Danse Macabre among others.  Her interests include:  history, politics, early music, parish churches, folklore, botany and horse racing.

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 Book Reviews


When Distant Hours Call




t l cummings





Vivian Finley Nida 

When Distant Hours Call, Terri Lynn Cummings’ third poetry collection, takes readers through time and place to reflect on events that shape personal growth and a meaningful life.  Published in 2019 by Village Books Press, the book’s three parts are written with heartfelt compassion and skill.


Part I begins with childhood and focuses on coming of age. The speaker in “Play Ball” announces, “I won’t shutter memories/or ban work of love.” She is ready to pitch but is not prepared for “First Loss.” At seven, her best friend succumbs to cancer.  Crying, she pedals her bike away from home and stops where “a field of switchgrass holds its breath.” “Here her shadow/ slants like a broken promise.”  A child, she copes with the loss of her friend by turning to fantasy, “A dragon burned my friend to ash.


As a college student studying anthropology, Cummings recounts a class’s fossil hunting excursion in “Paleontology.” She stands before readers, stunned by the personal discovery that she is no longer a youth.  “I wear my father’s hands/hold histories in them / like drops of water/delicate, easy to lose….”  Then she is overcome by the mature wonder of historical discovery. “I…glance at my feet. Silence/ white as a stone erases the world / A trilobite, long as my hand-- / the find of a lifetime.” (A trilobite is an extinct marine arachnomorph arthropod. The last disappeared 251.9 million years ago.)


A young professional ready to put trust in a relationship, Cummings writes of finding love in “The Time of Venus.” “Even now, she marvels/how the slow spin of Venus/ lives up to his desire/ for the span of love and beauty-- / a second lasts longer than a day/in every caress.” She follows this with the loss of love’s illusion in the humorous “Pie Junkie.” She eats his slice of pie, saying, “I wanted nothing more than to be transported / from a crowded jail of unwashed laundry / to the sinful affair with crust/and meringue and chocolate / chocolate / chocolate.


Part II extends loss, hard choices, and tribulations of family members in Ireland, the great first war, WWII, death, melancholy, and lasting repercussions as shown in “Defiant.”  “…Bombs/charred the skin of peace, severed branches of families, friends.” The section closes with a haiku titled “Reason.”  “Open the mind’s wrist / name the dreams worth living for / beyond greed, grief, gun.


Part III addresses how to live.  Advice appears in “Daily Bread.” “Slow down/ Tomorrow surges / after you with / artifacts of love.”  In “The Simplest Matters,” parents thought “the world was kinder when they were young,” but they are no longer living.  The speaker’s negative mindset persists. “Circumstances are sorry enough that one may… whistle a tune, or smile / and achieve as much for the universe as anyone.” Further debate about living surfaces in “Alzheimer’s Curse,” which refers to the death of grandsons and asks, “Why not me?” and “Weary,” which ponders, “Why are we never / finished with our own dying?


A change in point of view provides a shift.  The field that held its breath in “First Loss” becomes the speaker in “Muse” and recalls the past, compares it to the present.  “A seven-year-old girl imagined I was Oklahoma/Neverland where no one grew old.  I taught her/winter scabbed fall and death was not the end… / Shoots raised summer, and the sun, always an/exquisite nude, visited me longer to crown stalks/with tassels… / Bare-bone trees now sigh in pleasure/as hands and feet press limb-to-limb / Her grandchild spies my grassy beard/flies to the land of evermore.


Hope rises to the pinnacle in Cummings’ title poem, “When Distant Hours Call.” With a sure voice, the speaker in the poem declares, “I want to be true to this season of downy blankets / without bustle or blare toppling small pleasures-- /…present/ in an ever-altering / landscape.” 


Through superior craftsmanship, Terri Lynn Cummings’ book shows how loss, which weighs heavy, can be carried, understood, accepted. When Distant Hours Call increases readers’ understanding of how people grow and change through loss to achieve maturity, a broader perspective, and wisdom to lead a more meaningful life.

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The Book of Noah



Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Former Frequent Contributor




Charles A. Swanson


Yoni Hammer-Kossoy’s volume of poems, The Book of Noah, is available from Grayson Books.  Noah is the figure whose life becomes the touchstone for the poet’s fears of global warming and climate change.  The volume of poems approaches the controversial subject of planetary chaos through the archetypical flood that Noah saw coming.  The poet wonders—and sometimes dreams—how he can comprehend and stave off the disaster of his own time.


Throughout the book, brilliant poems in various forms investigate the speaker’s role in the unfolding drama of today.  “In His Generation,” a discursive poem in seven parts, discusses the dilemma.  The speaker admits, “I’m struck by how convinced I am that my personal / actions are making the world a better place.”  Then he becomes distressed that the city of Jerusalem, his home city, has taken over his job of recycling by investing “100 / million shekels in a waste processing plant to separate recyclable / materials from all of the city’s garbage” (“3.”).  He wonders whether his efforts have an impact on the threat he sees.


Other poems, such as “A Hand in the Dark,” are anything but discursive.  Rather, images coalesce to create the impression of instability, of “flickers” and “static.”  Out of the swirl of shifting figures, the speaker asserts “one genetic bit / scores / the translucent lie / between seeing and going blind.”  “Memory Foam” teases also.  In a prose poem format, the poet stabs the phrase “unasleep me” into a series of restless bed-tossing images, all of them imitating the trouble that holds him, bears down on him, and underwaters him.


As the volume moves back and forth in style, in time, and in questioning, a sense of the enormity and elusiveness of global warming unfolds.  A poem which epitomizes the difficulty of capturing the phenomenon of a worldwide potential cataclysm is “Dust Libation.”  An ancient pot is the subject of the poem, and the speaker describes it as “the clay pot [that] always pops into mind when I’m prompted / to describe an object.”  The pot is a worthy subject, “wandering-in-the-desert ancient,” dated (by whatever means) to “600 BCE.”   By his own admission, the speaker suggests that this is one of the physical things that is archetypal to him, something that becomes an obsession in his writing life.  Nevertheless, he says, “I’ve / written too many half-fired poems about this pot but never know / how to finish them.”  At the end of the poem, he says, “what I’m going to do is throw it / on the ground and walk away.”


A somewhat popular modern motif in poetry is for the poet to admit what he can’t remember or can’t quite capture.  His failures enter the poem and sometimes become the poem’s heartbeat.  This poem about the clay pot takes on more meaning than another failed attempt to write a successful poem about an art object.  Instead, the futility enters the larger theme, the very trouble of writing—convincingly and warningly—about the oncoming disaster of climate change.


As one might expect from a book of poems, the person of Noah, from Genesis in the Old Testament, makes appearances in the volume, but does not dominate the text.  The last poem in the collection illustrates Noah’s elusive nature.  The speaker says that Noah “didn’t speak to me for weeks.”  This troubling occurrence happened after the speaker’s wife told him, “Noah didn’t die because he never lived” (“The Death of Noah”).


Does Noah emerge as a literary figure, one who becomes a good vehicle for the poet’s questions, or does Noah emerge as a figure of faith?  If Noah did, indeed, live, he is still an enigma, for he cannot answer the questions the poet poses to him, not unless Noah speaks to the spiritual man.  Yoni Hammer-Kossoy does more than just appeal to Noah as a useful Biblical trope who presages and prepares for the destruction of the earth.  Hammer-Kossoy, instead, becomes a brother to Noah, a spiritual descendant of Noah, who sees the trouble coming, who warns through word and deed, and who senses the disregard his warnings will receive.


The Book of Noah will reward the reader on many levels.  First, for those who love poetry, they will find a wide range of poems, and the various forms are handled with skill.  Second, for those who are anxious about global warming, they will encounter a kindred spirit.  Third, for those who are doubters of climate change, they will find a voice that also doubts, ponders, questions, reflects, and agonizes.  Even though the message of the book is clear and strong, the poet gives doubters room to come to the table, to discuss, to ruminate, to digest.  Fourth, for those who are persons of faith, they will find that Noah is not doubted or diminished or dismissed.  His concerns, presented as real and unmistakably urgent, are the bridgework on which Hammer-Kossoy builds his own.


The image of the clay pot, an image which suggests an inert and finished thing, becomes instead a metaphor for the time-burdened, dim-in-the-past but still-yet-to-be, thing the poet is working with.  I quote Paul Lake here (from “The Shape of Poetry”): “the rules of formal poetry generate not static objects like vases [or, surely, pots!], but the same kind of bottom-up, self-organizing processes seen in complex natural systems such as flocking birds, shifting sand dunes, and living trees.”  Hammer-Kossoy’s attempts to “capture” the pot as a “static” object may fail, but his attempt to present global warming and earth-shaking cataclysm succeeds because he pictures it, through many poems, both discursive and imaginative, as a “complex natural” system.  Or perhaps not so natural.  As man’s sinful lifestyle led to the flood in Noah’s time, so our pattern of living today affects and damages the world we inhabit.  This is a book of poems that will richly reward the attentive reader.


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Your Support

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is a for-profit entity that operates at a loss of up to $7,000 per year. It is sustained entirely by donations of time, talent, and treasure made by our editorial staff, loyal readership, and family of poets and artists.  

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Frequent Contributor News


Alessio Zanelli had many publications this quarter and three of the notable ones are:  Atlanta Review (GA), North Dakota Quarterly (ND), and English Journal (GA).


Karla Linn Merrifield has several full-length poetry manuscripts out on submission to as many publishers from the US to Great Britain to Australia as possible. Fingers crossed!


John C. Mannone celebrated eight continuous years as a Frequent Contributor (FC) to Songs of Eretz. This may be a record for an FC. Meanwhile, his publications include:  


"Song of the Mountains" (Middle Creek Publishing and Audio), released in November 2023, and nominated for the prestigious Weatherford Award in Appalachian Literature. It has four poems first published in Songs of Eretz Poetry Review.


Though John is a college professor in physics, next semester (Spring 2024) he is honored to be teaching a course in creative writing to high school students at Career Magnet Academy in Knoxville, TN.


Howard F. Stein had the following poems published: 

AWEN.  Issue 122. November 2023.  Atlantean Publishing, UK.  "Wall Clock" (co-authored with Seth Allcorn); "Heather, A Flower"; "Love's Request." 

Clio's Psyche.  "Edvard Munch's 'Scream' -- and Ours."  30(2) Winter 2024: pp. 208-209.    


Oklahoma Today.  "Tapiola," May-June 2023.  p. 41.

Mary Soon Lee’s poem "What Xenologists Read" appeared in Analog, November/December 2023. Two more poems, "Orchid Dragon" and "Phoenix Dragon," appeared in Analog, November/December 2023.


Vivian Nida and Terri Cummings presented their two-voice poems, accompanied by a PowerPoint production, to two book clubs.


Terri Cummings was selected to present her poetry at the Southwest American Pop Culture Association in Albuquerque, NM, February 2024. 

Charles A. Swanson has two poems in AvantAppal(achia), an ezine that favors experimental writing:  Cur(rent) Is(sue) (

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 We hope you enjoyed this issue and encourage you to come back again in 2024.  The themes and deadlines are as follows:


    Season           Theme                          Submission Period


    Spring            Holding your breath              Feb. 1-15


    Summer         Respond to Keats's                May 1-15

                          “Ode on a Grecian Urn”


    Fall                Something you can hold        Aug. 1-15


    Winter            A dramatic monologue          Nov. 1-15


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