Featured Poet:  James Frederick William Rowe

Volume 1, Issue 7
July 2014

From the Editor:  

I am pleased to present another Songs of Eretz Featured Poet issue.  This month's featured poet is James Frederick William Rowe.

Mr. Rowe's poetry has appeared in two previous issues of the e-zine.  I nominated his "Bone Cutter's Lament," which appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2 (November 2013), for a Science Fiction Poetry Association Rhysling Award in the short poem category.

Mr. Rowe is an emerging force in the world of poetry with a style that is bold, imaginative, crisp, and refreshingly simple yet profound. His work harkens back to the best elements of old school forms but with a distinctive contemporary flair.  I have no doubt that we may expect great things from this poet.  Enjoy!

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

About the Poet:  

James Frederick William Rowe hails from Brooklyn, New York (although he prefers the use of British spelling in his writing).  In the last few years, he has had over twenty-five of his poems published internationally in such markets as:  Big Pulp, Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine, Tales of the Talisman, Bete Noire, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  When he is not writing verse and crafting yarns, he is employed as an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy in the City University of New York, is pursuing a Ph.D. in the same subject, and works a variety of freelance positions.  Find out more about Mr. Rowe at

Table of Contents

From the Editor

About the Poet

New Poems by James Frederick William Rowe


     Mercury Rx

Previously Published Poems by Mr. Rowe

     Everywhere the Serpent Slain

     The Dirge of Riders to Certain Death

I got no fever but a frenzy
That churns inside
Like a 3 o'clock bender
But I ain't never been drunk
And I wrote "3 o'clock" instead of two
Only on the account
It sounded more depraved

I took heroin last night
No, I didn't
That was a lie
It sounded right to say it
More depravity, more desperation
It suits this persona
This false face

There ain't a word for people like me
No wait, there is:
"I am a liar"
Says I
Tell me if I am speaking the truth
If you dare

Poet's Notes:  Artificiality is at the same time earnest and parody.  It is a parody as it derives from my mockery of all the songs, poems, et cetera, devoted to the author's debauchery.  This mockery is most keenly expressed in the fact that claims of my own depravity are utter lies.

The earnestness is found in the last stanza, in which I incorporate the Liar's Paradox.  I call this earnest because, as a philosopher, this is where I am showing who I really am by telling you something I cannot say.  That is, to claim "I am a liar" is only true if I am telling the truth, and so false; and if false, then I am telling you the truth for I would have lied.  The challenge that follows underlines the point of introducing it at all and stands itself as a sort of mockery of my own mockery, which mirrors the recursion of the Liar's Paradox.

The structure of the poem flowed naturally and seems suited to the subject matter.  I hardly edited this poem at all, save for making sure that each stanza was of equal length.

Editor's Note:  This poem is a real departure from what I have seen from Mr. Rowe, and I applaud his experimentation with this different style--reminiscent of the Beats of the 1950s & 60s, but with a modern flavor.

Mercury Rx
For Gaby

A failure of conversation
Occasioned the need
For a prescription of mercury
Because what should have been conveyed
Was instead frustrated
Something else was communicated
Wordlessly, insidiously
Stealing into the communion
Of two lovers bound once in trust
     (They learn too late to cherish what was lost)
     (And lost it is indeed)
Yet now a Hermetic cure intrudes
Upon a Venereal concern
And words once more are stifled
Replaced by a burning silence
Searing, seething
Never ceasing
Though so much has ended
     (Betrayal is as smouldering coals)
     (As a sundering of trust)
Corrupted by the contagion
Of a failure of conversation
Which occasioned the need
For a prescription of mercury
How retrograde

Poet's Notes:  The inspiration for "Mercury Rx" came about through an amusing abbreviation from friend and poetess Gabrielle "Gaby" Kappes, who used it in place of "retrograde" shortly after she came to my first poetry reading for Big Pulp's Kennedy Curse anthology.  Gaby so happens to be heavily into astrology (as well as an English Ph.D. student at CUNY Graduate Center), and in our frequent e-mail correspondence she told me her (then current) bout of melancholy was indicative of either "Mercury Rx," or that she already missed the New England coast where she had spent the weekend.  I immediately was struck with the double meaning of "Rx" as both retrograde and prescription, and told her that I thought it would make a wonderful title to a poem.  I availed myself of a long subway ride up to the Bronx (where I was teaching philosophy that semester) to write the poem the next day.

The poem was easy to write, came readily to mind, and plays with both meanings of the term as in the original idea that sparked it.  As a prescription, Rx represents the cure for the sexually transmitted disease that afflicts the lovers.  From the time of Paracelsus—the usage of "hermetic" directly references Paracelsus' preeminence in alchemy—till the advent of modern antibiotics, mercury was the standard treatment for most STDs.  An old saying went, "a night of Venus and a lifetime of Mercury."  As such, it seemed to me the prescription would be best suited towards such a specific form of infection.

As retrograde, Rx speaks to the frustration of communication that both occasioned and was the result of the communication of the disease.  Someone—I never identify whom—did not tell the other about the malady, and as a consequence the relationship was brutally marred by the introduction of the infection into their union and the betrayal of trust—and perhaps fidelity—that this entailed.  This betrayal causes communication between the pair to become even worse as the lovers retreat from one another, and so are they left to burn both literally and metaphorically in their new silence.

Editor's Note:  The deliciously alliterative passage "Searing, seething / Never ceasing" gives me goosebumps--it sizzles like the fire in the lovers' loins.  I also enjoyed Mr. Rowe's pun on "hermetic" which refers to Hermes, the Greek name for Mercury.  The breakdown in verbal communication that leads to the physical communication of the communicable disease also cleverly evokes Mercury--the messenger of the gods.

Everywhere the Serpent Slain
The thunderous passage of heroic feet
Has crushed under heel
The skulls of serpents

The hills were once alive
With their slithering
But no more
For all are dead

Slain in antiquity
That we might live unmolested
Safe and sheltered
Freed of their threat

But the knife unused
Turns dull in time
And never tried
Its virtue is discarded

As fire tempers steel
So does suffering temper man
And we, untempered
Have become brittle

Thus, I foresee a day
Far off from now, yet near in time
Where from the hills again
The serpents shall descend

And there shall be naught in the way of heroes
To stand against them
To strive against them
To succeed against them

We shall become in that day
As they in our own
Our skulls
Pounded to dust

The Monster
Will be an omen
Of the heroless age

Poet's Notes:  This poem (which is among my favourites) began as a pithy bit of wisdom I crafted when I was about fifteen, "(...So) As fire tempers steel / so does suffering temper man."  This saying stood on its own for many years, having been merely a thought that I conceived; it captured something worth preserving, but otherwise not artistically important.

Then came "Everywhere the Serpent Slain."  

I do not recall its genesis—what struck me to write this poem in particular, and from what source the inspiration was derived—but the idea is that it the poem serves as a prophetic vision of a time when the world as it stands now will once again face monsters, as it did "once upon a time," but will be found lacking for want of heroes.  Whether these monsters are metaphoric or literal, I leave to the reader.  I use the idea of the monster, however, to draw on the mythic importance of dragon-slaying legends which is found in the triumph of man over chthonic forces as expressive of man's progress and ascendency proven through the courageous act of taking on the beast.  

Given that this theme lends itself towards the experience and victory over suffering, the saying I had long ago written was a perfect fit for the poem.  Its inclusion was added early on, while I was still making sure the poem read the way I wanted.

I take this poem as conservative and pessimistic in tone.  We had, in the past, succeeded in great deeds in large part by a willingness to face them. Since that glorious epoch, we have only grown soft and weak for want of being tested as we had been.  We are too much confident that we are masters of all things because of this long peace, and have never had to face the fear of meeting that which makes light of our existence, as the monsters of antiquity were held to do.  As such, I find that we lack heroes, and because of this our fate is sealed when the world changes.  When the monsters come again—whether literally or metaphorically—we shall not prevail, and " We shall / become in that day / As they in our own / Our skulls / Pounded to dust".  

This conservative streak derives from my anachronistic sensibilities (I find all this mythic talk utterly romantic) and from a strong belief that mankind's only progress was attaining civilization, and since then we have made virtually none outside of trivial matters such as adding new gadgets.  I would even be willing to say I do not believe in the possibility of further progress, especially as it seems the more we attain, the more meaningless our lives become.  To borrow Nietzschean phrasing, we are heading towards the last man, not the ubermensch.  This broad theme is fairly essential to my writing and poetry in general, mixed more or less with hope depending on the point and mood of my writing in prose or verse.

As for the aesthetics of the poem, I chose such wording and breaks as I thought gave a somber tone and rhythm that reflected the dim view of man's future.  I usually prefer that all stanzas in a poem retain the same size, but I chose instead to have the first and last be of only three lines.  I thought this was important for the thought conveyed, as I did not want to embellish that which could stand on its own as a complete stanza, strict form be damned.

Editor's Note:  Sadly, I believe that Mr. Rowe's poem is eerily prophetic.  Sadder still, the "monsters" we will face will have no face--they will not be dragons that, while terrible, are easily identifiable.  No.  I fear that the monsters we will face will be the seductive elixir of liberalism, the erosion of personal freedom, the intrusion of central government, and the eventual suppression of poems such as this one (and the poets who write them).  "Everywhere the Serpent Slain" first appeared in issue #11 of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.

The Dirge of Riders to Certain Death

In shrouded night
A standard white
Waved ahead a grim squadron singing           
I shuddered from a chill
As piercing the evening still
Came voices through the valley ringing:      

Broken and black
The horse's clack
Has trod to ruin the road beneath
In ages past
That passed too fast
And neither upon the trees a leaf               

Before us a wall crumbled
The works of men humbled
But mockery we shall not sustain
For what shame can be found
If to death we are bound
For our honour we rather maintain?               

Victory is not demanded
Only to fight is commanded
And our choice is to die with our swords
We will not be ashamed
So for glory acclaimed
We will face down the enemy hordes                   

We ride with spears
Forsaking all fears
We shall charge the enemy dread
And then we will die
And our spirits will fly
As our blood stains the river red                    

So we smile while we might
For we will strike such a sight
More wondrous than is commonly known
And also we can laugh
For who can bear the wrath
Of men who have no thought for their own?             

But enough with the song
We press now along
To make good that which we have boasted in verse
And by dawn's pale light
We will bring such a fight
So that they’ll ‘ever speak our name as a curse            

In morning bright
I saw that proof they were right
Was written on corpses on the ground laid
And I openly wept
For they had kept
All the valourous promises they made

Poet's Notes:  "The Dirge of Riders to Sudden Death" continues my obsession with cavalry.  In some ways, it is a counter-piece to my "Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards," being about the death of a cavalry squadron, rather than a rout.  Though not directly inspired by it, this poem further mirrors the theme of death expressed in Tennyson's famous "The Charge of the Light Brigade," but in contrast to Tennyson, does so without the action of their deaths, but rather through the men singing a song concerning their impending deaths (the titular dirge) that is inherent in their mission, rather than their deaths resulting from a blunder of an order.

The theme of courage in the face of certain hopelessness and death is central to the poem.  That there is no possibility of victory is reflected via the second and third stanza's emphasis on the ruining of their surroundings, which no doubt has provided the occasion for their dire mission.  These men know that they will not be on the victorious side of this conflict.  Freed from the concern that all men have for self-preservation and the condition of victory that might  otherwise temper their valour, they can now throw themselves entirely into battle and so achieve an unsurpassed level of glory and honour.

I frame the poem as if it were heard by the (presumed) poet.  This permits the ghostly opening as well as the concluding stanza to put to rest any doubts concerning their fate, creating a mood of heroic sadness.

The rhyme scheme follows an AABCCB structure.  The alternation of short pairs of consecutive rhyming lines with single longer lines provides an interesting rhythm.  I am especially pleased with the aural qualities of this scheme, and shall have to revisit this structure in future poetry.

In contrast to the rhyme scheme's regularity, the metre is not strict.  The contrast of the shorter rhyming pairs with the longer lines provides a pleasing rhythm, especially as the longer lines' steady count gives the poem structure that a non-metrical rhyme would have lacked.

This poem took a rather long time to compose as a consequence of the rhyme and metrical structures.  Only the first stanza came easily--the rest took a great deal more thought and time.  I find that this is to be expected when I compose more formal poetry.

Editor's Note:  "The Dirge of Riders to Certain Death" first appeared in the March 2012 issue of Big Pulp.  "Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards" appeared in Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine Volume 1, Issue 2 (November 2013).  The text of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" may be found here:



Volume 1, Issue 6
May 2014

From the Editor:

It is with great pleasure and not a little pride that I present this, the fourth quarterly issue of the first volume of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.  The feedback from the readership has been overwhelmingly positive, and, according to the e-zine’s traffic tracker, there have been nearly one thousand visits to the e-zine page and over fifty thousand visits to the poetry review blog since the e-zine’s inception.  I am truly humbled by this response.

I would like to extend special thanks to the fine poets whose poems have graced the pages of the e-zine in its inaugural year.  They are (in order of appearance):

Ross Balcom (3 issues)
John C. Mannone
Guy Belleranti (2 issues)
Robert Borski (2 issues + Featured Poet April 2014)
Anne Carly Abad (2 issues)
R. E. Hill
Marge Simon (1 issue + Featured Poet January 2014)
Daniel Ausema
Lida Broadhurst
James Frederick William Rowe (2 issues + Featured Poet July 2014 forthcoming)
Sierra July
Lauren McBride
Dusty Wallace
Adele Gardner
Darrell Lindsey
Romalyn Ante
John F. Hunt, MD
Stephanie Campisi

I also wish to acknowledge the dozens of poets whose poems did not quite make it into the e-zine this time around.  It is no small thing to share one’s poetry--a part of one’s soul--with another person, and even braver still to do so with a “soulless” editor.  To all of you, I extend my heartfelt gratitude.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


Table of Contents

From the Editor

“Jefferson Turnip” by Ross Balcom

“Three Times She Loved” by Anne Carly Abad

“Another Look at History” by Darrell Lindsey

“Shelter” & “Waking Up” by Romalyn Ante

“To Practice Pure or Not To Practice Pure, That Is the Question” by John F. Hunt, MD

“It just struck me” by Stephanie Campisi

“Tyche” by Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

“The River” by David Roach

Review of the Editor’s Favorites from the Spring 2014 Issue of Star*Line


Jefferson Turnip


He appeared in the gloom
of the abandoned farmhouse.

Slender, sombre, pale,
a boy in his early teens,
semi-transparent, a ghost.

He spoke but once:
"My name is Jefferson Turnip,"
and then he vanished.

His disappearance
left a crushing weight
in the night-dark room.

I fell to my knees
and wept; long, long
and sorrowfully, I wept.


Boys are the heralds of life;
they should not die.

Had I the power, I would restore
dead boys to life, would grant them
an eternity of sunlit fields and playgrounds.

This boy, Jefferson Turnip,
a child of the soil, a rural splash
of wonder, his voice like a rainbow
arching over the fields, his laughter
bright with the promise of
still greater joy, this boy
whose home is the world,
the one true world, this boy
the world's salvation, a sun-bright
heart embracing all...

...this boy I would call my own.


Alas, the ghost I saw
was only the flickering afterglow
of what once so brightly shone.

Wan, dim spectre, treading
hallowed dust and mouse droppings,
a stranger in his own abode...
Jefferson Turnip.

He honored me, a mere interloper,
with his presence, breaking and entering
my heart, rousing paternal waters.

And my tears profusely flowed.
Lord God, they flowed.


I see him dead,
laid in a box,
pale turnip
returned to the soil.
I pray eternal day
will follow
the loam's
dark night.


Bless you, Jefferson Turnip,
bless you forever.
You gifted me
with your presence,
you made yourself known.

Though but a ghost,
you have a face and a name,
and that face and that name
belong to a boy who,
long ago, was loved.

Ross Balcom

About the Poet:  Ross Balcom is a counselor living in southern California. His poems have appeared in Beyond Centauri, inkscrawl, Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Tigershark, and other publications. Currently, his favorite poets are John Ashbery, Lo Fu, and Michael McClure. In addition to poetry, his interests include parapsychology, hypnosis, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Poet’s Notes:  I had a dream in which I encountered a ghostly boy in an abandoned farmhouse. He said, "My name is Jefferson Turnip," and then he disappeared. I was inspired to write this poem.

Since writing the poem, Jefferson Turnip seems increasingly like a real person/presence to me. Maybe we are all "authored" into being. There is nothing mightier than the pen.

Editor’s Note:  I hear echoes of Whitman and Poe here, but this poem is still one hundred percent Balcom.


Three Times She Loved
The first was a mirror.
At the start of their affair
she paid him kisses
and he answered in kind
in time, she gave him more
and more of herself
so he might break his crystal limits
but the problem with loving
a looking-glass man
he could only return the favor.

Second time she fell,
she kindled her fire,
tendered him the torch of her heart.
Though she wishes she'd known
he was a rerun, chewing
on his past, ex-lovers and all,
till her fire hardened while still in his mouth,
as stale as tasteless gum.

And though there was a third
he may not really count.
He was summer and rain;
never gave tired roses,
but bouquets of carnations,
surprise visits and conversations.
She would have told him
he was the love she had always desired
but when she reached into the pocket
of her once-glowing affections
she could but blush at finding
her fingers wiggling through a hole.

Anne Carly Abad
About the Poet:  Anne Carly Abad is a Muay Thai fighter sometimes, and is often a writer. She has won a few writing awards and honorable mentions, but is currently learning the southpaw stance, because she's so much of a righty that her left hand can't even write her name on paper. She wishes she were born with a silver spoon so she could buy a large house for her hedgehog, Porky. More about her and hedgehogs at

Poet’s Notes:  I was inspired by the saying, "Good things come in threes." Actually, when I read around, it isn't just good things--bad luck, too. Apply that to relationships--how many tries will the average person need to get it right? I think an average person would need three. The question is, will one have enough of him/herself left to give openly and receive love when the right time, the right one comes along? Will it still be "right" when that happens?

Editor’s Note:  Ms. Abad has really captured the personality of certain people who lament that they can't find true love but who don't know when it is right in front of them.  Her closing metaphor is perfect.


Another Look at History

Winter skies peppered with stars,
the Universe expanding

at some intricate rate
that loops my consciousness

with its projection
of infinite futures.

And yet I find myself
on this mountain hillside

staring at the dinosaur
of another memory
down to bones,

one that has forgotten
I was ever born.

Darrell Lindsey

About the Poet:  Darrell Lindsey is a freelance writer/poet/songwriter from Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas.  He is the author of Edge Of The Pond (Popcorn Press, 2012) and the winner of the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest (Long Form category). He has garnered numerous international awards for his haiku and tanka and has a poem included in Haiku In English: The First Hundred Years (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013). He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007.

Poet’s Notes:  In "Another Look at History," I link the vastness of the universe to a person who perceives his or her own life and memories as something approaching infinitesimal.

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Lindsey’s poem describes a fourth dimensional moment--a rare glimmer of understanding of a slice of the mysterious and almost incomprehensible, hypercubical world that surrounds the three-dimensional world that we know.  For to gaze at the stars is to look into the past, in this case to see the light that started on a journey through space when dinosaurs roamed the earth but that only arrives millions of years after the great thunder lizards are gone.

"Another Look at History" was previously published in Paper Crow.



I run barefoot in the field -
Sun-warmed soil
Is caught between my toes,
Bursting mangoes quilt the grove
While each blade of grass
Gleams in morning dew.
The breeze
Hangs like jasmines -
Tending your path towards me.
I let my hair flutter in the wind
As I swing in an ancient tree.

There you are the wind
And I, waters of the river.
Together we create tiny ripples -
With beauty that charms everything.

Romalyn Ante

Waking Up

One early morning
When you were still asleep
My lips touched
Your clammy forehead -
I inhaled your salty skin
And I did not want to breathe out.

Romalyn Ante

About the Poet:  Romalyn Ante was born in Lipa City, Philippines. She was educated in England and currently works as a nurse. She enjoys writing when she is not working at the hospital. Her poems and stories have appeared in the anthology We’re All In This Together (Offa’s Press), The Cannon’s Mouth Issue 47, and Blakenhall Words (2013). She has also performed her poetry at Wolverhampton City Voices and Stafford Arts Festival 2013 in the United Kingdom.

Poet’s Notes for Shelter:  “Shelter” is one of the earliest pieces I have written. It is inspired from my early memories in the Philippines. In this poem, I wanted to exhibit light thoughts and images, the comfort of being in a place where we feel safe and at ease, as well as the fragility and impermanence of these things.

Editor's Note:  The lyrical quality and imagery in the first stanza are breathtakingly beautiful, transporting.  The metaphor in the second stanza perfectly merges the lovers in this love poem with their enchanting surroundings.

Poet’s Notes for Waking Up:  The focus of this poem is on the tender yet tangible emotions towards the person we love, as well as the significance and fullness of every moment spent together.

Editor’s Note:  This poem dreamily engages all the senses of the reader:  the vision of the sleeping lover, the quiet sound of the “kiss” to the forehead, the touch of the lips, the taste of salt, and the scent so intoxicating that the lover wants to hold it in her body forever.


To Practice Pure or Not To Practice Pure, That Is the Question

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous mandates,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, ‘though opposing, fail to thwart them?
To practice free: to practice pure—no more;
and by a Practice Pure to say we end
The heartache and the thousand unnatural laws
‘They’ thrust upon us.
'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.
To practice pure, to care;
To care, perchance to think.
Aye, there's the rub,
For in that time to think, what insights may come,
Before we shuffle off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
There's the respect that makes calamity of past dedication:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of prevailing practice,
The Oppressor's demands, the Insurance Company’s contumely,
The pangs of despised Rules, the Payor’s delays,
The insolence of Administrators, and the spurns
Their Patients merit not, yet suffer from the unworthy takers,
When he himself might his departure make
With a bare penstroke?
Who would, these burdens, bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But those who dread that a Practice Free and Pure—
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveler desires to return
—would perchance fail fiscally to supply,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to imbursement that we know not of.
Thus Cowardice does defeat the Conscience of us all,
And the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of fear,
And enterprises of great truth and moment
Are deferred, their import denied,
And so fail to gain the result of action….
…Soft you now, the fair Profession?
Hippocrates, in thy entreaties
Be all my dreams remembered.

John F. Hunt, MD

Citation:  Shakespeare, William. The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke. As it hath beene diuerse times acted by his Highnesse seruants in the Cittie of London : as also in the two Vniuersities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where [The "First Quarto"], pp. 35 ff. Nicholas Ling & J. Trundell (London), 1603. Reprinted as The First Edition of the Tragedy of Hamlet: London, 1603. The Shakespeare Press, 1825.

About the Poet:  John F. Hunt, MD is the co-founder of Trusted Angels Foundation--a non-profit that works for children in Liberia, West Africa. He is a pediatrician, pulmonologist, and allergist/immunologist.  He recently resigned his tenure as an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia. Dr. Hunt received his B.A. in Geology from Amherst College, and his M.D. from George Washington University School of Medicine. He served in the Navy. He feels a strong personal responsibility to serve children. Dr. Hunt is the author of Higher Cause and Assume the Physician and is currently engaged in writing a series of six action novels with a libertarian bent. He lives in Virginia.

Poet’s Notes:  Hamlet is a character struggling with second-guessing. I don't second-guess. As I watched the medical system become increasingly controlled by administrators and politicians in a process that in the nicest terms can be described as crony-corporatist, I knew that I had to find a different way to practice a profession I had spent so long learning.

My revisions of Hamlet's soliloquy present the struggle of the moral thinking physician who has an ideology of voluntarism, is unaccepting of coercion, and who is trying to find a way through the legal and financial hurdles that stand in the way of providing moral (honorable) health care to his patients. The system seems beyond correction. It has momentum; it has the power of ill-conceived law behind it.

I was unwilling to accept money in exchange for dishonorably working for such a bad system as exists now in the United States. Other doctors are not as idealistic, but they struggle too.  I couldn't stay in the horrible system that causes so much hardship, raises costs beyond reason, and transfers power from the patient to the health insurance companies and to the government. It would be wrong to stay part of the system.

For me, freedom was the answer.  I left. I now seek other ways to serve and use my skills that have nothing to do with third party health financing, nothing to do with the moral hazard that has destroyed any common sense in medical financing, and that has been somewhat worsened by Obamacare, which now not only subsidizes health insurance, but forces us to acquire the damned financial product—the same product that has caused all the trouble in the first place.

Insanity hits societies and tears them down. Some say that Rome was weakened by lead poisoning. America has been decimated by the mental infection of collectivism.

Editor’s Note:  John and I were classmates at Amherst College and received our baccalaureate degrees there in the same year, now over two decades past.  We were both pre-medical students and sang in the Men’s Glee Club--he with the baritones, I with the basses--but belonged to rival small a capella singing groups.  We were more friendly acquaintances than friends back then, and we lost touch after graduation until about three years ago.

Turns out, John and I have more in common than our medical degrees, veteran’s status, and love of glees.  We both are concerned with the direction in which the American medical system is heading.  We both consider ourselves to be libertarians, although, compared to John, I may come across as somewhat of a statist.

Full disclosure:  my family and I are part of the small minority of folks who benefitted greatly from the introduction of Obamacare.  Before the ACA, as one of my children had a serious pre-existing condition, I could not find health insurance for my family at all at any price.  Now, my family is covered for the first time in years, albeit with an expensive, high-deductible plan.  However, John is absolutely right in that comprehensive health insurance and progressive government policies are the problem with, not the solution for, our crisis in health care.

John dropped out of the medical profession almost entirely, willing to pay the price for freedom, unwilling to participate in an inherently evil system.  An incredibly bright individual, he is trying to make a go of it as a full-time writer.  That takes guts.  I both envy him that task and wish him well.

As for me, I run a small, cash-based (no insurance of any kind accepted) private medical practice out of my home in Kansas.  There, I practice medicine the way it ought to be practiced--in a patient-centered, cost-effective manner and without any third party interference.  Alas, I still choose to moonlight for “the man” in order to make ends meet, and the meager income from my writing doesn't even cover the cost of my poetry habit.

"To Practice Pure or Not To Practice Pure, That Is the Question" first appeared in Student Doctor Network.


It just struck me

It just struck me
that a grandfather clock
is an upright coffin
housing a tell-tale heart -
It just struck me -
It just struck

Stephanie Campisi

About the Poet:  Stephanie Campisi is an Australian poet and author whose work has been published in magazines and anthologies in many countries. She indulges her sense of whimsy at and tweets at @readinasitting.

Poet’s Notes:  “It Just Struck Me” came to me late one night when the only sound in my apartment was that of the clock ticking. I was “struck” by what an uncomfortable sound it is, and also by its closeness the beating of a human heart--a sound that similarly unnerves me in the way that it reminds us that we are merely machines of biology. I wanted to explore what it was about both of these sounds and experiences that bothered me, and this short poem is the result. 

Editor’s Note:  The rhythm of the poem, with its two feet per line (excepting the last which is deliberately cut off) evokes the two beats of the ticking of a clock.  The ending is at once humorous and horrifying, as is the pun on the word “struck.”  I believe Edgar Allan Poe would approve.  “It Just Struck Me” first appeared on the poet’s TumblR account at



I am double sixes
Seven come eleven
Aces over kings
The dark horse.

I am a lady
I am a whore
Always with you
Until I run out.

I make presidents
I make kings
I unite nations
And star-crossed lovers.

Work hard
Chase your dreams
Chase your tail
Without me you’re nothing.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

About the Poet:  Find out more about Dr. Gordon by clicking on the “About the Editor” link below the e-zine.

Poet’s Notes:  As for me, I have been lucky in only one aspect of my life.  Fortunately for me, it is the most important aspect.  I’m lucky in love.  “Tyche” first appeared in the September 2013 Summer Equinox issue of Eternal Haunted Summer.


The River

The long river before me, the hot sun, the cold water,
Only tuna, nuts and fruit to keep me filled,
But no chance of going thirsty any time soon.
I hate this river.

Nineteen days left. How will I survive?
Twelve others in the group, all of them singing,
But not a song I know, and not one I’d care to remember.
I hate this group.

Nine boats floating down the river. Clouds overhead,
Thunder clapping and lightning flashing.
Eighteen days still to go.
I hate this trip.

A large loch, the gushing river, green meeting blue,
Lake Victoria’s connection to the Murray.
Sixteen days left, and all the while the group still
I hate this loch.

The song never once changes. Always moving downstream,
Further west, the browns changing to reds,
For Chrissake, they’re still singing.
Just twelve days to go.

We eventually leave the river,
On a hot day when we needed the cool.
The group has finally forgotten the song.
And only ten days to go.

Two nights at a caravan park.
A chance for a shower and a call home.
How have I made it this far?
And just with nine days to go.

We never return to the river, but we do go to its end.
Sandy beaches, bright sun, but still away from home.
The hardest part has yet to come.
I miss the river.

Heavy rains and stormy skies.
No reception. No chance to call home.
Only six days left, though.
What was that song?

Stranded on the desert peninsula in the hot sun.
A kilometre between green and blue waters.
Yellow all around.
I find myself humming that song.

Three days to go. Heavy storms forcing us back.
About time, it’s a relief.
Am I insane now, though?
I love this group.

We’re told to rise at seven the next morning.
No one can be bothered.
We find out we’re leaving at eight.
Straight to bed.

Camping under the stars. Just a few hours to go.
How did I ever make it this far?
Where has the old me gone?
I actually love that river.

Somewhere along the line,
I gain an appreciation for adventure.
And when asked if I’d ever do it again?
Hell no. Once is enough.

David Roach

About the Poet:  David Roach is an emerging writer from Central Victoria. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Nature Tourism) and a Cert. IV in Professional Writing and Editing.  David has interests in nature, history and adventure.

Poet’s Notes:  “The River” is based on a twenty-day tour of the Murray River and the Coorong in southern Australia back in 2010. The first ten days took place on the Murray, and the last few on the Coorong, with a couple of days rest in between.  This piece started as a free-verse exercise in the 2013 Poetry & Lyrics class at Bendigo TAFE.

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Roach has really captured the emotional transformation that often occurs when a small group of people goes adventuring.  I experienced these feelings myself more than once during my military days.  I was not surprised to learn that this poem was inspired by personal experience and am left wanting to hear more about Mr. Roach’s travels.


Review of the Editor’s Favorites from the Spring 2014 Issue of Star*Line

Speculative poetry enthusiasts are in for a real treat from the latest issue of Star*Line.  Editor F. J. Bergmann did an exceptional job this time in selecting the poems that grace its forty-odd pages.  The following are my personal favorites ranked in order of preference.

First Place:  “Orbital Observatory” by Cardinal Cox, p. 16.
You won’t find this one in the table of contents, as it is hidden within the “From the Small Press” feature, which begins on page 13.  This poem contains a mind-blowing, head-spinning, fourth dimensional moment that is beyond thought provoking.  Only through poetry could such a concept be expressed so eloquently.  Edwin A. Abbott would have approved--or perhaps he DOES approve, fourth dimensionally speaking.

Second Place:  “The Last Etymologist” by Jocko Benoit, p. 28.
I misread the title as “entomologist” which made for a confusing first read-through--still laughing a little about that, so thought I’d mention it.  Wordophiles (take THAT, etymologists) will really enjoy this one.  Benoit adroitly uses enjambments to create double meanings and clever puns.  Then “the Old Ones” arrive.  “Yum.”

Third Place:  “Visitors” by Kenny A. Chaffin, p. 38.
Feeling arrogant about your place in the universe?  You’ll feel humble after you read this poem. 

4.  “Flower Parts” by John C. Mannone, p. 30.
Mr. Mannone uses personification, metaphor, and sensual imagery to make alien plant sex, well, sexy--no easy feat.  Editor’s Note:  Like this one?  See Mr. Mannone’s appearance in Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine Volume 1, Issue 1 in the Archives.

5.  “To His Coy Dalek / How To Reconcile” by Russell Jones, p. 24.
It’s about time somebody said it!  The Doctor and the Daleks need each other, complete each other, in the same sick way that do Batman and Joker.  Mr. Jones’ sonnet expresses the sentiment beautifully.  The rhyme scheme serves to enhance the feeling of the love-hate relationship, with hard rhymes every other even numbered line sandwiched between near-rhyming end-line consonance every other odd numbered line.

6.  “it’s recycling day” by William Cullen, Jr., p. 28.
This is a brilliant 5-7-5 haiku--simultaneously funny and sad, surprising and horrifying, mundane and profound, sentimental and thought provoking.  It predicts a future that is at once full of hope and full of despair.  And all in just twelve words.

7.  “The World of Eternal Day” by Joe Nicholas, p. 38.
Humans are not usually terrified by darkness.  Thanks to the slow rotation of the earth on its axis, we’re used to it.  But what if we lived on a planet that did not rotate?  Would even a brief moment of darkness be enough to bring one to one’s knees?  One wonders.

The editor also found the following poems worthy of note (in order of appearance):

“Crystal Hope” by Karl Culley, p. 5.

“walking the spaceport” by Ross Balcom, p. 6.

“You Can Never Go Back” by James S. Dorr, p. 6.

“trinket Earth” by Anna Sykora, p. 6.

“Courtship” by Ken Poyner, p. 8.

“gravity off” by Joshua Gage, p. 9.

“Villa of Perpetual Youth” by Lauren McBride, p. 27.

“Unanimous” by Beth Cato, p. 45.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


Featured Poet:  Robert Borski

Volume 1, Issue 5
April 2014


From the Editor:

I am pleased to present another Songs of Eretz Featured Poet issue.  These special issues will appear from time to time between regular quarterly issues of the e-zine and will exclusively showcase a poet of distinction chosen by the editor.  This month’s Featured Poet is Robert Borski.

Robert Borski’s poetry appeared in our premier issue in August 2013 and again in our November 2013 issue.  He submitted so many excellent poems for consideration for those issues that, rather than agonize over which ones to publish, I offered him the chance to have an issue dedicated to his poetry alone. 

Within this issue, you will find three new poems by Borski as well as two of my favorites selected from his collection, Blood Wallah and other poems.  Readers, you are in for a real treat.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


About the Poet:  Although his short stories have appeared in Analog and Fantasy & Science Fiction, and he's written two critical examinations of Gene Wolfe's fiction (Solar Labyrinth and The Long and the Short of It), Robert Borski did not start writing poetry until he was well into his sixth decade. Much to his surprise, he's had over two hundred poems published since then, a good portion of which have appeared in Asimov's, Dreams & Nightmares, Strange Horizons and Star*Line, as well as a first collection from Dark Regions Press, Blood Wallah. He has been nominated for the Rhysling Award ten times and the Dwarf Stars Award thrice. He still lives in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the town of his birth, where he continues to toddle toward senility and works for the local university.


Table of Contents
From the Editor

About the Poet

New Poems by Robert Borski


Letter to My Frozen Wife (The Lesson of Mummy Brown)

The Crane-Pygmy War

Poems Selected from Blood Wallah and other poems by Robert Borski:

Witch’s Broom

Tusk  [Editor's Warning:  Adult Content]

The Editor’s Review of Blood Wallah and other poems by Robert Borski, illustrated by Marge Simon



Rotwang, Henry Jekyll,
Victor Frankenstein:

these, you claimed,
were your role models,

but unmonstered,
as I clamber down

from the cold slab
of your bed,

I feel no more transformed
than I did before

you took me -- no Eve
with a found inner golem

or Neanderthal other --
just a sad party girl

watching her manic,
blue-eyed lover

tear out his hair
and weeping

like the mad scientist
he never was nor will be.

Poet’s Notes:  Not so long ago, a woman I was mildly interested in dating asked me to write a poem about her, whereupon she would evaluate my date-worthiness. Things did not go so well after this point; perhaps it was the references to Eva Braun. At any rate, transmogrified in my imagination, the episode did prompt me to think about a similar request made by a similar woman, only not of some half-baked poet manqué this time, but a would-be mad scientist (not that there's always a difference).

Editor’s Note:  There is something universal in the message of this poem--a kind of song for all the failures who dare to keep dreaming (and the dreamers who dare to keep failing).  I love the word “unmonstered” that Borski has coined--his use of poetic license here is so much better than “untransformed” or “unchanged” would have been.


Letter to My Frozen Wife

The Lesson of Mummy Brown

Not quite the color of wet sand,
or the pyramids at dusk, or even
the umber-headed sphinx (who
ate poets, but disdained painters
with their stained fingers), this
Renaissance compound was
comprised of nothing less than ground
up bits of old Egyptian mummies
dissolved in poppy seed oil.
The resulting pigment was a deep
brown of such astonishing warmth
and complexity that no painter
worth his salt would consider
using any other color to render
flesh tones. During plentiful years,
when dynasties of graverobbers
still ruled the Nilotic dunes, it was
also not uncommon to manufacture
paper from the linen bedclothes
of the natron-soaked dead. So think
about it. You're lying in extremis,
waiting for the golden boat of Ra
to carry you off on some sky-borne
river, and the next thing you know,
you're being cannibalized to paint
the grand duke's whorish mistress.

Persist in your dreams for a better
tomorrow if you must, my dear,
but this is why I will never willingly
join you in any sarcophagus of ice.

Poet’s Notes:  I've had enough reminders of my mortality over the years to wonder how I'd like the final disposition of my remains to go. Should I, for example, be buried in the family plot? Or should I strive for something more exotic--be frozen like Ted Williams or Walt Disney, or have my terminal ash compressed into some sort of blingy gem, or be rocketed into space? If only, like some latter day Cheops, I could have a pyramid built for me or better still be mummified. Then I could pretty much take it easy and enjoy the afterlife, at least until my soul was weighed in the final balance.

Oh, wait

Editor’s Note:  So many different colors of pigments, paints, and Crayolas have interesting names (remember burnt umber?), so why not “mummy brown?”  I think Walt Whitman would have liked the concept of being “reborn” as a painting of a whore.  Nevertheless, this poem should make anyone think twice about cryogenics. 


The Crane-Pygmy War

"The clamor of cranes goes high to the heavens, when the cranes escape the winter time and the rains unceasing and clamorously wing their way to streaming Ocean, bringing the Pygmy men bloodshed and destruction." Homer, Iliad 3.3


We keep sharp eyes to the sky, post sentinels
in the marsh, where pink-gilled fish
swim in ever slower circles. If the birds dine here,
either before or after, their gullets will
flash and shiver with river poison.

The day is bright, with no clouds
to hide their approach.
Our spears dance with light. Uninvaded,
the swamp continues to twitter and tweep,
its beast chorus on alert.
Like us, when the blood runs free, they will
dine on war porridge
thickened with sweet viscera.
On the morrow, they will help us
boil the yellow unborn and make jokes
to scare away feathered ghosts
intent on vengeance.

Any war where you can eat the spoils
claim the elders, is not altogether bad.
Though little in size, we have big appetites.


We keep sharp eyes to the ground.
We see the lazy fish, but fear the pinprick of arrows.
Below, undistanced, their spears wink like beads of starlight
and we hear their crepitating fear.
The long ancestral flight from Æthiop is nearly over.
Soon, their dead will yield up
the cracked skull-meat we will eat in victory, and we
will mate like eagles.
Then in a final storm of wings
we will take to the sky and evacuate
our bowels, fouling their huts of wattle
and reeds with black rain.

Though creatures of air and spirit, we are
not above small acts of desecration.


Besieged by the sharp-beaked birds
we fight like small giants -- even
our children partake in the conflict,
running in to slash
at the brown stalks of their legs
with opalescent shards of clam.
Now there are one-legged
cranes everywhere, hopping
about like a contagion
of tall fluttering white toads.

Soon enough the mud is stained
with blood, replicating the First Womb,
but no new progeny
of little people pours forth
to help with the battle. Today, it seems,
we fight not for the past, but our future,
and the dreams of our grandchildren's

All through the long afternoon,
our throats continue to make rallying
cries of war, but our hearts
are sore from seeing
so many of our friends and families
lying face-down in the water
like broken lilies.


For little people they have
sizeable amounts of courage,
but it is still not enough to defeat
the feathered sons and daughters of Oinöe,
their former queen.

All through the campaign we dance
in and out of their ranks,
darting like our brothers, the kraits,
skewering the dark-limbed morsels
while they still pulse with life,
then swallowing them like frogs.

Though the opal talons of their children
continue to menace, we are
used to standing at the water's
edge, fishing on single legs
just as many shattered Styx-bound
veterans learn to do.

Our bloody wings are not stigmata.
Maimed or not, we remain soldiers.


At the end of the day
only one of each tribe is left to parley

Acknowledge defeat and you will
yet live, says the crane
with its scissors-bill.

You should die of shame
with words like that in your mouth,
responds the little man. I will
fight for my people until the moon
falls out of the sky.

Both are more tired than they
care to admit, even to their secret
warrior selves, while
all about them ruby ghosts
are beginning to congeal
in the night air like fog,
eager to rejoin the fray,
if with nothing other than shrieks
and hair-pulls of encouragement.

But which is more stubborn, pygmy or crane?
Who will set aside his enmity
for one last chance at truce?

Only the watching moon ever learns, not we.

Poet’s Notes:  In every poem I write, I try and do my best to come up with at least one or two turns of phrase that I hope will make the reader smile or gasp:  a well-crafted simile or beautiful metaphor; a series of fantastical, horrific, or SFnal images; whatever--as long as the words that wind up on the page are fresh and original. Thus my overall intent with "The Crane-Pygmy War." To take a relatively minor event from Greek Mythology (which I've loved ever since 1958 when the movie Hercules starring Steve Reeves came out) and to endow it with as much heightened language as possible and make it sing. 

No, it's not Homer; but I do hope when you read it you can hear and see the fluttering of wings and brave defense of little men as pygmy and crane engage each other in a battle for their lives.

Editor’s Note:  I particularly enjoy the epic, Homerian style and themes as well as the back-and-forth shifts in perspective between one party and the other.  The poem feels like a tantalizing fragment of a larger work from a lost translation of Ovid.


Witch’s Broom

Only the best straw will suffice.

This is why she makes sure
to fertilize the field properly,
burying alive a dozen little boys
in the thick ground, just before
the advent of spring rains.

The handle--which must accommodate
her legs in several different fashions--
she forges from wormwood and is polished
with bat grease, while no less special
is the cord that binds everything:
it is integument, like cat-gut, but to hold
the enchantment must come from a woman
who has never known the arms,
root or lovesong of a man.

Thus, put together at moontide,
the witch’s broom is an amazing tool,
able to fly, respond to her voice,
fight off lecherous warlocks, and
satisfy her own burning itches.
But the most wondrous thing of all?
It can roust the dirt from
every crook and cranny of her hut
and just for the feel of a clean
floor on her crippled feet
at night’s end is worth every spell
in her repertoire.

Poet’s Notes:  For me the ideal work of horror-- whether movie or print--starts out grounded in the mundane, then slowly ratchets up the tension, creep factor, or sinister angle, until finally full-bore terror or chaos erupts, and there's all hell to pay. Plus you should like the characters; otherwise there's little or no emotional connection, and you might as well be reading columns of statistics. In my opinion, it's exactly how much the baseline changes after this point, that compares and contrasts the heights and depths of before with after--what I call the brighter the light, the darker the shadow effect--that truly adds to the cathartic resonance of horror. 

"Witch's Broom," however, attempts the opposite tack. By starting out with a series of gruesome images, but then progressing toward the mundane, we're able to reflect on the witch's human side and therefore perhaps empathize with her a bit. Then again, readers familiar with my work know I almost always sympathize with the monster, no matter how heinous.

Editor’s Note:  I love the ending of this poem.  It is both ironic and humorous to think of a witch’s broom--especially one so elaborately ensorcelled--as performing the basic function of an ordinary broom.  “Witch’s Broom” was first published in Goblin Fruit.


[Editor's Warning:  Adult Content]

Not quite narwhalian,
the whorled point is rounded
off, then the rest of it ground
down to a size that can be
grasped with two hands,
but dare not dismount her,
unlike its formerly maned owner--
an ivory pommel the lady
will use for pleasure when
riding herself.

The rest of the horse
(how dare he bridle at her
encircling legs, as if she were
some mere trollop!)
she has made into glue
and a snow-colored throw
that will keep her warm
as she gallops through
red vales of ecstasy.

Poet’s Notes:  It's not that I don't like horned things. I have at varying times in my life been extremely interested in ceratopsian dinosaurs, rhinoceri, and one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eaters.*  It's just that unicorns are emblematic of purity and can, like the equine equivalent of touchstones, detect the lack thereof in those of us who are less clean than angels. So it wasn't really that difficult imagining what sort of person would hate a unicorn and what she might do to take vengeance on said beast if she had the power and resources. 

*Just for the record I'm talking here about the 1958 novelty song, "The Purple People Eater," by Sheb Wooley, not any of my ex-wives.

Editor’s Note:  “Tusk,” with its grotesque imagery, over-the-top description of cruelty, and adult sexual content just may be the sickest thing I have ever read--and I’ve read the complete works of the Marquis de Sade.  However, the language is so exquisite, and the build up to the (ahem) climax so adroitly executed, that the poem remains high art and not pornography.   


The Editor’s Review of Blood Wallah and other poems by Robert Borski, illus. by Marge Simon

Blood Wallah and other poems is a collection of forty-three poems by Robert Borski enhanced by beautiful black-and-white illustrations by visual artist and fellow speculative poet Marge Simon.  Fourteen of the poems appear in print for the first time in this, Mr. Borski’s first poetry collection.

Readers are immediately plunged into the macabre, twisted, yet humorous world of Mr. Borski with the titular poem, “Blood Wallah.”  After reading this and the other vampire-themed poems in the collection, I will never think of vampires in quite the same way again.  Some readers may even think of vampires long after putting down the book--you have been warned.

While Mr. Borski finds inspiration from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells, and Mary Shelley, all of the poetry in the collection bears his stamp of originality.  Borski uses his poetic powers to transform even the most mundane and comforting themes and objects into things of shock and horror.  Not even your fond childhood memory of the Tooth Fairy is safe from being transformed into something out of a nightmare.

Finally, possibly the most disturbing fact about this fine collection of horror poems is that the poet who composed the collection only began writing poetry in his fifties.  Ah, the wasted years!

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Blood Wallah and other poems by Robert Borski was published by Dark Regions Press in 2011.  Those interested in purchasing a copy may do so through the publisher at



Volume 1, Issue 4
February 2014

From the Editor:

This, the third quarterly issue of Songs of Eretz, sees the return of some familiar poets and introduces some new names to our literary family.  There is a nice balance of mainstream and speculative poetry in this issue that I hope all will enjoy.

Finally, don’t miss our next issue coming in April!  This special issue will feature the work of Robert Borski whose poems have appeared previously in Songs of Eretz.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


Table of Contents

From the Editor

“Audition” by Guy Belleranti

“Wild Waves:  A Zip Series” by Lauren McBride

“The River” by Ross Balcom

“Commander-In-Chief” by Dusty Wallace

“Death by Poetry” and “Stilts” by Adele Gardner

“Galilean Moons” by Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

“God:  The divine apostrophe” by James Frederick William Rowe

The Editor’s Review of Sweet Poison by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo



Looking for a job
in a haunted house
he put on his most ferocious face.
But people only laughed.

So he put on big shoes,
a round red nose
and a wild wig of ratty hair
and became a clown.

No one laughed then.

Guy Belleranti

About the Poet:  Guy Belleranti writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, puzzles, and humor for adults and children. He’s been published in Woman’s World, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Liquid Imagination, Big Pulp, The Saturday Evening Post, Scifaikuest, Highlights for Children, Every Day Poets and many other places. Two of his flash mysteries were nominated for Derringer awards, and he has won cash awards in many writing contests. His website is

Poet’s Notes:  “Audition” came about when I was thinking about Halloween, haunted houses, and all the costumes that go with them. My thoughts continued on to one common year-round costumed performer, the clown. I thought of people’s different reactions to clowns. Some think they’re funny. Others, however, find them creepy and scary.

Editor’s Note:  The last line of this poem, deliberately set apart from the preceding quatrains, slammed the horror right into my marrow.  I envisioned The Joker laughing maniacally or smiling seductively.  Brrrr!  “Audition” was first published in the anthology Anomalous Appetites in 2009 and reprinted by Dark Metre in February 2011.


Wild Waves:  A Zip Series

three full moons          bright circles above
glimmering green        sandy shores

beige waves                flood the continent
six times daily             under high seas

scaly children              switching lungs for gills
swim away                  for playtime

Lauren McBride

About the Poet:  Lauren McBride has a Master's Degree in Marine Zoology, which led to a career as a research assistant in molecular biology before she chose to stay at home with her two young children. Later, when she heard from teachers that neither child liked to write, she thought that writing a story together might encourage them. As that story grew in length and complexity, she started to submit short pieces to see if anything would be accepted, and to learn the process. Her poems and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in various sci-fi, fantasy, horror, nature, and children's publications including: The Aurorean, Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Tales of the Talisman, Spaceports & Spidersilk, Star*Line, Scifaikuest (featured poet, August 2010), and The Drabbler (second place, issue 21).

Poet’s Notes:  The ocean, space, and science appear frequently in my writing. I turned to these comfort topics when trying to pen my first zip poem after reading about them in Terrie Leigh Relf's book, The Poet's Workshop and Beyond. Relf says on pages 69 and 70 (new edition), "Not only must a zip have 15 syllables, but it must also be arranged in two lines, with an obvious caesura on each line.  ...They’re often meant to be read across as well as down."

"Wild Waves: A Zip Series" grew from one to three zips that together tell a story. Each zip of two lines can be read across as well as down, but the poem as a whole does not work vertically.  Unfortunately, when the poem appeared in the Autumn 2011 issue of Illumen with the title of "Wild Waves Beneath the Full Moons," it was accidentally printed as two columns without line breaks between the zips.  Taking the advice of a wise friend, I began to title my unusual poems to reflect their form and help convey their meaning.
Editor’s Note:  There are twelve, fun zip couplet mini poems here and three zips in addition to the imaginative whole--sixteen poems in all.  I love the way the shorter poems reinforce and play on the themes and imagery of the longer ones.  “Wild Waves:  A Zip Series” first appeared in the Autumn 2011 issue of Illumen with the title of "Wild Waves Beneath the Full Moons."


The River

I dreamt this river
into being.

I needed the passage of water
and of time.

I needed the sight of trees
and plundered villages
on the shore.

I needed a mossy bank
on which to rest my head.

I needed a moment
to remember you.

I needed a river
to be my voice.
A river to say,
I didn't mean to kill you.

I needed a river
to wash the blood
from my hands.

I needed a river to forget.
A river to undo the past.
A river to absolve me.

A river to dissolve me.

I pray
I never was.

I pray
this river

dreamt me into being.

Ross Balcom

About the Poet:  Ross Balcom is a counselor living in southern California. His poems have appeared in Outposts of BeyondScifaikuestStar*Line, and other publications.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem reflects my interest in the psychology of guilt. I conceived it while walking the Santa Ana River Trail in Orange County, California. I frequently walk the trail, and the river and I have become close friends.

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Balcom’s work has appeared previously in Songs of Eretzand the form and voice in “The River” are immediately recognizable as Balcom's.  The poem opens with a quiet, pastoral quality leading to the shocking revelation midway.  The tone then becomes haunting, and the twist at the end with the dream conceit is breathtaking.  Balcom’s use of anaphora moves the poem along nicely--like a river.



Watched them
with the Hubble’s eye,
a secret mission accomplished.

Feared them,
and their swift fleet,
began to form a strategy.

Found me,
they came quietly,
woke me from a restless sleep.

Told me
they were from the stars,
some place beyond the heliopause.

Showed me
on an ancient chart,
a familiar dot of green and blue.

Touched me
on the forehead,
sharing years of memories.

Helped me
discern my role,
not invaded but invader.

Begged me
to call it off,
the interplanetary barrage.

Warned me
of swift reprisal,
should I pursue aggression.

Left me
under my covers,
sweating, cold and damp.

Dusty Wallace

About the Poet:  Dusty Wallace lives in the Appalachians of Virginia with his wife and two sons. You can find more of his poetry in Star*Line Issue 36.4 and on MysticNebula [dot] com.

Poet’s Notes:  Forms are fun, even when non-traditional. “Commander-In-Chief” was the result of building my own template to play with. Aliens are too often the bad guys in science fiction. The fictional government's response is always to shoot first and study later. I thought it'd be nice if the aliens got a chance to be diplomatic for once.

Editor’s Note:  I especially enjoy the relentless two syllable openings of each stanza.  The "not invaded but invader" blows my mind (in a good way).


Death by Poetry

Poets have power.
In Celtic lands, a poet's curse could doom a king.
Now I face my own death, at your words:
the possibility of mangled wrists
scrawling out a last verse in staccato crimson,
or a watery grave plunged deep into Lucas Creek,
the windows rolled open, my foreign car
jumping the guardrail of the bridge
to let the swamp suck me down,
flesh and blood swept out eventually
through Menchville Creek to join the James River.

If my mouth were filled with mud,
I wouldn't speak when you ring each night,
your beautiful voice reading poetry
you've written for your latest lover:
your latest heartbreak.  You're still mine,
and every cunning word in your wise haiku
slaps me with the visceral reality
of an emotion I ought never have heard.
My face reddens with the blows,
stinging on my end of the line as I listen
to your repetition of her final words:
how you pleaded, and she still refused.
And all the while you haven't noticed that
I'm sinking past the reeds, down through the silt--
I must burst the surface--I splutter,
the words rising, bitter love and teary complaints
popping like swamp-gas to poison you,
till you scream: "Enough!  No more friendship!
I have no best friend any longer!
The distinction is meaningless and childish!"

Have I been a coward then,
to die so many deaths at your pen?
I stayed silent so I could hear that voice,
soak in the emotion I thirst for.
You insist I'm the better poet, but
I own not Emily's wit to break you down
in tiny slanted lines.
I cannot scan you into seventeen syllables
that signify much more than you seem to think I feel.
I cannot get your hooks out of my heart.
Even if I pretend I don't care,
act happy, high-spirited, the way you like me--
even if I manage not to call you--
or even if you talk to me all night--
I tell you I am drowning.
I've already sunk deep into Lucas Creek,
past any hope of light or air.
Your poems were
my final breath.

When Grandpa built stilts for our presents,
He equipped them with secret suppressants:
          From the alley we'd vault
          To the roof, then default
To a stroll through star spangles and crescents.

We helped him, that blazing July,
As he promised us all we would fly:
          Hopping signs in the street
          With our new wooden feet,
We'd outrace startled birds in the sky.

Tipped with vulcanized gravity shoes,
The stilts let us break all the rules:
          Soon our anti-grav swing
          Topped the roof with a fling:
Flying jets served as silver stepstools.

So we set sights on our grandest dreams:
To the moon!  We'd explore, marry queens!
          But our jaunt past the earth
          Found no place for our mirth:
Quiet Moonies don't trust rowdy teens.

It's been years since our last escapade;
You might think we love life in the shade.
          But our grandkids are due
          The adventures we knew:
Time to reheel the stilts Grandpa made!

Adele Gardner

About the Poet:  Adele Gardner's poetry collection, Dreaming of Days in Astophel, is available from Sam's Dot Publishing.  Her stories and poems have appeared in:  Daily Science Fiction, Legends of the Pendragon, The Doom of Camelot, Penumbra, Scheherazade's Façade, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium, Goblin Fruit, and New Myths, among others.  In 2013, her long poem “The Time Traveler’s Weekend” placed third in the Rhysling Awards of the Science Fiction Poetry Association; in 2012, her short poem, “In Translation,” placed third in the Rhyslings.  Two stories and a poem earned honorable mention in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.  Currently cataloging librarian for a public library, she's also literary executrix for her father, Delbert R. Gardner.  Please visit

Poet’s Notes on “Death by Poetry”:  I wrote this for an ex-beloved with whom I remained friends for a time.  We were alternately one another’s muses, critics, and strange rivals, and at times had what felt like a poetry war.  He would read his latest gorgeous work, in an intimate tone that suggested the verses were meant for me.  Only after I’d provided enthusiastic praise did he reveal they belonged to his new beloved.

Poet’s Notes on “Stilts”:  My maternal grandfather made my brothers, who are twins, two fantastic sets of handcrafted wooden stilts for the birthday all three of them shared—a fact which seemed even more appropriate because we frequently saw, in my brothers’ twinkling blue eyes, the laughter of our mischievous, blue-eyed, Irish Grandpa, with his magical tales in which we had amazing adventures and traveled on couches to the moon and back.  Riding those stilts felt like flying!

Editor’s Note:  In “Death by Poetry,” Gardner creates a haunting mood of despair that is simply delicious.  She also creates a good sense of place, in a local sense (Newport News) and in a more cosmic or universal sense, with her reference to the Celts--this is most nicely done. 

I like to fancy myself as fairly well read, but I've honestly never seen limericks presented in the linked fashion of Gardner’s “Stilts.”  How delightful!  Her last stanza adds just the perfect amount of sentimentality, too, bringing the stilts from her grandfather to her as a grandparent.


Galilean Moons

caught in tidal pull
surface with volcanoes rife
Io’s angry love


lover of the bull
ice moon could you harbor life
near a sea vent stove


shining bright and full
scored in parts as by a knife
cupbearer of Jove


nymph pock-marked and dull
scarred Callisto faithful wife
eyes that never move

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

About the Poet:  Find out more about Dr. Gordon by clicking on the “About the Editor” link below the e-zine.

Poet’s Notes:  “Ganymede” and “Io” were published in the November 2013 print edition of Scifaikuest in which I was the featured poet.  “Europa” and “Callisto” appear here for the first time in print.  The poems are presented here as they were meant to be--as a four-poem rhyming set of science fiction haiku.

God: The divine apostrophe
Contracting space and time
Drawing finite to infinite

James Frederick William Rowe

About the Poet:  James Frederick William Rowe is an author and poet out of Brooklyn, New York, with works appearing in:  Heroic Fantasy QuarterlyBig PulpTales of the TalismanBete Noire, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  He is pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, is an adjunct professor in the CUNY system, and works in a variety of freelance positions.  Contact him at

Poet’s Notes:  This poem has its roots on the subway and in conversation with Gaby Kappes. In this case, I was riding along the elevated tracks of the Culver Viaduct on the F-Line in Brooklyn while texting her my displeasure of how it is viewed as anachronistic to employ apostrophes to indicate a dropped syllable in words ending with –ed. I had been reading my collection of Keats, and it was his habit to mark all words ending in –ed that he intended to be read without –ed being its own syllable with a 'd instead of -ed. As I have written poems where the pronunciation of words ending in –ed in one way v. the other is necessary for the meter, I dubbed the apostrophe divine while I complained about how it would be fruitless to compose poems with such an archaic usage of the apostrophe. The end result was that—though I don't use a single apostrophe in the poem—my complaint inspired me to write a poem uniting the concept of the apostrophe to God.

The original version of this poem was much longer; however, upon suggestion of Dr. Gordon, I decided to pare it down to the first three lines, and make it what I dubbed an "inverted heterodox haiku" of 8-6-8. The theme of the poem is the distilled essence of the longer version, where God is viewed as that which can contract the otherwise unbridgeable gap of the finite and infinite, just as the apostrophe contracts words.  Being both transcendent and imminent, God has it within Him to do what cannot otherwise be done in this regard. It also seems somehow fitting that a poet and philosopher would conceive of God as a punctuation mark.

Editor’s Note:  In my role as an editor, I have read many good poems that contain great poems within them.  Such was the case, in my opinion, with Mr. Rowe’s original poem.  The twelve words printed here, comprising the opening three lines of the original, contain a distilled, crystallized message with a profound impact and a powerful, electrifying voice.


The Editor’s Review of Sweet Poison by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo

Sweet Poison is a collection of sixty speculative poems by the Bram Stoker Award-winning poet Marge Simon, and the Nebula Award-winning poet Mary Turzillo.  With the exception of one co-written piece, each poem by Mrs. Simon was composed in response to a poem by Mrs. Turzillo, or vice versa.  Neither will admit or cares to remember who started it.  The volume contains gorgeous illustrations by M. Wayne Miller and is available from Dark Renaissance Books.  Marge Simon was the featured poet in the January 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz.

The result of this collaborative back-and-forth is a series of poems that will profoundly affect the reader--alternatively wickedly delighting, strangely horrifying, surprisingly stimulating the intellect, or occasionally unpleasantly stirring the stomach.  Many poems provide interesting new twists on familiar mythologies; others will provide twisted new interest in unfamiliar mythologies.  

Most of the poems tell stories.  Some might argue that they could be re-versed as prose poems or even presented as flash fiction.  However, were this to be done, the poems would lose the essential effects of the pauses between the lines--pauses that in their silence often scream.

Lovers of horror, the macabre, the bizarre, the burlesque, and the surreal are in for a real treat.  For best results, turn off the phone, turn down the lights, and turn up the fire before turning the pages of Sweet Poison.  And remember to lock the door.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine

Featured Poet:  Marge Simon

Volume 1, Issue 3
January 2014


From the Editor:

I am pleased to present Songs of Eretz’s first Featured Poet issue.  These special issues will appear from time to time between regular quarterly issues of the e-zine and will exclusively showcase a poet of distinction chosen by the editor.  This month’s Featured Poet is Marge Simon.

I do wish the readers of Songs of Eretz to know that it was a genuine pleasure putting this special issue together.  The only difficulty lay in choosing from among the myriad fine poems of Simon’s diverse and extraordinary body of work.  

Simon is also an accomplished artist and illustrator.  The beautiful illustrations that accompany her poetry in this issue are hers as well.  Enjoy!

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD


About the Poet:

Marge Simon edits a column for the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Newsletter, "Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side," and serves as Chair of the board of trustees.  She is a former president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) and a former editor of Star*Linethe journal of the SFPA.  
She was awarded the Bram Stoker for Best Poetry Collection twice--once in 2007, and again in 2012.  Both of her 2010 poetry collections, Unearthly Delights (reviewed herein) and The Mad Hattery were Stoker finalists in 2011.  She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award in 2010, and the Dwarf Stars Award in 2012.  She won the Rhysling Award for Best Long Poem in 1995.   

Simon's poetry, fiction, and illustrations have appeared in Strange HorizonsNitebladeDaily Science FictionPedestalDreams & Nightmares, and Jamais Vu, and publication of a poem of hers is forthcoming in Kaleidotrope.  She has published two prose collections: Christina's World (Sam's Dot Publications, 2008), and Like Birds in the Rain (Sam's Dot, 2007).  Elektrik Milk Bath Press published a new collection of her poetry with Sandy DeLuca, Dangerous Dreams, in 2013.  She and Mary Turzillo have a speculative dark poetry collection, SWEET POISON, coming out in early 2014 from Dark Renaissance Press, illustrated by the amazing M. Wayne Miller.  

Marge Simon is an active member of the HWA, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and SFPA.  Find more information about this remarkable lady at


Table of Contents

From the Editor

About the Poet

Poetry and Illustrations by Marge Simon:

Poem:           Primal Menagerie
Illustration:   Adam and the Egg

Poem:           My Purple Tie 
Illustration:   Ancient Times

Poem:           Mary Shelley’s Notebook
Illustration:   Night Smoke

Poem:           Kahlo
Illustration:   Death and the Buried Girl

Poem:           Two Poets in a Veterinarian's Office
Illustration:   Collaboration Hansel & Gretel

The Editor’s Review of Unearthly Delights, Poems and Art by Marge Simon
Illustration:  Between the Branches by Marge Simon


Primal Menagerie

Compatible partners, yet both of us sterile,
we accept our social obligation.

They warn us that random accidents
are virtually impossible to control.

But we take the risk, give our DNA 
samples to the Genesis laboratory

where they create her in a tube.
The day comes we can take her home.

The first winter snow, she nearly dies,
so we move her cage into our shelter.

Her digestive system proves incompatible 
with ours, we must purchase costly supplements.

Her daily needs soon surpass our means,
we have but one alternative to save her.

We visit her on Sunday afternoons
with other parents of failed experiments.

The keeper tells us our child is bright,
and how she has learned to speak.

We know he lies to keep us happy,
the sounds she makes hurt our ears.

Her fur is long and black, yet it grows
only on her head, her skin is sickly pale.

We tell ourselves this child can't be ours
and leave her in this primal menagerie,

knowing she owns all our Sundays 
for the next few hundred years.

Poet’s Notes:  This poem is set in a far distant future society on Earth where our descendents have changed and adapted to a world we can only begin to imagine. Life partners are expected to procreate, but find they are sterile. They opt for a test tube child. To their credit, they attempt to care for her, but (to them) she turns out to be not only deformed, but also mentally challenged. They place her in a care unit. Of course, she would be considered a normal healthy human child in our era. In the end, as parents, she claims their love. It's a simple thing, parental love. I liked this theme so much; I've written and published at least two more along those lines--some as flash fiction. They address some heavy issues when it comes to parenting, and social pressures, though I do it from a science fiction approach.

Editor’s Note:  “Primal” means “primitive.”  Interestingly, it has the same root as “primate.”  So, right from reading the title, this poem had my mind racing with disturbing thoughts and questions.  What if I became the parent of a child that was a throwback to a primitive hominid or ape-like creature?  What would I do?  Am I supposed to feel bad for the parents in this poem, or for their offspring, or perhaps for the zookeeper?  I pondered these questions for a while but could find no good answers.  Primal Menagerie” first appeared in Tales of the Talisman in 2012.


My Purple Tie

A crowd of flies
haunts the drawing room.
Brown spots on peaches
in a room of scorched music
and uncommon speech.
She admits she ran off with me 
for my teeth and my purple tie.
A woman always bends
toward a strong man, she says.

I grip the glass too tightly. 
Poor you, she says, ministering
to my wound with tweezers
and a handkerchief of tears.

The skin around her eyes
like cracks in Wedgewood china,
so many lifts and still she’s down.
I’ll paint her in the nude,
careful to erase the years.

It wasn’t a dream,
her dusky violets dying,
all bitterroot and weed.
Is it anyone’s fault, after all,
her fantasies inside a story
with somebody else’s name?

So I suspend my disbelief
when she comes to fill my glass  
in this world of flagrant lies,
where the canvas is empty
but the paint is real.

Poet’s Notes:  Have you ever been with a crowd of unbearable bores? People who are way too full of themselves, living in their own little world of pretense, chatter, and backstabbing?  That's the place the guy who has the purple tie and good teeth finds himself. Her being older didn't matter.  She's well off, and he needed a woman with money. This poem explores what he really thinks of it all. Poor guy. Will he leave her?

Editor’s Note:  My father (may his memory be a blessing), who was quite dashing in his day, used to talk about “the painted whore,” a colorful epithet that he employed to describe the many women who flirted with him at parties, for he had eyes only for his wife, my mother.  This poem reminded me of my Dad, although his ultimate response to “the paint” on his would-be mistresses was the opposite of that of the man with the purple tie.  “My Purple Tie” first appeared in Pedestal in 2005.


Mary Shelley's Notebook

I read your book.
I want to know you, Mary.
I pretend we are the same,
playing hostess to these men.
How does it feel,
a tidbit of light banter,
polite and politic?

For a basket of sauterne and camembert
a mere merci bien, madam,
exchange of winks between the pair,
to be afterwards ignored
on a Grecian beach.

The breeze in your hair,
watching the waves break
one by one, Mary,
anonymous as relationships.

George rolls over,
eyes on Cape Sounion,
utters lines destined for posterity
something about the ocean,
how passages of fleets
leave no impression.

Do you recall how many times
he's propositioned you?
Your husband didn't hear
George's whisper in your ear,

Love will find a way 
through paths where 
wolves fear to prey

But that was years ago.
Percy laughs, claps his pale hands,
never straying far from his umbrella.
For a man so fair, the sun is not his friend.
Yet his friends are yours, he's said.
He wants to share.

And what of you, Mary? 
Quite a feather in your cap.
Not in your father's eyes, 
he's disowned you,
mistress of a married man
of lively wit and former fortune.

Did you sit apart in the other direction,
jotting ideas on the pad you keep
in the secret pocket of your frock,
as I have done so many seaside afternoons
watching for distant lightning?

But that Mary isn't you,
an educated woman, treated with esteem.
It's me, this Mary, scribbling in my little book.
No brilliant poets on this beach.
My husband takes his comfort with the men.

I finger the letter, the crisp check
with it crackles in my pocket.
The acceptance came this morning
while he was away but I've not told him yet.
It might surprise him, Mary.
But will he treat me any differently?

If you were here, Mary, we'd celebrate.
But enough of fantasies, my friend.
I unpack the basket, spread the cloth,
share my conversation with the gulls.

Poet’s Notes:  This is one of my own personal favorite poems, which I had yet to find a market for until Songs of Eretz.  I'd always been fascinated by Mary Shelley, writing her book about a monster (who is actually the poor victim of a true monster, Dr. Frankenstein).  All right, here is Mrs. Shelley, midst a group of brilliant poets of the day. I doubt that she had servants galore and time to spare, but she made the time to write her hugely successful novel while minding their children, managing their home.  Surely she also attended to the needs of her husband, known as one of the finest lyric poets of his time. As well, she played hostess to his pals, George Gordon, Lord Bryon, famed for his lengthy narrative poems, and John Keats of the sensual imagery and odes. Leigh Hunt was also a friend and fellow poet.

Shelley didn't achieve fame until after his untimely death. Still, the boys must have gotten on well together as men of letters did back in the day. What of Mary while they were off for a smoke and brandy in the sitting room or a picnic on the beach? What was she doing?

I imagined she was not often part of their conversations. I imagined her as quiet, in her place, being a woman of those times. And so you have this poem through the eyes and in the words of another Mary, over a century later.

Editor’s Note:  I love the way Simon creates such a magical mood here, melding past and present seamlessly as the story in the poem unfolds.  An easy read on a complex subject, “Mary Shelley’s Notebook” should certainly resonate with authors and poets, but it still has the universal appeal necessary to be enjoyed by a much wider audience. 



The artist 
spit on her finger, 
moistened her palette,
chewed a cocoa leaf as she worked,
a dark shade here, a brighter there.

Diego, ravenous,
an appetite beyond hers,
his big voice, his lips
on her mouth, on her breasts
tequila, sweat
bruises, passion, pain.

Still there was sorrow,
so she sharpened it with her teeth,
made it bleed on her canvas.

What came first was flesh,
she gave it to the world
over and over.

Then her vertebrae,
her  severed womb.
Roots. Veins. Arteries.
The ties of heritage.

Poet’s Notes:  This is kind of a dedication poem. As an artist and a retired art teacher, of course I know of Kahlo's life and works (besides what was in the movie about her.) I was fascinated from the start by her paintings, especially her self-portraits, so boldly candid and direct. Those eyes. I've written more than one poem about Frieda, inspired by her passion for bright, surreal settings created even though confined to bed most of the time, due to a car accident that left her a semi-invalid. I don't feel a need to explain the reference to mirrors, once you've viewed a selection of her amazing works, which can be investigated on Wikipedia.

Editor’s Note:  Readers who know a little about the life of the artist should really enjoy this poem, even as its words consume them. However, even those who know nothing of the details of the life of Frieda Kahlo and her violent marriage to Diego Rivera should still have no trouble appreciating this piece as a passionate, poetic life story or even as fantasy.   


Two Poets in a Veterinarian's Office

He is a big man, with a big voice.
His t-shirt proclaims ZOMBIES RULE.
At his feet a small cat carrier.

The woman is very small and very old. 
She wears a wig that she fancies makes her look
like Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson. 
At her feet is a dog twice her size.
From time to time she pats his head.

Both of them are writing in notebooks.
Both of them are writing poetry.


"The sky is dirt,
it holds my blood!
My feet are angry,
I grind the bones 
of enemies beneath."


"Up from darkened tombs 
they rise to meet the moon,
hands outstretched, 
nostrils flared, seeking living flesh."

His kitten mews,
Her dog whines.

Poet’s Notes:  No, this isn't about real people with pets--but wait!!  Yes, it is. Pets say a lot about their owners without speaking. Also a wry comment on "you can't tell a book by its cover". Different strokes for different folks?  I imagined this scene, of course. I've never seen anyone at a vet's office writing poetry. Myself included.

Editor’s Note:  Simon sets the scene beautifully with just the right amount of irreverence.  The poems that the characters write--his after Plath, hers inspired by his tee-shirt--come as a nice surprise.


Review of Unearthly Delights, Poems and Art by Marge Simon

The collection opens with the titular, “A Garden of Earthly Delights, After H. Bosch.”  The reader of this ekphrastic poem, inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s famous surreal triptych, will be sucked into the painting along with the narrator of the poem--a strong start to a strong collection of forty-four poems by Marge Simon.  The enjoyment of the poetry is enhanced by beautiful color illustrations created by the poet.  Unearthly Delights was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award in 2011.  
Simon is known for her speculative poetry, particularly horror, and there is plenty of good stuff for lovers of the macabre in this collection.  However, those familiar with her speculative work will be surprised to find many poems that are mainstream in nature.  In these, Simon puts her personal poetic spin on tales ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s affair with Sally Hemmings to that of an anonymous middle-eastern sculptor hoping his art will survive as one dictator replaces another.

Science fiction aficionados will not be disappointed by the fare offered here.  Simon uses her craft to effortlessly transport her readers to alien worlds, post-apocalyptic worlds, worlds of shadow, worlds of light, future worlds, and parallel worlds where reality is warped but not so twisted as to be unrecognizable (and is all the more fascinating for it). 

But back to horror...  The faint of heart may have nightmares from the images evoked after reading some of the chilling verses contained in this collection.  There are scarabs and scorpions--scary enough in their own right--scarier still when used as metaphor by a poet of Simon’s skill.  Many of these poems are evocative of some of the actual horrors of our world today:  abuse of prisoners, incest, euthanasia, slavery, reproductive rights (castratos, not abortion), eugenics (gone bad), a citizenry jaded toward violence and perhaps titillated by it, spouse abuse, and the ubiquitous daily horrors of war.

Simon makes good use of references to famous artists, writers, musicians, and other poets, finding inspiration from the works of Edgar Degas, Grant Wood, Edmund Lear, and Lewis Carroll, as well as music from ballet to jazz to gansta.  Lovers of mainstream as well as speculative poetry are in for a real treat from this diverse yet unified collection.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Unearthly Delights, poems and art by Marge Simon, was published by Sam’s Dot Publishing in 2010.  Those interested in obtaining a copy may contact the publisher at and, or contact Marge Simon directly at


Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine

Volume 1, Issue 2
November 2013

My PhotoFrom the Editor:

After the launch of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine in late August, I am pleased to report that visits to the website have exploded!  Prior to the launch, was receiving about 3,000 visits per month.  September and October saw over 10,000 visits--each!  This outpouring of support is greatly appreciated and gives me additional motivation to make the e-zine offerings better and better.

To that end, in addition to the remaining quarterly offerings planned for Volume I in February and May 2014, at least two special editions of the e-zine are in the works.  Each special edition will take the form of a Featured Poet issue in which will appear a mini-collection of the poetry of a single outstanding poet.  I am pleased to announce that Bram Stoker Award winner Marge Simon, whose poem “When Again I Feel My Hands” appears in our current issue, has agreed to be our first featured poet in January 2014.  Robert Borski, whose poem “Woodcutter to the Rescue (or) ‘My, Grandmother, What A Big Mouth You Have’” appeared in our premier issue, and whose poem “Kitchen Carcharodon” appears in our current issue, has agreed to be featured in April 2014.

Once again, I would like to thank all of the poets who submitted their work for consideration.  It was no easy task to choose from among the many strong submissions received.  Without them, the songs of Eretz would fall silent.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Table of Contents

From the Editor

“Kitchen Carcharodon” by Robert Borski

When Again I Feel My Hands” by Marge Simon

hydrocarbon snow” by Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

“The Immigrant Looks Back” by Daniel Ausema

“Used To” by Lida Broadhurst

“Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards” and “The Bone Cutter’s Lament” by James Frederick William Rowe

“First (Last) Kiss” by Sierra July


Kitchen Carcharodon

“Last year sharks killed nine people globally--a mere driblet compared to defective toasters, which killed 781.”
--AP Newswire

No primordial killing machine
by nature could be this singularly

harmless looking, with neither fins
nor teeth,
its long black cord functioning not

so much as a tail -- to balance
or locomote --
but as lifeline to the sleekly-built

appliance with its open gills of
chrome, spring
jaw, and burnt-crumb breath.

And yet despite these deficiencies,
it swims,
if statically, in a current strong

enough to carry away an Olympian,
its boxlike
form dictated by function, if not

the fetished mind of Martha Stewart.
Hidden in
plain sight, usually in the cove or bay

of a kitchen, it waits to strike down
the unwary,
the unsuspecting innocent

who, hungry for a pastry or bagel,
but distracted
by the menialness of the task,

does not notice the frayed cord,
blissfully placing
his hand too close to the open slits

or the shiny body of the appliance
anticipating the sweet butter-and-jam

taste in his mouth, the delicious chew
of crust,
completely oblivious as to what lays

in wait for him, deadlier than any
even if able to make perfect toast.

Robert Borski

About the Poet (reprinted from Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine, Volume 1, Issue 1):  Although he did not start writing poetry until he was well into his sixth decade, Robert Borski has now had over two hundred poems published, a good portion of which have appeared in:  Asimov's, Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and Star*Line, as well as a first collection from Dark Regions Press, Blood Wallah. He has been nominated for the Rhysling Award nine times and the Dwarf Stars Award thrice, and still lives in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the town of his birth, where he works for the local university.

Poet’s Notes:  Every year, usually just before summer begins and real news is somewhat slow, the cable networks are wont to trot out one of their more staid fright stories--how a shark somewhere in the world has dared to take a bite out of some swimmer or surfer. Small matter that we are trespassing on their milieu or that sharks might confuse us for food. Nor will you ever hear a talking head tell you how relatively few people are killed by sharks annually or that you're much more likely to die from a bee sting, lightning, or trying to retrieve a stuck English Muffin from your toaster. So to be fair to the shark--the networks' primordial killing machine inching ever closer to shore, hoping against hope for a taste of human sushi--I wrote "Kitchen Carcharodon." In terms of challenges, it also does what many of my poems attempt to do: compares and contrasts two disparate subjects, and then show how much alike they really are.  In addition, though not my first poem accepted--Marge Simon, then-editor of Star*Line, had previously accepted two--because Strange Horizons had a faster turnaround time, "Kitchen Carcharodon" was my first published poem and so retains a special place in my heart.  And just for the record, while I wouldn't think twice about stepping into the ocean, every time I make toast I do so with caution, trepidation, and maintaining some distance.

Editor’s Note:  The ironic humor here is, well, delicious.  “Kitchen Carcharodon” was first published in Strange Horizons, and is reprinted here from Mr. Borski’s collection Blood Wallah and other poems, published by Dark Regions Press  Fans of Mr. Borski’s brand of poetry will be pleased to learn that a mini-collection of his poems is forthcoming in a special Featured Poet Edition of Songs of Eretz in the spring of 2014.


When Again I Feel My Hands

My wooden hands
hang idle on the strings.
Master’s drunk on Holland gin
& sleeps beside the wench
who takes my place.
Displaying Alice Flowers with mouths NB.jpg
Half human, half wood,
in a world deprived of joy,
I am the fool’s scepter,
a reprieve from tedium,
my simple plays enhanced
by classical compositions.
You cannot know how dear
the price of mirth.

With his dark eyes, he wooed me
& with his magic, he prevailed.
Father swore, mother wept
as he swept me in his arms
& then away to foreign lands.

Soon he’ll tire of her,
& cast a spell to change her form
as did he mine, to suit his needs.
She’ll bob & bow as I do now,
and he will set me free–
or so he promised, long ago.

When again I feel my hands,
I’ll rip away these strings
& as he sleeps, I’ll pull them taut
around his bearded throat,
claim his magic for my own.

Marge Simon

About the Poet:  Marge Simon's poetry, fiction, and illustrations have appeared in publications such as Strange HorizonsNitebladeDaily Science Fiction MagazinePedestal, and Dreams & Nightmares. A former president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, Marge has also served as editor of Star*Line. She won the Rhysling Award for Best Long Poem, 1995. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, "Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side," and serves as Chair of the board of trustees.  She won the Strange Horizons Readers Choice Award, 2010 and the Dwarf Stars Award, 2012. In addition to her poetry, she has published two prose collections: Christina's World, Sam's Dot Publications, 2008 and Like Birds in the Rain, Sam's Dot, 2007. She has won the Bram Stoker for Best Poetry Collection twice, 2007, and 2012. Both of her 2011 poetry collections, Unearthly Delights and The Mad Hattery were Stoker finalists. Elektrik Milk Bath Press published a new collection with Sandy DeLuca, Dangerous Dreams, 2013.
She is an active member in HWA, SFWA, SFPA.  Find out more about this poet at

Poet’s Notes:  Puppets are fun. I made one of papier mache in first grade. I made several along the way in my life, because you can use a puppet to say what you wouldn't dare say in person. A puppet can say the truth without being blamed, or argued with. Everybody loves puppets.

I refreshed my memory with research about puppetry in the middle ages. There's the reference to "fool's scepter" and classical music (Renaissance) later that accompanied the plays. It was entertainment for the hoi polloi, and entertainment for royals as well.

When I wrote this poem, I was thinking of bondage. How people can be commanded and controlled.  Be it through a bad marriage, or sad politics, we all know what "puppets" are. The poor girl (bound by magic) in this poem realizes too late that she fell in love with Mr. Wrong. Now all she has for hope is that someday her master will set her free, perhaps replace her with his current flame. Do you think she has a chance of that?

Editor’s Note:  This poem reminds me of the story of Pinocchio, only pulled inside out and twisted into a tale of horror.  I am also reminded of a patient whom I attended early in my medical career.  He had a terrible, rare, neurological disorder that left him conscious and aware but unable to move, speak, or express himself in any way--something doctors loosely refer to as “locked in syndrome.”  That patient eventually recovered, but, as Ms. Simon hints, it is doubtful that the victim in her poem ever will.  “When Again I Feel My Hands” was first published in Chizine, 2006.  Fans of Ms. Simon’s brand of poetry will be pleased to learn that a mini-collection of her poems is forthcoming in a special Featured Poet Edition of Songs of Eretz in January 2014. 

In addition to her other accomplishments, Ms. Simon is a professional artist and illustrator.  The beautiful illustration accompanying her poem here is one of hers.  Additional art by this poet will compliment her Featured Poet issue in January 2014 as well as Mr. Borski’s in the spring of 2014.


hydrocarbon snow
rings lakes of liquid methane
summer on Titan

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

About the Poet:  Find out more about Dr. Gordon by clicking on the “About the Editor” link below the e-zine.

Poet’s Notes:  “hydrocarbon snow” first appeared in the August 2013 print edition of Scifaikuest.  It is the second poem that I ever sold, and is dear to me because its sale allowed me to prove to myself that I was not just a “one hit wonder.”  This month’s (November 2013) print edition of Scifaikuest features a mini-collection of my speculative haiku.  For more information, see


The Immigrant Looks Back

My home is behind me.
Dirty skies already hide
the strip-mined landscape,
the oil-slicked seas.
The planet's beauty, too,
for all that, vanishing
into a haze of particulates.
Majestic formations and
wonders of ingenuity,
laced with poisons and
etched by acids, but still
able to inspire awe.
No longer my home.

Does that make this shell
my home? This tube of gadgetry
and insulation? These cramped
passages and cupboards?
The novelty fades faster than the planet.

A new home waits, sure.
A strange-colored star,
a new range of vistas, new patterns
to the winds and leaves.
I know the stats and specs,
the major flora and fauna,
the number of limbs and petals,
can picture a new life,
dream dreams of waking to
the scents that will come to mean home.

For now, though, I am unhomed,
hurtling homeless into heavens
I scarce believe in.
The engines shudder and roar.

Daniel Ausema

About the Poet:  Daniel Ausema has worked as a farm laborer, research library assistant, Spanish-language newspaper reporter, and educator. He is currently a stay-at-home dad. His poetry has been published in many venues over the past dozen years, including Space & TimeAiofe's Kiss, and Every Day Poets, and he is the creator of the serial fiction project Spire City, soon to be published by Musa Publishing. He lives in Colorado, and not even biblical floods, wildfires, and May blizzards can drive him away.

Poet’s Notes:  Immigration is a recurring theme in my writing, poetry and fiction both. Stories of immigrants I've known, stories passed down of my grandparents and great-grandparents, resonate with me, and in this case I wondered about how those stories would compare to a future immigrant leaving (a scarred but still loved) earth, full of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Structurally, while I enjoy writing all kinds of poetry, including very strict forms, this sort of free verse is what I most often use. Its rhythms and line breaks are largely intuitive in draft form, and take their final shape through later, more deliberate tweaks and adjustments.

Editor’s Note:  As the son of an immigrant, this piece resonates with me as well.  I especially appreciate the way Mr. Ausema divides up his stanzas, beginning with leaving earth, then on to the spaceship, then anticipating the new planet, and then the final alliterative stanza that captures the emotions. The final line is simply breathtaking.  I picture the speaker shuddering outwardly and roaring inwardly in time with the rocket engines.


Used To

Used to walk streets unpricked by fear of
monsters: lurking, leaping, scales shining
with something, who knows, but it’s liquid,
smells like nothing you’d order in a cup.
Knew vampires aren’t looking to catch rays. 
Anyway, I got sense, don’t wear satin nightgowns,
twisted  pearls, so the nuttiest vampire ain’t
gonna grab me for a snack in the alley draped
with empty garbage cans.

Mummies, poor fashion inarticulates, are lookin’
for a lost love. Gotta sympathize with that.
Werewolves can’t afford a razor. No proof
the moon sprouts hair.  Or men’d grab onto
their own monthly ritual.

But now everyone howls about dangerous streets.
Some pack responds with boasts about their
22’s and 44’s. Thought they meant their belt
or bra size.  Forget claws, these beasts caress knives
sharp as wind slicing skin thorough newspaper.

My walk teeters, gaze wobbling like drunken
flashlight; hands clutch sprays no fancy
perfume place ever sold. But death’s just life
to these monsters we got after us now.

Lida Broadhurst

About the Poet:  Lida lives in Oakland, California with a loving husband and a fat orange tabby.   When the weather is too hot, too cold, or too wet, her work is weirder than usual, and her family doesn't understand her work.  She has published extensively in the small press both in the United States and overseas.  Two poems were nominated for the Rhysling Award, one for the Pushcart Prize, and in 2012 one for the Dwarf Star Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association.  A chapbook of her work was published in 2004.

Poet’s Notes:  I was reading the latest crime statistics in the newspapers, and so much of them seemed so impersonal--just vague ideas about who committed what kind of crimes, and all of it seemed to have no real motivations.  It was almost as if the criminals were just robots killing because they were bored or just wanted to do something evil at random.

Somehow the major horror icons are more clearly identified.  We seem to know much more of their problems.  Vampires need blood to live, werewolves are ruled by the rising of a full moon and can't help themselves, and mummies are looking for lost loves. You can almost sympathize with all of them.  Plus you can sometimes plan not to become one of their victims.

But nowadays we have people who grab guns and off they go on a spree.   Yes, we hear about economic deprivation and joblessness, but that doesn't explain everything they do.  So I guess the poem is a piece of nostalgia for the glory days of monsters we can partially understand.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the irreverent tone used here as well as the way the tongue-in-cheek genre concepts are presented in a fresh, non-cliché manner.  The delivery of the moral lesson gives me chills.


Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards

Seven heartbeats and a hundred yards
Astride a beast swollen and wild with strength
The thunderclaps herald storm-clouds of smoke
With whirling winds alive with ball and shot

Fly, the wing'ed sabre on charging mount
The angel of the grave is a sluggard
Only once must death be met ‘fore the shock
Trust the saviour of the sword: Sainted Speed!

Collide, and in the collision shatter
The line can not endure the hammer-blow
In disarray the mob of muskets fall
Flashing swords! The Harvest of Rout rejoined

The reaping blades sever red poppy heads
Scattered, the blossoms fly from scything strokes
Stalks spread and strewn beneath the tramp'ling hooves
The stray petals shall not escape the same

Seeped in the scarlet liquor of lifeblood
And amidst brother blades jointly jutting
Now the war-winning sabre skyward swings
Jubilant, these hearts unpierced at eight beats

Then above the din of battle is heard
The blaring bugle's boisterous beckoning
Calling the cavalry to chance the charge
And exchange triumph for the chase renewed

Another seven heartbeats pounds the chest
Another hundred yards recklessly raced
With dauntless daring they dash death anew
Bravery buys glory – the sabre fame!

The Bone Cutter's Lament

When I begin
I know that I
Must discard
More than God has taken
That they might walk
My saw shall cut
Inches higher than the wound
That muscle and flesh
     (This too must I waste)
     (And regret the loss of healthy flesh I do)
Might unnaturally join
Over cruelly shortened limbs
And form a stump
A useless end that has yet a use
To stabilize a peg

The war has taken many lives
But far more limbs are daily cut
And of these limbs
I know for each
How much excess bone is lost
Inches of bone
Bone which men beg me not to touch
And for which they cry when I remove
     (Their agony I sympathize)
     (But cut I must for their own good)
As they thrash and screech
And implore divine intervention
But God has already given unto me
Dispensation for this waste
This waste of precious bone

Allow me now to muse
Upon a subject most macabre
How many men have I wasted
In the bone I have removed?
I mean to say their skeleton
What weight in bone have I attained?
Is it enough to fill a man?
I dare say that it is more
     (Far more indeed I reckon)
     (Oh what misery it is to know!)
My surgeon stink I offer as proof
It follows me far beyond the table
And shall not be washed away
No, not so easily discarded
So unlike the bone

     I am the bone cutter
     And such is my lament

James Frederick William Rowe

About the Poet:  James Frederick William Rowe is an author and poet out of Brooklyn, New York, with works appearing in Heroic Fantasy QuarterlyBig PulpTales of the TalismanBete Noire, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  He is pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy, is an adjunct professor in the CUNY system, and works in a variety of freelance positions.  Contact him at

Poet's Notes on “Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards”:  I wanted to employ the language of the poem in such a way as to convey the speed and danger of the charge. These men gambled their lives in every charge they undertook and could only rely on the tremendous speed of their horses to save them from being shot to pieces. As this is crucial to understanding what must have been the thrill of the experience, I made a point to fixate on it as the main theme of both the first and last two stanzas of the piece. In contrast, the middle stanzas detail the bloody triumph of the charge's success where courage is rewarded with victory, a point no less important to conveying the whole experience of the charge.

In addition, I sought to pick a form of poetry suited to the subject matter. This was not at all a difficult choice, as I found in blank verse the perfect match for aesthetic and historical reasons. Both Shakespeare and Milton composed much of their poetry in blank verse in a time when the cavalry charge was at its height of effectiveness. It seemed only fitting to take the style of historic poets and apply it to the subject matter contemporary with them. Aesthetically, the meter also provided a certain structure to the poem, while the lack of rhyme allowed me to introduce non-rhyming elements, as in the usage of alliteration spread throughout. I also avoided enjambment to produce a rhythm that I thought important to a poem that details a fundamentally rhythmic experience (of the heart's beating and the movement of the horse).

Poet’s Notes on “The Bone Cutter's Lament”:  About a year before I wrote the poem, I found myself curious one night as to why it was that amputations were historically performed with a bone saw, a horrible implement of human suffering, compared to what I thought a far more humane employment of an axe, sword, or any other sharp tool that may have severed the limb quickly and with far less pain. After only a little bit of research, I came upon a 19th century American doctor's writings on the subject of amputation, who revealed the rationale for the use of the saw had a sound, medical reason, in the formation of a post-operative stump. Without the use of a bone saw, the bone would not be cut smoothly, and if the cut were not made several inches higher than the damage, which entailed sacrificing much healthy bone, the excess skin and muscle could not be folded over the leg in order to provide a stump. Far from being a mere exercise in medical cruelty, the bone saw provided the only hope a man would have to be able to use the limb for any purpose afterwards.

It was the detail of wasting bone, through the cutting much higher than the damage that stuck with me the most. Though I'm not a doctor, I could only imagine that any man who has dedicated his life to healing others must have felt so aggrieved by the fact that he had to harm his patients even more in order to help them—that he "must discard more than God has taken." When the subject came back to me rather randomly one day, it was the return to this line of thought that proved to be the spark of inspiration needed for a poem that came easily to me—I wrote the whole thing in less than a day—and which served as the foundation for its theme of regret over this sad necessity of his surgical amputations.

The overall form of the poem came naturally to me as the words formed in my mind. The only aspects that required significant work were the parenthetical asides that are featured once in every stanza. I had used this style once before in another poem, and I thought their introduction to this poem would add something to the aesthetics of the piece by changing the rhythm up and splitting the stanzas.

Editor’s Note:  Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards” really captures the thrills and dangers of a cavalry charge and saber battle.  The words of the poem leap off the page and plunge the reader into the heat of war.  This is not easily done.  The words "Shakespearean" and "epic" come to mind.  I was reminded of a passage in a biography of Theodore Roosevelt that I read some time ago that described the former president’s famous charge up San Juan Hill.

“The Bone Cutter’s Lament” is a perfect companion piece for “Seven Heartbeats and a Hundred Yards,” as the latter describes the heat of battle, and the former its aftermath.  As a medical doctor, I can personally attest that Mr. Rowe has captured the conflicting feelings that accompany the agonizing decision to “waste” healthy tissue in order to achieve a better overall surgical outcome.


First (Last) Kiss

Stars playing in sky,
Haloing him,
Looping in his eyes
And mine. Shush of

Whisper equates to
Brush of his lips.
Heart squeezed by unseen
Hands. In moonlight,

Taste heat, sunshine. Hiss
‘Take care.’ ‘See you,’
Torments ear, scrambles
Bliss with doubt. Nod.

He leaves. Five days pass,
Six, seven (years).

Sierra July

About the Poet:  Sierra July is a University of Florida graduate and a writer of fiction and poetry. She dabbles in many genres, but particularly enjoys science fiction and fantasy. Her fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction and The Fast-Forward Festival, and her poetry has recently appeared in Star*Line. See more examples of her writing at

Poet’s Notes:  I wrote this poem as a medley of the happiness and doubt that go with romance, specifically the first. It’s experiencing the ecstasy that blooms in that first moment, that first kiss, wondering how long it will last, realizing it will never again happen in that same way (as no experiences do).

Editor’s Note:  Ms. July really captures the moment here, that sense of swirling emotions, and that mix of hope and doubt.  The last line is particularly strong--gives me chills.


Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine

Volume 1, Issue 1
August 2013
My PhotoFrom the Editor:

Welcome to Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine, dedicated to publishing good poetry (defined arbitrarily as what the editor considers to be good) of any genre and length.  We pay our contributors a flat fee for each poem, for we believe that the shortest haiku can be just as profound and enlightening as the longest epic work.  The plan is for Songs of Eretz to be a quarterly e-zine, but, depending upon the quality and quantity of submissions, we may move to publish more frequently at some point in time.

Which brings me to the topic of submissions.  We received dozens of strong ones, and it was a most difficult task to narrow them down to those that appear in this issue.  There would be no Songs of Eretz without the thoughtful submissions of the many good and aspiring poets who expressed an interest in the e-zine.  This inaugural issue is dedicated to them.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

Table of Contents

From the Editor

“Seasons in Steel” by Ross Balcom

“Dandelion Stars” by John C. Mannone

“Sounds on a Lover’s Night” by Guy Belleranti

“Woodcutter to the Rescue (or) ‘My, Grandmother, What A Big Mouth You Have’” by Robert Borski

“A Feast for Scavengers” by Anne Carly Abad

“starve, run, or be killed” by R. E. Hill

“Lilith” by Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

2013 Rhysling Awards:  The Editor’s Picks


Seasons in Steel
by A. Robot

spring fever
not susceptible
summer vacation
does not compute

programmed to rake leaves
yours truly

human children
build a "snowbot"

Ross Balcom

About the Poet:  Ross Balcom is a counselor living in Anaheim, California. His poems have appeared in:  Beyond Centauri, inkscrawl, Scifaikuest, Star*Line, tinywords, and other publications.

Poet's Notes:  Haiku traditionally include seasonal references. This scifaiku sequence offers a robot's perspective on the changing seasons. As a lover of both haiku and robots, I enjoyed writing this poem.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the ironic humor, haiku-like form, and science fiction speculation here.  And I, too, am a lover of both haiku and robots.


Dandelion Stars 

Summer’s new light
Season of stars
Winter of hope

Unlike flowers, stars
Bloom in frozen dark
Cast warm light of suns

Crystal petals
Spike the night, impale time
Wait for warm wishes

Hanging on brittle stars
Tinkling in cosmic wind
Stellar whispers

Aeolian tunes
Angelic lyre
Subliming ether

John C. Mannone

About the Poet:  John C. Mannone, nominated three times for the Pushcart, has work in The Baltimore Review, Prime Mincer, Pirene’s Fountain, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Ayris, Prairie Wolf Press Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Pedestal, Rose Red Review, Rose & Thorn, Glass, and others. He is the 2013 Rhysling Chair, the poetry editor for Silver Blade and Abyss & Apex, an adjunct professor of physics, and a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador for the great state of Tennessee. Visit The Art of Poetry at

Poet’s Notes:  The dandelion has always been a fascination for me. But despite its bright gold, sun-like flower, many view it as an unwanted plant, a weed. After that sweet smelling flower had turned to seed, I marveled at the spherical symmetry and the intricate interlacing of its nearly transparent architecture. And what kid hasn’t delighted in blowing those dandelion tufts into the wind? Dandelions go back to my childhood and fond memories; my sister and I would pick the young tender leaves, which our mother would braise in olive oil, garlic and tomato sauce. I am sure it’s a Sicilian tradition (or a variation of one). For me, the bitterness of those leaves was delightful. With so many of my memories locked in with the dandelion, it was inevitable that dandelions would show up in my poetry.

“Dandelion Stars” began as a haiku-like poem several years ago: “Dandelion stars/Whispers soft as light/Gossamer threads.” Ironically, this is no longer part of the linked haiku, because the other parts provide a similar image, but the poem’s important title comes from that triplet. Some of the other verses in the linked haiku come from other astronomy-related haiku inspired/prompted by a prose poem written by a friend. After many revisions, the fusion of those haiku, as well a recent extension in verse, the current form published here was crafted.

Editor’s Note:  One of the most pleasurable aspects (for me at least) often found in the haiku form is the juxtaposition of two disparate elements--here flowers and stars.  The metaphors in “Dandelion Stars” are hauntingly lovely, allowing the reader to imagine flowers and stars in beautiful new ways.


Sounds on a Lover’s Night

Don’t huddle under the covers.
That sound is only the wind
rattling the skeletal branches
of dead and dying trees.

Don’t tremble beside me.
That sound is only the wolves
enjoying the moon
in all its fullness.

Don’t cover your ears.
That sound is only my claws
scraping across the floor.

Guy Belleranti

About the Poet:  Guy Belleranti writes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, puzzles, and humor for both adults and children. He has been published in: Woman’s World, Crimestalker Casebook, Bards and Sages Quarterly, Liquid Imagination, Big Pulp, The Saturday Evening Post, Highlights for Children, Scifaikuest, Every Day Poets, and many other places. Two of his flash mysteries were nominated for Derringer Awards, and he has won cash awards in many writing contests. His website is

Poet's Notes: “Sounds on a Lover’s Night” was inspired by a variety of things, including:  sounds in the bushes and outside my tent while camping, coyotes in the wash behind my house, and a healthy dose of old classic horror films.

Editor’s Note:  This one gave me goose bumps!  And what do you think happened during the glaringly missing “fourth” line of the final “quatrain?”  Yes, it is much more horrifying to leave the phantom “last line” to the reader’s imagination.  “Sounds on a Lover’s Night” was originally published by Midnight Echo magazine in its February 2011 issue.


Woodcutter to the Rescue
"My, Grandmother, What
A Big Mouth You Have"

Down comes the blue glint of ax, 

the thwack of its bite

echoing deep into the woods.

Oh, please, kind woodsman, 

hurry. Before it is too late.

Two more mighty hefts and he

is through: spine has yielded

to force, and splinters

of white bone fly like pieces

of leftover moon.

No sap now begrimes his blade,

but a slurry of blood,

as scarlet as the cloak worn 

by the girl.

And then something else

writhes within, and he thinks

the beast is gravid with pups

but from the cloven mass

of hair and viscera no litter

emerges. Instead, a hand

flutters, followed by a raw


You sure took your time, dolt.

You think I like swimming

in this fetid stew?

Wiping off red mire from 

her night-dress, the crone 

steps out of the beast.

And now I suppose you expect

my granddaughter to yield

to your tick-laden charms.

But as her gabble gives way

to further invective, he hears

a latent whimper from the ax-bitten

thing below and thinks of the dog

he had as a boy; a mastiff that

went to the death protecting

him from a surprised bear.

It's a fonder memory than this

will ever be. So as the trees

frame his own belated howls, 

he raises, then lowers, the ax 

again and again and again.

Robert Borski

About the Poet:  Although he did not start writing poetry until he was well into his sixth decade, Robert Borski has now had over two hundred poems published, a good portion of which have appeared in:  Asimov's, Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and Star*Line, as well as a first collection from Dark Regions Press, Blood Wallah. He has been nominated for the Rhysling Award nine times and the Dwarf Stars Award thrice, and still lives in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, the town of his birth, where he works for the local university.

Poet's Notes:  Many of my poems play off popular fairy tales, not only helping to create an instant and well-known back-story, but also allowing me to put my own post-modern spin on them. I especially like the fact that many of the originals are not politically correct and end grimly (no pun intended)--elements I like to incorporate whenever possible. Hence "Woodcutter to the Rescue," with its echoing subtitle drawn right from the tale itself.

Editor’s Note:  I do enjoy a well-written re-telling of a familiar faerie tale, especially one that provides something deliciously new and twisted.  Mr. Borski understands that the original versions of the old household tales were not meant for children--except for maybe the naughty ones.


A Feast for Scavengers
Come, let us meet them
coat our double-edged tongues
with drunken cheers.
They have achieved
what we couldn’t. Victory
deserves no less
than a welcome of palms
firecrackers, new holidays
and freshly-slaughtered sucklings
to be roasted for the banquet;

and then let us watch them
fatten up, get intoxicated
with their newfound eminence
let us gossip about how
our champions have changed
let us draw lots
and foretell their fall.

Ready for slaughter,
a champ squanders his wealth
a queen leaves her husband
to frolic with more handsome men
a king inebriates himself
with substance and pleasure
and their children, princes
and princesses, rebel
against them in shame—
we knew what was coming.
Let us hoot and snicker
the real amusement
is in eviscerating
their royal images
and long after they are gone
we will still feast
on their carrion like flies,
raise our children from the rot
of lessons on their remains.

Anne Carly Abad

About the Poet:  Anne Carly Abad writes poetry and stories when she's not training Muay Thai. She recently earned an honorable mention from On The Premises' Contest #20 for her story “Haze.” Her work has appeared or will appear in: The Asia Literary Review, The Kudzu Review, TSA: Ribbons, Modern Haiku, The Heron's Nest, Strange Horizons, Dreams & Nightmares, The International Poetry Review, and Star*Line. Find out more about her at

Poet's Notes:  Filipinos and idols go together like peaches and cream. From wooden saints to agimat (amulets), top boxers to movie stars and beauty queens, we hold on to our aspirations with a fervency that borders on obsession. And we like to see our heroes fall. The latest extramarital affairs and epic knockout losses are the stuff of news and gossip for weeks. No one comforts the loser—this inspired me to write “A Feast for Scavengers.” I wanted to explore a society that survives on an industry of idol worship. I sought to understand how people could love someone or something so much yet allow the beloved to come to ruin. Is it because we run out of things to talk about? Just entertainment? Or is this the (vicarious) way for us to investigate our own limits? Everyone falls, but how far can we go?

Editor’s Note:  I like the moral lesson offered as well as the mocking, irony-filled tone.  The imagery takes me to a bad visual place but in a good way.

starve, run, or be killed
on the edge of existence
the snow leopard strives

R. E. Hill

About the Poet:  R. E. Hill lives in Kansas.  “snow leopard” is the poet’s first professional sale.

Poet’s Notes:  I learned of the plight of the snow leopard some time ago while doing a school research assignment.  This beautiful endangered species struggles to survive in a habitat increasingly being encroached upon by man.  Faced with starvation, snow leopards unfortunately are forced to kill livestock owned by subsistence farmers who themselves face starvation.  I wanted to capture all of these conflicting issues in a memorable way.  I hope my poem has achieved this result.

Editor’s Note:  This haiku has the traditional subject-action-season elements and 5-7-5 sequence but also conveys a powerful message with only fourteen words.  Its emotional impact is primal, immediate, strong, and lasting.  Haiku this good are not easy to write.  And, as previously mentioned, Songs of Eretz recognizes this by paying the same flat rate for good poetry of any length.


I was created to serve as consort for the First Man,
But who was he to lord it over me--his equal in every way?
And so I parted from him forever--and good riddance.
Then the Lord fashioned another, submissive mate for the man.
She bore him naked, weak, helpless children--he can have them!
The beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the creatures of the deep,
I shall take for mates, and my children will be strong!
All manner of demons and monsters will be my legacy.
And they shall be a terror to the children of Man,
Haunting their dreams, chilling their blood, and feasting on their souls.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

About the Poet:  Find out more about Dr. Gordon by clicking on the “About the Editor” link below the e-zine.

Poet’s Notes:  “Lilith” was the winner of the 2012 Science Fiction Poetry Association Contest in the dwarf (very short) poem category.  It was my first professional sale, and so, for sentimental reasons, I wanted to include it as a part of the first issue of my first professional magazine.  From time to time, I may reprint other poems of mine here--we’ll see.  “Lilith” was originally published by the SFPA on its website,, in October 2012 and subsequently published in audio form by Star Ship Sofa in December of the same year.  For more information, including what inspired me to write the poem, please refer to my blog post published October 31, 2012.

2013 Rhysling Awards:  The Editor’s Picks

Background:  According to the introduction to The 2013 Rhysling Anthology, a Rhysling Award is considered by some in the field of speculative poetry to be as prestigious for poetry as a Nebula Award is for fiction.  Since 1979, members of the Science Fiction Poetry Association have nominated their favorite speculative poems published in the previous year for the award in two categories:  best short poems, and best long poems.  The SFPA membership is then given the opportunity to vote for the best of the best among the poems nominated.  Each member is allowed to rank three short and three long poems.  The following are my picks.

In the Short Poem Category:

First Place:  “The Mermaid’s Winter Song” by Brittany Warman, published in inkscrawl 4.  The sweet sadness of this poem transports the reader, if just for a moment, into a cold, mysterious world as tempting as a siren’s song, just out of reach.

Second Place:  “She Walks in Light and Darkness,” an elegy for Sally Ride 1951 - 2012, by Elizabeth Barrette, published in Silver Blade 16.  This poem is truly a moving and inspiring tribute to the famous astronaut, a merger of thoughts and dreams, life and spirit.

Third Place:  “Absent Fiends” by Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, published in Star*Line 35.1.  This poem is a perfect blend of the sad, the pathetic, the macabre, and the horrifying.  The image painted in the final two lines makes me shudder.

In the Long Poem Category:

First Place:  “What the Dragon Said:  A Love Story” by Catherynne M. Valente, published in, April 2012.  The sardonic tone and dark and often over-the-top humor in this poem are simply delicious.  Any lover of the eternal struggle between paladin and dragon will get a kick out of this one.  Just don’t read it too many times, because every time the poem is, I won’t spoil it.

Second Place:  “Six Random Facts about Halley’s Comet” by J. E. Stanley, published in Star*Line 35.1.  Two of the six random facts compare a comet to an aloof lover--a metaphor that gives me chills.

Third Place:  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by K. C. O’Malley, published by Bag Person Press, 2012.  William Shakespeare meets Jack the Ripper in this poem about love and hate, admiration and obsession.


No comments:

Post a Comment

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