FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

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MAY/JUNE 2024

 


  

Wordle 453

 

I begin with angst

continue to drift

arrive at doubt

 

                                           —Donna Hilbert

 

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Threnody, from Moon Tide Press, 2022. Work has appeared in Braided Way, Cultural Daily, Chiron Review, Gyroscope, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rattle, Zocalo Public Square, ONE ART, Vox Populi, and anthologies including The Poetry of Presence volumes I & II, The Path to Kindness, The Wonder of Small Things, I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing, and featured on Writers on Writing, The Writer’s Almanac, and Lyric Life. Her book Enormous Blue Umbrella is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press.



Creation

six days
the potter’s wheel turns
and then the rest
a glazing of ash
before the fire

                                                 —Robert Witmer

Robert Witmer has resided in Japan for the past 45 years. Now an emeritus professor, he has had the opportunity to teach courses in poetry and creative writing not only at his home university in Tokyo but also in India. His poems and prose poetry have appeared in many print and online journals and books. He has also published a collection of haiku titled Finding a Way. A second book of poetry, titled Serendipity, was published in the spring of 2023.



unpregnant
no strawberries
in bed

          ***

red currants ripe
blood of ancestors
awakening

                                          —Maria Jacketti

Maria Jacketti was born February 11th, 1960, in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. To date, she is best known for her book-length translations of Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral. These books were financed by grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the New York Council on the Arts. Her first collection of poetry, Medusa’s Hairdresser, was published in 1995 and remains available. 



Tempus Fugit

If time is an arrow,
future is sharp with danger,
past just a feathered memory,
this moment a sturdy shaft
holding the illusion of continuity.

                                                                     —George H. Northrup

George H. Northrup is a poet and psychologist in New Hyde Park, NY.



Brilliance   

On the day she was due to return,
the sun was the colour of caramel,
and a blue tit, fledging, had dropped
from the usual nest below the attic eaves
to his windowsill, and was firing off
little sparks, tiny purple chips, of song.

                                                                              —Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has published widely in Britain, where he has two pamphlet collections with Prolebooks, and in the USA, where he has had four nominations for the Pushcart Prize.



Little Toe

That useless kid brother
who keeps tagging along.

                  ***

Germination

The bark of the sapling
ripens
under the shadow of the tree.

                                                             —Philip Venzke
     
Philip Venzke grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin.  His poetry is widely published in magazines throughout the U.S. and Europe. His chapbook Chant to Save the World was a winner of The James Tate International 2021 Poetry Prize (published July 2022 by SurVision Books, Ireland).  His second chapbook Rules to Change the World, was published by Finishing Line Press in November 2023.  His poems also appear in Contemporary Surrealist and Magical Realist Poetry (an International Anthology), edited by Jonas Zdanys, Lamar University Press, 2022.



Basic Astronomy

                                    Not one star, not even the half moon”
                                                                              —Peggy Shumaker


Don’t count on a half moon
to show you the whole way,

nor ask a star to do
what you must do,

no constellation was meant
to be your mother.

                                                               —Juan Pablo Mobili

Juan Pablo Mobili was born in Buenos Aires. His poems have appeared, among other publications, in The American Journal of PoetryHanging Loose Press, and Paterson Literary Review, as well as publications in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. He has received multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and his chapbook,  “Contraband,” was published in 2022.



Reframing

prognosis
strange these clouds
they move every which way

rustle of leaves
barely knowing myself
in the shattered mirror

the eastern redbud
how a slim stem holds
big heart-shaped leaves

sailing wing on wing
the dancing downwind
daffodils

                                                              —Richard L. Matta

Richard L. Matta grew up in New York’s rustic Hudson Valley, attended Notre Dame, practiced forensic science, and now lives in San Diego with his golden-doodle dog. Some of his work is found in Hole in the Head Review, Dewdrop, The New Verse News (Pushcart-nominated in 2023), Healing Muse, and many international haiku journals.  



Birth Announcement

I had designed a 
Weekly World News 
birth announcement

for our first child

GIANT CONDOR 
DELIVERS BABY 
to Esther K Smith.

Proud father, Dikko Faust, looks on.

But when she was born,
she was so lovely
we printed peach ink on goose green
handmade paper instead.

                                                                             —EK Smith

EK Smith makes books at Purgatory Pie Press and writes books about making books, including the best-selling How to Make Books. Since 2006, EK Smith has been a proud member of Brevitas and has also been published in Bob Heman's CLWN WR and writes the Distaff Side column for Mike Topp's Stuyvesant Bee.



from Subway Poems

9-18-18

Sometimes, when the train is delayed
and you lose minute after minute,
and you’re later for work by the minute,
you might feel like screaming—
I just felt like screaming—
but I wrote this poem instead.

                        ***

5-22-18

I’m so lucky.
I always get a seat,
coming and going,
all because
of my exact schedule.
Shakespeare said,
Ripeness is all,
but I say,
Schedule is all.

                                                                                —Michael Ruby

Michael Ruby is a poet, literary editor, and journalist. He is the author of eight poetry books, most recently Close Your Eyes, Visions (Station Hill, 2024), The Star-Spangled Banner (Station Hill, 2020), The Mouth of the Bay (BlazeVOX, 2019), American Songbook (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2013) and Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010). His trilogy in prose and poetry, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012), includes ebooks Fleeting Memories (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008) and Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep (Argotist, 2011). His other ebooks are First Names (Mudlark, 2004) and Titles & First Lines (Mudlark, 2018). He co-edited Bernadette Mayer’s early books, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words (Station Hill, 2015), and Mayer’s and Lewis Warsh’s collaboration Piece of Cake (Station Hill, 2020). He is currently co-editing a large selected poems of the late Steve Dalachinsky, and he is co-curator of the Station Hill Intermedia Project. He lives in Brooklyn and worked for many years as an editor of U.S. news and political articles at The Wall Street Journal.


 
Left on the Bed

Left on the bed,
my down-turned book
awaits my return,
face-down, genuflecting below skylight.

Left on the bed,
seven-pound dog
burrows under covers
waiting for summer.

Left on the bed,
my pillows absorb exhaustion.
Needing renewal,
I plan for the morning.

Left on the bed,
your sweat smells sweet
in the afterglow
of an afternoon of pleasure.

                                                                                    —Diane Funston

Diane Funston writes poetry of nature and human nature. She co-founded a women's poetry salon in San Diego, created a weekly poetry gathering in the high desert town of Tehachapi, CA, and most recently has been the Yuba-Sutter Arts and Culture Poet-in-Residence for the past two years. It is in this role she created Poetry Square, a monthly online venue that features poets from all over the world reading their work and discussing creative process. Diane has been published in Synkronicity, California Quarterly, Whirlwind, San Diego Poetry Annual, Summation, Tule Review, Lake Affect Magazine, F(r)iction, and other literary journals. Her first chapbook, Over the Falls, was published this July 2022 from FootHills Publishing. She holds a B.A. degree in Literature and Writing from CSU San Marcos. Diane is also a visual artist in mosaic, wool felting, and collage. Her pieces have been in galleries in the Sacramento Valley. 



honeycomb

a vibration in the wall,
your mid-afternoon yowl
the sap in between door
hinges and a nudge, on
wind chime seances, and
a dying balloon gets a
moratorium on the roof,
is a sign for friction—
our cricket legs drag
with deliberate intent.
we name raindrops and
street sounds, our old
hive buzzes with fever.

                                                      —Kendall A. Bell

Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been most recently published in Fevers Of The Mind and Hobo Camp Review. He was nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net collection seven times. He is the author of three full length collections, The Roads Don't Love You (2018), the forced hush of quiet (2019), and, the shallows (2022), and 34 chapbooks, the latest being all the things that will be lost. He is the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press and editor and founder of Chantarelle's Notebook. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey.



What the Spring Tastes Like

At first it tastes like exhaust from cars, sour and fake.
I want to turn away, but there’s no away in this black melt.

Soon, it’s like spring onions—cold and shocking: they
look harmless, but they can make you cry. Then, it tastes

like the song of one bird—thin, narrow as a stream
through a leafless wood,  playing a water-game, skittering

over rocks, whirling happily in small circles.  Later,
later, it tastes like an upsurge of points: crocus leaves

like green nails, or like big needles stitching embroidery
with grassy threads into dark soil—an earth-taste:

mushroomy, damp and eager.  Then it tastes of yellow
daffodils—like when it’s raining hard and I lift my face

and try to drink the rain, or like after I’ve been praying
a long time—years —and I finally taste the spring

that is mine.

                                                                                                            —Johanna Caton

Johanna Caton is a Benedictine nun of Minster Abbey in Kent, England. Although her vocation took her to England, she is actually an American and lived there until adulthood. She writes poems because the process helps her to understand the work of the divine presence in her life. She has been sharing her work with the public through various journals and reviews since 2017 and has had poems accepted by both online and print publications; many, but not all, are faith-based venues.  



Silver Waterfalls

If somber, imagine summer sea breezes
and blue sapphire skies.

Renew on steep rocky cliffs
over strong ocean waves.

If cold, follow peaceful winding rivers
toward the warming autumn sun.

Gaze upon polished copper canyons
beneath evening's scarlet hues.

If lost, search for winter-white mountains
and frozen silver waterfalls.

Meditate in dense magic forests
Capped by snow-topped spruce.

If weak, rest in tranquil spring meadows
under ivory clouds.

Dream of fresh fragrant lilies 
and peach rose petals.

                                                                                   —Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith, a retired elementary school speech-language pathologist, resides in northwest Georgia. She now writes, often with themes of small town, southern life. Her works are published in or forthcoming in The Bluebird Word, WELL READ Magazine, MockingOwl Roost, and Diane Zinna's Letting Grief Speak through Columbia University PressJennifer enjoys walking and listening to audiobooks.



Sleep

Silence the jitterbug
Let yourself rest
Evening's herbal tea
Entices you to dream
Put yourself in bed

                                                —Linda Kleinbub

["Sleep" was previously published in Brevitas 20 - 2023 Anthology of the Short Poem]

Linda Kleinbub is the author of Cover Charge, co-editor of Silver Tongued Devil Anthology, contributing editor at Girls Write Now, and curator of Fahrenheit Open Mic & Pen Pal Poets. She is the founding editor of Pink Trees Press, Inc. She is a native New Yorker.



Twilight Wears a Dress

Twilight wears a dress
patterned in sky and clouds.
Her bodice—
created from violet and lilac brush strokes.
On her hem—
feline clouds splashed in rose gold
and sunset yellow.
Her cerulean chest fades into indigo
as she waves goodbye to the sun.
She sees the moon rise in the east
and walks into the arms
of deepest blue night.

                                                                                         —Patricia Carragon

Patricia Carragon’s poem “Wild Is the Wind” (Poets Wear Prada’s The Rainbow Project) received a Pushcart nomination. Her debut novel is Angel Fire (Alien Buddha Press). Her books from Poets Wear Prada are Meowku and The Cupcake Chronicles. She hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology.



C
ri de Cœur

Softly comes the night,
Spreading its dark blanket,
Inviting us to dream,
Wrapped in moonwashed essence.

Rising and falling comes the wind,
Bending the evergreens,
Shushing and groaning,
At the edge of consciousness.

And the stars come, too,
Glowing faintly, indifferently,
In the deepening expanse
Of the darkened canvas.

What words shall we whisper
To protect us until light?

                                                                            —Joseph Kleponis

Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, Massachusetts. His work has recently appeared in Amethyst Review, First Literary Review–East, Muddy River Poetry Review, The New Verse News, and Rockvale Review, as well as in other publications. His first book, Truth’s Truth: Poetic Portraits, was released by Kelsay Books in 2021.


 
This Place

I’m
just
me here—
I dream I
walk in a place where
even the shadows are homeless.

                      *** 

Circumstance

Earth
moves
around
our great sun
in the dark; man speaks
to man, but man does not listen.

                                                                    —Evie Ivy

Evie Ivy, a dancer/instructor. She runs one of the longest-running poetry readings, The Green Pavilion Poetry Event. She also produces Dance of the Word, a seasonal program of dance, poetry, and music. She has four books out, including, The Platinum Moon, available on Amazon. Two of these books are on the nonet, No, No Nonets . . . the book of Nonets, and Living in 12-Tone , , , and other poetic forms.



Craftsmen

It was a place filled with men of various crafts
and skills     dressed in clothing appropriate
to their station     and armed with particular
weaponry     all in their own silence     surrounded by
the reek of a specific perfume     in their midst
an inexplicable emptiness     memories of dead men
walking     dead long before their bones were tossed
into a hungry sea     dead from the immensity
of the isolation     such a distance required of
them that it could never be crossed     a blazing
fire built and stacked with layers of cross-hatched
kindle stuffed with dry paper scraps to catch the first
flame     laughing back into the face of the terrible
moon that followed them wherever they traveled. 

                                                                                                           —Paul Ilechko

Paul Ilechko is a British American poet and occasional songwriter who lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. His work has appeared in many journals, including The Bennington Review, The Night Heron Barks, Southword, Stirring, and The Inflectionist Review. His first book is scheduled for 2025 publication. 



A Response to Borges:
  "A Quien ya no es joven"/To One No Longer Young


Are sonnets only songs we sing the self?
A tragic setting: Dido on her flaming bed—
no different from the cold and quiet shelf
the local morgue reserves for us when dead?

You say a mirrored face is watching us,
a silver backing's flat and frozen face.
We all will join Persephone. No fuss
delays our leaving, leaving without trace.

You claim the street we look at every day
is where the changeless evening comes to pass.
But day to day we die, and who can say
we stay the same? Such thinking seems so crass.

Love already aged—so hold your tongue.
The one no longer young was never young.

 

                                                                                    —Royal Rhodes

Royal Rhodes taught courses on global religions, death & dying, and social justice for almost 40 years. His poems have appeared in The Lyric, Last Stanza, Abandoned Mine, Plum Tree Tavern, Seventh Quarry, and The Montreal Review. His art and poetry collaborations have been published by The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina.



Studebaker

Sometimes I feel
I never left the front seat
of my parents’ ’55 snub-nosed Studebaker.

Pressed between Shirley and Irv.
a pressing thought arose—
how could God possibly exist
if wars killed babies,
and heaven was—denied to nonbelievers?

I urge Dad: floor the pedal!
Drive max speed—60 miles per hour

and that Studebaker hurled roughshod

past the Kennedy Assassination, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Gaza
even the death of my parents,

leaving behind the memory of my 10-year-old self,
safely squeezed between my Mom and Dad
in the absence of God

                                                                                                                  —Steve Zeitlin

Steve Zeitlin is a folklorist, writer, filmmaker, and cultural activist. He is the Founding Director of City Lore, New York’s center for urban folk culture. Steve is the codirector of a number of documentary films, including Free Show Tonight on traveling medicine shows, and author of a dozen books on America’s folk culture, including The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness, JEWels: Teasing Out the Poetry in Jewish Humor and Storytelling, as well as a volume of poetry, I Hear America Singing in the Rain.