FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Ah, the dog days of summer—and we've got poems of every breed, and oodles and poodles of creative yipping and howling (brought to you in patriotic U.S.A. colors, while proudly showcasing poets from all over the world). ENJOY!
—Cindy Hochman and Karen Neuberg, Editors
through this blindfold
gray gauze creates a misty haze—
since you’ve been gone
I reach for you
from rocky shore
Laurie Kolp, author of Upon the Blue Couch (Winter Goose Publishing) and Hello, It's Your Mother (Finishing Line Press), serves as president of Texas Gulf Coast Writers and secretary for the local chapter of Poetry Society of Texas. Laurie’s poems have appeared in Avalon Literary Review, Crack the Spine, Concho River Review, Scissors & Spackle, Pirene’s Fountain, and more. Laurie lives in Southeast Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs; and recently returned to teaching after a 14-year hiatus.
Salt mountains rise
then fall again—mid-ocean
in the swell, of it
And floating there I think
Atlantic—but with no bogus
waves, this verse respects
Jay Chollick: The word’s most harmless terrorist; shadowy at the open mic; insufferable in print; bookish in slim volumes (Colors; American Vesuvius; FiveO The Stately Poems); prizes and awards but not the bluest ribbons; big mouth on the radio; a tv pipsqueak, for which only his one hand claps.
and we try
to fix it.
—David B. Axelrod
Dr. David B. Axelrod is Volusia County, Florida, Poet Laureate. Author of 21 books of poetry, he has held three Fulbright Awards, including a year as Fulbright's first Poet-in-Residence in the People's Republic of China. His website is www.poetrydoctor.org.
The clowns they scared you
Worse than any monster
And it wasn’t until you called me over
Whispering in my ear
That I knew why
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans. His story collection THE DARK SUNSHINE debuted from Connotation Press in 2014 and his newest collection, I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU releases from Unknown Press in March of 2016. You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com
the first night
6 years old,
laying on lawn back yard
staring at stars,
a quiet so loud,
rehearsing the end.
—Nathan A. Versace
Nathan A. Versace has published fiction and non-fiction internationally.
Spirit in the Sky
“When I die and they lay me to rest/
Gonna go to the place that’s the best,”
Norman Greenbaum sings in “Spirit
in the Sky.” So I drove to the Bates Motel,
the one in the movie Psycho, and realized
I was given the wrong address. I tried
backpedaling, but I got no closer to heaven.
If there’s only one God, then there must be
only one heaven, unless I got that wrong, too.
Will God let Trump build a wall, preventing
Democrats from getting to heaven?
Hal Sirowitz is an internationally known poet and the author of five books of poetry: Mother Said (Crown/Random House 1996); My Therapist Said (Crown/Random House 1998); Before, During & After (Soft Skull Press 2003); Father Said (Soft Skull Press 2004); and Stray Cat Blues (Backwaters Press 2012), which was awarded the 2013 Nebraska Book Award for Poetry. Hal has performed his poetry across the country and Europe, but he is especially known in Scandinavia, where he is the most popular translated poet in the history of Norway. He is a former poet laureate of Queens, New York, and a retired schoolteacher. He lives with his wife in Philadelphia.
America the Dutiful
Discount mavens futzing
‘round in a mall on a
rainy Fourth of Good Buys
shopping for men’s apparel,
furniture, shoes, chocolate,
sports gear, jewelry, household
gadgets, electronic gizmos, bath and
beauty stuff bought and brought to
the food court where nutrition is
done on the cheap
and thoughts of the next
sale are good reason to
not call mom or
visit dad’s grave
—Martin H. Levinson
Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, and the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems in various publications. He holds a PhD from NYU and lives in Forest Hills, New York.
Our father, our king
Our town, our thing.
Our church, our steeple
Our kind of people.
Our club, our pool
Our excellent schools.
Our brand, our mark
Our well-landscaped park.
You’re different, you’re wrong
You just do not belong.
Your accent, your god
We find rather odd.
Your tired, your poor
Don’t knock at our door.
Ain’t nobody home.
Neil Silberblatt’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various journals, including Poetica Magazine, The Otter, The Aurorean, Two Bridges Review, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck River Review, Chantarelle’s Notebook, and The Good Men Project. His work has been included in the anthology, Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words (Naugatuck Valley Community College, 2013); and in University of Connecticut’s Teacher-Writer magazine. He has published two poetry collections: So Far, So Good (2012), and Present Tense (2013). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and one of his poems received Honorable Mention in the 2nd Annual OuterMost Poetry Contest (2014), judged by Marge Piercy. Neil is the founder of Voices of Poetry, which has presented poetry events, featuring distinguished poets & writers, at various venues throughout CT, NYC and Cape Cod. This past fall, he taught a three-part class on the Poetry of War, from Troy to Afghanistan, as part of the Lifetime Learning Program at Snow Library in Orleans, MA.
In Africa and on the political scene.
Just a few thousand
ears above the
across African plains—
so many jackals.
carcasses left by
others on the fine
No one hunts them!
After all, what sort
is a jackal?
Joan Leotta is an author and story performer (“Encouraging words through Pen and Performance”). Her books are Giulia Goes to War, Letters from Korea, A Bowl of Rice, and Secrets of the Heart, now available from Desert Breeze Publishing and Amazon. She has written a collection of short stories (Cane Hollow Press). You can read more at www.joanleotta.wordpress.com.
Blinded By The Dark
My freedom is a bird
Perched within my ribcage
It sings still
Though sometimes the song
Struggles to find my ear.
Steve Denehan is a 40-year-old Irishman. He was born and raised in Dublin but has resided in a small village called Allenwood in the midland county of Kildare for about sixteen years.
Bird Cages Had Hung
Bird cages had hung in Chinatown Park
on nice days in the trees
among the blossoms–signs of spring—
And now they don't
The opera singers
and their bands are still there.
But I miss those birds
brought out to sun
and don't know who to ask.
—Esther K. Smith
Esther K Smith is artistic director at Purgatory Pie Press, New York City, one of the longest-running artist/publishers. They hand-make limited editions--including the earBook series--hand-set 8pt antique metal type--original poems and art in tiny wearable books. Their work is in museum collections including Museum of Modern Art, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Esther is the author of How to Make Books (Random House, 2007) and several other book-arts books, Esther's next trade book is a reprint of WH Page's 1874 Chromatic Wood Type: The Most Beautiful Book in the World. (Rizzoli, 2017).
fog made of salt
tears of mermaids
voices rising from deepest sorrow
carry me towards daylight
fuse myself whole again
wipe my tears with beach fire coals
lose me on the shoreline
let me become food for seagulls
Linda Kleinbub is a mentor at Girls Write Now, an organization that works with at-risk high school girls who have a passion for writing. Her work has appeared in The New York Observer, Yahoo! Beauty, Front Porch Commons, Our Town - Downtown, Statement of Record, Short, Fast and Deadly, and The Best American Poetry Blog. She is also a painter and photographer.
Ferry Crossing, New York Harbor
We cross in the wake of a Chinese freighter,
stacked containers, a tug
hauling the slow seagoing hull
out of the steamy harbor.
Bobbing dinghies stray from dock;
limp sails await the wind.
First gust whips up a wraparound dress—
the lady pressing it against her leg.
Caught posing on the ferry’s deck,
travelers pitch into the rail.
Steven Sher presently lives in Jerusalem, but Brooklyn is never far from his heart—many of his new poems explore Brooklyn themes and events from 50 or more years ago. He tries to return 'home' to the City each fall for a few weeks—teaching workshops (for Poets House, etc. most recently) and giving readings. He is the author of 14 books, including two new poetry titles: The House of Washing Hands (Pecan Grove Press, 2014) and Grazing on Stars: Selected Poems (Presa Press, 2012). His writing has appeared in hundreds of publications since the early 1970s. He He He has also taught at various universities and writers' workshops for close to 40 years. More information is available at stevensher.net.
Something's Gotta Give
Looks like rain.
Don't drop that egg
yet in the wine vat.
Today's a monstrosity
with retractable ganglia.
We've never been more
frightened by the world.
With each breath
the chair's dowels sigh.
In love we sacrifice
They call this a gulley-washer.
Tune in for the next episode.
Dan Giancola lives in Mastic, New York. Street Press has published his latest book, Here's the Thing, in 2016.
Post our palms turned partners we coalesced.
Scorch of your skin seared my eiderdown. I
learned to operate fire extinguishers as low
income lives know the usury of lenders, a
lover understands chicaneries. Few lineaments
are as agonizing as ambiguities of amour like
the curse of crossroads for a hiker on a hazy
terrain. Tenebrific appetencies tag me. I’m
willing to bow to any butcher of boundaries,
who will map our mold with his gambrel. If
dialing back is as easily done we would be
in the same duvet.
The recently released This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury) is Sanjeev Sethi’s third book of poems. His poems have found a home in The London Magazine, The Fortnightly Review, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, Off the Coast Literary Journal, Synesthesia Literary Journal, Hamilton Stone Review, Dead Snakes, Literary Orphans, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Tuck Magazine, The Mind[less] Muse, Otoliths, Muse India, and elsewhere. Poems are forthcoming in Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Bitchin’ Kitsch. He lives in Mumbai, India.
Van Gogh’s “Irises” (after a visit to the Metropolitan Museum)
Blossoms of iris
reach out of the frame
reach the museum with Van Gogh’s pain
while passers-by stare at the vortex of blue.
Arms of blue reach from a white bowl beyond the frame
of the museum to you
who walk in your own frame
beyond the museum.
Spikes of the iris reach you
when you catch the bus,
|when your enter your room, their waving blue
arms encircling you, embracing your pain.
Tendrils of blue dance in the frame of your mind
wave in your dreams in the blue sea where you sleep.
Beauty so blue in a white bowl,
Beauty, so blue
Alice Twombly is the curator and co-founder of the Poetry Series "Thursdays Are For Poetry at the Teaneck General Store" in Teaneck, NJ. She teaches literature at the Learning Collaborative of Long Island University. She was a finalist in the 92nd St Y—The Nation Discovery Competition. Her poems have been published in the New Jersey Poetry Monthly, "The Journal of Everywoman" (a play based on her poems), and other venues. If you would like to be considered a featured reader in our series, contact Alice through the “Thursdays Are For Poetry at the Teaneck General Store” Facebook page.
2 Poems After Faiz
No it is not that the allure of the sun’s stilettos
That bedazzle the eyes
Or that the wiles of the dawn-breeze-route-beguiling gait
That roast the heart when in it reflected
Can no longer emerge in the elegance of another
Nor is it that beauty and love and desire
The rituals of Courtly Romance, the tradition of Chivalry
Have no role to play at the midnight masquerades
But that we live in this perpetual city you and I
Uninvited to the carousels
Nor hearing the horn-blow portending doomsday
What sempiternal taverns do this Muse and I haunt
In which none can hear the tumult of the revelers
Let alone catch the glass-heart shatter
Rehan Qayoom is a poet of English and Urdu, editor, translator and archivist, educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work internationally. He has published two books of poetry and several works of prose.
A bicycle ride along a deserted beach.
A finger pointing to the lone yellow parrotfish,
in the calm, under the churn.
Cold watermelon, cut into cubes,
shared, under hot sun.
A walk on the beach to photograph the sunset.
Garlic and hot pepper added to the black beans
as they simmer into softness.
A dance with spins and kisses and moonlight.
A seductive smile with Good morning.
Carla Schwartz is a poet, filmmaker, photographer, and lyricist. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fulcrum, Common Ground Review, Cactus Heart, Switched-on Gutenberg, Wordgathering, Naugatuck River Review, Stone Highway Review, Boston Poetry Magazine, Literary Juice, Solstice Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and 05401, among others. Her book, Mother, One More Thing, is available through Turning Point Books (2014). Her poem In Defense of Peaches was a Massachusetts Poetry Foundation Poem of the Moment. Her poem Late for Dinner was a semi-finalist for the Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Contest. Her video work incorporates poetry, documentary, and instructional videos. Her youtube videos have had hundreds of thousands of views. She has performed and read her work in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Carla is also a professional writer with a doctoral degree from Princeton University. Learn more at her website at carlapoet.com.
Seeing Europe in Seven Weeks
Fifty and finished, it’s a matter now
of a Greyhound bus, a hole in the sole
of a creased and cracking shoe,
elbow patches and for good reason.
Seeing Europe in seven weeks
you roared through our twenties and yours.
Indiscreet old men have you roaring still,
sweaty jazz and flappers, drinking from your pocket
on your continental crawl. Seeing Europe in seven weeks
who could say it would come down to an ugly city,
a Greyhound bus? Coins cast in the Trevi Fountain
won’t come back to buy a loaf of bread.
(Editors' Note: “Seeing Europe in Seven Weeks” originally appeared in Syzygy Vol.I,No. 2.)
Kenneth Salzmann is a writer and poet who lives in Woodstock, NY, and Ajijic, Mexico. His poetry has appeared in Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers, Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude, Rattle, The New Verse News, The Comstock Review, and elsewhere. He can be contacted at email@example.com
La Dolce Vita
Between salad, spaghetti, tomato and herbs,
three Roman male musicians sing “Que Sera Sera,”
“Finiculi, Finicula,” and joke with us.
We sing, applaud, are in stitches
|as head waiter Pauli gives each lady
a single red rose and a peck on the cheek.
He kisses a blowsy, brassy blonde
full of capellini on fuchsia lips
as the three men sing “Volare.” Women swoon.
Zymotic laughter, heavenly rigatoni,
swordfish and herbs, sorbet and mixed fruit
Juanita Torrence-Thompson: playwright, "brevitas" poet, poetry events producer, former actress and former Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of award-winning MOBIUS The Poetry Magazine. Pushcart nominated & Small Press Review “pick." Awards for poetry, short fiction, feature articles. Poetry published internationally and translated into 15 languages. Authored 8 poetry books. #9 forthcoming. Adjunct Professor. M.A. Fordham University. Reads in Singapore, Switzerland, South Africa, Canada, U.S. www.poetrytown.com
Plums, with their sweet juicy flesh, stoked desire.
More accessible than forbidden figs whose stark trees
bordered our backyard.
Watermelon signaled a party with cousins or neighbors,
fun and games. Contests where we shot the black seeds
from our mouths, salvaged remnants to plant later.
We needed little else.
Warmed ourselves chilly nights dreaming of
ruby fruit that streaked summer days.
Amy Barone’s latest chapbook, Kamikaze Dance, was published by Finishing Line Press, which recognized her as a finalist in the annual New Women’s Voices Competition. Her poetry has appeared in Gradiva, Impolite Conversation (UK), Maintenant, Paterson Literary Review, Philadelphia Poets, and The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow. She spent five years as Italian correspondent for Women's Wear Daily and Advertising Age. Her first book, Views from the Driveway, was published by Foothills Publishing. She belongs to PEN America Center and the brevitas online poetry community that celebrates the short poem. A native of Bryn Mawr, PA, Barone lives in New York City.
Back below a summer sun of childhood
There is a hot green field, twittering with crickets,
Where I walk and run and walk again.
Far along a fence, in a forgotten sacred corner of the field,
Is a welling spring, clear and cold,
Coming up right out of the ground forever.
I can kneel there and feel the long grass under flowing water
And put my face into this purest of fountains
And drink till I gasp and wet my hair
And know the water comes from before there was a field
Or a fence or farmers or any thirsty animal.
Sixty years later this spring still rests,
Quiet and green in my younger mind,
While the traffic chatters and busybodies babble
Outside on the cement.
An avid reader and writer since the age of five, Mark Johnson has been published online, in small haiku magazines “Dragonfly” and “Cicada,” the Australian small press “Radiation From Space,” and the New York Times. He is a member of “brevitas,” an e-mail short poetry workshop and appeared recently in their 12th anniversary issue.
It Can’t Be, It Just Can’t Be
The body has shifted into reverse.
The heart is inside out. The teeth
live in the gut. Both feet are in the
mouth. You cough out of your nose.
You sneeze out of your butt. Your
ankles have grown nipples. Your
elbows protrude from your cheeks.
You are growing hair on your spleen.
You have ears between your legs.
Nothing is where God or biology
ordained it to be. But still you get
served in restaurants, you're still
allowed to drive, people nod to you
kindly when you pass. This could
go on forever
Bill Yarrow is the author of Blasphemer, Pointed Sentences, and four chapbooks. Pointed Music, a CD of poems from Pointed Sentences set to original music by Ray Fahrner, came out in 2015. Yarrow's poems have appeared in many print and online magazines, including Poetry International, RHINO, FRiGG, Uno Kudo, Contrary, THRUSH, Altered Scale, Gargoyle and PANK. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College, where he teaches creative writing, Shakespeare, and film. He is an editor at Blue Fifth Review.
Stopping by Slums on a Snowy Evening
(With Deepest Apologies to Robert Frost)
Whose slum this is, I think I know
His house is in the Hamptons though
He will not see me stopping here
to run in for a dime of blow
The taxi driver yells and honks
And says he don’t go to the Bronx
The only sound is shake, shake, shake
your booty, from some honky-tonks
My smile is lovely, big and fake
But cabbie tells me, “Beat it, Jake.
You’ll get me busted by mistake
and I got other fares to take
and miles to go before my break
and miles to go, for chrissake.”
Mick Stern has written two books of poetry: "Of All Places" (Maria Flophouse, 2010) and "Fifty Thousand " (Maria Flophaus, 2012) In addition, he has written a book of short stories: "Get Out of Town" (TheWriteDeal, 2011), He has also written plays, screenplays, songs, and he draws and paints. Indeed, he rarely does anything useful. He has a PhD in Renaissance English from New York University, and lives in New York City.