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In the Hebrew language, the word for the number 18 is "chai." It is a beautiful word because it means LIFE. When Jews make a toast, they often say "L'Chaim"to your health/to life (yes, the same "L'Chaim" sung in celebration in the song from Fiddler on the Roof). So, as we dive headlong into the hectic holiday season, we offer you 18 life-affirming poems by 18 talented poets. For many of us, poetry is the sustenance of our life. It is in this spirit that the editors of First Literary Review-East raise our glasses and make a toast to you, our beautiful contributors and readers, and say "L'Chaim." Have a safe and joyful holiday season.  

—Cindy Hochman and Karen Neuberg, Editors



She thought the bear was a red herring.  

                                                                                 —Bob Heman

Bob Heman keeps searching for new information. It's all in his mind..



Haiku #12—Koto: The Japanese Harp

She plays the Koto
Softly as a gentle wind
Strokes an olive branch

                                                    —Juanita Torrence-Thompson

Juanita Torrence-Thompson, Pushcart-nominated poet, short-story writer, playwright, events producer. Former adjunct professor, former actress, and former editor-in-chief/publisher of award-winning Mobius, The Poetry Magazine for seven years. Mobius and her books were Small Press Review “pick” Awards for poetry, short fiction, feature articles, and children’s poetry. Published internationally, poems translated into 15 languages. Her 10th poetry book is Centos of Life.


The Danger Is Us

Ancient maps warned us,                               
but only told half truths.
We are beyond the edge,
and dragons are not the threat.

                                                                           —Ann Christine Tabaka

Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. She is the author of nine poetry books.  Christine lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking.  Chris lives with her husband and two cats.



American Slumber

Most people hope

for the American Dream

while I dream
of the American Awakening

                                                                       —Heath Brougher

Heath Brougher is the poetry editor of Into the Void, winner of the 2017 and 2018 Saboteur Awards for Best Magazine. He is the winner of Taj Mahal Review's 2018 Poet of the Year Award, as well as a multiple nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. He has published eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which being Change Your Mind (Alien Buddha Press, 2019).



Fingertips our tactile ambassadors while initiating
rete of intimacy rejoice in their role. Throw of an-
other dice, needles of neglect pierce my skin with
your traceries manifest on it. Shifting trajectories
mark their move. Guddle, emotional allergy find<0;"> their way. Variant spellings are like lapses of a
lover. Easy to be beguiled by, easily abandoned.

                                                                                                    —Sanjeev Sethi

Sanjeev Sethi has published over 1200 poems in more than 25 countries. He is the author of three books of poetry. Wrappings in Bespoke  is Winner of Full Fat Collection Competition-Deux organized by the Hedgehog Poetry Press UK. This is his fourth volume. It will be released in 2020. He lives in Mumbai, India.


Your Music

echoing crow calls

wind through dry leaves
sirens over rooftops
the el on a turn
dripping faucet
buzzing fly
promises and obligations
whispered words
of love

                                                     —Joseph Kleponis 

Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has appeared in online and print journals such as the Aurorean, Boston Literary Magazine, Eucalypt (a tanka journal), the Leaflet: The journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English, as well as paperwasp, and will soon appear in an upcoming edition of The Muddy River Poetry Review.




This poem has been corrected to be unclear about what the couple plans to do. The original home hid the last name of the attorney who purchased a performance hotline and a pilfered disclosure. Both took a vacation from property and hosted a decline, while the town of St. George, Maine, represented a former discussion. The waterfront upgraded abutting deals. Property recorded an old house.

                                                                                                                            —Darlon Mernerb

Darlon Mernerb attempts to write Absurdist and Surrealist poetry.



The quality of dream space

& its effects on the senses during sleep

& how movements take place in such a manner

  that suggests stillness

& the many encounters with animals, humans,

   feral and domesticated, yet you remain


& the passing of time which is so unusual,

   mysterious, non-linear

& this is not

                                                                                               —Alex Caldiero

Alex Caldiero is a polyartist, sonosopher, and scholar of humanities and inter-media. He makes things that at times appear as language or pictures or music—and then again, as the shape of your own mind.



Evolution of the sunrise

Ra kills the night sky every night by slashing it with a sharp knife.

The first morning light is a bloodied, oozing red-rust line
upon a black carpet dotted with cloudy stars; later—evolving into a bloated,
red-ringed midnight-day (black hole?) entrance,
a blackened wound to nowhere, set upon a glowing, golden light.

(Only those souls who sleep while flying have seen this nightly violation,
never knowing the true time or location of said event)
Ra may be merciless, but Dawn is a true artist,
taking a slash of red and mixing Her new shades of light:
tangerine, deep pink, canary-yellow, butter-yellow, beige and sky blue.

The ground sparkles in black as the sky shows off her new colors.
Day, as commanded, has arrived, thanks to the death of Night! 

                                                                                                                     —Carrie Magness Radna

Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Carrie Magness Radna is a cataloger at the New York Public Library, a singer, a lyricist-songwriter, and a poet who loves to travel. Her poems have previously appeared in the Oracular Tree, Tuck Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review, Mediterranean Poetry, Shot Glass Journal, The Poetic Bond VIII (Willowdown Books:UK), and Cosmographia’s “The spirit, it travels: an anthology of transcendent poetry” (July 2019), and will be published in Nomad’s Choir, Polarity E-Magazine, and The Poetic Bond IX. She won 12th prize of the 2018 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards for “Lily (no. 48 of Women’s names sensual series),” and 3rd prize for “The tuners’ Conference (2017). Her first chapbook, Conversations with dead composers at Carnegie Hall (Flutter Press), was published in January 2019, and Remembering you as I go walking (Boxwood Star) was published on August 23, 2019. She lives with her husband Rudolf in Manhattan.  



Rusted Silence

Silence was, in olden times, called golden;

these raucous times, valued or not, silence
is fugitive. Snowed in on a leaden
day, I write as the rattle and the hiss
of radiator and scrape of shovelers’
steel on sidewalk rule out blessed silence.
Silence today is like tarnished silver,
dated as placing one’s card on a salver.

Gold and silver, devalued as silence
itself, yield place to jeweler’s platinum
and the candle holder’s sleek chromium;
even my gold fillings are antique; dentists
would use instead a high-grade amalgam;
for silence, though, no substitute exists.

                                                                                          —George Held

George Held, a contributor to First Literary Review—East and other periodicals, has received ten Pushcart Prize nominations and published or edited twenty-two poetry books, most recently Second Sight (Poets Wear Prada, 2019).


First Color in Language

After black and white          red is dear as purple
aand as elegant           a color in most flags
and used to sell sex              though it is the international
sign for stop.            Rubia tinctorum is its plant        also called
the dyer's madder        and there are insects
like the  cochineal              that manufacture the carmine
of lipstick.          My daughter painted the walls of her room
red            in high school         like the color of the big circle that is
the sun in the art of Japanese school children
as the red kimono stands for all the luck and joy I wish for her
my modern primitive        donner of black cloaks          of scars
that turn from crimson to the color of her own skin
and because her name means first woman
she dances           through the end of the spectrum of visible 
light                    dances through the hematite and red ochre
on the cave art walls                 of her dreams.     

                                                                                                                —Marjorie Hanft

Marjorie Hanft studied literature, composition, and classics at Beloit College (BA) and poetry and translation at Brown University (MA, Graduate Writing Program). She also studied counseling at the University of Oklahoma (MA) and taught psychology at Eastern Illinois University (1988-2015) following work in university counseling and community mental health. Her poems have  appeared in the journals Calyx and Mississippi Valley Review and translations from ancient Greek poetry (melic lyrics) were published by Brown University.

Out of Season

I have become an animal that needs to be fed liquor
in order to proceed through the cold. Invisible herdsmen
pull me up against the aches in my body, pour whiskey down my throat
tell me it’s just a few steps more, then everything will be better
and I can stop, not to die, but to sleep.

Sunrise is a lie that promises a full day
Monday is a lie about what can be done in a week.
Time races by much too fast these days. I drag my feet against time
dig my heels in wherever I can find purchase
but it’s no good.

                                                                                                                                  —Holly Day

Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (, Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing).




She’s feckless     sometimes

drifts     sometimes careens; color: #ff6600;">seldom relinquishes hope

Mind full of birds     Antsy
indoors     wants space
to flail her limbs     In love

with light and motion     Un-
easy in company     itches
to be on her way     Stirs

the air     whips up
a wind     trees sway   
every which way

                                                       —Katrinka Moore

Katrinka Moore is the author of Wayfarers, Numa, Thief, and This is Not a Story.   


Sand Storm

September 2015

Sometime in the night
it crossed the border

on the back of the wind,
infiltrating villages,

violating sleepy streets,
coveting all things revealed,

hot rising sun concealed
behind a veil.

                                                                    —Steven Sher

—Steven Sher

Brooklyn-born Steven Sher has lived in Jerusalem since 2012. His latest (16th) book is Contestable Truths, Incontestable Lies (Dos Madres Press, 2019). His work has appeared widely since the 1970s. Recent appearances range from Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women to Mizmor Anthology to the forthcoming New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting The Holocaust. Last year he received the Glenna Luschei Distinguished Poet Award, headlining the 35th annual San Luis Obispo Poetry Festival.  >


Dream Ghazal

An only child’s a receiver of dreams.
Is the boy flushed from sun? Fever? Dreams?

Two shawls she brought from the old country. Three
dresses, red ribbon, a meat cleaver, dreams.

Love opens wounds, turns us children. Which spouse
is worse, honest drunk or deceiver? Dreams’

code—Bees signify sex, a desk means fear.
It’s lucky to meet a beaver in dreams.

The orange pill offers chance of a cure.
Granter of time. Retriever of dreams.

My grandmother sews with thread in her mouth.
I burn herbs to Maya, weaver of dreams.

Lost selves visit at night. The king’s a slave,
the slacker an overachiever in dreams.

Call me scarred optimist, fool who should
know better. Battered believer in dreams.

                          &                                           —Alison Stone

Alison Stone has published three previous full-length collections, Ordinary Magic (NYQ Books, 2016), Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris ReviewPoetryPloughshares Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She was recently Writer in Residence at LitSpace St. Pete. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack.

Prayer of a God-fearing Atheist  

O Lord in Whom I do not believe,

Forgive my sins,
Save my soul,
Help me to be successful, e'en
Help me to do the things I should have done,
Help me to do the things I need to do,
Help me to figure out if both of these
Are actually the same;
Help me to mitigate the effects of
My egregious sins. And I have faith that
Thou knowest what mitigate and egregious
Mean, which is more than I can say for

That is. Grammar. Thank you for
Thy attention. Or is that Thine.

                                                                                                                         —Gale Acuff

Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Chiron Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008). He has taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.



Meetings With My Father

                                                                                  My daddy presiding over the crab remains at the picnic table
                                                                                                                                                                  —Elaine Dixon

I’ve seen my father more often since he passed
it’s frequently in the morning
when I write and he peers over my verses
having a smoke

or when he taps my head lightly in a museum
to nudge me along to a more important painter

or when I find myself alone or lost or utterly bewildered
and, shrugging his shoulders, he seems to say
welcome to your existence

These days he does not write poems anymore
but he presides over the crab remai6600;">that gave their lives for families like ours
to sit together at a picnic table

the way he gave his own life to language for his two sons
and the thought that decency really matters

                                                                                                              —Juan Pablo Mobili

Juan Pablo Mobili is a poet born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who was adopted by New York over forty years ago, where he still resides. His first book was published when he was eighteen years old, and his second one, a chapbook of poems written with his wife and fellow poet Madalasa Mobili, appeared after he was already a grandfather. During that expanse, a few poems have appeared in River River Journal and a collection called Write! An Anthology, published by River River Writers Circle. In addition, Juan Pablo has published poems, articles and essays in Europe and Latin America, while aiming, through his consulting firm, to elevate leadership and instill authenticity and imagination in the global organizations with which he works.



Do Not Take This Medication . . .

If you are prone to choking, choke when prone, 
smell gas, pass gas, are gas lit in the gaslight 
of a dark night; suffer sensitivity to shellfish, 
fishy smells, fish scales, practicing scales, 
scaling a climb-wall, toy towns built to scale, 
that youth who can’t come out of their shell, 
oh, that’s you; if you are allergic to all-beef patties, 
Peppermint Patty, Patty Hearst, an Irishman 
named Paddy, Patty Duke, the Pastyle="font-family: 'book antiqua', palatino; font-size: 12pt; color: #ff6600;">named Paddy, Patty Duke, the Patty Duke of Earl, 
duking it out with some schmuck. Do not take 
This Medication if allergic to flu shots, recently flew, 
fear wearable software with a virus. Do not use 
software at the dinner table. Only flatware. 

                                                                                                         —Sarah Sarai

Sarah Sarai lives in New York City. Find her at The Future Is Happy - Poetry and Fiction of Sarah Sarai and on Twitter @SarahSarai.