FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Some fine poetry to soothe the soul during these harrowing times, when words mean so much. Our love and prayers are with you and yours.
—Cindy Hochman and Karen Neuberg, Editors
White Calla and wind
dervish dance before the storm
Dark clouds overhead
Judith Vaughn lives in Sonoma, California. When she isn’t writing poetry, she chases images with her camera or iPhone, reads books (some of which are better than others), and meets friends-in-read for discussion. She has written poetry for years, and more recently joined a group of poets for input, exchange of ideas, and support. She has written a children’s book of story and images, Tails of Ledger (a dawg’s first year), as yet unpublished.
Either fish are flying through an unnamed forest or trees have become the preferred nest of koi. Either way, the situation is precarious. Everyone who knew how to crank the heart open has fled. A chamber full of rattling voices can’t remedy. The dead are not amused. They are watching. They have matches.
Kit Kennedy serves as Poet in Residence of herchurch and Poet in Residence of SF Bay Times. She has published 6 poetry collections, including while eating oysters (CLWN WR BKS, Brooklyn, NY). Please visit: http://poetrybites.blogspot.com
A Dog’s Life
Come down to the lake with me.
Real winter is here at last,
ice crystals and freezing fogs,
the sun so bright it hurts my eyes.
Veils of mist like gossamer silk
drift over snow that blows over ice
where our dogs chase after each other,
making the most of what they have,
be it a stick or a snowbank.
Anne Whitehouse is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Meteor Shower (Dos Madres Press, 2019).
a writer’s tale
hidden within a briared castle
a princess sleeps
she the poem
waiting to waken with a kiss
— Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S.
Sister Lou Ella is a former teacher and librarian, and a certified spiritual director. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines, such as America, First Things, Emmanuel,Third Wednesday, and the new verse news, as well as in four anthologies: The Night’s Magician: Poems about the Moon, edited by Philip Kolin and Sue Brannan Walker, Down to the Dark River, edited by Philip Kolin, Secrets edited by Sue Brannan Walker and After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events, edited by Tom Lombardo. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017. Her first book of poetry, entitled she: robed and wordless, was published in 2015. (Press 53.)
LP & EP
go to the book
for one poem only
ache to come close
a single pebble
placed on a grave
Tony Beyer is a New Zealander whose work has appeared in national and international journals. His most recent chapbook is Friday Prayers (Cold Hub Press, 2019).
An Evening Reading: Maupassant
As clouds begin to gather, breeze gets up,
I browse, re-read old narratives. The lamp’s
round fall lights soldiers, crooks and gentlemen,
their mistresses, a Franco-Prussian war.
Outside it’s darkening. I see the shapes,
no more, of bramble, bush, the apple trees,
all shaking, tossing as the clouds race through,
blow thickly past a bright and crescent moon.
Robert Nisbet lives in the UK, in rural Wales, about as far as you can get from London, travelling West. His poems have been published widely in Britain and the USA, including regular appearances in San Pedro River Review, Panoply and Red River Review.
In those days
the Black Mountain sky spoke
in soft southern accents. That night
a man stepped across the surface
of the moon even though the Earth
continued to burn. But we were safe
for a time in the embrace of the Carolina
forest and we dared to whisper of what
should be, although as things turned out
it never was.
Kenneth Salzmann lives in the mountains of central Mexico. He is the author of The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems and co-editor of the anthologies What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye and the forthcoming What But the Music.
Come stand with me lostly in the rain-pool,
Remembering the days in which we sought
Sanctuary in swag, in all things cool.
Remember your clown-nose on the steel-pot,
The flowers enshrined in boot-wracked cement—
All the things precious because they are not.
Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in Petrichor, Remembered Arts, Rigorous, Lunate, With Painted Words, The Dawntreader and a number of other literary magazines. Studying life, languages and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.
On my wrist nothingness flies in
and clutches the roundness with
its tired hunger
(Whose skull is moon tonight?)
or its claws or whatever.
The street runs to one apothecary;
two nevermen carry
a conversation whose text is touched by quietus.
(Knife of a cloud dissects the sky.)
I step inside the odor of the antibiotic and sin.
To fix your waning aura I must become an assassin.
Kushal Poddar has authored ‘The Circus Came To My Island’, ‘A Place For Your Ghost Animals, Understanding The Neighborhood’, ‘Scratches Within’, ‘Kleptomaniac's Book of Unoriginal Poems’, ‘Eternity Restoration Project- Selected and New Poems’ and now ‘Herding My Thoughts To The Slaughterhouse-A Prequel’ (Alien Buddha Press)
Author Page - amazon.com/author/kushalpoddar_thepoet
Aftereffects of emotional impasto keeps us
edgy, accruing excess is enemy. Dewdrops
arrive via the recall card ushering frisson
and its familiarity. Bowing to its brunt is a
thank-you note to oneself.
A happenstance moves in uncertain ways
forging us to believe in the powerlessness
of mortals. In energy of unknown eddies
high-handedness expels its heat. No outside
agency holds the brief to break in.
Sanjeev Sethi has published over 1,200 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, organised by the Hedgehog Poetry Press UK. This is his fourth volume. It will be released in 2020. He lives in Mumbai, India.
Summoning glyphs is completely
hereditary; & though we can't
physically see it, we still think that
its imputed use of energy should
be easy to understand. Just as some
of the reporters present thought
the vexing topic of gender tasted
like bacon, while others mentioned
Tacca integrifolia, the white bat plant.
Mark Young's most recent books are The Perfume of The Abyss from Moria Books; A Vicarious Life — the backing tracks from otata; taxonomic drift from Luna Bisonte Prods; Residual sonnets from Ma Press of Finland; & The Comedians from Stale Objects de Press, all published during 2019.
An enfilade of
Petals nod in
Touching down on flower
Whose sex peers out
From bell shaped dress
—Ellen Pober Rittberg
Ellen Pober Rittberg writes across genres. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Brooklyn Quarterly, Raw Art Review, Poetrybay, and the 2019 great weather for MEDIA anthology, among other places. Her plays, Sabbath Elevator and Sci Fi have been performed off off Broadway and at festivals. Her award winning journalism has been published in the New York Times, Huff Post and Readers Digest.
I am looking at us from the inside,
my forehead, alive with questions,
the wind’s nudge on my sunken shoulders.
These days, I live between spring riot
and your smell all about me.
Except it’s been weeks
since I last thought of you
in a way that is inviting,
trusting the hours that pass
to help me shake off any fleck of memory,
little shreds of orange pith,
neither to be eaten, nor thrown away.
Clara Burghelea is a Romanian-born poet. Recipient of the Robert Muroff Poetry Award, she got her MFA in Poetry from Adelphi University. Her poems and translations have appeared in Ambit, HeadStuff, Waxwing, and elsewhere. Her collection The Flavor of The Other is scheduled for publication in 2019 with Dos Madres Press.
Trivia of Green
because who doesn't like the symbol of spring
think chlorophyll in grass and other things that grow
and because it is restful to the eyes
barium salts are used to make green sparks in fireworks
jade emerald malachite hiddenite peridot
my mother's eyes but not mine she said
and I wasn't supposed to wear her color either
as it represents royalty as in the cloth the Mona Lisa wears
and I want to believe it heals because suicides dropped
34% when London's Blackfriar Bridge was painted green
and there are always viridescent fish and birds
amphibians and reptiles to imagine surrounding
the pagan green man of the woods waiting at dusk
for that elusive green flash of sunset
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.
The Child In The Tree
No longer the baby against my chest
This seed no longer the boy
Who grasped the folds of my skirt.
Today, He helped Joseph make mud bricks in the hot sun
He played hide and seek with his brothers and sisters,
Now, He removes His sandals at the foot of the oak tree,
and gently grasps the lone limb like David would his staff.
The arms of the tree embrace my son
Visible to me when the sun rises
A red and gold shadow
that now vanishes.
Christal Cooper is a poet, fiction writer, and non fiction writer. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She resides in the St. Louis area with her husband, two sons, and two cats. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com or via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/car.cooper.7
The Fall From Grace
Head like a watermelon
Heart like a battered felon
Head like an overbite
Heart like an alley fight
Head like a nail file
Heart like a rape trial
Head like a fireplug
Heart like a tattered rug
Head like an open gate
Heart like checkmate
Bill Yarrow's latest book is ACCELERANT from Nixes Mate Books.
A roar. A downpour. A dramatic overture. The world outside has shut down. The sky, the swaying, dark trees become darker and darker. For a few moments, seeming like it will be never-say-die, the rowdy rain soon becomes a drizzling poet, collecting in my soft palms, trickling rain through my fingers. I open my eyes to the world outside. The downpour has settled. Streaks of sun rays kiss the crevices on the tar road. Light appears. Trees become green. Life looks possible from this end of the window.
Aruna Gurumurthy is an American author and observer of human nature. Since her childhood in Mumbai, India, she has embarked on a journey of creative exploration and, within her short prose poems, tries to capture the beauty and art in the world around her through empathy with others. Her poems have appeared in two regional anthologies, Heron Clan V (Katherine James Books, 2018) and Heron Clan VI (Katherine James Books, 2019). Aruna is part of the thriving Southern literary community. She lives with her loving family, including her husband and young daughter, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
I wake from dreams as an echo.
In a room crowded
I am what’s unreal.
I am yesterday’s
Cling to the Night and its Lonely Howl
Shadows take leave of the world
and its bonfires.
The toil of immortality and its vastness.
And I name the Almighty—foreign names
torn from handbooks and personal ads.
Let us stand at the ocean’s edge,
perfectly still, and let our shadows go.
Our skin roughcast to conceal the slapdash
Let our prayers be swallowed in translation.
Stephen Gracia is a founder of Dialogue with Three Chords, a pub theatre night in NYC which is currently in the middle of its ninth year and for which he has written over 100 short plays. He is a member of the Playwright and Directors Workshop at the Actor’s Studio and the Dramatists Guild. His plays have been seen at HERE Arts Center, The Producers Club, and Dixon Place. His poetry has been published in Riverrun, The Brooklyn Review, Weird Tales, and Slipstream. The poems showcased here are from the poet’s chapbook Rapid De/Coherence.