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MAY 2014




In this issue, the themes of religion (from all points of view), time, aging, art, spring, family — and, of course, a little sex — interconnect to form 25 exquisite poems which are our raison d'etre.  ENJOY!

                                                                                               —The Editors 




In the chapel, on a scaffold,
Michelangelo paints,
man creating God
creating man.



God's displeasure
(if we believed in God)
at our wickedness
(if we believed in wickedness)
would shake the firmament
(if we believed in firmament).

                                                     —George H. Northrup


George H. Northrup is President (2006- ) of the Fresh Meadows Poets in Queens, NY, a Board member of the Society that selects the Nassau County Poet Laureate, and former President of the New York State Psychological Association. Recent publications include Generations, Light, Long Island Quarterly, String Poet, The Buddhist Review, and The New York Times.






May there one day be
A moratorium
On all saviors
Whose every
Exalted breath
Blinds us
To the promise
Of transformation
In exchange
For the promise
Of smoke.
                                                —Stuart Fishman

Stuart Fishman resumed writing poetry back in 2003, after a long layoff. He has had two poems published in the Wisconsin Review. More recently, he had a poem published in a collection called Stars In Our Hearts. Currently, one of his poems appears in The Venetian Hour (anthology of the Green Pavilion poetry reading).




What the Buddha Said


When comfort looms as distant as joyless intimacy,
Grasping is a gyro of discontent
Spun in the magi's hand.
To cling becomes salvation
Yet promises only pitfalls.
What does the buddha know of claws of desire?
                                                                               —Carolyn Wells


Carolyn Wells is a professional chef at a private school in NYC. She has been writing poems since the age of five and is concerned mostly with themes of love, longing, desire, and the loss of the natural world. She studied French literature and lived and worked in France but her main love is that of the written word. Her father was a very accomplished poet and she learned much from listening to him. Wells uses poetry to interpret human experience in the way that all poets do. She is thrilled to have her poem included in this issue of First Literary Review (and we are very happy to have her poem in the issue!)





time threads itself
through our

it comes loose
in those moments
before the dawn

rethreads as the day begins 
                                                          —Jonathan K. Rice


Jonathan K. Rice is Editor/Publisher of Iodine Poetry Journal. He is the author of two books of poetry, Shooting Pool With A Cellist and Ukulele and Other Poems both published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He lives in Charlotte, NC.




Solemn Thoughts


Take this cup,
Fill it up with words of comfort,
Pass it on to the council of elders
Let them mix it with their counsel,
For grey air is wise.
Or so we've been made to believe

They say we're backwards
Can a bus filled with children
Move without an ignition?                                          

                                                            —Shane ThePoet McKnight

Dipe Oluwatobi Olamide, who writes poems under the pseudonym Shane ThePoet McKnight, is from Nigeria. He is a student of the University of Lagos, and a poet. His favorite poets are Wole Soyinka, David Diop, and Birago Diop, amongst others. He started composing poems on the 27th of December 2010. He is a huge fan of rock and metal music. He is also a devout Christian.




Blasphemous Hope

Irreverence has little to do with me and
a lot to do with the life I've led . . .
I stand, distantly pitched in shadowed angst,
even that has little to do with me,
a lot to do with the lives I've held . . .
I try not to seek the moon's arc on a full moon night,
irreverence it is that makes me find it,
stuck by its crooked end, hung like a rope, a ladder,
an arc that i can lose or find as i move my thumb
in tandem with that wild vein on the right whisper of my neck,
irreverence it is that makes me climb those rickety steps
to bathe myself in lit silver glory . . .
wondering why i seem to be saddling a full orb
when i had always been promised the sweet soul pang of an edge,
just about toppling into irreverence.
                                                                    -Svetleena Choudhary


Svetleena Choudhary belongs to India. Rather, India belongs to her. All her life she has been asked why she has a Russian name and she has as many stories about it as interviews. A wannabe movie maker, a self proclaimed poetess, a soul cook who can never get the same recipe twice and a near obsessive passion player, this is the first time she has actually sent out her poems. (The editors are pleased to give Svetleena this opportunity to have her poems published!) She blogs at






i am wordless 
   ‘bout spring
that temperate clich
   of amateurs
till e.e. takes you
    breathes eeeasy
long your neck   please 
   ee's nipple-like bud
lusciously sighs o my april
everything into may

                                          —Mary Orovan


Mary Orovan's book, Green Rain (Poets Wear Prada, 2008), is still selling, and is available on  Her work has appreared in San Pedro River Review, The 2River View, Poetry East, and other venues.  Especially in spring, she can be found in the wild Ramble in Central Park.




Lavender Lilies


A perpendicular accordion
dims a twin memento loads
of lavender lilies a swig
of Wanker's Delight her saving
face grapples with a ripped
staple binding of linear theaters
in locked laments.

Civil service gnaws at the tit
of witness protection elves
and their midnight selves.
Romeo will have his Juliet.
A rafter stabs me in the vocal
chorus Norris & Son at your
civic hiccup.
                                                          —Mitch Corber

Mitch Corber has recited his inventive melodic poetry throughout New York City. His poems have appeared in Vanitas, Columbia Poetry Review, Blazevox, Listenlight, gobbet, Blackbox Manifold 4, Mirage, E-ratio, ditch, and Polarity. Corber is founding director of the vast Thin Air Poetry DVD Archives ( and producer of NYC's Poetry Thin Air cable show. His first major volume of work Weather's Feather (Fly By Night Press) is available at SPD and



Evil Walks


The search for Pandora's Box
was more intense than the search
for the Holy Grail,
The Fountain of Youth, the
Ark of the Covenant,
King Solomon's Tomb, the grave
of Jimmy Hoffa or the true origin
of the Amazon.
The Box had a lure
that mere men could not ignore. 
                                                                    —Eric Greinke

Eric Greinke's poems have been published in numerous journals, including the New York Quarterly, the Paterson Literary Review, California Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Hurricane Review, Mad Poets Review, The Pedestal, Wilderness House Literary Review and Main Street Rag. Recent international publications include Prosopisia (India), Ginyu (Japan), The Green Door (Belgium) and The Journal (UK). His most recent book is For The Living Dead - New & Selected Poems (Presa Press, 2014)


[Editors' Note:  Please read Cindy's review of Eric Greinke's book at]




The Words Not Spoken

The ones we want to hear
like a lifeline of syllables
we can catch and hold on to
so we can pull ourselves back
into our little ark
while it rains and rains
and we try once more
to start over again.
                                                —William Cullen, Jr.

William Cullen, Jr., is a veteran and works at a non-profit in Brooklyn, NY. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Camroc Press Review, Christian Science Monitor, Gulf Stream, Pirene's Fountain, Poppy Road Review, Right Hand Pointing, Spillway, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Word Riot.




I don't remember what I said that triggered
my mother snapping her wrist and dashing
a glass of white wine on my throat, icy liquid
dripping from my clavicles and soaking the top
of a towel wrapped around my shining 12-year-old
torso, rash blooming on my stomach and climbing
my neck. "What's that?" she demanded, and I saw
for the first time the pulsing badge of shame
you would trace one day with your fingers,
and find lovely.
                                                                             —Lynn McGee


Lynn McGee's poems are in forthcoming or current issues of The American Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, 2 Bridges Review, Hawai'i Review, Bluestem, and The Same. Her poems also appear in recent issues of Tilt-a-Whirl, Big City Lit, Literary Mama and The New Guard; one poem a finalist and one a semi-finalist in the Knightville contest judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall. She was a 2011 Finalist with Honorable Mention in the Winning Writers War Poetry Contest, and a 2010 semi-finalist for the Dana Award. Her poetry chapbook, Bonanza, won the Slapering Hol national manuscript contest; she earned an MFA from Columbia, and lives in Brooklyn.





Today I will surrender needles and razor blades-
speak nothing but truth, I will declare love
or not and will not know which until it is too late.
I will grab the dragon's neck, swing onto her back,
ride until consumed by the sun.
I will climb gasping from the surf
all flesh and kelp and desire.
And if my heel lands on a sharpened shard,
I will wince and bleed and bind the wound.
                                                                             —Alan Gann

Alan Gann is a Big Thought Fellow and Teaching Artist and with a focus on facilitating Performance Poetry workshops for middle school writers. He is a long-time member and Trustee of the Dallas Poets Community ( and has been an assistant editor for their literary journal, Illya's Honey. Alan also teaches progressive sex education for 8th graders, and spends lots of time riding his bike and bird watching. You can find his work in many journals including Red Fez, San Pedro River Review, Main Street Rag, Borderlands, and the Texas Poetry Calendar. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and once for a Best of the Net award, Alan is especially proud to be the featured poet in the January 2013 issue of Red River Review (




The Only Sister


She escaped as liquid
fleeing a flawed world,
leaving as a perfect ghost.
Maybe she saw me as a threat
and decided there was no room
for her in a house with a boy
and his Matchbox cars and a Big Wheel.
There would be no Barbie dolls to remove
the heads off of, no bullies to shove off
of her pink tricycle while she whined and sobbed
with grass stained knees on our front lawn by the
tiny Japanese maple tree that wouldn't survive, either.
A small plastic cube holds a white space among my baby pictures
where a faded picture of she and I would be, hugging for my father's
Kodak 110 camera, the only sister, the one I find in late night dreams.
                                                                              —Kendall A. Bell


Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been widely published in print and online, most recently in Rose Red Review and work to a calm. He was nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He is the author of fourteen chapbooks. His current chapbook is "Blair's Echo". He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle's Notebook and the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press. His website is and his chapbooks are available through He lives in Riverside, New Jersey.




Suburban WASP Nest

One half of this squat, brick duplex
             mirrors the other:
identical stairs drop along back walls
             to a landing,
one right angle turn, two final steps.

On the west, the landing
becomes a flood-lit stage: child
            dances for a rapt audience,
whirls on skinny legs until
the dizzied tumble into Mama's arms.

On the east, the landing
becomes a pulpit: Papa harangues
            his captive audience until
God's voice commands:
The knife. Take up the knife.
                                                               —Ann Howells

Ann Howells's poetry has appeared in Calyx, Crannog (Ire), Free State Review, Magma (UK), Sentence and Spillway. She serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community, 501-c-3 non-profit, and has edited its journal, Illya's Honey, since 1999, recently taking it from print to digital ( Her chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing (2007). Another chapbook, the Rosebud Diaries, was published by Willet Press (2012). Her work has been read on NPR; she has been interviewed on Writers Around Annapolis television show; and she has been twice nominated for both a Pushcart and a Best of the Net.




Poetry Brothel

my poem between her breasts.

write me a poem!


read me lines like fingers
tracing meaningless palm


pull bee stings from my tongue


I am malleable like a melting candle
this poem is covered in wax
and drool.
                                                                          —Jeremiah Walton


Jeremiah Walton is 18 and backpacking the East Coast. He manages Nostrovia! Poetry, WISH Publishing, The Traveling Poet, and is an editor for Underground Books. He blogs at Gatsby's Abandoned Children, where the majority of his publications are available free. His most recent publication, Smile W/ Sparks (of a shotgun shot), is donation based, and can be read at Walking Is Still Honest Press. His poetry has appeared in Boston Poetry Magazine, Dead Snakes, The Blue Hour, 13 Myna Birds, and a number of other journals and publishers.





The Wine Salesman

On the city sidewalk,
raindrops pelt
his penny loafers. Late

for a client meeting, a woman
brushes his wet hair
with her pink umbrella.

Still, the tuna sandwich
he gobbles
dodging splashy puddles

satisfies more
than any aged
                                 —Davidson Garrett


Davidson Garrett is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana. He is the author of King Lear of the Taxi (Advent Purple Press)and To Tell The Truth I Wanted To Be Kitty Carlisle and Other Poems (Finishing Line Press). Davidson is a New York City taxi driver to help subsidize his art.




The High Priestess

Red of pomegranate, red of blood.
Hollow men, does my blood
scare you? And you, timid ladies
who won't claim my name?

There are lands you enter
after midnight, pages you
can't read with open eyes.

Cut like a foreskin from history,
I know the mind
is just a small thing, tight
as the throat of the child whose father gloats,
Eve from Adam's rib! waving
the Bible in triumph.
She is wan and bookless. Her bones
are not her own.
                                                                    —Alison Stone

Alison Stone's poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and a variety of other publications. She has been awarded Poetry's Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly's Madeline Sadin award. Her first book, They Sing at Midnight, won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. From the Fool to the World was published in 2012 by Parallel Press. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. She is currently editing an anthology of poems on the Persephone/Demeter myth. Her latest book is Dangerous Enough, from Presa Press.



Henry VIII ~

The Manticore

The gleam of my scarlet hair mingles with the reflection of the great sands.
My curving tail bristles with darts, which I cast to right, and left, before and behind.
Velvet laced with pearls swirl upon the ballroom floor in a cinque pas, a pavanne.
The gleam of my scarlet hair mingles with the reflection of the great sands.
Knights and Lords, cardinals, councilors and wives - all must suffer my demands.
For those who evade or balk in matters potent or slight, forbearance is declined.
A woman can be lifted high in a lively volt or sent to the block on my remand.
The gleam of my scarlet hair mingles with the reflection of the great sands,
yet my tail bristles with darts which I cast to right and left, before and behind
                                                                        —Alice Catherine Jennings

The gleam of my scarlet hair mingles with the reflection of the great sands.
My curving tail bristles with darts which I cast to right and left, before and behind.
(From The Temptation of St. Anthony by Gustave Flaubert)

Alice Catherine Jennings is a student in the MFA Program in Writing at Spalding University. Her poetry has appeared in In Other Words: Merida, The Hawai'i Review, Penumbra and is forthcoming in The Louisville Review and Boyne Berries. She is the recipient of the U.S. Poets in Mexico 2013 MFA Candidate Award. Alice divides her time between Oaxaca, Mexico and Austin, Texas.




Discounting my Age


If I were five years younger
and you were five years older
we'd still be out of sync
for what I have in mind
as you assign a senior discount
without requesting proof of age.


Before the luscious wetness
between my legs dries up
instead of ten percent
I wish you would discount
a decade or two and look at me
the way I look at you.
                                                                    —Rosalie Calabrese


Rosalie Calabrese is a native New Yorker and management consultant for the arts whose poems have appeared in publications ranging from And Then to Cosmopolitan, Jewish Currents o Poetry New Zealand, as well as The New York Times and other newspapers, several anthologies (including the 1997 Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry) and on the Web. A writer of short stories and books and lyrics for musicals in addition to poetry and press releases, she is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers as well as various versions of Who's Who.





Throw open hollow doors
climb over sagging hills
cross withered rivers
roll through old age
when winds prop us up
stars burn like dying embers
when we have been
ignored by dead friends
forsaken by government
forgotten by relatives
so we think the hollow doors
hide more sadness
we can decide our path
open the doors
we still have each other
                                                     —Zvi A. Sesling

Zvi A. Sesling edits Muddy River Poetry Review, publishes Muddy River Books and eviews for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene. He is author of King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street Press, 2010), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva Press, 2011) and Fire Tongue, forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press.




Exploratory Surgery


Surgeon, be the poet for my body.


Pull aside the gown
expose the abdomen
shave away the hair
incise the skin's surface
cut through dermis
slice thin layer of muscle
slit the fascia.


Behold the organs.
May they be arrayed like a sonnet,
familiar and fresh.


But if the rhythm is sprung
the meter askew
edit with your scalpel.
Restore the familiar.


Make my body sing.
                                                         —Bill Richard

Bill Richard is a massage therapist and figure-drawing model, having moved from soulwork to bodywork some years ago. He lives in Dallas, TX with his dogs, Jezebel and Lazarus, and sings with the Turtle Creek Chorale. His poems have been published in Red River Review, Illya's Honey, and National Catholic Reporter.




La Monja de los Rabanos

                            after the painting by Bernardo Gonzalez López


When I was a girl, I played in the street like the others,
my skirt dancing around my shins as I chased the ball
with my friends. It was all a dance, like the joy I feel
for you, Señor, this joy encircles my life.


When I go to the market, I select the juiciest, earthiest I can find,
and we feel it in our veins, Señor, this love, this salt of the earth
stings our tongue with the twixt that others misunderstand,
but I revel in your beam, Señor, and my basket cradles your bounty.


The other nuns sometimes gossip.
What's she grinning about, they say,
With feathers in her mouth, they say,
but I feel radiant with you, Señor, in a reddish purple light.


These protuberances are more than a manifestation of desire,
That ghostly thing I've given up for you, Señor.
Filled with such purplish joy that you could squeeze it.
Feel it fill your hand and disseminate the love that proffers.
                                                                                                 —Steve Koenig


Steve Koenig is a New York poet, educator, music journalist, and editor of  He frequently collaborates with improvising musicians as well as with Mexican painters and sculptors. His next book and three CDs will be released in 2014.





A twelve year old sings "Rolling in the Deep" & "Cupid Shuffle" in Highland Park, MI.


Crisp as the first breeze of autumn
Brushing off of the Detroit River as if
Her voice rolled out of the water's deepest gully,
shuffled its way up Woodward Ave.
Soprano waves pump brakes of gold trim Cadillacs


And misshapen station wagons alike.


Roll your windows down further
Expect a pre-weight loss Jennifer
Or a still tom-boy Alicia
To be the the sharp bone chill swarming a summer day.


See no ordinary drive-by voice.
See an old soul Aretha
Watching a city of music burn down,
Washing away the heat
With the cool of her voice,
Looking for Motown in the ashes
                                                                           —Justin Rogers


Justin Rogers is a Detroit poet, performing artist, and educator. He found his writing through InisdeOut Literary Arts Project where he is now a staff member and a writer in residence. He majors in Art Education with a minor in English Secondary Education at Wayne State University in Detroit where he continues to cultivate poetry and artistic communities. Rogers focuses his writing mainly on emotion and experience.




Starry Night


Let the moment be still in the starry night.
Let the indulgence of this moment be as
quiet and secret as the opening of wild flowers
sleeping under the bed of grass along the
roof of starry night. Let the sleep be full of peace .
Let only the shooting stars come from the
celestial world to fall like the rain and fireflies
dancing among them.
Let the call of love of cricket,bog from the
shrub and the marshy pond be the only song.
Let time be the only silent observer
in the play of night of paradise.
                                                             -Pradip Dasgupta


Pradip Dasgupta is from Jamshedpur, India. He has done his graduation in Chemistry. Currently, he is doing his MBA from KIIT University. He started writing poems two years ago, and for one year has been found interest in writing stories and composing songs.



Editors' Note: We are very proud to feature poets from around the world and, thus, foster a global community of talented poets. Thanks so much for reading!