FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
dusk’s purple unfurls
over the curvaceous roads
the moon shadows dance
Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University's MFA program in fiction. His story, "Soon," was nominated for a Pushcart. Yash’s stories are forthcoming or have been published in Café Lit, Mad Swirl, 50 Word Stories, and Ariel Chart, among others.
and in my dream we were
innocently, soaringly happy
as giraffes in a tree house
Molly Lynde is originally from Sonoma County, California. She teaches modern and medieval French in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and serves as editor-in-chief of Transference, a literary journal featuring poetry in translation (https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference/).
it nuzzled my palm
It eyed me with longing
Cool dude perfection, that long neck
of love, my deliverance from madness
I named it Cuomo, it promised forever
I stood on a ladder, crowned it Corona
My king, my sun, my reason for waking
When I drew it, who knew it would one day be gone.
Dd. Spungin, author of Tomorrow Smells Invisible (Words With Wings Press, 2020), hosts poetry events for Poets In Nassau and Performance Poets Association. Several of her poems have been set to music by NY composer Julie Mandel. Spungin lives for love, prays for peace, and writes for her sanity.
room says nothing
hangs so quietly
youth never returns
—Zvi A. Sesling
Zvi A. Sesling is Poet Laureate of Brookline, MA. Hay(na)ku is a poetic form invented by poet Eileen R. Tabios. Hay(na)ku consists of three lines. The first line is one word, the second has two words and the third line has three words. It can be written in reverse as well: 3-2-1. It can also be chained. For examples, see the Hay(na)ku 15 Anthology.
The birds on the wall
Chirping the divine concert.
Deaf hears voice of sun.
Nowhere to move. Suddenly
The Birds’ flight—freedom.
Partha Sarkar is from West Bengal, a state of India. His poems have been printed in different little magazines in West Bengal and in English little magazines in Australia, England, and South Africa. A collection of poems in Bangla has been published.
Belly Full and Beer in Hand
Belly full and third beer in hand,
I listen to Billy Joe Shaver between moments of listening to the rain
With 18 more hours to go
Until I have to be at work.
I open a bag of pretzels
And listen to another song.
That’s as good as things could possibly get
On a Wednesday evening
In this place.
John Tustin's poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals and fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
In certain slants of light
he lifts a brush. It fits
loosely. His fingers shake
a touch. The paint can drop
without intent. The blobs
refuse to take the shape
his hand desires. His sigh
echoes against green sky.
The air is dotted notes.
This town is one he chose.
This light, he thought, drew him.
The skyline sings here. Now
he’s helpless. The gray ground
he prepared will stay dim.
The moment’s gone. Light ends.
He must draw the curtains.
—Mark J. Mitchell
Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu, was just published by Encircle Publications. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka, and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster, where he makes his meager living pointing out pretty things. He has published two novels and three chapbooks and two full-length collections so far. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MarkJMitchellwriter/
Peel the Cityfruit
I bite into the apple of new downtowns
sweet against my tongue
feed car through deserts to find
myself toward perceived oases
los angeles in the middle of a drought
of ideas guitars strum
the streets & make a new city
to be lost in
—James Croal Jackson
James Croal Jackson (he/him) has a chapbook, The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), and poems in Pacifica, Reservoir, and Rattle. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com). Currently, he works in the film industry in Pittsburgh, PA. (jimjakk.com)
portrait in a florida cafe
there was a pitcher of white cream between them.
the afternoon sun hung heavy like a porcelain drip from a porcelain cup.
it was a little too warm for strawberries.
she rummaged her purse to find the letter.
he searched the room for something innocent to focus on
who was that woman at the corner table?
where was the waiter with the generous smile?
it was a little too warm for accusations.
a napkin fell from his lap. a silver bracelet chafed her skin.
he smoothed the table linen with two long fingers.
she distracted herself with the movement of a fly.
the taste of cuban coffee came bitter to her tongue.
a smell of fresh rain crossed the patio.
laughter from the kitchen, and the sound of macaws.
George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, editor of Poetrybay, co-editor of great weather for MEDIA, and author of 36 chapbooks of poetry. New York-based performance poet, he travels worldwide to share his work.
Mungo the Inventor
Mungo invents a way of pulling down
the stars. He plays his crystal flute.
When the stars get close he lassoes
them quickly and puts them in his basket
where they glitz all night until
sadness makes them die.
Mungo designs bigger furry slippers
for bees as well as larger pockets
in their working overalls. When the bees
premiere his invention, their lift-off
capacity is seriously impaired
and only the pollen count soars.
Mungo invents the sort of joke that holds on
to its own sides. Since it’s not supposed to laugh
at itself it shows its fangs and coils tightly
around the nearest laughingstock.
—Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and three poetry collections, her work has been widely published, mostly in US poetry journals (online and print).
More than your poetry,
it’s your story I love—
who among us
has not paused, mid-sentence,
to stare at the wall and dream
of our own Black Sparrow
to discover us—
to swoop down and grasp us
in its tiny talons,
pluck us from cubicles, forklifts,
from these cinderblock walls
these cinderblock lives,
and carry us up and away
into a new
and more sublime
Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection, Ordinary Trauma (2019), was published by Alien Buddha Press.
tea break ...
the willow weeps
I have a silent talk
with my shadow
shadows go by
drifting cloud ...
of the old story
David He, from Gansu Province, China, has been working as an advanced English teacher for 35 years in a high school. So far he has had twenty short English stories published in anthologies. In recent years he has had haiku published in magazines like Acorn, The Heron’s Nest, Presence, Rocket bottles, Frogpond, A One Hundred Gouges, Shamrock, Modern Haiku and Frozen Butterfly. He has also had tanka published in Tanka of America, Skylark, Ribbons, and Cattails.
I have chased your soul
Across a thousand orchards
Turned to summer’s thrum
Of rot and wasps,
The trees in lines of open mouths.
Hoping to taste your distant shape,
To smell your greyhound,
Boundless ball of motion expanding,
Rooting through woods
For thick-blooded fungus,
Truffle queen, fox pheromone.
Through the night highs
Of the hunt, ferns oozing pores
Into luminous ghosts,
I dance with the lush trail you left.
My broken feet dream again.
Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have appeared in Gingerbread House, Chronogram, and Enchanted Conversation, among others, and are forthcoming in The Writers' Cafe Magazine, Call Me [Brackets], Liquid Imagination, and The Orchards Poetry Journal.
Do Not Hide
Do not hide your face. Do not live his shame.
You were a wildflower dancing in a field
speckled with the jeweled colors of spring
when he plucked you, so rare, so fragile.
He said he would nourish you, nurture and
protect you. Then he closed the door, shut out
the sun, left you to drown in thick tears of
his liquored crime, your soul to wither and die.
But wildflowers do not die. They wait for rain
and grow again. Do not hide your face or live
his shame. Let us see your beauty through
your pain, keep you safe as you bloom again.
A wildflower is not a weed.
Shelly Blankman and her husband, Jon, live in Columbia, Maryland. They have two adult sons, Richard and Joshua, who live in New York and Texas, respectively. Shelly and Jon now fill their empty nest with three rescue cats and a foster dog. Shelly spent many years in public relations and journalism. Now retired, she has returned to her first love—poetry. She also enjoys designing greeting cards and memory books, and of course, refereeing pets.
August, 6 a.m.
No discernible rhythm
to the soft velvet patters.
A steady, pleasant sigh
of hushed applause,
whitesilver streaks hurtling home.
The wind shifts and a chill emerges
from the rising, tribal clatter.
Some, deeply cocooned,
avoid the pelting pricks.
Others pause to receive signals
echoing through the steady hiss.
Thunder’s supple hands rumble,
ruffling through great skirts of rain.
distant dreams for the wanderers,
George Stalle has enjoyed an eclectic career, ranging from his work in the arts, entertainment, tourism, to news media, education, and real estate. After his childhood years in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, he received his Bachelor of Music degree in 1975 from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin. After 21 years living in Moorestown, NJ, he and wife, Kay, moved to Roswell, GA, in 2018. His work has previously appeared in Pure Slush and Knot Literary Magazine.
the bug that saw German castles and petrified forests and tears.
the Pontiac convertible with hole in the floor through which we dropped dreck.
the one in which we ate our first McDonald's french fry.
the long black comic Long Island hearse.
the seagreen Impala a drug addict stole from our driveway.
the one in which we had a mess of hot sex.
the one that gave us the hayride without hay.
the one that crushed that woman’s three toes.
the one sold at a loss.
Pamela Brown hails from Brooklyn, with tentacles in Sicily, Vermont, and Canada, among other sacred places. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Epiphany, Public, R/rose, Frontier, Poetry Distillery, and Mojave River Review, and her one-act plays have been produced at La Mama e.t.c. and the Boston Directors' Lab. Her day job is teaching Shakespeare, poetry, and drama at the University of Connecticut.
Walking the Beach, We Show Our
Ignorance about Stars, Constellations
before mentioning the dead ones
the snuffed ones,
how they’ve guided the race, we figure,
since long before the faintest flicker
of a first-hand myth—
but dead, even then
and now, this side of infinitude,
this side, let’s say, of
the discerning words
of the long gone
still illumine our forever
first published in Lost Enough (Finishing Line Press, 2007)
D. R. James has taught college English for 36 years, lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan, and has published nine poetry collections. https://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage
Where I used to strive for movement and restlessness I now attempt
to sense and express the complete total calm of objects
and the surrounding air
from It’s Best to be Disposable
an uneven terrain
I lose a bit of shore
to each change
* * *
If I could be more still
I would be immovable as a Russian novel
I would be a silver citadel of great longing
I would be the echoing music of homesickness
I would be the view of trees through a window
I would be a boiled skull, still steaming
I would be helpless to stop the air colliding all around me
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,
Burn to Yawn/Burn the Yawn
(With only mild apologies to Jack Kerouac)
Do you desire everything at the same time? Do you never ever yawn? Do you burn burn burn,
like a fabulous roman candle? Do you explode like a spider in the cosmos of the commonplace?
Then you might be one of the mad ones—mad to live, mad to be saved!
Do you desire to yawn? Do you yawn to burn? Do you burn to explode?
Then you might be a spider in the cosmos of the commonplace!
Do you yawn like a candle? Do you burn like a spider?
Then you might desire everything in the cosmos of the commonplace!
Come one, come all—to the cosmos of the commonplace, where the mad to live and the mad to
be saved converge to explode the yellow yawns and burn the spiders with fabulous candles, and
with fabulous stars!
Clockwise Cat publisher and editor Alison Ross pioneered the genre of Zen-Surrealism and uses that as her guiding aesthetic. She also practices the tenets of Zen-Surrealist Socialism. Alison has been a featured poet at Surreal Poetics. In addition, she has published reviews and editorials in various publications, including Fear of Monkeys and Pop Matters.
the obvious fear
and i am living in this fading
house in this obsolete town near the
end of the world and this is
the sound of the earth spinning
this is the voice of the sun
says we are all dying
says truths are neither
kind nor unkind
shines on this town and on
this house but not in this room
not at this late hour
all of those lifetimes wasted
believing we still
had time to say good-bye
John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include Heathen Tongue (2018 Kendra Steiner Editions) and A Bastard Child In The Kingdom of Nil (2018 Analog Submission Press).
After Han-Shan’s Poem #190
There is a body. There is no body.
I am myself. I'm not that man.
I sit entranced at the cliff's edge.
The years go past. The grass grows green
between my feet. Red dust settles
about my head. Those who offer
fruit and wine, as for a funeral,
they don't know me. They think I'm dead.
Tom Montag's books of poetry include: Making Hay & Other Poems; Middle Ground; The Big Book of Ben Zen; In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. His poem 'Lecturing My Daughter in Her First Fall Rain' has been permanently incorporated into the design of the Milwaukee Convention Center. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham he recently co-edited Local News: Poetry About Small Towns.
within dark walls,
such as it is to be
old or young
maternal or paternal,
coarse or refined,
plumber or poet,
in pajamas or naked,
just sleep damn you
mind and body,
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty, with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple, and Clade Song.
The editors of this publication send virtual hugs to all who contributed to this issue and all who read it (and even if you didn't read it, or only read half of it, etc.). STAY SAFE. BE WELL. AND WEAR A DAMN MASK!