FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

Submissions Meet the Editor-in-Chief January 2018 March 2019 May/June 2021 Meet the Associate Editor July 2021 November 2019 January/February 2019 Book Review - Lyn Lifshin's "Ballroom" March 2020 September 2021 May 2020 Book Review: Amy Holman's Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window July/August 2018 Book Review: Kit Kennedy Reviews Heller Levinson September 2012 Book Review - Patricia Carragon Reviews Leigh Harrison November 2012 January 2020 March/April 2022 Book Review - Dean Kostos "Rivering" May 2013 Book Review: Hochman Reviews Ormerod Summer Issue 2013 September 2020 November/December 2018 McMaster Reviews Szporluk July/August 2014 November 2014 Book Review: Wright Reviews Gardner Stern Reviews Katrinka Moore May 2015 Hochman Reviews Ross July 2020 Tocco Reviews Simone September 2015 Simone Reviews Cefola May 2016 Bledsoe Reviews Wallace November 2016 January 2017 May 2017 Wehrman Reviews Dhar July 2017 September 2023 March 2024 May 2019 July 2019 September 2019 November 2023 March 2021 November 2021 WINTER 2022 Hochman Reviews Metras May 2022 November/December 2022 January/February 2023 March/April 2023 May 2023 July 2023



SEPTEMBER 2023

 


 

sun dance in the sky
again, autumn leaves

                                            —Kenneth Salzmann

Kenneth Salzmann lives in Mexico's Sierra Madres, searching for poetry. In his Substack column, “How to Grow a Poem,” he talks to a diverse range of poets about their writing processes. 
https://kennethsalzmann.substack.com/



Divergence 


those two wooded paths
from that famous poem
divergence

you went your way
I found my own

                                              —Diane Funston

Diane Funston writes poetry of nature and human nature. She co-founded a women's poetry salon in San Diego, created a weekly poetry gathering in the high desert town of Tehachapi, CA, and most recently has been the Yuba-Sutter Arts and Culture Poet-in-Residence for the past two years. It is in this role she created Poetry Square, a monthly online venue that features poets from all over the world reading their work and discussing creative process. Diane has been published in
Synkronicity, California Quarterly, Whirlwind, San Diego Poetry Annual, Summation, Tule Review, Lake Affect Magazine, F(r)iction and other literary journals. Her first chapbook, Over the Falls, was published this July 2022 from FootHills Publishing. She holds a B.A. degree in Literature and Writing from CSU San Marcos. Diane is also a visual artist in mosaic, wool felting, and collage. Her pieces have been in galleries in the Sacramento Valley. noparadise@e.com

 



Haiku

cold morning
a phone call from her
under the quilt

         ***

the bird feeder
on my sun-scorched balcony
silence

                                                               —Dipankar Dasgupta

Dipankar Dasgupta lives in India, where he retired as Professor of Economics from the Indian Statistical Institute. He did his graduate work in the USA and taught Economics in Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, and the USA. Before retirement, he published professional articles in international journals. However, he has always been interested in creative writing, mainly in English. Samples of his creative work can be found in www.dipankardasgupta.com. At present, his primary interest revolves around oriental short poems. He has a working knowledge of Japanese too and reads Japanese as well as English language haiku.  



Dancing  

Do you
Dream of dancing? 
We can spin in 
Slippery air. 
We can taste 
Treasure as 
We twirl. 
Be ballet with me.  

                                               —Dominik Slusarczyk

Dominik Slusarczyk is an artist who makes everything from music to painting. He was educated at The University of Nottingham, where he got a degree in biochemistry. His poetry has been published in various literary magazines including Fresh Words, Berlin Lit, and Home Planet News.


 

See how one body slips into another

Every morning, after

the coffee’s dark roast,
Proust for an hour until
the world is right side up,
until what is has and will
are on one line (my own
corruption of Wang Wei),
until memory and thing are
that one line, until I’m able
to walk inside these words

                                                         —Sam Rasnake

Sam Rasnake has had work published in WigleafPortland ReviewBig MuddyThe Southern Poetry Anthology, MiPOesias Companion 2012, Bending Genres Anthology 2018 / 2019, A Cluster of Lights: An Anthology, and BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2. He has taught creative writing at King University, has served as a judge for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, University of California, Berkeley, and was managing editor for Blue Fifth Review (2000-2018). Rasnake is the author of Cinéma Vérité (A-Minor Press, 2013) and World within the World (Cyberwit, 2020).



Heterogametic Sex

Full of denial at its consumption,
and yet it is not I
with the apple in my throat.
The convenience of this
omission
deletion
(Deception?)
assertion of innocence.
              The apple was delicious.

                                                                —Ashley Holloway

Ashley Holloway teaches healthcare leadership at Bow Valley College in Calgary, AB. She is a nurse with a Master of Public Health, a graduate diploma in Global Leadership, with further studies in intercultural communication and international development. Ashley’s work has appeared in the Short Story DispenserThe Nashwaak ReviewThe Globe and Mail, Magna Publications, The Prairie JournalCARE MagazineFlash Fiction Magazine, Canadian Dimensions, Lead Read Today, WELL READ Magazine, and Reckon Review. Ashley has co-authored three books (Create & Curate: 500 Ideas for Artists & Writers, 2023; Living Art; and How (Not) to Lead, 2023), reads manuscripts, writes book reviews, and is an editor for Unleash Press. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.



Hands and Gloves

there must be more to a pair
of blue rubber gloves
than the things they prevent from
touching the hands

maybe they allow the skin
to negotiate with the things
it’s afraid to feel

touching is such a touchy subject
even hands find it hard to broach

                                                                     —Paul Sohar

Paul Sohar came to the USA as a student refugee and has been writing in every genre, including seventeen volumes of poetry translations, the latest: Pagan Flowers (French Symbolists, Iniquity Press, 2021)  and three of his own poetry, the latest In Sun’s Shadow (Ragged Sky Press, 2020). Prose: True Tales of a Fictitious Spy (Iniquity Press) and dramas with One-Act-Depot in Canada.



Canticle

Down San Francisco’s  
nave echoes the song of small  

birds circling in the  
heights of the transept dome, light  
streaming through colored windows  

                                                                          —Lorraine Caputo

Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appears in over 400 journals on six continents, and 23 collections of poetry—including In the Jaguar Valley (dancing girl press, 2023) and Caribbean Interludes (Origami Poems Project, 2022). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. Her writing has been honored by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and thrice nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures
at 
www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or https://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.  



Venice Disappears

Too much of Venice. 
Byron, Browning, Thomas Mann, 

Bellini, Titian, 

card games on water, 
crystal glasses, masks, the whole 
sink and stink of it, 

surely that’s enough, 
Calvino tells Genghis Khan. 
Nothing there, he says. 

All invisible.

                                                          —George Szirtes and Katalin Szlukovényi 

George Szirtes was born in Hungary, came to England as a refugee, and trained as an artist. His twelfth book of poems, Reel (2004), won the T S Eliot Prize, for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest is Fresh Out of the Sky. (2021). His memoir The Photographer at Sixteen (2019) was awarded the James Tait Black Prize in 2020. He is a co-winner of the International Booker translator’s prize, as well as of numerous others. His own books have been translated into various languages, including Italian, German, Chinese, Romanian, and Hungarian.

Katalin Szlukovényi (1977) is a poet, literary translator, and editor. She teaches literature at the Department of English Studies of Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary).

 


Balloon

I had the thought just now
while trying to fold
this blue, 12 x 20 tarp
in a 30 mile gale,

That if I just took hold
of all four corners
I could be over Nantucket
by noon. Dublin by nine
if the ocean held true.

                                                        —Mike Jurkovic

Mike Jurkovic: Latest collections are mooncussers and AmericanMental (Luchador Press 2022, 2020); Blue Fan Whirring (Nirala Press, 2018) 2016 Pushcart nominee. Now in its 24th year, Mike serves as president of Calling All Poets, New Paltz, NY. Chairman, Music Fan Film Series, Rosendale Theatre, Rosendale NY. Reviews appear at All About Jazz and Lightwoodpress. He loves Emily most of all.

www.mikejurkovic.com             www.callingallpoets.net
https://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/member.php?id=142766&width=1024



The Elephant                     

I walk around in the zoo,
minding my business,
'til I view
a large elephant
loose in the zoo.
I walk over,
climb upon his back,
and ride my day away.
And I shan’t take it back.
Well, that’s what I would say,
’til I cracked my back.

                                                              —Michael Sager

Michael Sager is a 13-year-old writer who likes making movies and painting model kits.


[Editors’ Note: We are very pleased to publish talented young writers. Congratulations, Michael. I’m sure everyone will enjoy your delightful poem and we encourage you to keep writing. And thanks also to Heather Sager, Michael's mom, for sending us his poem and cultivating his creativity.]



Improvements


Full of outrage and desire

a fellow with a vision wanted
the Rockies closer to the coast,

bananas that ripen sequentially,
beneficial insects only,
more symmetric clouds,
tectonic plates to stop
shoving each other around,
a full moon every night.

The last I heard him—
clamoring to God about
the shortage of blue daffodils.

                                                            —George H. Northrup

George H. Northrup is a poet and psychologist in New Hyde Park, NY.  He is the author of You Might Fall In (2014), Wave into Wave, Light into Light: Poems and Places (2019), When Sunset Weeps: Homage to Emily Dickinson (2020), and Old Caterpillar (2021). 



Above the Subway

We live above the Subway so we see lots of hearts
floating up from the tracks. They’re easy to spot at night,
fluttering in the dark. Viscous, transparent—
always that pinkish blue tint. Sometimes they pause
by our bathroom window, like they want to tell a story,
complain, or just sing about their day.
We’re lucky, we know.

One night, when I woke up and walked down the hall
to pee, I looked out the window, and this skinny heart
nudged between the other floaters looked really
familiar. So I placed my palm on my chest to check,
but really, I knew it was mine. That my heart was out
there with all the rest of ‘em , wandering above the roar. 

                                                                                                                —Roy Nathanson

Roy Nathanson is a saxophonist/poet/composer. He has written two books of poems: Conversations and Other Songs on MadHat Press (2020) and Subway Moon on Buddy’s Knife Editions of Hamburg (2008). His poems and stories have appeared in Commonweal, 5AM, Natural Bridge, Maggid, The Brooklyn Rail, Plume. and other publications. Roy has written songs for Mavis Staples, Jimmy Scott, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, Jeff Buckley, and others and has recorded 10 CDs with his longtime band The Jazz Passengers. His most recent record, “Small Things” (NYXO Records), features Nick Hakim singing Roy’s poems. When the pandemic started, Roy played sax from his Flatbush balcony for 82 straight days at precisely 5 p.m. and now runs a porch concert school there. He teaches courses in poetry and music at Gallatin College/NYU and is the recipient of Bessie and Joseph Jefferson Awards and grants from Chamber Music America and The Rockefeller Foundation, and two NYFA grants.



Fire-Damaged Shack, West Virginia

Despite its scorched black façade,
this flimsy whitewashed shack remains
inhabited by a man looking brisk
in a buffalo-plaid flannel shirt.

He owns a pickup and a sedan
and parks them aggressively,
defying conventional wisdom
that says no one wants to live

in a reeking burnt-out building.
He doesn’t bother to look left
as our train passes too quickly
for more than the scald of fire

to register. The shack looks sad,
but the man looks determined
to get on with less flammable
aspects of his daily life.

                                                                 —William Doreski

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Venus, Jupiter (2023).  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.




Not Quite Resurrection 

In a low sway over
the newly green tops 
full blush
from this living time—

I slow to admire
and consider
the pond at brim
spilling seepage

down and down
to the wet-weather creek
unnamed yet knowing
its own

as this old water-oak
ragged, blistered by years
still holds last week’s rain
in its folds a minute longer. 

                                                            —L. Ward Abel

L. Ward Abel’s work has appeared in hundreds of journals (Rattle, Versal, The Reader, Worcester Review, Main Street Rag, others), including a recent nomination for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he is the author of three full collections and ten chapbooks of poetry, including his latest collection, The Width of Here (Silver Bow, 2021).  He is a reformed lawyer, he writes and plays music, and he teaches literature. Abel resides in rural Georgia.



Of Passing Cars

Each night after work I leap

to new conclusions the chatter
of the world consumes me

I watch who I wanted to be
years ago materialize in the music
of passing cars some deep ache

slows in my chest I need
to relax my shoulders I am not
giving my life to the clock

now people return
to my street I need
to go inside and hide

                                                                     —James Croal Jackson

James Croal Jackson is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. His latest chapbooks are Count Seeds With Me (Ethel Zine & Micro-Press, 2022) and Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, 2021). Recent poems are in Stirring, Vilas Avenue, and Star 82 Review. He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (jamescroaljackson.com)



On Meeting Kindness

I hope you meet her again soon, before
too much time can slide away, before
your heart can fray by a few more
strands, and her hands can bring
that golden touch, taking something
from her warm pocket to mend the tear.

Her smile, a window at morning opening
up horizons of possibilities. If she gives
you a gift, your name will be handwritten
on the tag, generous vowels rounded like
ripening fruit. The encircling twine, though slender,
strong enough to raise you from any depths.

                                                                                                     —Chris Parsons

Chris Parsons is a writer from Aotearoa-New Zealand whose work is pending or appears in Blackmail Press, Honest Ulsterman, Landfall, Shot Glass Journal, Snorkel, Southerly, and Takahe, among others.



How to handle that other.

A recipe, formula, mathematical proof.
Read a map, follow instructions and hold
another’s hand. We follow the eight-fold this.
Avoid, expunge, the three of those. Hopscotch
seven steps across and remember the five reflections.
Circle the stations of the mala, in threes, in nines,
total the situation. Beads of sweet pink sweat progress.
Perambulate fingers. Navigate spaces of not-
knowing, bearing witness, shifting mind states,
shift. Do keep moving on this string, a sutta of
service, a host of contemplations, who’s here,
and where, and what’s up, to feel love.
In the end, as in the beginning, as in the
middle, no escape. Open gap, close? Fall
through and find what’s already cracked
open now down on earth. Begin here join hands.

                                                                                                          —Shelley Hainer

Shelley Hainer’s poems have appeared in First Literary Review East, The Same, 2 Horatio, BigCityLit, Shot Glass Journal, and Muse-Pie Press. In the 1990s, she curated the Nexus Gallery Poetry Series, New York City, and her original poetry performances include “What flavor love,” "The rhyme of the ancient,” and “Tree, Moon, Dove.” In 2010, she was awarded an Artward Bound residency. Certified in anti-gymnastics/Therese Bertherat, she is a member of the Sensory Awareness Foundation and the Sensory Awareness Leaders Guild. A poet, performance artist, sensory awareness leader, and somatic educator, learn about her workshops and classes: shelleyhainer.com
 



Ode to Freddie Mercury and Gerald Stern
*Bohemian Rhapsody
** I Remember Galileo

Freddie Mercury wrote a song about Galileo*;

a far cry from Gerald Stern’s poetic musing
on a squirrel seeking life’s meaning on a green
and wild hillside just across the road**.

A road filled with speeding trucks, impatient
drivers, no attention paid to the quivering fandango
dancer waiting for a moment’s relief from its terror,
a quick passage to the other side.

Freddie killed a man, no four-legged critter, yellow
teeth ground down to dust. Freddie, the squirrel
in another life, body aching, shivers up and down
his spine. No wild hillside in his future.

No one longs for death, thunderbolt and lightning,
speeding trucks or guns to a forehead. Nothing really
matters, anyway the wind blows, nothing really
matters. We are just a piece of paper blowing in the wind.

                                                                                                                —Judith Vaughn

Judith Vaughn lives in Sonoma, California. She attended New York City College, John F. Kennedy University, and Dominican University. She is a member of PoeticLicenseSonoma who read their poetry the 4th Tuesday of each quarter at Sebastopol Center for the Arts; and Redwood Writers’, A branch of the California Writers Club. Publications: Honorable Mention in the Non-rhyming Poetry category of the 92nd Annual Writers Digest Writing Competition, 2023; First Literary Review-East, ’20-’23; JerryJazz Musician, A Miles Davis Poetry Collection, A Collection of Jazz Poetry - Fall/Winter, ’20-’23 editions; Sunday's Poet, ’23; and Spring ’23 edition; Phases, Redwood Writers’ ’23 Poetry Anthology; Poetry reading on KSVY.FM with James O, Sonoma, ’23; Crossroads, Redwood Writers’ ’22 Poetry Anthology; Moonlight & Reflections, Nine Sonoma Poets, Valley of the Moon Press ’22; Larry Robinson’s Poetry Lovers, August ’22 and September ‘23; Calistoga Poetry Walk, ’22.

[Editors’ Note: As it happens, Freddie Mercury was born on September 5th, just like editor Cindy Hochman, so it is wholly appropriate that we honor him this month. And just for the record, Freddie was and remains one of Cindy’s idols, having followed Queen in concert all over the place back in the day.]



Obviating The Tendrils Of Crazy

Befriend dogs.
Memorize three poems:
Any three.
These may work:
Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”
Millay’s “Well I have lost you”
Frost’s “Out, Out.”
Only sing sad songs
after midnight.

Wear seatbelts.
The restraint
may save you
from the illogical
foibles of fate.

                                                               —R. Gerry Fabian

R. Gerry Fabian is a published poet and novelist. He has published five books of poetry: Parallels, Coming Out Of The Atlantic, Electronic Forecasts, Wildflower Women, as well as his poetry baseball book, Ball On The Mound. In addition, he has published four novels: Getting Lucky (The Story), Memphis Masquerade, Seventh Sense, and Ghost Girl.



Believing

Believing you might appear disguised, I wait
with my prairie-open mind, let time and life
scatter my unknowing somewhere between faith
and doubt, mocking my need only the sky’s emptiness
can fill, an emptiness where you should’ve been,
teaching me to trust the passing clouds whose breath mist
the looking-glass of belief. The higher I climb,
the poorer the visibility. Waiting for the dark to lift,
I sing in the half-light with insects of time passing,
seeking a sign, a mirror to see myself in, know who I am,
have been. Are there journeys without destinations,
pilgrimages that don’t lead to self-discovery?
Can faith enter the interstices of doubt,
find fertile soil to put down roots, flower in?

                                                                                                           —Shanta Acharya

Shanta Acharya is the author of twelve books. Her recent poetry collections are What Survives Is The Singing (Indigo Dreams Publishing, UK; 2020) and Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, India; 2017). Her poems have featured in poetry journals and anthologies, internationally. Over the past year, acceptances/ publications include AgendaAcumenAmethyst ReviewConverse: Contemporary English Poetry by IndiansCount Every Breath: A Climate AnthologyFenland Poetry JournalGreening the Earth: A Global Anthology of PoetryJournal of Postcolonial WritingPoems on ConflictScintilla: Journal of the Vaughan AssociationStandThe Antigonish Review, The DawntreaderThe Global SouthThe SpectatorVoices Now: World Poetry Today.  www.shanta-acharya.com



S
tray Medusa

One day, wet from the rain and shivering, Medusa showed up at our door. My lover and I took her in as though she were a stray animal, and she stayed with us for many months. She did have snaky hair, but no snakes hissed from her head. And her ability to turn people to stone was much overrated. We looked directly into her face all the time, and we didn’t turn to stone. When she glared at us for asking her to contribute to the household, we glared back. Once she even asked us, “Why aren’t you turning to stone?” “Are we supposed to?” my lover asked. I was a little abrupt with her, but my lover told me to be patient; after all, she was a bit down on her luck. Despite the snaky hair, pitted face, and her tendency to hiss, she had many lovers, but ended all her affairs after a short time with a final lovemaking session. Then she ordered them out. Only one refused to leave, and he became a statue. She sold it at auction and used the money to pay a few months rent. After a while, my lover began spending a lot of time with Medusa in her bedroom, the door shut. They would laugh uproariously. I wondered what was so funny and would knock on the door, but they would yell, “Go away.” Once I scolded Medusa for devouring all our yogurt and the leftover chicken; my lover gave me a look that almost turned me to stone. Without notice and without saying goodbye to either of us, Medusa left. I felt relieved, as though a big rock had been lifted from my shoulders. Whistling and singing, I cleaned her room until it was shiny while my lover lay on the couch unable to move.

                                                                                                                                 —Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman’s tenth collection of poetry and prose will be published in September 2023 by MadHat Press. Friedman’s poems, mini tales, and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Cast-Iron Aeroplanes That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny, Fiction International, Plume, Dreaming Awake: New Contemporary Prose Poetry from the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and The New Republic, and Best Microfiction 2021, 2022 and 2023. He has received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship and numerous other awards and prizes. https://poetjefffriedman.com



Site                                                     


I’m tipping a large shadow.




I’m trying to call
up from all the scenes
that life has shown us
one site where we could
love and think like the narrator,
Bachelard whispers.




The trees are never
in time who remembers that =
false equivalency.
False equivalency = Alain Delon in the dream
putting a bullet squarely between your
eyes and You’re Toast, French Toast!
Change that? No amount of light could.


                                                                                            —Leonard Gontarek

Leonard Gontarek is the author of eight books of poems, including The Long Way Home (2021). His poems have appeared in Field, Verse Daily, Fence, American Poetry Review, Joyful NoiseAn Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry, and The Best American Poetry (edited by Paul Muldoon). He coordinates Peace/Works, Poetry In Common, Philly Poetry Day, and was Poetry Consultant for Whitman at 200: Art and Democracy. He conducts the poetry workshop: Making Poems That Last. His poem “37 Photos From The Bridge,” selected by Alice Quinn, was a Poetry winner for the Big Bridges MotionPoems project and the basis for the award-winning film sponsored by the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

http://movingpoems.com/2015/10/thirty-seven-photos-from-the-bridge-by-leonard-gontarek/



To Those Who Do Not Know the World Is On Fire, I Have Nothing To Say,
            after a line by Brecht

A tufted titmouse smoking a cigarette.

A goldfinch with a bad education.

A bluebird with low-self-esteem selling refurbished burner phones.
A red-bellied woodpecker pursuing a life of crime to pay child support.

Black squirrels on vacation in DC getting jumped by wrens.
Red squirrels hiking in Rock Creek State Park who discover a dead body.

A red-tailed hawk that follows me on my lunch break but doesn’t explicitly beg.
A rusty blackbird that discriminates against the French.

A common skink that stole my car but left my CDs in a pile on the sidewalk.
A spotted salamander selling drugs to children who are just wanting to sample the competition.

A crow giving me relationship advice from prison.
A blue jay sharing pie recipes on its blog.

Neighbors who wear noise without consideration of the quiet’s headache.
Neighbors who click the button to make their cars honk after it’s already clearly locked.
Neighbors who smudge up my air with their dirty lives my barren world can’t find.
Neighbors who will outlive the grass they never touch. 

                                                                                                                        —CL Bledsoe

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than thirty books, including the poetry collections Riceland, The Bottle Episode, and his newest, Having a Baby to Save a Marriage, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.