FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Each new language began with a mistake, a word misheard or misspelled, a phrase
that pointed in the wrong direction, a speaker who became the spoken about, a color
that became too deep to climb out of, a structure that was too parallel to ever be
counted, an animal that was mistaken for a pronoun, a woman whose location
could not be described.
Bob Heman’s words have appeared recently in New American Writing, Caliban online, concis, Otoliths, Uut Poetry, Indefinite Space, and The Other Side of Violet (the latest great weather for MEDIA anthology). He has more time now.
express a vision
wordless in words
formless in forms
to unfold dimensions
elusive in realization
Olivia Wu’s poems have appeared in Aberration Labyrinth, Shen Jiang Weekly, Quail Bell Magazine, Brevitas Festival Anthology, Brownstone Poets Anthology, and Great Weather for MEDIA Anthology. She is a member of brevitas and a member of Poetry Society of America’s poetry workshop group. Olivia resides in New York City.
Soil cracks underfoot
like a piece of brown ice.
makes even the light
The sky sweeps
toward the trees,
brushing first the green
and then the leaves
At the gate
the remaining hibiscus
closes its clasp, trying
to hold on.
This is what it’s like
leaves the room.
—Michael T. Young
Michael T. Young’s fourth collection, The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost, was published by Poets Wear Prada. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the 2014 Jean Pedrick Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Chaffin Poetry Award. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, including Cimarron Review, The Comstock Review, The Cortland Review, and The Potomac Review. His work is also in the anthologies Phoenix Rising, Chance of a Ghost, and in Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. He currently lives with his wife, children, and cats in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Tritina of Faith
Counting them like stars
I’ve always loved words
That gave me meaning
Though words held meaning
There were nights when words
Faraway as stars
Would not hold meaning
I found faith in stars
Which lay beyond words
Meaning words, not stars.
Michael Seeger is a poet and educator residing in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, California. Prior to his life as a middle-school English instructor, he worked as a technical writer for a baseball card company and served as a Marine infantry officer during Desert Storm. He considers poetry a passion and writing generally a way of life. Michael’s poems have recently appeared in US poetry journals/publications like the Lummox Press, Better Than Starbucks, The Mindful Word, and as finalists in several GR contests.
[Editors' Note: We thank Mr. Seeger for his service to our country.]
Come down from the cross.
Unglue your hands.
Bandage your neck.
Forgiveness is overrated.
Don’t pay the ultimate price for
Amy Barone’s new poetry collection, We Became Summer, from New York Quarterly Books, will be released in 2018. She wrote chapbooks Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing). Ms. Barone’s poetry has appeared in Gradiva, Paterson Literary Review, and Sensitive Skin. She belongs to PEN America Center and the brevitas poetry community. From Bryn Mawr, PA, she lives in New York City.
“M” is for
tiny cut on the inside of my arm just enough
to let the extra pressure out, feel my
stress dissolving as just enough air
leaks out through the hole. No need
for a patch-kit—blood fills and seals the
hole quickly pooling with crimson ink
I resist the urge to cut another
carve pictures in my flesh, I’m saving
the rest of my arm for you.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis , Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her recently published books include Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, A Brief History of Stillwater Minnesota, and Ugly Girl.
Before You Leave
Before you leave for baseball, soccer, girls—
may I interest you in armor at the Met?
(May I run fingers through your wayward curls
before you leave for baseball, soccer, girls?)
And how about Rossini, whose Barber whirls
as fast as hockey players near the net?
Before you leave for baseball, soccer, girls—
may I interest you in armor at the Met?
Carolyn Raphael retired from the English Department at Queensborough Community College, City University of New York, after more than thirty years of teaching. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Lyric, Measure, Blue Unicorn, Long Island Quarterly, and on the Newington-Cropsey Cultural Studies website for the American Arts Quarterly, where her poem, “Honorable Mention,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was on the short list for the 2014 Able Muse Book Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Richard Wilbur Award. Her poetry collection, The Most Beautiful Room in the World, was published by David Robert Books in 2010, and her new collection, Dancing with Bare Feet, was published by White Violet Press in 2016. Carolyn Raphael is the poetry coordinator of Great Neck Plaza in Great Neck, New York, Her project, “Poetry in the Plaza,” places poems on local bulletin boards, much as “Poetry in Motion” places poems on the subway. She also coordinates the annual Great Neck Plaza Poetry Contest.
She’d hum to herself—open, shut
them, open, shut—hands in her lap,
curling and uncurling—clap, clap, clap—
little fingers into fists. Not one word uttered.
No Mama? or plea for release. God, she must
have been thirsty. Spine erect, feet dangling,
she’d sit where her Daddy’d put her, in that
straight-backed chair, watching the sun
slip from one pane to the next—hoping
he’d come back, before dark, wrath
cooled; hoping he hadn't passed
out somewhere, forgotten her; hoping
that one day I'd gather my courage
like kindling, and burn that house to ash.
Kim Noriega is the author of Name Me, published by Fortunate Daughter Press. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies including: American Life in Poetry, Paris-Atlantic, and The Tishman Review. She was a finalist for the 2017 Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Prize. Kim grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and still loves apple-blossom showers in spring and Hungarian nut roll at Christmas. She lives in San Diego, where she heads the library’s family literacy program.
When my husband’s two grown daughters are in town, the three of them go to the movies, or
play pool. Share dinner every night. Stay out late. I haven’t seen my stepdaughters since my
son’s funeral in 2007. When people ask, I say nice things about the girls, as if we had a
relationship. When people ask if I have children I change the subject. Or I lie, and say no. Or
sometimes I put them on the spot and tell them yes, but he died. They look aghast and want to
know what happened. Then I have to tell them about the cancer.
Sometimes, when the older daughter, his favorite, is in town, and she and my husband are out
together night after night, I wonder what it would be like if that was me, and my boy, if life was
fair, and, rather than my husband having two children and I, none, we each had one living child. His choice which one to keep.
Lately when people ask, I want to lie and say yes, my son is a basketball coach; he married a
beautiful Iranian model with kind eyes, and they live in London with their twin girls who visit
every summer; the same twins his girlfriend aborted with my blessing when my son was
eighteen, deemed too young for fatherhood, and everyone said there would be all the time in the world.
—Alexis Rhone Fancher
[First published in ASKEW, Fall, 2016. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize, 2016]
Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and other heart stab poems, (2014), State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, (2015), and Enter Here, (June, 2017). She is published in The Best American Poetry, 2016, Rattle, Slipstream, Plume, Nashville Review, Glass, Hobart, Cleaver, and elsewhere. Her photos are published worldwide. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly, where she also publishes a monthly photo essay, “The Poet’s Eye,” about her ongoing love affair with Los Angeles. www.alexisrhonefancher.com
We become, those in our growing years
we never wished to be.
In closeness we distance parts of ourself.
In some ways only strangers know us.
I am willing to wind up connections.
Daub me in your color.
It isn’t projection and puff, living
is delousing and dilemmas.
Thought to thoroughfare, peradventure to pernancy
conversations with karma lessen our smallness.
Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three well-received books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). His poems are in venues around the world: Indefinite Space, Serving House Journal, Better Than Starbucks, Right Hand Pointing, Mad Swirl, Ghost City Review, Boston Accent Lit, The Penwood Review, The Bond Street Review, 3:AM Magazine, Morphrog 14, Your One Phone Call, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India.
How It Happened
I found her
in Latin 101
stuck in her handbag
Fire and Ice lipstick
so I propose
Neal Whitman lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife Elaine. Neal was born in Boston and has been heading west his whole life … Pacific Grove is his last stop, as he and Elaine have two spots picked out in the Carmelo Cemetery across the street from the Point Pinos Lighthouse. A granite slab tablet greets visitors on the garden path to their cottage home, incised with the words of Thoreau: ex orient lux / ex occident frux.
Chacun à Cyrano’s Goût
Cyrano made much ado
when fools would call his verse askew,
and those survivors, very few,
among the foolish gentry who
referred to him as incongrue
or e’er defamed his retinue;
those noble friends who really knew
the value of his vast pervue,
which, though it brought no revenue,
nor ever filled toujours menu,
calls love and wisdom into view
whence life itself could take its cue.
Ken Gosse prefers using simple language with traditional meter and rhyme in verses often filled with whimsy and humor. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, verses have been accepted by The Offbeat, Pure Slush, and One Sentence Poems. A Chicago native, he has lived in Mesa, AZ, for twenty years.
He is a Fisherman
He is a fisherman,
shrewd and seasoned
He has a line
with a workable bait,
the bait of love
rich with ostentatious gesticulations
and highly appealing flirtations
He uses it to catch the fish
that falls easy prey
to the jazzy beauty and
vitality of the bait
He, then, greedily gulps down the flesh of the fish
Leaving the skeleton alone,
the fisherman goes in search of another fish,
pretty with iridescent fangs
[Previously published in the international anthology of poetry “Temptation,” by Lost Tower Publications]
Indunil Madhusankha is currently an undergraduate reading for a BSc Special Degree in Mathematics at the Faculty of Science of the University of Colombo. Even though he is academically involved with the subjects of Mathematics and Statistics, he also pursues a successful career in the field of English language and literature as a budding young researcher, reviewer, poet and content writer. Basically, he explores the miscellaneous complications of the human existence through his poetry by focusing on the burning issues in the contemporary society. Moreover, Indunil’s works have been featured in many international anthologies, magazines and journals.
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.
I see myself as a raven in the sun;
a disciple of Venus,
a saddle cinched around a nightmare.
Sure, I do my share of damage,
but in the drip roar, you are my waterfall.
A whirring harvester of mini-gods
holding it together
in spite of thrash warnings.
A burning ladder emblazons our flag,
planted on a liberated playground
near the albatross graveyard.
Besides all that, I’m a guest of Miss Align.
I see myself as an Eastern Hornbeam.
Not everyone’s nailed to a crosswind.
—Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright is a publisher, critic, eco-activist, artist, and poet. He is the author of 13 books including Triple Crown, Sonnets, and Party Everywhere, and Radio Poems. He received his MFA in Poetry after studying with Allen Ginsberg at Brooklyn College and taught there for several years. He has served on the Poetry Project’s Board and taught there as well. From 1987 to 2000 he ran Cover Magazine, the Underground National. Poems of his are included in the 2017 issue of New American Writing. Recent critical reviews appear in American Book Review and ArtNexus. Currently, Wright stages events at KGB and La Mama in New York City in conjunction with his annual journal called Live Mag! www.livemag.com. His full-length collection Blue Lyre will be released from Dos Madres soon. www.jeffreycypherswright.com
Pre-Existing Condition (for Rep. Paul Ryan)
These cells were born when
creation was still in rehearsals.
They grew before Abe went
for that BBQ with his son.
They divided before Mary
told her boy about his “real” dad.
They metastasized before the flood
and the parting of the waters.
My cancer is ancient, pre-existing
as is the rest of my kind.
We will be here long after you
are devoured by the earth
and spit out into the stars.
Neil Silberblatt’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various journals, including Poetica Magazine, The Otter, The Aurorean, Two Bridges Review, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck River Review, Chantarelle’s Notebook, and The Good Men Project. His work has been included in the anthology Confluencia in the Valley: The First Five Years of Converging with Words (Naugatuck Valley Community College, 2013); and in University of Connecticut’s Teacher-Writer magazine. He has published two poetry collections: So Far, So Good (2012) and Present Tense (2013). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and one of his poems received Honorable Mention in the 2nd Annual OuterMost Poetry Contest (2014), judged by Marge Piercy. Neil is the founder of Voices of Poetry, which has presented poetry events, featuring distinguished poets & writers, at various venues throughout CT, NYC, and Cape Cod. This past fall, he taught a three-part class on the Poetry of War—from Troy to Afghanistan as part of the Lifetime Learning Program at Snow Library in Orleans, MA.
How Far You Are When We Are Close
Vines of ivy stealing over the moon
We sink, shadows in a cavernous sea
Please don’t reveal your white feet
Most of all, don’t be willing to die for me.
Dogs in the garden dig at rotting lilies.
Shadow children sleep in the night jasmine.
Angels weep, dogs yelp, ears hear
Violins singing as I shut windows.
Angelo Verga has been widely anthologized and translated. His seventh book is a new & selected volume, Long & Short, including The Street in Your Head (2016), available on Amazon. He is a former owner of The Cornelia Street Café, where his inventive programs (1997–2015) created a home for both poets & audiences.
The Wine of The Soul
I woke up in a dream three million years ago
I am a giant living in a prehistoric Palace
The black of today is the white of yesterday and the red of tomorrow
My future is a huge platinum city
The heaven of east and west gods
there are my many outer space gardens
The rolls of the gobbledygook is my favourite
is my wine of the soul in the word
Hongri Yuan was born in China in 1962. He is a poet and philosopher, interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, Gold City, Golden Paradise , Gold Sun, and Golden Giant.
A flower springs from
the puddle of blood on the floor
the scent of gunpowder
still adrift the air
the flower slowly dripping
blood-droplets are equivalent to petals fallen off a rose
the seed of blood
purple then red as it
meets with the oxygen
outside the body
life sprung from death
just as this Magnanimous Earth has always done.
Heath Brougher has published three chapbooks last year and his work has appeared in over 350 online and print journals in 25 countries, as well as several anthologies. He is the poetry editor of Five 2 One Magazine and co-poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine. He is a Best of the Net Nominee and edited the anthology "Luminous Echoes," the sales of which will be donated to an organization that helps with the prevention of suicide/self-harm.
Cento of Song (Compiled by Juanita Torrence-Thompson)
1. He sang of life, serenely sweet,
2. He sang of love when earth was young,
3. You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings
4. Should you, my lord, while you pursue my song
5. And the starry descent into time
6. Want no sound except the song
7. Sung by wild barbaric birds
8. We’ll sing and shout and pray
9. For Freedom and for Justice.
1, 2— Paul Laurence Dunbar
2 — James Weldon Johnson
3 — Phillis Wheatley
4 — Arna Bontemps
6, 7— Countee Cullen
8, 9— Margaret Walker
Juanita Torrence-Thompson, a Pushcart-nominated poet, is also a playwright, short story writer, events producer, former college professor at the College of New Rochelle, and former Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of lauded MÖBIUS, The Poetry Magazine. Her 2nd play, The Place, was performed in Manhattan in 2015. She has read in Singapore, Switzerland, South Africa, Canada, and extensively in the U.S. Her award-winning poetry has been translated into 15 languages. She holds an M.A. from Fordham University.
A Seamstress, in Low Light
Shaded slightly by a mullioned window,
looking occasionally into the garden,
Plynlimon and mid-Wales beyond,
a late afternoon in another Edwardian winter,
she picks and tucks, dotes on her work,
as her eyes peer faintly and the daylight fades.
So centuries of afternoon sun have seen
such enthralment, such cramped arthritic hands,
stitching such gowns, such gauds.
And seamstresses did Bayeux of course,
as those monks scratched at their manuscripts.
It is four, day’s fading and the seamstress folds her work.
In the garden a late and unexpected thrush
larrups the silence with his celebratory song.
[First published in The Seventh Quarry, Spring 2015]
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who lives in the Dylan-Thomas-country part of West Wales. He taught in British high schools for 30 years and on college courses in creative writing for a further 12.
8:00 P. M. on the Plains
Sundown performs its striptease
to the chorus of crickets, frogs and owls
in circadian rhythm over the Great Plains
A slow drop with each degree of heat
As streams of sunshine shimmy
into cool layers of sheer watercolors
Afterglow flush of crimson and fuchsia
overflows the horizon from
the Sweet Grass Hills to Bighorn Mountain
Before breathing below stops
in honor of the still moment
When the last layer of day peels away
And night curls naked in the sky
[Previously published in Waterways: Poetry in the Main Stream]
Ellaraine Lockie is a widely published and awarded poet, nonfiction book author, and essayist. Her thirteenth chapbook, Tripping with the Top Down, has recently been released from Foothills Publishing. Ellaraine teaches poetry workshops, frequently judges poetry contests and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine Lilipoh.
One after the other
The last survivors
The final transition
On the burnt
—Stefano Pastor, from Uncrying Sky, Slam UK, 2007
Transliteral translation by Erika Dagnino, with the assistance of Mark Weber
Stefano Pastor is an Italian violinist, poly-instrumentalist, composer and writer. He played both classical and jazz music in his career, collaborating with Borah Bergman, Harry Beckett, and Josè Carreras among many others, and touring in Europe, Russia, and the USA. He published a treatise about improvisation, several articles, narrative, and poems for various magazines. He also devotes himself to teaching violin. More information at www.stefanopastor.com
Mark Weber was born October 21, 1953 in Covina, California. He has written poems, short stories, book reviews and for several music magazines. From 1976 to 1990 wrote for CODA - the international jazz music magazine. Moved to New Mexico and published chapbooks by ZerxPress, a publishing house he started in Upland in 1983. In 1995, ZerxPress began publishing CDs as well. More info at https://markweber.free-jazz.net/
Writer and poet Erika Dagnino has contributed to literary and music magazines. She has performed in the USA and Europe with musicians such as K. Filiano and Satoshi Takeishi, among others. Her musical collaborations include the CD liner notes for Anthony Braxton’s Italian Quartet More info at www.erikadagnino.it
Spin, spin and circle, wobble and drift.
Float in a universe massive and swift.
Diminutive pebbles in time's endless sand
Shifted and shaped by a frivolous hand.
The stars bloom like flowers, then fade without trace.
Comets and asteroids wander through space.
The sun burns in flames, an ominous fire;
saluting its death with its own funeral pyre.
The moon lends its shine, asking naught in return.
Infinity bound, planets tumble and churn,
as we balance here on the threshold of doom,
a thread in the weave on destiny's loom.
Sharon Anderson has been published in many international and local anthologies. She received a 2014 Pushcart Prize nomination for her poem "Priorities." Sharon has three publications of her own poetry, Sonnets Songs and Serenades, Puff Flummery, and Chutes and Ladders. She also co-hosts a poetry event on the third Saturday of each month at Oceanside Library.