FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

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 MARCH 2024


 

the editor who said he wanted to publish my poems
turned out to just be my dog in a business suit

                                                                                                  —Steve Carll

[from Hypnopompic Diaries Vol. 4: Brain Soliloquies]              

Steve Carll lives with his family in Arcata, California. His books include Tracheal Centrifuge (Factory School, 2006), Tao Drops, I Change (with Bill Marsh, Subpress, 2004), Trace a Moment's Closure For Clues (Logodaedalus, 1996), and Sincerity Loops (Bathysphere, 1995). His work has recently appeared in Otoliths, WCP Magazine, and SurVision.  From 1988–1998, he edited the literary journal Antenym. Performance video of most of his poetry from 1991 to the present can be found on YouTube.



Arms

The cracked branch of the white ash
leans into the Japanese cherry.

Even trees need friendly arms
to hold them.

                                                                       —Donna Hilbert

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Threnody, from Moon Tide Press, 2022. Work has appeared in Braided Way, Cultural Daily, Chiron Review, Gyroscope, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rattle, Zocalo Public Square, ONE ART, Vox Populi, and anthologies including The Poetry of Presence volumes I & II, The Path to Kindness, The Wonder of Small Things, I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing, and featured on Writers on Writing, The Writer’s Almanac, and Lyric Life.



two ducklings early

morning free ride ferried

on mother’s back

bullfrog bellows base

tones from reeds on marshy shore,

cardinal calls high note

dawn concerto,

snapper raises head to nod

frog’s low gung prevails

                                                                      —Julie A. Dickson

Julie A. Dickson is a New Hampshire poet, writing from prompts such as art, water, and nature. Her poems have appeared in Sledgehammer, Open Door, Ekphrastic Review, and FLRev, among other journals; full-length works on Amazon. A Pushcart nominee, Dickson also coordinates 100 Thousand Poets for Change and is a past poetry board member in NH. 



Alone Together

Silhouetted upon the hill 
against the descending sun 
a tree gathers darkness 
around its bark 
as a focal point 
for night to aspire to. 

A human figure stretches 
her arms in tree-like form 
embracing the day’s last light 
before she succumbs, 
before she disappears, 
before she merges.

                                                            —Diane Webster

Diane Webster's work has appeared in El Portal, North Dakota Quarterly, Verdad, and other literary magazines. She had micro-chaps published by Origami Poetry Press in 2022 and 2023 and was nominated for Best of the Net in 2022.



Last song  

the yellow trees  
of my homeland in spring  

and dark birds  
that sing in them  

because they exist  
in this life  
and not in the next  
I will not see them again  

                                                             —Tony Beyer

Tony Beyer writes in Taranaki, New Zealand.  



Seekers

An earthen-colored tabby 
sits on the bough 
of a blackwood tree 

She watches two emerald 
hummingbirds chûp 
among the flowers 

            She watches me 
            write these words 

            & when I look up again 
She is gone 

But still the colibríes 
seek the nectar 
of those blackwood 
flowers 

                                                                     —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 nominated for the Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Caputo has done literary readings from 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


 

tell me how it came to this

thick fog holds the fragrance
of burnt wood, still orange
embers and popping cedar—
the morning owes us nothing.
a space collision over coffee,
nothing to separate our fierce
friction. we watch the universe
rewrite the script. if we are
to be discovered, like pompeii
ruins, our fossils in flagrante
delicto.

                                                               —Kendall A. Bell

Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been most recently published in Fevers Of The Mind and Hobo Camp Review. He was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net collection seven times. He is the author of three full-length collections, The Roads Don't Love You (2018), the forced hush of quiet (2019), and the shallows (2022), and 34 chapbooks, the latest being all the things that will be lost. He is the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press and editor and founder of Chantarelle's Notebook. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey.



The boy’s faith

has been battered

by winds rumored
to be the will of God,

think of the still life
the boy painted
in his kindergarten class,

apples and oranges
emerging wrinkled,
from his school bag,

the paint still fresh
on his fingers,
even after he washes

his fingerprints remember
God is not perfect, the painting
hanging crooked on the wall.

                                                                    —Juan Pablo Mobili

Juan Pablo Mobili was born in Buenos Aires. His poems appeared, among other publications, in The American Journal of PoetryHanging Loose Press, and Paterson Literary Reviewas well as publications in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. He received multiple nominations for the Pushcart Prize, and his chapbook,  Contraband, was published in 2022.



First in Line

Without fail,

my father was first in line,
first in the voting booth,
the curtain embracing
his shoulders like a prayer shawl.
When he pulled the lever
to draw it open, the thud echoed
a menacing red J stamp.
At age ten,
I had not yet held
my father’s passport. 
That photograph that trapped
his unbearably magnified eyes
was tacked to the J page
with a circular staple,
the outer edge serrated, sharp.

                                                                        —Margaret Krell

Margaret Krell's poetry has been published in Amethyst Review, UU World and Voices, Journal of American Academy of Psychotherapists.. Her non-fiction has been published in The Boston Globe, The Providence Journal and The Washington Post and anthologized.. She holds an MFA from the Solstice MFA Program in Newton, Massachusetts.  For several years, she taught essay and memoir writing at various venues in the Boston area. Currently retired, she resides in Framingham, MA. 



from Subway Poems

11-4-19


The sun shines in my eyes
as I round the corner
onto 7th Ave. at 12:30.
It must be November,
the month my three brothers died.
Does the sun shining in my eyes
have anything to do
with my brothers’ deaths?
Does anything have to do with that?
I have to do with that.
I’m the common denominator
linking the blinding sun
and my brothers’ deaths.

                     ***

10-30-17

I look at the train on the opposite platform,
an F heading into “deep Brooklyn,”
with incomprehension.
Why incomprehension?
This is getting to be a laugh:
You can’t comprehend your incomprehension.
It wouldn’t be incomprehension if you could.

But let’s take a crack at it.
I no longer have the feeling
that the train going in the opposite direction
has nothing to do with me,
but I also don’t feel it has something to do with me.

                                                                                                      —Michael Ruby

Michael Ruby is a poet, literary editor and journalist. He is the author of eight poetry books, most recently Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010), American Songbook (Ugly Duckling, 2013), The Mouth of the Bay (BlazeVOX, 2019), The Star-Spangled Banner (Station Hill, 2020) and the forthcoming Close Your Eyes, Visions (Station Hill, 2024). His trilogy in prose and poetry, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012), includes ebooks Fleeting Memories (Ugly Duckling, 2008), and Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep (Argotist Online, 2011). His other ebooks are Close Your Eyes (Argotist, 2018) and Titles & First Lines (Mudlark, 2018). He co-edited Bernadette Mayer’s early books, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words (Station Hill, 2015), and Mayer’s and Lewis Warsh’s collaboration Piece of Cake (Station Hill, 2020). He is currently co-editing a large selected poems of the late Steve Dalachinsky, and he is co-curator of the Station Hill Intermedia Project. He lives in Brooklyn and worked for many years as an editor of U.S. news and political articles at The Wall Street Journal.




Noguchi’s Brilliance
                                                                        

The clean, smooth and brilliant break on the side of the stone stands
before me in a nearly perfect gallery shimmering with a perfect halo.

It does not belie what has been exposed: streaks and veins of colors
that tell tales of the catastrophes, volcanoes, the clamoring of stones
on stones on an ocean floor for a millennia or two.

Now, the slant of sunlight reflects a clean cut, a polished surface
I run my palms over its surface: safe, no bumps or ridges, yet
it took a deliberate, violent attack to tame the stone, to awaken it,
to cope with it by any means ... destroying a pathway to pain
to make room for something new.

                                                                                                                                —Maria Lisella

Maria Lisella is still writing about travel and culture for anyone who pays her. The current Queens Poet Laureate, she is also an Academy of American Poets Fellow who has published Thieves in the Family (NYQ Books), and two chapbooks, Amore on Hope St. (Finishing Line Press) and Two Naked Feet (Poets Wear Prada) and is working on another collection coursing through  the poetry publishing pipeline.



Carpet

Dark blue, like the sky with the moon
the only light, other colors muted,

woven together into ancient ruins:
broken pottery, a touch of orchids,

the lotus flower in the center;
other branches, other blossoms

form the border, earth meets
mountains, some climb over each other,

some wander edge to edge
then fall off; clouds the color of earth,

earth the color of the dark blue sky,
the gates of the garden, broken to let us in.

                                                                                        —Michael Minassian

Michael Minassian is a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online poetry journal. His poetry collections Time is Not a River, Morning Calm, and A Matter of Timing, as well as a new chapbook, Jack Pays a Visit, are all available on Amazon. For more information:

https://michaelminassian.com



Every Blade of Grass         
            Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it
             and whispers, “Grow, grow.”    —The Talmud


Catbird’s raucous chatter
as morning clouds lift, lighting
each raindrop still balanced
on the tip of a pine needle,

sparking clover that trembles,
then disappears
into the mouth of a rabbit
undeterred by my observation.

Who am I to believe
no child has a future that is not bleak,
as if my heavy heart would help the healing?

                                                                                              —Luray Gross

Poet and storyteller Luray Gross is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently With This Body, published by Ragged Sky Press of Princeton, NJ.  A Dodge poet and faculty member of Murphy Writing of Stockton University, she was awarded a Fellowship in Poetry by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and named as one of their Distinguished Teaching Artists. She was the 2002 Poet Laureate of Bucks County (PA) and resident faculty at the Frost Place Festival and Conference on Poetry. She has worked with thousands of students ranging in age from three to eighty-three. Gross grew up on a dairy farm in a household rich in books and music. Reading poetry out loud helped her survive the tumult of adolescence, and poetry has helped keep her sane ever since. 




How I Returned

When you died, my body went dark, not

just dark, but folded into itself, became
a cave, refused to return to flesh.

When you died, I could not wear clothes
on this cave-body, my entrance a mouth
spitting out cloth and hope.

When you died, I called to you, Come Back,
but my words became elements gobbling

invisible space.

I waited for you to return to me,
to my circle of not-seeing. Then I stopped,
welcomed home instead the insistent sparrow of myself.

                                                                                                          —Amy Small-McKinney

Amy Small-McKinney is a Montgomery County PA Poet Laureate Emeritus (2011). Small-McKinney’s second full-length book of poems, Walking Toward Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize 2016 (Glass Lyre Press). Her chapbook, One Day I Am A Field, was written during COVID 2020 and her husband’s death (Glass Lyre Press, 2022). Her poems have been published in numerous journals, for example, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Tiferet, Baltimore Review, Connotation, Literary Mama, Pedestal Magazine, SWWIM, Persimmon Tree, The Banyan Review, Vox Populi, and Verse Daily, among others. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. Her book reviews have appeared in journals, such as Prairie Schooner and Matter. Her third full-length book of poems & You Think It Ends is forthcoming early 2025 (Glass Lyre Press).



Calamari’s

we caught the downtown crowd
at Calamari’s, neighbors in for a drink
local poets, more than you’d think
some every week, some for a heartbeat
visiting poets come in off the train
take the night train on to Chicago

                                                                              —Chuck Joy

Chuck Joy: Previous contributor, loves short form, lives along the southern limit of the drainage toward the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Erie, PA, USA. Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus (1973). University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (1978). Publishing poetry since 1980. Magazines: Bogg, Medicinal Purposes, Great Lakes Review, poetrybay, Home Planet News, Pratik, Ovunque Siamo, Otoliths. Current title: Vinyl (What Why Aesthetics). Additional titles: Percussive (Turning Point), Said the Growling Dog (Nirala Publications), Every Tiger Wants To Sing (Poets' Hall Press). More at www.chuckjoy.com 




On Writing Memoir

I’ve tried to capture time in its flight, measured by lives

I know, imagine, and don’t or can’t know.

Challenges wanted, wonted, sought and unforeseen.
The personal never is, really.

We’re all clues to each other: such wonders and becomings.

“Memoir” is about the reader, finally,
not about the writer.

That is the adventure.

                                                                                                              —DeWitt Henry

DeWitt Henry’s recent books are Restless for Words: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2023); a new U.S. edition of Foundlings: Found Poems from Prose (with art by Ruth K. Henry) and Trim Reckonings: Poems, both from Pierian Springs Press in 2023. He was the founding editor of Ploughshares and is Prof. Emeritus at Emerson College. Details at www.dewitthenry.com.



Last Night

Dreamt I befriended myself,

Youthful idealist not yet rounded
out by harsh realities,
Spoke the suggestions into realizations

I bled a different shade,
Hope didn't hunger,
Mind was a confection of disparate parts,
I buried all the scabs, weeds, and branches

Recurring nightmare turned into a fever dream
I travelled great distances
observing microcosms
I saw a crater turn into a comet,

Dangling participles from stuttering,
stymied lips stoked flames of oration,
Last night there was no hellfire
Last night, trepidation was extinguished

                                                                                          —Douglas G. Cala

Douglas G. Cala is a spoken word performance poet, photographer/videographer/editor, and content creator from New York. Douglas has headlined a multitude of venues predominantly around the East Coast over the span of twenty years, including featured showcases at The Cutting Room, Metropolitan Room, NJPAC, Brooklyn College, Manhattanville College, Columbia University, Bowery Poetry Club, Nuyorican Poets Café, and the New York City Poetry Festival on Governors Island, among many others.  His published work can be seen in the Trouvaille Review, Soup Can Magazine, Flora Fiction, Gnashing Teeth Publishing, Quail Bell Magazine, and others. His six-track spoken word performance poetry/hybrid music EP Oenomel is out now on all streaming platforms. You can find more about Douglas and sample more of his work on his Poets & Writers directory profile. 




A Night in Maine

The nights stretch on


like pearled lights on an evening shore

dots indicating moments

And borders—

Beginnings and ends—

limited to a forever

finally blurring

until this pain,

which seems immovable

becomes,

like a sunset,

only an echo of the day.

                                                            —Melissa Sorgi

Melissa Sorgi has worked for the library at National Sexual Violence Resource Center since 2007. She currently lives in central Pennsylvania with her husband and beloved Great Dane. This is her first poem to be published since she was in college in Maine.


 

I Keep Old Nails

nuts and bolts and such

in bins of milky-white plastic and clear jars
that revolve in a wooden spice rack
in our garage.

They just feel made for something,
too definite to be thrown away.

An odd piece of string to tie a package.
Frayed nylon rope—secure a mattress
on top a car.

A slightly bent nail
to start a hole
to set a drill bit.

A solitary bolt
to match a nut old maid
though it may wait for years.

                                                                                                    —Joseph Hardy


Joseph Hardy, a reformed human resource consultant, lives with his wife in Nashville, Tennessee. His work has been published in: Appalachian Review, Cold Mountain Review, Inlandia, Plainsongs, and Poet Lore, among others. He is the author of two books of poetry, The Only Light Coming In and Becoming Sky, through Bambaz Press Los Angeles, and a picture book, At the Reading of the Will—And a Boy’s Life Thereafter, IngramSpark.


 

Guide to Happy

Maybe it is true.
Maybe a smile is worth a thousand peonies plucked by Pan.
Maybe people do like nice people,
people who are, to reiterate, A-Okay.
So we’ve established that. And agree
that people like people who smile. Are pleasant.
Though there be pleasant people merely
posing. Enacting pleasantry.
Are people, now the people who are pleasant,
are they poseurs?
Lately I’m smiling. People are liking me more!
What do I say to that? Well, I say
it’s our time to eat them: our feelings.
Sister, eat those feelings.
I had brown rice and sugarless apple pie
for dinner. What am I feeling now?

                                                                                                                       —Sarah Sarai

Sarah Sarai's poems, flash, fiction, and reviews are in Barrow StreetThe Southampton ReviewNew Ohio ReviewFairy Tale ReviewBigCityLitThreepenny ReviewHeavy FeatherSinister Wisdom, and other journals. Her most recent collection is That Strapless Bra in Heaven (Kelsay Books). She lives in N.Y.C.



Some Short Mysteries

1)


Hedge fund manager Tim,
young, smug, generally unpleasant,
was found murdered in front of
his apartment mailbox.
No one in his building liked him.
Turned out Ida, his longtime girlfriend,
didn’t like him either.

2)

Old Mister Schwartz Number One
tailor by profession,
had an oppressive landlord
named Old Mister Schwartz Number Two.
Number One poisoned Number Two,
took over the building
because of his name
and gave all the tenants
three months free.

                                                                                      —Esther Cohen

 

Esther Cohen has a  new book, All of Us (Saddle Road Press).



Bitter Waters

A giant dragon walked across the bay;

its tail in seconds swiped the landscape clear,
before the goddess of the sun could say
a blessing or seismologists, who fear
each earthquake, could predict the ring
of fire's latest. Aerials and wires,
paper cranes and every moving thing
are pushed, upended, smashed. Atomic fires
burn in human screams. The waters show
their ancient force within this edgeland sea,
as words and speech and music also flow,
the waves release a raw divinity.
The monster ocean blankets both the living
and the dead, whose deaths are unforgiving.

                                                                                           —Royal Rhodes

Royal Rhodes taught courses on global religions, death & dying, and social justice for almost 40 years. His poems have appeared in The Lyric, Last Stanza, Abandoned Mine, Plum Tree Tavern, Seventh Quarry, and The Montreal Review. His art and poetry collaborations have been published by The Catbird [on the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina.



 

Lake Azoscohos 

1

    The whitecaps
turned to swans
    for a moment


2

    Hatched hours ago
and starved for blood—
    just like that


3

     Pre-dawn fog,
then the sea appeared
     and the first trees 


4

    In the winds' calm
the first light
    of the Milky Way
 

5

    Storm clouds lifting—
 the infinite blue eye of god
    squints open

                                                                      —Andrew Kaufman

Andrew Kaufman’s books of poetry include The Cinnamon Bay Sonnets, winner of The Center for Book Arts Book Award; Earth's Ends, winner of the Pearl Poetry Award, Both Sides of the Niger (Spuyten Duyvil Press); The Complete Cinnamon Bay Sonnets (Rain Mountain Press); and The Rwanda Poems: Voices and Visions from the Genocide, from New York Quarterly Press. He has also received an NEA grant. His credits include contributions to Modern Haiku and and Acorn, along with about a half dozen Brevitas anthologies.