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JULY 2019


Just in case you've run out of summer reading, here is a glorious selection of poems from some mighty fine poets. Here at First Literary Review-East, we continue to celebrate diversity in artistic expression, as well as the diversity of the world and its generous humanistic spirit.

—The Editors, Cindy Hochman and Karen Neuberg



Lunch at the End of the World

Planet Earth revolves around the Sun,

Ocean rages, burying the sands,
People party, dine, and drink and laugh,
Am I the only one who understands?

                                                                    —Elaine S. Polin

Elaine S. Polin, a retired teacher of languages, is a native of Philadelphia, PA. She has lived in her current location, on Long Island, NY, since 1974. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.S. in Education and an M.A. in Romance Languages. She is the author of three books of poetry and is working on her fourth book. Some of her short stories, articles, and editorials have been published in Ms. MagazineNewsday, FATE Magazine, and several local publications. She has volunteered with Literacy Volunteers of America and currently volunteers as poetry teacher at a senior citizen center.



Border Sounds
             After Laura Schellhardt’s Digging Up Dessa

in the hurt
border cross
at dusk.
the past
has its own
an echo

                          —Kim Peter Kovac

Kim Peter Kovac works nationally and internationally in theater for young audiences, with an emphasis on new play development and networking. He tells stories on stages as producer of new plays, and tells stories in writing with lineated poems, prose poems, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, haiku, haibun, and microfiction, with work appearing or forthcoming in print and online in journals from Australia, India, Ireland, Dubai (UAE), England, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and the USA. He is fond of avant-garde jazz, murder mysteries, contemporary poetry, and travel, and lives in Alexandria, VA, with his bride, a Maine Coon cat named Frankie Malone, and a Tibetan Terrier named Mick.  


From Cape May to Tucson, General Delivery

Please return this poem to my home in the desert
when the chair beneath its blue beach umbrella
seats a watcher, when the Windsor Hotel isn't salt-blind
and vacant, when we can play Skee-Ball for prizes
and write postcards in the present tense. 

                                                                             —Sara Clancy

Sara Clancy is a Philadelphia transplant to the Desert Southwest. Her chapbook Ghost Logic won the 2017 Turtle Island Quarterly Editors Choice Award and she is an Associate Editor for Poetry at Good Works Review. Among other places, her poems have appeared in Off the CoastCrab Creek ReviewThe Madison Review, and Verse Wisconsin. She lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter and far too many cats and dogs.



Mom’s Points of Light

How her eyes changed when you asked about fireflies
and she talked of sweltering Missouri evenings
humidity gravy-thick
sleeping porches—
her young self’s wonder
as tiny flickering globes
dotted the night

                                                    —Shera Hill

Shera Hill was born in Wichita, Kansas, but now lives in Baywood Park, California. She has always been an avid reader, with most of her working life in the book world, first as a student assistant in the California State University of Long Beach library, later as an employee of a small independent bookstore, and then as a page for the San Luis Obispo Library system. She retired in 2014 as a library branch manager. She has written poetry, short stories, and novels since she was a child.



Sudden Summer

Bewitched by a tequila sunrise
after too much gray and cold.

Had been searching for answers

in flat mystical landscapes, bereft
of red and blue and gold.

White treetop bouquets perfume the day.

I wrestle with angels to locate stars.

                                                                 —Amy Barone

Amy Barone’s latest poetry collection, We Became Summer, from New York Quarterly Books, was released in early 2018. She wrote chapbooks Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing.) Barone’s poetry has appeared in Café Review, Live Mag!, Paterson Literary Review, Sensitive Skin, and Standpoint (UK), among other publications. She belongs to PEN America Center. From Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Barone lives in New York City.


I only have what I remember

touch of her hand
bouquet of pouring wine

glint of morning sun

the taste of chocolate
            of cabernet

the longing for her mouth

                                                          —Jonathan K. Rice

Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015) and Ukulele and Other Poems (2006), and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications. Jonathan is the recipient of the 2012 Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award for outstanding service in support of local and regional writers, awarded by Central Piedmont Community College. He lives in Charlotte, NC.




the rustles
of cherry blossoms 
next door 
the lady sings 
of a lonely heart


pipe in mouth, 
with his stick leading the way, 
an old man 
drags his legs along 
under the western sky

                                                         —David He

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 Acorn, The Heron’s Nest, Presence, bottle rockets, Frogpond, Shamrock, Modern Haiku, and Frozen Butterfly. He has also had tanka published in Tanka of America, Skylark, Ribbones, and Cattails, among other journals.




Sea, moves my body 
without understanding 

I deny you 
and carry the vision of regret. 


Play that Record Again 

play that record again 
I already dated you a million times in my mind 
so the first kiss feels 

                                                                —Yasmine Lancaster  

Yasmine Lancaster, a graduate of Purchase College, was born in East Harlem, raised in the Bronx, and claimed the world as her oyster, even if she's veganish. A multi-media artist, her award-winning short film, The Crown, has returned; Omowale the Vegan Boxer was part of Rooted Theater Fall Symposium in November of 2018, the first film ever to be shown as part of their series. Her writing work spans across  genres—her essays have been published online with Nia Magazine and MLifestyle. Her poetry has been performed theatrically as well as having been a part of “Sidewalk Sisters,” a choreopoem with four other talented artists, all their stories using the disciplines of dance and music. Most recently she was invited to spend her summer in Pontedera, Italy, as a guest of the Open Program of the Work Center of Jerry Grotowski and Thomas Richards. A published poet in Free Verse Magazine, Bronx Times, and Poets Respond to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, an exhibition at Queens College.  


The Cicada

From hour to hour the cicada discolours to the back

and to the palm. Petals and petals and membrane of wings
and burning. Friction. Friction. Layer difference.
The touch reveals.
And edges and tips and shouting.
Reveals the touch.
Don’t we touch it, don’t we touch it, don’t we touch the sound
incantation. From sound to sound for the heatwave chant.
The line doesn’t merge. The line doesn’t reject.
The animal eye sticks. To which subtraction or communion.

                                                                                        —Erika Dagnino

Erika Dagnino is a poet and writer from Italy who has performed with several musicians. Since 2016, she has been writing about public transportation. More info at



The Water Nymph

Growing up I loved the water:
pools, ponds, lakes, the ocean
Later, at Roscoe and Minta's beach house,
I swam in the ocean
with a pod of dolphins;
we were boon companions
It would have made a helluva movie.

                                                              —Michael Ceraolo

Michael Ceraolo is a 61-year-old retired firefighter/paramedic and active poet who has had two full-length books (Euclid Creek, from Deep Cleveland Press; 500 Cleveland Haiku, from Writing Knights Press), and several shorter-length books published, and has a third full-length book, Euclid Creek Book Two, forthcoming from unbound content press.



He sees an open doorway 
through a wet paneled window. 
“Why’s the cruise ship white?”
His sister wonders at high tide
after they finish writing renga  
together about prisms. Far off,
fish flop in the back of a boat 
trying to die before being 
dropped in a sink for later.

                                                                      —Ryan Clinesmith 

Ryan Clinesmith works as the editor for The Poetry Distillery, as well as a teacher in New York City. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Glint Literary Journal, Gravel, The Merrimack Review, and Blueline Literary Magazine, among others.



Apricot and Plum

Pale orange and deep burgundy
drip with sun-nectar,
shyly concealed
in the leafy branches of summer’s shade
waiting for her,
a barefoot child tucked
into the notch between two branches,
lazily reading.

                                                              —Ryn Holmes

As poet and photographer, Ryn Holmes has drawn inspiration from residence in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and now the Gulf Coast of Florida. An award-winning photographer, including first prize for ‘Art on Paper’ in San Francisco’s inaugural Art in the Park event, Ryn is also a partner at K & K Writing Services, and co-editor of Panoply literary ezine. Her poems have been published in various digital and print media.



Slipping Grasp, Fallen Tree

Light years and memory in one
The book molds

Branch out, the human touch
heals or kills

Discovery is the new discovery
Old jeans are ripped and pass for new

That’s why hair dye is popular
Only your hairdresser swings from trees.

                                                                                     —Dd. Spungin

Dd. Spungin hosts monthly poetry events for the Long Island poetry groups Poets In Nassau and Performance Poets Association. Her poetry can be found in anthologies and in print and online journals, most recently Maintenant 13, isacoustic, and Fearless. Several of her poems have been set to music by New York composer Julie Mandel.



Grandson (with apologies to Werner Herzog)

Now that you’re 8 years old, you have to know how to travel on foot. You have to know how to make fire without matches. You have to know how to catch a trout with your bare hands. (It’s fairly easy. You just have to understand how the trout thinks.) You have to know how to forge a document, let’s say a gun permit, in a country under military rule. You have to know how to open a safety lock—surreptitiously, of course, with burglar tools. You have to know how to tell at a glance night from other darkness.

                                                                                            —Howie Good

Howie Good is the author of The Titanic Sails at Dawn from Alien Buddha Press and What It Is and How to Use It from Grey Book Press.



sitting airline tight, french complaints
hurled past me—about me—
to your companion. seat-
belts stretched over meaty laps.
amid clouds—frosty gripes
edged with cruel
glances. you
hated me. i
speak french

                                   —Laura Johnson

Laura Johnson is a poet in Eastern Iowa who serves as a co-editor of the online literary journal Backchannels. Laura is a graduate (BA ‘89, MA ‘92) of the University of Iowa. She participates regularly in performance and slam poetry, as well as writing page poetry. In addition to being a poet, Laura leads writing workshops in her community.


Quiet Chaos

I wish I knew
the quiet chaos of butterflies,

their swirling world among flowers
and wildgrasses, where waterpainted wings

flutter their stained-glass colors and speckles of light
peek through the kaleidoscope eye of the sun.

My world is one where feet stomp,
voices blare, and fast is never fast enough,

where silence is scary, lights glare with fear,
and no one takes the time to catch the breath of wind.

I wish I knew 
the quiet chaos of butterflies.

                                                                     —Shelly Blankman

(previously published in Ekphrastic Review and based on a painting by Lorette Luzajic)

Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, where she and her husband fill their empty nest with three cats and a dog. Their two sons live in Texas and New York. After a career in journalism and public relations, she spends her time making cards and memory books, refereeing pets, and pursuing her first love—writing poetry. Her work has been published in a number of publications, including Silver Birch Press, Ekphrastic Review, Whispers, and Social Justice Poetry.  



Women in Parentheses 

Between moon-sliver scythes,
a space to make one’s own.

An afterthought, aside,
never subject or verb
(the mighty base sustaining
by the way, did I mention).

An interlude, interval, looping
thought, language, worlds seen or not.

Realm of the priestess, goddess,
the swamp-belly bitch bearing the species,

she weaves herself into words, tilts hat to sun
and steps on out.

                                                                      —Catherine Arra

Catherine Arra is a former high school English and writing teacher. Since leaving the classroom in 2012, her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. She is the author of Writing in the Ether (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and three chapbooks, Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015), and Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014). Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she teaches part-time, and facilitates local writing groups. Her latest collection, (Women in Parentheses), which includes the above poem, is due out shortly from Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books. Find her at


Perseus (Detail: Medusa’s Head)

Medusa, the only human Gorgon,
Murdered by Perseus, her head lifted
In triumph over all men. Her gifted
Aspect still deadly, not ever outdone

By petty tyrants, now statues of stone,
Or sea monsters extorting the witless.
In death she is the ultimate actress,
Inducing nightmares that rattle, that groan.

Those hissing serpents that cover her head
Like hair threading together a warning
To look back toward an older history

Of invention, a treatise long unread
From antiquity. Clay up the dawning
Of life and cast anew its mystery.

                                                               —Dennis Daly

Dennis Daly lives in Salem, Massachusetts. He has published six books of poetry and poetic translations. His seventh book, The Devil’s Artisan, Sonnets from the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini is currently seeking a publisher. Visit his blogsite at


Thomas Hobbes Lives On

Spider in the corner knows
in solitary stealth to spin,
to lurk in vigilance astride
its abattoir of gossamer.
Relieved of pity or regret,
perfecting predatory urge,
spider in the corner sips the blood
of hapless, tethered guests.

Spider in the cortex knows
the hunger of the carnivore,
fury of the slashing scimitar.
Through lifetimes “nasty, brutish, short,”
it weaves neuronal webs to snare
the rule of law and conscience, too,
while elsewhere spin their morbid yarn
arachnids in the mouth and fist.

                                                              —George H. Northrup

George H Northrup is a poet and psychologist in New Hyde Park, NY. His new poetry collection is entitled Wave into Wave, Light into Light: Poems and Places (IPBooks).



The bottom of the sky
rests on my breast,
the top of the Earth
cradles my back.
I am as properly sized as the sun.
We exchange winks like a secret celestial handshake
for we are well acquainted.
When I die, nothing will have changed.
My consciousness, available,
will be claimed by the heavens
as I take my turn there.

                                                          —Jeff Santosuosso

Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, FL. His chapbook, “Body of Water,” is available through Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is Editor-in-Chief of, an online journal of poetry and short prose. Jeff’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in San Pedro River Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Mojave Dessert Review, The Lake (UK), Red Fez, Texas Poetry Calendar, Avocet, and other online and print publications.


Death of Data

Kut-kut-kaw-ti-kut, the rooster woke me
from a dream of lives and deaths of hard drives
torn from my hacker son’s towers of sham and shame
to a dream not a dream but a pile of metal ruin
stacked on his desk, twenty of his charming silver killers
of strangers’ credit with their birthday passwords
as gateways. I searched for nails to pound these discs
of quick cash into sad pancakes of lost data. No luck.
So I threw them into my blue barrow of tough love,         
wheeled it to our backyard Viking barbecue pit
where a rusty barrel full of empty holes rested—
as though waiting for the discs’ twin end of glory—
and tossed the drives into their dirty Valhalla grave,
gas-dousing them to the rooster’s Kut-kut-kaw-ti-kut.

                                                                                      —David Spicer

David Spicer has published poems in The Santa Clara Review, Synaeresis, Chiron Review, Remington Review, unbroken, Raw, Third Wednesday, The Bookends Review, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Gargoyle, and elsewhere. Nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart once, he is author of one full-length poetry collection, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke's Press). His latest chapbook is From the Limbs of a Pear Tree  (Flutter Press). He is the former editor of raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books.


Prayer to Everything

May I surmount all flesh,
which trains what I should see,
to gain an eye for everything:
quicksilver rivers of time, life
sentient yet incorporeal,
unique worlds bound in space
by an overarching thread.

Part this day's clingy web,
dispersing me into the womb
of each that is, birthing me
one and indivisible from all
that sings or flows, stilly lies,
or fashions stars in darkness.

Cleanse me of all I know
that I might lose myself to you.

                                                       —Darrell Petska

Darrell Petska's writing has appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review, Bird's Thumb, Chiron Review, Star 82 Review, Tule Review, Verse-Virtual,  and widely elsewhere (see Darrell has tallied a third of a century as communications editor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 40 years as a father (six years as a grandfather), and almost a half century as a husband. He lives outside Madison, Wisconsin. 




Often underwhelmed, often overwhelmed,
what am I going to do? It’s the way
the sea of existence is, the boat helmed
according to the currents of the day.

One has to remain vigilant, on guard
like a sentry, to man a one-man sail:
if you don’t, you easily drift in toward
a pier, a reef, or perish in a gale.

It would be nice to be landlocked, shipwrecked
and leave it at that, a laid-back exile
about whom there seems nothing to detect
except an implied past and a wan smile.

Awakening from this useless daydream,
I gather up my things and wade upstream.

                                                                     —David Francis

David Francis has produced six albums of songs, one of poems, and Always/Far, a chapbook of lyrics and drawings. He has written and directed the films Village Folksinger (2013) and Memory Journey (2018).  His poetry and short stories have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies.



There’s a convention and a hotel to every purpose under heaven.

The stars look down on us with a grave sense of disappointment.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Are you coming or not; don’t make me wait forever.

The sky crying rain down the window or street.

Superimpose your reflection.

This glass is half empty.

I came down here for some purpose,
I just can’t remember what it was.

My memory is a sign of the times.

I remember the tornado that came straight down from Niagara Falls,
As if in recompense.

Someone was killed by a falling tree. Windows were shattered.

A strange fluke for New England.

That was a long, long time ago.

Still, it was worth the wait.

                                                                    —Ian Ganassi

Ian Ganassi’s work has appeared or will appear in numerous literary magazines, including New American Writing; The American Journal of Poetry; Clockwise Cat; and The Yale Review; among many others. His poetry collection Mean Numbers was published in 2016. His new collection, True for the Moment, is forthcoming from MadHat Press. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at