FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

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 NOVEMBER 2023

As we head into the crazy hectic season, here are some amazing poems to engage your minds, brighten your spirits, fill your hearts with gladness, and feed your hungry literary souls.

 


 

Cleveland Haiku #656

Morning in the park—
tree branches strewn all over
from last night's storm

                                                                  —Michael Ceraolo

Michael Ceraolo is a 65-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) published, and has two more, Euclid Creek Book Two and Lawyers, Guns, and Money, in the publication pipeline.



wild persimmons
my mouth
becomes a desert

           ***

silent winter woods
still the background hum
in my head

                                                            —Kevin Browne

Kevin Browne lives in Wisconsin. His writing has appeared in Frogpond, The Heron's Nest, Akitsu Quarterly, Book of Matches, and other publications. He gets inspiration from walking the streets and fields near his home.

 



Playing w/Angles

I find myself
playing w/angles
as if the world
had tipped its hat.
Shook a rainstick, a snow globe,
a child’s bag of seed.

But that shouldn’t falter
you nor I
from our unerring
destination.

                                                                        —Mike Jurkovic
 
Mike Jurkovic: Latest collection, mooncussers, 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

 



Looking Into the Future

Any grandmother knows

crows are future-speakers
possessing a photo-perfect
memory of what was and is
right now.  Haven’t you
been relying on crow caws
to predict how your day
is going?  Who is your tribe?
Haven’t you been smitten
by their wings the color of tar?
So tell me, why do you keep
that broken mirror
in your back pocket? 

                                                                  —Kit Kennedy

Kit Kennedy is a queer elder poet and blogger living in Walnut Creek, CA. She serves as Poet-in Residence at SF Bay Times and Resident Poet at Ebenezer Lutheran herchurch. Work has appeared in FLR-E, great weather for MEDIA, Shot Glass Journal, Gyroscope, and Otoliths, among others. Please visit: https://poetrybites.blogspot.com  


 
BFFs

like comfortable shoes, Wordle in two,

soothing worry stones, speed dials,
roomy shoulder bags, catchy tunes,
mixers for any drink, complements
to any meal, nightcaps


ever-ready mine sweepers, sunny days,
baker’s dozens, winning tickets,
genies in bottles, gravity, duct tape,
home cooking, pie

smiles
strings of salient similes
24K gold

                                                                             —Darrell Petska

Darrell Petska, a retired university engineering editor, is a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart Prize nominee. His work has appeared in First Literary Review-East, 3rd Wednesday, Muddy River Poetry Review, Orchards Poetry Journal, and widely elsewhere (conservancies.wordpress.com). Father of five and grandfather of six, he lives near Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of more than 50 years.



joy takes melancholy shopping

it wants the whole body—
toenail to tonsil,
earlobe and elbow.
(please?) absurd!
i tell it so.
it frowns a little, ears
drooping like shy
sprouts in spring rain.
fine, i say. let’s share.
you get the insides,
but i get the face.
sniffling, it gazes up at

me, the picture of woe.
okay, i sigh. i suppose
you can have the eyes.

                                                        —Allison Liu 

[Editors’ Note: “joy takes melancholy shopping” has been published in JUST POETRY!!!’s May 2023 anthology.]

Allison Liu is an emerging Chinese American writer currently studying in the Boston area. She can often be found working on her novel, photographing the unusual, and reading speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Folio Literary & Art MagazineJUST POETRY!!!, Crashtest Magazine, and #TeenWritersProject Quarterly.



Foolish Teenage Heart,

Desire’s pawn,

I miss your brave and wild beat,
your thudding yes.
Those dream-drunk years
I didn’t know compromise
but knew how to dance
on roof decks under moonlight
when a band or boy or bird
with luminescent feathers
made you leap and I
had no choice but to follow.

                                                                   —Alison Stone

(from Ordinary Magic, NYQ Books, 2014)

Alison Stone has published eight full-length collections, To See What Rises (CW Books, 2023), Zombies at the Disco (Jacar Press, 2020), Caught in the Myth (NYQ Books, 2019), Dazzle (Jacar Press, 2017), Masterplan, a book of collaborative poems with Eric Greinke (Presa Press, 2018), Ordinary Magic (NYQ Books, 2016), Dangerous Enough (Presa Press 2014), and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris ReviewPoetryPloughsharesBarrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin Award. She was Writer in Residence at LitSpace St. Pete. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practices in NYC and Nyack. website:  alisonstone.info   Youtube and TikTok — Alison Stone Poetry.



Blue Angel [sonnet form]

                                “Oh, blue angel, don’t you cry”
                                  
—Roy Orbison

in the manner of solipsism & prayer
the tense imperfect future of it is the condition
that things will have been other than they were
a mythology of recognition & revelation
somebody loves somebody & that somebody doesn’t 
or somebody loves less or loves somebody else more
fraught with lurid relations & failed suicide attempts
in this mastered light, creature absorbs creator
are you a wind instrument, are you breath?
send in the clowns, the flash mobs
moth-like in mist, scintillant in the moment’s wrest
how a cunning stunt slips the tongue between sobs

sha la la, dooby wah, dum-dum-dum, yeh yeh, um
sha la la, dooby wah, dum-dum-dum, yeh yeh, um

                                                                                                        —Stan Rogal

Stan Rogal lives and writes in Toronto. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, most recently Uppagus and Periodicities. The author of several books, including 12 poetry and chapbooks. In a former life he was a bowling alley manager and door-to-door canvasser for an environmental organization. 



Poem Inspired by Bob Dylan’s “All the Tired Horses”

The 15 most popular horse breeds in the USA, according to Equine Helper


American Quarter Horse
Pony of the Americas
Mustang
Thoroughbred
Haflinger

American Paint Horse
Appaloosa
Welsh Pony
Tennessee Walking Horse
Missouri Fox Trotter

Arabian
Percheron
Standardbred
Belgian Draft
Hanoverian

                                                      —Joel Allegretti

Joel Allegretti is the author of, most recently, Platypus (NYQ Books, 2017), a collection of poems, prose, and performance texts, and Our Dolphin (Thrice Publishing, 2016), a novella. He is the editor of Rabbit Ears: TV Poems (NYQ Books, 2015). The Boston Globe called Rabbit Ears “cleverly edited” and “a smart exploration of the many, many meanings of TV.”



Prepared for You
 

Wouldn’t know where to begin.  Anyone may pick their
bunch point.  Sometimes we must simply describe and
then wait.  Queue the dry fog and prepare an Anthem.
Gather at the stadium.  Oh, it’s on.  Sometimes things just
have to be on.  Otherwise we wait. We wait for a moment
to come that we know not what.  So much went into what
now is nothing that I just can’t understand it.  I just don’t
understand it at all.  Bubbles mean a lot to us.  Some you
can ride on.  If you’re light enough.  Or they are tough
enough.  Winds out of the East or West.  North, South.
Such and such per hour.  Things don’t mean anything
unless they are related to something else.  Get sloppy
with the bread and butter.  Make a sandwich.  Rely on it.
A sandwich has been prepared for you.

                                                                                                           —Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter

Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter, PhD, MA, teaches at a public university in North America and consults/coaches at Sollars & Associates and independently. Bennett-Carpenter is the author of Death in Documentaries (Brill) and Explaining Jesus (Rowman & Littlefield). His poems have appeared in SuperpresentBook of Matches, and the Kitchen Table Quarterly. He co-edits Cruel Garters, a contemporary poetry publication.  



After Rain

As the sky lightens,
low clouds remain from the night’s rain.
The sun is somewhere behind the fog;
I look for the brightest spot in the sky
but can’t pinpoint it.

The same wooden fence stands outside my window,
with plants growing on and through it.
These vines and stalks have names I don’t know.

No rabbits are here;
they are active in dusk and dawn.
But they don’t like rain,
and everything is wet.

I listen to songs of birds I can’t identify,
except for a dove and a blue jay.
Rain is starting to fall again,
and I have no umbrella.

                                                                                                   —Thaddeus Rutkowski

Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and Columbia University and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.



Like they are Museums Made of Wax

The flower, let it be the thing, let it be a wild taste

about time, pink at its debut, antiques made of jewels,
administration lies, yet they punch through many hearts,
not the ones made of steal (steel). Are we merely passengers
or aberrations, frolicking in our living rooms like they are
museums made of wax. Impersonation or impersonate is
complicated because pain lurks in quest for comedy, not just
grumbles and sustenance. When is a golden age’s boom when
workers are left behind, a mask over their flasks filled with
honey-hued brandy? Our faces betray us at all times but
do we know betrayal? The stories are in color and smell like
bluegrass we cannot eat although we are starving. 

                                                                                                                      —Micah Zevin

Micah Zevin is a librarian poet living in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. He has published articles and poems at The Otter, the Newtown Literary Journal and Blog, Poetry and Politics, Reality Beach, Jokes Review, Post (Blank), the American Journal of Poetry, The Tower Journal, Five2OneMagazine, the What Rough Beast Series at Indolent Books, Heavy Feather Review, Big Other, The Bowery Gothic, Brooklyn Vol. 1., The Poets of Queens Anthology, Narrative Northeast, Pine Hills Review, Spoke Journal and Fence. His first book of poems, Metal, Heavy, was published as of December 1st, 2020 from Olena Jennings and Poets of Queens Press. He created/curates an open mic/poetry prompt workshop called The Risk of Discovery Reading Series.



Performance
From the Hungarian of Katalin Szlukovényi

‘End of the Cold War
and the New World Order’. The
subject for today.

It is a strange time.
There’s a fish tank in the room.
Behind the glass wall,

in their alien
time and element, two fish
will shortly explain

the whole thing to you.

                                                                —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 poem, 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).



The Reckless Sleeper

All night he has been inventing a vocabulary –
a mythology of cities built like a circuit board;
a skeletal picture of where he’d like to belong.

He is wrapped in a blanket of grey paint,
and sometimes an apple will roll to the surface,
sometimes a mirror, or an apple in the mirror.

Sometimes a lion will lift a lazy paw
and pull the blanket from the other side of the bed;
leaving him exposed to the dark of the room.

He walks on the surface of heaven,
he holds his own heart in the palm of his hand,
his eye is a metronome; candle, bird, candle, bird.

                                                                                                  —Helen Ivory

Helen Ivory’s Wunderkammer: New and Selected Poems (2023) is published by MadHat Press in the US and available worldwide via Amazon. Helen Ivory’s  most recent Bloodaxe Books collection, The Anatomical Venus, examines how women have been portrayed as ‘other’; as witches; as hysterics with wandering wombs and as beautiful corpses cast in wax, or on mortuary slabs in TV box sets. A hanged woman addresses the author of the Malleus Maleficarum, a woman diagnosed with ‘Housewife Psychosis’ recounts her dreams to Freud, and a sex robot has the ear of her keeper. The Anatomical Venus imagines the lives of women sketched in asylum notes and pictures others shut inside cabinets of curiosity. The Anatomical Venus was published in May 2019 and is available on Amazon and via Bloodaxe Books: www.bloodaxebooks.com
Some links:  

website
webzine
instagram


 

Manifest Destiny at the Breakfast Table

The second law of thermodynamics is blue.
It counts cognitive behavioral therapy
but fears SSRIs wear suspenders.

This is not to say that W bosons smell of mint
or that top quarks are too brittle to build suspension bridges
but that Marxism goes best with dry vermouth.

When judging the color of economic theories,
remember that indigo serves integers for dessert
because Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem
is always late for dinner.

This is to say the theory of evolution makes pancakes
whenever gravity goes skinny-dipping in Katmandu.
Even though cops bust the periodic table
because trigonometry uses too much salt,
blue is bigger than red

                                                                                                                  —Jon Wesick

Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals, such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, First Literary Review-East, New Verse News, Paterson Literary Review, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Slipstream, Space and Time, and Tales of the Talisman. His most recent books are The Shaman in the Library and The Prague Deceptionhttp://jonwesick.com



Rust (a Ghazal)

Another factory gone, now covered in rust, 
schemed by the elements, after pink paper slips were handed out 

to millions of line workers who worked years & years in the Belt called “Rust” 
since the ’80s; those places are now abandoned— 

Another steel mill gathering rust; 
another automobile plant put out to pasture. 

I came from the Southwest; our dirt is colored like rust, 
sometimes the water's colored in that same shade in the river 

& there are still droughts, after our storm-worn garden tools turn to rust, 
& the farming fields; they try to grow anything at all— 

When metal meets water or acid, rust 
happens: simple corrosion, not just a disgrace or abuse or abandonment. 

Another natural thing, this rust. 
It takes over when the humans leave.     

                                                                                                                        —Carrie Magness Radna

Carrie Magness Radna is a cataloger, a singer, and a poet who loves traveling. Her poems have been published in Muddy River Poetry ReviewPoetry Super HighwayAlien Buddha PressCajun Mutt PressJerry Jazz Musician, and First Literary Review-East, et al. Her latest book, Shooting Myself in the Dark, was published in 2022. Born in Norman, Oklahoma, she lives with her husband in New York City.



Eye of Heaven

They’re grinding their teeth, the mountains of Kabul.
They’re wearing down slowly, like a girl carrying water.

They’re clenching their jaws, the valleys of Kabul,
at empty pages, lonely classrooms.
They’re frowning at the silent streets, where nobody meets.
Where songs and dances are slowly fading away
into black cloth. The hems stitched like sutures.

It’s unblinking, the sky of Kabul, blue iris of heaven
searching for the forbidden feminine.

They’re covering the tailors of Kabul, even the
mannequins. In more civilized places, men in black
are using other means, artfully stealing faces.
The cord for wrists from stoning,
they take for binding flowers, tightly.

                                                                                                               —Chris Parsons

Chris Parsons is a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand whose most recent work appears or is pending in First Literary Review East and Shot Glass Journal in the USA, Honest Ulsterman, Orbis, and the Oxonian Review in the UK and Fuego and Takahē in Aotearoa.



I am not

I am not the light’s reflection on the water
Nor am I the wind pushing the boat
Nor am I the song of the fisherman.
I might be, however, the dark figure below deck.

I am not the bleak, sleepy morning
Nor am I the moon still in the window
I am not the book fallen on the floor.
Today I am the rustle of sheets and new breath.

I am not the black squirrel burying her acorn
Nor am I the fall leaves covering the cemetery
I am not the one who swept under your ashes.
I am, however, the one who left a smooth, gray stone.

                                                                                                          —Lori (Lee) Desrosiers

Lori (Lee) Desrosiers’ books are The Philosopher’s Daughter, Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak and Keeping Planes in the Air, all from Salmon Poetry. Two chapbooks: Inner Sky and typing with e.e. cummings, are from Glass Lyre Press. They edit Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry, and Wordpeace.co a multi-genre online journal dedicated to peace and social justice. 



In Summary

I’ve been redesigned for years to come 

I praise whatever happens on time

When a bush burns I listen closely 

 

Death forces me to regard myself 

In the third person

I will die as I’ve lived

Sitting in front of a muted window

                                                                               —Jack Israel

Jack Israel has had poems in various publications, most recently in Forklift, Ohio and the Cortland Review, His chapbook came out in 2019 from Moonstone press. He lives in Berwyn, PA.



Dear Liza,
 

I put my list into a leaking buck

(that’s short for bucket; it was once quite deep).

I’ve finished nothing—loser’s life-long luck—

but once you’ve kicked it, none are yours to keep.

 

My bucket list once had a list of those

whom I had hoped to service ere I leave,

however, over time my body’s woes

made dubious such battles in my eve.

 

The wealth and fame and fortune I once sought

in fancies of youth’s blissful ignorance

at long last proved pursuits were all for naught,

like hopes of unforeseen inheritance.

 

Now, Liza, Dear, the bucket’s yours to keep.

Good-bye. Shut up. Don’t wake me from this sleep.

                                                                                                            —Ken Gosse

Ken Gosse usually writes whimsical, rhymed verse with traditional forms. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, since then by Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Pure Slush, Home Planet News Online, Spillwords, and others. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife live in Mesa, AZ, with rescue dogs and cats underfoot.



Fakepath                                                                   




Streaked in the winter sky,                                       
can be made out through the branches,                                   
there is a beautiful gray light.
The flowers turn over
and turn away.

 

 

I don’t know what that is.
Swords land in steeple
shadows mystically like whatever.

 

 

The roofers tear
tar that floats
down, burning
letters of a dark
nature in sunlight.
And you goddamn well know it.

                                                                          —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 Noise: An 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/