FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

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MARCH/APRIL 2023

 

 


Math

The sum of the squares
of consecutive integers

is a waste of perfect time.

                                                       —Bill Yarrow

Bill Yarrow's most recent book is Accelerant (Nixes Mate Books). 


 

Meet at the Telescope

Astronomers and poets

Stand side by side,
Across fields, looking upwards
Without the meeting of eyes
If they look
They’ll have to admit
The subtle similarities
In their madness
Does the magic of the conductor’s wand
Not reside in the count?
And does a mathematician not draw numbers—
By hand and from memory

                                                                                               —Ruhani Nigam

Ruhani Gandhi Nigam was born in New York and grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. Raised as a first-generation American by Indian parents, she was surrounded by poetry. She began to write poems, short stories, and essays at the age of eight, and followed her passion for writing to Northeastern University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. After graduating, Ruhani was an artist in residency at La Macina di San Cresci. She is currently living in Dublin, Ireland, working for a digital marketing agency.

 



Arguing My Way Into Heaven Using Mathematics

You see—
if you look at this spreadsheet, my Lord,

you’ll find I’ve received 5% more pain in my life
than I’ve caused.

My belief is that this fact has tipped the scales
skyward
and in my favor.

I have concluded my opening statement.

                                                                                           —John Tustin

John Tustin's poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals and fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.





To Come Back 

Do not
long for
the blur.

No matter
the pain
keep on
burning through
the noose.

                                         —Heath Brougher

Heath Brougher is the Editor-in-Chief of Concrete Mist Press and co-poetry editor of Into the Void, winner of the 2017 and 2018 Saboteur Awards for Best Magazine. He received Taj Mahal Review’s 2018 Poet of the Year Award and is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. He was awarded the 2020 Wakefield Prize for Poetry and has published nine books. After spending over three years editing the work of others, he is ready to get back into the creative driver’s seat for a while. He has four books forthcoming in 2023. 

 



Angels among us

when I was a child
I saw angels

amidst
the grasses shouts
and echoes of the woods

almost everywhere

now I know a little better
they are inside us

always ready to come out again

                                                                  —Samo Kreutz

Samo Kreutz lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Besides poetry (which he has been writing since he was eight years old), he writes novels, short stories, and haiku. Up till now he has published ten books in Slovene (four of them were poetry books) and three in English (they are haiku collections, one is titled The Stars for Tonight, the second A Time Different from Ours, and the last No Bigger Than A Crumb, all still available at Amazon.com). His recent work has appeared on international websites (and journals), such as The Heron's Nest, The Big Windows Review, Taj Mahal Review, Ink Sweat & Tears: The poetry and prose webzine, Haiku Commentary, Green Ink Poetry, First Literary Review- East, Dwelling Literary, Cattails: the journal of the United Haiku & Tanka Society, Ariel Chart, and others.


 
Machine

Philomela.     Seductoro.     Illuminatrix.  Divine with
dignity. When I was young I would look at myself as a
panther in the moneytree. I know that’s a tall order,
but would you rather join the haystack? Being that
singular key where thoughts roam free. The cat is
in the bag.

More than anyone in the known history of this planet,
she finds strength even down that steep cliff. Yes, it’s
a dream we carry.

                                                                                                                                 —Marc Vincenz

Marc Vincenz is a poet, fiction writer, translator, editor, and artist. He has published over 30 books of poetry, fiction, and translation. His work has been published in The Nation, Ploughshares, Raritan, Colorado Review, Guernica, Willow Springs, The Common, World Literature Today and The Los Angeles Review of Books. He is publisher and editor of MadHat Press and publisher of New American Writing. He has lived all over the world, from Brazil to China to Iceland to India. He was born in Matilda Hospital on the Peak in Hong Kong, but now lives on a farm in rural Western Massachusetts overlooking Herman Melville's Greylock Mountain, where there are more fiery searcher caterpillar hunters, big dipper fireflies, and earth-boring scarabs than people.


 

West Egg, East Egg

 “I lived at West Egg … Across the courtesy bay the white
palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”
The Great Gatsby

At the hotel, they have sex on two pushed-together double

beds. They call them West Egg and East Egg. With the room
still icy from the air conditioner, they sleep under West Egg’s
expansive duvee. At 3 am she whispers, “Time to migrate”,
before they clamber across to East Egg’s satin sheets. One day,
while she straddles the Eggs, the beds separate and she falls
into the divide. He drags her back by the arms, kissing her
bruises. Her skin is mauved in the purple light of the
digital alarm clock.

                         —Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington

Cassandra Atherton is a widely anthologised and award-winning prose poet and scholar of prose poetry. She was a Harvard Visiting Scholar in English and a Visiting Fellow at Sophia University, and is Professor of Writing and Literature at Deakin University. Her books of prose poetry include Pre-Raphaelite (2018) and Leftovers (2020) and she is currently working on a creative book about the atomic bomb. Cassandra co-authored Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press, 2020) and co-edited the Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (Melbourne University Press, 2020). She is a commissioning editor for Westerly magazine, and associate editor at both MadHat Press (USA) and Axon: Creative Explorations journal. She has also been invited to edit numerous special editions of leading journals and is the successful recipient of many national and international grants. 

Paul Hetherington has published 17 full-length collections of poetry and prose poetry, including Ragged Disclosures (Recent Work Press, 2022) and Her One Hundred and Seven Words (Massachusetts: MadHat Press, 2021), along with a verse novel and 12 poetry chapbooks. He is co-author of Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press, 2020) and co-editor of Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (Melbourne University Press, 2020). He has won or been nominated for more than 30 national and international awards and competitions, recently winning the 2022 Ballina Region for Refugees Seeking Asylum Poetry Prize and the 2021 Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize. He is Professor of Writing at the University of Canberra, joint founding editor of the international online journal Axon: Creative Explorations and founder of the International Prose Poetry Group.



I Thought Ringo Starr Would Marry Me

After Ringo and Maureen divorced, I thought I was a shoo-in.
He would pick me out of a multitude of girls
and wait for me to grow up.

When I was in London, I saw Ringo drive an Aston Martin on Oxford Street.
He didn’t stop for a chubby college girl from Levittown but went for a Bond girl.
I thought Ringo Starr would marry me. Like Graham Nash singing

“Our House” to Joni Mitchell, Ringo would sing to me about octopi and yellow submarines.
When he sang “With a Little Help from My Friends,” he would give me a knowing wink.
The last time I saw Ringo was in a Long Island theater-in-the-round.

Ringo was in all All-Star band. My husband was having an affair but we had
tickets so we went. On his way to the stage, Ringo stopped by my aisle seat,
gave my soon-to-be ex a dirty look and squeezed my hand. His puppy-dog eyes
gazed into my mine and I knew it was love.

                                                                                                                   —Vicki Iorio

Vicki Iorio is the author of the poetry collections Poems from the Dirty Couch (Local Gems Press), Not Sorry (Alien Buddha Press), and the chapbooks Send Me a Letter (dancinggirlpress) and Something Fishy (Finishing Line Press). Her poetry has appeared in numerous print and on-line journals including The Painted Bride Quarterly, Rattle, poets respond on line, The Fem Lit Magazine, and The American Journal of Poetry. Vicki is currently living in Florida but her heart is in New York.



Plant That Came in for the Winter

I doubt, fuchsia, that I can
keep you alive much longer.
You look more than stressed,
miss the window box,
miss summer. I miss summer too
though you may have heard me
complain about heat
and drought. You had five blossoms
at once, magenta and pink
against the garage. Now you

don’t bloom, look sickly. I know
where this ends. In the trashcan.
With lasagna that fell on the floor.

                                                                           —Kenneth Pobo

Kenneth Pobo (he/him) is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections.  Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), Lilac And Sawdust (Meadowlark Press), Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose (BrickHouse Books), and Gold Bracelet in a Cave: Aunt Stokesia (Ethel Press).



Faux Thaw

If ever a day so deceitful, so

promising in its delicate sunshine,
you’d stow all the wools and flannels, change out
storms for screens—the mud-framed sidewalks, matted
gardens so bathed in clemency you’d stamp
COMMUTED on the calendar and free
those squirmy inmates from their times-sevens
and prepositions to dance a giddy
getaway into rumpus rooms of blue
and wispy white—today’s that kind of day.

                                                                                                       —D.R. James

[Editors’ Note: This poem was previously published in Silver Stork]


Recently retired from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, D. R. James lives, writes, bird-watches, and cycles with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared internationally in a wide variety of print and online anthologies and journals. 
https://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage



On the cusp

It’s the threshold between seasons.

The gardens are bleak and bare
but in the perennial beds, daffodils
poke up. Crowns of crocuses too,

I heard mourning doves coo-cooing
yesterday and a woodpecker drilled
for a mate on the aluminum flashing.
We’re supposed to get snow tonight

but that won’t stop spring from
unfurling its pale green wings.
I start seeds in tiny peat pot-lets.
The sun has inched its way north

so its hot hand touches me, rousing
me from sleep as hungry deer look in.

                                                                               —Marge Piercy

M
arge Piercy has published 20 poetry collections, most recently, On the Way OutTurn Off the Light [Knopf, September 30, 2020]; 17 novels, including Sex Wars. PM Press reissued Vida and Dance the Eagle to Sleep; they brought out short stories The Cost of Lunch, Etc. and My BodyMy Life [essays, poems]. She has read at over 500 venues here and abroad.



Crescendo 

It is in the air—
a faint scent of earth rising
through the crust of frozen snow.

It is in sight—
red inflorescence of maples waving
against the powdery blue of a late February afternoon.

It is in sounds—
soft songs of chickadees
from the evergreen trees.

It is underfoot—
the crackling of thin ice
at the curb.

It is in guarded thoughts—
winter’s back is broken,
spring is in the air.

                                                                                                    —Joseph Kleponis

Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including, Boston Literary Magazine, Eucalypt, First Literary Review -East, Methuen Life, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Wilderness House Literary Review. Truth’s Truth, a book of his poems, was released in 2021 by Kelsay Books.



Blind Dreams

I drop into the knowledge
that there’s no knowledge.
Black tiles at the bottom
of the pool tell time and date.
The water stirs and I don’t
know when and where I am.
Sleep grabs my toe,
pulling me into clear water.
I have the night’s knowledge
of blind dreams, which is
no knowledge at all. 

                                                            —Elizabeth  Morse

Elizabeth Morse is a poet who lives in New York’s East Village. Her work has been published in literary magazines such as Ginosko, First Literary Review-East, and SurVision. A poetry chapbook, The Future Is Now, was published by Linear Arts Press. She has her MFA from Brooklyn College and supports her poetry with a job in technology.



Words

I once emigrated

from Jules Verne to Sir Walter Scott.
The wild beasts of my mind cages

followed my teen self.
The boundary stones were similar:
a shirt zebra, a skirt zebra,

but I just liked
the virgin words inside.
The adverse yellow

of the sky passport
showed me the way.
An open-eyed path ...

There’s always a snowfall inside you.
Then the snow melts.
Some call it Celtic blood.

                                                                                  —Tony Kitt

Tony Kitt lives in Dublin, Ireland. His poems appear in multiple magazines and anthologies. His collection entitled Endurable Infinity has been published by Pittsburgh University Press, in the Pitt series, in autumn 2022. His other collection, Sky Sailing, is due from Salmon Poetry, Ireland, in 2023. His chapbook, The Magic Phlute, has been published by SurVision books in 2019. Another chapbook, Further Through Time, was published by Origami Poetry Project in December 2022. He edited the anthology of Ukrainian poetry about the war in English translation entitled Invasion (SurVision Books, 2022), and was the winner of the Maria Edgeworth Poetry Prize.



The Issaquah

all ahead, full

the Issaquah, a decommissioned car ferry
blue Adirondack chairs bolted to the forward deck
blunt prow raising white wake
both shores thick forest

no cars anymore
the ride provided by the Port Authority
leased to a private operator
tickets sold at the pier

transportation fun
the carrier is the destination
small plates available, legal beverages
and coffee! coffee to change your idea of coffee
coffee to never forget

                                                                                                 —Chuck Joy

Chuck Joy: Born in Cleveland, raised in Erie, he's been around, mostly for educational purposes. Went to college in New York City, Fordham University (Rose Hill Campus). University of Pittsburgh Medical School. A child psychiatrist, providing poetry since 1980.



Branch Line     

On still, dry nights I can hear the train,
just half a mile downhill and in the valley.
The branch line, from the cities down
to West Wales and the Irish Sea.

Here we have lived, here we have foraged,
for thirty years. Even now I recall so well
our earliest journeys down, that branch line,
as I tried to persuade her, Come on, let’s move.

The ramshackle journeys, the backwaters,
the quietness of hills and hedges.
The train’s slow shuffling, rattling, we listening,
the accents mingling, the agricultural dialects.
Music when soft voices quicken.

Tonight the air is still, the train’s on time,
Milford Haven, terminus, by half-past ten.

                                                                                             —Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet living some 30 miles down the coast from Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse. His work has appeared widely in Britain and the USA, where he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (four times) and for a Best of the Net award.



My Feet

Once I wore blue suede shoes

purchased on the Spanish Steps
teal leather moccasins
from the Renaissance Fair

Black satin slippers
beautiful and small
the envy of every size ten

The sample size changed
so did my feet

Small and wide
a worn heel pounding

I tried on 37 pairs of slippers
in 4 cities, 3 states

Now I wear Mary Janes
from the children's department
at Macy’s.

                                                                  —Susan Weiman

Susan Weiman is a storyteller and writer of literary nonfiction and poetry. Her work has been published in the Paterson Literary Review, Trolley, HomePlaneNews.com, First Literary Review East, City Lore–Places That Matter, Silver Tongue Devil Anthology, and elsewhere. Her recent chapbook, Roommates, was published by Parkside Poets Press in 2021, and New York-ish was published by NoNet Press in 2018. She is working on a memoir collection.



Dawn 

Our ancestors

like a shadow passed   
over the meadow dark

footfall light on dew
leaves carried in a stream
sunrise mashed the trees       

what flowered in their hearts
passed from hand to hand
it’s what we have today

                                                          —Charles Espinosa

Raised in Virginia, Charlie lives with his partner and two cats in California. His creative writing is published or forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Naugatuck River Review, and The Fourth River. A consultant for environmental NGOs, he is inspired by the humor and mystery of the natural world.



Nothing But Black

October 2022

I no longer gaze at stars,
or outsized autumn moons,
bobcat, coyote, sometimes cougar,
desert fault-line outliers,
track rattler, jackrabbit,
woke or slept scorpion,
reclusive toad out before light,
deeper in with all things
quiet and hidden, unsought, unknown,
until one with them,
deep desert blind,
emptied out, being nothing
but black.

                                                                         —G. Timothy Gordon

Timothy Gordon’s Dream Wind was published in 2020 (Spirit-of-the-Ram Press), Ground of this Blue Earth (Mellen), while Everything Speaking Chinese was awarded Riverstone Poetry Prize (AZ). Work appears in international journals and has been nominated for several Pushcart Awards. Eighth book, Empty Heaven/Empty Earth, was published November 2022. Divides professional and personal lives between Southeast Asia and the Southwest Sonoran Desert Organ Mountains.



Night Lore

                      after Robert Frost

I was once in love with the night.

I walked along euphoric streets.
I luxuriated in city lights.

I skipped down rancid blocks.
I bypassed velvet ropes and entered clubs
where I kissed strangers under neon clocks.

I sprinted through rain and climbed snowdrifts
while others huddled under canopies
and waited for taxis to give them lifts

hours before I thought about going home;
or turning my back on the city's gleaming
boys, bars and songs, towers and domes.

I didn't spurn chance or fear heights.
I was once in love with the night.

                                                                                  —Geer Austin

Geer Austin is the author of Cloverleaf, a poetry chapbook (Poets Wear Prada Press). His poetry has appeared in Poet LoreFjords Review, Main Street Rag, Big City Lit, and others. He lives in New York City.



Elegy
 


When did we start to lose you?
I never used the word dementia
then. Now, drops of you diminish,

droplet by droplet.
Did you leak through your screams?
You said you’re a spy. You said
men were building a church on the roof.
You: sculptor, photographer,
the person who taught me the spiritual value
of beauty, a value that has sustained me like cool water.
Now, you don’t know I’m you’re son. You
know my name, but our beautiful bond is gone. I mourn
through this elegy for a living woman.

                                                                                                                  —Dean Kostos

Dean Kostos (1954–2022) was a poet and educator, anthologist, curator of Greek and Greek-American poetry, and editor of Mama's Boy. He was the author of numerous collections of poetry, as well as a stunning memoir, The Boy Who Listened to Paintings, published by Spuyten Duyvil in 2019. 



Under Snow

If I were to choose when to go it would be

after Autumn rested her gold and crimson
head on bare ground, fallen patchwork colors
embroidered with branches woven through
my gray-flecked hair, in contrast to fall leaves,
not at all vibrant vermilion or russet, more dun
or perhaps done, if approaching my demise

If I were to choose when to go it would be
quiet, an early dusting of snow as blanket,
cover my eyes slowly that I no longer see clouds,
spectral branches cutting blue sky; blind me
gradually as my arms flung wide lose limber motion,
welcome numbness after cold seeps into my body
at rest, under dried blood colored leaves, under snow

                                                                                                          —Julie A. Dickson

Julie A. Dickson is a poet and YA fiction writer, whose work appears in over 50 journals and in full length on Amazon. Dickson holds a BPS in Behavioral Science, advocates for captive elephants, and shares her home with two rescued feral cats. She is a Pushcart nominee and has served on two poetry boards and as a guest editor.