FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
As we all begin to navigate toward a summer of renewal, we hope that these poems inspire and comfort you on your journey.
—Cindy Hochman and Karen Neuberg, Editors
a smudge on the horizon—
Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, including The Aurorean, Boston Literary Magazine, Eucalypt, Leaflet: the Journal of the New England Teachers of English, Penmen Review of Southern New Hampshire University, Methuen Life, Modern English Tanka, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Wilderness House Literary Review.. Truth’s Truth, a book of his poems, will be released in 2021 by Kelsay Books.
—Jack M. Freedman
Jack M. Freedman is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. Publications featuring his work span 13 countries. These include USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Singapore, and Thailand. Under the pseudonym Jacob Moses, he penned ... and the willow smiled (Cyberwit, 2019), Art Therapy 101 (Cyberwit, 2019), and Seance (Cyberwit, 2020).
I wake in the morning and
make my bed and wish
it were bedtime again.
At night, pulling back the sheets,
I dream of morning coffee.
Anthony Cappo is the author of the forthcoming poetry book When You’re Deep In A Thing (Four Way Books, 2022) and the chapbook My Bedside Radio (Deadly Chaps Press, 2016). His poems and other writings have appeared in THRUSH, Prelude, Entropy, The Rumpus, and other publications. His work can be found at anthonycappo.com.
First World Problem:
Back porch crow
tries fitting two
into a one-peanut beak,
caws for help.
Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems Tebot Bach, 2018 Learn more at www.donnahilbert.com
Perpetuates the image of the chicken crossing the road, of monkeys eating bananas, of a bear dancing in the costume of a gypsy. Perpetuates the use of the word “meaning” in such situations, even when it is not appropriate, even when the word “representation” would be more correct.
Bob Heman's small poems are included in NOON: An Anthology of Short Poems, and in his collections As If, Acts of Innuendo and Assuming the Light.
Keeper of Robes to the Queen
Charmeuse cherry blossoms. Raw
silk cranes. Peacock feathers,
peonies. Faille and brocade.
How beautiful I felt draped
in them. What burden beauty is.
Lissa Kiernan’s first book of prose, Glass Needles & Goose Quills, won the Nautilus Prize for Lyric Prose and the Independent Book Awards Prize in the cross-genre category. Her first collection of poetry, Two Faint Lines in the Violet, was a finalist for Indiefab Book of the Year and the Julie Suk Award. She holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program in Creative Writing and an MA from The New School in New York City. Kiernan is the founder and director of The Poetry Barn. She lives in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, with her husband and a fluctuating number of felines.
A Rembrandt Portrait
Dressed in furs for comfort’s too much style,
art must wait until Nicolaes Ruts forgets how
to pose as he holds a paper. He is in Holland
and almost no place, in gray blankness. Eyes
faintly plead against this artist: don’t display
me so naked while clothed warmly in paint.
Nathan Whiting has performed contemporary dance and Bhutto in New York theaters and Japanese mountains, completed races longer than 100 miles, and studied witchcraft and meditation. He has nine books of poetry and has appeared in American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, CLWN WR, and The Virginia Quarterly.
Where We Live
Imagine how much time
our ancestors spent outdoors,
enough to know the meanings
of dingle, freshet, runnel,
coppice, glade, and firth,
while we, by contrast, study
the glowing landscape
of a pixeled screen.
—George H. Northrup
George H. Northrup is a poet and psychologist in New Hyde Park, NY. He is the author of You Might Fall In (2014), Wave into Wave, Light into Light: Poems and Places(2019), and When Sunset Weeps: Homage to Emily Dickinson (2020).
The Tenderness of Stones
Passing your old synagogue,
the tenderness of stones
You hide inside the invisible robe
for just this moment.
Robert Hirschfield is a New York-based poet and journalist whose work has appeared in Salamander, The Iconoclast, The Moth (Ireland), Cholla Needles, NOON (Japan), Tablet, and many other publications.
Forget God and religion, what the skinny Buddha is called. Follow the broken highway, and when you do, the only witness against you will be the flamboyant bird of the desert. You’ll pass through red nights and long white days and have a guarantee of a chance to win one of 1,000 prizes – everything from a string of fairy lights to an ear in a folded piece of paper on which someone has printed, “Take it, it will be useful.” Even so, your identity will remain a secret, as there’s no word yet in English for a parent who’s lost a child.
Howie Good's latest full-length poetry collection, Gunmetal Sky, was recently published by Thirty West.
Ghostly flowers on trees
Just noticed at midnight.
The throbbing air teases.
Wind takes us nowhere near warmth.
Let no season leave you untroubled.
A blue mask conceals my dry cough.
Figures pass in the dark by the churchyard.
Time stretches into nonlinear.
Past and present braid together
Near white flowers on branches.
Soon the sky will stay light
Long after supper.
Elizabeth Morse is a poet who lives in New York’s East Village. Her work has been published in literary magazines such as Blue Mesa Review, Hazmat Review, Mudfish, Lynx Eye, Home Planet News, and Freezer Burn and anthologies such as Crimes of the Beats and The Unbearables Big Book of Sex. Her poetry chapbook, The Future Is Now, was published by Linear Arts Press. She has an MFA from Brooklyn College and supports her poetry with a job in technology.
Not a concordance but a kind
of concord. The coming to-
gether of threads of sound. She
felt it behind her face, thought
something of it, took the first
road to the right she came to.
Flowering trees all around; not
fruit-bearing; decorative only.
Still nectar for the bees. Would
she ever get to taste their honey?
Recent visual &/or text work by Mark Young has appeared or is to appear in Word For/Word, Die Leere Mitte, Home Planet News Online, SurVision, experiential-experimental-literature, Hamilton Stone Review, Utsanga.it, & BlazeVOX, among other places. His most recent books are turning to drones, from Concrete Mist Press, & turpentine, from Luna Bisonte Prods.
Glimmers of light on the dining table
all set and she is strong, tall, kind
to him. Moving like a butterfly
using crystal glasses, not verily
to impress him—it’s her job
She’s just fit to do
to please him
and to see him
drink the winter-warm wine
drink her warm bouquet
She sees the half-a-moon outside
without expecting so much in return.
—Arvid van Maaren
Arvid van Maaren is an original Dutch bookworm, who has been living and travelling in the UK, USA, and Spain. She has eloped to Fuerteventura for now. As a language teacher she is fond of grammar; as a poet she is fond of words and scaffolding. Subsequent writing waves have already led to online and anthology appearances, her move to a desert island has led to inspiration for more.
The afternoon smolders, its torpor releasing sensuous dreams in a waft of saffron. The heart becomes wild; even slate and stone are molten. The snare of flesh, how it begs to take love unto itself. Throbbing tones of the tabla dance to midday’s racing pulse. The musk of red hibiscus lures a crown of bees. Fever-pitch heat dries red chilis to a crisp. The rhythms of the day are torched by the heat, longing for the still shade of a banyan tree, for cooling water from an earthenware surahi. Suddenly, the thought of rain becomes an obsession—the need to stand in the rain until every pore is soaked, cooled, cleansed.
Ami Kaye’s poems, reviews, and articles have appeared in various publications, including Kyoto Journal, Comstock Review, Naugatuck River Review, Cartier Street Review, and Diode. She is the author of What Hands Can Hold, and received nominations for the Pushcart and James B. Baker awards. Her new book, Flutesongs of Tanjore, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2022. Ami is the publisher at Glass Lyre Press, and editor of the Aeolian Harp series.
I was a flower girl in the drum palace.
The moon, my twirling parasol.
My gaze could drown tears.
The basket weaver still dreams of me.
The authors of paradise still hide
their longings inside my fan.
Pansies glister in twilight’s drizzle …
violet, aubergine, hopelessly blue.
Towers disappear in time and mist.
Loyalty, compassion, conviction.
Life forms around a clear center.
I’ve come to see the lost and missing.
—Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright is a publisher, critic, eco-activist, impresario, and artist, best known as a New Romantic, Surrealist poet. He is author of 17 books of verse, including Blue Lyre from Dos Madres Press and Party Everywhere from Xanadu. Currently he publishes Live Mag!, a journal of art and poetry. He recently produced a film highlighting his puppet shows called “Pandemic Puppet Jam,” on YouTube.
Today I was reminded
when, almost 49 years ago,
I was sleeping soundly
in the gentle & healing
waters of my mother’s womb
when we were alien creatures,
fish-like, with red skin,
sucking on thumbs
with our legs curled in—
We were so safe,
pain never existed;
light was an imaginary
thing, until the end.
—Carrie Magness Radna
Carrie Magness Radna is an audiovisual cataloger at the New York Public Library, a choral singer, and a poet who loves to travel. Her poems have previously appeared in The Oracular Tree, Mediterranean Poetry, Muddy River Poetry Review, Poetry Super Highway, Shot Glass Journal, Vita Brevis, Home Planet News, Cajun Mutt Press, Walt’s Corner, Polarity eMagazine, The Poetic Bond (VIII, IX & X), Alien Buddha Press, Jerry Jazz Musician, and Rye Whiskey Review. Her first poetry collection, Hurricanes never apologize (Luchador Press), was published in December 2019. Her upcoming poetry collection, In the Blue Hour (Nirala Publications), was recently released. Born in Norman, Oklahoma, she now lives with her husband in Manhattan, New York. https://carriemagnessradna.com
I knew how to read when I turned four.
I wrote my name on letters and papers;
they had told me about adoption, being chosen.
Why would I have thought it would be a stigma?
In second grade, the assignment was to draw
a family tree, to name ancestors and nationalities,
a tree on a page, provided by teacher,
written on by students: mother, father, siblings,
grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Then the teacher spoke quietly to me,
showed me the dotted line breaking the family,
symbolizing an adopted child.
I was the only one in my class with a dotted line.
—Julie A. Dickson
Julie A Dickson is a poet and writer with two adopted feral cats called Claire and Cam, who are often her first audience for new poems. Dickson is on the board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and her works have appeared in the Avocet and Poetry Quarterly, among others.
she leans onto him, for amusement and comfort
never for a goodbye.
her father sits shirtless on their kitchen chair
resembling patio furniture,
his reddish-brown skin glistens and sweats onto her.
in footies and thickly
braided hair, she smiles and laughs holding another polaroid
taken by her mother
only moments before. like every other night, he's just played his
jet black wellington.
for them. warm piano hands softened by bee venom and snake oil
joints loose. that was the last time they were a happy family.
did the palm of his disciplining hands feel so gentle and smooth.
—Tanya M. Beltran
Tanya M. Beltran is a proud Bronx native who holds both an MAW and MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College, where she served as Editor-in-Chief for the program's literary journal Inkwell. When not writing, she works as a Regulatory Publishing consultant for the Biotech industry. Her work has been featured on the National Writers Union website and within the 2019 and 2020 Brevitas Anthology of the short poem.
Plant three redwoods in three square feet
Come back a century later and find two murdered
Strangled by the root that got to the nutrients first
Much like the fetus that absorbed its twin
We know how to murder
before we think, breathe, speak
Our ability to ignore our instincts
is the only ability that can make a man great
Good manners are not my priority at the moment
My blotter on the dinner table
my head in my hands
my elbows on the table
Cataracts on a catamaran
The closer you get, the more blind you get
No perspective leads anywhere but pessimism
If you fight for something, you fight for nothing
John Maurer is a 26-year-old writer from Pittsburgh who writes fiction, poetry, and everything in between, but his work always strives to portray that what is true is beautiful. He has been previously published in Claudius Speaks, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, and more than forty others. @JohnPMaurer (johnpmaurer.com)
But don’t go far
The terminus post-office.
The first letter.
A shrill cry of doorbell.
The last rendezvous.
The stairs—up and down.
A hollow heart.
A fire with soap.
The first death.
The meaningless period.
All blank fireplaces.
Partha Sarkar, a resident of West Bengal, India, was born in 1967. He writes poems inspired by his elder brother, the late Sankar Sarkar, and his friends to protest against social injustice and crimes against nature.
I say to Vin, sorry, I tore the screen door again,
and I’m off to buy a new roll of scrim, in my camel-coat.
I walk Pleasant Street (real name, yes) cracked,
quick-freezed, like lightning on the ground, a wretch
of a street, past the stupid croci that pushed through the dirt
too soon, bloomed purple, all fooled by the early thaw.
And the gulls are so bold with lonely hunger: they
flock blocks up from the beach. A cloudy whale
floats above me: her sweet belly full of plastic Rosaries,
gray pearly beads. Those two women who still manifest
from my mother’s chipped china and the nacre bowl I stole
from my father start to rise up from the hinge of my elbow
as I wave to the man in the glass and door store. He smokes
a gray cloud, doesn’t see the women, and waves back to me.
Jennifer Martelli is the author of My Tarantella (Bordighera Press), awarded an Honorable Mention from the Italian-American Studies Association, selected as a 2019 “Must Read” by the Massachusetts Center for the Book, and named as a finalist for the Housatonic Book Award. Her chapbook, After Bird, was the winner of the Grey Book Press open reading, 2016. Her work has appeared in Verse Daily, Iron Horse Review (winner, Photo Finish contest), The Sycamore Review, West Trestle Review, Cream City Review, The Bitter Oleander, and Poetry. Jennifer Martelli has twice received grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her poetry. She is co-poetry editor for Mom Egg Review and co-curates the Italian-American Writers Series.
Fail well, fail often, fail
with your head held high
against the thought that you
should be doing something
more productive than writing
a poem, watching the sunrise,
daydreaming of accolades
falling from the oak tree in
your backyard onto your CV,
which has withered from a
lack of accomplishments that
can be written off as bad luck
or bad judgment from judges
who don’t understand that
anything worth doing is
worth doing badly.
—Martin H. Levinson
Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, PEN America; the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics, and a contributing editor to The Satirist. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems. Website: martinlevinson.com
pause correlative gap
depart → lift → fra
y border peel scrap consort
s ― t ― r ―i ― p
from radical stretch this gambit
acts of kindness
The originator of Hinge Theory, Heller Levinson lives in the lower Hudson Valley. His most recent book is Seep (Black Widow Press, 2020). His upcoming Lurk has now been released (also BWP).
STAY SAFE, EVERYONE!