FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
This issue is dedicated to our dear friend Gil Fagiani, whose recent passing is a huge loss for all who knew him and for the literary world. Gil’s words, good deeds, and activism will live on. We begin the issue with Gil’s poem from his soon-to-be-published book Missing Madonnas (Bordighera Press), and we send our deepest condolences to his wife, Maria Lisella, who is currently the poet laureate of Queens, New York.
Lunar Arrival Los Angeles, June 24, 1945
Mom’s belly, swollen
as the full moon above.
An earthquake rumbles,
her neighbor, the wife-beater,
rushes her to the hospital
in a battered pickup truck.
The sheet music
to a melancholy tune
that found a name
—my birth certificate.
Gil Fagiani (1945–2018) grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. He was a translator, essayist, short-story writer, and poet. His work has been translated into French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish, and his translations have appeared in many anthologies. He has published five books of poetry; his most recent is Logos (Guernica Editions, 2015), and in addition, has published Stone Walls,Chianti Connecticut, A Blanquito in El Barrio, and Rooks; plus three chapbooks, Crossing 116th Street, Grandpa’s Wine, and Serfs of Psychiatry. He was a charter member of Brevitas, a co-founder of the Vito Marcantonio Forum, and a Board member and co-curator of the Italian American Writers Association readings. In February 2014, he was the subject of a New York Times article by David Gonzalez, “A Poet Mines Memories of Drug Addiction.”
A red-wing blackbird
spreads her wings on a cattail
to protect her nest.
—Milton P. Ehrlich
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D., is an 86-year old psychologist. A Korean War veteran, he has published numerous poems in periodicals such as Descant, Taj Mahal Review, Wisconsin Review, Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow, Toronto Quarterly Review, Antigonish Review, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and The New York Times.
[Editors' Note: We thank Dr. Ehrlich for his service to this country.]
for Edmund Jabès
Poems are bodies
that gestate and grow slow
arms and legs to do things.
Their ears develop first.
Their hearts come to life at the end.
Mobile of Tears
“I had tears to say … tears like a task …” —Louise Bogan
If tears could speak, the world
would drown in words. It would sob and shudder.
The way a child cries her heart’s longing
because she has no words left to wrap herself dry.
How do we survive our drowning, after
the amniotic fluids have drained our mothers away?
How does any one of us ever learn
the art of turning tears to song – of holding
the shrill tunes of our needs so loosely
that they fly from our hearts
in rainbows, in fairy-dust,
balanced in the precarious air
in hopes that someone
will notice their fierce flutters?
Jill Evans makes films and media art installations, writes poetry, and teaches about social justice from a female perspective. She is the winner of 4 Emmy awards for video art and documentary films. She also designs and makes one-of-a-kind jewelry in her company Touchstonesdesigns. She lives in St. Louis, MO, and started her career in her 40s, while raising three young children, and being fueled by a graduate degree in Philosophy.
Depress the old black metal paper punch,
And let five circles of white paper fall
Like petals from an apple tree in spring.
Artist and poet Erica Mapp, originally from Trinidad, lives in New York City. She received a BFA from the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and an MA in Art Education from New York University’s School of Education. She is a Cave Canem Fellow.
The Ferris wheel gondolas are out
of their winter pouches.
The roller coaster practices by itself
and is already doing very well.
["Urban Spring" was first published in Lunar Poetry (November 2014)]
Beate Sigriddaughter, www.sigriddaughter.com, is poet laureate of Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), USA. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and poetry awards. In 2018, FutureCycle Press published her poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends. Cêrvená Barva Press will publish her chapbook Dancing in Santa Fe and Other Poems in 2019.
under my bed
sandals of light
for my feet
Jan Emerson lives, writes, and paints in New York City. A former professor of German and Medieval Studies, she has published on Hildegard of Bingen and other medieval visionaries. She can be reached through her website janemersonartist.com.
I am like their father
Know them as my own awhile
Show them to the world
And at the end of the day
I live inside my paintings
John Hicks is an emerging poet whose work has been published or accepted for publication by I-70 Review, Panorama, Midnight Circus, The Lincoln Underground, and The Society for the Preservation of Wild Culture. He completed an MFA in Creative Writing a year ago at the University of Nebraska—Omaha.
parakeets anneal the landscape
he changed the room around
five meters of mud lay between the path & the water
the last vestige of light was a yellow butterfly
Mark Young's most recent books are random salamanders, a Wanton Text Production, & Circus economies & The Word Factory: a miscellany, both from gradient books of Finland.
Trick of the Light
Floaters embedded in the jelly
of my eyes are hummingbirds
skirting my peripheral vision
against white wall backdrops
and seamless blue skies.
M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in San Pedro River Review, SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.
Anyone seen that Cat and Bird painting
by Klee which is all cat and no bird?
Sure, the bird is in the mind, but the mind of what?
The cat, of course. It is a one man show.
As if Klee’s cat did a painting, and I adore that!
Those crazed green eyes so monstrously
vast and involved that they could be their own worlds.
—Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Word Riot, Literary Yard, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.
the singing bowl
with the purring cat
for Steve Luttrell
like a cat
has its own agenda
in the Age of Trump
Patricia Carragon’s latest books are The Cupcake Chronicles (Poets Wear Prada) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press). Patricia curates the Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology.
Yesterday’s Figures (a fibonacci poem)
then what I
know now, how would it
have affected today’s total?
Evie Ivy is a dancer/poet in the NYC poetry circuit. She hosts one of the longest-running poetry series, The Green Pavilion Poetry Event, in Brooklyn. Her latest book out is No, No Nonets … the Book of Nonets, available from Amazon.
Mansour has his sweatshirt pulled up to cover mouth and nose
Risa holds herself so tightly she looks like a pretzel
Joe and Klinton have their legs bouncing like pistons
Nica is chewing on her braid
Donnell’s shoulders are hunched up to his ears
Janine has gnawed through her eraser and is now nibbling wood
Roy is leaning back in his chair and staring out the window in shock
Leticia looks like she escaped from a painting by Edvard Munch (you know the one)
Ricin has given up and has found something fascinating to stare at on the window sill
Zeynob has her cheek pressed to the desk, exam edge on to her recumbent face
Me, I’m just grateful that this year no one is crying
Gene Bild has been teaching math at a public high school in Urbana, IL, for the past 26 years; planning to retire this month. Retirement plans include getting Republican politicians to join him in retirement and moving away from Mayberry. He is married to a film/media scholar and they have a daughter at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He is lucky to have traveled a lot, and has lived in Sweden and Hong Kong. He dabbles in Tai Chi and Qi Gong, owns two cats, and likes to read sci-fi and mystery novels. He is often in trouble for irreverant and jokey attitude.
A hawk holds against the wind,
hovers just above an elm,
screeching defiance. Is it flight craft
or grace that sustains him?
And me? There’s no doubt
what keeps me in place
after a gust does no harm
that should have blown me away.
Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at www.don-e-thompson.com.
In the pith of fledge
hesitation at the rim
last one out is a … hmmm
looking over the vast
not lined in twigs
not warm not—
how to say, not thick?
false starts risky
alone now in the nest
I’m no egg
I’ve got feathers
I can flap them, kind of
—oh! the why of wings!
Mary Newell lives in the lower Hudson Valley. She has taught literature and writing at the college level. Her poems have been published in Spoon River Poetry Review, Hopper Literary Magazine, Earth’s Daughters, Chronogram, Written River, About Place, etc.
Note to a Fledgling
I dialed my childhood
no one answered,
lost memories tread
on charred bones.
Is your mother mine?
The backyard grave
church bells echo
across Mill Creek Pond,
tears scorching skin.
Hard to imagine.
Never trust a starling.
I carry two in my back pocket.
Clarissa Jakobsons instructs at a local community college and weaves one-of-a-kind artist books, exhibited internationally as well as at the Cleveland Museum of Art Ingalls Library. Sometimes she combines artist books with her poems and oil paintings. Sample publications include: Glint Literary Journal, Lake, Ruminate, Tower Magazine, and Qarrtsiluni. She writes, "Don’t be surprised to see my inner artist kicking sandcastles, climbing Mount Diablo, painting Provincetown dunes, or walking under an Ohio crescent moon."
Kissing Tulip Trees
Living under tulip poplars
I can hear the rain
before I can catch a drop
on my open hands and yet
I stretch a hand out
when I hear rain coming
maybe in a ritual
gesture of welcome
even though the rain
pays no heed
and sometimes turns
and goes back into
the gray temples of the sky
without slapping my face
with a wet kiss
Paul Sohar drifted as a student refugee from Hungary to the U.S., where he got a BA degree in philosophy and a day job in chemistry while writing and publishing in every genre, including seventeen volumes of translations, among the latest being Silver Pirouettes, Gyorgy Faludy’s poetry (Ragged Sky Press, Princeton, 2017). His own poetry: Homing Poems (Iniquity Press, 2006) and The Wayward Orchard, a Wordrunner Press Prize winner (2011). Other awards: first prize in the 2012 Lincoln Poets Society contest and a second prize from Rhode Island Writers' Circle prose contest (2014). Translation prizes: the Irodalmi Jelen Translation Prize (2014), Toth Arpád Translation Prize, and the Janus Pannonius Lifetime Achievement Award (both in 2016, Budapest, Hungary). Magazine credits include Agni, Gargoyle, Kenyon Review, Rattle, Poetry Salzburg Review, Seneca Review, etc.
the water falls
but there is no one to
pick it up
do not wait
alone i can dance
alone i can defend my life
with no one to pick it up
so tonite i dance alone
Poet/collagist Steve Dalachinsky was born in Brooklyn after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little wars. His book The Final Nite (Ugly Duckling Presse) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. He has received both the Kafka and Acker Awards and is a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier D’ le Ordre des Artes et Lettres. His poem “Particle Fever” was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His most recent books include The Invisible Ray (Overpass Press, 2016) with artwork by Shalom Neuman, Frozen Heatwave, a collaboration with Yuko Otomo (Luna Bisonte Prods 2017), and Black Magic (New Feral Press 2017).
Morning in Barbados
A set of thoughts strung on a string
shaking around the necks of palm trees.
Time crumbled existence into small pieces,
the faces of patient flowers filter the light.
Pillars of moist air rise from the sea
toward a dispersing sky.
A wind scrapes the nude bodies of waves,
on the birdfeeder a hummingbird finds a home.
In the sand a live God begins to roam.
—Zoltán Böszörményi, Translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar
Zoltán Böszörményi (1953-), a notable Hungarian poet, writer, and publisher born in Romania but now living in Canada and Barbados; two of his novels have also been published in Sohar’s English translation: Far from Nothing (Exile Editions, Canada, 2006) and The Club at Eddie’s Bar (Phaeton Press, Ireland, 2013). The Conscience of Trees, a selection of his poems in English, culled and translated from his numerous volumes of poetry, is slated for publication by Ragged Sky press is soon to be released.
Until a Small Child
Never did dry grass sing
like cherubs in heaven,
never did dry grass rise—
until a small child,
slight as grass, got up
and sang his own song,
found a bottle-shaped drum
and began to accompany
his song with rhythmic drumming.
Never did dry grass sing
until the child, shimmering
with wonder, sang his own beginnings,
and we, as we watched him,
saw the mystery of creation.
Rachel Berghash was born in Jerusalem. She has published a memoir, Half the House, My Life In and Out of Jerusalem, Sunstone Press. Her poetry and poetry translations have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Chicago Review, Christianity and Literature, Colorado Review, and in anthologies including Living Moments (Karnac), and A Poet’s Siddur, ed. Rick Lupert. In 2009, her poetry was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in poetry by The Comstock Review. Her book Psyche, Soul, and Spirit: Interdisciplinary Essays, with co-author Katherine Jillson, has been published by WIPF & STOCK, Publishers.
Poison Runs Through the Maze
When the vultures begin to circle the living
that’s when you know things have gotten bad
the Earth’s occupants eating the sky
and the ground and the ocean and each other
a poison slowly spreading
a toxification of the elements
serving each living creature its malnourished mutated
mucus on a daily basis.
Heath Brougher is the co-poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine (winner of the 2017 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine). He published three chapbooks in 2016, one full length-collection About Consciousness (Alien Buddha Press) in 2017, and has two full-length collections forthcoming from Weasel Press and Between These Shores Books. He is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee and his work has been translated into journals in Albania and Kosovo. He was the judge of Into the Void Magazine’s 2016 Poetry Competition and edited the anthology Luminous Echoes, the sales of which will be donated to help with the prevention of suicide/self-harm. His work has appeared or is due to be published in Of/with, SLAB, MiPOesias, Taj Mahal Review, Main Street Rag, Mobius, and elsewhere.
Swiftness (from Dazzle)
If you can’t be wise,
be fast. No cheetah stews
in indecision. Even mouse and newt
know when to feint,
then skedaddle toward some fine
elsewhere. Stay nimble. Sift
through your habits before they stif-
fen. Unclench your fists.
What you can’t change, witness.
Be the sun on its bright race west—
unstoppable, burning with news.
Alison Stone has published four full-length collections, Dazzle (Jacar 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. She has published Masterplan, a book of collaborative poems with Eric Greinke. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow 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 recently 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. www.stonepoetry.org www.stonetarot.com
Justice: A Letter of Resignation
My scales are tarnished and rusty, my robes faded and threadbare. I’m nothing more than a sooty statue, a museum piece, a testament to abandoned ideals. My body is skeletal, my bones fragile with your cancerous fear. Like my sisters, Athena and Liberty, I’m shamed by your neglect, your complicity and cowardice, raped by your greed, stupidity, your ridiculous illusions of power. You dressed us up like Barbie dolls with fancy gold scales, torches, and olive branches. You gave us the job of symbol and archetype. You even made us female. Then you laid your humanity on us the way you have crippled God with your salvation. We quit. Not because we want to, but because you silenced us. Said hit the showers, keep the props. Said we want the other guy, the predator with tattoos and chains, the one in black leather who spikes his hair and paints it red. We want him. He's sexy. You're not.
Catherine Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. She is the author of three chapbooks, most recently, Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017). A former English and writing teacher, Arra now teaches part-time and facilitates a local writers’ group. Find her at www.catherinearra.com.
Our first words echoed the sounds of a
seething world, every moment pressing close
the herd’s hoof beats pounding against dry ground
the crack and spit of wood in a leaping fire
coyote’s sad songs of yearning and blood
thunder’s rolling drumbeat in staccato rhythms
mourning dove’s call, tender with love and longing
wind slipping lazily through last year’s grass.
Our tongues found the form and the rhythm
singing songs by the swinging cradle
the flickering light pressing against the dark.
We told new tales in a brimming, breathing world.
A writer and artist, Deborah Kennedy’s work has been presented in the United States and Europe. Her recent book, Nature Speaks: Art and Poetry for the Earth (2016, White Cloud Press), combines illustrations and poetry focusing on the ecological themes of our time. Nature Speaks has won numerous awards, including the 2017 Eric Hoffer and Silver Nautilus poetry book awards. Kennedy presents poetry readings with multimedia slide lectures at bookstores, schools, and to poetry, ecology and spiritual groups. Please visit her at: https://www.facebook.com/deborahkennedyart/
Used to Play Baseball
I am a nail-punctured tire
the rubber smell
with you, unfinished, our wheels—
squealing for still.
Our bodies, bands stretched and heaved
in bundles of clothing
feathers scattered and—)
navigating roadmaps to our cores,
you can reach the end
and pluck what you want.
I just want you to see me for who I am
when your legs aren't clamped around me,
the squeeze in the mitt.
—James Croal Jackson
James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in FLAPPERHOUSE, Yes Poetry, Serving House Journal, and elsewhere. He edits The Mantle, a poetry journal. Find him in Columbus, Ohio, or at jimjakk.com.
Faded Letter from Daisy Fay with Photo Found in Jay Gatsby’s Army Duffle Bag
Sorry—I had to go for a rich guy, because I’m as shallow as a white petal on a daisy
—And he had a pair of polo ponies—
But you were so handsome with your dark hair and dangling cigarette
—and your lips had an unforgettable softness.
I really loved you!!!
I hope you are looking at my photo now—so you can remember
how beautiful I was when I kissed you.
Did you survive the war? Will I ever know?
PS. I never told you--my real name is not Daisy Fay.
I’m a Jewish girl from Brooklyn—
When you think of me in the future, think of me by my real name--
Your true love,
Alice Twombly is the co- curator of Thursdays Are For Poetry at Classic Quiche, in Teaneck, NJ. She is a photographer and a new member of Brevitas. Her poems have been published in The New Jersey Poetry Monthly (first-prize winner), The Red Wheelbarrow Anthology 13 and 14, and Brevitas 14. She currently teaches at the Learning Collaborative of the New City Jewish Center, and lectures on literary topics at the Teaneck, NJ, Library, for the Friday Morning Group.