FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Cindy and Karen are hoping that all of our contributors and readers are having a safe and joyful summer. We've compiled a big juicy issue for you with an eclectic mix of styles; there's a little something for everyone in here. ENJOY!
dark heart too
make a wish, moon!
I am too
a falling star
Elisa Theriana, from Bandung, Indonesia, works as a computer programmer. She is a haiku lover who would like to promote awareness and fight the stigma of mental health problems.
finished cursory cerulean
ornamental coquelicot quivers
in the unuttered deep carmine gloss
—Megan Denese Mealor
[previously published in Neologism Poetry Journal, November 2017]
Megan Denese Mealor is a double Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals worldwide. She is the author of three poetry collections: Bipolar Lexicon (Unsolicited Press, 2018), Blatherskite (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019), and A Mourning Dove's Wishbone (still in the works). Megan lives with husband Tony, son Jesse, and three mollycoddled cats, Trigger, Lulu, and Hobbes, in Jacksonville, Florida.
my friend says a
new Buddha will incarnate
today. I wonder
what it means but
she wanders off.
Kevin Browne is an anthropologist and writer living in Wisconsin. His writing has appeared in both literary and social science journals.
coffee always brings me
back to rainy afternoons
in Paris after a proper lunch
with the Impressionists
Kit Kennedy is a queer elder, poet, blogger living in Walnut Creek, CA. Kit is Poet-in-Residence at SF Bay Times and Resident Poet at herchurch, San Francisco. Work has appeared in Otoliths, First Literary Review-East, Great Weather for MEDIA, Gyroscope, and Shot Glass Journal, among others. Please visit: http://poetrybites.blogspot.com
The heart can sometimes be repaired with thread and a curved needle such as sail-makers use. But its ability to love in the future can never be guaranteed.
It's not the bracelet we're supposed to notice, but the scars on her wrists. The distance between her arms the only distance she will ever travel. The song she is supposed to sing does not advance the plot. When she exits stage right she understands that the bear will follow.
Bob Heman has been writing prose poems regularly for almost 50 years. His "information" pieces have appeared recently in Otoliths, DMQ (Disquieting Muses Quarterly), Poetry Bay, No Placebos and Blazing Stadium.
Generosity from the departed
Comes in all forms of surprises
Butterflies bearing gifts
Crows with wisdom to spare
Sprinkle my world with remembrances
Madlynn Haber lives with her dog, Ozzie, in a cohousing community in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthology Adult Children (Wising Up Press, 2021), Random Sample, Dissonance Magazine, Buddhist Poetry Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, and other journals. Online at www.madlynnwrites.com.
In the Drawer Under the Oven
She was finally able to reach
the international travelers by fax.
Sorry to bother you. I can’t seem
to find any of the lids for the
pots and pans. Do you have an
idea of where they might be?
Otherwise, your house is safe
and sound. All will be well
once I locate the lids.
Karen Loeb’s poems and stories have appeared recently in Big City Lit, Halfway Down the Stairs, Thema, Foreign Literary Journal, and the anthology Hope is the Thing. Her work has won both the fiction and poetry contests in Wisconsin People and Ideas. She was Eau Claire, Wisconsin writer-in-residence 2018–2020. Poems are forthcoming in Panoply Zine and Muddy River Poetry Review.
Monday in Accounts
She, painterly person, holds the past weekend
like a sky within her memory. Now it is
Monday in the accounts department and she feels
the weight of white screens. But yesterday
she watched an orange crab in the rock pool
tamping sand, small puffs of it, hinting death
in the pool’s forest. Earlier, a child of three had
lapped an ice cream cone, her blue eyes hungering,
loving the gleam of pink and chocolate. In the
evening, in the beach café, a guitarist’s features
lay in the sunset’s shadow, his audience’s smiles
flickering before the wall’s green-painted pine.
Now that weekend lies below accounts’ reality,
low, mellowing, moaning for expression.
[Previously published in Poetry Cornwall and Autumn House Review]
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (four times) and a Best of the Net award.
Over the River to Grandmother’s House We Go
the yellow Rambler
rumbled us down South too soon
five days on the road
Daddy’s smile gone when we crossed
the Mississippi River
Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Recent fiction publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published in 2018. Her debut poetry collection, Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance, was published in 2021. Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com
For Charlene, at the Lake
if there is a hand to hold here
if a song lingers on the air
fall overboard into the eyes of a child
and come to the surface
Margie Gaffron lives in State College, PA. After reconnecting with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, one of her goals is to create a bedrock foundation of language—minimal word, maximum communication. Words that bring intense response—pure feeling, connection. I will be rock, I will be water. Her book, Holdings, was published in 2002. Her poems have appeared in One Sentence, The Progressive, Pivot, Friend’s Journal, Liminal Age, and Autism Parenting Magazine, as well as other journals and anthologies. She is currently working on a collection of short fiction, Diner Tales 1967–1970.
We lay face-down on the beach,
masked faces in the water,
waiting for the next wave
to arrive, stirring up the sand:
an underwater snowglobe.
We were a part of it all:
the bubbles, the whirling,
anything that might surface
with each gently lapping tide.
[previously published in Silver Birch Press]
Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet and photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Publications include ONE ART, Anti-Heroin Chic, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Minyan. Photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Praxis, Redheaded Stepchild, and elsewhere. She authored Alinea and co-authored In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.
All the world’s beaches sing the same song
so when perfunctory I love you’s
emanate from electronic umbilici
below boardwalk falaferies
I become unbecoming
say so long to summer’s rhythmic
sireneal surf-school girls
dipping pink toes in the sea
& take off for the offing
shuffling a bluesy soft-shoe
a storm ahead of a storm
& disappear in waves’ broken iterations
the mystic susurrus of their sweeping.
Dan Giancola has published nine books or chapbooks of poetry, most recently Near Ghazals (Street Press, 2020) and Exit Strategy (Bullhead Press, 2018). He lives in Mastic, New York.
A tunnel. A wall. A pipeline.
A child. A road.
The nouns are rockets, arsenal,
dogs, interceptors, uniforms,
surveillance, mosque, raids,
blockade, cages, fence, barrier,
Ramadan, Our Lady of Guadalupe,
The verbs are build, fire, hide, run,
seek, carry, attack, imprison, scour,
trap, seize, take, shoot, encounter,
collaborate, help, divide, construct,
bridge, expand, stop, die, pollute,
A tunnel. A wall. A pipeline.
A child. A road.
The sixth Queens Poet Laureate, Maria Lisella was awarded a Poet Laureate Fellowship from the American Academy of Poets; she co-curates the Italian American Writers Association. Collections include Thieves in the Family, Amore on Hope Street, and Two Naked Feet.
Don’t need plastic surgery
Since I am plastic
I’ve held every job
From model to astronaut ...
Sex with Ken, no way!
We lack the genitalia
Yet kids keep trying
I was born this way
Don’t harsh on my measurements
I’m a fantasy
For a birthday gift
I want a Covid booster
And of course, world peace
T. C. Gardstein’s novel, Circuit, is available most of the time on Amazon.com. She has published poetry in First Literary Review-East and Clean Sheets, as well as astrology in various journals. A native New Yorker, she currently lives in the Hudson Valley with one sweetie and four cats.
Everyone has that teddy,
Its colour is slightly washed out and its edges frayed.
Everyone has that teddy,
Beaten and bruised from years of play.
Everyone has that teddy,
That seems to smell of childhood: mud, tears, laughter.
Everyone has that teddy,
That you won’t give away, even as you start a new chapter.
Everyone has that teddy,
Whose fur is falling out or its paint will soon flake.
Everyone has that teddy,
That is your very own safe place.
Kate Nelson is a student specialising in English literature and language. They have just begun exploring creative writing, specifically focusing on poetry and flash fiction.
you are not the only one
sometimes feeling like a frightened child
afraid of an erratic balloon
filled with angry exhalations
the shadow of birds
swooping too close
a zigzagging kite
controlled by the wind’s demands
a cloud that suddenly covers the sun
threatening a storm
it was a necessary habit
formed too early on
now, useless time spent
worried about ghosts that vanish into nothing
Victoria Twomey is an award-winning poet and artist. Her poems have been published in several anthologies, in newspapers, and on the Web, including BigCityLit.com, Poetrybay.com and Sanctuary-Magazine.com.
My muse shows up today.
(assumes a wry, apologetic stance)
“What makes you think
you can ... sashay right in after ...”
My resolve dissolves to
all swirled up, found
in her presence.
Sara Altman holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in psychology; is the creator of WhimsicalPoet.Com, an online poetry resource; and is the Editor-in-chief of the affiliated WhimsicalPoet: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry. She has poems published in PoetryPotion, 34th Parallel, Willows Wept Review, Down in the Dirt, Southshore Review and more. When not writing and working on the website or journal, she can be found hiking the Hudson Valley with her pup, enjoying the home life with her wife and pets, or ripping up the pavement with her Super 73 electric bike.
Cassandra Atherton’s Hyacinth
The flower predicted Troy’s fall but nobody believed her. She always warns of disasters: cockatoo stampedes, rabid bandicoots, man-eating wallabies, kangaroos with chainsaws, and home invasions of bogong moths. The danger is so acute that you can’t get a submarine sandwich at a French deli.
“Deli! Delay! Deli! Delay!” appeared in Joyce’s Ulysses. The intrepid mariner sang it in the Tasman Sea when fairy penguins in waterproof tiaras orbited like Trojan asteroids around his trireme. What a black swan event it was when penguins showered the crew with anchovies and pixie dust while Stephen Dedalus was lashed to the mast!
Darwin does not recommend fashioning wings from flower petals. Once you’re airborne, John Belushi and his killer bees, all with antennae made of springs and ping-pong balls, will swarm and demand, “Where’s your pollen?”
Paul Lynde was often the secret square in a gameshow that resembled the Zoom reading Cassandra’s hyacinth attends from a land where wombats are lawn ornaments and the sun also rises on the right.
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, New Verse News, Paterson Literary Review, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Slipstream, Space and Time, and Tales of the Talisman. Jon is the author of the poetry collections Words of Power, Dances of Freedom, and A Foreigner Wherever I Go, as well as several novels and short story collections. His most recent novel is The Prague Deception. http://jonwesick.com
- The film has been slowed down
- So that you can watch the soldiers die
- This is not the world we volunteered for
- Dogs are in heat beneath the electrical wires
- Sparks flying across open contact points
- A circle of chairs in an unheated church hall
- I used to think we could be friends
- Before I knew how you voted
- The weather appears grey on black and white film
- Birds distributed by ratio along the wire
- A clock face visible within deep shadows
- Time is the energy released
- When you murder distance
- Touch me in my furrowed place
- Paint me darkly with sadness.
Poet and songwriter Paul Ilechko lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. He is the author of several chapbooks. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including The Night Heron Barks, Feral Journal, Iron Horse Literary Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and Book of Matches. His first album, Meeting Points, was released in 2021.
Above the cabin beside the field
an Air Tractor flies loud and low
Spraying six pounds per gallon
of insecticide on the spring wheat
Back and forth over and over
White tail deer take graceful leave
Meadowlarks desert nests
Cottontails disappear down warrens
Ants crawl into death chambers
Breathing holes in grasshopper bellies burn
And I read the morning headlines
about bombings in Ukraine
Ellaraine Lockie’s recent work has won both the Oprelle Publishing’s Poetry Masters Contest and their Bigger Than Me Contest Award, Poetry Super Highway Contest, the Nebraska Writers Guild’s Women of the Fur Trade Poetry Contest, and New Millennium’s Monthly Musepaper Poetry Contest. Her chapbook collections have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch magazine in England, and The Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award. Ellaraine teaches writing workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH.
Aiming at the Clouds
Night after night you can be found:
A small fragile figure who stands on a precipice.
You fire your arrows into the sky,
Aiming at the clouds you cannot penetrate
And you do not care where they happen to land.
The moon will no longer call you by your name;
The stars at once implore you to stop
And turn away their faces.
John Tustin's poetry has appeared in many disparate literary journals and fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.
We were foolish and giddy in our expectation.
I knew nothing of kites, but you’d wanted one, so I bought one.
A few weeks later, we drove up the mountain into the wind,
our unsuitable car creaking resentfully. Halfway, the fire road
cut to a clearing leading to a drop. We parked, you put your hair up.
It was hard for me to hold onto the starfish and spinner, but I got it airborne,
handed you the controls. You chuckled at the pull and let it take you,
running through the grass until I caught you in a soft cross-tackle.
You’d come too close to the cliff’s edge. Were you only watching the sky?
The kite crashed and you scowled beneath me.
Days later, you glued squares of the kite’s fabric onto the panes
of the French doors where it glowed greenly in our southern light.
Brendan McEntee received his Master's in English from Hofstra University. His work has appeared online in Mad Swirl, Perigee, A Prick of the Spindle and Page & Spine, as well as print journals, including The Main Street Rag, Blue Unicorn and Loch Raven Review. His collection of poetry, Servicing Nostalgia, was published in February of 2019 by Kelsay Books.
My Ennobled Exile
The day’s life rounded off by drinks and dinner
on the back deck of a summer night,
I sat alone in rarified air—
golden mean of no temperature,
looked up at the waxing white-misted moon,
distant pendant in lavender sky.
Its sublime neutrality enhanced my insignificance
staring back from the face of the earth.
Slowly it slid out of history,
disappeared into branches of a towering tree
whose sunfoiled leaves on a summer’s day
are as glorious as any
that ever graced
the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
In addition to a career as a professional musician, John Adames has taught courses in literature, music, writing, and rhetoric at various Canadian universities and colleges. He has a PhD from the University of Toronto and has published in First of the Month.
walking toward cemetery mountain
maybe a bone or two
the next morning,
enough blood to fill a carved-out dictionary
all that red
my hands, grated shivers
what if this elevation has softened me somehow
my understanding of movement
I found two joints beneath my pillow which I swallowed, hoping to reconnect the parts of me stolen in the night
Aimee Herman lives beside the mountains, writing poetry, playing ukulele and searching for the peace buried deep within. They are the author of two books of poetry and the novel Everything Grows.
Into a gray weathered board
Wedged into the end of a pile of rocks
In lieu of a headstone
Somewhere in the Arizona desert
A single word
No last name
What is buried here?
Tom Miller is a retired businessman, a voice-over artist and tour guide for two Historic New England house museums in Salem, MA. His work has appeared in the Muddy River Poetry Review, the Wilderness House Literary Review, Ibbetson Street, and other journals and anthologies. A native of Ohio, Tom now resides in Ipswich, MA.
When I resign
I will practice
I will write
on a typewriter.
I will paint collages
from all the articles
I saved and never used.
I will clean out
my desk, the attic,
basement, and garage,
and then I will
not rake the leaves,
nor mow the grass.
I will wander
and be a cat.
Daniel Sklar teaches Creative Writing at Endicott College. His work has been published in the Harvard Review, English Journal, Beat Scene, and the New York Quarterly, among other journals. His books include Flying Cats, Hack Writer, and Bicycles, Canoes, Drums. He rides a bicycle to work.