FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Without even having to make any overt political statements or references, we submit to you an issue that celebrates diversity, multiculturalism, and all the beautiful things that connect us as humans, including, of course, poetry.
—Cindy Hochman and Karen Neuberg, Editors
can tanka russe
Kiev in Winter.
Snow, cold, thermal underwear.
He stayed indoors.
Thought: life in a submarine.
Was moody until Spring came.
Mark Young's most recent books are Mineral Terpsichore, from gradient books of Finland, and The Chorus of the Sphinxes, from Moria Books in Chicago. An e-book, The Holy Sonnets unDonne, came out earlier this year from Red Ceilings Press; another, a few geographies, will be out later this year from One Sentence Poems; & another, For the Witches of Romania, is scheduled for publication by Beard of Bees.
red, orange, greeny yellow—
fall trees dot my county, beacons
these dark days.
—Melanie Stoff Maier
Melanie Stoff Maier was born and raised in San Francisco. She earned a BS from the University of California, Berkeley and a JD from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She practiced in the Bay Area before retiring to pursue writing poetry. Melanie’s poetry has been published in reviews such as The Fourth River, Phoebe, The Southern California Review, and South Carolina Review. Internationally her work has appeared in Gazeta Wyborcza, Warsaw, Poland. She co-edited and contributed to the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish Identity, Conflux Press; has published two chapbooks, The Land of Us, Pudding House Press, and Night Boats, Conflux Press; also two full-length books of poems, sticking to earth and Invention of The Moon, Conflux Press.
between match head
and striking surface
there's a hesitation
* * *
after you left
it snowed all week
on the cemetery
—E. Martin Pedersen
E. Martin Pedersen, a San Franciscan, has lived in eastern Sicily for over 35 years. He teaches English at the local university. His poetry has appeared in Ink Sweat & Tears, Sonic Boom Journal, Under the Basho, hedgerow, cattails and others. Martin is a 2011 alum of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
worn from use
at the untouched shore
where I don’t get out
* * *
I can parse
honey apple from York
forget time exists
my water bowl is empty
Christy Burbidge writes primarily tanka, haibun, and flash fiction. She has been published in Haibun Today and has a forthcoming piece in Chrysanthemum. She lives in New England.
Three a.m. always smothers you deep.
Dull glow of numbers on the nightstand
and sweat running down your ribs.
These nights are cello suites, unbloomed tulips,
weed-clogged creeks. You might reach
for something to hold, a small rock shard
or seashell piece, and think you might worry out
all the edges, imperfections. You go to the fridge
for cold water, stand in the inevitable light,
see green olives, peach jam,
and the lettuce, wilted, semi-strewn
as a dress balled up on a stranger’s floor.
Amy MacLennan’s work has been published in Cimarron Review, Connotation Press, Folio, Hayden's Ferry Review, Linebreak, Poet's Market, River Styx, and The Pedestal Magazine. She has published two chapbooks: Weathering (Uttered Chaos Press, 2012), and The Fragile Day (Spire Press, 2011). She was featured in July, 2016, on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor and in September, 2016, on Verse Daily. Her full-length collection, The Body, A Tree, was published by MoonPath Press in April, 2016.
Rain & Other Complaints
Depression is an undertow
she’s come to rely on, a steadiness in potential displacement
by which a landscape is balanced, a mood composed.
Take today, another
in a long run on rain; a day for red shoes
and writing on the chalkboard in shocked pastels.
Today, an exercise, a simple shifting of sand particles, practice
for the riptides that will dredge stars and spit earth like an olive pit
past hope that even sleep
will yield a dream, a lover, a Messiah
or the next day when fire envelops
a lush green forest and burns nothing.
Catherine Arra lives in upstate New York. A former English and writing teacher, her recent poetry and prose appear or are forthcoming in The Timberline Review, Boston Literary Magazine, The Naugatuck River Review, Gloom Cupboard, Peacock Journal and Sugared Water. Her chapbooks are: Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014) and Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015).
I put my head on the windowpane.
I hear the snow fall as softly as rain.
The moment passes like déjà vu:
the white snow, the black window, and you.
The icy winter will leave no grain.
Nothing to plough will not reap in vain.
Spring will come but not for us two:
the white snow, the black window, and you.
David Francis has produced six albums of songs, one of poems, and "Always/Far," a chapbook of lyrics and drawings. His film "Village Folksinger" has been screened in New York, Connecticut, Texas, and England. David's poems and stories have appeared in a number of journals. www.davidfrancismusic.com
Sappho in Winter
She is standing by a willow tree, the top button of her overcoat undone. Her scarf flaps, like
a black crow wing, or a calendar in the wind.
Solstice morning—earth doesn't know it yet, but she does. Intelligent as a clock, this one. She
gazes across the bay, tosses her overcoat at me, walks away.
A wet salt wind bathes her cheeks, her breasts, her hair. The same caresses I once gave.
George Wallace is author of 30 chapbooks of poetry, writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, and serves on the editorial boards of Poetrybay, Great Weather for Media and Long Island Quarterly. A regular on the NYC performance scene, he travels internationally to present his poetry.
After a Discussion of Punctuation in C.D. Wright’s “Day-Old Widow Poem”
—he smiles as if but is not breathing
she said for me
there is no punctuation
she said my husband
and then he was gone
Howie Faerstein’s full-length book of poetry, Dreaming of the Rain in Brooklyn, was published in 2013 by Press 53. His poetry can be found in numerous journals including Great River Review, Nimrod, CutThroat, Off the Coast, Pirene’s Fountain, Rattle, Upstreet, Mudfish and on-line in Gris-Gris, and Connotation. He is Assistant Poetry Editor of CutThroat, A Journal of the Arts, and lives in Florence, Massachusetts.
Ten Thousand Words or Less
Her friends have built a pyre, and
jumped into the river beside
it. The stone temples and the
stone gods have silenced into a
thousand years' old darkness.
Her screams echo in the broken
remains of boats, and the remains
of a civilization that in its prime, was
She is crying, pouring her words
in a book. But the pages are limited,
and the fire is hungry.
A woman is dissolving in thin air.
Suvojit Banerjee is from India and the United States. He started writing early, but found his niche in his early twenties. His works have been published in many Indian and International journals and magazines and featured in several anthologies. He currently works in a software company, and has worked as a lead writer/reviewer for a technology website.
Asr is a time of shadows:
a short before dusk ascends.
In love, it is easy to unhear
the urge of the azaan,
eyes route-less under melancholic lids.
The tasbeeh wrapped around
my hand invokes no high spirit
to raise their hands for me.
I removed myself from the equation
of your needs I wasn’t upkeeping.
I removed when you wanted.
The difference between
recuse and rescue
was a misplaced s
on the language of my prayer
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her work appears in a variety of magazines both online and print including several anthologies by different presses. More about her can be accessed on her blog sheikha82.wordpress.com
Wall is hard, durable, a divider,
So think about what you are
Walling in or walling out
Before you start to build one.
Is it cougars or Gilas, wolves
Or armadillos, or is it the Other,
The poor and desperate who risk
death for a chance in El Norte?
Wall is Old English, weall,
And Latin, vallum, a word from our
Family tree, making you wonder
If the same tree engendered us all.
Imagine: a long, hard, durable wall
along our long, long frontier with the Other.
Will you feel much better?
A ten-time Pushcart Prize nominee, George Held publishes widely both online and in print. His recent books include the poetry chapbooks Bleak Splendor (Muddy River Books, 2015) and Phased II (Poets Wear Prada, 2016).
Kairos, the Polyglot
We used many pencils and crayons,
coloring the world in black and blue
and the fish became orange and the trees were brown
while the fruits turned gray and the nuts were red.
Lined papers were not perfect
it's your choice to write that made them great;
the books were made for chewing like alphabet soup
and not for reading 'coz the letters jumped and danced
so you gathered them and put them in your mouth.
Then time came and you realized
Letters are of different shapes and sizes;
you did not like the taste of curly letters
even if to some they look like spaghetti
but this is your world;
The world of words you understand; the words not
to be eaten, but to digest in mind.
—Eunice Barbara C. Novio
Eunice Barbara C. Novio is from the Philippines and presently residing in Thailand. She teaches English and Psychology at Vongchavalitkul University in Nakhon Ratchasima. She is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman, MA in Women and Development under the Women Leadership Scholarship of Seattle United States. She has written various researches and scholarly articles about women, published in several international journals. In the Philippines, she was an active advocate of women and gender issues. In Thailand, she is now focusing her advocacy on migrants. Aside from teaching, she is also a correspondent of Inquirer.Net US Bureau. She is married with three kids. She has also four cats and a dog.
In the Aftermath
The Red Square in Moscow
has become even redder today.
Another political killing
just reminds you
the Red Square used to have a place
for public executions in the old times.
Red Square with a red mausoleum
red brick walls and red ruby stars on Kremlin spires
like inflamed from insomnia eyes.
Mostly red with swirls of color
like a fancy dessert
but dark and with no space for praying inside.
Red background seems to have been created
for red warm spilt blood
not to stand out.
Anna Halberstadt has published many works in the field of psychology but has found poetry to be a more adequate and condensed way to expand on the same themes—growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors in a country still struggling with past trauma, living in three countries (Lithuania, Russia, U.S.), and immigration. She was a finalist in the 2013 and 2015 Mudfish poetry contests and in Atlanta Review 2015 contest. Anna was a semi-finalist for the Paumanok Poetry Award 2015. She was a winner of the International Merit Award in Poetry 2016 International Poetry Competition in Atlanta review. Her collection of poetry “Vilnius Diary” was published in the Mudfish Individual Poet Series, Box Turtle Press, in the summer 2014. Her collection in Russian “Transit” was published in June 2016, by West-Consulting, Moscow. Poem “I Was Reborn” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2014 by the Mudfish journal. Anna is a member of the American PEN Center.
After a scene in the movie The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Everywhere I look
Desolation’s graying white,
A sense of fading blue
As the gloaming’s
Elegy to the snow.
The wind wears
My refusal to succumb
Like bearskin. Determined
To make it to sunrise,
I disemboweled my dead
Horse, carving a hole
In its belly where,
With its blood’s dying heat,
I curled wounded,
— Jonel Abellanosa
Jonel Abellanosa resides in Cebu City, the Philippines. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including, Rattle, Anglican Theological Review, Poetry Kanto, Spirit Fire Review, Carbon Culture Review, Penwood Review, The McNeese Review, Pedestal Magazine, GNU Journal, Penmen Review and Bangalore Review. He has two chapbooks, “Pictures of the Floating World” (Kind of a Hurricane Press) and “The Freeflowing All” (Black Poppy Review).
Fire in the Hole
Missed the target.
It’s the color of malice
that turns blood black
spilled on the ground
like victims of Gallipoli
Drop the white flag
always a war somewhere
with a cataract of tears
for a hiccup of battle
It’s collateral damage
No more sweet dreams
Mr. Five Star General.
—Milton P. Ehrlich
Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D, is an 85 year-old psychologist. A Korean War veteran, he has published numerous poems in periodicals such as Descant, Wisconsin Review, Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow, Toronto Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, and The New York Times.
for Bruce Weigl
In the blistered jungles we were born;
canopies of blood, floors of bone—
we found our death, our voice among the songs of the dead alone.
And from the mortar rounds we saw our death,
from the bouncing mines we found a cadence to sing our song;
the bodies of the broken, the songs of the dead alone.
The compass of reason, our way home lost,
we became an explosion of wounds and heard beyond the rhythm of moans;
the hypnotic gaze of our death, our voice among the dead alone.
From the impossible jungles we were birthed
and returned to the homes we lost, the quiet never heard;
the thunder the mortar rounds, lightning the cracking of bones:
to find our death again, our voice again in the song of the dead left alone.
Stefan Lovasik is a U.S. Army combat veteran. During the Vietnam War, he served with the 1st Special Operations Command. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Atlantic, Gravel Literary, Main St. Rag, Meat for Tea: the Valley Review, Offcourse Literary Journal, and Pedestal, among others. His chapbook, Persona and Shadow (Flutter Press 2015) has been praised by Bruce Weigl, Jan Beatty, and John Amen. He is a four-time nominee for a 2016 Pushcart Prize.
Visions of a New Dawn
Intimations of joy arise,
cut through our darkness
Trouble will fade
when light shines through the clouds
A blood-red dawn rises
The land where
after a taste of death
WE ARISE ONCE MORE
Matthew Anish is a widely published poet/writer who lives on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
The Spiritual Life
The results of aridity
and solitariness are much
like, inadvertently, soaking
up a spilled drink
with one's sleeve.
Little things then pique
our gratitude. Sometimes
it is only then we hear
the voice of the divine
in a donkey's cry.
Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Invocation (Lamar University Literary Press, 2015), and The View of the River (Kelsay Books/White Violet Press, 2017). His poems have appeared in many publications, including Appalachia, carte blanche (Canada), The Galway Review (Ireland), Miramar, Poetry Salzburg Review (Austria), and Sunken Garden Poetry, 1992-2011 (Wesleyan University Press, 2012).
A human form in Lotus pose, unbounded in the absolute Still.
Timeless Time fills all space where there is no vacuum.
Life, and Life abundantly is the only Existence,
Where all is One in the incomprehensible void.
A pause ... a ceasing of the ticking mental clock,
Where even the breath is suspended on the expiration of a mantra.
Here is where the gods are found,
Where Deva Lords watch and wait.
Alignment is a current traversing the pathway of the spine,
Opening portals in the Earthly brain.
All that has preceded this is gone before,
Like so much dross blown on a summer’s wind.
Into the mind bursts the rays of a Sun ten thousand fold the solar light.
All falls away beneath the transmutation of the Self,
Now the Point within the Circle.
Transfiguration accomplished and suspended in infinite space.
Stephen Austen is originally from London, England, but has lived in Canada since 2001. Aged 55, he resides on Vancouver Island with my Canadian wife Carla. He is an independent Amazon Author and you can find him here at https://www.amazon.com/author/sausten. None of his poetry has been previously published, and currently he spends his literary time writing short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels for publication on his Amazon Author Central Page. He does love poetry, however, and is thinking of writing more.
[Editors’ Note: We are glad to give Mr. Austen his first poetry publication, because everyone always remembers “their first.”]
The guy at a nearby table tells his friend,
"The trip only cost me a thou."
Lay of the land,
Wired mom for money;
Bailed out. . . .
"Vacation," I think.
"Jail," I hear him say.
I bite into my sandwich, wonder
If next time he'll get such a good deal.
[Editors' Note: “Eavesdropping” is included in Ms. Calabrese’s new manuscript]
Rosalie Calabrese is a native New Yorker and management consultant for the arts whose poems have appeared in publications ranging from And Then to Cosmopolitan, Jewish Currents to Poetry New Zealand, as well as The New York Times and other newspapers, several anthologies (including the 1997 Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry) and on the Web. A writer of short stories and books and lyrics for musicals in addition to poetry and press releases, she is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers as well as various versions of Who’s Who.
If Water Were Whiskey
The old con repeated it often: a parable in rhyme
vulgar version about the fowl metamorphosis,
what he would do & wouldn’t give.
It expressed his vision of escaping
cell, wall, razor wire &, past that,
cityscape & the tangible world,
as if he were heading for some hobo heaven
with its lake of whiskey on a mountain
in the song. When he found it, he swore,
he’d wet his wings, bedazzle beak, & dive,
dive, drowning in those unreal depths.
Lost to dreams, he lay back on his bunk,
propped his head on sagging arms, &
said he didn’t think he’d wasted his life but,
God & whiskey willing, there’s still time.
Ace Boggess is an ex-con, ex-husband, ex-reporter, and completely exhausted by all the things he isn't anymore. He is the author of two books of poetry: The Prisoners (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2014) and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled (Highwire Press, 2003). Forthcoming are his novel, A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing), and a third poetry collection, Ultra-Deep Field (Brick Road). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.
On Turning Fifty
Fifty finds me impaled
on a white picket fence,
stuck in the quicksand
of comfort and habit,
choking on the syllables of routine,
and leaves me
looking backward to measure my worth
in the teaspoons used for cooking
five different meals
for five different people
and looking forward
but too nearsighted to see
my next step, the one
that will need to matter
as much as all the last.
Julianne Palumbo’s poems, short storiesm and essays have been published in Literary Mama, Ibettson Street Press, YARN, The Cracked Spine, Poetry East, Rust & Moth and others. She is the author of Into Your Light (Flutter Press, 2013), and Announcing the Thaw (Finishing Line Press, 2014), poetry chapbooks about raising teenagers and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her YA poem, “Stuffing Bears.” Julianne is the Founder and Editor of Mothers Always Write, an online literary magazine of motherhood writing.
Instead we drove north
As fast as we could
Clocked over a hundred
Learned how the slightest turn of the wheel
Costs traction around sharp curves.
Never challenged our doubts
Just needed a thrill to dilute our shame
As we sought to distance ourselves
From the merciless reach
Of the imploding day.
Zev Torres is a writer and spoken word performer whose work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Five2One’s online publication #thesideshow, the Suisun Valley Review, the Long Island Poetry Collective’s Xanadu and the First Literary Review East. His poetry was also included in the Spring, 2016 Poetry Leaves exhibition in Waterford, Michigan. Zev has self-published three chapbooks: Revision, In Celebration of Hope and Change and Percussion Suite.
I am one who travels
carry your kiss
red silk poppy flower
tangled with wheat and my hair
cyani flowers drowned
taken by a flood of wheat fields
at the burden of time
memory is not a real world
it has its own company
Inna Dulchevsky spent her early school years in Belarus. She was awarded First Prize in the 2014 David B. Silver Poetry Competition. Inna’s work has been published in numerous anthologies and journals, including Storm Cycle: Best Poetry of 2015, LUMMOX Poetry Anthology, Spark, Otter Magazine, KNOT Magazine, The Cannon’s Mouth, New Poetry, Calliope Magazine, Aquillrelle Anthology, Antheon, and is forthcoming in Poetry Pacific. In MeArteka Literary Magazine Inna’s work appeared in both English and Albanian translation. Her interests include philosophy, psychology, meditation and yoga. The light and expansion of consciousness through the connection with inner-self and nature are essential in the writing of her poetry.