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MAY 2020


Tough times call for beautiful poetry to soothe our souls. The editors of First Literary Review-East are pleased to do our part by bringing you a new issue full of fine poets and their profound and inspiring words. We hope that, wherever you may be, you are reading this in good health.    —Cindy and Karen 



Spider plant tendrils
shooting toward the spring light
burst forth like night stars

                                                     —Judith Vaughn

Judith Vaughn lives in Sonoma, California. When she isn’t writing poetry, she chases images with her camera or iPhone, reads books (some of which are better than others), and meets friends-in-read for discussion. She has written poetry for years, and more recently joined a group of poets for input, exchange of ideas, and support. She has written a children’s book of story and images, Tails of Ledger (a dawg’s first year), as yet unpublished.



we give plants Latin names

they articulate with and listen to

sunlight, rain, other plants, the soil.
in view, in front of our faces.
(I back up to hear them)

                                                                             —Roger Gilroy

Roger Gilroy works as a trade journalist covering the freight industry, and he writes poems at 70. Young beyond his years, he feels he has enough time to find more, but he hurries up. He has been published in Star 82 Review twice and once in Wanderlust Journal.



The Truth About Finitude

Time stands next

to my bookshelf,
lips curled against
decay’s sweet aroma. He
looks at his watch,
taps his foot,
like a tired tercel
pecks the last
of his kill.

“You’re always late,”
he says, “and you’ll never
read all those books.”

                                                                                  —Charlie Brice

Charlie Brice is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (forthcoming) all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Main Street Rag, Chiron Review, Permafrost, I-70 Review, The Paterson Literary Review, and elsewhere. 




leap into air
grasp, crackle, soar
spark in black night
grin, dance
bright angel
jokes off-color
foot implacable
on dragon’s neck

                                                 —Ann Wehrman

Ann Wehrman is a creative writer and musician living in Northern California. Ann teaches English composition online for University of Phoenix and Ashford University. Ann's poetry has appeared in print and online journals, including Tule ReviewBlue Heron ReviewMedusa's Kitchen, Pirene's Fountainand Poetry Now, and her literary reviews in The Pedestal Magazine. She can also be found teaching yoga, reading, cooking, and playing her flute.


Hic Et Nunc

Grass lives in the moment

with nonchalant faith in green.

It fidgets, unwilling
to sit still for the sun’s catechesis.

That sort of thing is for granite slabs,
half sunk in the hillsides—

mica reflecting the light
no less now than eons ago.

                                                                —Don Thompson

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


Another Me From The Heavens

If blue is namely white and black is namely red

and gold is transparent as crystal
and light makes the soul smile forgetting the sun moon and stars
and you were filled with wisdom, drunk for thousands of years
and back to the prehistoric giant city
and that giant is just like another me from the heavens
by the lotus throne in the golden palace.

                                                                                                —Hongri Yuan

Hongri Yuan: born in China in 1962, is a poet and philosopher interested particularly in creation. Representative works include Platinum City, Gold City, Golden Paradise, Gold Sun, and Golden Giant. His poetry has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria.


the boy with the mytiline smile

the man with the mytiline smile

was a boy again climbing an old
cherry tree in worcester massa-
chusetts it was his job to prune
the branches but it was a warm
day and he fell asleep in the arms
of the tree and dreamed he was
in a sculpture garden, dancing!
as golden harps played his body
moved in every direction at once
said the man with the mytiline
smile & was a different man when
he came down from that tree my
friends the entire milky way was
a meadow at his feet, he wore
the rings of saturn in his hair

                                                                 —George Wallace

George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, editor of Poetrybay, co-editor of great weather for MEDIA, and author of 36 chapbooks of poetry. New York-based performance poet, he travels worldwide to share his work.

8.03 a.m.
57 degrees

Predator as delicate as lace—the emperor dragonfly—
odonata, ancestor of protodonata, it hovers, it flits
nimbly on the air, and a bullfrog, predatory too, rests on a
divan of hydrilla, waiting patiently for his meal.

* * *

7.43 a.m.
62 degrees

Predilection for these lovely invaders, the irises,
openly yellow, startlingly yellow; evening is their
nom de plume – gone today, here tomorrow.
Depicted in the moonlight, they could be little stars.

                                                                                    —John L. Stanizzi

John L. Stanizzi is author of the collections Ecstasy Among Ghosts, Sleepwalking, Dance Against the Wall, After the Bell, Hallelujah Time!, High Tide – Ebb Tide, Four Bits, Chants, and his newest collection, Sundowning, just out with Main Street Rag. John’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Blue Mountain Review, The Cortland Review, Rattle, Tar River Poetry, Connecticut River Review, and many others. His creative non-fiction has been featured in Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, and Adelaide.   John’s work has been translated into Italian and appeared in many journals in Italy. His translator is Angela D’Ambra. John has read at venues all over New England, including the Mystic Arts Café, the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, Hartford Stage, and many others.  For many years, John coordinated the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for Young Poets at Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT.  He is also a teaching artist for the national recitation contest Poetry Out Loud.  John is a former New England Poet of the Year, and teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, where he lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry.


Olmo Nella Terra
(Elm in the Earth)

You were found
Inside a clay planter
Growing near horseweeds and wood sorrels

To find you was a love
Bestowed upon the soil amid strife

Rescued from
Ceramic confinement
Placed into the earth under the sun

Now your roots
Grasp the fertile landscape
Nella—you are bound for survival

                                                                        —Jack M. Freedman

Jack M. Freedman is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. Publications featuring his work span the globe. He is the author of the poetry book ...and the willow smiled (, 2019).

Since You Asked

From context comes revelation.

From a chimney, smoke.  Sometimes not.
Remember, the negative is heavier than all pebbles
in a ghostly terrain.  Remember, certain truths are more
implementable, transportable than fact.  Learn to scribble
left to right.  Learn to gesture in the spirit of a cat’s soft eyes.
When you walk into a cathedral be open to instances
of Fibonacci.  Remember, it’s a given, a succulent garden
assuages a longing for sacred geometry.  Learn to count:
you’ll never be alone.

                                                                                          —Kit Kennedy

Kit Kennedy serves as Poet in Residence of herchurch and Poet in Residence of SF Bay Times. She has published 6 poetry collections, including while eating oysters (CLWN WR BKS, Brooklyn, NY). Please visit:

Don’t ...

Just don't please ‘do’ mother’s day.

I had you because I wanted you. I loved you
because I couldn’t help myself. I hurt because
you had to fight your first safe fight against
the one person who’ll be there for you—
unconditionally. I cooked, cleaned, nursed,
healed you because this is what mothers do.
You didn’t ask to be born. Having you was
very selfish of me. I offered two new souls
on the altar of life and its vicissitudes,
ultimately for you to figure out the choreography,
getting yourselves fit for inheriting the
mess we leave for you. Don’t thank me.

                                                                            —Rose Mary Boehm

A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and three poetry collections, her work has been widely published mostly in US poetry journals (online and print).

Tall Woman Walking Past a Busker

You almost feel

the saxophone’s appeal,

as her shimmering dress,
a small waterfall,

her long, long legs.

                                                             —Don Kimball

Don Kimball is the author of three chapbooks, Tumbling (2016), Journal of a Flatlander (2009), and Skipping Stones (2008). Don is a longstanding member of the Powow River Poets in Newburyport, MA. He is currently president of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire.

An Exhibition

An exhibition is not
the conclusion to a project,
but the opening to a conversation.
It is the context that matters
as much as the objects themselves,
connections made for the first time
or revived from the well of forgetfulness.

How to design a curve
using only straight lines
so even a novice can build it.

                                                                     —Anne Whitehouse

Anne Whitehouse is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Meteor Shower (Dos Madres Press, 2019). Her new poetry collection, Outside from the Inside, will be published by Dos Madres Press, and her chapbook, Leonora and Lee, about Leonora Carrington and Lee Miller, will be published by Finishing Line Press.

Something like Backpacking in France

Red-faced old men in zinc cafés:

One dark Lautrec— one bright Monet.

Water lilies green & blue:
Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Manet.

Drinks in bars in far Marseille—
Your misbegotten bustier ...

Bold afternoons in bed with you:
Cannes, Rheims, Lille, Bayeux.

                                                               —Arthur McMaster

Arthur McMaster is the winner of the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s DuBose and Dorothy Hayward Prize, in 2017. His poems have appeared in such distinguished journals as North American Review, Worcester Review,  the James Dickey Review, Poetry East, Rhino, and Rattle. Currently poetry editor for the Emrys Journal, McMaster holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Florida. He taught literature and creative writing courses for twelve years at University of South Carolina Upstate and Converse College. Arthur’s third chapbook, Givings & Misgivings, will be published by Main Street Rag in November.


Hitting the Right Note

a pregnant plunge

before the fat lady's
swan song
before the scatter and spray
of scat
before the moaning, sex of
the sax
before the be-bop
bleat of the horn,
the bloodshot eyes
leap in their sockets.
It clears their sinuses
it's the stake that pierces
the pimento-eyed olive
the sucker punch
when you turned away.

(Previously published in Poetry Super Highway)

                                                                            —Doug Holder

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. He teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and Endicott College in Beverly, MA. The " Doug Holder Papers Collection" is being processed at the University at Buffalo.


An Average Saint

Soft steam rises over coffee—a mist

above front-page mayhem. She puts away
her blessings so she can find them, resists
the temptation to stare too long. Sunday
is for prayer and news hands her a list
of names that need help. The warm, brown liquid
prepares her tongue for praise and petition
while sun paints her kitchen (and sins she hid
even from God. She’ll get around to them
soon). She rises above coffee, then
faces east and sings—soft, like the mornings when
her mother held her hands and taught her words.
Her coffee cools. Prayers are sung. Women
and men are safe, perhaps. She hopes God heard.

                                                                                      —Mark J. Mitchell

Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Starting from Tu Fu, was just published by Encircle Publications. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka, and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian Joan Juster, where he makes his meager living pointing out pretty things.He has published two novels and three chapbooks and two full-length collections so far. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at


Piping Plovers

With regret, the park district cancels the music festival on the beach

So as not to disturb the Piping Plovers.
Though it is “a disservice to fans and artists” who claim
The beaches for music, water balloon fights, Yoga sessions and more.

The plover parents nest in the sand.
Three puffball chicks hatched here
For the first time in sixty years.
The chicks stare back from the front page photo
Their habitats destroyed. Only 8,000 plovers left in the wide world.

The park district bureaucrats scowl.
Protected shorebirds: the Great Lakes Piping Plovers.
I confess ignorance of the Piping Plovers
But it seems an honor that they came
To Montrose Beach to begin a family
Like all the immigrants who crossed
Sea, air, deserts and rivers to do the same.

                                                                                         —Joan Colby

Joan Colby’s Selected  Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her recent books include Her Heartsongs from Presa Press, Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press, Elements from Presa Press, and Bony Old Folks from Cyberwit Press. She has another book forthcoming  from The Poetry Box Select series titled The Kingdom of the Birds, which should be out next August.


Ways of the Wind


Gentle as it goes
Whisper through leaves
Caress of air upon air


Breeze like a breath
Mightily exhaled, blown briefly
Sighing as branches sway


Gusty zephyr
Sending a billowed sail
Across the glistening water


Gale storm rising
Whipping around the ground
Dust-twisters dance


Restful stillness
Taking a breather
Until the next windy day

                                                            —Julie A. Dickson

Julie A. Dickson was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. Her poems appear in various journals and she has several full-length collections. Dickson advocates for the rescue of captive zoo and circus elephants to sanctuaries, and has two rescued black cats. She is active in the poetry community where she lives in New Hampshire.


Homecoming, Newark Airport

I don’t know what you went through

(or went screaming through you)

over there. But all appears forgotten
in the walkway from the plane.

Your family, beaming, still,
as you stride up a steady hill to the

WELCOME HOME someone (all of them?)
committed to cloth just knowing

you were coming back. And here you
stand. Back. Smiles and silence

all around. A hug, patiently,
for your mother. A shove, playfully,

for your sister. Then all there is
is your father. His tight grip. Tightening

grin. Branded with a savage
kiss on both sides of your neck.

(Originally published in The Chimaera)

                                                                            —James Keane

James Keane lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and son and a menagerie of merry pets. His poetry chapbook, What Comes Next, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. His poems have appeared recently in WINK: Writers in the KnowTipton Poetry JournalIndiana Voice JournalVox PoeticaWhispers, and The RavensPerch.


I am the sound of footsteps.
Weary, impossible.

A mess of a memory of
an abandoned house.
Where angels exit.

* * *

Some Under Here Say Grace,
And Some Just Sing

The failures we thought we’d forgotten return to us—

how blessed to be free of contemplation, then.
The dress, the empty barn of the heart, the old sowed fields
the decades of making sacred what we abandoned
to the everything hour, rosaries mark those disappeared.

   And everything and I will be a door, the small brass heart,
   the colors pale, the lush, and the rain a transparent blur.
   Bones bloom where seeds can’t take hold now,
   the bright beauty of high rocks on which we warm ourselves
   and talk of death in such a new and lovely way.

                                                                                                        —Stephen Gracia

Stephen Gracia is a founder of Dialogue with Three Chords, a pub theatre night in NYC which is currently in the middle of its ninth year and for which he has written over 100 short plays.  He is a member of the Playwright and Directors Workshop at the Actor’s Studio and the Dramatists Guild. His plays have been seen at HERE Arts Center, The Producers Club, and Dixon Place. His poetry has been published in Riverrun, The Brooklyn Review, Weird Tales, and Slipstream. The poems showcased here are from the poet’s chapbook Rapid De/Coherence.