FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
Bob Heman lives on an island that doesn’t seem like an island.
The Crying Bard
There once was a bard who cried, “Wolf!”
And repeated it time after time,
’til a wolf he had vexed
Left him dead and perplexed.
There’s no moral, and wolf has no rhyme.
Ken Gosse prefers writing short, rhymed verse with traditional meter, usually filled with whimsy and humor. First published in First Literary Review–East in November 2016, his poems are also in The Offbeat, Pure Slush, Parody, Home Planet News Online, Eclectica, and other publications. Raised in the Chicago suburbs, now retired, he and his wife have lived in Mesa, AZ, over twenty years.
You’ve been here before. You know where to hang your scarf, your string bag, and yet you marvel how empty the familiar has become. Even red shoes don’t gladden. Next time bring a sprig of rosemary; it pairs well with absence.
Kit Kennedy serves as Poet in Residence of herchurch and Poet in Residence of SF Bay Times. She has published six poetry collections, including while eating oysters (CLWN WR BKS, Brooklyn, NY). Please visit: http://poetrybites.blogspot.com
frozen january air
ed we came: a train dark ride
to shores not ours. midnight clutch,
we nudged into broken glass
water: plunges cracked. youth holds
Laura Johnson is a poet in Eastern Iowa who serves as a co-editor of the online literary journal Backchannels. Laura is a graduate (BA ‘89, MA ‘92) of the University of Iowa. She participates regularly in performance and slam poetry, as well as writing page poetry. In addition to being a poet, Laura leads writing workshops in her community.
S'il Vous Plait
If you go to France
before we do
please bring us 4 more
of those cheap café au lait bowls
the smaller ones.
We broke our next to last
one this morning.
It was yellow.
EK Smith has been a proud member of brevitas email poetry group since its third year, thriving on its deadlines. Anthology publications include CLWN WR, From Somewhere to Nowhere: The End of the American Dream, and Retake the Falling Snow. In addition to poetry, Smith has written and designed a number of book-arts books, including How to Make Books (Random House, 2017). Smith hand-stitches collaborative limited editions and artist books as artistic director at Purgatory Pie Press.
As I settle in,
flick the blankets,
little sparks fly—
it is so winter-dry—
barely whispered prayers.
Though both are gone
so quickly, I know
there was just then
light in this darkness.
—Katie Chicquette Adams
Katie Chicquette Adams is an educator and writer in Appleton, WI. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in River + Bay, Mothers Always Write, Heavy Feather Review, The New Verse News, Riggwelter, Poets Reading the News, Wallopzine, and on the regional blog Storycatchers. She is a live storyteller with Storycatchers, Inc. and works as an English teacher for at-risk young adults at a public alternative high school, with hopes they will remake their own stories, and become friendly with at least one poem. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The ground screams at us. I pilot my dereliction into volleys of expletives as the sunrise snaps in two and erupts from your mouth. The edge of a lament guards your body as you are kicking your job, and I shut the edit, thereby contributing to our treat. We emerge from the round of everyday.
Darlon Mernerb attempts to write Absurdist and Surrealist poetry.
Tree skeletons whisper
in the wind,
their sharp shadows angle
across the snow.
Before you let me discover
what is not true,
let me think the sun is warm
even as your cold shadow grows long,
and the sun old.
Melissa Rendlen is a pseudo-retired physician who recently returned to her love of writing. She has had her poetry in The Missing Slate, Nixes Mate Review, the anthology Plath Poetry Project, Underfoot Poetry, and Ink in Thirds, to name a few. Her first chapbook will be published by Clare Songbirds Press.
I am those wings.
The terror of small items.
Light beneath a door.
Surviving a night.
Alone, aloft, along, long way.
To Toil Sublime
We neglected adventure.
We who are poor with our icy shoes and tender rags.
We share no glories and gather no drops.
We wake in that immortal garden where our laughter spills out
like dust from an old and open book.
We are noted by men of ambrosia and science.
We are curious and curious-er still.
Our laughter makes patterns in the grass,
and we believe our dust to be the tail of one great comet.
Stephen Gracia is a founder of Dialogue with Three Chords, a pub theatre night in NYC that 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.
Feathered Serpent coils around me scale and pinion
unwinds releases beckons me upward We climb
switch-back and spiral She gains the peak glides
into air I follow soar above the outstretched world
don’t see my guide withdraw her task complete
I sink to earth find soft brown clay to mold
my neverborn who rises with me
tiny body sails in sky and wind
this elsewhere country
Katrinka Moore is the author of Wayfarers, Numa, Thief, and This is Not a Story.
Let’s Just Say
Let’s just say some memories
might hang in the air unnoticed
for a lifetime and then unexpectedly
come crashing down.
Let’s just say you can find
yourself picking dream-shards
out of the carpet for years to come,
that uncertainty might be the only thing
a person ever can be sure of.
Let’s just say she was the smartest girl
in school and I loved to hear her laugh.
Kenneth Salzmann lives in the mountains of central Mexico. He is the author of The Last Jazz Fan and Other Poems and co-editor of the anthologies What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye and the forthcoming What But the Music.
I’ll obey your order—
shake my booty,
sway my naked hips
until the drunk guests moan.
I know what a woman’s body’s for.
But not alone.
Husband, drop your robe
and join me, your lined skin
and paunch becoming handsome
as we move together in love’s light.
Take my hand and start to shimmy.
Then I’ll dance.
Alison Stone has published six full-length collections, Caught in the Myth (NYQ Books, 2019), Dazzle (Jacar Press, 2017), Masterplan, a book of collaborative poems with Eric Greinke (Presa 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. 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
When you let go of my hand, shadow,
the chasm within me
a lonesome road
the withered sprig of a flower
I converse with myself,
with a frayed photograph
whither can I go
with anguish lurking on the threshold?
—Ali F. Bilir
Translated by Jonathan Ross & Ayşe Çalık Ross
Ali F. Bilir was born in 1945 in Gülnar, Mersin, Turkey. He attended the School of Medicine for a year but graduated from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Istanbul, in 1969. In 1970, he published two issues of the literary magazine called North. Between 1995–2005, he was the arts and culture reporter for the local newspapers Katılım and Yeni Gazete. His poems, short stories, and articles on various subjects have been published in local, regional, national, and international periodicals, magazines, and journals. His work has won many awards. Bilir’s poetry book Migration Ballads (Plain View Press, USA, 2008, part of the TEDA Project) is being granted by the Turkish government as one of the significant examples of Turkish written heritage.
Look Up! Look Up!
She looks down, not at anything on her
body or the floor, but habitually, as if she
were an icon of shyness, worry, or fear.
And when she looks down, we cannot see her
nose or down-turned mouth though our eyes
confront her nervous shoulders. Her wariness
feels palpable "Look up! Look up," said Kent
about the ghost of Lear, but I also want to say,
"Look up! Let us see you. Let us see your chin.
Let us see your eyes and smile. Let us see
the shape of your self-confidence, the color
of your hope." Let us see exactly what it is
you do not wish to acknowledge yours, what
you do not want to think may, perhaps, be you.
Bill Yarrow's latest book is Accelerant from Nixes Mate Books.
My Body is a Map of Scars
A girl with good legs wears dresses, my blind date sighs over dinner.
My body is a minefield. My body is liability, is albatross.
The gash across my eyebrow where nothing grows.
The criss-cross that mars my rebuilt leg;
how full-length mirrors avoid me.
I chew prime rib thoughtfully, make 2 trips to the salad bar on my ugly legs.
My body is betrayal. My body is stain, is renegade.
The sad limp. The gouge at the base of my throat.
I order an after-dinner cognac. Then another.
My body is car crash. My body is plunder.
My body/Not my body.
I watch his eyes disappear into the long-legged perfection of a girl in a tiny skirt,
the green of a ripe avocado.
No lattice-laced scars furrow her past and future.
I dream a lover blind to trauma.
Look at my palm; see how the lifeline ends and then restarts?
—Alexis Rhone Fancher
(Previously published in GLASS, 2019)
Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Hobart, Plume, Verse Daily, Poetry East, and elsewhere. She’s the author of five published poetry collections, most recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash Press, 2019). Next up? EROTIC: New & Selected, publishes in 2020 from New York Quarterly. A multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, Alexis is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. www.alexisrhonefancher.com
An Ugliness of Buzzards
The buzzard perches on the
Gutter, goggle-eyed with a lust
For death. A rotting frog or roadkilled magpie.
He forages the arrondissments
Of bloat, dipping his beak into the eyes’ muck.
This bird is bumptious in his
Marginalized lifestyle. A goombah
Of swagger and intimidation.
He is castor oil and whiplash.
See him circling in the sky
Scouting the slugs that infest a corpse.
He strips it like a kumquat
Into a mash of hummus.
An iridescent merman rises, ghostly in mist
To slink into your dreams, watchman,
While the deathbird wheels.
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.
Two Alpha Cats in Wun Cage
Da feline has had enough.
Notice how she snips da last span of metal
wit dose heavy duty wire cutters,
as wun severed square falls to da ground
revealing da way to freedom.
Squeezing her body through
she bolts like wun escaped captive down da road,
and da tom is wondering wats going on.
Sticking his head out of da opening
he eventually crawls through too,
and takes wun last look at da cage
before he starts walking in da opposite direction.
Good ting dey both got nine lives to start all ovah wit.
Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai'i Creole English) and is the author of Pidgin Eye. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
You Don’t Choose Love
You don’t choose love;
love chooses you.
You want to love the generous,
the beautiful, the brave,
you think you do,
but, mon semblable,
in the end, you love
a bigger house, a fancy trip,
a large portfolio to feel secure.
Our nation was conceived
in capital (the “ism”
points to where the heart is)
and we’re testing
whether we or any nation
so conceived can long endure.
Joyce Schmid’s recent poems have appeared in previous issues of First Literary Review-East, Poetry Daily, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, Antioch Review, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband of over half a century.
If one lives in a bowl made of two mountains:
Bitterroot & Sapphire, then the weather is always mild:
the snow will fall slowly upon the gathered leaves,
but in the summertime, when the fires come,
the air is constantly filled with smoke,
even on the clearest of days—
one dreams of once gazing
tenderly at the stars above,
but we need to follow the river,
1 hour south to Lake Como,
where happiness begins
on a lazy Friday,
but still attached to the original bowl.
—Carrie Magness Radna
Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Carrie Magness Radna is a cataloger at the New York Public Library, a singer, a lyricist-songwriter, and a poet who loves to travel. Her poems have previously appeared in the Oracular Tree, Tuck Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review, Mediterranean Poetry, Shot Glass Journal, The Poetic Bond VIII (Willowdown Books:UK), and Cosmographia’s “The spirit, it travels: an anthology of transcendent poetry” (July 2019), and will be published in Nomad’s Choir, Polarity E-Magazine, and The Poetic Bond IX. She won 12th prize of the 2018 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards for “Lily” (no. 48 of Women’s names sensual series) and 3rd prize for “The tunnel” (category: Words on the Wall: All-Genre Prompt) at the 69th annual Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (2017). Her first chapbook, Conversations with dead composers at Carnegie Hall (Flutter Press), was published in January 2019, and Remembering you as I go walking (Boxwood Star Press) was published on August 23, 2019. She lives with her husband, Rudolf, in Manhattan. Her first poetry collection, Hurricanes never apologize, was published by Luchador Press in December 2019.
Winter Still Life: Hampton, NH
Ocean Boulevard is deserted now.
The sidewalks are gray and cold.
The Playland Arcade is shuttered—
no thumping skeeballs or jangling pinballs
echo through this wind-swept afternoon.
The only sound is the faint crash of breakers.
No scent of corndogs, fried dough, or smoothies
rises through a coconut-oiled crowd
of tanned bodies, shirtless or bikinied,
noshing, and gawking, and flirting, and hoping,
for fulfillment on a heated night.
There is only cold descending on cold,
and waves pummeling a sandy manmade berm.
Now snowflakes fall one on one
blanketing all in whiteness.
Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has appeared in online and print journals such as the Aurorean, Boston Literary Magazine, Eucalypt (a tanka journal), the Leaflet: The Journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English, as well as paperwasp and Muddy River Poetry Review.
You are dream etched in lipstick
written in the curls of black rubber
blowing across the burnt asphalt outside. You have become a part
of an imaginary phonograph collection, something to listen to
while I dig epitaphs out of marble
one letter at a time.
I will pound these mountains down until they are
knee-high tombstones, irregular doorstops, bags of gravel fit only for
garden paths and country roads. My plans sound like gunfire
in my sleep, I am determined
to obliterate this cartography of love
damn myself to illiteracy and ice.
Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Plainsongs, The Long Islander, and The Nashwaak Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (Cyberwit.net), Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing).
This day fits my unquiet spirit. It
is cold but not cold—No, actually
it is. Still the pond melts. You cannot see
the fish. Can’t skate or swim in it. And it
is raining ice. Can’t take a walk. I’m sad.
Help Dad stack logs he cut last year and split
dried out and ready to be lit. I’ll sit
by the fire and read Hawthorne instead, glad
at the thought of it. Glad too the crows move
on the snow, peck through all the garbage Dad
left them this morning. ¡Feliz Navidad!
Joyeux Noël. Cake! Shrimp shells! Caw Caw. Who
knows the words to articulate the we
excite good will in all of us and peace?
Don Yorty is a poet, educator, and garden activist living in New York City. He is the author of two previous poetry collections, A Few Swimmers Appear and Poet Laundromat (both from Philadelphia Eye & Ear), and he is included in Out of This World, An Anthology of the Poetry of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, 1966–1991. His novel What Night Forgets was published by Herodias Press in 2000. He blogs at donyorty.com: an archive of current art, his own writing, and work of other poets. A new book, Spring Sonnets, was published by Indolent Books in August 2019.
AND THAT'S A WRAP, FOLKS! (HOPE YOU ENJOYED THE RIDE!)