FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
S.F. Wright lives and teaches in New Jersey. His work has appeared in Hobart, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Elm Leaves Journal, among other places. His short story collection, The English Teacher, is forthcoming from Cerasus Poetry, and his website is sfwrightwriter.com.
An Unlikely Story
She strides into the world,
does something utterly heroic,
and gets the boy.
Beate Sigriddaughter, www.sigriddaughter.net, lives in Silver City, New Mexico (Land of Enchantment), USA, where she was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. Her latest collections are prose poems Kaleidoscope (Cholla Needles, May 2021) and short stories Dona Nobis Pacem (Unsolicited Press, December 2021).
The strait & narrows
I record. I
do not think about
what I am re-
way, I do not
Mark Young's most recent books are The Toast, from Luna Bisonte Prods, The Sasquatch Walks Among Us, from Sandy Press, and Songs to Come for the Salamander, Poems 2013–2021, selected & introduced by Thomas Fink, co-published by Meritage Press & Sandy Press in California.
To a Friend on His Birthday
You deny celebration of worldly holidays, even birthdays, and reject presents. You are aging (as am I) and wish not to be a burden now that you are often just tired and now that getting out—even to the store—is rough. I understand and have also walked that renunciate path. Yet, with so little ease and so much loss, dreams that never materialized, in the face of all that heartache, please just listen: now and forever— may you be blessed with the tallest chocolate layer cake thickly spread with rich frosting, the most delightful gifts you’d never dreamed of, limitless fruit, flowing wine, the warmth of eternal friends. May you dance through sparkling, multicolored stars in timeless night.
Ann Wehrman is a creative writer and musician living in Northern California. She teaches English composition online for the University of Phoenix and University of Arizona Global Campus. Her poems and short fiction appear in diverse print and online journals and her literary reviews in The Pedestal Magazine online. She can also be found teaching yoga, reading, cooking, and playing her flute.
Wall of Hyacinth
Multi-yellow, & yellow the light,
soft, the picture, the whole picture is filled
with silk texture, crepe ruffles, frond
tassels & petals without stems becoming
the decoupage of it-----
Pale green, dawn’s pearl,
the wisps of willow to come through
& find more only.
Resident Artist & Curator for the online Chroma Museum, artistic representations of LGBTQI persons and organizations predominantly before Stonewall, Stephen Mead has been a published outsider artist/writer going on thirty years now. He is immensely grateful to the myriad publications who have presented his work over this time span, and given his need to create a voice of support. Recently he has had work published in The Pinecone Review and Neologism Poetry Journal.
Into the Spider-verse
Charles Baudelaire Parker:
The Loathsome Spiderman
How it opens up, drip by d/rain
of pure honey/suckle delight
Glistening in the sun you can
see its catch, spirit is the fertilizer
Of all things seeds, I have lost judgement
of fragrance, what is caught becomes
What buds, I can’t tell the spiderwebs
from the flowers, which rebirth blooms
Thomas Fucaloro: The winner of a performance grant from the Staten Island Council of the Arts and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Thomas Fucaloro has been on six national slam teams. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School and is a co-founding editor of great weather for MEDIA and NYSAI Press. He is an adjunct professor at Wagner College and BMCC, where he teaches world lit and advanced creative writing. Thomas has released two full-lengths: It Starts From the Belly and Blooms and Inheriting Craziness is a Soft Halo of Light by Three Rooms Press.
To know the beast within—a familiar spirit.
What is yours?
Greet your gorgeous Bandersnatch,
your fang-toothed fear.
Gather sexual frisson, animal fright,
quell the instinct to strike.
Gather wildness, your first true nature
into hands of compassion, gentle intent.
Open the mouth that snarls,
find the courage that is grace.
Catherine Arra is the author of Deer Love (Dos Madres Press, 2021), Her Landscape, Poems Based on the Life of Mileva Marić Einstein (Finishing Line Press, 2020), (Women in Parentheses) (Kelsay Books, 2019), Writing in the Ether (Dos Madres Press, 2018), and three chapbooks. Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups. Find her at www.catherinearra.com
I want to walk untethered
Where are the children?
What’s the time?
Did I call the dentist?
Have I made dinner?
Just give me half
of any odd hour to walk the block
in the rain—
until I hear my own dogs barking,
until I feel the rhythm in my step,
until my shoes are wet
and the ends of my sleeves
have funneled fresh puddles into my pockets ...
and I come home
in a state of saturation.
Amanda Russell’s chapbook Barren Years was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. She has poems published or forthcoming in EcoTheoReview and South Florida Poetry Journal and Chronogram. She won an Editor's Choice Award for the 2020 SpiritFirst.org Poetry Contest. Find her on Instagram @poet_russell and https://poetrussell.wordpress.com/.
The Weight of Water
Rain off and on today.
It’s forced insects from the soil.
Makes lizards happy.
Fills the barrels.
On her phone my wife makes plans.
Our daughter’s visit.
The scrub jay now takes peanuts
from the bowl at my elbow.
When his talons finally grip my hand,
I’ll have a poem.
So much heaviness in the world.
Hold a day up for a look.
Drops from the gutters.
John Hicks is a New Mexico poet. He has been published by South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Blue Nib, Poetica Review, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska–Omaha, and writes in the thin mountain air of the southern Rockies.
Hope and Despair
after Aiden Lassell Ripley’s painting
Farm house below crest of hill
horses pulling the wagon
straining as hauling a flat
bed wagon as
a Madonna and child sit
on their bed
chair with all they own
the man in hat and
urges his horse team on
Storm is coming
dark sky and lightning
the farm house — their new home
below the hill’s crest
green earth and hope
—Zvi A. Sesling
Zvi A. Sesling, Brookline, MA Poet Laureate (2017—2020), has published numerous poems and flash fiction. He edits Muddy River Poetry Review. He is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee who has published four books and three chapbooks of poetry. Sesling’s flash/micro fiction book is from Cervena Barva Press. He lives in Brookline, MA, with his wife, Susan J. Dechter.
The Miracle of Our Near Space
Hiking up the desert hill at dusk stepping from one garnet and sand hued rock to the next so as not to trample the carpet of yellow and purple flowers that forms a delicate living sea, so as to get to a vista of the Joshua Trees against the glowing horizon, so as to remember that this life is a moment, that this world is the miracle of our near space, that the setting sun is a lyric that gets us through the disorientation of night, that a witness sharpens the pain of magnificence, that love opens the doors of perception, and that what can be seen at dusk on a blooming desert hill can change a human forever.
David Gonzalez is a storyteller, playwright, and performer whose poetry has been featured at Lincoln Center’s Out-of-Doors Festival, Bill Moyers’ documentary Fooling with Words, and NPR’s All Things Considered, and at universities and performing arts centers across the country. He is a Joseph Campbell Foundation Fellow and a proud recipient of the International Performing Arts for Youth “Lifetime Achievement Award for Sustained Excellence.” David was the founder and Artistic Director of the Rockland County Storytelling Festival (1996–2006). For eight seasons he was the host of New York Kids (1992–2000), a high-energy live radio program on New York Public Radio WNYC-FM. He has published two books for young readers that are available on Amazon: Tio Jose and the Singing Trees and Tito and the Bridge Brigade. He lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York State.
Empire State Building
I had an idea for a fake band
in the early 1980s before we had kids
Esther and the AMiNals
We would bark and meow NEVER ON SUNDAY
and call our album
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
I'd heard that at the top of the Empire State Building
there was a place where you could go and make a vinyl record
so I thought we could do that—
but we didn’t get around to it.
EK Smith stitches and designs books at Purgatory Pie Press and writes books about book arts. The best known is How To Make Books. Smith is a proud member of brevitas, where poets email each other short poems on the 1st and 15th of the month.
Tunneled trains slide forward
side by side, brakes squeal.
Mine is brightly lit and crowded,
as I lean on the steel loop and
through my reflection, through the dark,
see the parallel windows of another car
equally crowded and a girl,
arm up-stretched and
swaying also, and she is looking at me
and then like a vision slides away,
slowly, slowly, slips ahead.
I watch her go as she watches me.
Other windows pass, other people stare,
quickly now, the flash and blur
until the train is gone.
She looked like you.
DeWitt Henry’s recent prose collection is Endings & Beginnings: Family Essays (MadHat Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in Constellations, Ibbetson Street, On the Seawall, Plume, American Journal of Poetry and others. He was the founding editor of Ploughshares and is Prof. Emeritus at Emerson College. Details at www.dewitthenry.com
You’re all mine.
I can take you and fold you
In a velvet-lined box. I can stretch you out like a blanket on the bed
And roll myself, pulling the edge until I’m wearing you.
I can open up your chest and walk right in.
Tonight, I am very large. I grow as though someone is pumping air into me.
I am getting bigger every day.
I shine like a freshly cleaned window.
[Previously published in Slow Trains Literary Magazine]
Mary Paulson currently resides in Naples, FL. Her poems have appeared in Slow Trains, Main Street Rag, Painted Bride Quarterly, Nerve Cowboy, Arkana, Thimble Lit Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, and The Metaworker Literary Magazine. Her chapbook, Paint the Window Open, was recently published by Kelsay Books.
Entrapped (a ghazal)
Entrapped in time each night and day,
My love, this is not the time to play.
Now Night has swallowed up the day,
As with my rhyme, obsessed, I play.
Cold wind and waves are wild this night,
Old Winter's frigid clime’s in play.
Church bells ring out that Midnight’s near,
I hear the warning chimes they play.
No! Be gone sad Perseverance,
No more is it a crime to play.
I, Elaine dispense with sorrow,
Our love will be sublime in play.
—Elaine S. Polin
Elaine S. Polin, a retired teacher of languages, is a native of Philadelphia, PA. She has lived in her current location, on Long Island, NY, since 1974. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.S. in Education and an M.A. in Romance Languages. She is the author of three books of poetry and is working on her fourth book. Some of her short stories, articles, and editorials have been published in Ms. Magazine, Newsday, FATE Magazine, and several local publications. She has volunteered with Literacy Volunteers of America and currently volunteers as poetry teacher at a Senior Citizen center.
Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace
I’d like to gold leaf the part of you that said “I do.”
Frame it, as that time you were not yourself.
I wanted nothing more than to tap dance at your wedding.
I did a slow clap as my heart turned a mushroom cloud grey.
I get it.
Sometimes you fall in love with the stunt person when the actor turns too many tricks.
But I’d like to bottle up the memory of you
to show my grandchildren.
Throw 6 years of yearning into a slow cooker.
One glass of cheap wine and
I’m carving out yesterdays
like the song of a nightingale,
like repetition is the next step of recovery.
I keep chirping, on loop.
Since moving to New York nine years ago, Tatyana Muradov has performed in open mics and slam poetry events at Louder Arts, Urbana, and KGB. Her work has appeared in publications such as Radius, BEHAVIOR Magazine, NYSAI, great weather for MEDIA, and JMF Chapbooks LLC. She also has a poetry Instagram account @ms.muradov which features small snippets of her work.
A poem pays you pennies for your bones,
the way a country forgets the way you loved it
all your life, waving the tiny plastic flag
on the shoulders of your father while
a parade of weary soldiers marched along
the avenue that would drown the crowd
with its Jacarandá’s blossoms.
But a poem only pays a joy once in a while.
Even when you know the poem is a failure
from the start, you bet every purple petal of that scent,
you go on waving that little flag, your small hands
holding on to the shoulders of your father.
—Juan Pablo Mobili
Juan Pablo Mobili was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and adopted by New York. His poems have appeared most recently in The American Journal of Poetry, Mason Street Review, Broadsided Press, The Red Wheelbarrow, and The Worcester Review, among others. He has also received an Honorable Mention from the Creators of Justice Award by the International Human Rights Art Festival, as well as Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations for 2020. In addition to this, he published a chapbook of poems in collaboration with Madalasa Mobili, Three Unknown Poets, published by Seranam Press. His most recent collection is Contraband (The Poetry Box), which was a finalist in their 2021 Chapbook Prize.
a return of it
It comes back. It threads itself into the thin skin of my eyelids, jackhammers itself against my chest, creeps into the wax in my ears. It has been cut out, but it comes back. It has been drowned out with liquor and hops, but it swims to shore. It has been numbed with powders, chemicals, pickpocketed medicine cabinets; it keeps waking back up. It. It is genetic. It is unruly, unpredictable. It does not care you do yoga now or pretend to meditate. It has no interest in what you call yourself now, how you (try to) see yourself now. It is not going away. It. It stops you from getting jobs, from believing in yourself, from maintaining friendships, from committing to most things. It starts fights. It. It carries a switchblade. It. It cannot be quieted by pharmaceuticals; in fact, it dares you to try that again. It does not cower under doctor’s orders. It hates the term self-care. It is the most persistent part of you. It is the one element of you that has not given up. It. It. It has locked your doors and windows, so forget trying to walk out. It reminds you (in case you have forgotten) how worthless you are. It. It expects nothing of you. It. It. It. It is immune to surgery and sermons. It may will never go away. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It.
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.
The Angel Looks for Harmony
Sometimes he stands at the back of the concert hall, listening
As the horns and timpani come in, held in check by the conductor’s
Extended hand. Then a quick nod to the woodwinds and
The strings. The angel is looking for harmony wherever he
Can find it. He takes refuge in cellos, violas, the double bass.
But from where he stands, he can see the king leaving the royal box.
The concert is not half finished, but the king is leaving already.
His entourage chats as they rise from their chairs—a lieutenant dressed
In blue with gold braid and two ladies in waiting to the queen.
Later, one of the ladies in waiting, the blonde one who has not yet
Visited the king’s chambers, claims she heard the flapping of wings.
George Franklin is the author of four poetry collections: Noise of the World (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Traveling for No Good Reason (winner of the Sheila-Na-Gig Editions competition in 2018), a dual-language collection, Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and a chapbook, Travels of the Angel of Sorrow (Blue Cedar Press). Individual publications include: Cagibi, Pedestal Magazine, Sequestrum, The Threepenny Review, Verse Daily, and The American Journal of Poetry. He practices law in Miami, teaches poetry workshops in Florida prisons, and co-translated, along with the author Ximena Gómez, Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). Website: https://gsfranklin.com/
Faith’s needed for the parts we can’t prove—
an angel’s guiding hand, the soap
opera of jealous brothers, asps
magicked from staffs. We parse
miracles as the seder goes into over-
time. Though we have a lot to rave
about—a prophet sent to save
us from slavery, our first-borns spare-
d, there’s Easter candy envy as we serve
herbs dipped in salt water and pass
flat bread. An egg-laying rabbit’s poes-
y. Wandering in the desert’s prose.
Alison Stone has published seven full-length collections, Zombies at the Disco (Jacar Press, 2020), 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 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. YouTube – Alison Stone Poetry.
So now I’m tending sheep
The wolves are not far off
At the right moment
They pounce out of the darkness
The story of the sheep
of necessity is primarily
the story of the wolves
and therefore secondary
For millennia, there were no shepherds.
During that time, sheep & wolves made a pact.
They die rather than divulge it.
They never tell the shepherds.
Alex Caldiero is a polyartist, sonosopher, and scholar of humanities and inter-media. He makes things that at times appear as language or pictures or music—and then again, as the shape of your own mind.
There’s a secret green place in the night
A blue ring hangs on a peg on a wall
A few yellow trees, each leaf a light
A tall lit cross on the roof of the barn
The light lives at the bottom of a deep well
In the perpetual shade for centuries
We’re not sure where we are now
Sometimes that’s a good thing
Listen to the water: it’s close to high tide
In this light, I can’t find what I seek
Every door is outlined by light
Every window is outlined by light
One window is as small and thin as a pencil
The light outside the window is silver
Now I look through a triangular keyhole
I see bright white, a boy with curly hair
Michael Ruby is the author of seven full-length poetry collections: At an Intersection (Alef, 2002), Window on the City (BlazeVOX, 2006), The Edge of the Underworld (BlazeVOX, 2010), Compulsive Words (BlazeVOX, 2010), The Mouth of the Bay (BlazeVOX, 2019) and The Star-Spangled Banner (Station Hill, 2020). His trilogy in prose and poetry, Memories, Dreams and Inner Voices (Station Hill, 2012), includes ebooks Fleeting Memories (Ugly Duckling, 2008) and Inner Voices Heard Before Sleep (Argotist Online, 2011). He is also the author of ebooks Close Your Eyes (Argotist, 2018) and Titles & First Lines (Mudlark, 2018), and five Dusie Kollektiv chapbooks. He co-edited Bernadette Mayer’s early books, Eating the Colors of a Lineup of Words (Station Hill, 2015), and Mayer’s and Lewis Warsh’s collaboration Piece of Cake (Station Hill, 2020). He lives in Brooklyn and works as an editor of U.S. news and politics articles at The Wall Street Journal.
I’ve had breakfast but I’m still hungry.
My sea legs are still at sea.
Coffee is the reality principle.
I’ll have to be famous by myself; I have been in the gutter.
The boss said, “Look what the cat dragged in.”
But it was the best I could do—why fake it?
Nevertheless, I will continue with the funk.
How can people who are so smart be so dumb?
The body is another self; its priorities are slightly different.
Speak louder—when was the last time you took a shower?
Sex is the enemy of reason,
That’s why it’s easier for the young.
In my dream, the ghost of Peppermint Patty
Wanted to perform for the soldiers.
Ian Ganassi’s work has appeared recently or will appear soon in numerous literary magazines, including New American Writing, Blazevox, The American Journal of Poetry, and previously in First Literary Review-East, among many others. His first full-length collection, Mean Numbers (China Grove Press), is available in all the usual places. His new collection, True for the Moment, will be out next year from Word Tech Communications. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at www.thecorpses.com.
The editors of this fine journal hope you enjoyed the poems in this issue. Be safe, healthy, joyful, and creative.