FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

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NOVEMBER 2020

Editors' Note:
We continue to pray for good health for you and your loved ones as we enter the season of giving and giving thanks. In that spirit, our aim is to give you inspiration through the poetry of our talented contributors, which we consider blessings.
—Cindy and Karen


 


 

AQI 75

To walk onto a porch over-looking driveways, alleyways,

satellite dishes, X’s and Y’s of powerlines against a sky
newly blue after days and days of brown, gray, brown,
to sit under a red umbrella and listen to Charles Mingus
is a blessing, and one shade of blue will do.

                                                                                                      —Donna Hilbert

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach 2018. More at www.donnahilbert.com

 


 

the coffee pot
drips hymns—
awakened


     ***


a flowerpot
tends the seed—
mother and child

                                        —john compton

john compton is a 33-year-old gay poet who lives in kentucky. his poetry resides in his chest like many hearts & they bloom like vigorously infectious wild flowers.

 



Repetition


the story of
another repetition
of the clouds
in the pond
of the door
to the garden
of the man
and the woman
who found
each other at last

                                      —Bob Heman

Bob Heman's prose poem “Perfect” is included in A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 Contemporary American Poets on Their Prose Poetry (MadHat Press, 2019).

 



The Design of the Is

The
day
is grey,
with clouds that
make art. Stranger, how
and when did you become a part
of me?

                      ***

On Course

And
the
weather
will stay calm.
You can’t let what you
knew was going to happen, hurt.

                                    —Evie Ivy

(A Fib poem is a poem of 1/1/2/3/5/8 lines. Each new line is the sum of the two lines before.)

Evie Ivy is a poet/dancer in the NYC poetry circuit. These come from Evie's new chapbook, Fibs of the Every Day. She is the host of the long-running Green Pavilion Poetry Event. Also, Dance of the Word, a program of dance, music and song. She writes both in free verse and form. Her latest book out is The Platinum Moon (Dark Light Press), available from Amazon.

 



Break-up Triolet

I summoned the deer for instinct & grace

to navigate seasons, sorrow, loss.
Then scarcity, injury, snow with no path or pace.
I summoned the deer for instinct & grace

blind & beset with grief, a pitiful face.
I found you circling in ash & dross, equally lost.
I summoned the deer for instinct & grace

to navigate seasons, sorrow, loss.

                                                                                                                     —Catherine Arra

Catherine Arra is the author of 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 am not your               shortcomings
                                     excuse
                                     baggage handler
                                     basket to hold eggs
 

I wanted to be your      bridge
                                      umbrella
                                      firefly
                                      touchstone

                                                                                 —Annie Harpel

Annie Harpel is an emerging writer. Her poems and essays have been published in local newspapers. She has facilitated poetry workshops at libraries in her area, and she is a member of Cambria Writers' Workshop. She is also a fine art photographer who still uses film! She says: “Poetry is the fingerprint of my thoughts.”



Opera Bag

Black of course, and miniature clasp
superb condition leather thin
as coarse paper.
Couldn’t have held much more
than a few coins for tipping a bathroom attendant.

I don’t know whether to tell
the truth about the beauty
of what is lost.

The purse itself, soft cowhide, black-inked.

                                                                                    —Gloria Monaghan

Gloria Monaghan is a Professor of Humanities at Wentworth Institute in Boston. She has published three books of poetry, Flawed (Finishing Line Press, 2011, nominated for the Massachusetts Book Award), The Garden (Flutter Press, 2015), and False Spring (Adelaide Press, March 2019). Her forth book Hydrangea (Kelsay Press) was recently released.  Her poems have appeared in Alexandria Quarterly, 2River, Adelaide, the Aurorean, Chiron, and Nixes-Mate, among others. In 2018 her poem “Into Grace” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.



In a Little Frame

A famous painting

in a little frame.
In a tiny head
an earth-shaking brain.
In a small body
a love-sequoia.

A weird ecstasy
in a mortal life.

                                           —David Francis

David Francis has produced six music albums, one of poetry, "Always/Far," a chapbook of lyrics and drawings, and Poems from Argentina (Kelsay Books).  In addition, he has written and directed the films "Village Folksinger" (2013) and "Memory Journey" (2018).  His poems and short stories have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies. www.davidfrancismusic.com


 

Piano Tuner, 1947

Norman Rockwell wanted to get everything right,
even hired a professional piano tuner to guide his model
and when Rockwell took to paint
he made sure to have his piano tuner use a thumb
and third finger technique as the pinky is too weak
for such an arduous task;
the balding head so you know he has been tuning pianos
for years, a black umbrella leaning by his side as though
he has braved the rains, this responsible elderly man
in respectable dress and with all the tools he will need,
so that the young boy waiting so patiently with his hands
behind his back can begin his piano lesson which
the viewer must assume will come next.

                                                                                                      —Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a Canadian-born author residing in Elliot Lake, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and many bears that rifle through his garbage. His work can be found both in print and online in such places as Evergreen Review, The New York Quarterly, Literary Yard, Red Fez, and The Oklahoma Review.



9.24.19

7.49 a.m.

60 degrees


Prescience that all too soon this will all be frozen.


Orotund blue jays dominate the sounds, yet the sky is

nevertheless empty without the swallows,
             and a pair of dragonflies

drafts one another, flitting and lifting out over 
             the water as if nothing will change.


                                                                                          —John L. Stanizzi

John L. Stanizzi, a former Wesleyan University Etherington Scholar, is the 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. Besides Jerry Jazz Musician, John’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Life in Poetry, Poetlore, The New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Blue Mountain Review, The Cortland Review, Tar River Poetry, Connecticut River Review, Hawk & Handsaw, Plainsongs, and many others. His creative non-fiction has been featured in Stone Coast Review, Ovunque Siamo, Adelaide, Scarlet Leaf, and Evening Street.   John’s work has been translated into Italian and appeared in many journals in Italy. His translator is Angela D’Ambra. John is a former New England Poet of the Year, and teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT. He lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry.  http://www.johnlstanizzi.com



Electra Down


Clouds and sea roll as one.


Her motor sputters and quakes,
prayers alone filling her fuel tank.

Clashing clouds
and the wreck of waves
tell the maimed bird’s fate.

Her children are teardrops
refreshing her bed.
Infinite fishes harbor within her.
Fields of coral light her way home.

                                                                   —Darrell Petska

Darrell Petska‘s writing has appeared in The Chiron Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Verse-Virtual, and widely elsewhere (see conservancies.wordpress.com). Darrell has tallied 30 years on the academic staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 40 years as a father (seven years a grandfather), and longer still as a husband.



Mother’s Day Snow

Snow spicules scatter through
bleeding-heart leaves.
Graupel mounds the tarp you wrapped peonies with last night. Wind bites your neck, needle
teeth. You barter.

While storm rose in the night you imagined tarp winging into obscurity, black-on-white-speckled
blacker chaos that caws. Morning. Dogs lick you out of bed. You think

a marble spun under a cabinet, Earth rolls through space.
Kali the Destroyer bats it
with covid paw.

                                                                                                                                —Rachael Ikins

Rachael Ikins is a 2016/18 Pushcart and 2013/18 CNY Book Award nominee, 2018 Independent Book Award winner, & 2019 Vinnie Ream & Faulkner poetry finalist. She is author/illustrator of 9 books in multiple genres. Born in the Finger Lakes, she lives by a river with her dogs, cats, saltwater fish, a garden that feeds her through winter, and riotous houseplants with a room of their own. Dragons fly by.



No one praises this monastic season

although trees unbudded, although my heels sink in pliant earth.

I too chaste obedient poor long ago. Naked arbors gifted wind,

rain, uninvited snow.  Vocation turned everything gray—split fences,
old maple trunks, tar-paved road—to rose, and the coral sky spoke,

Christ raising his arms once in a cloud at sunset. After that, what want?
My friend the monk and a nun finally wed, Pope-blessed, alchemy of vows.

Mine own released—thirsty, fast—like spring creeks their shelter of ice
toward snaked rivers and outcropped rock.  Still, most at home

under late Orion, in the sparrow damp; backyard mud-tamped where
I toss a stick to my dog who grins before cracking the unlikely Eucharist,

a habit she keeps; and mine, what I put on daily—riveted bark, twisted vine
and green-free ground—a silk sheath, wild artesian streams rushing beneath.

                                                                                                                                       —Ann Cefola

Ann Cefola is the author of Free Ferry (Upper Hand Press, 2017) and Face Painting in the Dark (Dos Madres Press, 2014); translator of The Hero (Chax Press, 2018), and Hence this cradle (Seismicity Editions, 2007); and recipient of the Robert Penn Warren Award selected by John Ashbery.




Neighborhood Scene

I’m walking down Haight Street when I look through
the window of a bar and see that a cocker spaniel is balanced
on a stool with his 
forepaws on the counter. There’s a small
bowl in front of him, 
but he’s not drinking from it. He’s listening
to the bartender who’s 
talking to the guy next to him, and all
the while he’s wagging his tail, 
seemingly very happy.
   The thought crosses my mind that the owner could get into
real trouble 
for having a dog in his establishment, standing
on a bar stool with his paws 
on the counter.
   I then wonder if there’s beer, wine, or whiskey in the bowl,
and if he has 
a preference . . .

                                                                                                                                       —Jeffrey Zable

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in  hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies. Recent writing in Hypnopomp, Ink In Thirds, Tigershark, After The Pause, Blink Ink, Third Wednesday, Brushfire, Smoky Blue, Alba, Greensilk, Corvus, and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.



Cats


Cats' philosophy.


Stay close to home.


Avoid people with
cold hands;


in plain sight
hide all the time.


Walk alone.


Live at night.


Trust the moon.

                                       —Jack D. Harvey

(Previously published Scarlet Leaf Review in Feb 2020)

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bay Area Poets’ Coalition, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies. The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired. He once owned a cat who could whistle Sweet Adeline, use a knife and fork, and killed a postman. His book, Mark the Dwarf, is available on Kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Dwarf-Jack-D-Harvey-ebook/dp/B019KGW0F2




san francisco nights

sometimes i reminisce
about that life in the darkness
all cigarettes and whiskey
soul yearning, screaming
from neon fire escapes
into graffiti alley valleys
lost keys and skinned knees
with smoke rings
and shoe strings
tying down dawn

                                                —Deborah Linehan

Deborah Linehan, raised on Boston’s North Shore, is a world traveler, poet, voiceover talent, actor, and director currently living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a member of the Actors Studio Playwright / Director Unit and the Dramatist’s Guild. Her work has been performed with Premier Stages at Kean University.



Your First Girlfriend

We begin to slip in and out of sleep as we age
until we can’t tell which is which;
or worse, we lie awake as night yawns on
until dawn climbs in the window
and crawls into our bed
while birds bugle First Call.

Yet this is the moment you slide back
into sleep’s warm arms.
You snuggle with sleep—
your first girlfriend.
She hasn’t changed at all,
so young and beautiful. This time
it just might work out for you.

 

                                                                          —Ed Meek

Ed Meek's new book of poems, High Tide, is available at Aubade.com. He has published poems in The Sun, The Paris Review, and Plume.

 



Having Built for Ourselves a House That Does Not Leak

 

in the pouring rain is the main thing—

 

having cobbled together

a bittersweet, New England

kind of a life,

 

amidst leaning gravestones with flying skulls

and old houses

whose yards are teacup-sized.

 

Years pass,

and you learn to survive the seasons

and the coldness.

 

But oh, the nearness of the ocean

and the blueness of northern skies!

 

                                                                              —Karen Friedland

 

A nonprofit grant writer by day, Karen Friedland's poems have been published in Nixes Mate ReviewWriting in a Women’s Voice, the Lily Poetry ReviewVox Populi, and others. Her book of poems, Places That Are Gone, was published in 2019 by Nixes Mate Books, and she has a chapbook forthcoming in 2021 from Cervena Barva Press called Tales from the Teacup Palace. She lives in Boston with her husband, two cats and two dogs.





Task at hand becomes a distraction


You think you weren’t able
to help her,
you can’t control other people
but you were hoping
she would make it
hold on another day.
Blackberry bushes from last season
need pruning and arrangement
rake the ground clear dried leaves of yesterday.
Flower buds burst through trees
as ants crawl from concrete cracks
old vine pulled from the green
not worthy for compost is trash.
I have so many things to do
but I’d rather sit here with you.

                                                                             —Linda Kleinbub

Linda Kleinbub is the co-host of Fahrenheit Open Mic. She received her MFA from The New School. Her work has appeared in The New York Observer, The Brooklyn Rail, The Best American Poetry Blog, and Yahoo! Beauty. Her first collection of poetry is forthcoming from A Gathering of Tribes Press /A Fly by Night Press. 



Fickle Ghost


I saw a dead mockingbird yesterday.
It lay on the cracked asphalt of my driveway.

A woman, Irene, showed up in my driveway.
Six feet tall with green eyes, a ghost from my past.

Hair white, she gazed through my eyes, walked past me.
She cupped the bird in her hands, said, Hello, Love.

Hello, Irene, want a cup of love-drunk tea?
Love, I have books to write and a cab to call.


Bird in her right hand, Irene booked the cab.
A biker asked her onto his chopped Harley.

Naw, man, don’t care for Harleys. Or bikers.
She asked me, Got your old guitar? And a room?

We played guitar all night long in our room.

And saw two dead mockingbirds the next day.

                                                                                            —David Spicer

David Spicer has published poems in Santa Clara Review,  Moria, Oyster River Pages, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart twice, he is author of six chapbooks, the latest being Tribe of Two (Seven CirclePress). His second full-length collection, Waiting for the Needle Rain, is now available from Hekate Publishing. His website is www.davidspicer76.com

 



In Passing

What if the dead float among us,

Brush by with the breath of wind,
And leave behind a tiny brightness?

We peer past the untoward grace
Of ghosts that haunt our holy places—
Kicking leaves, tripping lights—no trace

To the elemental eye.  They thirst
For texture and contrast, to taste
The sweet and bitter that bursts

Like sin upon the tongue;
To drink in the mulled scents
That, perhaps, still swell their lungs

Or else the fragrance wreaths down stairs
Where I turn, look, see no one’s there.

                                                                              —John Muro

A life-long resident of Connecticut, John Muro is a graduate of Trinity College. He has also attained advanced degrees from Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut. His professional career has been dedicated to environmental stewardship and conservation, and his first volume of poems, In the Lilac Hour. was recently published by Antrim House. John and his wife, Debra, live in Guilford, CT, and they have four children.