FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
The thin king was thinking.
Bob Heman's small poems are included in NOON: An Anthology of Short Poems, and in his collections As If, Acts of Innuendo and Assuming the Light.
The Road Out
The road to London,
seen from the school playground,
winds away through dappling greens
and a shimmering sun
to a hazy blue beyond.
Robert Nisbet is a poet from rural West Wales.
cedar log sparks
electric in darkness
your faraway heart
black coffee, blank page
on my windowsill, candle glows
Ann Wehrman is a creative writer and musician living in Northern California. She teaches English composition online for 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.
Shoe, Tunnel, Belly
Each foot wrapped in its shoe,
each train held in its tunnel,
each lemon blooming
on a hill’s belly—
we are dying every day.
I saw a cherry
browning in the dirt,
moon-orange on its edges
and mostly pit. Its beauty
so ruined, I wanted to eat it.
Lissa Kiernan’s first book of prose, Glass Needles & Goose Quills, won the Nautilus Prize for Lyric Prose and the Independent Book Awards Prize in the cross-genre category. Her first collection of poetry, Two Faint Lines in the Violet, was a finalist for IndieFab Book of the Year and the Julie Suk Award. She holds an MFA from the Stonecoast Program in Creative Writing and an MA from The New School in New York City. Kiernan is the founder and director of The Poetry Barn. She lives in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, with her husband and a fluctuating number of felines.
In this moment of momentary stasis,
this instant of winter’s final retreat,
before the crescendo of day’s lengthening,
there is a tension, a torsion,
not unlike the millisecond before creation,
when pen has not yet touched paper,
when fingers have not yet intertwined,
when the electricity of possibility
has not yet formed a pulsation—
in this egalitarian twin kling,
before consummation begets contrivance,
ignoring that soon we will taste the night.
Joseph Kleponis lives north of Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, including, The Aurorean, Boston Literary Magazine, Eucalypt, Leaflet: the Journal of the New England Teachers of English, Penmen Review of Southern New Hampshire University, Methuen Life, Modern English Tanka, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Wilderness House Literary Review. Truth’s Truth, a book of his poems, will be released in 2021 by Kelsay Books.
trapped beneath her finger
pretends it’s okay.
on whose tail
sits a child.
Robert Hirschfield is a New York-based poet and journalist whose work has appeared in Salamander, The Iconoclast, The Moth (Ireland), Cholla Needles, NOON (Japan), Tablet, and many other publications.
I want to like
the new people in my old neighborhood.
They‘re watertight in cold glass, sitting
on crushed warehouses, my old grocery,
shingle-sided homes. Faces in devices,
glowing, leashed to cute dogs, or stepping
smartly for the City, piloting shiny cars,
I’m unseeable, seeing this street
Jim Pignetti built a specialty metal supply company on his childhood newspaper route from 55 years ago. A painter and co-founder of brevitas, a NY-based online poetry collective, Jim really likes parsley.
A Pliant Exigency for St. Jerome
Polemics cut in two, into triangles
angels try. Shopping for passion,
a kukicha twig the snowflakes spark,
you scattered lilies and lies. Your
violet voices aligned our linden
with Latin. Lavishly ascetic, pursuit’s
your only property, a lion tamed.
To frighten autumn frees material.
Maternal summer lodging for super-
annuated sutras, you unfreeze
Aramaic with a desert in your tears.
Like certain thoughts, a firm hand-
shake, your scenic science. And
the years go by.
Jake Sheff is a pediatrician and veteran of the US Air Force. He's married with a daughter and six pets. Jake's work has been published widely. Past poems have been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize. His chapbook is “Looting Versailles” (Alabaster Leaves Publishing).
[Editors' Note: We thank you for your service, Jake]
One frantic morning Salvador Dali
could not find his moustache anywhere—
not in the claws of tigers bursting
from a pomegranate,
not fluttering over a melted pocket watch,
not twirling in the disintegration
of persistent memory,
not answering the lobster telephone,
nor rooted in the enigma of desire,
not even in Mona Lisa’s self-portrait.
Exasperated, at last his searches led him
to the very place a lesser genius
might have looked in the beginning—
(Can you imagine?!)—right under his nose.
—George H. Northrup
George H. Northrup is a poet and psychologist in New Hyde Park, NY. He is the author of You Might Fall In (2014), Wave into Wave, Light into Light: Poems and Places(2019), and When Sunset Weeps: Homage to Emily Dickinson (2020).
Freud and I have our breakfast together.
I am not even awake and he is already into me
about my hysteria and my need to tell
all my secrets to our friends.
“Let me explain something about hysteria, Sig,”
I try to reason with him.
“You like to write science, I like to write ‘confessions.’
So I have pains in my chest every time you attack me,
but at least I don’t make theories from my perversions
that pretend to be true for all times to all folk.”
Freud pours himself another bowl of dry cereal.
He picks up his paper, rustles it, disappears.
I can hear him munching
from behind the international news
[First published in Modern Poetry in Translation New Series, #4. Winter 1993-4, 9-12 and in So Far So Good. Tel Aviv: Sivan, 2004]
Karen Alkalay-Gut had graduated into semi-retirement from being a Professor of English Literature at Tel Aviv University, and has been writing poetry obsessively for 60 years.
The Ides of March
The crows are in the front trees talking
about the neighbor who walks his dog in March snow.
The dog pulls one way,
then a scent sends them galloping another
and still another
until there are no trackless patches of snow
in front of his house.
The neighbor slips and falls and, getting up, grumbles
but the dog lopes through the brush to the trees
whose branches shower them
with more snow. The dog doesn’t mind,
but the neighbor shakes and shivers and drags the dog
inside, saying some things I can’t hear.
You’d think only the crows knew
it is the Ides of March.
Gary Metras’s poems and reviews have recently appeared in Ibbetson Street, Wilderness House Literary Review, Red Eft Review, and Southern Florida Poetry Review, and are upcoming in Gargoyle and Poetry East. His 2018 book of poems, White Storm (Rockford, MI: Presa Press), was selected as a Must Read title by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. In April 2018, he was appointed as the City of Easthampton’s inaugural Poet Laureate.
rendered in paint
two whole grilled
a bread stick notched
along the back
you’d count on
Tony Beyer is a New Zealander whose most recent chapbook is Friday Prayers (Cold Hub Press, 2019). New poems have appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, London Grip, Molly Bloom, Mudlark, and Otoliths.
you’ve waited for dusk,
returned to the spot in the shade,
found the smooth, flat boulder,
tested the current,
set the weight, measured the bobber,
baited the hook,
cast the line gracefully so that now it is time
to rest and wait
Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, FL. His chapbook, Body of Water, is available through Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is Editor-in-Chief of panoplyzine.com, an online journal of poetry and short prose. Jeff’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Comstock Review, San Pedro River Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Mojave River Review, The Lake (UK), The Blue Nib, Red Fez, Texas Poetry Calendar, Avocet, and other online and print publications.
Alone, not lonely
Books are friends
Cats purr loudly
Rain on rooftop
Water droplets tremble
Tempo taps staccato
Can hardly breathe
Smoked forty years
Pleural lungs crackle
Sunlight through curtains
Betrays cold morning
Icy branches crack
Lying in stillness
Relive the past
Exhaled final breath
—Julie A. Dickson
Julie A Dickson is a poet and writer with two adopted feral cats called Claire and Cam, who are often her first audience for new poems. Dickson is on the board of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire and her works have appeared in the Avocet and Poetry Quarterly, among others.
Often a Bird
Often a bird enlivens my sense to wonder overtly at it:
a hummingbird framed at the window for an instant till
I hummed and wanted to hum more all yesterday. Birds
add intricacies of buzz; layers of flit; fearless careening
into dives. I jealously note their mechanics to wrench
any leaving into meals; draft a new poem; choreograph
avant-garde ballets; add rough brims to hats or boundary.
Develop a blue heron analgesic wonder pill, I can assure
my fortune, plenty to share, were made and forwarded on.
Keith Moul writes poems and takes photos, doing both for more than 50 years. He concentrates on empirical moments in time, recognizing that the world will be somewhat different at the same place that today inspires him. His work appears around the world. Besides his reprint of his 2012 book Beautiful Agitation, also scheduled for 2020 release is New and Selected Poems: Bones Molder, Words Hold.
A downpour haiku
house without the roof
no longer uncovered
end of the storm
wet trees are exhaling
Samo Kreutz lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Besides poetry (which he has been writing since he was eight years old), he writes novels, short stories, and haiku. He has published nine books (three of them were poetry books). His recent work has appeared on international websites (and journals), such as Wales Haiku Journal, Under the Basho, Poetry Pea, Haiku Commentary, Frameless Sky: Art Video Journal, Autumn Moon Haiku Journal, Asahi Haikuist Network, Akita International Haiku Network, and others.
Bad Weather In Your Hometown
Winds tear away shingles.
Stones break glass.
Fruit falls from trees
to die on uncut grass.
You're far from home,
on the road
with nothing but a guitar and an amp
and a list of small-town clubs to play.
The old place
won't be the same when you get back.
But right now
it's just your song saying it.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review, and Connecticut River Review. His latest book, Leaves On Pages, is available through Amazon.
Myths of the Near Future
Black-winged angels circle overhead like birds of prey. The last surviving shul is being converted to use as a tool shed. Out front a noose has been looped around the neck of a statue of Anne Frank. We’re approaching the hour when torturers report in for the night shift. Meanwhile, some two thousand women and girls rally in the park against menstruation despite the ashes of burning rivers whirling down in gusts. Young soldiers accompanied by snarling German shepherds patrol the perimeter of the crowd. The soldiers are forbidden on pain of death to make friends with the dogs.
Howie Good's latest full-length poetry collection, Gun Metal Sky, is due in early 2021 from Thirty West.
Balm of Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There's power enough in heaven,
To cure a sin-sick soul. (Negro Spiritual)
I hear Paul Robeson singing and I hear America’s voice,
resolute, an incantation of the essence of humanity.
Wandering verses that traversed camp meetings and revivals
through years of strife, through tears and toil,
these songs of purpose
—prayers to the savior, freedom codes—
resound, clouds of comfort residing in a sable sky,
sung with fervor, searching for that salve from the hill of testimony
East of Jordan,
a balm to heal and cure a city stained with blood, iniquity, and treachery.
Come, kindred souls,
let us rub that balm of Gilead into the pores and heart streams
of those whose sins we find hard to forgive.
—Mary Anne Anderson
Mary Anne’s latest book of poems, Before the After. Love, Loss and Revolution in the Time of COVID, has just been released by Keyes Canyon Press. (available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble ebooks). “Poetry is where my soul sings to me,” she says. She has heard many a cantata and has published in various online sites and in anthologies such as Maui Muses 5, Monterey Bay’s Plentitude of Poets and Vivace. She is a member of Cambria Writers Workshop and Maui Live poets Society. www.jazzmar.com
Follow on Facebook and Twitter.https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=dp_byline_sr_book_1?ie=UTF8&field-author=Mary+Anne+Anderson&text=Mary+Anne+Anderson&sort=relevancerank&search-alias=books
They found the body buried beneath the new garage.
They’re building a tower in Babel, a cell phone tower.
I thought I had lost my watch, but there it was, burning a hole in your wrist all along.
The dancers’ street clothes were always a bit dubious.
Itching to pull a Houdini at the PowerPoint presentation, I finally did.
I enjoyed the stairwell that found me outside.
But the urgent agents of the status quo continue working their fingers to the bone.
A real belief in the “paranormal” only emphasized his banality.
“Do I look like a witch?” she asked, from her deathbed.
The lemmings knew which way to run.
It’s a question of how much you have versus how much you need,
Godzilla versus King Kong.
Mickey Rooney and the Cisco Kid sharing a bottle of port.
As the doctor said to the dentist, “I’ll see you in court.”
Ian Ganassi’s work has appeared recently or will appear soon in numerous literary magazines, such as New American Writing, Beyond Words, Offcourse, Home Planet News, and The American Journal of Poetry, among many others. His full-length collection, Mean Numbers, was published in 2016 by China Grove Press. A second book is forthcoming from MadHat Press. Selections from an ongoing collaboration with a painter can be found at www.thecorpses.com.
The pawns drown in the crossfire,
Blindly following orders.
Unloyal knights are absent without permission,
But were last seen with money bags on their backs.
Bishops, who are quite pale in the face,
Hastily press down the sign of the cross on foreheads.
Cannon fire gallops across the air,
Splintering and taking siege Scottish towers.
From the Queen’s consciousness to engulf her,
And the King, washed over by wayward destiny,
Awaits the emergence of dusty death’s approach ...
Matthew Johnson recently earned his MA in English from UNC-Greensboro. He's a former sports journalist and editor who wrote for Fansided, the USA Today College, and The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Maudlin House, The Roanoke Review, The Sport Literate, The New Southern Fugitives, and The Twin Bill. He is a one-time Best of the Net nominee (2017) and his debut collection, Shadow Folks and Soul Songs, (Kelsay Books) was released in 2019. Twitter: @Matt_Johnson_D
I know the ritual of being foreign.
The faint smiles I need to practice,
rehearse my poker face when I’m insulted,
seem calm when I’m told to wait before I speak.
To meet someone for the first time
always invites an awkward moment
—No, that would be Brazil, another country,
they speak Portuguese, I speak Spanish—
or requires deep diving, the telling of past
atrocities and losses still not ready to be scars
Sometimes I’d swear I can hear
the ruffling of the manila folders,
the one they pick to start the file on me,
the scratching of the pen
writing my name on the cover.
—Juan Pablo Mobili
Juan Pablo Mobili was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and adopted by New York, a long time ago. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Feathers Anthology, Spirit Fire Review, Mason Street, The Red Wheelbarrow Review, The Journal of American Poetry, and The Worcester Review. He also co-wrote a chapbook of poems in collaboration with Madalasa Mobili, Three Unknown Poets, published by Seranam Press.
An Illusion in The Bright Mirror of Eternity
Every day is an illusion in the bright mirror of eternity.
You see yourself from a teenager to an old man with gray hair,
as if you are a role in a play.
And the peace of mind makes you smell the fragrance of flowers from the Heavens.
You recall yourself in outer space with a smile—
that golden giant and fragrant light;
the huge number of palaces looks lofty, resplendent and majestic,
they rise and fall, like a sea of gold.
Billions of years are like the drops of nectar
crystal clear, sprinkle the music of intoxicated soul.
Translated by Yuanbing Zhang
Yuan Hongri (born 1962) is a renowned Chinese mystic, poet, and philosopher. His work has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria; his poems have appeared in Poet's Espresso Review, Orbis, Tipton Poetry Journal, Harbinger Asylum, The Stray Branch, Acumen, Pinyon Review, Taj Mahal Review, Madswirl, Shot Glass Journal, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. His best known works are Platinum City and Golden Giant. His works explore themes of prehistoric and future civilization.
Yuanbing Zhang (b. 1974), who is a Chinese poet and translator, works in a Middle School, Yanzhou District, Jining City, Shandong Province, China. He can be contacted through his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What the Critics are Saying
Combines the keen insight into human nature of a Michael Bay movie with the pulse-pounding action of a Jane Austen novel. —Smackover Daily
Reminds me of a Robert Ludlum novel without the sex, action, and desperate hero scrambling to save the free world from certain destruction. —Satan’s Kingdom Advocate
After reading this novel, I went to the dentist, confident that a root canal was not the worst thing in the world, after all. —Burnt Porcupine Examiner
Like a cross between Salvador Dali and an IRS audit. —Climax Inquirer
Imagine Tommy Wiseau directing Ayn Rand’s interpretation of Fifty Shades of Grey —Two Eggs Weekly
A real page-turner. I kept turning the page hoping something would happen. —Intercourse Observer
I’ve heard more wit at my grandmother’s funeral. From the deceased! —Woonsocket Gazette
This is a joke. Right? Peterson, I’m going to kill you. —Cannon Ball Herald
Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Metal Scratches, Pearl, Slipstream, Space and Time, Tales of the Talisman, and Zahir. Jon is the author of the poetry collection Words of Power, Dances of Freedom, as well as several novels and short-story collections. http://jonwesick.com
WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS ISSUE. BE SAFE AND BE WELL, EVERYONE.