FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST

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MAY 2022

 


 

The Arranged Marriage

The moon has dropped its nightgown on the lake’s belly.

                                                                                                              —Joel Allegretti

Joel Allegretti is the author of, most recently, Platypus (NYQ Books, 2017), a collection of poems, prose, and performance texts, and Our Dolphin (Thrice Publishing, 2016), a novella. He is the editor of Rabbit Ears: TV Poems (NYQ Books, 2015). The Boston Globe called Rabbit Ears “cleverly edited” and “a smart exploration of the many, many meanings of TV.” 

 


 

Quaking aspen rests
at the base of a mountain

One bird sings of solitude

                                                                 —Judith Vaughn

Judith Vaughn lives in Sonoma, California. She attended New York City College, John F. Kennedy University, and Dominican University with a focus in Psychology. She has written poetry since her childhood. Publications: Oak East News, a student publication at SRJC, in Santa Rosa, CA, and Jerry Jazz Musician, an online jazz publication, several editions.

 


 

geometry changes

in the open courtyard

grayling butterfly

                                         —Ernesto P. Santiago

Ernesto P. Santiago lives in Greece and is inspired daily by the myth of his poetic senses.



Cleveland Haiku #628

Sunday afternoon—
people mowing lawns
in December

                                                  —Michael Ceraeolo

Michael Ceraolo is a 62-year-old retired firefighter/paramedic and active poet who has had two full-length books (Euclid Creek, from Deep Cleveland Press; 500 Cleveland Haiku, from Writing Knights Press) and has two more full-length books, Euclid Creek Book Two and Lawyers, Guns, and Money, in the publication pipeline.



Sleeping

When people sleep,
it is hard-core evidence
that they were
children once,
these soft-breathing
bodies.

                                                   —Carrie Magness Radna

Carrie Magness Radna is an audiovisual cataloger at the New York Public Library, a choral singer, and a poet who loves to travel. Her poems have previously appeared in The Oracular Tree, Mediterranean Poetry, Muddy River Poetry Review, Poetry Super Highway, Shot Glass Journal, Vita Brevis, Home Planet News, Cajun Mutt Press, Walt’s CornerPolarity eMagazine, The Poetic Bond (VIII-X), Spillwords.comAlien Buddha PressJerry Jazz Musician, and Rye Whiskey Review. Her poetry collections: Hurricanes never apologize (Luchador Press) was published in December 2019 and In the blue hour (Nirala Publications), was published in February 2021. Born in Norman, Oklahoma, she now lives with her husband in Manhattan, New York. https://carriemagnessradna.com 

 



Canon

This aperture shows what I want
to see: a frame with your face. 

Does not show the depth of your hold
on me.  And not what I fear
is behind the smile.

                                                                             —John Hicks

John Hicks is a New Mexico poet. His work has been published in 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 he writes in the thin mountain air of the southern Rockies. 


 

Front Row

Alan Ladd’s sad eye

catches my eye.
Supper is pot roast.

***

Steps

Taking a step

finding my understep
girl in a window
that is now a tree

                                                                —Bobby Hirschfield

Bobby Hirschfield is a New York-based poet and freelance writer whose work appears in Salamander, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Moth, Vallum, Takahe, and other publications.



what the magpies know

cemeteries are for hiking
apples grown on front yards can be stolen for sauce
teak oil is a defibrillator for wooden floors
you can starfish your limbs without bumping into bodies
the fog is an opening line to the mountains

                                                                                                           —Aimee Herman

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.

 


 

Before the Lake There was a Birch

Before the Birch there was a Larch.
Before the Larch there were dark Willows.
Before the Willows there was a Sycamore.
Before the Sycamore, the tallest Pine.
Before the Pine, a leafy Voice.

                                                                               —Margie Gaffron

Margie Gaffron lives in State College, PA.  After reconnecting with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, one of her goals is to create a bedrock foundation of language—minimal word, maximum communication. Words that bring intense response—pure feeling, connection. I will be rock, I will be water. Her book, Holdings, was published in 2002. Her poems have appeared in One Sentence, The Progressive, Pivot, Friend’s Journal, Liminal Age, and Autism Parenting Magazine, as well as other journals and anthologies. She is currently working on a collection of short fiction, Diner Tales 1967–1970.

 


 

Paradise

We are in the park, holding hands;

walking together, beside the water
to the bench where seated we can see
the Statue of Liberty and the river flowing
out towards Africa and the wider sea.

                                                                                     —Tsaurah Litzky

Tsaurah Litzky writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction prose, erotica, memoir, plays, and commentary. Her poetry collections are Cleaning The Duck (Bowery Books) and Baby On The Water (Long Shot Books). Tsaurah lives on the Brooklyn waterfront, where she can see the Statue of Liberty from her kitchen window.



Finding Its Way
                                     (inspired by editor Cindy Hochman’s Monday Proofreading Tip on Facebook)


Wending its way as the wind within whines,
vertebrate, vertebrate, where did you dine?
Writhing most wretchedly, wraiths roil resplendent,
shedding soils sorrows to shine, independent.
Livestream Philistines, leave all points unsaid,
now flotsam and jetsam are happily wed!

                                                                                               —Gary D. Maxwell

Gary D. Maxwell is a poet currently residing north of Boston. After shoveling roadkill on the Information Superhighway for forty years, Gary now devotes his time to writing.



The sun of childhood years 
(haiku sequence)

birth town
visiting it with me
the sun of my childhood

home forest
I play hide and seek
with memories

old cherry tree
concealed in the crown
my youth

summer meadow
not so fragrant as once
the grass

                                                 —Samo Kreutz

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 is the author of ten books in Slovene and one in English (a haiku book titled The Stars for Tonight, which was published by Cyberwit.net from India).. His recent work has appeared on international websites (and journals), such as The Big Windows Review, Taj Mahal Review, Ink Sweat & Tears: The poetry and prose webzine, Haiku Commentary, Green Ink Poetry, Dwelling Literary, Ariel Chart, and others.



Ripening

mother was our madness

          and our curves

                   even her silhouettes were silver

          mother could grow marigolds
                   in november

                   she was our snake charmer

                           our static cling

                                                                                  —Megan Denese Mealor
 

[Previously published in BROAD!, Mother's Day Issue, May 2014]

Megan Denese Mealor is a double Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals worldwide. She is the author of three poetry collections: Bipolar Lexicon (Unsolicited Press, 2018), Blatherskite (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019), and A Mourning Dove's Wishbone (still in the works). Megan lives with husband Tony, son Jesse, and three mollycoddled cats Trigger, Lulu, and Hobbes in Jacksonville, Florida.


 

When you think you have seen your mother
at her ugliest, the sky opens up and the bright
becomes brisk


                                                    How many panic attacks
                                                    will make everything
                                                    all right?

                                                    How many panic attacks
                                                    are enough before the doctor
                                                    offers a lolly?

                                   The whisper becomes, I’m not helping

                                   The whisper becomes a damaged sounding horn 


The whisper becomes what the nurses chatter about your mother 

 

***


Quill

 

They found them full, empty(ing) 

what need not travel to remind you  

your stuff is a part of you. All your boxes 

lined up like a child’s fort, infantry legos  

memory, all the memories, all the rectangular  

clicked bricks, all these boxes taped flat smooth 

waiting for that blade, to empty full memories, this  

infantry, this child’s fortress, this empty feather, this  

empty spine. How it labels the boxes. Full of. Found. 

                                                                                                        —Thomas Fucaloro

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.



Songs

Melodies survive long after the singer dies.
Follow a song to new places, live
that song, speed to a beat, vibrate
to rhythm, bathe in story,
find light in images.
A songwriter’s vision widens the angle
so our everyday gets larger, more colorful,
becomes something worth singing about.

                                                                                        —Madlynn Haber

Madlynn Haber lives with her dog, Ozzie, in a cohousing community in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthology Adult Children (Wishing Up Press, 2021), Random Sample, Dissonance Magazine, Buddhist Poetry Review, Muddy River Poetry Review and other journals. Online at www.madlynnwrites.com.



Night Music

Through gathering evenings, on the Aber road,
he would listen to the car’s night music,
Ella, Hart, the husky songs and narratives
of brandies, bars and alto sax and blues,
of mulling-over in the late-night-mornings.

Around him the climbing turning quiet road
through Ceredigion, sensed and partly seen,
the villages, the farms, a distant domesticity.

                                                                                          —Robert Nisbet 

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize (four times) and a Best of the Net award.



The Bartender

And it was the performance
you needed ...
as much as the drink.
A pal—
late at night—
your shot
his chaser.

The illusion of intimacy
the bar's glimmering divide
just the right distance
for the quips
the communal nods,
the late-night solidarity
the limbo before
the inevitable

last call.

                                                           —Doug Holder

Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press in Somerville, MA. (1998). He is the book review editor for the Wilderness House Literary Review, and teaches creative writing at Endicott College.



Jonathan Penton’s Vodka and Cranberry Juice


Not to get bogged down in history but Russian emigres drawn to Massachusetts by the promise of Thanksgiving side dishes invented the drink. From there it traveled via the Eerie Canal and the Mississippi River to New Orleans where it fueled Anne Rice’s obsession with Transylvanian plumbing. Leonardo DiCaprio ordered one in The Departed which is a remake of the Hong Kong action movie called Infernal Affairs. There’s nothing Satanic about vodka. Mark Twain wrote about it in the “Celebrated Fermented Potato of Calaveras County” and it was said to be the inspiration for the character Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.


Of course, murder is wrong but any bird insulting my manhood is in for a beating. Animals lack respect these days. I blame social media.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             —Jon Wesick

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, New Verse News, Paterson Literary Review, Pearl, Pirene’s Fountain, Slipstream, Space and Time, and Tales of the Talisman.  Jon is the author of the poetry collections Words of Power, Dances of Freedom, and A Foreigner Wherever I Go, as well as several novels and short story collections. His most recent novel is The Prague Deceptionhttp://jonwesick.com


 
Dancers

The Hula Dancer

Showed me how the palms sway
How the birds mate
How the moon rises
In the balmy sky.

The Belly Dancer
Showed me how sex works
How I want a woman’s hips
How she could rule me
With one look.

The Modern Dancer
Showed me art in motion
How lines are drawn
How they unite
Around us.

                                                          —E. Martin Pedersen

Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived for over 40 years in eastern Sicily, where he taught English at the local university. His poetry has appeared most recently in Adirondack Review, Better Than Starbucks, Brief Wilderness, Danse Macabre, and Thirteen Myna Birds. Martin is an alumnus of the Community of Writers. He has published two collections of haiku, Bitter Pills andSmart Pills, and a chapbook, Exile's Choice, just out from Kelsay Books. A full collection, Method & Madness, is forthcoming from Odyssey Press. Martin blogs at: https://emartinpedersenwriter.blogspot.com   



 
“Beyond the Pleasure Principle”

Eros and Thanatos are this year’s cute couple,

Shopping at IKEA for furniture they’ll later
Put off assembling, eating Swedish meatballs
And apple cake in the café, drinking lots of coffee.
Eros wants to have children—someday—lingers
Besides the cribs and stuffed toys, the crayon sets,
And wooden puzzles.  From downstairs, a baby
Makes a racket, causing Thanatos to grimace,
Less than enthusiastic about an infant crawling
On the carpet, extra loads in the washing machine.
In the parking lot, Eros forgets which level the car
Is on, so they wander through shadowy, concrete
Passages, pushing their cart heavy with poorly
Balanced boxes, with bags of kitchen gadgets they’ll
Never use.  Thanatos complains all the way home.

                                                                                                     —George Franklin

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's Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). Website: https://gsfranklin.com/



Life Signs                     

To Breathe is to God.
To Awe is to Soul.
To Know is to Begin.
To Love is to Strengthen.
To Pray is to Hope.
To Live is to Poetry.
To Play is to Release.
To Compassion is to Repair.
To Act is to Courage.
To Wonder is to Open.
To Become is to Dream.
To Give is to Dance.
To Quiet is to Listen.
To Study the cosmos is
    to  Discern Meanings.

                                                           —Sally Young-eslinger

Sally Young-eslinger is an artist, a poet, an essayist, and a devout Christian. She studied ballet with the NYC Metropolitan Opera House. She is now embarking into calligraphy.



Vanishing Point

Years ago my dreams

began to disappear
hundreds at a time

leaving my nights
sterile and silent
and me awake, staring

at nothing, thinking
about the two dozen species
that go extinct each day

while the neighbors’ red
security lights
flash on and off:

emergency
emergency

                                                        —Erica Goss

Erica Goss is the winner of the 2019 Zocalo Poetry Prize. Her collection, Night Court, won the 2017 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Recent and upcoming publications include Creative Nonfiction, North Dakota QuarterlySpillway, A-Minor, Redactions, Consequence, The Sunlight Press, The Pedestal, San Pedro River Review, and Critical Read. Erica served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, from 2013-2016. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she teaches, writes and edits the newsletter Sticks & Stones.


 

Authentication Mishap; 
            
or, Poem Including a Line by John Ashbery

If you try, I just might flee

The enterprise to fidget
Amid templates, junebugs, & other quaint
Reversals. It’s an out-of-tune Rickenbacker, I think

A line-up of pile-ups, or a poetics of common need
Chomping at the particulars. Dead air, sir, is
Only noticeable to those who tune in
“I tried each thing, only some were immortal and free”

Subject to distortion, though I bade him see
& Now am more damaged than any original that you have ever dreamed
How long ’til you don’t return
To the beauty that you smudged

With ashes in temptation to encounter
Loads of spigots. It won’t come clean
That ‘I’ is you too
Becoming all that you mean

                                                                                                                    —Mark DuCharme

Mark DuCharme is the author of more than twenty books and chapbooks, most recently We, the Monstrous: Script for an Unrealizable Film (The Operating System, 2018). Two chapbooks are forthcoming: Scorpion Letters from Ethel, and Thousands Blink Outside from Trainwreck Press.  Other poems from his sequence Complicated Grief have appeared in Blazing Stadium.  He lives in Boulder, Colorado.