Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Cyborg Sequence No. 1" by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

Cyborg Sequence No. 1
James Frederick William Rowe

It used to be that we conceived of clouds as the realm of the blessed.  Now when I upload my mind to the same I have to pay attention to questions of semantic security and policies of delinquent debt.

Dear customer
You may lose your childhood
If payment is late

Running on the LAN of my nerves my thoughts were instantaneous yet sorely lacking in portability.  I thought it wiser to distribute access.  Very useful until a glut of thought-traffic buffered the screen of my Cartesian theatre.  I could only manage the message:

The laggy server
In which my mind now functions
Stultifies my thoughts

When network integrity was restored, I was prompted anew for my passwords.  Lacking the access to my data, I failed all five attempts of input, leaving me to rage when locked out of my own mind:

Grr, son of a bitch!
I have forgot the password
To my memory

Unable to answer even for my name, I called tech support and was told to look for the serial number printed in the fold behind the back of my ear.  Complaining as I craned to see:

Give me back my mind!
I've suffered from your service!
Three days of credit

Poet’s Notes:  “Cyborg Sequence No. 1” began as three haiku which I had written a few years ago during my successful (albeit grueling) Lenten sacrifice of procrastination in respect to writing. Some people give up chocolate, some people give up booze, I give up procrastination (thanks Catholicism!), and as a consequence I managed to get some work done that I would not have otherwise. Of course, I also pulled a bit of legalism in giving myself the opportunity to write short haiku to satisfy my condition of "at least one poem or 300 words of prose per day". I think Jesuits would approve of me satisfying the letter of the law if not the spirit of it, so I think I'm okay.

I always intended to return to these haiku some time later, as I thought they'd really do best in a sequence of some sort rather than alone, given they are united in their common theme of the problems of a future cable-companyesque cyborg cloud computing service. I like taking a somewhat cynically humorous look at such future problems I could imagine easily resulting from any such attempts, especially as trans-humanistic enterprises are so terrifying that they need to be treated lightly to divest them of some of their power. Or at least, that's how I feel, as I legitimately find the entire prospect of replacing our humanity with machinery to be profoundly disturbing.

But returning to the composition, the poem includes a fourth haiku—the last one—which was not part of the original series. I did not think the poem felt complete with the one I had, and another haiku I had respecting physical cyborg-parts did not seem suited to the theme of the poem (I'll save that for a future “Cyborg Sequence No. 2”).

The poem did not come entirely as easily as I would like. I was stuck on the last haiku for a while. Nevertheless, drawing on my extensive frustrations with dealing with cable companies—and more broadly, cable companies in general—I think I captured the sheer annoyance I think would come with digitizing our lives. That was my aesthetic goal, as I find that the more my life has become dominated by digital problems, the more problems I have had to contend with on a regular basis. Specifically, I chose to end the poem with "three days of credit" because of how frequently that is the resolution you can expect from cable tech support. It's the universal palliative measure.


Editor’s Note:  “Cyborg Sequence No. 1” was originally submitted to me with what are now the prose portions of the haibun presented in verses.  As I read, I heard inside my head a robotic voice speaking the prose/prosaic portions, with a human voice--perhaps only a remnant of one--breaking through to narrate the haiku.  With the poet’s permission, I removed the line breaks to create a haibun format.  I selected a “robotic” font, Syncho LET, to emphasize the mechanical voice, all caps to emphasize the monotone of the voice.  I chose to italicize the haiku portions in Baskerville font to add a touch of sad beauty from a visual standpoint.  Since the presentation has enough visual impact, I decided to eschew an accompanying graphic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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Monday, October 24, 2016

"Sometimes Sorrow Ends in a Golden Sunrise" by Carol Hamilton

Former Oklahoma Poet Laureate and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee Carol Hamilton was the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Poet of the Month for August 2015 http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/08/songs-of-eretz-poetry-review-poet-of.html and the guest judge for the 2016 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.  She has recent and upcoming publications in: Pontiac Review, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Poet Lore, Limestone, Louisiana Literature, Off The Coast, Palaver, San Pedro River Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Hubbub, Blue Unicorn, Abbey, Main Street Rag, Two Cities Review, Poem, Tipton Poetry Review, and others. She has published seventeen books, most recently, Such Deaths from the Visual Arts Cooperative Press in Chicago.

Sometimes Sorrow Ends in a Golden Sunrise
Carol Hamilton

My favorite cat was Buttercup.
I played and sang HMS Pinafore
to her. She was the color
of pollen on your nose
when you smell every blossom
in a field of daisies.
She always sat and listened
to her song. When she disappeared,
for months I sang
“I’m Called Little Buttercup”
to every fluffy yellow cat I met.
Not one seemed to recognize
either the song or me.
I still love Gilbert and Sullivan,
and though I have had many
other cats over many years,
not one has had yellow fur.
The golden glow of morning
when starting out on a bike ride
is buttercup yellow and so is
butter sizzling in the skillet
awaiting eggs to scramble.
It has been many years
since I last sang to a cat.

Poet’s Notes:  This is a poem about loss, really. As I age, I have said goodbye to many people and activities that I have I loved: friends and family, mountain climbing, bicycle riding, even a special beloved cat in childhood. Many of us experience first loss when a childhood pet dies.

The poem did not begin while thinking of loss. I was teaching a poetry workshop to middle school students. Our writing prompt involved playing around with the way various colors make us feel. When I ask students to write, I always write along with them. I recently found some of my scribbled notes from that day. This poem all began with the color yellow.


Editor’s Note:  I'm not a cat person, but the poet’s various plays on yellow, engaging all of the senses, really sold me--over the objections of Lana the Poetry Dog.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"Arrow" by Mary Soon Lee, Frequent Contributor


Arrow
Mary Soon Lee

Late April,
  hills overrun
    with flowering azaleas--
          pink, white, red, magenta--
    the air bright with their scent,
  King Xau's mood dark
as December.

He galloped
  past his guards.
    Li, his captain, shouted,
      but Xau kept riding. He would spend this day,
    this one day as far away as possible
  from the relentless matchmakers
and their wares:

flirts, flatterers, coquettes,
  twelve-year-old girls with painted faces.
    An onslaught of replacement wives
  who couldn't replace
Shazia.

Air bright
  with the fragrance of flowers,
    his horse crested a hill, and there, below him,
      galloping on a gray horse, an archer:
    black hair beaded, braided,
  riding away from Xau,
bow in hand.

Xau halted
  as the rider arced round,
    black braid swinging as she-- 
      demonstrably, conspicuously female,
    full breasts rounding her chest guard--
  loosed an arrow. A hawk fell.
Dead.

One arrow, double duty.
Xau as stricken as the hawk.

Poet's Notes: This is part of The Sign of the Dragon, my epic fantasy in verse. It takes place nearly a year after the death of King Xau's first wife, Shazia. King Xau is still in his twenties and under pressure to make a politically advantageous second marriage. Xau almost always puts the good of his kingdom ahead of himself--but not this time. After seeing the woman in this poem, he pursues her even though she is by no means an appropriate choice. More poems from The Sign of the Dragon may be read at www.thesignofthedragon.com.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Reality" by Carol Hamilton

Former Oklahoma Poet Laureate and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee Carol Hamilton was the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Poet of the Month for August 2015 http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2015/08/songs-of-eretz-poetry-review-poet-of.html and the guest judge for the 2016 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.  She has recent and upcoming publications in: Pontiac Review, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Poet Lore, Limestone, Louisiana Literature, Off The Coast, Palaver, San Pedro River Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Hubbub, Blue Unicorn, Abbey, Main Street Rag, Two Cities Review, Poem, Tipton Poetry Review, and others. She has published seventeen books, most recently, Such Deaths from the Visual Arts Cooperative Press in Chicago.

Reality
Carol Hamilton

Giotto … I told the children
of him, the first known
artist we studied. 
We all loved his funny
flying angel skirts,
the creatures’ tears
and rounded cheeks and limbs,
though the mountains and trees
remained angled and awkward,
born in the studio from piled
and draped tables and chairs.
So art’s progress
in the Renaissance came
in lovely fits and starts.
Now his work flakes off
the walls and someone
must save them, though I love
the spots where the background
paint peeks through all
those things the artist tried
to make as real as he,
at the moment, could …
as we. 

Poet’s Notes:  I visited Assisi and saw Giotto’s frescoes long before I knew much about his work. I am not sure when I fell in love with his art, but some books I still have with reproductions of his frescoes are yellowed with age and tattered with use. When teaching an art history course in a school for gifted elementary students, I taught the children of Giotto and his place as transition from Medieval and Byzantine art into the Renaissance.         

For me, the realistic faces and rounded bodies of his works are beautiful, but there is something so na├»ve and charming as he tries to show the motion of flight, and I wonder why in the ebb and flow over the centuries between abstract and realistic art it would not have occurred to him to look out the window in order to paint the hills and mountains. You can so easily see the artifice. But is not much in our lives filled with artifice, “truths” we live by without questioning the wisdom of our times?

Editor’s Note:  For me, this riveting poem works as an ekphrastic piece but also as an example of ut pictura poesis.   The statue of Giotto above depicted was sculpted by Joseph Mailord William Turner.  Examples of Giotto's work may be found here:  http://www.giottodibondone.org.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"dawn" by Ross Balcom, Frequent Contributor


dawn
Ross Balcom

the dawn
racked

its bones
breaking

begs
for mercy

its cries
unheard

by the
blank-eyed

mutants
who walk

the hills
the forests

of stone


Poet's Notes: The dawn, normally a symbol of hope, becomes a symbol of hopelessness and horror in this poem of the post-apocalypse.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Special Double Feature: "Jupiter" by Frequent Contributor Sierra July & "Great Red Spot" by the Editor


Jupiter
Sierra July

In center of town,
Stood Rome’s Jupiter
In day, he glittered
As though gem-studded
When dim, a shade pulsed
From it that struck hearts
Beauty that stung eyes
But once a month, fear
Awoke in awe's stead
When cursed full moon rose,
The God’s core glowed red


Poet’s Notes: Looking up at the sky one night, I saw a star that looked red. It may have been Mars or a plane, but it made me think of Jupiter's red spot. I thought that I would relate the Roman god Jupiter with the planet of the same name and came up with this piece.

* * * * * * * * * *


Great Red Spot
Size of three earths
Spinning for centuries
Perhaps even for millennia
High-pressure hurricane
The King of storms


                                                                                      --Steven Wittenberg Gordon

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Benefits of Not Bathing?" by Lauren McBride, Frequent Contributor


Benefits of Not Bathing?
Lauren McBride

One day I skipped my shower.
No one seemed to mind.
No one even noticed
and I saved myself some time -

not to mention all that water,
soap and washcloths, too;
towels, Q-tips, lotion,
and obviously, shampoo.

Hey, I can keep my cash
by not bathing every day.
Am I the only one who sees
the advantages this way?

I could throw away my toothbrush -
save on mouthwash, floss and paste.
Skip the dentist altogether.
All those visits - such a waste!

Now I’m old and wealthy
but bald with a toothless grin.
And I can’t enjoy my money,
‘cause the bank won’t let me in!


Poet’s Notes: When I saw the prompt that became the title of this poem, I knew I wanted my poem to rhyme and be lighthearted, a poem written just for the fun of it. While words can be powerful, sometimes it is nice if they merely provide a momentary distraction, or better yet, a smile.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

CONTEST DEADLINE EXTENDED


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& FROM OTHERS WHO LEARNED ABOUT THE CONTEST LATE, 
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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Monday, October 10, 2016

DON'T MISS YOUR CHANCE TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR SONGS OF ERETZ THIS YEAR!


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Friday, October 7, 2016

"Painting Summer" by Tricia Knoll, Frequent Contributor


Painting Summer
                Sisters, Oregon
By Tricia Knoll

To paint this place
silver is glint on pine needles,
work for moon on woods.

Light vanilla for cracks
in shifting continents
of ponderosa bark.

Ochre orange and red pumice
cinder roads bend, flame orange
for Indian paint brush
and alpenglow’s thin birdsong.

Deep blacks wrought-iron
cowboys, bronco busting, crusted wire
to underbelly of frog,
juniper twists, skink’s tail,
night’s plangent soft song
to star holes,

Late afternoon wind
sun-shifts, scours trees, sweat and grasses
white like the eye of mountains,
slow snow melt riffling
cold as the dog shakes,
under rumble of blue pick-up trucks.

Slather on rusted gates creaking opening, 
clanging shut where brown cows follow  
zipper-green creeks and sorrel horses blow hot.

A grasshopper splats on the boardwalk.
The wild turkey lumbers up
a steep gravel road without shade.

Two black cats
hide in sagebrush
from my wet brush.

Poet’s Notes: Sisters (pictured) is a beautiful spot in Oregon just over the mountains from Portland. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"Trauma" by David Pring-Mill, Frequent Contributor

Poet's Notes:  About eight years ago, I embarked upon an unusual artistic project. I wanted to commit life in New York City to paper and I wanted to do it in an unprecedented way. I decided to write an epic poem with a complex underlying rhyme scheme. By harnessing the cumulative effects of highly ritualized, daily writing sessions, I completed my objective in about fourteen months. I assembled together an original literary world of eccentric citizens, towering structures, neon lights, and relentless rhymes. I disregarded formal meter, and focused entirely on character, story, and the power of experience.

“Trauma” is an excerpt from my epic poem. I recently revised it. The narrative here occurs within a dream sequence. In life, an individual’s chosen philosophy and ideology is largely indicative of the particular chaotic sliver that they happened to witness. It isn’t necessarily the logical product of searching thought. Objectively, the world is far too vast to be reduced to a standard, organized set of opinions or principles with any kind of ongoing accuracy. But the temptation is always there to formulate a cheat sheet and label it. People long for a belief system that will define their own experience. It is natural. Even atheists do this and in many instances they’re less aware of what they’re doing.

In “Trauma,” the poetic narrator is reflecting upon child abuse, and from there the dream segues into what is essentially a rhyming representation of Gaia theory http://www.gaiatheory.org/overview/. The narrator initially resists this apparent revelation and in fact he finds it terrifying, as reflected in the line “made body shudder and appalled heart pound.” However, the dream continues to unfold, and a mysterious voice insists that “Everything is One,” suggesting that perhaps the unity of Gaia theory could be instrumental in resolving the shattering effects of trauma. Thus, the narrator chooses a new philosophy for himself.


Trauma
David Pring-Mill

Faded footprints mixed with fresh ones in snow.
A skinny track curved along the sidewalk,
noting the path of a bike in its glow.
Indentations were filled by nature’s clock.
White specks fell in diagonal descent.
The blistering cold masked the city scent.

The day had been long, and taxing to suitors;
I had waited on a raised brown platform
in morning light, with huddling commuters.
We shifted and scuttled in the quick storm,
yet the morning seemed like ages ago
as I mailed a postcard in mounting snow.

I shopped in a bodega for lunch-meat.
As I left, I saw a timid stray cat.
I felt sympathy pulse from my heartbeat.
I gave it food and said, “Did you know that
we are born all day like beautiful beasts
as more of life is created for us?
We rarely rejoice in these little feasts.
We silently shun tiny souls and thus
forget to be commendable creatures.
As you and I roam these frigid wastelands,
and you retain your soft shape and features,
let’s cast aside all misinformed demands.
And let’s you and I like a lion roar!
The glory of existence offers more.”

I returned to my Brooklyn apartment
and condemned my piddling around as I
collapsed within the small white compartment,
loosened the half-Windsor knot of my tie,
stared at eclectic posters on the wall,
and let my feet dangle off the mattress.
Perception slowed, tired thoughts bent to crawl,
and pictures flowed into bleak abjectness.
My muscles twitched in a tiny room that
kept me enclosed as consciousness became
vague buzzing symbols in my mind’s great vat.
They blended together into the same
melted mess as my lids faintly fluttered
to clear my mind. But the room was cluttered.

I restlessly turned, thrashed, and sat upright.
I unbuttoned my secondhand wool coat,
clumsily fumbled around without sight.
In scarce strained hours to which I devote
nothing, I threw off my coat in a rage.
Slowly, chords of my subconscious seemed strung
by vibrations of the external stage,
uniting mind and Earth as sleep-bound one.

(They say a dream is a mere distortion
of life, showing us encrypted insight.
I think that life is the false contortion
of the fragmented dreams we have at night.
Could dark chaos deemed interpretation
be a brief, bright glimpse of liberation?)

I dreamt I was a boy, my soul aflame,
my barefoot feet fleeing my so-called home,
pattering away from abusive game
in suburbs filled with cardboard, Styrofoam,
plastic, metal, and conformist things.
I avoided rusty nails, broken glass,
ran by highways that reigned on maps like kings,
made it across a steel bridge, and alas,
I approached factories – an adult man.
But my ankles were suddenly shackled,
and this forced me to think I was less than,
shuffling along, prone to being tackled.
I walked on streets paved by struggling senses,
passing by barbed wire and chain-link fences.

I moved one foot ahead, then the other,
as always, but slower, more consciously,
as though for the first time near my mother.
I traversed grounds conspicuously
and became aware I was being led
by signs, streets, subtle mechanization,
slowing and steering me as my feet bled.

A billboard advertised a vacation.
Next to a fence, I let words unravel,
and said, “Their apathy stings worse than spite;
their precious beach is the ocean’s gravel.
Be persistent as a small wave with might!”
I noticed a red “beware of dog” sign,
and shuffled away, across the state line.

I knew where I had been, where I would go;
awareness resulted from measured pace,
and I understood what had caused my woe.
I noticed labels scrawled with nature’s grace
Never do signs read, “Beware of parent.”
It seemed my instinctive trust was abused
when I was bruised by ways most aberrant,
and so I’d wandered, skin healed, still confused,
completely lost in dreams of awful din.

Then my shackles vanished! I leapt in bounds,
without a mere scratch on my calloused skin!
I entered a tunnel, treading dark grounds.
Someone cried, “Must clocks melt for you to see
that this brightly layered accuracy
betrays the warped intent of time? Of dust,
you claim to be conceived, citing scripture,
knowing also you will return to dust,
denying the ever-present picture.”

I lit a match. The voice asked, “What flickers?
By flame you try to see the forsaken;
such is the way of boys who drink liquors
for bottled brawn! Let your heart awaken!
It wasn’t careless omission of sun,
But rather, man’s ingenuity
that made this long path of darkness, young one,
As seen in you who likes acuity.”
I could not spot a man or wrinkled sage,
yet from some spring flowed truths of ancient age.

“Oh wisdom lost, and out of shadows seized,
await the thief whose knees would not buckle
while carrying words; with me, be appeased!
Let me pass,” I said, with a clenched knuckle.
“I don’t know your face or your objective!”

The voice replied, “Are you fearless and free?”

I said, “I’m under my own directive!”
The voice boomed, “Where will you go, escapee?”
“To the city,” I said. It asked, “And then?”
“I will wander beneath sunlight,” I said.
The voice said, “A pilgrimage! Ah, amen.
To well-lit, concrete, towering homestead!
And once there, what simple thing will you do?”
I said, “Rehydrate. What is it to you?”

“You walk towards water!” declared the old voice.
“‘I am a free man, controlled by droplets!’
That is your battle cry. Well then, rejoice;
purge all pretensions from your silly wits,
for there is a wanting always speaking.
No man is free from the rest of the world.
Your pride evaporates with thirst peaking
it’s then that nature’s scripture gets unfurled.
The satiation of our wants and needs
determines the course of inclination.
In conjunction with Earth, we do our deeds,
never apart from our habitation.
You would not require parts of the Earth
if people and it weren’t of the same birth.”

With match in hand, I clung to rounded wall.
I hoped for beaming headlights. No cars passed.
With struggling courage, I began to call:
“Come here! Where are you, shadowed outcast?
Bring to light the precepts within your grasp.”

The voice said, “You hold the truth as I do,
for when your left hand and your right hand clasp,
there is an expectation within you
that pure opposites will meet and connect.
Fold your hands and in your palms find the Earth.
Know you are neither free nor a subject.
Your life contributes to the global worth:
For you are defined,
like fingers entwined.”

With scattered might, I shone my dying light
upon a self-eating snake on the ground:
swallowing its tail, this phantasmal sight
made body shudder and appalled heart pound.

The voice asked, “Why see such perversity
in holy Ouroboros, whose nature
is known by you and all diversity?
His snack is but a cosmic caricature.
Everything is One, but for that great one
to be eternal, we all must begin
and end, perpetually everyone.
The cosmos dies for everything therein;
such are the ways, seemingly uncaring,
of interconnectedness, unsparing.”

I ran down the tunnel, and the voice cried,
“You will hear me again, in waking life!”
I returned to light. Darkness quickly died.
But I heard the faint voice say, “Find your wife!
Feel the soft grace. Search through the gritty.
Bright eyes await you, in man’s big city!”

Then I awoke, my sheets in a jumble.
I calmed down, stretched my neck from side to side,
pulled apart the curtains, and felt humble
while watching flimsy bits of snow that glide
and fall in flight on crests of swerving air,
keeping triangular rooftops dusted.
A unifying force, for all to share
sprinkling cars with clumps of white encrusted
on hoods and windshields, and the black wires
once unnoticed while strung from wooden posts
starkly contrasted white skies that inspire
resplendence and cast away the morose,
Spreading bright magic as if in child’s prayer!
People seemed goofy. Others hid despair.