Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Scarab Juice" by Ross Balcom, Frequent Contributor

Scarab Juice
Ross Balcom


nectar of Egypt,
flows like a golden Nile
in my veins.

My brain blazes;
they call me

I stalk the streets
like a god,
The gates of desire open;
my sperm-choirs sing.
I would scatter my seed
from here to distant 

of the imperishable

Poet's Notes: A species of scarab beetle was regarded as sacred in ancient Egypt. "Scarab juice," the psychoactive potion referenced in this poem, is a product of my imagination. Let's all get high on EGYPT.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FC Mannone Has 3 Poems Published in Medical Journals

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that our Frequent Contributor John C. Mannone has had three poems published in medical journals and journals with medical themes since last September:

 “The Sunburning” (Amsterdam Quarterly, Issue 18, Medicine theme)

“Old Men” (Intima: Journal of Narrative Medicine, Fall 2016)

“Stellar Quake” (New England Journal of Medicine, 375:1305 (September 2016).

FC Reinhart Has 9 Poems Published

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to announce that our Frequent Contributor John Reinhart recently had nine poems published in other venues:

"The Works" appears in issue #2 of Wizards in Space

"all for love" was published in the latest issue of Crannóg Magazine #44

three scifaiku appear in the latest issue of Scifaikuest #55

two poems have appeared in Quatrain.Fish

the "early years of transdimensional travel" appears in the latest edition of NewMyths

and "good Christmas hunting" is in the latest issue (The Pop Machine) of Inwood Indiana

"24th century lullaby" by John Reinhart, Frequent Contributor

24th century lullaby
John Reinhart

moonlight starlight sunlight shooting
comet cleaner meaner brutal
bruises snoozing alarm hooting
newsy reports retort hymnal

singing ringing bringing comfort
lightspeed needed freedom breeding
symbols ciphers runic transport
moving learning secrets reading

tellings legends stories fairies
healings heavens fearless airtight 
waking conscious future clearly 
shooting moonlight starlight sunlight

Poet's Notes:  I first heard of the empat perkataan from in an article by Shelly Bryant in Scifaikuest. Malaysian, the basic form is made of rhyming quatrains where each line contains four words and each word is two syllables. Part of the goal and movement in the poem is for the words to relate in image or sound. Sound associations and the repetitive rhythm of these poems create an exciting new form that I find similar to impressionism. As Bryant noted, this form seems well suited to speculative poetry, a means to new language and image.

Editor’s Note:  Thank you John for introducing me to the empat perkataan form and for providing such a moving example of it.  I am looking forward to experimenting with the form myself. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Editor's Review of Botticelli Magazine Issue 7

My wife, daughter, and I spent most of last week visiting my son, Jason, in Ohio.  He is finishing up his BFA program at the Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) and last week was his art gallery thesis show.  (Editor’s/Proud Father’s Note:  view some samples of Jason’s work here:  While waiting for him to come downstairs from his dorm room, I visited the CCAD school store.  There I found a copy of Botticelli Magazine, Issue 7 on sale for six dollars.  The magazine is also available online in an expanded and, frankly, higher quality format at 

Botticelli Magazine is produced and edited by CCAD students.  The hardcopy version I purchased is presented in full color, on high quality paper folded and stapled through the spine.  It contains sixty-one pages of poetry and illustrations; the expanded online version contains eighty-eight pages and more poems and pictures.

The number of speculative poems presented surprised me.  I particularly enjoyed Anna Leahy’s “Worlds of Rock and Iron”, a delightful combination of homophones, astronomy, and geometry.  I also enjoyed her “Visible Universe”, which explores the subtle differences between perception and reality.

The issue is a bit heavy on prose poems, of which I am not usually much of a fan, but I did enjoy Katherine Wright’s “How-To Poem for Absorbing the Shockwave”, another speculative piece.  I was reminded a bit of Douglas Adams’ work there.

The general quality of the poetry in the issue is comparable to that found in Poetry Magazine and in the best issues of Star*Line.  When one considers that it is produced and edited by busy college students in what little spare time they have, the quality of the magazine is nothing short of astounding.  I recommend the online version over the print version, as online more poems are presented, the illustrations are of noticeably better quality (more vibrant colors, no staples or paper folds in the way), and viewing is free.  However, for those of you such as I who enjoy the feng shui of holding and reading a book, the print version is a bargain at the price.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon

"A Joke in Turkish" by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

A Joke in Turkish
James Frederick William Rowe

You wear an orange fleece
Bright orange, colour of an aged pumpkin
Which your green grocery
Does not sell
And when last I was there
At the cashier beside you
With my cart of raisins
Of big, round bread uncut
Lemons, celery for belated filtser
     Stuffing as many call it
You were telling a joke
A funny story
Knees bent behind the counter
Laughter in your voice
Alone revealing the meaning
To words
I could not understand

Poet’s Notes:  There's this cute girl from Istanbul at the local green grocer I frequent here in Brooklyn. The story of this poem is a faithful recounting of an actual experience I had when I was getting together some food for Thanksgiving, down to the colour of her fleece, and some of the items in my cart.

The poem is simple and was written about two days later on the subway when I was struck by the experience enough to figure it would be a fit for a poem. There is nothing special about its construction and it came rather naturally and quickly to me.

Filtser is what my grandma called stuffing, and I make a point to continue to use her specific term for it. It may come from the dialect of German her grandparents came from—Otterberg, Rheinland-Pfalz—but I find no reference to it in standard German. Given that region is known for such dialects, and we're talking about 19th century German ancestors, it is possible that it is just a term from that region. Either way, I use it, and so it appears in my poem with an "English translation" indented to explain.

Lastly, originally this poem was called a Joke in Russian, as I thought the girl was Russian, given that the ownership is Russian, and we don't have many Turks here in New York. I am glad I struck up a conversation with her and asked where she was from originally, as I'd be quite embarrassed otherwise. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Saint Patrick's Day Limerick by the Editor

There once was a man who was chatty
Who thought that the Christians were natty.
He’d do what it takes
To rid Ireland of snakes
And eventually became our Saint Patty.

--Steven Wittenberg Gordon

"Get a Real Dog" by Sylvia Cavanaugh

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "Get a Real Dog" by Sylvia Cavanaugh.  This poem was a finalist in the 2017 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.

Cavanaugh has an MS in Urban Planning from the University of Wisconsin.  She teaches high school African and Asian cultural studies and advises break-dancers and poets. She and her students are actively involved in the Sheboygan chapter of 100,000 Poets for Change.

In addition to previous appearance in Songs of Eretz, Cavanaugh’s poems have appeared in: An Arial Anthology, Gyroscope Review, The Journal of Creative Geography, Midwest Review, Stoneboat Literary Journal, and elsewhere.  She is a contributing editor for Verse-Virtual: An Online Community Journal of Poetry.  Finishing Lines Press published her chapbook, Staring Through My Eyes.  Cavanaugh is originally from Pennsylvania.

Get a Real Dog
Sylvia Cavanaugh

                                    and I cry at the uncertainty of rainbows
                                                From Small Breaths by Eileen Carney Hulme
Rhinestone collar, fluffy white fur and
this voice of mine may render me ridiculous, but I
was once whelp of the she-wolf, and grayly I cry
for the old brooding blood moon at
night. I may no longer run with the
pack and perhaps I confound you with an uncertainty
of gender, but this royal blue Nerf ball of
yours, I will rip to bits under a hail of tiny rainbows.

Poet’s Notes:  My best friend from childhood died an early death.  He was always small for his age and took lessons in twirling baton.  He used to twirl it fast on the playground and dazzled us with the shining and whirling flash at the end of his arm.  As a result of his size and hobby, the other boys sometimes teased him mercilessly. He also became my defender and one true friend, as “mean girls” in sixth grade socially savaged me. 

I have always been a dog lover and am annoyed when people say, “get a real dog,” when they see someone walking a small dog.  I have seen small dogs show remarkable courage and “big dog” attitude.  Once I even saw a white fluffy dog with a rhinestone collar take someone's Nerf ball and rip it to shreds at the beach.  It was both shocking and amusing.

I chose to write this poem using the Golden Shovel form.  Each line ends with a word from the quote in sequential order. I chose the line from Irish poet Eileen Carney Hulme, because the image of the rainbow is associated with gay pride, and I like the idea of uncertainty. The poem is a tribute to my friend and to small dogs that are misunderstood.    

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the way Sylvia uses personification here and the way she has captured what is perhaps the meaning behind certain canine behaviors.  The narrative has just the right blend of seriousness and humor.  Lana the Poetry Dog agrees.

Comments by Contest Judge Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD:  I found the poet's notes especially moving, and if the poet hasn't yet written more directly of his best childhood friend, I encourage him/her* to do so because it sounds like the poet has a lot to say here. I also appreciated how the poet played with a unique form. I loved the final image, especially “a hail of tiny rainbows,” and how it echoed back to the rhinestone collar in the beginning. There's a lot of unique juxtapositions in this poem book, from Nerf balls to the blood moon.

*Contest judging is done blind, so Caryn did not know the name or even the sex of the poet when she made these comments.

--The Editor

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Comment on Comments by the Editor


If you wish to comment anonymously, your comment will be screened and if positive will be forwarded to Songs of Eretz staff.  It will not be published but it will be read.

If you wish to provide suggestions, feedback, or constructive criticism to the Songs of Eretz staff, please send your thoughts to  You may or may not receive a response, but your thoughts will be read.

Steven Wittenberg Gordon, MD

“Bergen-Belsen, Summer 1984” by Barbara Wolvovitz

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “Bergen-Belsen, Summer 1984” by Barbara Wolvovitz.  This poem was a finalist in the 2017 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest. 

Wolvovitz is retired from the practice of law during which time she specialized in civil rights and tenants’ rights litigation. She was a former Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s ACLU and a recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award from the Western PA Women’s Bar Association.  She once taught in the Sociology Department of the University of Pittsburgh, the Social Sciences Department at Carlow University and in Carnegie Mellon University’s OSHER program.

After leaving law and teaching, Wolvovitz started writing poetry. In 2013, she began participating in poetry workshops in the Madwomen in the Attic program at Carlow University. Her poems have been published in: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh City Paper, Chapter and Verse, Voices from the Attic, and Rune Literary Journal 2014

Bergen-Belsen, Summer 1984
Barbara Wolvovitz
My private Polish guide stops
behind the crematorium, not
on the regular tour of yesterday.

Why did we stop here? She looks down
at the dirt, moves her foot to stir it up,
gray and white, miniscule fragments.

Remains of bone and teeth,
she tells me, not fully burned,
thrown here and barely covered.

I try to imagine

        Bubbie Eta
        Aunt Leya
        Uncle Mordechai
        Zeyde Moishe

their teeth laughing,
their bones holding hands,

sitting around the table,
the Carpathian mountains
in the distance.

Poet’s Notes:  I grew up hearing about “The War,” but my parents would not answer my questions. I saw numbers tattooed on my relatives’ forearms. It was not discussed. Not until I was much older did I learn about the Holocaust’s impact on my extended family – family members I didn’t know and never could.

When I was thirteen, my father gave me a letter to mail. Instead of mailing it directly, I opened and read it. The letter requested reparation payments from the German government for damages resulting from my parents’ confinement in numerous concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

In 1984 I visited my parents’ village, Iza, in the then Soviet Union; no Jews remained. After visiting Iza, I went to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. On a private tour, the guide took me behind the crematorium at Bergen-Belsen, stirred the dirt with her foot and pointed to tiny fragments. She explained that they were incompletely burned bits of bone and teeth. This image haunts me.

Editor’s Note:  My grandparents and many other relatives met a similar fate at the death pits of Ponar, so I find this poem particularly moving.  This is a powerful piece that works both as elegy and anthem, as personal tragedy and as metaphor for the tragedy of an entire people.  It is at once gruesome and poignant, depressing and hopeful.

Poems such as this are painful to write, and I applaud Barbara for having the courage to do so and even more for allowing her poem to be published.  I wrote a poem about the fate of my grandparents at the hands of the Nazis that I still have trouble reading.  Those interested may find it here:

Comments by Contest Judge Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD:  I agree with the poet about how potent the image of bone and teeth is, and I found the poem very smart in making that image central. I was also drawn to the unusual and evocative line breaks, such as ending the first two lines with “stops” and “not.” What stood out the most was “their teeth laughing,/ their bones holding hands” because of how this spectacular image shows both the remains and the life once so fleshed out – in fact, these two lines are some of the strongest I've read in work about the Holocaust and other genocides. Naming those murdered is also very effective in making even more real the overwhelming loss. At the same time, ending on the image of them sitting around the table in the mountains -- “in the distance” -- is a potent way to pay tribute to their legacies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Teen Donuts" by Ross Balcom, Frequent Contributor

Teen Donuts
Ross Balcom

Froglice Doing What He Loved (photo taken shortly before he was murdered)
We use to hang at Teen Donuts,
exploring holes in reality and ourselves.
We opened new pathways,
helped countless doughnuts escape
to freedom; our "underground railroad"
was the dough of legend. They caught us,
of course; the adults, they punished us.
They even killed my friend Froglice.
We needed revenge, and we burnt
Teen Donuts to the ground.
They came for us, of course;
the adults, they captured us
and sentenced us to death.
They'll cut our throats as if we're hogs;
they'll trash our names, and sing
the praises of commerce and life
as new Teen Donuts rise
in every town from here to Hell. 

Poet's Notes: This is a stark, brutal take on a familiar theme: pure-hearted, freedom-loving young people in revolt against an oppressive adult world. "Teen Donuts" manifested one morning shortly after I awakened. God bless you, Froglice; I'll burn down a Teen Donuts in your name.

Editor’s Note:  This one is quite a departure from his usual style but is still recognizable as a Balcom poem by its rhetoric and content.  I enjoy the narrative here and the "fight The Man" motif.  It appeals to my rarely manifested but secretly strong rebel side.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nepris Posts Video of Dr. Gordon Teaching Poetry

Our editor was recently invited to Skype with a class of first graders in Texas and teach them a little about poetry.  The session was facilitated by a company called Nepris.  Watch Dr. Gordon make up a haiku and other poems on the spot with words given to him randomly by the class  Note that he gets a bit flustered at the end and misspells the address to his own website.  This gets corrected off screen, and three particularly gifted members of the class become the most junior members of the Songs of Eretz family of poets

“No Denying It” by Karla Linn Merrifield

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present “No Denying It” by Karla Linn Merrifield.  This poem was a finalist in the 2017 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.

Merrifield is a National Park Artist-in-Residence who has had more than 500 of her poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has twelve books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit:  Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye, a member of the board of directors of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), and a member of the New Mexico State Poetry Society and the Florida State Poetry Society.  Visit her at

No Denying It
Karla Linn Merrifield

an old man,
you spoke to me of the whittling away of pleasures
and I heard the knife hiss of ebbing life
at the end of his sentence
as you enunciated the fearful truth
of your recent discovery in the full moon light
of vernal equinox        your last one?
even as we sat outside, rocking, listening to the rasping bodies
of salamanders quickening with spring
we heard death rattling in winter’s fallen leaf litter     we glimpsed something
of your shadow that limped toward me leaning into a cane
gasping for breath
I said nothing     cast no syllables into the future
of the season’s turning
but a soft kiss floated to the veranda floor     a final sliver
of pleasure
like a shaving whittled away      and silent

Poet’s Notes:  “No Denying It” conveys a painful emotional truth based on an autobiographical moment of epiphany. Details such as the salamanders’ rasping bodies, the moonlight, and the walking cane ground the poem in the present, all the while the poem strains toward a grim future. 

I am the speaker, and “you” was my beloved friend and fellow poet Beau Cutts (former Georgia Poet of the Year), whom I witnessed that night in severe pain to the point of near immobility, his fine mind muddled by strong pain killers, his voice weak and thready. I intended for irony to add to the sense of loss both Beau and me recognized that night; even as spring comes with its renewal of life, death haunts the scene with its rattle.  That autumn, short of the equinox, Beau’s life ended, and the imagined loss was reified.

I count “No Denying It” as one of the saddest poems I’ve written, but also one of the most triumphant in that I was able to pay tribute to my friend before his death, and he knew it. The poem became yet another final sliver of pleasure in his abbreviated life, our truncated affection.

Editor’s Note:  I enjoy the mood created in this poem as it captures several magical moments.  The word painting is wonderful, evoking wood shavings as they are whittled.  The final image is simply breathtaking.

Comments by Contest Judge Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, PhD:  This poem is powerful not just because of its subject matter but because of how the poet uses space, rhythm (which both the condensed way the poem is put together and the space between phrases helps build), and imagery. Some lines -- such as “cast no syllables into the future” and “listening to the rasping bodies/ of salamanders...” -- are especially strong and original. The subject matter of this poem is also deeply touching, and it is sure to speak to many of us close to those with “ebbing life.”

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Double Feature by John C. Mannone, Frequent Contributor

Cutting Edge
John C. Mannone
            April 15, 1912

            An icy North Atlantic wind
slices starboard on the moonless night,
as the great ship’s screws blindly churn
through brine, making its wake.
                        No one could see
the ripper hiding beneath the black sea,
laughing at the thick steel plates below
the seam line of the unsinkable ship.
                        It’s cutting edge no match
for iceberg’s jagged teeth below black ice
which gouges open each compartment.
Mangled and flooded, there’s no way
                        to unplug them, let water
drain back to ocean’s swell. The great ship
lies still, bleeds ocean, breathes last
bit of buoyancy. Trapped servants pray,
                        fancy guests waltz
with upturned chandeliers until bow immerses
into the frigid, the stern, catapulted high, gyrates,
follows drowned music lingering on decks,
                        violas and bass fiddle,
along with frail cries. Exploding
steam stacks gurgling water, a wisp
of steam threads air, their resignation
                        as this metal casket breaks,
slips into the deep, deep black no one could see.
Nor that last flare, tinged with crimson
the bright color of hope, incarnadine
                        blooms on the black sky
or that pale yellow glow
            of search lights arriving too late
                        piercing the hallowed green waves.

Poet’s Notes: I am always saddened when I remember the Titanic, the “unsinkable,” which sank so quickly entombing so many in the cold Atlantic. I suppose that when the poem is turned on its side, the structure hints at a ship, but that would have been accidental and not planned. However, it is noteworthy that the indented lines form a kind of poem itself echoing the calamity. (Starting with “No one could see” and reading all lines indented the same way.)

As I reflected on this event over a hundred years later, I discovered a National Geographic article, “Unseen Titanic,” by Hampton Sides, April 2012, http://ngm.nationalgeographic.TERcom/2012/04/titanic/sides-text. It became my source material for a found poem:

The Titanic After 100 Years

The wreck sleeps in darkness, a puzzlement
of corroded steel strewn across a thousand acres
of the North Atlantic seabed. Weird colorless
life-forms, unfazed by crushing pressure, prowl
its jagged ramparts, a meticulously stitched-together
ghostly image. The site, a Jackson Pollock-like scattering
of lines and spheres, scraps and shards brought to life
by layering optical data onto sonar image. Titanic’s bow
in gritty clarity, a gaping black hole, a white crab
clawing at a railing. The entire wreck of the Titanic
every bollard, davit, boiler—what was once
an indecipherable mess, has become a high-resolution
crash scene photograph, with clear patterns
emerging from the murk like Manhattan at midnight
in a rainstorm—with a flashlight. This gives voice
to those who were silenced, when the cold water
closed over them in two hours and 40 minutes
for 2,208 tragic-epic performances came crashing down.

At Luxor, the relics: A chef’s toque, a razor, lumps
of coal, perfectly preserved serving dishes, innumerable
pairs of shoes, bottles of perfume, a leather gladstone bag,
a champagne bottle with the cork still in it
and the exhibit’s centerpiece, a gargantuan slab of hull
hoisted by crane from seabed, studded with rivets,
ribbed with steel—this monstrosity of black metal—
an extinct species hauled back from a lost world.