First Edition | Poetry

First Edition features original works by Northern California Jewish writers. Appearing the first issue of each month, it includes a poem and an excerpt from a novel or short story.


by joan gelfand 

I: Uptown

Lex and 67th The corner luncheonette — 1940’s décor. I’m

Sipping an egg cream, fizzy sweetness, afternoon half-light,

Back on that swiveling stool, enveloped in your presence. 

You were SO big — and talking. Always talking.

Your legacy — a love of food and strangers.


Your headstone is a mess, daddy-o.

II: Downtown

It was you who led me by my small hand, handing me the

Midnight blue tallis bag — silver lettering

Like moonlight on a lake. 

There was magic in that bag. I’m sure of it.

III: All Around the Town

Daddy-O the FDR still stinks; the traffic would drive you mad,

And all your friends are dead.

But the days still grow dusky, and in that space between day and night

Romance and expectation loiter.

Daddy-O, on these streets, you’re that note,

That ancient music, that upbeat jazz chord

Wrapping itself, wordless, around my heart.

I come to this city and feel you in the cracks

Of the pavement, the closeness of the brick,

The cool sky, the unceasing noise, and

The dirty river flowing by.

This city is etched on my memory like some noir film,

Blanketed with dark, unresolved mysteries. 

I’ll always remember the night we lay in the dark,

Crickets the only sound beside your voice as you regaled us

With tales of pushing your knish cart on the beach at Coney Island.

Daddy-O, years pass and I can’t seem to get to you.

In this city, I pay my respects

To your memory. To your joy.

In this city, Daddy-O, you are still alive.

The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics

by joan gelfand

“All that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream.” Edgar Allen Poe

I: The dream within the dream within the dream

What is it, Ferlinghetti,

Taking star turns in my dreams?

Strolling in front of cars

Haunting alleyways, stairways,

Bars? Beating moth like flitting through

San Francisco’s sex fraught avenues? In North Beach

Where XXX marks art and

Nasty commerce collide, intersect Columbus,

Telegraph Hill, Jack Kerouac Way.

You are fog whispering in from the sea

On another sunny day.

“There’s a breathless hush on the freeway tonight,

Beyond the ledges of concrete/Restaurants fall into dreams

With candlelight couples/Lost Alexandria still burns.” *

Ferlinghetti’s words sink, weighted

On the business end of an invisible fishing line,

Dredging last nights’ dream to surface, gasping for air

Shivering like some catfish

Eyes bulging, wet lake water dripping off its scales.

The knife of memory slices open

That dream, finds me on haunted streets,

Instructing small boy:

“You gotta go to the Ferlinghetti school. It’s totally rad

and completely cool.”


II:  Ferlinghetti Makes an Appearance

Phantom audience shouts:  “Higher! Higher!”

Egg the poets on — after all, they’re not on the wire.

Higher? We spin the memory wheel until there’s my father

Strolling through his own Coney Island

And there he is again winning a goldfish

The clerk hands it over fish circling in plastic bag

Big Daddy pretends

It’s all for the kids.

He needed to win like that fish needed water.

III: The Poet Reconsiders

Is the skill of life just keeping on

All the gears oiled, the doors open?

Even if the past keeps drowning and the knifed open

Dream fish still swims around?

In dream theater Ferlinghetti arrives.

Was it the Regal, the Royal or the Metreon?

I rise to make room for he who started everything

Got the wheel of poetry turning, broke

Open language, letters. Vaporized

While he drifts

Haunting my dreams.

*From “Wild Dreams of A New Beginning” by L. Ferlinghetti

Joan Gelfand is an award-winning poet and writer. She is the poetry editor for J., the development chair of the Women’s National Book Association, and a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She lives in San Francisco.

“Daddy-O” is from Gelfand’s book “A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and Streams.”


Works may be submitted to fiction editor Ilana DeBare at or poetry editor Joan Gelfand at Fiction excerpts may run up to 2,500 words, but only 800 words will appear in the print edition, with the rest appearing online. All prose and poetry published to date can be viewed at