Your Lucky Life

Ken Fifer

Your Lucky Life

By Ken Fifer

 

In your sailor hat and peacoat, you cross

the asphalt and see what you thought

was your home is an old wooden boat.

You stand on the prow and what was

a black locust turns out to be your Jacob’s ladder.

When you climb down you think

you’re in Washington Crossing State Park,

but really you’re on your own porch in Raubsville,

thanking Pat for the tuna on rye.

So you lean back, sip your Schlitz, look at the river,

shift your chair among the nine white pillars

which apart from being ornamental

hold up the second floor and roof.

It’s as if whatever comes your way

leaves your footprints. When the locusts hunch over,

when the noisy green maples dig in to grow

bored and restless along the pointless Delaware,

when the paint of banisters peels from your palms,

when the birds leave no tracks at all

you think they all must be your countrymen.

And when moles tunnel under your home,

smacking their lips, wrinkling broad noses,

cleaning their glasses, with the river this close

they must all be your relatives. Each time

you bite into your sandwich you know

the pleasure and pain of harvested grain

in silos where the light goes down.

You can taste the gaff in your cheek,

the fishy vicissitudes, the last moments

of tuna roused from the deep

which fit so exactly into your mouth.

 

Ken Fifer’s poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, and other journals. His most recent poetry book is After Fire (March Street Press). He has a Ph.D. in English from The University of Michigan and has taught at Penn State (Berks) and DeSales University. He lives in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, with his wife Elizabeth, four dogs, two cats, and assorted other creatures.

 

 

When I Look Like My Father It Makes My Mother Cry

Lorraine Rice

When I Look Like My Father It Makes My Mother Cry

By Lorraine Rice

 

I give up on wrestling my hair

into a limp, submissive, dead-straight

existence, tell my mother—Just

cut it all off, trying to get back

to the beginning, in the straight-backed chair

waiting for my mother

who’d been the one to fix my hair, wanting

her to see it never was

broken. Feet bare, sweat-stuck

to newspaper spread under the chair—

how many times, how

many, have I watched her cut

my father’s hair? Him

in the same chair, a frayed

towel-cape over shoulders and chest,

his ankles an X on the spot where

Dagwood blows his top over

Blondie’s new hat. Her over him,

cheeks caved in, brow ridged, the concentration

of years on her face, sharp

metal shears in hand. My parents always uneasy

sharing space and seeing them

close is bewitching and bewildering—

their fragile intimacy severed

by the cold crisp chastisement of scissors

as my hair falls in black puffy clouds. Confused

coils, soft and intricate, beg to be caught

again and again and holding them

begs a reckoning—Me?

Not me? In the straight-backed chair

while my mother cuts my hair, in the full bloom

heat of summer she freezes

then puts a mirror in my hand—

You look just like your father,

and because her eyes are damp

for once, I do not argue.

 

Lorraine Rice holds an MFA from the The Writer’s Foundry at St. Joseph’s College, NY. Her work has appeared on Literary Mama and in the anthology Who’s Your Mama: The Unsung Voices of Women and Mothers (Soft Skull Press, 2009). She lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Hypnagogia

Robyn Campbell

Hypnagogia

By Robyn Campbell

 

On her 63rd birthday, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to survive a barrel ride over Niagara Falls. When asked, she later said, “I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces, than make another trip over the Fall.”

 

In darkness, the descent.

You hold tight, fists

clenched and pray

for a good swift end.

 

As a child you opened

your eyes at night and trained

yourself to see

God, gave

a face to the thing

you loved most.

 

Is he here now

in the water’s electric

hum, in the

prickling beneath your

skin?

 

And then you feel the change. Something

nameless is pulled

out slowly from the middle of

your chest; it’s like an exorcism.

The care is gone, and the

worry—that old need to make

the future manifest

turns to breath and is exhaled.

 

From far away, you

hear it: “the

woman is alive.”

 

Born and raised in Eastern Pennsylvania, Robyn Campbell has been writing since before she can remember. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apiary, Stirring, and 1932 Quarterly, among others. Her time is split between writing, playing drums, fleeing to the mountains, and editing Semiperfect Press. She lives and works in Philadelphia.

In the Morning

Robyn Campbell

In the Morning

By Robyn Campbell

 

two bodies resting

two bodies at rest, faces to the light,

all internal movement like plants

a floral type of narcissism

 

or, maybe they are not like plants

they could be like fish

faintly oiled, slick skin

shining

 

you say you think

death looks like life inverted

it is a turning

i say then that a poem inverted

looks something like truth

 

laid bare, as we are

 

picked nearly clean

marks left by the million

little teeth that time attracts

 

Born and raised in Eastern Pennsylvania, Robyn Campbell has been writing since before she can remember. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Apiary, Stirring, and 1932 Quarterly, among others. Her time is split between writing, playing drums, fleeing to the mountains, and editing Semiperfect Press. She lives and works in Philadelphia.

When the Music Ends

Barbara Daniels

When the Music Ends

By Barbara Daniels

 

Years after your death a magazine

emailed: “We want you back, Viola.”

Today, a little morning rain. You told me

before you met Dad you walked sedately

past the bank where he worked, turned

the corner, took off your shoes, and ran.

Why he married you: that blazing hair.

When I looked like an egg, no eyebrows,

no lashes, some people laughed at me.

Just last night a waitress said, “Sorry, sir,”

mistaking my tousled hair and androgynous

shirt. My streaming service wrote me:

“When your music ends, we will continue

to play music you should like.” Hair

doesn’t grow in the grave, but it should,

shouldn’t it? As you were dying, your friend

said, “You have the best hair in the building.”

Still red in your ninety-ninth year. When I die,

my atoms could leap into fingers and feet.

I might be somebody’s shining hair. It’s raining,

but softly. Mahler’s third symphony plays.

 

Barbara Daniels’s Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Moon Kitchen, Black Sails and Quinn & Marie by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and earned an MFA in poetry at Vermont College.

Boris the Cockatoo

Barbara Daniels

Boris the Cockatoo

By Barbara Daniels

 

I whistle when I drive my car—”Hava

Nagila,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,”

songs my friend Jackie’s cockatoo calms to,

bobs his head as I bob mine and reaches

for me with his clawed foot. It’s 18 years

since I carried tampons. I keep a photo

of myself without eyebrows. Thin, I was very

thin. I lifted my soft red hat to show off

my baldness. My inner organs slumped

together where tumors large as grapefruits

crowded me. Of course Lazarus loved death.

It was dark there. Cool. He didn’t have to

buy clothes or plan what to eat. There was

no weather. No boat to mend. No sisters

who would never marry. He held a round

piece of felt he made into hats: a monkey’s

jingling cap, doctor’s homburg, black hat

of a rich man oiled and shining. Shake

the felt! Presto, a hat covers his closed

and dreaming eyes. So far I’ve hit and

killed a meadowlark and a pheasant, both

in refuges they might have thought safe.

I ran over a basketball while its owner stood

stricken at the side of the street. I’m a blaring

calliope strapped to the back of a gilded truck,

whistling till my mouth hurts. When I see Boris

at Jackie’s house, I look straight into him—

unblinking eye, curved beak, offered claw.

 

Barbara Daniels’s Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Moon Kitchen, Black Sails and Quinn & Marie by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and earned an MFA in poetry at Vermont College.

 

Benjamin Franklin Was Right

Kasey Edison

Benjamin Franklin Was Right

By Kasey Edison

 

Pure as stars swimming through wet winter sky,

swallowing the cold until indistinguishable

like fish of the deep swallowing their young.

 

Say something to me. But don’t say life is set

like marrow in bone, that the dead inside each of us

strain at our skins to get out.

 

Tell me, isn’t this also life:

clouds squeezing pearls of light on the cold ground

so they scatter like bits of glass?

 

Kasey Edison has been published in The Broadkill Review and The Mississippi Review. She is currently a manager at a large financial institution outside of Philadelphia, where she lives with her husband and dog.

 

 

After A Phillies Game

Matthew Banash

Sitting in the backseat heading

north on 95 after the

game eating cold pretzels straight out

a crinkled, brown paper bag like

they’re going out of style―four

for a dollar, salt settles in

your lap, refineries burn in

Port Richmond―three pretzels to go.


Matt was born and raised in Levittown, PA, and now resides in NC where he writes poetry and short fiction.

Evensong, King’s College Chapel

Peter McEllhenney

Our days are longer than glass, longer than

Stone, longer than light and air, longer than

The waters of this softly flowing river that will

Pass, rise, fall, and pass again while we speak

These words, sing these words. Our days are

Longer than prayer or scholarship, than ambition

Or boasting or riot or sleeping or waking or food

Or kisses or the bright exalting summer of youth.

They are longer than sorrow or rejoicing or love

Or bones turned to powder. Our steps trace and

Retrace the paths of echoing generations, and

We are indistinguishable among them. For a

Thousand years has the black-haired girl sat in

Choir and stared black-eyed, and for a thousand

More will she sit and stare. We will speak these

Words, sing these words. For centuries the man

Has sat dry in his faith, and for centuries more

Will he sit. We will speak these words, sing these

Words. The dry man will find his faith and the

Black-eyed girl will look up. We have no need

For rushing. With our words and our singing

We make this glass and this stone the great

Still center of creation. The long grass moves

From the breath of our words. The trailing

Willows sway from the breath of our singing.

The river flows softly while we speak and we

Sing. These words and this singing pass from

Mouth to mouth and their living is continuous.

We do not matter at all. Our broken ineluctable

Particulars are translated into these words and

This singing, and we are made whole by them.

When the windows are blank cold darkness we

Speak. When the stones glow skin warm we sing.

There is confidence in our words and endurance

In our singing. The softly flowing river passes.

We speak and we sing.


Peter McEllhenney is a writer living in Philadelphia, PA. His work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, the Seminary Ridge Review, Referential Magazine, The Apeiron Review, and Blast Furnace. He blogs at www.PeterGalenMassey.com.

Field Study

Charles S. Carr

1.

E A G L E S written in vapors in the sky

A dalliance of eagles overhead

Midair clasping talons cart-wheeling down toward earth

Chant of boos at the site of the purple-winged god of the north wind,

2.

A procession of green double decker buses carrying the champs moves slowly up Broad Street

A rage of joy screams           people  barricaded swarm the parade route,

bearded player wearing a turban and Mummers costume dives into the crowd

floats on raised arms

3.

A few clutch urns of ancestral ashes

Man wearing a jersey with number 99

circles in a ghost dance

empties ashes on the edges of a park at Broad & Oregon

4.

Elderly couple wearing fated team caps holds a sign

58 Years! The Curse Is Gone!

Wings on everything

Every shade of green expressing loyalty to the Champions

The reflective glory on the back of jerseys: names numbers of their heroes

The face of Nick Foles taped over the image of a saint

5.

Two giant marble Pylons open out to the Parkway to a roaring sea

Boys huddled together standing on the shoulders of the sculpted soldiers

on the Civil War Memorial

A cap placed on the head of The Thinker at the Rodin Museum

A ski cap on the head of George Washington at Eakin’s Oval, a boy riding side saddle

Beer bottles stuck in branches decorate a tree in front of the Barnes

6.

Go-go dancer swivels up a light pole spins with an outstretched hand to the crowd

Two young men mud wrestle

Another body surfs through another mud patch

Cans of beer hurled at pole climbers

Finally one reaches the summit, guzzles a beer, directs the chorus below

in Fly Eagles Fly


Charles Carr was born in Philadelphia, educated at LaSalle and Bryn Mawr College, and has lived here his whole life. Charles was The Mad Poets Review’s 2007 First Prize Winner for his poem “Waiting To Come North” and has two published books of poetry: paradise, pennsylvania, (Cradle Press, 2009) and Haitian Mudpies & Other Poems (Moonstone Arts, 2012). For five years, Charles hosted the Moonstone Poetry series at Fergie’s Pub. Since 2016, he has hosted Philly Loves Poetry a monthly broadcast on Philly Cam. He has read poems in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, Ireland as part of the international project, 100 Thousand Poets For Peace.