Gettysburg Parable

Ed Granger

After his speech the people
who’d assembled to imbibe

the mulled wine of his baritone
went home and tried to rebuild

everyone, while the President
click-clacked back to Washington

wreathed in the steam of engines
he’d unleashed then stalked

like a gaunt apostrophe across
the street to telegraph Ulysses

Grant to “please come get this
business over with” before his

hair made wisps of smoke like Little
Round Top and his bristling jowl

grew sunken into Devil’s Den
chewing its hallowed dead.

“Expect worse”
Grant’s reply read.


Ed Granger lives in Lancaster County, where he was raised to love both books and theoutdoors. Since returning to PA in 1993, he has volunteered and worked for healthcarenonprofits. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, TheBroadkill Review, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Free State Review, Naugatuck RiverReview, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and other journals.

Dear Pylvia Salth

Kay Coolican

I am drunk

& listening to 4:49 a.m.

in the shower again

on repeat, thinking that

 

if steam handles lips

the way hands

handle match tips, then you

 

handle me the way

“too” handles “close”

 

(& there may never be enough

hot water).

 

Now, think of all the things

we can count on

our fingers

 

like the certainty of

smoke:

 

when it fails to leave a

burning thing behind,

 

we choke.

 

 


Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Kayla Coolican is a freelance writer and poet based in Somerville, MA. A student at Lesley University and regular performer at The Cantab Lounge, she adores collaborative work, and spends her free time as the volunteer editor for a local indie lit-mag. In Cambridge, she is best-known for her steamy spoken-word piece, “Seducing Johnny Appleseed,” featuring in numerous Boston slams and solicited for radio performance in 2016.

Kayla also nurtures a quirky art portfolio and enjoys pairing her written work with Apidae-inspired illustrations. She looks forward to completing her first chapbook soon

Madagascar

Steve Burke

The island is this:
rimmed with trees
over centuries
the rest gone
for firewood
unrestrained
red clay soil
bleeding into the sea
That’s how I felt
when you left
ninety percent gone
and that tossed to the breeze
ash
char
the axe-man’s chuckle
I still burn
hope
this finds you as me:
out in mid-Ocean
smoldering

 


Steve Burke lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia; has been published in various journals, read at many venues about the area; in 2014 had his chapbook After The Harvest published by Moonstone Press; has two book-length MSS-in-waiting — 36 Views Of Here and Nothing Doing.

The Man in Building H

S.R. Graham

He splits cells and grafts them together,

an art he perfected with his children, a family

crafted from multiple marriages. Microbiology

is not often associated with the domestic,

 

but he was raised in the years when a station wagon

had bench seats big enough to haul little sisters

to the skating rink, little brothers to the ballpark.

He still wears the same L.L.Bean ushanka

 

from those chilly college days, when he paid

for State with side gigs and scholarships.

He took a job to pay for his weddings, his church tithes,

and those five kids he put through college, no matter

 

the picket lines that winked on and off

like Christmas lights outside his windows:

people who think pharmaceutical research is conspiracy

to make the rich richer and the poor sicker.

 

His eldest daughter is waiting for him now, shivering

at the ——ville platform, back from a world removed

from this germ warfare.  He wants for her what he has:

a family, a pension, Americana unbroken. She laughs.

 

He doesn’t mind his children’s selfishness.

At night he locks away his stains and slides

and passes through door after locked door,

the virus sleeping cleanly in the lab behind him.

 


S.R. Graham is a Pennsylvania native currently enrolled as an MFA student at the University of Florida.

subjunctivity – Editor’s Choice

Liliana Lule

fifteen.

here. i will be honest with you:

i am afraid of loving someone the same way my mother loved my father—

so much it ceased to be beautiful. so much it began to hurt.

she passed this on to me, you know.

i don’t think i’ll ever get over it.

 

fourteen.

what are these things that held my pulsing heart tender as they could?

nopal. maguey. a crown of thorns held like surrender.

my father’s love like needles.

my father’s love like a curse.

 

thirteen.

we met as children.

played footsie; touched delicately.

when i said so you denied it.

you denied it. you denied it.

 

twelve.

god forgive me but i miss your tongue.

(i miss your hands i miss your walk i

miss the way you would just look at me

the way you made me feel—)

 

eleven.

i am hoping that writing this out

will be akin to exorcism.

 

ten.

you say you saw me walk the church courtyard.

you say you see me everywhere.

was what you saw mirrored on your face?

how long did it take you to realize

yours was not a universal truth?

 

nine.

¿me recuerdas en tu cama? ¿me recuerdas sonriendo?

¿me recuerdas contigo queriendo estar queriendo?

¿me recuerdas con tu familia? ¿en tu casa? ¿en la sala?

¿qué te acuerdas de mí? ¿qué fue esto para ti?

 

 

eight.

to think i let you inside me this way.

this insidious way. this ungrateful way.

(why don’t you want me. why don’t

you want me. why don’t you want—)

 

seven.

i’d have stayed in your bed if you’d let me.

 

six.

bodies never really forget.

 

five.

i still think of the grind of our hips.

molcajete. tejolote. carve yourself into me like basalt.

did you see me?

you touched this skin, you kissed this mouth.

¿qué querías? what couldn’t i give you?

 

four.

the next time he tries to raise a hand to you,

how will you react?

were the bruises a gift given to him first?

it seems almost a miracle, how one can play at survival.

it makes so much sense, how much you love your father.

 

three.

you kept asking me to stay.

 

two.

dios pero si tenía las palabras para decirte como te hubiera querido

si me habrías dejado. si tuviera las palabras para contarte esta historia.

pero no me quieres. no me quieres.

 

one.

i don’t understand why i’m still thinking about this.

 

Murambi (Rwanda, 2008) – Editor’s Choice

Carlos Andrés Gómez

There is no smell of death here. Even the lime

has faded from what it was meant to preserve.

Atop this hill, everything feels small and

possible. I convince myself that school is out,

each classroom merely waiting. A holiday perhaps.

The grass is a twisted maze that yields sound

but no music. The battered doors, some still

stained a faint copper, were once tinged with

a dark burgundy. When the breeze troubles

their rusty hinges, a pinched song overtakes

the concrete skeleton that remains, rises up

like a warning siren to anyone within earshot.

Midday rests an unrelenting blade against

our faces. A child on the abandoned soccer field

is full-out sprinting as though a stadium

full of souls is cheering him on.

Nothing there will ever again grow. His mother

is somewhere, getting water or gone. The man

I am with will not give me his name or ask for mine,

leads me to what every foreigner thinks

they came this far to see. They still use machetes

to cut the grass, among other things; he reminds me:

it is a most useful instrument.

 


Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet who is pursuing his MFA at Warren Wilson College. Winner of the 2015 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Rattle, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in New York City.

You’re Having A Nice Day Because I Told You To Have A Nice Day – Editor’s Choice

Harvey Soss

When you tilted your head back a bit

to squeeze drops into your eye

I caught a glimpse of what was in it,

of how you made a pancake of your lid

and stuffed it with the best

that you could see:

the freshest strawberries,

mainsails of lilies in July

blousing upon the twin ponds

of the Botanic Garden conservatory.

 

Not quite sure how lilies would fit

in the nice day recipe, I had to give you

credit for innovation. If Charlie Chaplin

could pot a prospector’s boot

in The Gold Rush,

why not daylilies in your mashup

amidst the rods and cones, more digestible than leather.

 

If you could take a selfie

of what I see in you

you’d know that I am right

and that you’re having a really nice day,

a cornucopia more full of good things

than even IHOP’s Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity,

because I told you to.

 


Harvey Preston Soss lives in Brooklyn, New York, and first began writing seriously some three years ago, having recently all but abandoned his law practice, devoted primarily to the criminal defense of indigents, to write full-time. He won Writers’ Digest Writing Competition poetry awards in 2015 and 2016. Two of his poems were published in conjunction with the 2016 University of Canberra’s Vice-chancellor’s International Poetry Prize; others are presently awaiting publication both here and abroad.

 

“coming to America” – Editor’s Choice

Scarlet Gomez

my grandmother is arrested 5 times

before she is allowed to step her heel onto cigarette concrete

lady liberty is not a copper-rained statue, iconic image of freedom

 

lady liberty is 17, and is my mother

her first time in America, with her first job

counting american dollars at an american store

called Batman

 

my grandmother’s first taste of america

is her hand feeling for the kick in my mother’s belly

when ma visited back from that 40 hour work week

I was not made in america

but i was an idea that sprouted

on a plane that bridged

across the atlantic

 

i am performing immigration

and when she has me, on a hospital bed

after hours of my body trying to run out of hers

i am performing citizenship

as the daughter of an immigrant

 

my first grade class only spoke spanish

i told my teacher it was a mistake, because i spoke english

she asked me, “are you sure?”

i told her, in english, i knew more than this

i had never seen so many confused faces

they changed my classes

but not without

sneaking me a slot of ESL

 

i guess it is courtesy of america to do this

grab all of the kids whose names end in “ez” “ta” “ia” “ra”

give them an american friend who doesn’t know why they spend

american lunch in a hispanic classroom instead of american cafeteria

and let her ask them

“why did you have to be so stupid?”

 

when i told my mother

in her american broken english she told me

“she is just sad

her mother doesn’t love her

saca buena nota que ella no te puede decir na’”

 

i listened to her

i took my american education

and america

ate me up.

 

this is what happens when you try to own a language

america says you are too stupid to learn

teacher tells your mother, you deserve a future

where textbooks aren’t thrown like stones

teacher tells your mother, she has never met a student

who has turned in loch ness monsters

instead of goldfish

 

you write america an american universe

and the bits of you bridged from

Dominican Republic and New York,

drop into the atlantic

you cannot stop it

when america burns a bridge, the bridge keeps on fire

america says you can only choose

one side

 

lady liberty is 44, and is my mother

she prays over me at night, in Dominican spanish

first she gives me her blessing

and then she passes the torch

 

there isn’t anybody

that can say anything

about me.

 


Scarlet Gomez is a graduate from The City College of New York with a BA in Creative Writing. She has previously been published in literary journals such as Persephone’s Daughters, Breadcrumbs Magazine, Promethean, and Crabs Fat Magazine. She spends a lot of time re-watching The Office, working, or eating with her boyfriend.

 

Milk Soup – Editor’s Choice

Maggie Lily

There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.

                Winston Churchill

 

At 5 months my sister rejected

my mother’s breast.

She threw up in small ponds on

the pale yellow tile

 

until one day sister refused

her body altogether.

My mother tried everything.

The milk of the fox, of the bean,

 

sheep, ghost, wildebeest.

They all rotted my sister’s

teeth. I smelled them.

Like a sour chicken coop,

 

They were the grey snippets of

fowl claws. In order to make

a Polish milk soup you need

a good sauce pan, one from

 

the old country. Bring the milk to

boil with sugar and salt lumps.

Unless you make it the Dutch way,

then you need cinnamon.

 

You must watch and wait for

the film to form on your sister’s

forehead, on her angry milk

and peel it away with a spoon.

 

She sticks to the cool metal so well.

Mother asks Sister: “Did he touch you?”

Sister: “I wouldn’t let him do that!”

In some little minutes she will be fully

 

boiled. Mother asks:

“Did he touch you?” Sister:

“I wouldn’t let him!”

You can stop a pot from foaming over

 

if you stick a wooden spoon

on top. The kind for paddling and

savory sauces. But I like to watch

the froth stain the stove top

 

with creamy rings. I shouldn’t even

drink the stuff. My body can’t

want the milk of an animal. If he

tried to touch her, she wouldn’t let him.

 

But I let him.

 


Maggie Lily is a poet, artist, and curator from Philadelphia who hopes to be remembered in the bones of others.

Northbound Train – HONORABLE MENTION

Kathleen O'Toole

First, there’s the gentle rumble of the train cars
over the rails beneath you, like the motion of a sailboat
on anchor, or a babe in the arms of a slightly nervous
new mom, after nursing. Then there is memory:
my grandmother’s railroad widow pass got me started
early, when she and I could ride to New York for free.
The stories of her husband Jack, a clerk sent out
to document accidents on the Pennsy line, and the note
I later found in her rosary case: Please release my paycheck
to my wife. I’ll be in the hospital for few days’ rest.
He died
at fifty-one while my mom was carrying me, his first
grandchild. These rail ties go even further back.
Jack’s father, a boiler maker from County Cork
may have died in an explosion as some remember,
or died of pneumonia later —  my dad’s account.
We think we’re heartier now, my folks living
into their eighties, working a decade longer
than their parents lived.  My work on the rails
is writing. The motion of the train conjures rivers
and industrial backsides of Bridgeport and Philly,
Baltimore and Newark in me, with Elizabeth’s
shingled houses guarding their secrets, and stevedores
dozing in port while tankers line the Delaware
like rosary beads. My six decades of memory string
the gritty mysteries of heartache to the joyful ones
of riverside celebrations, and the mixed landscapes
of junked cars awaiting the crusher, with the new
condos rising in an autumn palate among severed
smokestacks — my own losses mingle with other
histories of birth and death, piled like road salt
or gravel along the sidings. Or collected,
like those pebbles we left to be blessed
where Bobby Kennedy’s funeral train would pass
near Claymont, us waiting for even a glimpse
of his widow and grieving family, our own lives
rubbed raw like those pebbles, under the weight —
the motion of the northbound train.

 


Kathleen O’Toole has combined a more than forty year professional life in community organizing with teaching and writing. Her creativity was nurtured in a family of actors in Wilmington Delaware, and her interest in poetry deepened while living in Philadelphia in the 1980’s.  Since receiving her MA from Johns Hopkins University her poems have appeared widely in magazines and journals including America, Atlanta Review, Christian Century, Margie, Northern Virginia Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Poetry East, Potomac Review, Prairie Schooner and Smartish Pace. Her books of poetry include a chapbook, Practice, and Meanwhile.