Hospice

Joseph A. Cilluffo

My son says the garden is dying.

Every August, it’s the same.

The cucumbers, which had clambered

so fiercely up the lattice

and across half our garden square,

begin to yellow and wilt.

The peppers brown.  They soften.

Tomatoes explode across their vines, manic –

they bear more fruit than the days can hold.

Look there, I tell him, see that space?

Next year’s garden is already growing.

Seeds are in the ground,

gift of the fallen.

We could do nothing

and, by June, there would be more tomatoes.

 

He sees, I am certain, in only two dimensions

– what is before him, and what he remembers.

We could do nothing.  Nearby, my mother

dies in slow motion, surrounded

by four walls, a window

she doesn’t look through,

cut flowers.  All her words

from these last, long months

wouldn’t bend a blade of grass.

We could do

nothing.  My son and I

uproot the cucumber plants,

the peppers.  I wish I were strong.

Eyes will open to the green and new.

I try to picture

the garden to come.


Joseph Cilluffo has had over 100 poems published. In addition to Philadelphia Stories, his poems have appeared in journals such as The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Apiary, and Philadelphia Poets. He was the Featured Poet for the Fall 2014 Edition of the SVJ, which nominated his poem, “Light”, for the Pushcart Prize. Joe’s first book of poetry, Always in the Wrong Season, was recently published by Kelsay Books and is available on Amazon.com.

Harmonica Rescue

Joe Samuel Starnes

If you find yourself at the bar alone

Sitting late for a quick beer

Before catching the train home

Surrounded by transparent young people,

Good-looking, but simple,

Half staring at their phones,

Half talking to each other,

Ignoring the aged drinkers, most stoned,

All unaware the digital impostor of a jukebox

Is silent, the TV turned down,

The incessant babble of the infantile

Like a rainstorm, the room’s only sound,

Play the Stones’ “Midnight Rambler,”

Live version. One dollar never goes farther.


Joe Samuel Starnes is a native southerner who has lived in the Philadelphia area for eleven years—five in Fishtown and the last six in Haddon Township, New Jersey. His novels are Red Dirt (2015); Fall Line (2011); and Calling (2005). He also has published poetry, short stories, essays, and journalism in publications as varied as the New York Times and the blogazine Fried Chicken and Coffee. His website is www.joesamuelstarnes.com

 

 

 

 

The Flemish Captain

Gwen Wille

So some of his friends made

it out for his last, weathered

 

the late March rain, thin and soaking

as wave crests on a prow. Better

 

to have scattered him off

of Newfoundland, says one. Another,

 

He hated Scottish pipes. But again,

it was the best his widow could do:

 

Cape May, near the lighthouse, near

where the cold water smacks the sand

 

and froths mightily, exaggeratedly. And we

two onlookers sit perched beneath

 

a frayed umbrella on the beach, still

warm from breakfast and soon to set

 

out shelling, imagine him thus: bookish

more than bawdy, but grown full of tales.

 

Even the conchs we find later, blue-bleached

ocean bones strewn in halves and quarters,

 

know no better.

 


Gwen Wille lives and works in West Chester, PA. She studied writing at the University of New Mexico. Her work has appeared in San Pedro River Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Crow Toes Quarterly, among others. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time in the woods with her son, husband, and high-spirited spaniel.

LONGING

Claire Scott

Years and years ago when I was six, and there were four of us kids always fighting, when my mother stayed in bed the entire year, bottles under blankets, orange vials on the floor, when us kids made bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches for supper, combed each other’s gritty hair in the morning, pulling and tugging, untangling knots of nightmares, although we skipped hair ribbons and barrettes, forgot to brush our teeth and wore wrinkled dresses to school with our only-one-pair-each scuffed brown shoes, before my mother was taken away, sirens splitting the night, before my father stayed home and made sodden pancakes, when my best friend Emily brought her new red patent leather shoes to school, I stole them from her locker.

Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light.


Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light.

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.