Poem: Black Walnut

Cleveland Wall

You do know their roots poison everything in their paths,
don’t you?

                                                            —Melinda Rizzo
Of all the magnificent trees under whose root ball
I might lie, of all places to lose my last bits of self,
poison or no, black walnut is for me,
for I love her frondy leaves,
her circumspect bark, neither too fine
nor too rough, and good for colic.
I love her high, straight bole, how the eventual branching off
is perfect cantilever for a swing. I love
the citrus tang of her green pods, their heft in hand,
thud on the ground. I love
the muscular squirrels leaping limb to limb and
the squirrels’ wile and their fierce chittering
for sovereignty. I love the obdurate
shells and their brain-shaped meat. I love
dappled shade in summer, lacy silhouettes in winter. I love
how they show where the water is, by refusing to be
anywhere else. I love the satin grain of the wood,
its raveling flow revealed at last, and even
the toxicity, the loneliness, I love.
Oh, yes, black walnut—when I have grown past old,
let me weave myself in your silken stem
bite with your acerbic green
stain the fingers of late scavengers with juglone ink
drink deep through your taproot clearest water
under bedrock, under tonnage of earth
and flimsy bone cage. I will be
a kingdom of squirrels, light-eater, shape-shifter,
murderous as life.

Cleveland is a poet and mail artist from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She is a contributing editor for Poetry Writers in the Schools and hosts the poetry series for the New Bridge Group artists’ collective. Her work has appeared in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Möbius Magazine, and online in New Purlieu Review.

Poem: Turkey Vulture

Jeanette Tryon

a hunchback
in a black raincoat
face of black leather
broken wing
survives on cat food
and leftovers
from an apartment tenant
who pities
who also puts out
a bed for him
(a faux sheepskin hood
of some sort)
and a bowl of water
he slinks under
my daughter-in-law’s car
in cold, nasty weather
and defecates
white splotches
worthy of
she wishes
the neighbors
would let
nature take its course
but I rather like
the sight of
the sad creature
makes me think of
a cold war spy
in the cold

Jeanette Tryon has resided in New Jersey all her life. She is a registered nurse and has worked in emergency, surgical, and intensive care settings. Her short fiction has appeared in Bellowing Ark, Literal Latte, and Clackamas Literary Review. She recently completed her MFA degree at Rutgers-Camden. “Turkey Vulture” is her first poetry publication.

The Stories The Flies Tell About Us

Eileen Moeller

have behemoths in them roaring loud as a million buzzings,
colossal larvae in hard-shelled eggs with doors
that let us move in and out to feed, our teeth
great eyes of bone, the size of an adult squished flat
by the hand of God, which comes to the fly out of nowhere,
multi-colored, many fingered, webbed on a stick,
that petal of death that makes antennae quiver.
Once a rolling egg took an uncle out of the sky – just like that!
And if one of our young comes thundering
down off its unsteady tree stump legs,
they’re out proclaiming: Make ready, hover, make ready
for the abundance of sweet eruptions!
Days and days and days a-hum with pungent sustenance!
Huzzah, they say, to find an eye and go for a swim!
Our future is all desert and violent winds.
It is burning sun and thirst.
There will come a great dying off,
and a gradual returning to what once it was.
What an honor to be the clean up crew!
God will be so full of death by then,
he’ll close his hands forever,
they promise their maggoty kinder.
That’s when we enter the rotting time glory,
followed by the sugar always bliss.

Eileen Moeller lives in center city Philadelphia, PA. She has poems in Paterson Literary Review, SugarMule, Ars Medica, and forthcoming in Schuykill Valley Review. Access her blog: And So I Sing at http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.com/


Frank Diamond

Flash of grey, ignore the scratching
Deny, deny, deny: Until he shows himself
Cocked head as if wondering
Who wandered into his wood
Roofer-doctored skylight
That’s how the bastard arrived
“I’ll check traps each day at noon.”
Words city boys should never say
“Come on! Six-three! Two twenty-five!
You’re not scared, are you?”
Again, again, again
Mind corners thoughts
Or is it the other way?
Détente settles in shingled layers.
Close it off. Shut it down.
How many huddle in the cold?
Catch it. Kill it. Eat it.
Your ancestors’ soft smile.
It’s better not to know
What goes on in the attic

Frank Diamond has 30 years writing and editing experience for newspapers, magazines, and television, and is currently the managing editor of Managed Care Magazine. Diamond has released a novel, The Pilgrim Soul, and a short story collection, Damage Control. His short stories have appeared in Innisfree, and Kola: A Black Literary Magazine. Diamond lives in Langhorne, Pa., with his wife, Kate, and daughter, Emily.

A Fire During Fall Waits to Be Lit

Joseph A. Cilluffo

In this season of fallen things
you move your play indoors
below, to our basement
like a cave that the first men
might have huddled in
as wind or night beat outside,
genetic mutation seeking them even there
starlight sneaking in through cracks,
the sun they held in awe begetting cellular change
that we would look back upon
and call evolution

and in our cave, you and your tribemates
fingerpaint on the concrete
— a skeleton, a spear, a flower, our dog —
your handprints frozen in an amber of acrylic paint,
a fly’s wingbeats held still for me,
the flint waiting to be struck within you
and with it the fire of life and time begun
as once, from its kernel, the stuff of the universe
exploded and was flung
forever outward

Joe Cilluffo is a practicing attorney who spends his free time writing, weeding his vegetable garden, and playing with his three children. Joe’s poems have appeared in journals such as Philadelphia Poets, The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Apiary, The New Purlieu Review and Adanna Literary Journal. He has been a featured reader at the Moveable Beats Reading Series, the Philadelphia Poets Ethnic Voices series, the Manayunk-Roxborough Arts Center inaugural ekphrastic poetry exhibit, and the Mad Poets Society “A Little Spring Madness” event.


Beth Feldman Brandt

name the space
left by the groove
of the saw

wood to dust
line defined
by emptiness

name what
exists only
as absence

singed kindling
curled into fire
then air

words inhaled

empty place
at the dinner table

the name
that escapes me
late at night

still holds
the image
of a face

what exists
in the cut
of the blade

when the pieces
fall apart

Beth Feldman Brandt is the author of Sage in collaboration with visual artist Claire Owen and their new project will be part of the “Bartram Boxes Remix” exhibition at the Center for Art in Wood in 2014. Beth works in the arts in Philadelphia where she finds plenty of Philadelphia Stories.


Gabriel Johnson

Being from, for its own sake,
couldn’t satiate. Many
reasons for an ash-cloud.

Our fields half-plowed,
we woke to magma
on our eyes, five lashes
leapt across your back.

Plotted course along
the line of the son.
Fox paws before horse.

In time you will
change your coat,
wish-weld your words.
The heard forgotten,
what endures is telling.

[img_assist|nid=10088|title=Gabriel Johnson|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=250|height=322]

Gabriel Johnson is a Bay Area native currently finishing his MFA in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College of California. He lives in Oakland, where he was born, where the coffee is delicious, and the oak trees plentiful.

All Souls’

Emily Bludworth de Barrios

My husband lies beside me
            like archeological time.
(The word husband
shimmery as a new purchase,
still chafing a little in my mouth.)
I love you I love you
we say to one another.

Somewhere in another country
skulls have been spun from sugar.
I would I were an orange, a peach, a palm.
                      I lie on the bed, a living thing,
a raft on this side of time.
The afternoon a meadow.
I lie here like the tongue of a bell.
I lie here like a coin, new-minted.

Underground my grandfathers lie,
not even coins on their eyes.
                      But today I am alive,
and generations-to-come mill about
like crowds on the street.

I peer at the future ones
as from the window of a tall floor.
Like me they paddle lonely as an orphan.

I am a woman speaking
from the crumbly past–
words slipping out from the cake of time.

I want simple advice to give you.
I would seal myself in words.
I would be clear, and whole as bread.

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A native Houstonian, Emily Bludworth de Barrios is currently a student in the University of Massachusetts MFA program.  She also teaches writing at UMass, and serves as an editorial assistant for Factory Hollow Press.  Her poems have appeared in (or are forthcoming in) The Found Poetry Review, Emrys Journal, Belletrist Coterie, Goldfish, and Sight into Sound.


Deborah Fries

for Kevin

You waited three days after the gray fits and groans
of the superstorm to leave, as if its broken trees
had paved a woody path to bring everyone home,
and once gathered, could build you a swinging bridge
to step out over the gorge, sure-footed and certain
it would hold. How does an arborist leave without
first inspecting the damage: shag of sycamores
coating sidewalks, maples chest-cracked open under
a naked moon, old oaks dropping limbs in the dark?

We knew this wild storm would arrive. Some of us expected
a flattening of the known world, footprint of sawdust
where our lives had been. Instead, cyclone of light and dark,
beech and vetch, family and family, banjoes and your beautiful
wife by a pinesweet campfire. Maybe the wind was confusing,
every loved thing whipped into the life you lived. Then quiet.
Six hours after you left I open a Weizenbock made from waters
of the Brandywine as if I could retrieve one laughing hour
from that hop devil, golden monkey night in Downingtown
we gathered to launch you into the eye — you standing green,
braced for the bending and rising of any bloodstorm.

Deborah Fries began writing poetry in earnest in 1994, when she moved to the Delaware Valley from the Midwest. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq – work nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of Various Modes of Departure (Kore Press, 2004) and anticipates publication of a second book of poetry, The Bright Field of Everything, in 2013.

Lady Sidewalk

Eileen Moeller

[img_assist|nid=10084|title=Eileen Moeller|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=162|height=209]wears a red

                                mud coat


festooned with

                                guttural skulls

                                                and rusty mice.


Her daddy made it for her.

Her daddy made it!

Her daddy sewed it with his tiny hands

and frog shuttered needles.


Her hair is a bulky tumor

on the back of her head

                that hasn’t been combed in years.


She says it’s

                                  someone following her –

                                                  an adversarial eavesdrop

                                                                  she couldn’t forget about.


Until a policeman gave her,

a policeman handed it right over!

Gives her this beautiful hat out of nowhere,

says it’s made of nail holes.

Where he got it, she don’t know,


She wears it askew

                                as she dances in yipping green

                                                bramble shoes through

                                                                the blindness of June as it turns to night.



Lady Sidewalk leans back on a park bench

                                and reaches up with both hands

                                                to pull the star blanket down around her.


Her sleep is yellow stained,

                                knotted like rope, a dream

                                                heaving toward itself, a school a

                                                                flounders that won’t be thrown back.


She’ll mutter till dawn,

                                                her words cut flowers bending away

                                                                from one of them pretty blue bottles,

                                                                                that used to hold Milk of Magnesia


Her laughter at this, is hard and cold as

                                                a soot covered snow pile

                                                                hanging on after the end of winter.


Lady Sidewalk does not

                                                burn off

the way the dew does.

Days, she haunts our eyes.


Eileen Moeller lives in center city Philadelphia, PA. She has poems in Paterson Literary Review, SugarMule, Ars Medica, and forthcoming in Schuykill Valley Review. Access her blog: And So I Sing at http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.com/