Field Trip To The Underworld

Hayden Saunier

I follow single file the awkward girl
before me down damp wooden walkways dimly lit
with scalloped strings of incandescent light bulbs

as a guide in cats-eye glasses blandly clarifies
the difference between stalactite and stalagmite,

making this sixth grade, Endless Caverns,
the awful year I couldn’t stop myself from staring at
boys’ crotches. At least it’s dark, at least

those agates shaped like fried eggs make my oddness
almost safe. I keep walking. From this day on

I’ll picture every story of the underworld
in caves like this: Persephone, pale as a shoot,
on a throne between stone curtains, Orpheus

on the walkway where it rises, curves toward
the gift shop, Odysseus weeping in the great room

with his dead. Room after room of emptiness
lies underneath- great vaulted absences, small vacancies
connected by odd passageways, tight turns-

where what’s been washed away
gives way to what’s been washed away,

each loss communicating to the next.
All there in figured residue, drip, drip of years:
the intricate architecture of what’s gone.

[img_assist|nid=10086|title=Hayden Saunier|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=250|height=141]


Hayden Saunier is the author of the poetry collection, Tips for Domestic Travel. Her work has been published widely and was awarded both the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Rattle Poetry Prize in 2011. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


Honorable Mention: The American Treadmill

Debora Gossett Rivers

TV on all night woke me up this morning
The clock radio is a bird with no song that just tells the time
I don’t move until the 4th time weatherman announces the forecast
Hoping it snows north and west of the city
Because I-C-E has no respect for my SUV
The temptation of calling out sick plays like a sweet song
And I want to sing every word out loud
Slowly I scrape myself off the sheets
Wake up the children singing a happy little wake up song
Saying hello to the sunny sun
Ironing white school blouses
Cooking bacon grits and eggs
Chasing groomed dressed and fed offspring out of the house
To catch the big yellow school bus
To learn to live the American way
To chase the American dream
Looking up in the glass ceiling
Sitting on the side of the tub
Sitting and thinking
Looking at my toes
A muscle twitch away from going back to bed
Cleaned up groomed up dressed up
Running into myself coming and going
Turned off every electric appliance
Spouse and I leave the house
Get in the car
For the five minute commute to work
Singing songs in prayer before I enter
The God-forsaken den of despair called the office
My prayers for natural, man-made office disasters
Went unanswered again
Serving occupational penance for being a
Short, fat, bald, white overseer on a Mississippi cotton plantation
In a prior life
At my desk I sit
Listening to my voice mail
I’m tired of hearing the cries of the
The dependent and the expectant
The needy and the greedy
Enduring the criticism of the powers that be
Serving at the pleasure of the Governor
The whims of the politicians
On the strength of the unions
Issuing free cash and food stamps
Running faster to stay in place
Working hard to keep myself in gas and pantyhose
Plotting and planning for a way out
To prove the naysayer’s wrong
That my dreams are stronger
Because I know that there is a better world
Just waiting for me to get there
Praying for six months of jury duty
Going on safari in the urban jungle
To hunt and kill my lunch
Washed it down with fruit punch
Waiting for a phone call
To bring news of afternoon deliverance
Absolution and ascension
Ambition filed away in a manila folder
Locked in a drawer waiting for retirement
Youth replaced by strained eyes and gray hairs
Too young to retire too old to quit and start anew
Stuck in a holding pattern
At quitting time
I ran out of the building like I was
Being chased by Satan
To start my second job
Picked up the children from supervised playtime
Listening to a litany of juvenile drama and angst
Evening errands and supermarket runs
Before we get home
Checking the homework of straight A students
Checking out the evening news to hear about the world run amuck
Sitting down to a quick-cooked meal
Holding court in the dining room
Surveying all that I claim on my tax returns
Doing the dishes
Downshifting and channel surfing until I find myself lost in a
Made for TV movie
Looking for happy endings that seem to only happen
To white women
Falling asleep to TV lullabies
Drifting into the world of slumber and dreams
Looking for the lamppost on the corner
To show me the way
Until the TV alarm wakes me up again
To start a new day

[img_assist|nid=10069|title=Debora Gossett Rivers|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=300|height=259]

Debora Gossett Rivers is a Philadelphia native and the author of “The Working Mind of a Working Woman”. She completed her 2nd book of poetry titled “Running Into Myself Coming and Going, released in 2010. Created MALL SCIENCE proram for girls ages 9+ in 2008.  She is a 1981 graduate of Simon Gratz High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been an Income Maintenance Caseworker with the Department of Public Welfare in Philadelphia since 1988. She is married and has two children. 


Moments after a Solar Flare Scrambled the Dish on my Trailer

Paul Weidknecht

"You said this piece has been in your family since the early 1950s, when
your mother purchased it at an estate sale. Correct? Well, the Philadelphia
Chippendale side chair was a prime example of true artisan craftsmanship in
colonial America from about the mid-1750s to just after the Revolution, as
some of the finest cabinetmakers in the world resided in Philadelphia
during this period. The rocaille shell, acanthus leaves, and cabriole legs
with claw-and-ball feet were hallmarks of this style.

"However, this is not a Philadelphia chair. You have the Hoboken stool.
This was a poorly-conceived furnishing that no doubt would have been an
embarrassment to someone had that person possessed any sense of taste. Note
the lack of technical proficiency in the assembly, as well as, the absence
of any artful lines. Frankly, cordwood has more value. Had this been a
Philadelphia chair, I would expect it-in excellent condition and with no
restoration-to bring up to $35,000 at auction, certainly enough to have
someone well on the way to a gently-used double wide and a new satellite
dish. Your mother chose poorly, but I appreciate your bringing it to the
show so our viewers might know what to avoid when browsing those
treacherous junk sales. Thank you so much."



Paul Weidknecht’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rosebud, Shenandoah, The Los Angeles Review, Pisgah Review, The Comstock Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Yale Anglers’ Journal and Outdoor Life, among others.  He has been awarded a scholarship to The Norman Mailer Writers Colony and is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC. For more, please visit:

The Drunkest Three-Year-Old in the Room

Amanda Erin Stopa

Here comes a school of them right now-
Just look at em! They are sooo wasted
they have to be strung along on a guide rope,
one walking like Frankenstein, another like he’s on Broadway.
These addicts can’t take two steps in the same direction without
falling all over the place. And it’s only noon.
And that one’s wearing a tutu, on a Monday.
I’m going to guess she’s coming off a weekend long bender;
looking mighty sloppy. And look-
over by that fountain, those two kids are so hammered-
running, trying to climb over each other up the backside
of a copper goat. But oh, it looks like their little drunk girlfriend
is a bit of a downer, possibly cross faded the way she’s kicking around
the grass, yelling at her Velcro shoes. Loose cannon.
But the drunk I love most is the one who is finding his legs
for the first time. Unashamed at how he wobbles, arms reaching
towards his intention, the blonde woman cooing through
picket fence teeth, he takes his first steps to sobriety.

Amanda Stopa lives in Philadelphia, although she is not from there, and attends a Masters Program at Rutgers University.

Under the El Tracks

Leonard Kress

What I so clearly remember
From the years we lived beneath the el tracks,
Or just blocks from them, were the freezing
Waits for the train and the hopelessly long
Walks through the neighborhoods-Harrowgate,
Torresdale, Fishtown, the bums and crosswalk prophets

We’d encounter. Always the same: what will it profit
A man, if he gains the whole world? I remembered
Meeting one preaching outside the shut gate
Of a half-demolished art-deco theatre. He tracked
Our arrival, our baby strolled deep in her long
Afternoon nap, questioned our wisdom-letting her freeze

Like this. My wife with her camera busily freezing
The twisted steel beams, drooping finials, scenes a prophet
Might relish, beads of gilt debris melted in the long
History of midnight fires, crack, and rats. What we won’t remember
In the rush to rebuild. This was the place beneath the tracks
Where prostitutes sheltered all winter, their gate-

Way to cruising cars, one by one, with that skirt-hiking gait,
Raising 5 or 10 fingers, like figures in an ancient Chaldean frieze.
Everyone takes them in: walkers, drivers, passengers on track-
Less trolleys-you might wonder if they’re the harlots the prophet
Ezekiel railed against: Oholah and Oholibah as they remember
Their Egyptian lovers, whose members were as long

As those of horses, those sisters who continued to long
For the orgies of their youth, before the city shut its gate
To them. Officers with girded loins remembered
Even in exile, even in the heat of this deep freeze.
They crowd around, cooing over the baby-the prophet
Isn’t paying attention,-losing track

Of time and money to be made under the El tracks.
It seems they’ve been doing this for so long
You’d think they’d learn by now. Forget the prophet
Ezekiel’s rant, listen to Isaiah instead. Enter the gates
Of the city. Take your harps and sweet songs. Don’t freeze.
Sing that you may be remembered
Leonard Kress has recent work (poetry and fiction) in Barn Owl Review, Passages North, Harvard Review, New Orleans Review, River Styx, Atticus Review, and Philadelphia Stories. Most recent poetry collections are Braids & Other Sestinas, The Orpheus Complex, and Living in the Candy Store. He lived in Philadelphia for 45 years before having to relocate to the Midwest. He currently teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.

Who’s the Boss

Margot Douaihy

All journeys start by leaving, that’s what Tony must have said
to Sam, packing the van, closing the door, the way epics begin.

Don’t look back. In stations of the cross, you move on.
It’s time to go, he smiles, pulls the key from his ripped jeans,

muscle line in his arms, like a sea wall
meeting sand on a Brooklyn beach

too polluted to swim. There’s an open road and a road that’s hidden,
brand new life around the bend
. A theme song’s being sung, just for them.

He’s not sure who sings it, but he knows a thing or two: boxing, cooking,
secret blend of wind and lip to make a whistle. He’ll teach Samantha

to dance-steps only the old folks know. She’ll need to learn
how to speak Connecticut, make friends, shake off headaches

after crying. He’ll vacuum curtains upright, iron a sandwich for uptight
Angeler. Strange how it makes him feel like a man. Isn’t every departure

a return to who we want to be? He’d never admit
he is scared, he might not even know what to call it.

All that matters: they’re together, going somewhere in their beat-up van,
hands taking flight out the windows, future as go as the green light ahead.

Margot Douaihy has taught at Marywood University in Scranton, PA, and received her Masters from the University of London,Goldsmiths. Her chapbook "I Would Ruby If I Could" is forthcoming from Factory Hollow Press.

At Night I Smoke

Dutch Godshalk

At night I stand in the street and smoke
among rows of dormant cars, and all dark
save for sporadic twitching television hues

in third floor windows like the last heavy
winks of eyelids fighting sleep. When rain
leaves dry spheres under uncut trees,

when the doors dead-bolted and the
street lamps wane a bit and the neighbors
upstairs stop pushing furniture around,

I stand in the street and spread my arms
wide and smoke facing the line of sky where
a far off forest’s edge cuts into the horizon

and red lit radio towers pulse like postured
strings of Christmas bulbs and the stars all
strain and shoulder each other to be seen.

In the night as breath and smoke converge
and rise I stand centered amid arrested life
and say nothing, dreaming of sleep.

Dutch Godshalk is a poet and playwright living outside of Philadelphia. He holds a BA in English Literature from Arcadia University and currently works as a freelance content writer. In recent years, Dutch has worked as a volunteer for the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. His poetry has previously appeared in Apiary Magazine.

Sestina for El Barrio

Angela Canales

Under a pale sun, a dark-haired woman sweeps glass
smashed in last night’s brawl. Scattered
shards are edged in blood. Across
the street a boy dribbles a ball—a steady beat
like fired shots. The woman brushes silt and sings:
mi amor volverá (my love will come back).

Around the corner, Pacho leans back
and lights another smoke. His thick glasses
make him look startled. A song
crackles under a needle as he arranges scattered
photographs. A solitaire hand that beats
him every time. He wears his son’s crucifix.

His only boy, first caught in crossfire
and then a crowded E.R. Shouts for back-up,
a gurney, a god had filled ellipses beating
from monitors. Finally, his son’s eyes had glassed
over. Pacho gathers the pictures, scattering
his ashes on the floor… Down the block a song

rises from St. Michael’s church. A song
about a shepherd who bled from a cross
and promised salvation to his scattered
flock. Two boys lounge in a back
pew. Figures plead in panes of glass.
Candle shadows shimmy like girls.
Qué ritmo,

they crack, craving the bass beats
that boom from cars. It’s always the same song.
The priest pours wine into the chalice studded with glass
as voices climb the steeple’s cross
and pierce the sky. On stone ledges, birds back
away as a gust scatters

dust and leaves. Then they burst—scattering
up like cards after drunk fists beat
down… Pacho sticks the needle back
into its track. From idling cars, songs
unfurl like skulls and cross-bones.
The dark-haired woman slides her glass up.

Cross now, she beats the sill, scattering curses. (It’s always
the same song.) The boys saunter off, caps on backward,
the grooves of their soles glistening with stained glass.

Angela Canales is a high school educator, freelance editor, translator and writer. She earned her master’s in Writing Studies from St. Joseph’s University, and her story "Out of Nowhere" was included in the 2009 anthology The Best of Philadelphia Stories: Volume 2. Most recently, she was included in the 2012 cast of Listen to Your Mother, a national 10-city reading series exploring the bond between mothers and children.

For Jennie Ketler: 1902-1982

Robbi Nester

On New Years Day in Philadelphia
when I was ten and you were seventy,
the Mummers waved their plumes and stamped.
Ice fell in feathers from their capes.
Three boys would bear the Captain’s train
down to the judge’s stand on Broad,
a flask of whisky at their lips.
My father lifted me above
the crowd, the helium balloons.
His shoulders then seemed high enough.
I said that he should lift you too,
and laughed; with smoke-black braid, thick
shoes, you’d dangle almost to the ground.
But from your deckchair on the curb,
the view was blocked. You worked your foot
and said you’d seen it all before.
Robbi Nester is the author of a chapbook, Balance (White Violet Press, 2012). She has published poetry in Qarrtsiluni, Northern Liberties Review, Inlandia, Victorian Violet Press, Floyd County Moonshine, and Caesura, with poems forthcoming in Jenny and Poemeleon. Her reviews have appeared in The Hollins Critic and Switchback, and her essays have been anthologized in Easy to Love but Hard to Raise (DRT Press, 2011) and Flashlight Memories (Silver Boomer Press, 2011).

Road Poem

Tom Pescatore

There’s paint slapped onto
my sky, thick like an impression
on my aching-scratch ink into
leather bound sketch journal
one long poem out of love, want to
take road poem and turn that into
novella that’s effortlessly sad but beautiful and bring
back those days roaring through
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois-breakfast,
sausage gravy-bat factory-beer-
Dave and Joe up front and me studying maps
in the back, shouting directions-no GPS
bullshit, horseshit-doing it ourselves,
it’s been three months-three million years,
the crops are shriveled junk melted down
and shot into our arms, the city is torn down
about my knees-I’ve nothing left but
survival and words
Tom Pescatore grew up outside Philadelphia, is an active member of the growing underground arts scene within the city and hopes to spread the word on Philadelphia’s new poets. He maintains a poetry blog: His work has been published in literary magazines both nationally and internationally but he’d rather have them carved on the Walt Whitman bridge or on the sidewalks of Philadelphia’s old Skid Row.