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: amagicalmistake.blogspot.com. 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.

And I Call Myself Recovery Girl

Laurie Arnold

after “Walk” by Cornelius Eady

I want to buy a forest that will speak

in calm sentences about the aftermath.

 

What it’s like standing deep in hard

black soil, and Springtime, after,

 

cold quiet frozen months snowed in, a tiny room, the window

is all—

 

It’s late I think, for recovery; these frostbitten

hands and toes start tingling with stranded blood

 

each Spring, they unfreeze and unfold,

their secret micro movements,

 

and the narrow shoot,

 

the leaves, the leaves, I say to myself,

 

hard to believe

and then—

they open.

 

Clear cut, then chemicals, clever

heavy water rushes downhill, floods any

second to kill root,

fool the fragile,

 

but a crisis line, a voice,

takes her time with me, waiting,

her emails, counselors, call backs,

 

a forest hut, something shining—

the fire, always a fire,

where all the downed wood rings,

sing

hold your head high,

darlin’

they chant in circular meditation,

live, live, live, they live

me alive, again,

for now,

the cascade of long branches,

of arms feeling a feathery new world

in daily treacherous conditions

in hills of frozen

 

white.

Laurie Arnold-McMillan is a therapeutic writing facilitator in Pittsburgh who uses the magic of poetry to inspire people to get in touch with meaningful material that can alter the course of their life story. She is also a nurse and gardener and enjoys a vital literary community in Pittsburgh.

To A Miscarried Brother

Grant Clauser

It’s hard to say what we’ve missed
in these years, you not even
solid enough to be a memory
or maybe not even a brother,
but simply an absence,
like a promise broken
or an approaching front
that builds but doesn’t fall
so its cold can’t kiss
your waiting face,
yet you were there
just in time to point a finger
at our mother’s cancer,
to run into the burning building
for her, selfless lamb.
Still you’re always here,
a cloud above the roof
you move and shift your shape
like horizons in a changing sky
sometimes threatening storms
that rattle windows
and other times only leaving
shadows where sunlight
should have settled.

 

The Field

Caren Lee Brenman

I kept my father’s ashes in a drawer
where I kept scarves, belts and Xanax.
When it was time
the last tangible weight of proof
was carried
on to his high school football field
he had never returned to
until now.
His white ash spilled
across the green
glinting like bone diamonds.

Caren Lee Brenman writes poetry and short stories. Her work has recently appeared in Contemporary American Voices and Waterways: Poetry in the Mainstream. She moved from New York City to Philadelphia 23 years ago and hasn’t looked back.