Not Yet

Amy Small-McKinney

if there is one thing I know
it’s this storm how rain sloshed over
my bedroom floor boards ants swam to the island
of my black sandal onto a gray towel I brought from the Home
I had to haul out everything in two days
that was the rule they said & today I read how an amoeba
from a warm river attached to his tiny brain he died too my god
this morning everyone is asleep & I wonder how much of my life
is held inside these legs always skinny the boy whose arm
was around my shoulder told me more than twice & yes for a while I broke
& still these legs found their way to the well -lit bridge the Danube
the white blouse with blue swans across a boulevard
to the black Paris hat so ordinary no matter how much I tugged
the entire world was velvet except for the wooden house in Poland
where two women feared I had come back in brown dresses their hair wrapped
in buns they wanted me to leave wanted me out of their town I wasn’t taking
anything I told them & Agneska told them & thank goodness
I knew to knock on the manager’s door at the London guest house
though after midnight she offered tea of course in her blue robe
& I had been crying
she said I could not tell not done she would be fired it was strong
dark & perfect & these legs spindles for straw into gold
found their way home to my window where beyond yellow
curtains with burgundy leaves the storm split
my maple in two my country split
& upstairs neon pink stripes & dream above your bed
your mouth your breathing the wind
as though the world is ending and I know it is not
Amy Small-McKinney is the 2011-2012 Montgomery County Poet Laureate and founder of the program, Finding Our Voices, Poetry and Resilience. She is a twice nominated Pushcart Prize nominee. She has published two chapbooks of poetry, Body of Surrender, and Clear Moon, Frost, both with Finishing Line Press. Recently, she completed a full-length book of poems, Life Is Perfect, as well as a new chapbook, I Don’t Want To Disappear.

Postcard to his Wife

Liz Chang

How long he kept your name for himself-
the sea reaches for the smooth breast
of the shore and turns away.

Now the ocean comes back to me in all my poems.
Here the wind whirls your name into crescendo. Where
we lay awake in sandy arsenals 

he talked about moving inland. I must have laughed.
Now the pipers pick over the man of war
washed of his armor and shuddering plum dye,

all that is left of this cup of new Narcissus
who was a fool to have settled for the pond when
he could have run into the sea, embracing 

hundreds of mollusk admirers who might
die and rot and still call after him. They pine
for their first love down to chiseled bone. 

I wished I’d been a monument when
I heard him say, "I’ve met someone." Instead,
I read and re-read the indictment of the tide 

slapping the staid shore, wishing to grow gills
and drown kissing air. Then you could cut along my ribs
and pry me open, find flecks of mercury winking
to know that he had flown.

Liz Chang’s second book of poetry and translations What Ordinary Objects is forthcoming from Book-Arts Press. Her original work has recently appeared in Breakwater Review, Apiary Review and the Mad Poets Review. She received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches college-level English at Delaware County Community College.

Poem for Dr. Dayan Visiting Philadelphia, February 2010

Sharon Black

I
A small planet of nothing but dust,
abandoned basketball courts—
a few hapless donkeys…
hooves hidden in the powder-clouds
of their aimlessness.

I can’t find it there either
but I think I have to keep looking
in the wrong places
especially if they don’t exist.

II
I have three winter coats.
One I don’t wear.
One for schlepping around in.
One for the Lincoln Center.

III
High over the radio countdown
of all-time favorite love songs
geese keep their V as we discuss
with ardent certainty which songs
don’t belong, are treacle
as compared to Rainy Night in Georgia
or Come Pick Me Up.

Later I’m thinking “mere sentiment” is feeling too;
I don’t want to dismiss any of it.


Sharon Black has poems published in The South Carolina Review, Cimarron Review, Slipstream, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mudfish, Rhino, Poet Lore, Painted Bride  Quarterly, and many others. This is her second appearance in Philadelphia Stories. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2005 and 2007. She is the librarian at the Annenberg School for Communication and lives in Wallingford, PA.

About the Gaze

Liz Abrams-Morley

"much has been written about the toxic nature of the gaze…the
unfair advantage of being the observer"
– Patricia Hampl

So Don’t stare, the mother snaps
at the child who doesn’t mean to reduce
this dwarf, that cleft face, those
conjoined twins to oddity.

Led to a field, she would seek a dozen
variations on the theme of daisy
and make a garland, would bury her nose
deep into orange bells of blooms

protruding from sinews of trumpet vine.
She would edge out the needs
of hummingbird and bee, never intending
to be greedy. Blame her not. Her fields

are city streets. She bears no sting. Don’t stare,
snaps the mother so the child stands still,
closes her eyes while against her lids wonder flutters-
imperiled, insistent, diaphanous-winged.

Liz Abrams-Morley’s collection, Necessary Turns, was published by Word Press in 2010 and won an Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Small Press Publishing. Other collections include Learning to Calculate the Half Life (Zinka Press, 2001,) and What Winter Reveals (Plan B Press, 2005). Her poems and short stories have been published in a variety of national anthologies, journals and ezines, and have been read on NPR. Co-founder of Around the Block Writing Collaborative, (www.writearoundtheblock.org) Liz is on the MFA faculty of Rosemont College and writes with children in Philadelphia,
PA area schools.

Put Asunder

Jeannie Catron

On the day of your wedding, I broke into the church.
I opened the baskets of waiting doves, picked up each one,
whispered against soft wings how you had promised
yourself to me. I whispered how you had bound us
together, told me forever so many times that I believed
in it. The birds cried quietly in the nest of my hands.
My voice set timers ticking inside them, counting
down to the moment you said your vows. Turning
with your bride, in the gossamer glory of your untruth,
the baskets opened and the doves whirred out, puffed
up like toads. Tranquility turned inside out. They exploded –
little bombs of purity, of peace, Molotov cocktails
of beak and pink intestine. Flour-white feathers
spelled my name in the aisle; the pews blew over
like Tunguska trees. Two doves found me in the doorway,
landed in my outstretched hands. An olive branch
in one beak, a stick of dynamite in the other.
Jeannie Catron grew up in Maryland and now lives in Tucson, AZ. Her work has appeared in Attic.

Thank You for Mixing with my Emotional Circuitry

CAConrad

rollercoasters are
my favorite form of
transportation

what is bribery
in poetry going
to prove?

pluck me out
of my gown
throw me
against your song

I claim a hundred feet of
air above
my head

a murmur of sparrows
flies in flies out keeping
me nauseous with love
making use
of tiny instruments
needing their
music absorbed

HOW DARE
the mayor of
Philadelphia refuse
our collective joy of
rollercoasters
over buses

tally your
math again
I love being a
statistic involving
spun sugar on a stick
and instability

counted upwards
of a thousand
drops of saliva

we can read
ANYTHING
go out and read
the engine’s cold
throttle left over
night in one
position

love came
breathing
against me I did not
mind the captivity

elevating these
harmed avionics
of the brain
climbING the track
ROARing downhill
reborn through the S-curve

the extortion of poetry
an opera mounting
the bed sheets we
won’t stop it when
we know we must

my critical review of
your little daisy staring
staring staring staring
STARING until it grows
The son of white trash asphyxiation, CAConrad’s childhood included selling cut flowers along the highway for his mother and helping her shoplift. He is the author of A BEAUTIFUL MARSUPIAL AFTERNOON: New (Soma)tics (Wave Books, 2012), The Book of Frank (Wave Books, 2010), Advanced Elvis Course (Soft Skull Press, 2009), Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), and a collaboration with poet Frank Sherlock titled The City Real & Imagined (Factory School, 2010). He is a 2011 Pew Fellow, and a 2012 Ucross Fellow. He is the editor of the online video poetry journals JUPITER 88 and Paranormal Poetics. Visit him at http://CAConrad.blogspot.com.

SEP TEPY (The First Time)1

Caitie Barrett

If we assume two things-one, that the best place to start is the beginning, and two, that the Heliopolitan Cosmogony is accurate-then we ought to start with an androgynous figure masturbating. That was how Atum created the universe, and it makes sense, after all; if one’s cosmogony relies upon a single creator deity, then what more ready way to do the job? So let’s start, then, with the mound of creation, a dark wet pile of earth emerging from the chaos waters. On top of this mound Atum has come into being and he is taking care of what he has to do.

[img_assist|nid=8597|title=Water Under the Bridge by Melissa Tevere © 2012|desc=|link=node|align=none|width=400|height=401]

First all the universe is contained inside one being, and then it’s splattered all over the place, like the mirror-glass mosaics of Isaiah Zagar. All over South Street, walls explode out at the sun in glittering fragments, and yet stay intact. Covered in reflections of the city and the sky as seen from every angle, the wall is revealed, after all, to contain both the city and the sky.

We’re all sitting in fractured, glittering Philadelphia smoking a hookah in Leila’s Café, and the smoke (apple mint, the tastiest of the flavors) provides a sort of glue sticking the fragments back together. How soft and curving that smoke is, like the women in the imagination of 19th-century Orientalists! But Sir Richard Burton2 would truly have been unable to contain his urge to create a universe if he had heard the conversation, which focused on Gina and her fiancé’s recent decision to become polyamorous. The hookah is certainly polyamorous, anyway, penetrating everyone’s mouths with equal abandon (except for mine; I put one of those disposable tips on the nozzle; Orientalist pastimes are no more likely to protect one from colds than is Communion wine). Gina’s friend Dave has taken her hand, while her fiancé’s brother chats with me. The café owner’s daughter, who wears tight jeans and a blue headscarf and has a California accent, seems equal parts happy and dismayed.

Gina doesn’t want to change her Facebook status to "Open Relationship" because she hasn’t told her sister yet. By the time you’re thirty, your Facebook wall becomes a mosaic of friends’ babies’ faces, small round eager things that blur, at thumbnail size, into soft ash-colored blobs like smoke rings, and then dissolve away again. At a distance these walls that Zagar treated, these sun-sharp multifaceted mirrors, are revealed as the compound eyes they are. The buildings must have always had such eyes, but it was only after Zagar made them visually explicit that we could tell. At what time will these insect-eyed creatures buzz away, up into the air, into the sun from which they came? At what hour will the city fly away from us?

Broken glass both inside and outside the museum: inside, where they broke into the vitrines, and outside, where they burned the cars and beat the protestors in Tahrir Square. The Cyclops eyes of news cameras have, more or less, closed by now. The compound fly-eye of the glass still stares open on the ground, though, constantly assaulted by the substance of the sun (the Greeks thought: we see objects because they constantly emit thin films that physically hit our eyes) and throwing that white sun-stuff back again.

No one does polyamory like gods, except perhaps for Muammar Qaddafi, whose "voluptuous Ukrainian nurse" has gone back to Kiev, while Ajdabiya burns. Even Jesus has his many brides, like Sister James and Sister Anthony at St. Anne’s Preschool, who used to read the same story to us every day, about a bat trying to escape from hunters. I don’t remember why the hunters wanted the bat anyway (how much meat could be on it?) but it was a very suspenseful story and always made the hour after snack time unnecessarily stressful.

[img_assist|nid=8620|title=Under Penn by Patrick Snook © 2012|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=350|height=525]Almost Easter, now. The river bank is burning with cherry blossoms, and it’s almost time to go back to St. Paul’s to share that yearly Middle Eastern meal. In Taposiris Magna they’re looking for Cleopatra VII’s tomb, even though they won’t find it there;the ancient sources are quite clear on the location of the Ptolemies’ mortuary complex in Alexandria. "Zowie" Hawass, as my parents call him, announced with great enthusiasm the project plans, in a video in which he calls his impending revelation of Cleopatra’s burial "the greatest discovery of all time." Entombed at her side they expect to find her Ukrainian nurse, Mark Antony.

Elizabeth Taylor’s grave is in Glendale, California, and Richard Burton (the Orientalist) and Richard Burton (Mark Antony) can meet up, if they like, to share a hookah in St. Paul’s Café. If you lose your one true love, says the traditional Scottish song, you will surely find another, / Where the wild mountain thyme / grows around the blooming heather. The Egyptian gods are famous, of course, for their numerous forms. Semele asked to see the true form of god; and so she did. It was fire.

And as for Dionysus: he was born in blood, of course. Ah, well, who wasn’t? With him it was merely a bit more obvious, torn from his father’s raw thigh. I suppose we all feel somewhat out of place in all the substitute wombs we find.

Dionysus the wine god: and don’t those Sufi poets praise god constantly by invoking drunkenness? Indeed, the linkage of intoxication and religious ecstasy would appear to be cross-cultural; has there ever been a society that eschewed intoxicants? None that I’ve found yet, and I’ve been looking for a while. If it isn’t liquor, it’s tobacco, or herbal substances, or God knows what. Beloved, Beloved, you surpass all wine.

One could square the circle if Mary were to be the one to destroy the body of her son, to rip it up, the way Agave does. But she doesn’t do so-no. Wine in the cup, and that is blood; bread for flesh, like sparagmos. I never drank that wine, not even at my first communion. My mom was afraid that I would catch a cold from the other children, and after all, wasn’t she right? I could have done. The mother knew better than the priest; but, after all, that’s always true. It was true of Mary, wasn’t it? And of Agave, too.

It seems like it must be nice to be a polyamorist. But then again, it also seems rather unpleasant. As for me, my Beloved is mine, and I am my Beloved’s. Pass me more of that burning, iron-tasting wine. They say that Californian wines exceed the French; in fact, the Judgment of Paris3 decided it. Does that then make the United States equivalent to Aphrodite? I like it, I like it; everyone’s Beloved, why, the sacred whore. I like it, I like it. But all the same, it isn’t fully true.

The old country laborer, passing me in Alexandria, grinned and asked, "How much?" I gave him the finger, only afterwards realizing that the gesture might not transfer cross-culturally; perhaps he was thinking, "Only one pound? Wallahi, what a deal!" But what’s to be done? Many pretty girls in Cairo wear sparkly veils that only half-hide their hair. Most of my boyfriends prefer to wear a veil of words: each syllable glittering, like mirrored tesserae. Sometimes you see yourself in them, and sometimes you see the whole design. Sometimes you see both at once, but that’s a rarity, much to be cherished, like simultaneous orgasm.

The first question I got at my interview for the Cornell professorship was, "How does your work engage with Edward Saïd?" In Luxor I was looking for a birthday present for my dad when I came upon a stuffed goldfish, modeled after the main character in Finding Nemo, which played Arabic pop songs when you pushed its stomach. Of course I bought it; as the man at the souvenir shop said when I tried to bargain down the price, "But it’s Nemo!"

Running along the Schuylkill River’s mirrored glass in spring, you pass numerous geese with half-grown babies. In a New Kingdom love poem from Papyrus Harris 500, migratory birds appear as images of the soul. A girl goes hunting for birds down by the river, and accidentally catches her own soul. As for me, I don’t want to make them angry; when they have young they are notoriously mean. The baby souls ripple the water, swimming carefully in line. Drops of flying water, each a tiny little magnifying glass-when I was a small child I thought I was the first person who had ever noticed the magnifying effect of water drops. Glittering river, mirror water, Zagar’s walls dissolved-well, good then, keep on at it, little fuzzy souls.


1Sep Tepy: "the first time" (Hieroglyphic Egyptian). In Egyptian religious texts, sep tepy refers particularly to the moment of the creation of the universe.
2Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890): British explorer, captain in the East India Company, and translator of various Arabic and Sanskrit texts, including the Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden of the Shaykh Nefzawi.
3A wine competition held in Paris in 1976, at which Californian wines swept all categories.

Caitie Barrett is a classical archaeologist and Egyptologist. Her poems have been published in Pressed Wafer Foldems, Can We Have Our Ball Back, Palimpsest, and The Gamut; she was also a finalist in the first annual Bow and Arrow Poetry Contest. She lives in Ithaca, NY and works as an Assistant Professor of Classics at Cornell University.

Advice from an Opossum

Noel Sloboda

Ignore your brothers and sisters
until you secure your place
in the pouch. Then grow up quickly.

Once you step out on your own,
devour everything in your path,
from acorns to carrion. Revel

in delicacies to be discovered
in garbage cans. Sleep all day.
Develop the wiry muscles

in your pink, prehensile tail:
seeing the world upside down
is sometimes inspiring. Scavenge

country roads, but beware
white lights cascading across
the blacktop. If they approach,

bare all fifty of your teeth.
If that fails to stop them, perform
an Elvis: bask in the glow

as you bloat and stiffen; secrete
a horrible smell; hold
perfectly still; and dream

of swallowing the moon.

Noel Sloboda is the author of the poetry collection Shell Games (sunnyoutside, 2008) as well
as the forthcoming Our Rarer Monsters.
He has also authored a book about Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. Sloboda
teaches at Penn State York and frequently works as a dramaturg for the
Harrisburg Shakespeare Company.

Tambourine

John David Muth

An open hand
Pops
The shallow drum,
While flocks
Of metal songbirds
Fly frightened
Into the sky.
John David Muth was born and raised in the central NJ
area and has been an academic advisor at Rutgers University for eleven years.
He started writing poetry in high school, a little over twenty years ago. Being
a great lover of music, especially classical, much of his poetry attempts to
describe the sounds that musical instruments make when they are playing.  He likes to give these playing instruments
animal or human behaviors.

Gardener

Katy Diana

A stony man
fiddled green
in the swallow’s fire.

As air slipsighed,
bent his knee nowhere
and flew.

Katy Diana is a poet and freelancer living in
Philadelphia. Her work has been published in
The Pennsylvania Gazette, Phlare, Mastodon
Dentist
, All Things Girl, Ursinus
Magazine,
and The Lantern.
She was the 2006 recipient of the Dolman Prize for Creative Writing and the
Fall 2004 winner of
The Lantern Poetry Prize while she
attended Ursinus College.  She currently works in medical publishing for
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins/Wolters Kluwer Health.