Bread, Milk

Jeanne Obbard

Picture beauty:
it’s not what you think,
but a day like this one:
round, tarnished

with the sadness
that just is.
Just is and no need to fix it.

Hard to accept,
how that isn’t cause for grief,

or reason to ignore dandelions
flourishing in a margin of sun
or fail to linger over
the existential plight
of clothespins on an empty line.

You may suspect at times
that this is all a shirt with three sleeves,
and contort yourself,
thinking there’s some obstacle between you and you.

The trick is just to wait
for life to spend you on the sly,
like a foreign penny
at the corner store
on something necessary.
Jeanne Obbard received a Leeway Award for Emerging Artists in 2001. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Anderbo, and the anthology Prompted.

Numbers: 1965

Kathleen Shaw

Castor Avenue was Jewish then
delis, yarmulkes,
old bearded men, two by two
arguing in Yiddish
bearing wrinkled gray suits
and soiled white shirts
to the cleaners where I worked
in my Catholic school uniform.
Wives in faded housedresses bore
pin-striped pants and cigar-scented
vests. And sometimes
forearms tattooed with
black numbers would slide
heavy woolen overcoats
across the formica counter, but
those numbers meant no more
to me than the tiny black numbers
on tags I pinned to their garments.
Kathleen Shaw grew up in Northeast Philly during the 1960s. For twenty years,
she has taught English at Montgomery County Community College in Pottstown.

The Poet on the Bus

Steve Burke

Cake-walking down the sidewalk, a zaftig young woman
witnessing to whatever lyric is surging through her headphones,
carrying her away beside Broad Street, its flow of sinfulness.
Music is a manifestation of something that can be believed in.
Revelation is something that’s hard to keep to yourself. She is filled.
Maybe she is singing, but I’ve been deafened by glass
and she blinded by early-morning ecstasy – her left hand raised
and pulled back, raised again, the fingers of that hand opening
then closing as if breathing, or as if stretched up to a closet shelf,
grasping for something unseen, something lost, something that
belongs to her.
Steve Burke lives in the Mt Airy section of the city with wife Giselle & daughter Mariah; has worked as a labor & delivery nurse for many years; has been wiriting poetry much longer than that; and has been published in PBQ, Schuykill Valley Journal, Apiary, Mad Poets Review.

Excerpt from Report from the road to eudamonia

Jacob A. Bennett

Postcard unto a sense of tribelessness

But nothing so stable as form-designated hue (especially which is no
hue at all) will account for the sudden ruddiness, china-blue and, a few
months each year, light-wheat-toast. Not to mention constellated with
the fat moles of my father’s side. And something of Albion in me, and
Westphalia, and a French monarch, and a Russian princess. There is
heritage to trace, per se, and leads from the fleshy part of the Michigan
mitten back East to where my mother’s people maybe actually thought
they’d discovered something New, and back again across the months
of the Atlantic, beyond the Channel deep into the Continent, to where
Caesar’s conquests once convinced bellicose and patriotic tribes to shake
hands and not hatchets. But the brittle tree I stenciled in Ms. Rae’s fourth-
grade class is diffuse, and describes not a uniform fondue but a stew of
only partially assimilated ante-states and when I am still I stand in the
middle of them all, no allegiance to speak of, no religion or tongue or
flag to bind me, a picture brought to focus by chance alignment of many
reckless stars and libidos.

Jacob A. Bennett lives and works in Philadelphia, where he teaches rhetoric, poetry, and literature. Links to CV, other poems, and various well-intentioned screeds published at: antigloss.wordpress.com

the neighbors, from Russia with love

Julia Perch

i.
i wasn’t allowed to go in their house.
but my mom let me play in the yard
with their daughter.
ii.
Anastasya was my age and once,
she snuck me in.
her basement looked like mine
but in reverse,
like some alternate universe,
fun-house mirror.
it was dingier though,
and smelled like mildew.
iii.
they had a cat named Stinky
who once
climbed up our magnolia tree.
my dad cajoled him down.
Stinky seemed unwilling to return
to his owners:
he squirmed in revolt as we handed him back
to our stern Russian neighbor.
i don’t remember what he looked like.
the neighbor man, that is.
the cat was a Calico.
iv.
the Russian neighbors had chickens, once.
they plodded around in a small gated area of their backyard.
and one day,
the Russian man hung up dead fish on the clothing line,
like soaking wet pillowcases.
v.
Ruth, the Jewish old woman next door,
knocked on their door and said,
"the chickens and the dead fish? we don’t do that here in America."
Julia Perch is an editorial assistant by day, writer by night, and a literary geek at all times. She earned her B.A. in English from Drexel University, and currently lives and works in West Philly.

Light Against the Dark of the Café Windows

Steve Burke

In the opposite corner – across the empty tables – is, I think,
Max, the young neighbor-man who when he was about two,
at our first block party after moving in, toddled away, and
was found at street’s end, where yellow tape kept traffic
from turning, by then-teenage Sherwood, dead six weeks after
arriving in Iraq, some five years past. Max is sitting on a bench
leaning over his laptop, maybe writing of why he ran away,
or of hearing adults recount it. Or maybe explaining why
Sherwood died. Explaining then deleting it. Behind the counter
barista Layney washes the evening cups and saucers in the steel sink;
night snug as the water on her forearms about this old brick station,
and no explanation, no explanation for anything at all.

Steve Burke lives in the Mt Airy section of the city with wife Giselle & daughter Mariah, has worked as a labor & delivery nurse for many years, has been writing poetry much longer than that, and has been published in PBQ, Schuykill Valley Journal, Apiary, Mad Poets Review.

Clip of Norm Snead Playing for the Philadelphia Eagles

Brian Heston

Dad, he truly was a bum, a defenses’ dream, a knock-kneed,
cockeyed excuse for a quarterback. Just as you said,

those occasions when we sat and talked-you just back
from a twelve hour shift at Jeffery and Manz, me getting

ready to go out and run the streets with punks up to
no good, searching for something, anything to make

the future necessary. Snead, the bane of your twenties,
mocking your unsinkable faith in the American Dream.

Fleet as cinder block in the pocket, crushed every time
he threw one of his ducks, always managing to get back

to his feet, eyes bugging and jersey bloodied, ready
to begin again. "If the poor bastard had ever played for

someone who cared, he’d probably had been a hall of
famer," you’d say. So how’d you do it? Five squawking kids,

another on the way, the 70s economy an oozing wound.
Days spent in oven heat, walking up and down Chestnut

and Walnut in one of your gaudy, almost out of style suits,
begging for work from big mahoffs sitting at high desks

with shiny nameplates, all those "yous’" and "ain’ts"
blaring from your bullhorn mouth. Week after week like

this: light and gas unpaid, meals of cornflakes and fried
baloney, winter stalking in the air. I remember none of it,

the baby you had to hold your ears against, screaming you
awake whenever you managed to sleep. Then there was

Snead, every Sunday, to batter your heart with his failure,
leaving you to sit alone nights in the kitchen when the house

had finally quieted, unshaven face buried in your hands,
wondering when life would grow tired of kicking your ass?

Brian Patrick Heston grew up in Philadelphia. He holds an MFA in fiction from George Mason University and an MFA in poetry from Rutgers University. His poems have won a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize and have been published in such places as West Branch, 5am, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Poet Lore. Presently he teaches writing and literature at Rowan University and the Community College of Philadelphia.

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.