Gifts That May Have Made a Difference

Robbin Farr

Molted feathers of parakeets
Green sea glass
One nettle
A moss-covered twig
Rain from the hollow of a rock
A ribbon woven of winter grass
The loon’s reflection
An oak leaf pressed into my palm
Hand-strung blue beads
An empty cicada shell
A capful of rust to tint my paints
Your apology
                  on the peeled bark of a birch

Robbin Farr is a resident of the Queen Village. After completing her MFA in creative writing, she discovered the bookbinding arts and mastered parallel parking. In addition, she teaches creative writing and American studies to high school students in Montgomery County.

The Bachelor

Luke Stromberg

We imagine him sexless — this wifeless,
childless man with his false teeth
and rumpled fedora; each article of clothing
a different species of plaid, as if he hailed
from a time before there were mirrors.
How easy it is to imagine the happy bachelor
on an afternoon walk, or alone
in his armchair, his ancient television
like a Rembrandt, everything surrounded by
encroaching darkness. He seems to have never been
young. One hears of years spent
caring for his sick mother, while his sisters
married, raised families — his own life
a mere sub-plot in their on-going stories.
And most accept this image
because it is easy, because it frightens
no one. Few care
to know what his life was
really like, what he most regrets
in that long, gray hour when the day
bleeds through the night.

Forgive me if I imagine him young
in bed with a woman, also young.
It’s Sunday morning. He doesn’t feel guilty
that he’s not at Mass. Her face is turned
toward him, her cheek against her pillow,
the strap of her nightgown off her shoulder,
a softness in her eyes that says she knows him.
This is what his life had to offer.
This is his story, the one
he will tell himself over and over.
Who else will remember it?
The way the light shone behind
the blinds, the way they had no money
and bickered all the time, the way
he loved her.

Luke Stromberg received both his BA and MA in English at West Chester University. In 2008, his poem “Black Thunder” was set to music by composer Melissa Dunphy and performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA. He was also recently featured in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about promising young poets in the Philadelphia area. Luke lives in Upper Darby, PA.

The Floy Floy

Dorothy DiRienzi

                  It’s a shame you never saw Atlantic City when it had floy floy.
                                                  Burt Lancaster, “Atlantic City,” 1981

Boardwalk said Possible
             said Here 

Walked from the Inlet to Texas Ave
Salt air sand and waves thumping
barkers chanting rhyme
of Win rhyme of Easy easy
you can do it show the lady a good time
sweetheart I’m your man
let me show you how easy it is for a nickel
for a dime

Short hair pinned with a flower
sixteen and Oh my sailor girl let’s go
sailing but no time to stop
I’ve got to walk to move to
get past the storefront where Madame Xerxes
reads your fingertips mine burning
stinging in the surf           past the place
with the girl in the iron lung talk to her
for a dime dead-eyed parents
at the curtain

The diving horse drowned

              Things happen here
              You can smell it on the air

In the morning salt light                blacktop
shimmering across the parking lot
I watch a bartender
at the back door of a club
his shirt wide open shoes untied he
clutches the barmaid kisses her

I can taste it

 

 

Dorothy DiRienzi has published in Friends Journal, Poetry Midwest, The Mid-America Poetry Review, Passager, MO:Writings from the River, and more. She was a runner-up at the Tucson Poetry Festival, 2005, 2010 and a semifinalist for Black Lawrence Press poetry prize, 2008. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and previously worked as an editor and indexer of medical publishing titles in Philadelphia, PA for 38 years.

Unfinished Daughter, III

Janice Wilson Stridick

You sharpened your pencils
when I agreed to sit, produced

a careful record: broken woman
still young, but childless.

The collar a simple circle
leash-like, yoke-like

draws no attention from the face—
pupils like currants or seeds

shadows track time
under eyes, above lips

nostrils no longer perked
the stare distant, wistful—

you would say sadder but wiser
I would say—determined.
I would say betrayed.

Janice Wilson Stridick’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing, Milk Money, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Studio One, The View in Winter, and various anthologies. Her book and art reviews have appeared in NY Arts Magazine, Philadelphia Stories and Cape May Star And Wave. She has an MFA from Vermont College and lives in Merchantville, NJ.

Indian Creek

Robin Rosen Chang

We explored the creek that
meandered through our yards
as if we had discovered it
ourselves, wandering along its bed,
navigating its twists and turns
until we learned where its water
moved fastest, where it trickled,
where its stones jutted out,
forming steps for us to cross
from one side to the other,
and when we knew it perfectly,
we rolled our pants, tossed
our dirty socks and worn sneakers
and waded through it,
lifting rocks to catch crayfish
and scooping up salamanders
shrouded in the cool mud.

In winters, we stomped along
its frozen gray surface like giants,
cracking the ice with our heavy steps,
or slid clumsily on the thicker
patches behind the McCabe’s house.
One day, you fell through,
shattering it, and when you got up,
tears streaming down
your chubby child cheeks,
you turned to me,
exclaiming it was my fault,
that a true friend wouldn’t
just stand by, so to ease your pain,
I lay in the frigid creek,
in the exact spot where you had fallen.Robin Rosen Chang, a native of Philadelphia and a former graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, lived in many places before settling in New Jersey ten years ago. She is an adjunct professor of English as a Second Language at Kean University. Her work has appeared in the NaPoWriMo online poetry anthology and A Handful of Stones literary blogzine, and is forthcoming in The Stillwater Review.

April 19 2010

Jacob Russell

Spring chill at dusk
taillights
tell

in red
blue satin evening arrives

how many will be lost
reaping secrets from stars

the streets will keep faith through the night —
their incessant
conversation

let others sleep

Jacob Russell says, “I live and write & walk the streets of South Philly with my Spirit Stick.” His work has appeared in decomP, Criiphoria 2, Conversational Magazine, Connotations, and more. Read more on his blog, jacobrussellsbarkingdog.blogspot.com

Dreaming, I Was Complicit

Liz Chang

You stood over
my shoulder, goading
me, one hand cupped
on my waist, as I
decided who would die

with each new shoebox
opened, some clue
to their identities inside.
A bird’s nest, ashes,
small keys the size
and crouch of regurgitated
mouse skeletons.
What ordinary objects
stood for whole lives.

The last box was fit
for children’s shoes,
with a purple, incidental
print on the outside.
I opened the top,
relieved to find
my grandmother’s
autumn-colored flats.

Somewhere,
she must be shuffling
barefoot inside
her fading isolation,
searching for an end.

Liz Chang published her first book of poetry Provenance with Book-Arts Press. Her work has been included in several anthologies and literary magazines. She received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches English at a few area community colleges. She translates French and Spanish and lives with her boyfriend and their two cats en les environs of Philadelphia.

Aixma; Or,

Toby Altman

7) Imagine a world in which death was not a form of absence, but
heightened, excruciating presence—

“The dead are massed beneath the earth. They penetrate it, and bind it
together. They are motionless, overflowing with light: sometimes at night,
where the earth has been worn thin, you can see them—like lights in the
window of a distant house.”

(“And we are bound to them, the way branches are bound to a tree.”)

(8) Imagine the following ritual. When the dead man has been laid out for
three days, the local magician comes to his house and blows a tape-worm
in his ear. (“Months and months, I waited for someone to die, nursing the
worm, holding it in my mouth.”)

This worm would be a parasite of light: as it winds its way through the
dead man’s body, it turns his organs to undivided light, so that for five or
six days he is lit from within, like a window with the shade pulled down.
And then, gradually, he goes dark. When he is all dark, through and
through, the family buries him behind their house.

(9) Or—just after a man dies, his wife brings in a bowl of water. (“On the
day he died, I saw the old woman, dressed all in white, dipping her bowl
in the river, and pouring it out again—it was almost an hour before she
found the right water.”) The bowl is set out next to the body and
attended at all times by a mourner. When the water has all evaporated,
and the bowl is dry, the family buries it behind their house.

Toby Altman is this and that: a poet with some little publications and some little awards: the usual. Born, Chicago: 1988. Lives, Well. Mostly in Philadelphia. These poems are drawn from a longer series of prose poems, “Asides.”

This Silence

Toby Altman

(1) Provisions for a journey into the unsaid: 1: anchor. 1: seal of the empire.
1: ink-blotter. 1: a california tiger lily. 1: terrence in his sister’s Sunday dress.
1: tin of salt. 1: tin of sardines. a good deal of: absence.

(2) Imagine a world where the Bible did not read, ‘Let there be light,’ but
‘Suppose there is light.’ Plowing a field, painting a water-color, sitting on the
porch to read at dusk; each would be as tender as grace and just as fleet-
ing, like talking with a relative who might die any day.

(3) I said, “Aixma if you could have any horse, what horse would you
keep?” And she said, “I don’t want nothing fancy. Just give me an old plow
horse, so I can teach my girls to sit in the saddle and handle the reins.” I
could see behind her the first streaks of morning, the sky, drunk with yester-
day’s rain. We were silent a while. And I said, “Aixma, it is time to rise and
tend our house. Today your sister will be buried.”

(4) I went down to the river, just before dawn. The new dead, their faces
painted white and their bodies still naked and clean, were laid out in rows,
the men-folk with the men, and the women with the women.

And I saw Aixma’s sister, Isa. Her hair was back behind her ears, her face
so pale and small, I thought I might swallow it in the palm of my hand. She
had a scrap of paper, an old prayer, in her pocket: “Rise now, and walk
into the light.

(5) At dawn, the waters split. And Charon rose from the breach, robed all
in music. He was as tall as my hand and just as fat, but his voice was like a
carnival barker’s: silence fled before him, beaten at every point.

(6) “I showed him the seal of the empire; all my store of salt; even the
absence I kept, just in case, in my sack. But he was not impressed. “From
here, Lady,” he said, “We journey out into the unsaid.” And she said,
“Goodbye John! Goodbye Mary! Goodbye Grace! Goodbye Canalou!
Goodbye sleep! Goodbye light! Goodbye juniper! Goodbye lightning-bug!
Goodbye meadowlark!” And when I turned to go home for breakfast she
was still counting off her goodbyes.”

Toby Altman is this and that: a poet with some little publications and some little awards: the usual. Born, Chicago: 1988. Lives, Well. Mostly in Philadelphia. These poems are drawn from a longer series of prose poems, “Asides.”

Specialists

Davy Preston Knittle

for Steve Powers

This fish shop is under your house. At your bedroom level, the Market local lines a map up its subordinate corridor. We have our firsts over take-out flounder on the platform; I saw you from the traffic island. We both live even with the train, on fourth floors a block apart, our initial degree of specialization.

From my cave, I drop down for a shape up, a shave, hot towel or towers of flats of white fish fried, fishermen cry if lemon eyed, sharks don’t sleep and I don’t either, looking up to where you’re flush with the elevated at your crab meat peak, packing pucks for a stepper who can smell it down the hill.

My kitchen’s got a clean reach on the island of the line. Watching for the break in the train waves, your touch on the doors and you’re out into the air caked in my lamb patties that I’m packing into balls of calm.

Camped in my coffee colossus, I’m baiting my kefta breath for the smile from the platform you’ll give me if you cut that neck scentways — the grin that spills squint eye in to deliver my milk-to-blame straight to my door.

There’ve been enough bees in my knee-deep honey to bust the sting in my step. If I’m slung into my sheets as a singular shepherd of share, if I’m digging in dulces to foot what logs on the clock before our talk time, then fry me a flat to cut the shake of the sugar down to level.

You’ve held the huck of my helipad long enough to get my chopper coptered, papered my filets and planed them into grade-A gliders on the meatstream — a sure flight in the air you can see to smell in — if I’m folded into hovercraft, I’ll land by for standing: king of the August model of the top step before your 4R, red to my temples to ring for you — open the door: holler! holler, and hear my heart beat.

Davy Preston Knittle is a senior at Wesleyan University. His work has appeared in Natural Bridge, The Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, and the Mad Poets Review. He was raised in Philadelphia.