Past the Days of Yes Y’allin’

Martin Wiley

It was 2 Live Crew, of course, that taught me

it was actually okay to like

Bruce Springsteen.

 

***

Fighting against the current on the way to

second period Biology, I felt a quick tug.  Pete had snagged

my arm but he shouldn’t have been there, everyone knew

he never missed History on the other side

of the school—yet there he was, waiting.

In his hand: a tape.

 

There was a power, once, in tapes.

 

Battered, worn, outer shell scratched, faded, yet the word

Megadeth remained, clear as day.  He held it out to me.  I preferred

not to be rude, to a friend.  But,

you know, Megadeth.

 

I wasn’t really looking to listen to regular death, so

this was a little much.

 

Yo, man,

you gotta hear this.

 

***

The right to be angry is the most American thing anyone can claim.

Everything else is born from that.  It is the very reason we want our guns

or speech protected.  More than

a flag, more than a song, this

is what brings us together, what makes us one.

 

Check the stage, I declare a new age

Get down for the Prophets of Rage.

 

***

Pete thrust that tape into my hands and

I could see those little tabs at the top

had been pierced, ruptured,

conquered.

 

What is it?

 

He only shook his head,

and just like that, he was gone.

 

Clear the way for the Prophets of Rage.

 

***

In the summer of 1990, three members of 2 Live Crew were pulled

off stage and arrested as they played at a sex club.

 

Officially, they were charged with obscenity for music performed at a sex club.

 

That may be the greatest sentence I will ever write.

 

***

When I finally got around to homework that evening, I threw Pete’s

tape on, figuring if I’m already doing algebra,

ain’t no tape gonna make it any worse.

 

No work got done that night.

 

It Takes A Nation Of Millions to hold us back.

 

The music was like bug repellant for parents, a screeching whine

that repeated, endlessly, effortlessly, the loop

was the meaning, the meaning was in the loop.  I mean, the album started

 

with a goddamn air-raid siren, a warning, a call

and response that flicked something buried

within cultural DNA.

 

It’s like that, I’m like Nat leave me the hell alone

If you don’t think I’m a brother—check the chromosomes.

 

***

It is an inconvenient truth

that free speech can be attacked on all sides, when a right-wing Florida DA

locked arms with a Democratic soon-to-be Vice President’s wife

 

to lock up some Black dudes

for singing about butts.  The surreality of

strange bedfellows goes both ways, however,

 

and in July 1990 2 Live Crew released Banned in the USA, notable

as the first album to come equipped

with a parental advisory sticker.

 

You have to understand, the title track

drove white people in Jersey fucking insane.

 

***

I played Pete’s tape, flipped it,

played it, the loop was the meaning,

 

the meaning was hidden in the loop.

 

(Stereo, stereo) describes my scenario.

 

***

You see, this was Bruce,

the Poet of the Parkway, the god whose words united

Wall Street commuters with Meadowlands tailgaters,

who traced a sacred lineage from Dylan all the way back

to Whitman, but better, more real

than either of them could hope to be.

A man of the people.

 

And we all knew which people.

 

My friends and I basked in the outrage of all those who

screamed their love for Jersey Jesus, and

shrieked their horror that some no talent Blacks

had taken sacred tracks

and turned them into some weird anti-American defense

of perversion.  Finally, we thought, the music of the people

 

who refused to hire us,

who labeled me Zebra or half-breed,

who didn’t bother to hide their disbelief when we aced math tests,

who assumed we cheated when we bested their kid’s SAT scores,

 

for once the music of the people

who hated everything about us

would be used to speak for us.

 

***

And then,

Kurt Loder, MTV News,

interrupting Yo! MTV Raps! to report on the controversy,

read a statement from

The Boss himself:

 

Anyone who doesn’t support

2 Live Crew’s use of “Born in the USA”

obviously never listened to

the lyrics of my song, anyway.

 

***

In those days, MTV still played music,

and when

the time allotted to hip hop was over,

they went straight to the video,

Bruce,

in concert,

 

Born in the USA.

 

And for the very first time,

 

my friends and I

actually listened.

Martin Wiley writes: “I was a long-time poet and spoken word artist, but for the past few years had labeled myself as a “recovering poet.” My seven year old daughter’s love of words has dragged me, mostly happily, off the wagon. After receiving my MFA from Rutgers-Camden, I remain in Philadelphia, teaching at community college, working as an activist, being a dad and husband, and finding time, when possible, to write.”

On Ecstasy

Alexander Long

I like hearing things before

I feel them and

the other way

around

 

The disconnect I guess                 the shadow

Listening             the scent

of Hendrix

 

The symphony of an oyster sluicing down

the throat

The hum of horseradish in its wake

 

And ounce after ounce of Grey Goose erupting

In the guts

like a rainbow

 

The scent of a rainbow is dampened wood

In August and August sounds

like crickets and frogs

 

Fucking their brains out and sex tastes

Like oysters                       the sea

 

Looks like laundry on the line

Just before a summer downpour

 

Giddy                    helpless               everywhere

 

I prefer the Walt Whitman to the Brooklyn

To leap from

but it makes no difference

 

I’ve just crushed a mosquito against my ear again

And its one-note song tastes

 

Of iron

 

I’ve been told dust is my destiny

 

Hurry up

I say

 

I couldn’t be happier


Alexander Long’s third book of poems, Still Life, won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize in 2011. He’s also published four chapbooks, the most recent being The Widening Spell (Q Avenue Press, 2016). Work appears & is forthcoming in AGNI, American Poetry Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Blackbird, Callaloo, From the Fishouse, Miramar, New Letters, Philadelphia Stories, & The Southern Review, among others.

Listening to Chet Baker

Ed Granger

Always a beat too cool for whatever

school the rhythm guys are swimming in

as if each bar hangs shimmering

like an ornament, tugs at some continuum

between the lips you purse to whittle

every eighth-note silhouette and your last

quicksilver fix as you ghost out

of your battered brass soul straight past

the gilded to the hammered-thin – fugitive

gift that stuns the metronome,

then reels us in.


Ed Granger lives and was raised in Lancaster County, where he consequently learned early the proper way to pass a buggy. He works for a healthcare non-profit and is a half-time dad. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Seminary Ridge Review, Loch Raven Review, The Delmarva Review, and other journals.

GRUNGE GREMLINS, AN E.P.

Joe Costal

Track 1.

I knew Kip Winger and Motley Crue were getting blow jobs

even though I didn’t know what blow jobs were.

When I first heard the phrase, I thought of hair dryers,

the robot helmet-looking chairs inside

my mom’s beauty parlor. Where the viejas called

MTV “mierda,” but I couldn’t get enough. Heavy

metal was my favorite, backstage footage in black

and white, so it had to be real. Rockers who

looked like girls surrounded by more girls.

Indistinguishable. Make-up from the neck up.

But the girl Girls. Girls big-boobed and Aqua Netted

blondes with toasted brown skin, lined up, hobbled like bruised

peaches in halter tops, raising rail thin,

downy haired arms in bangle bracelet

unison. Yelling Woooooo at the camera,

like it was all they knew how to say.

 

Track 2.

When Poison played live on Headbanger’s

Ball, one of these girls lifted her “Open

Up and Say Ahhh…” t-shirt, exposing white

breasts. Bounced awake my insides. The camera

caught it. Just a flash, but long enough.

Long enough to hum electric in my mind’s eye

buzzing red as the Coca-Cola light in our drug store’s window.

 

Track 3.

And I wanted to touch a boob.

I decided one night, sweaty under Batman bedspread.

I wanted to touch one so bad. Even though my Cuban

grandfather called me a “fag” when I couldn’t catch

a football while he was watching. I wanted to

touch a boob. But I couldn’t play

the recorder, let alone guitar. And I didn’t have

money to buy a puffy ruffled pirate shirt or

spandex. Nor the thigh width required for

tight leather pants. No hair to style up and out.

To tease. Mine was low and tight, combed over and

back with Abuelo’s long black comb, licked fresh and

unsheathed from his back pocket. When he was done

my hair resembled Batista’s gelled helmet, not the

curly chaos of Guevara’s guerrillas.

 

Track 4.

The 90s came to solve all our problems.

Those pansy ass glam bands. Fuck them

said 1992, ripping Jon Bon Jovi and

Warrant off my wall. Nevermind,

said 1992, in a ringer ree, naked baby cassette in hand,

throwing away Hysteria and all those used GNR Illusions.

Said 1992, “No one gives a fuck.” Not Nirvana,

nor Mudhoney nor Fugazi. Tool. And Pearl Jam pissed off

Ticketmaster and nobody wanted seals clubbed.

Or wars started. Or New Kids. Or videos.

And the cool girls wore overalls.

And Abuelo’s closet was filled with all the flannel

I needed. And I walked to high school washed in

pre-soaked Old Spice and Pall Malls. My thighs the perfect

width for denim.

 

Track 5.

That fall, Billy Mirabelli got a blow job in his bathroom

while we watched Gremlins on HBO.

His mother worked the dinner shift at Ground Round,

so his house was where that kind of shit went down.

Drugs. Sex. Billy went into the bathroom like a virgin,

came out like a prayer. Hoping to be a man.

I studied his gaze. He still looked like the rest of us,

except dazed. Not older, as I’d suspected,

from the way my brother talked about the girls

who stood on Boulevard East, their pink lipstick

and yellow teeth. Their frayed, waxy bodies a

parable. Their jeans ripped down an entire thigh.

Our girls only ripped at the knee. The

denim threads, taut, like Venetian blinds.

Wigwam socks rolled calf-high. Our girls wore

beige lipstick and never smiled. Never talked.

Always bored. Like the girl who blew Billy–

she didn’t say a word, looked straight ahead while

Phoebe Cates described her dead Santa dad,

his neck snapped in bottled-up chimney.

Crumpled forward in soot.

 

Track 6.

I stared at the blowjob girl in spite of myself.

Though I knew enough to try not to. Her cheeks shiny

as fruit skin, reflecting the dancing yellows and

blacks of the movie. The gremlin death cries. The water

and bright lights. The eating after midnight.

Something in Billy’s eyes told me not to envy him,

his new blowjob life. Not to trust the other boys

when they clapped him on the back

raising rail-thin, downy-haired arms

in high-five unison, yelling Woooooo

at each other, like it was all they knew how to say.

 


Joe Costal begins listening to Christmas music right after Halloween, but not one second earlier. His writing has most recently appeared in The Maine Review, Ponder Review and Pif Magazine. His poetry will appear in the forthcoming anthology Challenges for the Delusional Part 2 by Diode Editions. Joe is an Assistant Editor at Barrelhouse. He writes and podcasts about books, music and movies for Quirk Publishers in Philadelphia and Jersey Ghouls. Joe teaches writing at Stockton University at the Jersey Shore, where he lives with his four children. His writing has earned awards and distinction from Grub Street, Painted Bride, Rider University’s Hispanic Writers Workshop & Wesleyan University.

Girard Avenue

Valerie Fox

 

Say you’re twenty-one and throw a party where you are house-sitting, a big row-house in a once opulent neighborhood, and you’ve danced with him, Russell, who is twenty-nine, and when he tries to get into your pants you let him, and say you never hear the stories about how Russell is really into girls your age, a lot of them, as told by Jimmy, who your close friend dated briefly to escape her abortion-guy, and well, say you go with Russell to Chicago, and get used to the temperatures, so when your older sister gets married and moves out there the two of you stay close, like when you shared a room growing up, and she let you listen to Abbey Road over and over, and have the top bunk, and a little later she sent you out to find out about birth control when you needed it, at some point, and then in Chicago, Russell’s oil paint smell and fluid, army-brat-Texan accent wears off on you, and his diamondo-pattern dada-vests, and, let’s face it, his luck, and in the summer, say you and your sister, who’s pining for a change of her own, go to Italy for a whole month, which feels new, beginning to end, keeping the window box begonias alive, cutting off your parents, drinking chianti, and both of you can see and hear ghosts, but only the ones whose stories ring true, and you name your daughter Penny Lane


Valerie Fox writes: “My recent chapbook, Insomniatic [poems], was published by PS Books. Previously I published The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and The Glass Book (Texture Press). I have published work in Painted Bride Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Ping Pong, Hanging Loose, Apiary, Juked, Cordite Poetry Review, qarrtsiluni, Sentence and other journals. I live in central New Jersey and teach at Drexel University.”

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Marjorie Maddox

Yeah, not just fingers, but hands,
shoulders, torso, limbs, Good Golly,

Miss Molly, everything swings up and over
the ivories, blasting away the past

with the lit stick of boogie-woogie
and blues rolled up in rock that explodes

from his lipsticked lips crackling with
Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Tutti Frutti

like they own the joint,
‘cause they do. Nah, nothing

little ‘bout his lungs wailing
Long Tall Sally, nothing

little ‘bout that pompadoured dude
blowing the lid off the fifties.


Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry including Wives’ Tales (Seven Kitchens Press), True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist), Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize),  and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award). In addition, Marjorie is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (PSU Press 2005), the author of four children’s books, and Inside Out: Poems on Writing Poems. Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, PA. For more information and reviews, please see www.marjoriemaddox.com

 

Hospice

Joseph A. Cilluffo

My son says the garden is dying.

Every August, it’s the same.

The cucumbers, which had clambered

so fiercely up the lattice

and across half our garden square,

begin to yellow and wilt.

The peppers brown.  They soften.

Tomatoes explode across their vines, manic –

they bear more fruit than the days can hold.

Look there, I tell him, see that space?

Next year’s garden is already growing.

Seeds are in the ground,

gift of the fallen.

We could do nothing

and, by June, there would be more tomatoes.

 

He sees, I am certain, in only two dimensions

– what is before him, and what he remembers.

We could do nothing.  Nearby, my mother

dies in slow motion, surrounded

by four walls, a window

she doesn’t look through,

cut flowers.  All her words

from these last, long months

wouldn’t bend a blade of grass.

We could do

nothing.  My son and I

uproot the cucumber plants,

the peppers.  I wish I were strong.

Eyes will open to the green and new.

I try to picture

the garden to come.


Joseph Cilluffo has had over 100 poems published. In addition to Philadelphia Stories, his poems have appeared in journals such as The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Apiary, and Philadelphia Poets. He was the Featured Poet for the Fall 2014 Edition of the SVJ, which nominated his poem, “Light”, for the Pushcart Prize. Joe’s first book of poetry, Always in the Wrong Season, was recently published by Kelsay Books and is available on Amazon.com.

Harmonica Rescue

Joe Samuel Starnes

If you find yourself at the bar alone

Sitting late for a quick beer

Before catching the train home

Surrounded by transparent young people,

Good-looking, but simple,

Half staring at their phones,

Half talking to each other,

Ignoring the aged drinkers, most stoned,

All unaware the digital impostor of a jukebox

Is silent, the TV turned down,

The incessant babble of the infantile

Like a rainstorm, the room’s only sound,

Play the Stones’ “Midnight Rambler,”

Live version. One dollar never goes farther.


Joe Samuel Starnes is a native southerner who has lived in the Philadelphia area for eleven years—five in Fishtown and the last six in Haddon Township, New Jersey. His novels are Red Dirt (2015); Fall Line (2011); and Calling (2005). He also has published poetry, short stories, essays, and journalism in publications as varied as the New York Times and the blogazine Fried Chicken and Coffee. His website is www.joesamuelstarnes.com

 

 

 

 

The Flemish Captain

Gwen Wille

So some of his friends made

it out for his last, weathered

 

the late March rain, thin and soaking

as wave crests on a prow. Better

 

to have scattered him off

of Newfoundland, says one. Another,

 

He hated Scottish pipes. But again,

it was the best his widow could do:

 

Cape May, near the lighthouse, near

where the cold water smacks the sand

 

and froths mightily, exaggeratedly. And we

two onlookers sit perched beneath

 

a frayed umbrella on the beach, still

warm from breakfast and soon to set

 

out shelling, imagine him thus: bookish

more than bawdy, but grown full of tales.

 

Even the conchs we find later, blue-bleached

ocean bones strewn in halves and quarters,

 

know no better.

 


Gwen Wille lives and works in West Chester, PA. She studied writing at the University of New Mexico. Her work has appeared in San Pedro River Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Crow Toes Quarterly, among others. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time in the woods with her son, husband, and high-spirited spaniel.

LONGING

Claire Scott

Years and years ago when I was six, and there were four of us kids always fighting, when my mother stayed in bed the entire year, bottles under blankets, orange vials on the floor, when us kids made bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches for supper, combed each other’s gritty hair in the morning, pulling and tugging, untangling knots of nightmares, although we skipped hair ribbons and barrettes, forgot to brush our teeth and wore wrinkled dresses to school with our only-one-pair-each scuffed brown shoes, before my mother was taken away, sirens splitting the night, before my father stayed home and made sodden pancakes, when my best friend Emily brought her new red patent leather shoes to school, I stole them from her locker.

Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light.


Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light.