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.

Waiting for October 8th

Wilson Roberts

From my window in the forest
I look out at a canopy
so thick I need candles in the
day in order to read or write.

There is one hole in the dark leaves
through which I see beyond my world;
today a red tail hawk flew by,
a mouse struggling in its talons;

the day before, a murder of
crows, shiny black and loud, filled my
hole, and three days earlier a
jetliner. I found it in my

book of airplane silhouettes, an
Airbus 300A. In seats
eighteen A and B a couple
hold hands, speaking in soft low tones,

heading for St. Petersburg where
his mother is dying; twenty
six C, an old man nods and dreams.
All this I see from my book. Once

a year, on October 8th, the
sun shines through my hole, a bright beam
fills the room and hitting the prism
I carefully placed, breaks into

shards of jangling light. Within a
month autumn leaves will have fallen,
the open sky crossed by gray limbs
and their terrible ragged branches.

Soon they will have a shell of ice
and snow as hawks and planes fly by,
and crows sit watching, silent in
the early winter dusk. There will

be days when sunlight hits these trees,
loosening their frozen cover
which, thawing, will drip to the ground,
tears in the cold dead of the year.Wilson Roberts was born and raised in Newtown, Bucks County. His novels, The Cold Dark Heart of the World (2008), The Serpent and the Hummingbird (2009), and Incident on Tuckerman Court (2010) are published under the Fantastic Books imprint of Wilder Publications. His poetry and short fiction has appeared in a number of small journals. A certified mediator, he works primarily in small claims court and with a pilot program mediating between state agencies, the courts, and families whose children have been placed into foster care. His short fiction, "Against the Dying," appears in the current issue of the Massachusetts Review.

Atlantic City

Jean YeoJin Sung

Blues emerge from the Jersey shore’s
salty spray, spitting white froth on boardwalks
lit up from Atlantic City. I close my eyes to neon
glow and gamblers’ stumbles. When you died,
I could hear reverberations of the weeping
tears that Shah Jehan spilled at the absence of his lover,
howling out from a counterfeit Taj Mahal.
Lying under tattered covers as a child, I never knew how
the miles of weathered wood here would hold
reminders of all we could lose to the restless waters –
recurring spilt sorrow that dampens the cracked planks
we once trampled over.Jean YeoJin Sung was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Cherry Hill, NJ. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers University – Newark. She received her BA from NYU’s Gallatin School where she was awarded the Herbert J. Rubin Award for Poetry and her MPA from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. She has previously published in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Contrary Magazine, The 322 Review, and Salome. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Esopus Spitzenberg, 1927

Gwen Wille

By mid-October, there are so few from the old
yard left, those leaf-bright orbs, here yellow
and russet, wind-stroked but wormfree:
apples. Even the word is firm
on your tongue, tart, oversweet and old.

You’re hungry.

They go like this: one, for when you fell
out of the tree, every fruit loosen’d
from your grasp by the time you bent
over a broken wrist. You were
eight. No, younger. This fruit is cool
to the core; so good.

And oh, two: the day you saw the depth
of your father’s ache. He wouldn’t last
a year. Three for all the exams
you passed without having heeded
the lecture, and four for the baby’s
breath shed from your double breast

like all this world’s long, tired days,
every bough bent as a burrow. The fifth
is for the road. Weigh it in your palm, shroud
it with warm fingers; save it for a while. Think
on green-white flesh pocketed by seeds: dark
arsenic hearts naturally formed, and knowing.Gwen Wille lives and works in West Chester, PA. She studied writing at the University of New Mexico. Her work has appeared in Crow Toes Quarterly, Writers’ Bloc, previously in Philadelphia Stories, and others.