Early Rising on a Fall Morning

Grant Clauser

Frost is still a wonder
this October morning, an excuse
for suspicion—to think about age,
seasons replacing seasons in small stages
the way a book progresses a page at a time
until you’re in the middle of it,
letting the words into your body
like inhaling a deep winter breath
before you realize how cold
the world has become.
I wish it were that simple.
Watching things change and move on—
her small body, small puffs of breath on my arm.
My shoulders unwilling to unbind.
A corner of the yard greens and softens
as the sun rises.
Birds not yet ready to migrate
scour the warmed patch for insects.
I’ll chop wood today for winter,
thinking of warmer things
my hands clenched tight across the ax.Grant Clauser is a medical magazine editor near Philadelphia and freelance technology writer. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Hatfield, PA. Poems have appeared in various places including The Literary Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Wisconsin Review, The Maryland Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly and others plus a TV show about bass fishing. Read his blog at www.poetcore.com.

Slicing It Open

Dilruba Ahmed

I want a fruit that cleaves
               as cleanly as butter, and if
                               its barbed skin

grates my lips with an animal
               scratch, no matter.

Give me one with salmon-
              colored flesh
                             even if its nectars

mask its burrs
                and snares.

Is there no succor
                in the bite that
                               lodges inside,

in the sound
               of a device

that could
                cut me, slowly
                                whirring to life?

Dilruba Ahmed’s debut book of poems, Dhaka Dust (Graywolf, 2011), won the 2010 Bakeless Prize for poetry. Ahmed’s writing has appeared in Blackbird, Cream City Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, Drunken Boat, and Indivisible: Contemporary South Asian American Poetry. Web site: www.dilrubaahmed.com.

philada blues

Paul Siegell

pink nickel-Ziplocs
branded

“NEW LIFE”

litter the outskirts
of a high-

rise condo

construction site
dumpster

that’s been

tagged “DREAMS
GO HERE”

Paul Siegell is an editor at Painted Bride Quarterly and the author of three books of poetry: wild life rifle fire (Otoliths Books, 2010), jambandbootleg (A-Head Publishing, 2009) and Poemergency Room (Otoliths Books, 2008). More about Paul may be found at paulsiegell.blogspot.com.

Tying Flies for a Friend

Grant Clauser

The time isn’t anything of course,
or the hair plucked from a rabbit’s cheek,
feathers pulled from turkey wing, mallard neck.
Each thread pull, each twist,
tight against the steel hook
the barb surgically sharp like a threat,
the promise of a deep jaw set.
I haven’t seen you for years.
I hear your legs are gone,
the fight, gone too.
And yet I’m here at my desk,
tying flies and thinking of the moon
on the Bushkill, pale evening duns
lifting off the water like ghosts
while rainbow trout slipping in and out
of moonlight, gorge on velvet insects.
The water, cool against my hand
as I release the trout, one swish of the tail
and it’s part of the night again.
You laughing under the willows,
a pair of bats flying just above your head.
I twist a little bit of that night
into each set hackle, into the wings
cut from flight, into life.Grant Clauser is a medical magazine editor near Philadelphia and freelance technology writer. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Hatfield, PA. Poems have appeared in various places including The Literary Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Wisconsin Review, The Maryland Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly and others plus a TV show about bass fishing. Read his blog at www.poetcore.com.

The Solitary Canoeist

Grant Clauser

This red cliff above
Neshaminy, and a wind
left here by the fat
of winter —

only one hawk, talons
curled into the juice
of her breast, made light
in reflection by

the curved note
a solitary canoe cuts
like grief below. But how
this tawny mud, this olive snake

and rise of late March
shakes off another hour
by the bleat of geese?
Another reluctant passion

alone. And now far upstream
the red boat and tick
of spring follows winter
and this man down.

Grant Clauser is a medical magazine editor near Philadelphia and freelance technology writer. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Hatfield, PA. Poems have appeared in various places including The Literary Review, Schuylkill Valley Journal, The Wisconsin Review, The Maryland Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly and others plus a TV show about bass fishing.

The Gardener

William Hengst

Sometimes as he cuts back the spent blossoms
or lessens the height and girth of some shrub,
he sees himself cutting hair—handfuls.

Women’s hair, feathering, layering,
perhaps trimming snipping off split ends.
He becomes a sculptor, moves full circle

around the hair, preens and pats,
steps back to admire his work,
steps in to make strategic cuts.

The only gossip is that of blade and blossom
as he cuts away the frivolous chatter.
He prefers the silence of what is shorn.William Hengst is a long-time resident of Philadelphia who writes poetry and short stories and gardens professionally. Finishing Line Press recently published "Yard Man," a chapbook of his poems inspired by his gardening life.

A Supermarket in Pennsylvania

Kathryn Elisa Ionata

I saw my old psychiatrist at Trader Joe’s,
sampling organic hand lotion.
We last faced off

50 milligrams ago, when he talked
about stress, and I watched the clock’s hands
march, an army of gears ticking

like the rattle of pills. This 2-pill-day,
I gather dried fruit, herbs,
everything organic. My old shrink,

smaller and greyer, bags peppers
and free-range chicken
with his dark-haired wife.

Tense despite the lavender plant I hold,
my gaze flings to my love, the engineer,
weighing cranberries

versus apricots. He has seen me
through deflated 1-pill-days.
My old shrink has brown bags

happier than dopamine, and I want
to block his exit, show him my fruit bars
and engineer, whose perfect serotonin

levels mock health insurance. I am 8 years,
200 milligrams better. I buy only organic and
my lavender plant doesn’t talk back.

I see my shrink slip away, like an expired prescription—

We pay for the plant and dried cranberries,
which, I have told the engineer, taste best.

Kathryn Elisa Ionata is a student in the graduate creative writing program at Temple University. Her writing has appeared in Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Hyphen, NYTimes.com, and other publications. She was the sixth runner-up in the 2008 Bucks County Poet Laureate Contest. She lives in Doylestown, PA.

Trails

George Bishop

So she could cope with the guilt
she renamed the dog before taking it
to the pound—which got me thinking
about guilt and how I’ve shaken it
most of my life, lost it on one
of the false trails I fashioned.
It wasn’t easy being rescued
all those times, forgiving
the home in homeless
and naming the streets
just off the streets. I found
real self pity needs strong family
ties and accountability can only be
absorbed by something thick
and hidden like a wallet,
something heartless
like a heart. So, I told her
not to forgive herself
just as the dog didn’t
for soiling every living space
in the house. Guilt is part
of a good home, I said,
sometimes the only thing
that can pick up a scent.

George Bishop was raised on the Jersey Shore before moving to Florida in 1985. Recent work has appeared in Merge Review, White Pelican Review and The Griffin. His chapbook, Love Scenes, was released by Finishing Line Press in November 2009.

The Jetty

Morrow Dowdle

With a lowball of Jack and fading ice
In one hand, he took me my by the other,
And without shoes on our feet,
Two streets and one block’s sidewalk
Traversed to reach the shore that stretched

Left and right for what seemed
To me, at five, forever. 
Wading perhaps too tame for the happy hour
Burning in my father’s veins,
We stepped up to the first black rocks

Of the jetty, stepping stones for giants
Taking respite at the beach,
But more treacherous for simple humans,
Sides obsidian-slick, all at once coming
To rough points obscured by reflection.

We ventured out upon that pathway
Into the sea, the closest we would ever get
To walking on water,
My father trying to lead the way,
His unsteady steps making an irrational path,

His stride outmatching mine.
Without warning tipped the balance of tide,
And then the waves were upon us,
My father shouting retreat
Even as we began to fall, his glass

Swallowed up, returned sand unto sand. 
Miraculously sobered, he swept me up,
But looking down, I saw his shins
Had taken the brunt, jagged runs in the skin,
Red sluicing into the wet fibers of leg hair,
The first time I had ever seen my father bleed.

 Morrow Dowdle spent her childhood on the Jersey shore, in the tiny town of Spring Lake.  She graduated from The Medical University of SC with a Master’s in Physician Assistant studies and returned to her home state, where she works as a family medicine PA for McGuire Air Force Base.

Soldier

Harry Gieg

Charley, or Cholley, or Chol—
grew gardenias, raised kids and tropical fish,
and broke the knees and heads of grown men.
A soldier in a fitted
charcoal-grey wool topcoat and pearl grey felt hat,
with a wide band of black ribbon around the crown—
his shiny black Pony-ac Ventura made all three
of the city’s newspapers back in 1960 during the strike
(“but the assailants are still un-identified”).

Now Cholley’s seventy-two years old,
retired (more or less honorably dis-charged) and pensioned.    
He’s also cirrhotic, and diabetic,
and dying, too, of lung cancer—and mugged last night,
caught downtown, just off Broad
between Chestnut and Market, behind John Wanamaker’s
fifteen-story, block-long, block-wide, department store

             took my fuckin’ watch and wallet

his face, still, at once brutale, and placevolissimo,
his crooked and chipped-tooth smile and bright eyes,
his old ploy of raised eyebrows,
like a good-natured and confident kid’s
false show of helplessness

             an’ I couldn’t do nothin’ about it—
             three kids, callin’ me “pops”

his thinning hair, poker straight and lightly oiled,
combed straight back from a still-good hairline—
his large dark head, Sijjy, Sijli-ahn,    
Sicano (Sicilian), on a short, thick neck, Sicario (cut throat)

               —not a fuckin’ thing.

Harry Gieg grew up in North Philadelphia. He’ s published poetry in journals ranging from Pennsylvania Review to Jacaranda. Gieg is also a singer, starting in mid fifties with inner-city R&B vocal groups. Referring to his poetry, Gieg explains, “Mostly I’m still singing.”Harry Gieg grew up in North Philadelphia. He’ s published poetry in journals ranging from Pennsylvania Review to Jacaranda. Gieg is also a singer, starting in mid fifties with inner-city R&B vocal groups. Referring to his poetry, Gieg explains, “Mostly I’m still singing.”