Water, Communion

Alexandra Gold

“My mother is a fish”

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

She’d anoint the dock with blood
And baptize the gills to save my
White mouth from swallowing
Insolent sea religion.

Blame the fisherman for biting
Silence and sanity and sin and
The worm-bait that begged her
Green algae kisses.

Marry the midwife that birthed
The last tide change and she’d
Steal the ebbing burden of
Quiet pressing waves.

My mother is a fish
And when the weight of scales
Scraped my eye like a hook,
Did you ever doubt she’d fight
To consecrate my water-grave?

Originally from Jupiter, Florida, Alexandra Gold has been living in Philadelphia for three years as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences double majoring in English with a Creative Writing/Poetry Emphasis and Political Science.

At The Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities

Eileen Moeller

It’s a miracle we survive at all,
I say, as we walk the cases,
wincing at a colon as big as a stove pipe,
scowling at ribs deformed
by corsets, and spines collapsed
into little broken heaps, the horns
and warts and tumors
jutting out of waxen faces,
carbuncles and gouty toes,
a lady whose fat has turned her into soap.

But my brother, being a man, jokes on.
He sees a petrified penis and gasps,
I’ll never look at beef jerky the same way again,
as I giggle and cringe.

Until a whole wall of bloodless
babies in jars breaks over us like a wave,
all stages of fetal development,
followed by the terrible web of maladies;
so many damaged dolls,
each one a lesson in fragility.

He points to the anencephalic ones,
saying they look like trolls,
but then a lonely floater
in its little sea of tears
sends him into silence,
for we could be at the grave
of the little ghost he’s been
tethered to for seventeen years:
his first girl, all tangled in her cord,
born still and cold as snow.
I can’t bring myself
to tell him about the tiny
pearl of a zygote my heart tows.

Eileen Moeller has an M.A. in Poetry from Syracuse University, and many years experience as a Storyteller. Her poems have appeared in The Paterson Literary Review, Feminist Studies, Icarus Rising, Writing Women, and more. She judged the 2004 Milton Dorfman Poetry Contest, and the 2005/2006 Syracuse Association of American Penwomen contests Her work Body In Transit, is online at skinnycatdesign.co.uk/eileen/.

Yonatan’s First Time in Snow

Matt Sutin

bare feet in the grass, white tee-shirt, 

palms up, gathering what fell to earth.

Everybody wanted to see him, see like him,

something for the first time.

 

Then came the collective

to establish Rule by New.

Rachel drove to the shore in a new car

listening to the Muppets’ Greatest Hits.

James took up T’ai Chi and karate 

until he broke his fist on a sewer pipe.

Emily pledged a sorority, put pictures

of 80 new friends on her wall.

Sam drank Maddog

vomited fluorescent green

then picked up smoking.

 

After the snow Yonatan became

quite alone, old news as everybody was addicted to Newness.

After graduation he spied for the Mossad.

Word on the internet is that he’s now a ranger

somewhere in Arizona, investing and

earning $500.00 per hour for tantric massage.

 

For the others, The New became passe while

The gods of ordered lives awoke from hibernation.

In the spring they all graduated marrying one another on the same day.

Their kids were all born within a few weeks of each other.

When the kids were adolescents, they fell to a disorder

whose victims think only in rubber ducky ideas.  

 

Squeak squeak. Squeak squeak.

Matt Sutin teaches English at Interboro High School and coaches wrestling just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been published in Iconoclast, Spokenwar.com, Grogger.org, and has been a featured reader at Heebs in the House, and the Mid Atlantic Poetry Festival. His poetry is also featured in Lines of Sight, a permanent art instillation at Brown University.

Lamplight

Michael Castle

Wait. It was late winter and Orion lay close to the horizon, 

dim over the pine forest to the east. I put out

my cigarette on the wall and went in.

 

I would have called my daughter

from the payphone in the corner,

just to check on her,

but I didn’t have a daughter,

or even a wife. I went to the bathroom

and threw up three times.

 

That was the end of several things.

 

It was too cold to walk home.

Light stuttered in my glass,

my hands trembled:

fireflies ready to shatter,

to fill the bar with their dust.

The bartender watched me silently.

Maybe, if there was something to take comfort in,

I could remember.

 

But day came through the pines a blue haze,

edged a road pockmarked with doubt

and doggedly straight.

 

So I went home.

And spent hours turning through phonebooks,

names smeared black

on fingertips, a straight road, a chasing.

 

If there was something to take comfort in,

maybe I could remember more than just motion,

two bicycles circling a cul-de-sac,

kicking up leaves, gray sky, blind houses, circling.

 

Wait. There was a night. If I had a daughter I would have.

I would have. Maybe I could remember.

A cold bar, glass dust

in lamplight, no,

no, a circle of constellations,

filled with names, unwinding.

Michael Castle received a BA in English (emphasis in creative writing) and a BA in Neuroscience at Kenyon College. Shortly afterwards, in 2006, he moved to West Philadelphia, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.

Landscape

Michael Castle

When I was fourteen Pennsylvania rained ice for three days. 

 

Trees collapsed one by one

outside my window, until only a single pine

swayed unsteady in the frost.

 

Years later and alone, it leans toward the interstate

and a warm, foreign evening.

 

Through the open door television light scatters

baseball across the empty lawn; two voices speak calmly

and without pause, the dry mumble of summer.

 

A crow circles

over the slant of the roof,

revolving gently

in the uncertain night.

 

The voices stop with a click and a rush,

and my brother steps out of the house, a beer in his hand,

shoes scratching in the dirt next to me.

“Rain delay,” he says without turning,

and sits down on the stoop.

 

A faint shout from the direction of town

shivers in the air, something almost imagined.

 

Searching, the crow perches on a branch,

shaking itself sharply in the wind,

a single thought coming alive in its mind

and disintegrating slowly.          

 

We find out about things too late, usually.

Somewhere far away

it must be raining.

The long gray of the clouds explains:

a distant pause, unsteady.

Michael Castle received a BA in English (emphasis in creative writing) and a BA in Neuroscience at Kenyon College. Shortly afterwards, in 2006, he moved to West Philadelphia, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.

Buck in Bucks County Pennsylvania

Juilene Osborne-McKnight

Out of the last green field he lumbers,
his rack too heavy for his head,
a point for each apostle.
Atop his fragile skull he bears an oak:
grove where our ancestors worshipped
when this was deep and forest green.
He turns toward me as he leaps the road;
three atavisms here  –
suburban buck,
unhoused field,
me.  Amid these fiery trees,
such small, uncivilized potencies.
Juilene Osborne-McKnight is the author of four Irish historical novels: I Am of Irelaunde, Daughter of Ireland, Bright Sword of Ireland, Song of Ireland. She is Assistant Professor of Humanities at DeSales University, where she teaches creative writing and Irish lit and coordinates the DiScoUrse Creative Writing program and the Irish Study Abroad program.

Crime Scene

Noel Sloboda

You read disclosure does
    couples good, so we listed

all our previous loves—
    the number wasn’t bad:

a mere dozen
    old flames smothered

beneath our tangled sheets,
    leaving room and

heat enough for us—
    but as we started to seal

a promise for the future,
    a compact on forgetting,

you squealed—and I rubbed
    your thigh even harder,

tried to wipe away all
    the fingerprints

I saw swirling there.  

Noel Sloboda lives in Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Penn State York and serves as dramaturg for the Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival. He is the author of the poetry collection Shell Games (sunnyoutside, 2008).

Taking Down the South Street Bridge

Beth Feldman-Brandt

Our faith rested
on its arched spine
that rippled with
each footfall
dissipated the tension
held tight as a loaded spring.

Now its decks are shuffled
onto waiting barges
its struts revealed
as rusted lace
no longer worthy
of our trust.

The bridge retreats
to the edges of the city
even as the river swells
with snowmelt
that flows across
the intentional rubble.

Navigating under
the wide winter sky,
we look east,
step onto the
flat ice stones
and cross over.

We are used to finding
our way among ruins.

Beth Feldman Brandt works in the arts in Philadelphia where she finds plenty of Philadelphia stories.

Crystal Ball

JoAnn Balingit

on a son’s 13th birthday

 

Before my daughters I hold an ornament,

a clear plum on my open palm and cold—

though light breaks through its bubble shell

 

so that we see inside the sphere another

half its size, and inside that one, two or three

more cells glisten and divide.

                                                Your brother must

 

have gone over twenty-nine miles per hour,

I tell his sisters.  He wouldn’t ever do that! they rejoin.

Then how, I beg to know, could droplets form

 

alive inside this glass? Only when a child has gone

too fast. . .Wasn’t the limit

twenty-nine miles per hour? 

                                                In our muteness

 

the ornament darkens, beckons: Wait for word.

Horse clouds lower their flat-iron heads,

sweep the field with shadows where we stand.

JoAnn Balingit’s poems have appeared in DIAGRAM, Salt Hill, Smartish Pace, and Best New Poets 2007. Her chapbook, Your Heart and How it Works, is forthcoming from Spire Press. She was appointed Delaware’s poet laureate in May 2008: http://www.artsdel.org/services/poetlaureate.shtml. She lives in Newark.

Breech

Kate Delany

since it was halloween anyway,
they carved a big jack-o-lantern grin
just above my pubic bone
and from inside that sinister smile
they scooped you out, pumpkin seeds and all.

i’d asked you to turn for months
towards the light, towards the exit sign,
towards that nice warm spot in me,
breeching seeming not just a position
but a breach in our contract
that you’d enter the world
not just loiter there, umbilical cord
looped around your neck
like a condemned man at the gallows
waiting for someone to kick the stool away.

in the end, they removed you
like tonsils, a lump of appendix, something
you get ice cream and mylar balloons for as a kid.     
as I lay on the gurney,  enough light above me
to bleach my bones, the nurses looked on,
and the residents, and the med students
and I don’t know, maybe popcorn was passed around.
I couldn’t see from behind the screen
where they carved me up like a big fat dinner carcass,
chirping away with their happy questions– “what’s the name?” and
“what would it have been if it had been a boy?”

it wasn’t till they held you over me,
a dangling cloud of blood,
my arms splayed out and strapped down that way,
Jesus on the cross style, that I realized for the first time
you weren’t something heavy I’d eaten for lunch,
a bowling ball implanted in a dream.
You were mine.
then they gave you to your father
and they wheeled me away.Kate Delany’s publications include a book of poetry, Reading Darwin, published by Poets Corner Press. Her poetry and fiction has most recently appeared in Art Times, Sotto Voce and Chicken Pinata. She lives in Collingswood, NJ with her husband Seth, daughter Samara, and cats Esmeralda and Emile Zola.