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.”

Tree Removal

Nina Israel Zucker

The tree has no choice but to have its heart
exposed as I coax my mother to sleep.
Deep below ground insects call to each other
in perpetual darkness, this new life traded
for another, this useless chipped sawdust
collected in a pile while my mother
tears at her clothes, discards them in public.
Cowboys wrestle with the chainsaw, grinding
Included in the price for removal.
As if loneliness can be thrown in for nothing
as if the trunk is satisfied to be unable to grow
while I plant and cook and tuck her in.
But if she wakes, or thinks she does
she won’t be able to tell me the tree is gone
she only knows something alive is missing.
The blue and gray afternoon, the swamp maple
snapped in two in the middle of Lark Lane
the lights flashing at each corner to ward off
homeowners from turning too quickly onto
their street, loaves of bread or containers
of milk about to turn from the heat, perhaps
they think of the evening and what could
they say of the day, now that they can’t get home.

 

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Nina Israel Zucker is a poet and teacher. She has taught Creative Writing at Rowan University and has been a leader for the Spring/Fountain series offered to educators in New Jersey for 10 years. She also teaches Spanish for the Cherry Hill School District. Her work has appeared in US1 Worksheets, the anthology POETS AGAINST THE WAR, ed. Sam Hamill, the New York Times feature on the Dodge Poetry Festival and many other publications. She received her MFA from Columbia University.

Ghostmaking

Wolff Bowden

You can start anywhere, with anything.
The tap of your fingerprint on an
unsuspecting ant. The release of a rope
tied to a ship suddenly adrift. The ripping
of a weed from dirt and flinging it onto
the roof where its corpse will shrivel,
whoosh off in the wind. You can stop
calling a friend, without farewell or
explanation. Lean into, then away from
the delicious press of a kiss. Every breath
is one more breath you’ll never take again.
Every night with her. Every night with him.
Every moment, you should know this,
is another ghost in the making.
Maybe that’s why the leaves outside
my window, so brave, so green
are shaking. Wolff Bowden buys time to write by selling artwork and performing with his band, The Orphan Trains. After growing up in a Florida Swamp, he was named Artist of the Millennium by Artexpo Miami. His paintings hang in the collections of Billy Collins and Frank McCourt. His poetry has appeared in dozens of literary journals, including The Madison Review and Folio. He has published two books: Orphanage of Imagination (2002) & Heavyweight Champion of the Night (2008). Wolff’s poem “Into The Day of Saturn” was recently quoted in a horoscope by astrologer Rob Brezsny. Wolff lives in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. For more info, please visit: www.wolffantastic.com & www.theorphantrains.com.

Collision

Barbara Daniels

I myself see the car crash as a tremendous
                        sexual event really.
               J.G. Ballard 

 

I blame chance, that reprobate,
for my slide and spin and slow-motion
carom across both lanes. I’m lost
in an icy lot full of damaged cars,
mine among them, towed by a trucker

who had a tremendous day. At least
I’m not in love with my car. What hurts
is not that stubborn muscle the heart,
but only my ribs and back and foot,
a humble list of injuries. My witnesses

got on their cell phones to call police
who filled out forms in neat block letters.
If crashes are sexual, who has the fun? 
I think drivers who lived through today
are turning up music to induce sweet

amnesia. I clutch ruined cars as I slip
from one to the next, find my own
with one door working and papers
I need inside. Is this like after a funeral?
People go home to love and trouble,

quarts of gin, a woman kissing another
woman, a woman so drunk she can’t
stand up. Some must call friends and
tell their crash stories; some call strangers
and whisper into their quiet machines.

Barbara Daniels lives in Sicklerville and taught English at Camden County College from 1976 through 2008. Her book Rose Fever: Poems was published by WordTech Press. She received two Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and earned an MFA in poetry at Vermont College.