The Fig Tree

Nina Israel Zucker

The fig tree has fallen in love with the place in the yard
that separates neighbor from neighbor. I didn’t ask permission

to plant that stick of wood between the two houses. It seemed small
and innocent, a foot of broken branch with the only life visible

in the veins of a small white root poking from one end.
What did I know of the soil and its minerals, only that I could scoop it

with one hand like cake, and drop the branch into a small warm hole,
pat the sides upright, and go on with my laundry.

And here it is now, eight feet tall and wide enough to hide me, full
of a ruby-centered fruit, tentacles of crystals, green rocks dripping

with white liquid. If I am too late the head gets so heavy that birds
call to me to pick up the over ripened broken flesh. I carry the warm

tear drops into the house and place them on the table. Here is my still
life, lush and desired. The neighbor has no idea.

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 by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.  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.

Burned

Gabriel Shanks

A course of action: to not
think about that. Instead, find
a recipe, one that calls for
flour, salt, wounds, and
tiny daggers.

In a mixing bowl, sift until
snowfall covers the sinkhole
entirely, in bitter perfection.
While it bakes, catch your breath.
Think of swampland.

Wait an hour, silently; when
the sunken submersible of
dignity rises from the deep,
stick a pin in it. Inhale heat
and its flavors.

While waiting, sponge and scrub
countertops. They won’t be
clean, but good enough. Place
in the window to cool. Eat
with your hands.

Gabriel Shanks lives and works in the New York City area. An award-winning poet, playwright and stage director, he was one of the creators of The Village Fragments, which received a 2007 OBIE Award. His poetry has been published in From Now On, Spark, Chopin With Cherries (2010) and elsewhere; theatrical recognitions include the Maxim Mazumdar New Play Award, the Southern Young Playwrights Award and the Theatre Project Honor for Outstanding Vision. He was recently named a "New Arts Leader" by the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

A Friend, Post-Treatment

Ben-David Seligman

The problem is that
I can’t tell him what
I think about the fact
that he died.
                        I’m against it.

I’d rather he inhale, exhale,
repeat, et cetera,
                        but, as things are,

his parents, sibs and others
confront his worldly assets,
including a slow computer,
loose papers, and
an awful car
kept alive by his constant care.

It all may sit untouched for years
while loved ones deal
with more important things.

Ben-David Seligman lives in New Jersey, where he was born and raised, and where he works as an Assistant City Attorney. His poems have appeared in The Anthology of Magazine Verse, Midstream, Jewish Currents, Kerem, Yugntruf, Poetica, Spiral Bridge (Internet), The South Mountain Anthology, Columbia Perspectives, and Surgam.

(catalog of nightmares)

Rachel Eodice

asphyxiation; aliens, from mars of course; black cats, the

bad luck kind; drowning, amidst those who drowned before

me & the muck that is decay; falling, jumping off of swings,

teeth, out of mouth; death (the dead), as if nothing

was wrong; screaming, lacking the ability; rape; car

crashes, witnessing demise; running, lack of speed;

witches and warlocks, Grimm to say the least; tornados;

babies, mine; losing, someone (close to me); getting caught,

under sheets & in closets; nudity, exposition; bathrooms,

no doors, filthy creatures; repetition; getting nowhere,

though I try; cartoons, funny colors;  breathing, underwater;

high school, a test of wills again; weddings; zombies.

Rachel is a 2008 graduate of Temple University’s Film and Media Arts program. Currently, she is working on two screenplays set in the Philadelphia area when she is not editing for Comcast Spotlight. 

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.