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.

Where is the fox

Margaret A. Robinson

when I can’t see her               
long tongue lapping
a drink from the leafy
pool in my birdbath

has she registered
with a political party
does she attend
home-and-school

night to fight against
sweetened drinks
in vending machines
as bad for her cubs

is she friends with
the doe and four
fawns who also
troop through

my yard or the buck
with his full rack
of antlers looking
like an insurance

advertisement
does the raccoon
advise the vixen
on mascara

length of eyelash
have they agreed
it’s silly
to shave their legs

will the fox catch
a neighborhood cat
will she lie down
with a lamb chop

topped with mint
and a paper ruffle
where do her feet
foxtrot at night?
Margaret A. Robinson’s new chapbook of poems, about breast cancer and love, is called "Arrangements" and is available at the Finishing Line Press website.  Robinson teaches in the creative writing program at Widener University and lives in Swarthmore.

Devon Drive

Pat O’Brien

I am trying to remember blackberries
on my tongue, and my mother’s rolling pin
flattening out the oily dough for pies,
and didn’t dad lay the slate porch we etched in chalk,
and didn’t we nap on the hot slate
until our eyelids glowed orange,
and how many times did the woods drip secrets,
and how many steps were there to sock island
where silver minnows darted back    
and forth like underwater flags rippling,
and wasn’t it below the abandoned railroad tracks
where we dug in clay mines to shape ashtrays,
and what it was like to win that crab-apple fight
with the Rockwood gang. I know there was always
wonder, and when the sky streaked pink under
a pulling moon, weren’t our mothers
always calling us home. Pat O’Brien teaches Creative Writing at Penn State Brandywine.  Her poems have appeared in Philadelphia Poets, Mad Poets Review, and Schuylkill Valley Journal of the Arts. She lives in West Chester with her husband and two daughters.

ILLUMINATION: 2005

Hayden Saunier

They took away our windows for two weeks,
ripped them from kitchen walls with wonder bars,
then nailed up sheets of chipboard, while we waited
for new windows to be manufactured
in a long steel building somewhere east of Trenton.
It was never really cold or hot inside, just dark,
just really dark; the place stayed dry
and we had fun one night shooting
insulating foam into the cracks before a massive
cold front blew across the Appalachians,
but even then the dark was working on us.
We had one trouble light, a single bulb
that sat inside an orange cage, suspended
from a hook above the pantry door. That,
and the TV’s nervous blue light, flashing
its parade of hooded men in orange jumpsuits,
bound and kneeling down on both sides
of the ocean: that was our illumination.
The windows came in, insulated, thermo-
paned, their sashes riding oiled blue sliders
like a guillotine. Light came through them,
made our canary hearts swing wide inside
their cages, but after so much dark,
we could not shake our boxed-in
bitterness: our view was not the same.Hayden Saunier’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, 5 A.M., Rattle, and Philadelphia Stories, among others. A 2008 Pushcart Prize nominee, her first book of poetry, Tips for Domestic Travel, is due out from Black Lawrence Press in 2009.