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.

Bedtime Story

Gwen Wille

If we tell another day with-
out wasted breath
or furtive glances set
free from hazy dreams
and desire, I could pretend
your real life
away.  Standing on the ledge

with an eye on lamp-lit
streets, I’ll hold your
hand for that first step
into lands hewn
from letters or
shapes of cobwebs
and dew in the eyes of bright

Tigers who measure it out, all
even, and name the breeze.
And you are once again a World
War One flying ace with a shrug
to steel wings and I’m Billy
the Kid as I dust off
my britches and peek

through the sheet
to your unwritten
tale: a rhyme unraveling
on the crease of a carpet
aired out from your soles
as you forgive an old line
behind the coat and hat
of a gentleman’s

parade.  Here then the pen
on your page draws the hem
of my smile as poppies fall loose
from my tongue, one draught
to help you sleep
soundly tonight without stolen
sight to ever after’s addictions.Gwen lives and works in the West Chester area.  She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2005, and was born in Santa Fe.

In Lieu of Flowers

Gwen Wille

In lieu of flowers,
we’ll bring that time you burned
toast and stunk up the whole down-
stairs, and the sound of your boots
through empty halls.  We’ll bring that

old brown hat, seven August meteorites,
and the hoarse Harrison, hoarser McCartney,
trembling, tired, joyous— only one more
time, I promise —helter skelter out the window
and into the open
     air.

We’ll bring the change from your pocket: pennies,
for luck.  We’ll bring the bar-
codes, the maps, the trail hiked so often as to feel
like coming home, now long and wicked, switched
and swiveled, green; we’ll bring the thunder
dodged all the unwound way
back to the car.

And we’ll bring that summer
the birds got into the woodshed,
pried the dry-packed Burpees,
     scattered
          cosmos
from door to hedge— that sum-
mer you let it all grow wild.
Gwen lives and works in the West Chester area.  She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2005, and was born in Santa Fe.

Water Song

Allen Hoey

 

The woods aren’t very deep, but you can

get past where the sound of traffic

reaches, and all you hear is the melody

water makes dropping around rocks,

a complex composition, constantly

changing, modulating, carrying your mind

like a leaf along the surface unless you

make the choice to stay where you stand,

by the side of the stream, and watch

how the water flows around the rocks,

sliding along the jagged blades of ice

that cling to the banks, the few broken

branches that hang into the stream, limp

and swaying with the current. When I

kneel and let the water course around

my hand, the cold shoots the length

of my arm, and even my teeth ache from

the violent chill. I let it stay a minute

more in the water, two, and feel the way

the water moves, courses, the steady

irregularity of current, and I feel

the way the water moves in me—all

blood, muscle, everything water, everything

flowing, flowing—constant motion

while the mind sits still and sings

the song of the water, soft then loud,

soft, then lift my hand from the stream,

shake it dry, and take the long way home.

Allen Hoey has published two novels and five collections of poems, most recently Country Music (2008). In 2009 he will publish a new collection of poems and a mystery. He teaches at Bucks County Community College and directs the Bucks County Poet Laureate Program.