Lesson From My Older Sister

Roger L. Miller

I was six years old, at the bottom
of the dark staircase.

You were ten, at the top.
Palms raised beside your shoulders
proved the void around you;
"See? No monsters."

I could barely see you,
your eyes the only light.
Moving incrementally closer, and eventually into the heart of Philadelphia after student teaching in Chadds Ford, Roger doesn’t (officially) use his BS in Science Education or MA in Psychology during corporate days. At night he sometimes poses as a photographer, writing with light instead of ink. Both styles of work can be found on his site- LucidMusic.com. He eats when hungry, drinks when thirsty, sleeps when tired, and writes when stirred.

city beach

Luke Boyd

they drag the
sky blue plastic pool
into the street
scraping gravel and laughing,
fill it with a hose
and the water looks
sky blue too
even though the sky
looks dishwater gray,
strafed with greasy clouds,
the sun wrapped in oily wax paper.
they splash
and make wet footprints
dancing on the steaming cement
sidewalk littered with the night’s
treasures—
seductive slivers of
broken beer jewelry
and washed up
dead jellyfish rubbers.
splashing,
screaming,
soft pink skin running
barefoot and blind—
and nobody gets cut
and nobody gets stung.

Luke Boyd worked at a sawmill and a trucking company to put himself through college and now is an inner-city high school teacher in Allentown, Pennsylvania. According to his students Boyd has invented the Internet, the number 7, and sarcasm. Some of his work has appeared in: The Misfit Literati, Bewildering Stories, Dark Sky Magazine, and Wanderings. He is rumored to believe in unicorns.

Calvin

Luke Boyd

Splintered doorjamb,
Busted lock
Won’t catch,
Keys don’t work anyway,
And what’s worth stealing?
Last month
At the
Last apartment
Mom and Felix locked me out
For a week,
Told me to
Get my shit together.
He’s selling dirty blood
And she’s selling—
Well, she’s selling.
I sleep some nights
In Stephanie’s car
Or walk until dawn,
Stopping to sit on porches
(Like I live there)
When cops roll by.
I fall asleep in first period
And my math teacher says
I’ll never get to college like that
And I say I can’t
anyway—
I only have two pairs of pants
And no home address.
He smiles white teeth and starched shirts
And speaks white speak and
starched
words:
You’re a minority,
All you have to do is show up, and
They have to take you, it’s
the law.
Imagine a campus full of
Ex-Latin Kings
Using correction fluid
And
Parenthetical notation.
I say, I know
(Leave me alone).

Luke Boyd worked at a sawmill and a trucking company to put himself through college and now is an inner-city high school teacher in Allentown, Pennsylvania. According to his students Boyd has invented the Internet, the number 7, and sarcasm. Some of his work has appeared in: The Misfit Literati, Bewildering Stories, Dark Sky Magazine, and Wanderings. He is rumored to believe in unicorns.

Uncle Karl Was a Bull’s Eye for Trouble

Mary Rohrer-Dann

Stones, fists, curb-hopping cars, schemers
and scammers inevitably found him.
He fell on rocks, plummeted from trees,

stumbled on sidewalks studded with glass.
Once, he boasted, a renegade ball
at the thirteenth hole knocked him cold.
     
A cheeky mama’s boy who never left home,
bar fight, or bad bet–he excelled
at upping the ante and losing.

At family parties, he taught us to chug
orange soda to his whiskey shots
and smash Ritz crackers in raucous toasts.

Christmas Eve afternoon, he’d light a smoke,
crack a beer, then time us as we fired
tinsel missiles at my grandmother’s tree.    

When she died, he stood unbelieving
at our door, his heart beneath booze-splotched skin
already swerving towards its dead-end skid.

A decade later, prescription overdue,
he collapsed outside the pharmacy door,
his bluff called.  I imagine his hobble

on swollen feet, the sudden grip
of iron, the pavement against his cheek.
Strangers crowd round him and I wish
 
I could believe he mutters shit,  
gives them the finger, and a cockeyed grin.

Mary Rohrer-Dann grew up in Philadelphia and currently teaches at Pennsylvania State University at University Park when she is not slumming at the Jersey shore. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Cimarron Review, Sun Dog, Alembic, Antietam Review, Literary Mama, Atlanta Review, Sojourner, and other journals.

Northern Liberties

Toussaint St. Negritude

Thanks
to a gracious wind from
Chestnut Hill

333,000 brown residents
of North Philadelphia

were found buried today
in a drift of war-torn apologies.

While their opportunities
were left inoperable

the citizens of the ghetto
are eternally bemused
A resident of Philadelphia’s Coltrane District, former San Franciscan poet Toussaint St. Negritude is also a jazz bass clarinetist and composer, often poised along the Schyulkill, finding new tones word by note by word by note.

Earth at Night

Melissa Frederick

Did Mommy ever tell you
before your goodnight
kiss? her fingers
roaming your sweat-
damp bangs, baby
fine, cherub
curled
did she ever bend low
till her necklace tapped
your chin, tiny
conch-curves
of your ear
cradling her blessed
brittle whisper, Darkness

came before the light. God
is Darkness.

And we are
the earth’s subconscious—
amber neurons winking
over Terra’s cranial
vault: part matte
and glossy, heaving
dewy black, subducted

plates rubbed raw at the sutures;
all for one more grind
round the axis, white Moon
drawing
watery sheets
across a landscape’s drunken slumber

where God gets his tabula rosa
where darkness gestates and forgets

Melissa Frederick teaches creative writing and literature in the MFA program at Rosemont College. She received her Master?s degree at Iowa State University and is working toward a PhD at Temple University. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous publications, including the Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, The Cream City Review, Kalliope, and The Pedestal and is forthcoming in The Adirondack Review. She currently lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Sorting Mail, circa 1967

Autumn Konopka

Most of the time Bernice stares at the painted window,
wishing for the sun.
She rubs her palms against her slacks for sweat,
touches fingertips to tongue
for traction in the stacks
of bleached envelopes.

She daydreams—
love letters passing through her cracked hands,
a romance between a housewife and her postman.

She eyes cautiously the men
as they load their sacks
and imagines holding that weight
herself. Nothing more
than she’s carried as a roofer’s wife—
the tar stench, beer breath, calloused hands on her face.

Nothing more than a straight trade:
aching feet and paper-cut fingers
for sweat stains, dog bites,
and bottomless bags of love letters.

But she’s stuck with the junk mail.

An advertisement in her stack warns
that field mice can fit through a hole no larger than a nickel.
Staring at the dingy window,
she wonders what it takes
to pull the sun through
to make it burn inside. Autumn Konopka is a poet and teacher, nonprofit devotee and democratic socialist, amateur piemaker, burgeoning knitter, tenative Spanish speaker, and ferocious Philadelphia Eagles fan.

Snow on Annie’s Painting

Ann E. Michael

for Annie A.

Two pairs of shoes on a bare closet floor: an interior view.
I am carrying Annie’s painting along a snowy trail.

High-heeled shoes, one pair a silk chartreuse—
I carry Annie’s painting along the whitened path.

The other pair is red. Red slingbacks! Do you wear these?
I asked, before offering to carry Annie’s painting through the snow.

She’d put on her boots. There are no boots in the painting—
Annie’s—I carried through the snow.

There is an implied door, a geometry of light
(I might glimpse a bit of Annie while carrying her painting through snow;

for I’ve turned the picture toward me to protect its painted surface
from thick, wet flakes that settle on the canvas and the path).

I’m inside her closet with her shadowy, bright shoes,
carrying Annie’s painting through the snow. Ann E. Michael (www.annemichael.com) writes poems and essays from her home in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her work has been published in many journals, including Poem, 9th Letter, Natural Bridge, Runes, and others. She is a past recipient of a PCA Fellowship in Poetry. Her first chapbook was published by Spire Press in 2004; her 2006 collections are The Minor Fauna and Small Things Rise & Go.

The Air Child, II

Therese Halscheid

Into the second season
of not eating

there was still Time in me, enough
stored hours to keep trekking
to school,

always taking
the path through the forest,
through frost

and white air which held
the woods and me captive….

You could see it in the way
we began suffering alike, wearing
the same look

of bare sorrow –
you could tell by the way
my legs were

thin as winter grasses,
steps so light that they left no tracks

and even in the way
the outer colors of earth drew inward
and down, the same as I

was withdrawing myself
from the world, as I was

removing myself
from my father.

This was nothing that clothes could hide –
this is what Death wanted

this leafless body, this girl
alone
and failing

against the cold trunks of trees,
the bones of them.

Therese Halscheid’s most recent poetry collection is Uncommon Geography (Carpenter Gothic, Spring 2006). She is a house-sitter to write and many poems come from unusual house-sitting environments. She won a 2003 Fellowship for Poetry from NJ State Council on the Arts. Her poetry has appeared in numerous magazines.

Mushrooms

W. Kay Washko

There’s graffiti on the mushroom shed
painted large, defiant,
in nothing like earth tones.
No brown, no beige, no muted gray,
(colors more appropriate
for the growing fungus within)
but loud raucous
vermillion, saffron, blood orange,
outlined in bold black letters
giant toadstools, undecipherable.
Hispanic men in hairnets
mill around with Management
perplexed by what has sprouted overnight,
vandalism in this place of processed food.
They gesture, waving arms
at the scope of the work,
the need for nerve and ladders
in the production of such a thing.
Who would bother to tag a mushroom shed?
This is not a city canvas,
not subway, rail car, overpass.
Why adorn gray cinderblock walls,
defying the assaulting smell,
the stench of sludge and excrement
fertilizing spores for mass consumption
of shitake, porcini, portabella,
bound for kitchens bright with copper
in desirable gated sub-divisions?
The men in hairnets
mill and tsk and shake their heads,
mouths forming who shapes.
But when Management looks away
they smile and whisper, admiring
the need for nerve and ladders,
and the splashes of color inappropriate
for the growing fungus within. W. Kay Washko is a freelance writer living in Pottstown, PA. She traces her family roots in Philadelphia back to early Swedish settlers and English Quakers, and has an avid interest in the history and culture of this area. Her poetry has appeared in the Awakenings Review (University of Chicago), and was selected by the Summit Arts Fellowship for an award in Poetry. Her short play, The Copy Machine, was produced by the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society for their annual fundraiser, Plays in Plain Clothes.