Love, Vincent

Nina Bennett

I start to delete the e-mail from Vincent, not knowing
anybody by that name, when I realize the address
is my father’s. Last week he had surgery to remove
a squamous cell growth from his earlobe. As I read
his brief morning greeting, I again see his ear
swaddled like a miniature mummy, his hazel eyes
dulled with pain and fear. I type a quick reply,
better Van Goghthan Picasso, and sign it
your sunflower.

Delaware native Nina Bennett is the author of Forgotten Tears A Grandmother?s Journey Through Grief. In 2006, she was chosen by the poet laureate of Delaware to participate in a writers? retreat sponsored by the Delaware Division of the Arts. Her articles and poetry have appeared in the anthology Mourning Sickness, The Broadkill Review, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Grief Digest, the News Journal, A.G.A.S.T., Different Kind of Parenting, M.I.S.S.ing Angels, and Living Well Journal.

Mexican-Restaurant, North Jersey

Teresa Méndez-Quigley

Had they had different names,
or had this not been her first job
Stateside, or had the guy
just ordered instead of insisting
his knowledge of typical Hispanic
names, perhaps then, the Mexican-
American manager standing next to her
wouldn’t have doubled over
and his three friends at the table
wouldn’t have fallen on top of each other
in uproarious laughter while
the two of them stayed silent
– she not understanding,
he much chagrined.  But her name
was Ingrid.  Though fair with
sandy brown hair, she was not
six feet tall and her accent
exposed her Columbian origins.
Yes, dees ees my name.  Flirting,
he shook his head and continued
to resist, “No, it can’t be.”  Years later,
when Ingrid was at dinner
in Kansas for a conference
with a group of us, she related
the incident and still she was not
fully knowing why the ten of us
lit up the diner with guffaws and tears. 
Wat ees your name? she’d asked him, making
small talk as she’d learned while yet
in training, scoring points
with the manager beside her. 
With any other masculine name,
anyone could have easily gone with “Yes,
you look like a…”, or “the name fits you”
But because he’d answered,
Dick, and because she was new
to this country, the agreeable Ingrid
had replied gently, kindly,
Your face matches your name.

Teresa Méndez-Quigley, a Philly native, was selected Montgomery County Poet Laureate by Ellen Bryant Voigt in 2004. Her poems have appeared in four volumes of the Mad Poets Review, Drexel Online Journal, Philadelphia Poets, and many more.

After Nothing

Deborah Derrickson Kossmann

He took my hand
that grey day
dark, muscled
trees emptied of birds.

As if I were watching
a grainy video
myself, led away.
The man was strong,
all twists, low voice.

It’s silent.
Shouldn’t have
taken the shortcut.
There’s nothing after
the path. See
maybe I was meant to.
Nothing after the
Or had to.

Deborah Derrickson Kossmann won the Short Memoir Competition at the 2007 First Person Arts Festival in Philadelphia. Her essay, “Why We Needed a Prenup With Our Contractor” was published as a “Modern Love” column in The New York Times. Her other essays have appeared in many other journals and magazine. She teaches in the graduate counseling psychology program at Rosemont College.

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.

Transparency

Anthony Nannetti

In a better world
casinos comp grafts for those about to be burned, 
poetry workshops include vocational training,   
mega hardware stores hang signs all around saying
Put that shit back before you hurt yourself,
and you, Inamorata, draped only in barrier tape,
read me my Miranda Rights.

Anthony Nannetti’s poetry has appeared In UK Guardian Unlimited and online in Ygdrasil.
He lives in the Bella Vista area of Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters.

DNA: Memory

Teresa Mendez-Quigley

So we were watching
a documentary on cows standing
not in fields of green grass
like we saw Upstate, but
on cement, squeezed in together
with black surfaces from their
droppings that get washed up
into lagoons and run off
into waterways, and how
they still moo, but mostly
how they only get to eat
corn, though I’m sure
they recall in their DNA
memory the way a blade
of grass felt in their mouths,
how the breeze cooled
them by the creek rippling
beneath an old weeping willow
and how they hope to rub up
against a tree to scratch
their hind quarters or be able
to switch their tails
to tag a fly

Teresa Mendez-Quigley, a Philly native, was selected Montgomery County Poet Laureate by Ellen Bryant Voigt in 2004. Her poems have appeared in four volumes of the Mad Poets Review, Drexel Online Journal, Philadelphia Poets, and many more.

Highlights

Bill Connolly

Of all the indiscreet behaviors
that colored my college years,
my deep drags of yellow highlighter
those zebra stripes I painted across textbook pages
may be my most peculiar disgrace.

How hard it was to draw the line
when drawing those lines.
Once I had stretched that cautionary color
like crime scene tape across chapters,
inches led easily to yards
until half of a story, most of an epic
lay glistening from my indiscriminate, squeaky touch.

Professors derided aimless effort and preached diligence while,
headphones on,
I rode my own neon yellow Zamboni machine,
painting long bands of importance in their sacred texts.
Those books, still on my shelves, have one lesson left to teach:
sharpen my daily search for the heart of what matters.

And so I will cap the marker of expedience
and read my days deeply:
I will notice that dot of yellow
in the corner of my daughter’s eye
when I’ve spoken too harshly,
the beautiful yellow parentheses
framing my wife’s mouth
when she says something funny,
and the furrow in my young son’s brow,
its yellow crevice telling me
that this word he cannot pronounce yet
is, in his opinion, important.
Bill Connolly is an administrator in the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional School District in Woodstown, NJ.

Breaking News

Peter E. Murphy

Cop held in killing of mute with rake
How was I to know the suspect could not hear me
shout, “Drop your weapon to the ground!”
as he continued to muster the dead leaves
which had accumulated since August?
How was I to know the perp wasn’t loaded,
that he was stone sober, going about his work?
How was I to know my language failed me,
that my dumb words ricocheted away from the man
who jerked his yard tool, startled when I stood
behind him, pointing my nervous automatic at his chest?

Only minor injuries reported to a small child
Besides, there’s plenty of time for him to grow
used to the bad news of fractures and contusions.
No need to worry him now how the world can poke
out his eyes and sever his spine, leaving him a stranger
to his extremities. When he is no longer a minor,
when he becomes a major, then we can tell him
the details of the whole story, how the happy ending
is when the victim dies, finally free of the pain
that has grown inside him waiting to be born.

Philadelphia wipes out crime on paper
And not a moment too soon,
the mayor complained
to the police chief. The trees
are a powerful block whose votes
I must have for re-election.
They weren’t happy working
overtime to replenish the reams
vandalized by careless copiers
and shredders that cut away
the best rings of their lives.
Now that the trees are muted,
I want you to hit the bricks
and clean up the mess
of the leaves and arrest
the men who do not listen,
who continue to scratch
their rakes against
the fine skin of the lawns.
Peter E. Murphy is the author of Stubborn Child (2005), a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize, and a chapbook, Thorough & Efficient (2008) both from Jane Street Press. Retired from teaching English and creative writing at Atlantic City High School, he now teaches poetry writing at Richard Stockton College and is the founder/director of the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway held annually in Cape May.

Crow in a Puddle

Brian Patrick Heston

A city boy, I was used to potholes
filled with rainwater. But this was Durham

New Hampshire. A single crow
splashed like a kid in a plastic

pool. He went under, came up,
spreading his sparkling wings. I stood

stupefied like someone watching
Christ go by on a donkey. In the middle

of Mill Road, a deer’s half-
devoured face gaped. I cleared

my throat. Wind shuddered birches
and maples. Crow gave me a look,

pushed up his razor beak—lifting
again into the cloud-clogged sky.

 
Brian Patrick Heston grew up in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. He has an MFA from George Mason University and also a Master?s in English and Poetry from the University of New Hampshire. His work has appeared in Pennsylvania English, Confrontation, Slipstream, Cake Train, Poetry Southeast, West Branch, Many Mountains Moving, The Bitter Oleander, and is upcoming in Gargoyle. He currently teaches at the Art Institute of Washington and Marymount University in Arlington Virginia.

Reading Her Skull

Natalie Ford

because it’s close now
under her thrust pale skin,
catching every stranger’s eye
before they refocus
and rush to greet us
passing in the street

even when daylight drops
and she pulls on
a knit cap, you can tell
it’s close still,
pressing up hard under
the thin textured yarn

and bone shapes her eyes
now they’re shorn –
even the dark brows
that made her grave over books,
easy to spot in pictures,
gone

she laughs nearing the house,
saying she believes now
in phrenology,
in that old science of self:
Here, character
Here, temperament 

while, walking still closer by
her side, I read it
differently, silently:
Here, destiny

Natalie Ford is originally from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She has recently returned to Bucks County after completing a PhD in Victorian literature and psychology at the University of York, England. Ford’s poetry has appeared in national and international journals.