On My Lover’s Eyes

Ryan Teitman

My lover has two glass eyes.
She plucks them out
and we shoot them like marbles
in my driveway. At parties, she floats
them in the punch bowl,
and waits for the screams
after they are scooped into a cup.

Sometimes she freezes one in an ice cube
and drops it in someone’s cocktail.
Same principle. I suggest that she drop them
behind our car during a chase, to blow out
our pursuers’ tires. They’re not caltrops, she says gently.
Sometimes she rolls them between her palms,
like little balls of clay. She is sensitive about her eyes.

She wears a blindfold always–a red silk sash
around her head. She worries I will leave her,
calls herself an eyeless wench. Never, I say.
Eyes are a distraction, a garnish.
Your mouth, I say, is what will keep me always. Ryan Teitman is a graduate of Penn State University with an honors degree in English. He currently works as a journalist in Philadelphia.

Ivy

Deborah Burnham

1.
Marigold, chrysanthemum sprawl
across the garden, smelling like some acrid
medicine when you tear the stems, but the stink
of ivy’s worse, like air inside a rotting
log. A plant so tough should cure your worst
disease. You’ve burned your hand? Try ivy
as a poultice, leaves across your blisters
tied with the stringy roots until, despairing,
the burns agree to heal.

2.
Years ago, two kids with spray paint spread
their names around West Philly – CORNBREAD
and EARL in tall black letters on blank walls.
and abandoned cars. They’re still there, peeling
under thick swathes of ivy, the best graffiti
artist, scribbling its thin green name across
the corrugated steel, the raddled stucco
writing it again, larger, dark to lime-green
at the growing end, practicing, making it
big and evergreen and tough.

Deborah Burnham teaches English and writing at Penn, gardens in Powelton Village, walks along the Schuylkill, and hopes to complete her Viet-Nam-era novel before the leaves come out.

BX Cable

Leonard Kress

Rowhouse basement a shambles. Rusted husks
of BX cable coil round everything—appliances,
copper tubing, hot water heater. Frayed wires
stick out of each like furry tongues, lapping at
boxes and curled-up slugs of insulation.
Borowski attaches porcelain russels to joists,
zigzagging the whole way from front to back.
All jobs guaranteed, he says, been working
in the neighborhood thirty years. Even took time

off a big-payer, a city job, to change a lightbulb
for an old lady, Lithuanian, not even a customer.
He misses the days when he strutted as a mummer,
marching in the Fancy Brigade, every year his wife
stitched a new costume, their extra bedroom still
a sift of dyed feathers, gold trim, satin.
Borowski misjudges his customers.
He thinks they’re part of the college-educated crowd
rehabbing the old workingman’s Victorians

built for millworkers and their burgeoning families
in the twenties. So you’re not gonna pay me,
he shouts, is that what you’re drivin at? You should’ve
given us an estimate first, they shout back.
Borowski crosses the threshold, furious and shaking
His eyeballs seem mounted on extendible shafts,
spinning like aircraft propellers. He hasn’t had
a drop in eighteen months. The homeowner’s wife
joins the deliberations. Bursting

into the final stages of pregnancy, she leans
against the doorframe, backlit, her hands
clasp on the shelf of her belly.
Maybe we can come to an agreement, she says.
Borowski, whose name means of the forest, turns
his head like a bison acknowledging a stone-age hunter.
He gazes at his battered, unmarked van
parked out front. He does this to avoid the shot
he’d like to take. He does this to keep from being pelted. Leonard Kress lived in and around Philadelphia for more than 35 years–Port Richmond, Fishtown, Harrowgate, Franford, etc. Now he lives in the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. His latest collection of poetry is ORPHICS, from Kent St. U. Press.

Why Love Doesn’t Conquer All

Bonnie McMeans

Love is aimless, wants direction, wants to feel important.
So he walks into a recruiting station, looks at pamphlets
that read: “Be All You Can Be” and “Army of One.”

Love does pushups in boot camp and shoots Arabs
pretending to be terrorists. He writes a cheerleader he kissed
after a football game. (They were both drunk at the time.)

Love is deployed and told to check his gear. He checks his helmet,
his goggles, his ammo, his mess kit and his MREs. He checks
his grenades. He checks the letter from the cheerleader.

Love calls the cheerleader. He has three minutes. “I liked
your poem,” he tells her. She says, “It was about our first kiss.”
Love’s pal says, “Get the fuck off now!” Love gets off.

Love mans a checkpoint, sees a white sedan approaching, fires
warning shots. Love’s pal shoots out the windshield. The car swerves
off the road and stops. Inside is an old couple with bloody faces.

Love’s tank prowls Tikrit for insurgents behind buildings and on
rooftops. Love’s pal tells him roaches will survive a nuclear holocaust.
Love fires and watches the roaches scatter. Some fall.

Love’s pal takes one in the abdomen. Love yells, “Medic!” and
opens up his first aid kit. He unrolls military-issue number 4572
gauze and stuffs the hole. Blood pumps out over Love’s hands.

Love neatly stacks the children in three rows. He stands guard
while he waits for body bags. On the ground are wailing women
and slivers of candy wrappers. And dead soldiers.

Love’s tour ends. He returns home, takes down all the yellow ribbons.
The cheerleader stops by, and they get high. He shows her all
the poems he saved. They buy an engagement ring at Wal-Mart.

Love is going to be a father. He picks up a six-pack on his way home
to celebrate. Love’s parents kick his unemployed ass out of the house.
He moves in with the cheerleader. They put the ultrasound on the fridge.

Love tells the cheerleader she is crowding him. He needs space,
not pressure. She pours whiskey down the drain. Love breaks the bottle
on the counter and cuts her arm. She scratches Love, screams.

Love hears sirens, so he busts through the back screen door and runs
through the yard and down the alley to the corner gas station. He sees a
recruitment poster on the dirty glass, then pretends to look at motor oil. Bonnie McMeans has fond memories of growing up in Northeast Philadelphia and attending the Philadelphia High School for Girls. In addition to being a freelance writer and an English professor for a local community college, she is married, has three children and lives in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Her most recent publication is a children’s book titled Mysterious Encounters with Vampires (Thompson Gale).

Waiting For Test Results in the Kitchen

Laura Spagnoli

But the kitchen doesn’t know
what you don’t know.
It keeps its knives in a drawer.

No signs from the veined cabbage head
left out on the counter,
pale and dumb as the moon.

No telling which bell pepper cut apart
will bear a smaller self, stuck to the core,
hopeful, embryonic, near green.

No, no knowing in the dark
which egg
holds the furtive spot of blood.

 


Laura Spagnoli teaches French at Temple University.

Pine Street

Leonard Kress

Behind the bar the ex-all-pro defensive
back draws mug after mug of Rolling Rock.
It’s late and still a crowd, three deep at the counter.
He is not badly out of shape, only a few afternoon
regulars recall his interceptions, the two-point safety
that almost led to super bowl. He is quick and agile and good-natured.

Near the darts a group of younger men and women
who could care less about his earlier career
or his failed restaurant venture, order difficult drinks,
brands not always stocked. The females are regulars—
one is a free-lance designer, one supports herself
by modeling at the Academy, the third gets by mysteriously.

A man draping his worked-out arms across their shoulders
drinks seriously. That is, until the model
begins to lick the designer’s ear. There she goes again,
cracks the third. The man smiles, lowering his jaw,
nodding his head like a carousel pony.
He is no longer happy being married.

So when the designer pinches the model’s
right breast, he leans–reaching far across
the counter (so far, in fact, that the bartender
reverses direction, buttonhooking, thinking
the man is signaling for his drink
to be refilled)–in order to pinch her left. Leonard Kress lived in and around Philadelphia for more than 35 years–Port Richmond, Fishtown, Harrowgate, Frankford, etc. Now he lives in the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. His latest collection of poetry is ORPHICS, from Kent St. U. Press.

Fishtown Betrayals

Leonard Kress

She pedals over trolley tracks and cobbles
on Allegheny Avenue, past Szypula’s bakery,
its rye line redoubled. Past Stanky’s GoGo,
where yesterday her husband stumbled,
booted out, the old baba said, who defends
the counter at Borowski’s Cleaners. She stops
at the light to let two semis chug by, and the 54 bus,
and a polka dot open-hatched hatchback, speakers
the size of baby coffins, salsa notes pounding them shut.

Before the light changes, a freighter floating
between twin towers of the grain elevator
and the cold storage warehouse catches her eye—
the ship so endless, it seems, instead, to stand still
while the whole neighborhood drifts down river,
under bridges, out into the bay. (I see it all
from the walkway of the Walt Whitman Bridge, The white
wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl….)

The riptide and then back out to sea, the North,
the Baltic. The seem, though, lasting only
as long as the light, as she once again pedals,
plotting, leaning into the breeze that carries
the stench from Rohm and Hass, passing hoagie shop,
scrap metal heap, and Lithuanian Hall–before
she discovers that the red letters of the word Gdynia
stenciled on the ship’s gunwale have left
on her forehead a chalky residue.
Leonard Kress lived in and around Philadelphia for more than 35 years–Port Richmond, Fishtown, Harrowgate, Frankford, etc. Now he lives in the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. His latest collection of poetry is ORPHICS, from Kent St. U. Press.

Mounted Kalmucks on Shackamaxon Street

Leonard Kress

I’m thinking of the mounted Kalmucks
on Shackamaxon Street, how in the world
they got here, Stalin’s bodyguards, despised by him.
By here I mean Fishtown, where defunct
Domino Sugar coughs up syrup into the Delaware,
the old treaty park, wedged between ports,
the north one full of Latin grapes, the south
with its rusted cranes and pier-front courts and condos.
Its pleasure dome for bad-backed longshoremen
with mangled knees and missing digits.
I’m thinking of that one old Kalmuck.

Everyone mistakes him for a Chinaman.
He’s mounted on his pony, too small to tug
a produce cart through streets and alleys of Harrowgate
and Fishtown–chicken squawk and pigeons, scrap heap
and gabardine hawk. Absorbing the shock
of railroad shunt, trolley track, pothole,
and buckled cobble, like a newly reconditioned strut.
He travels his fourfold path to the Lamaist Temple
on Second Street, where this may or may not be
the day he opts for the Buddha’s Great Renunciation Leonard Kress lived in and around Philadelphia for more than 35 years–Port Richmond, Fishtown, Harrowgate, Frankford, etc. Now he lives in the Great Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio. His latest collection of poetry is ORPHICS, from Kent St. U. Press.

Gift

Sharon Black

Here, I brought you an orange.

You prefer tangerines?
I like tangerines too
and might have made that choice
had I not thought of your hands
which are better suited for oranges.
I get a solid feeling about your hand
holding an orange.
Tangerine is prettier to say
and limes are like having short hair
and lemons remind me umbrellas
are for sun as well as rain
and I’m sorry I didn’t think
of tangerines which are like wearing
clear bells around your ankles
I know that now
but oranges are cool too
because they make you feel
like going back to clay
even if it’s parched and cracked
in a thousand places
the way your hand is creased
cradling one more deliriously
misguided gift from me. Sharon Black is the librarian at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in The Jacaranda Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mudfish 11, Rhino 2001 and 2004, and others.

Postmark

Scott Glassman

Green storm of light
I see when I look out of my cubicle—
it’s 9 am here
in the wake of you.

The intersection at 38th & I recall (Market)
busy with breeze, standing
after an ovation aimed at
no one in particular.

My mornings, I want to tell you,
begin with the deep breath
of forgetting
and I hold it in until I begin typing

nonsense / mirage (com ‘ere) / thought
weighs, they weigh
more than both of us,
but who am I  

to say the sun doesn’t
gasp when it flinches / strikes
your skin— it could be roped off by yellow tape
and say what

we’ve said:
no, go around
go around  

(I know this happens to me)

There is a wind that follows me
home.  An intersection huddling
among broken tail lights, windshield
specks of blue.

Then I step diagonally
across the sunlight
into a more perfect
kind of damage. Scott Glassman lives in South Jersey and works in the medical education field. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Iowa Review, Sentence, and others. He also curates the INVERSE Reading Series in Philly.