Night Sweats

Joseph Lombo

You’re twelve and you can’t remember
the last time you slept through the night.
If their raging voices don’t wake you
the tension beneath their smoldering silence will.

Tonight your dad claims he’ll shoot your mom
but she says he hasn’t got
the balls or a gun.

He says it’s only a matter of time.

So you creep over to your bedroom door
and you shove a chair up against it
and hope they won’t decide
to make you their common enemy.

But their voices reach you anyway.
He screams that when he gets that gun
He’s going to shoot her here, here,
here, here, here

Here and finally here!
And from somewhere deep under the covers
you laugh because the asshole
never stopped to reload

But the joke’s on you
When the clock strikes another hour
And you’re awake, dreaming yet again
About leaving one way or another.Joe Lombo is a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program at Rowan. The essay and poems that appear in this issue are the first items he has published. He was born and raised in Northeast Philly and currently resides in Turnersville New Jersey.

Fathers and Sons

Joseph Lombo

You don’t know I’m watching you,
watching those hands made rough by bending iron in shops;
watching hands so easily clenched into fists
gently strum the strings of
an out of tune guitar.

You’re sitting on the patio
pencil stub tucked behind your ear,
sheet music scattered across a wrought iron table;
six cans of Bud
serving as inspiration and paperweights.

I know what it feels like
to watch someone else’s dream
when I recognize the same part
of the same song
you’ve been trying to write for years.

If I stay you’ll wave me over
and ask me if you ever told me
about that song you wrote;
the one that sounded like a hit some other guy had.

I’ll nod like I always do
but I’ll hear the one about the guy
who knows he blew his chance
to be somebody
but who still wants
to be somebody anyway.

You’ll punch me in the arm,
then ask me how the girls
are treating me
before telling me
they used to treat you better.

I’ll say I don’t want to arm wrestle
But you’ll talk me into it.
As that vein in your neck bulges
And your bloodshot eyes plead,
I’ll have to decide
if I’m going to let you win.Joe Lombo is a graduate student in the Creative Writing Program at Rowan. The essay and poems that appear in this issue are the first items he has published. He was born and raised in Northeast Philly and currently resides in Turnersville New Jersey.

After a Shift at the Catch of the Day

Nancy Gwynne Hickman

End of night’s work,
I walk the boards,
descend to beach.
Take off my shoes,
stretch my toes,
think of fall.

I slip my hand
into the pocket
of my waitress skirt,
black nylon, slick as eel skin,
for the pack of Kools
my last table left behind
with the dirty plates,
emptied Heinekens,
paltry tip.

I kneel in cool sand,
late, black August night,
slender curve of moon,
sound of waves,
and light a cigarette,
for the first time.

The mint stabs
like winter air to the lungs,
but the red ember
seems to me
like a ring on my finger,
or the period
at the end of the last sentence
of a long story. Nancy Hickman grew up on a farm in southern Delaware, came to Philadelphia for college, and has been here ever since. She’s worked as a teacher, book store manager, hospice case manager, and grief counselor. Presently, she is a parish secretary and teaches English to non-native speakers. She writes when she can.

Counting Pennies

Christopher Schwartz

it was her idea to count the pennies
the promise of a piggy bank
the sorrow of shattered porcelain
red copper bleeding onto the bedsheet
Lincoln staring down history
again, again, again, again

it wasn’t my idea to count pennies
rot brown of paper coin wrappers
her cinnamon scent, so so close
destiny stacked 50¢ by 50¢
Lincoln lowered into his grave
again, again, again, again

counting pennies was how she loved me
carefully but with all her heart
sitting beside me in the vault
fortunes sealed behind ten inches of steel
Lincoln enters the opera house
again, again, again, againChristopher Schwartz is a contributing author for the Philadelphia City Paper. He writes memorials for local soldiers slain in the Iraq War. He is also co-founder and co-editor of Thinking-East (www.thinking-east.net)
and New Eurasia (www.neweurasia.net. He has lived and worked in Philadelphia, London, and Jerusalem.

Distilled Spirits

Erin Gautsche

What we’ve become after
the sweet fruit lost first blush, left to

rot at the jar base (glass house, open
world) darkened and heady with invisible

gases, decomposition breathing hot.
Sour mash, newly mixed, strained twice,

thrice until all particles (reminders of
previous life) disappear. Now,

just a taste, thick and turned,
will remind us.

Erin Gautsche lives in West Philadelphia where she is completing her Masters degree in 20th Century Poetics, textuality, and fiction at the University of Pennsylvania. She is delighted to be the Program Coordinator at the Kelly Writers House.

Harrisburg

Paul-Victor Winters

Say I’m easily lost. Say it’s mid-June, Harrisburg. The man will leave as he came, hazy spot on the proverbial horizon, speck on an otherwise relatively clean record. Why record this? And why love? Say the man is a shy songwriter gone addicted. Or, skip the introduction and cut to the chase. Say there are three men where there ought to be two. Say one is a kid on his way home to a backwoods father with liver disease. Say the kid leaves early one morning without leaving a note. Bless mid-June nonetheless. And bless Harrisburg . Why menthol cigarettes? Or Oldsmobile love-making? Call it indirect characterization. Call it plot development. Call it a crying shame. Bless the tremor in the left hand. Why Xanax kisses in the rainy Pennsylvanian moonlight? Why guitar picks floating in the toilet bowl? What, now, is left? The man getting ready to leave. And me, already forgetting the details, already ready to quit Harrisburg cold. One man where once there were two, three. And a tremor in the left hand, lost keys in the songwriter’s Oldsmobile. A spilt-open steamer trunk full of spiral-bound notebooks. And a highly-flawed narrative structure.

Paul-Victor Winters is a high school teacher and adjunct professor of writing living in Southern New Jersey; his poems have appeared in a number of literary journals.

Where, but here?

Charles O'Hay

It is this way sometimes on winter nights,
when ears expect the rhythmic crunch
of homebound walkers in the sugar-crust
of snow. You think you know the footfalls.

Those of your father as he once returned
nightly from work, with a soldier’s weariness,
his topcoat a flag of tobacco dreams. Is this
senility? When all time’s bridges are retreats.

The footfalls approach, pass, and fade. Someone
is going home to be kissed, to be fed, or to sit
in the company of family. It is not your business.These nights have their own wings, their own prayers.

A cigarette is your candle.
Sleep, your father…and your sons. Charles O’Hay is the recipient of a 1995 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship in poetry. His poems have appeared in over 100 publications, both in print and online, including Cortland Review, New YorkQuarterly , Gargoyle, and West Branch.

How you’ll know me

Charles O'Hay

[img_assist|nid=919|title=Synchronicity by Clifford Ward © 2006|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=150|height=137]A father’s poem

If you find a city of steel
mountains shading sleepy luncheonettes
Know that I walked here

If you find a night of neon
kisses, in a garden of saxophones
Know that I loved here

If you find a river of iron
legs, and a thousand wooden ladders
Know that I prayed here

And in that place
we all begin, under the Heartbeat-tree
Know that I too was held

And loved
And was given sleep.

Charles O’Hay is the recipient of a 1995 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship in poetry. His poems have appeared in over 100 publications, both in print and online, including Cortland Review, New YorkQuarterly , Gargoyle, and West Branch.

Alstroemeria

Erin Gautsche

Become your chosen blooms.
Seduced by an absence of scent
you buy bundles, all
for illustration, affectation,
color against light.

Still starving, drawing
up murky waters, these
petals hold their shape for weeks.
Delicate edges never drying,
never dropping, frozen in form
until your touch, and even
then they crumble so softly
without sound.

Erin Gautsche lives in West Philadelphia where she is completing her Masters degree in 20th Century Poetics, textuality, and fiction at the University of Pennsylvania. She is delighted to be the Program Coordinator at the Kelly Writers House.

A Secret of Long Life

Liz Dolan

In exchange for books of thirsty grids stamped S&H,
a glossy toaster popped up in Momma’s kitchen,
a marvel unlike the one whose silver wings flapped
flat singeing fingers and scorching toast.
To Aunt Susannah’s brood in Kilcoo, Momma sent
our own outgrown clothes still whole, while
in exchange for bags and bags of rags she packed,
a carpet weaver conjured a field of acanthus leaves.
Toasty feet on bloodless Philly mornings. Anemic
tea leaves nourished pothos and gardenia. She spun
scraped bits of beef into gravy so bronze it made us
weep. She did not take more than she gave
and thus was given long life
and a fur-collared Persian lamb coat my sister and I bought her
with our first pay checks. Although we thought
we had outgrown such thrift, today my sister stocks up
on bargains. Neither she nor her hair will last long enough
for all those bottles of sale shampoo. And I have
begun to record purchase dates
on creams and lipsticks to tally how long they last.

A pushcart nominee in fiction, Liz Dolan has published memoirs, fiction and poetry in numerous journals. In May she was chosen as an associate artist to work with poet Sharon Olds at The Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida.