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.

Autumn Drive

Cheryl Grady Mercier

I’m watching the speedometer climbing
And the curvy gray ribbon of back road
Bound for the pet-packed home and bedtime of
My most precious cargo in the back seat.
His earnest little voice chatters on about

What else? Trains. My grandson explaining
Electric-train pantographs connecting
To power lines as he connects me to
The future. I see a John Deere tractor ready to
Turn onto the road in front of us.

At the same time, his surprised voice calls out
Look, Grandma, giant marshmallows in the field!
Indeed, white-covered circlets of hay
Dot lush green pastures lit by the amber
Syrup of October sun.

I slow down. Awakened eyes join his
To share fuchsia, mauve and Prussian blue
Cloud strokes across the sky—the cows
Glowing, the trees rusting as the sun
Flames through its last glorious minutes.

Cheryl Grady Mercier writes from her New Jersey home after taking early retirement from a medical/communications working life. She is currently enrolled in Rowan University?s graduate creative writing program.

Sago

Charles O'Hay

Today
we measure time in breaths
the swing of rusty gates
and the tune of the stonecutter’s chisel.

The ground gives birth.
The ground gives death.

Boots
no longer in their place
beside the door
speak the language of coal dust.

We are iron.
We are candle smoke.

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.

Unfinished Love Poem

Alexander Long

– for James Wright

Like I’ve been saying
All along, I’m not sure
Where they’ve gone
Off to. Why can’t I think
Of that place as full
Of lovers secretly kissing
In unmodified light?
This afternoon’s rain settles
Along my jaw.
I hope my bus is late.
Three beers by noon ,
And now I go to chop
The rows of onions
For my bosses who mark
Up the booze for us all.
We keep coming back.
This is the life I’ve got.
I make salads from hearts
Of iceberg picked by migrants
Who curse and bless
This country, state, and town;
Their corner with the motel
Whose windows acquire a sheen
Over them as they drink
Five-dollar Cuervo
And spit it into their hands
To slick back their hair,
Desiring the unattainable
Strippers who pass through
Once a month. Oh Sweet
Jesus, I keep imagining
The regulars and the lawyers drunk
Again, sliding off their chairs.
What I really like
About the clearest days
Isn’t the light itself.
At the trolley stop in Sharon Hill,
Where I grew up and most can’t
Leave, I’d stand there
With the two bums,
Big Bob and Chicken Man.
For being desolate, they dressed
Nice. They stank, though,
And sniffed glue every chance
They could. Otherwise,
They no longer seemed to desire a thing,
Not even the other’s shadow
On the hottest afternoons, flirting
With oblivion, waving to it
As it floated by quiveringly
Over their ears,
White and light as milkweed.
Trying to think of them again,
In their polyester suits
And dress shirts
Buttoned all the way up
To their scruffed wattles,
Whose collars resembled a hit pigeon
I saw once by the curb —
Its wings lifting slightly
As another A. Duie Pyle rig
From Pittsburgh barreled through
Sharon Hill, where I grew up,
Without stopping until it hit
The limits of West Philly —
I can see they have
Completed that agenda the dead
Stars have laid out, and I don’t know
Where they are now. So it is
This bus stop
We all end up at,
Telephone wires swaying
Between oceans, the sun
Hovering right there, between
Our fingers, with all its busted light.
I’ve heard it called a lot
Of things, not one of them
Accurate. The pines
And maples dripping with rain,
For example, have their Latin
Names that make them
Seem larger, which I can remember
Well enough most days,
Which I love.

Alexander Long was born and raised in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. He has worked as a musician, obituary writer, and fry cook. With Christopher Buckley, he is co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: the Life & Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington University).