Home-Made Gods

Claire Scott

Why not

create gods that work better for us

no gods requiring two sets of dishes

or prayers five times a day knees-in-agony O Lord

maybe not gods who talk of turning a cheek

or promise happiness in some tenuous heaven


come Tuesday, bring clay or fabric, easels,

buttons, paint, scissors, paper, old magazines

let’s each make her own god or goddess

mine a marionette with gossamer wings

pale blue eyes and a lacquered smile

more capable than Siri or Alexa


mine obeys every flick of my finger

whips up a chalet in France or a sleek Ferrari

collapses quietly in the corner when not needed

expects no penance or confession

no tithing or coins pinging a collection plate


some strings attached

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.


Amy Elizabeth Robinson

For Southeast Philly

The fragile bones.

The highway snaking

through the maze of rigs.


towers rising

and belching invisible

stink into your ovaries

ripe with coming

sickness and perhaps

forbidden        or forgotten

desire. The pinched lips.

The dusky pink

carpet stretched out behind glass latched doors.

The elevator narrow

and smoky and closing and rising and releasing

us to more dusky pink,

more stretches of beige to your tall beige door.


glass cabinets filled

with plates, tea cups, silver

spoons, leprechauns, Matryoshka

dolls, sheltered from the dust of

what? Of concrete

lots stretching to the edge of the Delaware?

The unspoken legacy of unspoken things,

sifted.             The not speaking.

The ladyfingers spongy

under the roofs of our mouths.

Our mouths too full

of sweet things

to ask questions. Still.

Amy Elizabeth Robinson is a poet, historian, and many other things living in the hills of Sonoma County, California. She grew up in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, spent summer vacations in Cape May and Cape May Point, and also went to college in New Jersey. She holds degrees in history from Princeton, University College London, and Stanford, and studies Zen and creativity with the Pacific Zen Institute. She is a Contributing Editor of PZI’s online magazine of Zen and the arts, Uncertainty Club, and her work has also appeared in Deluge, Literary Mama, West Trestle Review, DASH, Vine Leaves, and as part of Rattle’s innovative Poets Respond program.


Theodore Eisenberg

I understand why the shore line

is uncertain; why castles are sand.

Gulls carry the harbor and drop

it past buoys, as if bread had

fallen from their mouths.


A reckless hermit crab

navigates across a blanket.

A life guard judges, and

with evening, combs beach

for what is stranger.


When sea floats and sky

heralds concerts on a jutting

pier. How waves receive news

within percussion. Where a local

band adumbrates to the sea.


We undress for the sun;

at night regretting ourselves,

embraced by dark space, by

fumbling hands, in legs. A sea

breeze, cogent as undertow.

Theodore Eisenberg retired from the practice of labor law in 2014 to write every day. His poems have appeared, or will soon appear, in The Listening Eye, The Aurorean, Poetica, Thema, Rattle, Halfway Down the Stairs, Slipstream Press, Jewish Literary Journal, Crosswinds Press, concis, Main Street Rag and Ragged Sky Anthology. His chapbook, This, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. His poems are what becomes “this” for him – fragments received within the circle of his intimacy.

Also They Are Families Too

Alicia Askenase

In the apartment

there is smoke.  Margarita comes to sit

and packs feet into shoes.  Time for

the next shift.  It’s original

sin if you believe it.


They have begun to round us up,

vienen para nosotros, in Jersey, in LA nos esperan

en Wal-Mars, escuelas and hospitals.

We won’t be

there to pick you up

in our arms today hold

your sister’s hand, bring her home.


Wind blows the bedroom curtains

apart.        The sky divides into blue and white.

Three birds nest in the tallest

winter roble.

Two cannot fit

in so narrow kitchen.   She thought

she had tiled the walls with art.

Alicia Askenase is a writer, educator, and museum docent. She is the author of The Luxury of Pathos (Texture Press), Shirley Shirley (Sona Books), Suspect, and Cover. Her poetry has appeared most recently in the anthologies, Not Our President and New Work by Philadelphia Poets.

I Consider a Twitter Follow

Cortney Lamar Charleston

I pendulum on whether to press the button. I pause. I ponder

the little blue birdie that tells all of our thoughts to the world,

wonder if bald eagles have already gone extinct―dropped

dead to the earth like bombs built of bone, beak and feather.


To say I’m living in a time without symbols is also to say

there is no higher calling than protest, than the calling of

fingertip to keyboard, our new key of life, and yet I hesitate

to endorse anyone in a way that can be counted like a vote

of confidence, when, on the contrary, I’m shaken daily

solely for the music of it, bone-shingled skin bag beaten

against by tempestuous winds I’m told are coincidence

rather than conflict between our planet and our politics.


I believe the word I’ve been looking for is fear. Everything

bigger than me there was to believe in now seems entirely

too big a target on my back; I’m left interrogating myself

on what I still hold faith in during these dumbfounding days:


when I’m in a church, I still believe in the idea of divinity;

when I’m in a school, I still believe in the idea of education;

if I’m invited into a woman, I’m to believe, at least, in power,

programmed to be a man not unlike all those men I despise,

another reason I’m made queasy at contemplating the click,

though it’s a way to keep my enemy close but also theoretical.


I stare directly into the dearth of punctuation and grammar;

the gutter of blood above my eyelid overflows, causes a glitch

of motion, a flicker in the flesh. I’m smart enough to stay away,

but curiosity is a narcotic, can kill. But so does a lack thereof,

I know, because a little blue birdie told me so, sweetly sang

he’s trying to distract you, so I turned around to find nothing

behind me, and that’s when it happened:


a button somewhere

being pushed on somebody,

a trail of digits dictating

follow him, follow him,

follow him

Cortney Lamar Charleston is the author of Telepathologies, selected by D.A. Powell for the 2016 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. He was awarded a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and he has also received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation Literary Festival and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He currently serves as a poetry editor at The Rumpus.


Melissa Stein

By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.

I survived that voltage and barbed wire.

Now each day is clerestory,

each night a palimpsest of scars.

The militia pulls on its boots and waits.

On the altars, doves peck each other bloody.


A spider traverses its unseen wire

in the rarefied ether of the clerestory.

He told me it wouldn’t scar

if I rubbed salt in it. Wait

for the psalm to surface in the blood.

Close behind is the conquering army.


A trapped dove crashes through the clerestory,

a bewildered militia of scars.

I strip the insulation and wait

for ignition: for sweet oil to bloody

the engine. Too late. He’s left me

behind, a shipwreck of transept and wire—


you will know me by the scars.

By the crowned and pulsing weight

of every lost and bloodied

thing. Gilded and radiant is the enemy.

His last message traveled the wire

and vanished. God-blind is the clerestory.


All that’s left is to hide and wait

for the report of jackboots in a forest of blood.

To some, it is a symphony.

We collect feathers and bind them with wire

and twine. These wings are our clerestory.

The engine stalled, that metal body scarred


the rails, and in its wake, the blood

bearing its testimony.

The bodies dragged. The shallow graves, the fire.

Who stabbed out the windows of the clerestory?

What will annihilate these scars?

The immaculate landmines wait.


We are bound by blood to our enemy

while God feeds stars to his clerestory.

Why aren’t they detonated? The whole world waits.


Melissa Stein is the author of the poetry collections Terrible Blooms (Copper Canyon Press, 2018) and Rough Honey, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, Harvard Review, New England Review, American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, and others, and she’s received fellowships from the NEA, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. She is a freelance editor in San Francisco. 


Lisa Grunberger



When my Father was moving

from being to being nothing

I was about to go for a bike ride.


His right hand rose up

from under the blue blanket

as he patted the bed for me to sit.


I sat and stroked his face

so thin and unshaven it appeared

slender as the Flatiron building.




In summer, we could sit in the yard for hours

eating cherries, throwing the pits

the dog would chase.

We’re planting cherry trees he’d say.


In winter, we raced through bowls of green pistachios

seeing who could crack them faster.

We’d set aside the sealed ones, the ones

that stubbornly refused to be opened,

the ones with no crack.


Daddy said they have secrets

they can’t bear to share with us yet.

He poured the uncracked nuts

into a ceramic bowl.


He never disturbed the bowl

but sometimes he would lift it

as though it were a seashell.

He would nod his head.

He was a quiet man.




You will listen to your Father’s slow breath,

place ice chips on his cracked lips.

You will listen to the final rattle

and remember a baby’s noisemaker, Daddy’s keys.




Any stillness I possess belongs

in a yard

where another family lives

in the midst of cherry trees

they cannot see.

Lisa Grunberger, is author of Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures in Love, Loss and the Lotus Position and Born Knowing.  Op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof selected her poem  “The Story of the Letter J” in his NYT column in 2017.  Her play, Almost Pregnant, about infertility, adoption and motherhood, premiered in Philadelphia.  She is Associate Professor in English at Temple University and Arts and Culture Editor at The Philadelphia Jewish Voice. 

The Last Time I Hung Out With Baby D and Them

Sakinah Hofler

The twins—

those grinning gangsters

never seen without chains

tethered around their necks

and wrists, hold gold guns

that glisten against the clever

silver sky.

Do you

want to hold one?

I grip

the grip and for a moment

I get deer hunting—that transition

from boy to man or even girl

to woman, like Latonia B. who

took the life of Mikey because she

wanted to see what it was like.


In Newark, we don’t bawl

over felled fawns or ferry home

trophies—we’ve figured out

how to run without the chase

or racetrack, how to turn off

our eyes, zipper our mouths,

and lose our memories. It is always

open season and our stars

are mere exhausted streetlights.


And here, Baby D’s hand strokes

my ass then settles for my lower

back as he whispers,

you got

to get more skin on the grip

to get rid of that sympathetic reflex

in your hands. You’ve got to hold

it tight to really see.

I place my

finger on the trigger

and shut my eyes. I pull. And I see.

How easy it is.


Sakinah Hofler is a PhD student and a Yates Fellow at the University of Cincinnati. In 2017, she won the Manchester Fiction Prize; previously she had been shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Eunoia Review, and Counterexample Poetics. A former chemical and quality engineer, she now spends her time teaching and writing fiction, screenplays, and poetry.


Sakinah Hofler

at pathmark, you would sneak bottles of pantene pro v shampoo and conditioner into your momma’s shopping cart and each time, at the register, your momma would notice and tell the cashier you can take that one off, and each time you would scream, I wanna have hair like those women in the commercials! and each time she would just stare at you.

later your 4th grade teacher brought your momma in for a talk, not about your grades or your behavior, but your hair; your hair bothered her – one ponytail obeying gravity; the other, sticking skyward. her name was ms. alifoofoo and you stared at her jheri curl which were more poppin than your uncle’s while she said, your daughter needs to look decent for school. maybe you should get her a perm. you don’t remember what your momma said back but it happened on a thursday and by that following monday, you were starting your first day at a new school.


you learned religion at this new school and how to pray five times a day and you figured that you were now five times more likely to get the lighter skin, the long straight hair, and the brown eyes with flecks of green that you’d been asking for, and each morning you woke up, disappointed.


one day, your momma came home with two boxes of “just like me” and you and your sister held your noses while your momma spread the rotten egg white cream on both of y’alls hair, shampooed, then conditioned. after she blow dried, you couldn’t wait for your hair to cascade in layers, you couldn’t wait to flip your hair over your shoulders like the girls you read about in books. yes, your hair was softer. yes, your hair was a little straighter. but, your hair didn’t look just like that girl on the box so you cried. your sister’s hair fell out.


your momma took you to a salon and a professional added the extra step, the beveler, hair pulled and pressed between the heat of two ceramic plates. now, you could flip your shoulder-length hair as you pleased. now, you could almost be in a commercial. this became your habit for the next fifteen years.


you grew up.


your hair never grew past your shoulders but you found new ways to be grateful. your classmate in college told you your last name was german, making you pleased your family’s slave owners were at least german, pleased because it sounded better to certain ears than johnson or williams. your surprised coworker met you for the first time and told you, you sounded white on the phone and you used that info and that voice to book a reservation at that restaurant you had been afraid to call before. you shy away from the ghetto, avoid the eyes of saggers, you get degree after degree trying to be equal. some days, you try to convince yourself to come out of hiding, that you’ll beat anyone down who dare thinks they have something to say, in fact, there’s a proud photo of you in the first incarnation of the “black girls rock” t-shirt with your hand around your guyanese neighbor and that photo gets more likes on instagram than any subsequent photo. some days, you’re like, hell yeah, bitches, my black is beautiful. most days though, you pull out a scarf and cover your hair.


Sakinah Hofler is a PhD student and a Yates Fellow at the University of Cincinnati. In 2017, she won the Manchester Fiction Prize; previously she had been shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Eunoia Review, and Counterexample Poetics. A former chemical and quality engineer, she now spends her time teaching and writing fiction, screenplays, and poetry.


Elizabeth Langemak

Two days later, the surgery is already a moon landing,
and I’m its plowed landscape of proof.

In the bathroom mirror, my belly’s all unwavering
flags and stitched tracks on an aching,

windless set.  The Betadine sticks – a mustard slick –
for a week, and I don’t know what to do

with the photos: befores and afters, they call them,
six shots of cuts like new mouths to fix a flaw

I couldn’t feel until I woke up, the doctor’s light
tread still impressed on my gut.  I hide and dig them

out later, for days, those flimsy confirmations
that what’s real may as well not be, except that it is.

Elizabeth Langemak lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she is an Associate Professor, and Director of Graduate Studies in English at La Salle University.  Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Day One, Shenandoah, Pleiades, The Colorado Review, Literary Imagination, Subtropics, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.