Joe Costal

Track 1.

I knew Kip Winger and Motley Crue were getting blow jobs

even though I didn’t know what blow jobs were.

When I first heard the phrase, I thought of hair dryers,

the robot helmet-looking chairs inside

my mom’s beauty parlor. Where the viejas called

MTV “mierda,” but I couldn’t get enough. Heavy

metal was my favorite, backstage footage in black

and white, so it had to be real. Rockers who

looked like girls surrounded by more girls.

Indistinguishable. Make-up from the neck up.

But the girl Girls. Girls big-boobed and Aqua Netted

blondes with toasted brown skin, lined up, hobbled like bruised

peaches in halter tops, raising rail thin,

downy haired arms in bangle bracelet

unison. Yelling Woooooo at the camera,

like it was all they knew how to say.


Track 2.

When Poison played live on Headbanger’s

Ball, one of these girls lifted her “Open

Up and Say Ahhh…” t-shirt, exposing white

breasts. Bounced awake my insides. The camera

caught it. Just a flash, but long enough.

Long enough to hum electric in my mind’s eye

buzzing red as the Coca-Cola light in our drug store’s window.


Track 3.

And I wanted to touch a boob.

I decided one night, sweaty under Batman bedspread.

I wanted to touch one so bad. Even though my Cuban

grandfather called me a “fag” when I couldn’t catch

a football while he was watching. I wanted to

touch a boob. But I couldn’t play

the recorder, let alone guitar. And I didn’t have

money to buy a puffy ruffled pirate shirt or

spandex. Nor the thigh width required for

tight leather pants. No hair to style up and out.

To tease. Mine was low and tight, combed over and

back with Abuelo’s long black comb, licked fresh and

unsheathed from his back pocket. When he was done

my hair resembled Batista’s gelled helmet, not the

curly chaos of Guevara’s guerrillas.


Track 4.

The 90s came to solve all our problems.

Those pansy ass glam bands. Fuck them

said 1992, ripping Jon Bon Jovi and

Warrant off my wall. Nevermind,

said 1992, in a ringer ree, naked baby cassette in hand,

throwing away Hysteria and all those used GNR Illusions.

Said 1992, “No one gives a fuck.” Not Nirvana,

nor Mudhoney nor Fugazi. Tool. And Pearl Jam pissed off

Ticketmaster and nobody wanted seals clubbed.

Or wars started. Or New Kids. Or videos.

And the cool girls wore overalls.

And Abuelo’s closet was filled with all the flannel

I needed. And I walked to high school washed in

pre-soaked Old Spice and Pall Malls. My thighs the perfect

width for denim.


Track 5.

That fall, Billy Mirabelli got a blow job in his bathroom

while we watched Gremlins on HBO.

His mother worked the dinner shift at Ground Round,

so his house was where that kind of shit went down.

Drugs. Sex. Billy went into the bathroom like a virgin,

came out like a prayer. Hoping to be a man.

I studied his gaze. He still looked like the rest of us,

except dazed. Not older, as I’d suspected,

from the way my brother talked about the girls

who stood on Boulevard East, their pink lipstick

and yellow teeth. Their frayed, waxy bodies a

parable. Their jeans ripped down an entire thigh.

Our girls only ripped at the knee. The

denim threads, taut, like Venetian blinds.

Wigwam socks rolled calf-high. Our girls wore

beige lipstick and never smiled. Never talked.

Always bored. Like the girl who blew Billy–

she didn’t say a word, looked straight ahead while

Phoebe Cates described her dead Santa dad,

his neck snapped in bottled-up chimney.

Crumpled forward in soot.


Track 6.

I stared at the blowjob girl in spite of myself.

Though I knew enough to try not to. Her cheeks shiny

as fruit skin, reflecting the dancing yellows and

blacks of the movie. The gremlin death cries. The water

and bright lights. The eating after midnight.

Something in Billy’s eyes told me not to envy him,

his new blowjob life. Not to trust the other boys

when they clapped him on the back

raising rail-thin, downy-haired arms

in high-five unison, yelling Woooooo

at each other, like it was all they knew how to say.


Joe Costal begins listening to Christmas music right after Halloween, but not one second earlier. His writing has most recently appeared in The Maine Review, Ponder Review and Pif Magazine. His poetry will appear in the forthcoming anthology Challenges for the Delusional Part 2 by Diode Editions. Joe is an Assistant Editor at Barrelhouse. He writes and podcasts about books, music and movies for Quirk Publishers in Philadelphia and Jersey Ghouls. Joe teaches writing at Stockton University at the Jersey Shore, where he lives with his four children. His writing has earned awards and distinction from Grub Street, Painted Bride, Rider University’s Hispanic Writers Workshop & Wesleyan University.

Girard Avenue

Valerie Fox


Say you’re twenty-one and throw a party where you are house-sitting, a big row-house in a once opulent neighborhood, and you’ve danced with him, Russell, who is twenty-nine, and when he tries to get into your pants you let him, and say you never hear the stories about how Russell is really into girls your age, a lot of them, as told by Jimmy, who your close friend dated briefly to escape her abortion-guy, and well, say you go with Russell to Chicago, and get used to the temperatures, so when your older sister gets married and moves out there the two of you stay close, like when you shared a room growing up, and she let you listen to Abbey Road over and over, and have the top bunk, and a little later she sent you out to find out about birth control when you needed it, at some point, and then in Chicago, Russell’s oil paint smell and fluid, army-brat-Texan accent wears off on you, and his diamondo-pattern dada-vests, and, let’s face it, his luck, and in the summer, say you and your sister, who’s pining for a change of her own, go to Italy for a whole month, which feels new, beginning to end, keeping the window box begonias alive, cutting off your parents, drinking chianti, and both of you can see and hear ghosts, but only the ones whose stories ring true, and you name your daughter Penny Lane

Valerie Fox writes: “My recent chapbook, Insomniatic [poems], was published by PS Books. Previously I published The Rorschach Factory (Straw Gate Books) and The Glass Book (Texture Press). I have published work in Painted Bride Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Ping Pong, Hanging Loose, Apiary, Juked, Cordite Poetry Review, qarrtsiluni, Sentence and other journals. I live in central New Jersey and teach at Drexel University.”

A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Marjorie Maddox

Yeah, not just fingers, but hands,
shoulders, torso, limbs, Good Golly,

Miss Molly, everything swings up and over
the ivories, blasting away the past

with the lit stick of boogie-woogie
and blues rolled up in rock that explodes

from his lipsticked lips crackling with
Slippin’ and Slidin’ and Tutti Frutti

like they own the joint,
‘cause they do. Nah, nothing

little ‘bout his lungs wailing
Long Tall Sally, nothing

little ‘bout that pompadoured dude
blowing the lid off the fifties.

Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry including Wives’ Tales (Seven Kitchens Press), True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist), Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize),  and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award). In addition, Marjorie is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (PSU Press 2005), the author of four children’s books, and Inside Out: Poems on Writing Poems. Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, PA. For more information and reviews, please see



Joseph A. Cilluffo

My son says the garden is dying.

Every August, it’s the same.

The cucumbers, which had clambered

so fiercely up the lattice

and across half our garden square,

begin to yellow and wilt.

The peppers brown.  They soften.

Tomatoes explode across their vines, manic –

they bear more fruit than the days can hold.

Look there, I tell him, see that space?

Next year’s garden is already growing.

Seeds are in the ground,

gift of the fallen.

We could do nothing

and, by June, there would be more tomatoes.


He sees, I am certain, in only two dimensions

– what is before him, and what he remembers.

We could do nothing.  Nearby, my mother

dies in slow motion, surrounded

by four walls, a window

she doesn’t look through,

cut flowers.  All her words

from these last, long months

wouldn’t bend a blade of grass.

We could do

nothing.  My son and I

uproot the cucumber plants,

the peppers.  I wish I were strong.

Eyes will open to the green and new.

I try to picture

the garden to come.

Joseph Cilluffo has had over 100 poems published. In addition to Philadelphia Stories, his poems have appeared in journals such as The Schuylkill Valley Journal, Apiary, and Philadelphia Poets. He was the Featured Poet for the Fall 2014 Edition of the SVJ, which nominated his poem, “Light”, for the Pushcart Prize. Joe’s first book of poetry, Always in the Wrong Season, was recently published by Kelsay Books and is available on

Harmonica Rescue

Joe Samuel Starnes

If you find yourself at the bar alone

Sitting late for a quick beer

Before catching the train home

Surrounded by transparent young people,

Good-looking, but simple,

Half staring at their phones,

Half talking to each other,

Ignoring the aged drinkers, most stoned,

All unaware the digital impostor of a jukebox

Is silent, the TV turned down,

The incessant babble of the infantile

Like a rainstorm, the room’s only sound,

Play the Stones’ “Midnight Rambler,”

Live version. One dollar never goes farther.

Joe Samuel Starnes is a native southerner who has lived in the Philadelphia area for eleven years—five in Fishtown and the last six in Haddon Township, New Jersey. His novels are Red Dirt (2015); Fall Line (2011); and Calling (2005). He also has published poetry, short stories, essays, and journalism in publications as varied as the New York Times and the blogazine Fried Chicken and Coffee. His website is





The Flemish Captain

Gwen Wille

So some of his friends made

it out for his last, weathered


the late March rain, thin and soaking

as wave crests on a prow. Better


to have scattered him off

of Newfoundland, says one. Another,


He hated Scottish pipes. But again,

it was the best his widow could do:


Cape May, near the lighthouse, near

where the cold water smacks the sand


and froths mightily, exaggeratedly. And we

two onlookers sit perched beneath


a frayed umbrella on the beach, still

warm from breakfast and soon to set


out shelling, imagine him thus: bookish

more than bawdy, but grown full of tales.


Even the conchs we find later, blue-bleached

ocean bones strewn in halves and quarters,


know no better.


Gwen Wille lives and works in West Chester, PA. She studied writing at the University of New Mexico. Her work has appeared in San Pedro River Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Crow Toes Quarterly, among others. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time in the woods with her son, husband, and high-spirited spaniel.


Claire Scott

Years and years ago when I was six, and there were four of us kids always fighting, when my mother stayed in bed the entire year, bottles under blankets, orange vials on the floor, when us kids made bologna and mayonnaise sandwiches for supper, combed each other’s gritty hair in the morning, pulling and tugging, untangling knots of nightmares, although we skipped hair ribbons and barrettes, forgot to brush our teeth and wore wrinkled dresses to school with our only-one-pair-each scuffed brown shoes, before my mother was taken away, sirens splitting the night, before my father stayed home and made sodden pancakes, when my best friend Emily brought her new red patent leather shoes to school, I stole them from her locker.

Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. 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.

Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. 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.

Gettysburg Parable

Ed Granger

After his speech the people
who’d assembled to imbibe

the mulled wine of his baritone
went home and tried to rebuild

everyone, while the President
click-clacked back to Washington

wreathed in the steam of engines
he’d unleashed then stalked

like a gaunt apostrophe across
the street to telegraph Ulysses

Grant to “please come get this
business over with” before his

hair made wisps of smoke like Little
Round Top and his bristling jowl

grew sunken into Devil’s Den
chewing its hallowed dead.

“Expect worse”
Grant’s reply read.

Ed Granger lives in Lancaster County, where he was raised to love both books and theoutdoors. Since returning to PA in 1993, he has volunteered and worked for healthcarenonprofits. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, TheBroadkill Review, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Free State Review, Naugatuck RiverReview, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and other journals.

Dear Pylvia Salth

Kay Coolican

I am drunk

& listening to 4:49 a.m.

in the shower again

on repeat, thinking that


if steam handles lips

the way hands

handle match tips, then you


handle me the way

“too” handles “close”


(& there may never be enough

hot water).


Now, think of all the things

we can count on

our fingers


like the certainty of



when it fails to leave a

burning thing behind,


we choke.



Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Kayla Coolican is a freelance writer and poet based in Somerville, MA. A student at Lesley University and regular performer at The Cantab Lounge, she adores collaborative work, and spends her free time as the volunteer editor for a local indie lit-mag. In Cambridge, she is best-known for her steamy spoken-word piece, “Seducing Johnny Appleseed,” featuring in numerous Boston slams and solicited for radio performance in 2016.

Kayla also nurtures a quirky art portfolio and enjoys pairing her written work with Apidae-inspired illustrations. She looks forward to completing her first chapbook soon


Steve Burke

The island is this:
rimmed with trees
over centuries
the rest gone
for firewood
red clay soil
bleeding into the sea
That’s how I felt
when you left
ninety percent gone
and that tossed to the breeze
the axe-man’s chuckle
I still burn
this finds you as me:
out in mid-Ocean


Steve Burke lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia; has been published in various journals, read at many venues about the area; in 2014 had his chapbook After The Harvest published by Moonstone Press; has two book-length MSS-in-waiting — 36 Views Of Here and Nothing Doing.