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.”

Atlantic City

Justin St. Germain

Andy watched the cars around them puff vapor as his grandfather’s Cadillac slid through the Sunday church traffic on Cheltenham Ave. Pop flicked cigarette ash out the driver’s window. “Lock your doors when you drive through Olney,” he said. “You were born in Olney.”

Andy held his breath to keep the smoke out of his lungs and closed his eyes. His temples throbbed; the backs of his eyes ached. He’d had seven shots of airplane gin the night before, on a flight that landed late in Philly thanks to driving sleet. Four hours of sleep had done nothing to ease the pain.

Painting the Personal Essay

Denise Gess

On a warm Friday morning at the Philadelphia Art Museum, twelve men and women gather to hear a lecture on Mary Cassatt’s painting A Woman and Girl Driving. We’re art apostles, staked out on tiny, collapsible, green vinyl, aluminum stools. Some of the listeners are painters; others, like me, would be hard-pressed to sketch more than a stick figure.

Excerpt from One for Sorrow, Two for Joy

Elise Juska

It was Christmas, the first Christmas after Claire’s wedding, and Deirdre did not seem well. This wasn’t an easy distinction, as Claire’s mother had spent two decades complaining about this pain or that one, her migraines and fevers and swollen feet. But this time she seemed uncharacteristically quiet, weakened on the inside. Every visible feature was frantic, insistent, too bright.

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

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.

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.

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.

Local Poet Profile: Nathalie Anderson

Philadelphia Stories

Nathalie Anderson must have a very large shelf in her house for all of her awards. To name a few: the Pew Arts Award, the Washington Prize from The Word Works, the McGovern Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, the Academy of American Poets Awards … the list goes on.