APIARY Issue 2. Spring/Summer 2011 Copyright ÂŠ by APIARY Magazine 2011 ISSN: 2160-9608 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the publisherâ€™s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews. All works rights return to the authors upon publication. www.apiarymagazine.com email@example.com Artwork, drawings and back cover by James Ulmer. www.jamesulmer.com
APIARY publishes work by writers of all ages. However, some content may not be appropriate for younger children. We also distribute a kid-friendly PDF edition of the magazine, free for schools and teachers. If you would like a copy of this edition, email firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTENTS FEATURE: 59
The Letters of Lamont B. Steptoe and Dennis Brutus
*** 5 7* 11 13 14 20 22* 26 29 37 42 43 44 49* 53 55 71 78 80 88
This Just In Jim Cory She Homebound Michelle Myers At the End of My Vision Theo Brown Biological Mother Alla Vilyanskaya The House That Moved J.A. Curcione Eve Nina Melito Butterfly Effect On Point Ink Abbreviated Epic for Girl Scouts Toby Altman A Water Tale Karen Rile Polyphonic Monody Enrique Sacerio-Gari Fireworks for a Soldier Blaise Laramee Spontaneous Human Combustion Joseph Dorazio Star’s Isabel Ramos Paper Lantern Justin Ching On Returning Home: Laryngology Tessa Micaela The Robbery Nick Lepre Queens Summit Nina “Lyrispect” Ball Foreign Focus Jaclyn Sadicario Hitching to Nirvana (excerpts) Janet Mason New Growth Warren Longmire
90 91 93 100 102 108 111 114 122 128 130 131 134 136 139 141 144
The Sad One Son Huynh Being and Doing Peter Baroth Shade Zachary Hayes In This House Mariah Gayle Hypnagogia Angelo Colavita Round Midnight Marie-Antoinette Clark Poem Canâ€™t Action Number Four Drew Kalbach The Poem Tree Jacob Russell Gaviota Andrew Kohlbenschlag Strong Sam Burke Somnambulist Rachel Brown Ainu Steve Burke Move Aleyah K. Macon Summer â€˜10 Lauren Strenger Defend the Honor Aziza Kinteh A Nest Above Catherine Staples The Fork and Knife Together Nick Forrest
Italics denote Apiary Youth - Philadelphia writers between the ages of 8 and 18 *Performed live on APIARY Mixtape
Editors Michelle E. Crouch Lillian Dunn Nick Forrest Tamara Oakman Tiana Pyer-Pereira and Monica Zaleska, our very first intern
APIARY has grown up fast. In the months since Issue 1, our project has expanded in ways we never imagined. We’ve gone live with readings and panels at Swarthmore College, Giovanni’s Room, Big Blue Marble Books, the Tritone, and Arcadia University. We’ve teamed up with awesome local groups like Art Sanctuary, Feet Active - a monthly yoga-dance-vegan cupcake party - and Geekadelphia.com. PhillyCAM trained us to film our events and document Philadelphia’s amazing spoken word scene (watch out for our upcoming public access show, which may or may not feature cats reading poetry). We socialmedia’d our hearts out, raised $4,000 through Kickstarter, revamped the website, and learned how to use Twitter. Sort of. Oh yeah, and we still make a magazine, too. With the submissions pouring in, we’ve been able to snag work by Philadelphia’s best poets and writers - ones you’ve heard of, ones you haven’t, ones who are still in middle school. This print issue is just one piece of the puzzle. apiarymagazine.com will be publishing even more great writing, interviews, and video features throughout the year, and we’ll be back in paper with Issue 3 in November. It’s hard to say what APIARY will look like in another year. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that keeping up with Philadelphia’s many literary scenes requires nearconstant evolution. All that we can promise is that, like Philadelphia, it’ll be diverse, energetic, and a lot of fun.
THIS JUST IN Witnesses report lost luggage thrives in the wild Coyotes attack kids on pet crematorium complaint Judge allegedly napped, tried to stage coup Report: fired admiral rips through parts of Mississippi Work at Home: Break out of the Manson Ranch Pope: Sex can become ‘a final resting reef ’ Wife’s beer fortune became ‘like a drug’ Skimpy prom dress lands teen in Zimbabwe L.A.’s cupcake boom won’t prevent Alzheimer’s Mom who caged teen son rips down buildings China’s giant pandas survive brain cancer Governor seeks fees to help fight harmful nipple cream Violence breaks out over jumping ducklings Pirates charged with luggage rage Sunbathing girls maimed by plate-sized face tumor DNA samples saving children from trash heap Uncontacted tribe: ‘Never give in’ 30 tons of lobster lost in child bribe probe Poll: Half say ‘struck by lightning’ Cory, “This just in…”, cont.
2. Shuttle crew wear thong disguises Tropical storm chained to table by parents Hitler waxwork photographed crashing into bike races Job number 1 after docking: view brain cancer stories Minivan accused of killing husband Fifth severed foot found on Broadway
SHE HOME-BOUND For Brenda McMillan and Myong Myers
The ache to die in the place that She had lived began in her feet, this yearning for crossing a threshold that She could call her own. And her feet bore the ache down deep as She walked through life searching for a place to die. But this place could not be the land in which She was born for restless feet had carried her from post-war Korea, fatherless and therefore nameless, a might-as-well-have-never-been-born existence, on child-sized feet that bore witness to moving spaces to which She had no connection. And when the sky finally fell under the heavy hand of a cruel uncle and loveless stepfather, her bare feet swept She and her younger sister along suspiciously shifting mountain roads seemingly filled with growling horangiâ€”tigersâ€”to stand on a train platform to Seoul 7
singing songs for candy and sleeping on benches, trusting the kindness of passing strangers to get them on the right rain to somewhere-other-than-here. But her sister’s feet did not bear the same kind of aching and so retraced footprints in retreat with an exhaling breath reserved for a resigned return to the only place the sister had ever known. And since She could not call this home, She let her sister go and kept moving forward, ever yearning— “I want to die in the place that I have lived”— But knowing She had not yet lived, her naked feet bore her across a fluid earth, seeking refuge in solid ground that her feet could root into. And it was this primal connection to the land that made her feet thirsty and, therefore, impatient. So they clung to the first bit of rocky ground to stretch underfoot and being tired and lacking the restless defiant spirit She once had, 8
She relented to her aching feet and set down roots in this cold soil, almost barren of water and light. Yet She willed herself to stretch upward and outward and a home grew from her fingertips, and beneath the encircling canopy of her arms, a dandelion daughter and a dandelion son managed to spring from the precarious soil and while the seasons came and left, the winds ever relentlessly pushed and moved the dry unreliable dirt around her, exposing her aging brittle malnourished and long-forgotten feet. When the dandelion daughter and son bore witness to this, they cried salty tears that only made her feet more root bound. And as the winds howled heartlessly around them, the dandelion son and daughter tried to dig her out but soon 9
understood her feet had become too firmly planted and She would only leave this place if She were ripped out or cut away. So in the time they had left, they messaged her aching feet as best they could until the winds became too powerful and the dandelion son blew away on wispy seeds that wandered aimlessly on precocious air currents. The dandelion daughter watched her brother until he was out of sight then turned and pleaded with She in desperation: “Please just pull up your feet and walk away!” But even as She heard her dandelion daughter’s words and felt the land beneath her crumbling away from her aching feet, She only knew what She had always known— “I want to die in the place that I have lived”— and with that whisper She blew her dandelion daughter away with the hopeful wish that wispy seeds would find firm footing on solid ground somewhere-other-than-here. Michelle Myers 10
AT THE END OF MY VISION At the end of my vision, I witnessed you crucify yourself onto the curvature of America’s bowed branch, doomed to a certain invisibility because nobody saw you do it. At the end of my vision, I witnessed the great Artist lose himself in the spiral of a Northern Light, or drown himself under the pale glow of the moon and eye the sky with some muted wonder. At the end of my vision, I witnessed the old, cracked bodies of aging planets, mapped with ghostly craters, spin in revolutions as they’d expand and contract until disappearing in a silent explosion. At the end of my vision, I witnessed the incessant drooling of life’s great, frothy canine mouth whose teeth had blackened at the gums, whose tongue was sticky with some sick foam. At the end of my vision, I witnessed the carp swim against the marching of the currents, drowning in a river of fish hooks and bait made to resemble the
artistic fingers of writers, painters, and warlords. At the end of my vision, I witnessed the smoke rise from the muzzle of a rifle and settle into a haze over the steel and concrete, and executioner of Mother Nature. At the end of my vision, I witnessed a maple tree crash down near home and breathe to me that she was out of seed, where in the morning, mother would come out to plow the earth and cry that we would all be condemned to perdition. At the end of my vision, I witnessed a slow-burning, eternal fire, and tasted ash in this world where art and beauty held no place.
BIOLOGICAL MOTHER Mother Russia Grandfather Lenin Tovarish Stalin What was your dream? Was it pure, like the black sea And when did it contaminate? Drinking your own blood out of a gold goblet New Russians, Old Poverty Old ladies, designer shawls Selling sunflower seeds Ripe fruit bitter With taste of pogroms Unfit mother, speak your tongue My soul, a fossil In your earth. Alla Vilyanskaya
THE HOUSE THAT MOVED
ome of the open spaces on the long rows of houses were there waiting for something new, some were the scars of things collapsed and gone. The house that moved found its way in and out of those holes in the blocks that wound up the hill. Its windows looked sometimes to the sun breaking under the passing clouds or to the city skyline or at the frustrated suits shoveling off their cars. It didn’t linger long in any one spot before moving somewhere else leaving its odd prints in the snow and dirt. Behind it dropped a trail of all the familiar things once found inside, littering the streets with furniture, photographs, boxes of Christmas decorations. Until all that was left were the two of them sitting at a kitchen table with nothing to look at but nothing. He counted tiles on the floor. She watched the edge of her fingernails run across the lip of the table. The light from outside sprayed in at odd angles as the house moved, sometimes up the hill deeper into the tight regiments of houses, sometimes down to the green dingy river. He stood and walked to the sink, letting the water that dripped from the faucet run over his fingers before slamming his hand down on it. He found a voice strangely quieter than his fist. “This thing never worked.” “The noise used to keep me up when we first moved here. I guess I got used to it.” She moves her head in his direction, pointing her voice towards him but not her eyes. The house rumbled beneath them and began to move again. They
were oblivious, hating and thankful for the silence that broke apart their conversation. “I could stay until later.” She shook her head viciously, gave him a quick stare and a smile painfully polite. “That doesn’t make any sense.” A snow squall blew behind him in the window. They had moved again. The old slate roof of the abandoned school building on their block could be seen in the distance. The closer rooflines she didn’t recognize. “Does it?” “No. Not really. I left the address, in case-” “I saw. Good. In case.” “I’ll come by tomorrow. There are some things I couldn’t fit. Say one?” “One’s fine. I’ll be at work.” On the wall in the far corner of the kitchen, just next to the refrigerator was a large crack where the plaster had peeled. Water continually seeped in. She noticed it when they first saw the place, a long finger of discolored paint, stained from the outside weather, creeping down the wall. First he tried to seal it but the water came through anyway, turning the putty a filthy yellow and cracking it further. Then she tried three successive colors, each one darker than the last, to conceal it. Three attempts failed. So she painted the wall a bright red. He came home and saw her, wearing splatter like warpaint, slashing at the wall with a roller, going over it again and again, putting seven coats of paint on the wall. Then she watched it all night long. She sat on the kitchen table with her knees crossed staring, daring the crack to come back. The next morning he came to the kitchen for breakfast, saw her crying and saw the crack in the wall. He couldn’t help but
laugh. She stared at him angrily while his back was turned and in one final fit of rage she swiped the still bleeding roller down the back of his T-shirt while he was getting a drink of water. He turned to her, shocked, as her face went from fury to disbelief before melting into apologetic laughter. So he took his shirt off and he used a thumbtack from the drawer no one ever cleaned to hang it over the crack, the smeared red paint facing them both. It was her newest piece of art, he said and was glad it was hanging in their home and not another of those poorly lit galleries she always found. She thought how she loved his sense of humor as she spent the next three weeks looking for a replacement shirt. Each time the house moved to a new spot, the crack widened. The shirt that hung all that time fell unnoticed to the ground. From where she sat she saw the shadows of the houses around them stretch and yawn across his back coloring away all the little things about him she knew. For hours that morning they had walked around a hanging silence with a strange ugly sounding conversation until finally the house began to shift underneath them. They were unsure, by the afternoon, who wanted it to go first but that was academic now. They did notice the shaking walls initially but that soon disappeared into the background. They could hear the last of their things make soft impressions made in the dirt and snow, the house throwing things away while they looked at how they weren’t really looking at each other. They knew their things were going, those little useless items that had parts of her story and parts of his together, knew they should miss them, should try to stop the house from throwing them aside but the things themselves started to look a little too unfamiliar, some too sharp to grab at. Even her hair, which had started that morning thin and light had
turned long and brown while they spoke or didn’t speak. Each tense and laden syllable they dropped gave the house one more thing to throw away. She stood to put her cup of coffee in the sink, felt him looking at her hair. He hadn’t moved from his spot at the counter and they were close. She heard him thinking. “I feel like I’ve seen you here before. In this exact spot. What do they call that?” He said nothing though, of course, he knew. It might be the last thing he said to her and he didn’t want it to be that. He wanted something memorable. Everything had the feel of heat and transition as he walked past her long hair, which still smelled the same, to the doorway opposite. There was a little blue bag he nudged from his path. “Okay.” Then there was a lurch. The house came to a standstill launching everything left inside from its place- a small plant in a ceramic pot he bought her once when she was sick tumbled, a picture fell off the wall and the shattered glass left a slice in the print she knew he wanted. The cup she had perched near the sink tumbled backward. They watched it drop for each ticking minute until it shattered an hour later on the tiles, splitting into jagged teeth that caught the remaining sunlight and glowed white, veined with coffee stains. Neither one of them moved, though, still watching it. It was now almost evening. He pointed to the floor. “Don’t cut your feet.” “I won’t.” “I’ll get the broom.” “No. That’s okay.” She moved closer to him, raising her long hair like a curtain against the kitchen. She thought about touching his coat, she
hadn’t seen him take it from the closet. He put his hand against the wall, his fingers bumping along clumps of paint badly applied by a previous tenant. “Okay.” She looked at him then. There was so much in his face that she knew. “Okay.” He picked up his bag and moved quickly to the front door. She didn’t look at it once it had shut. Outside, the house had settled in a vacant spot on a quiet unfamiliar street. The faces of the houses that surrounded it were all different, the cars that lined the street were unknown. There was a sharp metal whine as a train stopped nearby. He wasn’t sure where he was, if it was even the same city or where his tightly packed car was. He didn’t look around him long before he began to walk, it was late. Everything sounded real, felt real. The air made him cold. Car exhaust, coarse and nauseating, hung around him. He had no direction to go because he had so sense of origin. He walked out of a house he didn’t know onto a sidewalk he didn’t know looking at things he didn’t know. The house that moved was even a different color. Not that he noticed that until he was a block away and turned to look at it only, as he rationalized, to get some better idea of where he was. He made a random left turn and lost sight of the house, walking into a gripping feeling like the cold. He paid no attention to the prints the house had made on its journey or the things that used to belong to him that he passed, now discarded on the snow and street. He felt like he had forgotten something. J.A. Curcione
EVE we sat in designated blue velvet porcelain oak chairs mother pulled syrup and bread and sarcophagus from the black-caked corroded oven, we watched, steam rising from her robe and, I passed out, the knives, my brother licked his teeth coated, licked, his teeth trembling licking and my sister blinked as she prayed fingers crossed together knelt down, intertwined I counted these blinks until the crows, descended, every year, black feathers in glitter glue plugged into the outlet behind the table, thrash brown toe claws in steel-toed boots in our milk and honey, the table salt, and spit in our mouths manifestations, cholera, plasmosis, Darlingâ€™s disease, father rises and punctures my brotherâ€™s, throat with two double-A batteries
positive test results lung collapse lung collapse the, they, stab their gnarled cracking beaks in my stomach, fermented digestion system twisted, arranged a one-act nativity scene with the entrails, blood of the holy ghost coagulated in my throat and mother observed from the other end contorted hands gesturing relaxations convulsing relaxation hissing around, flapping, relaxed, I kneeled ambivalent on the hardwood fetal position outlines
BUTTERFLY EFFECT Alisha Rising on the adrenaline making you feel like a junkie, canâ€™t you feel me, my flutter dancing in you abdomen see, Iâ€™m that feeling that most call nerves, but you come in contact with me the most, before stepping in front of an audience and letting your words flow. Pause- Our first encounter can never be imitated, but when we do our thing we often replicate it. The moment you fell in love with me, I flapped my pretty wings tickled you with a wink Twinkle twinkle in your eyes, Birth a Star, no feeling as genuine Or magnificent as the first time, I quaked the mic off the Richter scale, Magnitude undefined no need to question my butterfly effect because This is who I am.
cleaning out my closet, wondering, how can i dress these feelings? stylist Michele Myer, my genes, that she fitted me to wear out proud, to clothes minded people, who wanted me to bare all, when i model poems so on the stage im most exposes, allowing these butterflies, flap their wings inside me, to cause tornadoes in my lung, to breathe these words, life! on how I am living?
“I’m merely human, Barely a man, Far from hood royalty, Never felt like Prince Poetry, I’m more like the Pauper, They say... my shit lacks structure,
But I challenge them to try to Organize Konfusion, I cope with stress, By keeping a pencil pressed, To eight and a half by eleven legal paper, Wrote my first rhyme as a fourth grader, Never was one of them cats kickin’ rhymes at lunch time, I was bangin’ out beats on the table, But, as I evolved into manhood, I began too, Realize that no matter how hard I would bang on the table Top, my thoughts would keep me boxed in, Scribblin’ out Spoken Word interpretations if Joplin, My inspirations spit into trumpets not mic’s, For the sake of metaphor, I would compare myself to Len Bias not Mike, ‘Cause when I do this, Euphoria overrides any feeling of nervousness I do this to stop the butterfly’s wings from flapping.”
Age 13...the mirror addressed me as I addressed it in some Guess shit. Jeans blue like depression with some not quite fresh kix and a fedish for a two sizes too large Authentic White-Tttt. Follow by my Jansport bookbag that displayed hoodtags in
white writing to give me that Hood/Swaggg. White/Out my fears of not being super~rior (superior) on the mic and let Black ink thoughts escape from my chamber of a mouth Cause my mentor loaded me Up to aim for the clouds like the cannon he wanted me to be. So I was/bustin flows like a cherry, very, month~fully (monthly) the youngin would speak over top of rappers and their beats. Til my words for finessed, Yes, ‘magnifeet’/from head to feet… This potential bad boy intentions was to destroy disci~plines (discipline=beats) from beginnings to the end, and Cancer leak my potency onto rap&poetry to rip venues and bars. Now we rhyme the best cause of our butterfly effects cause/THIS IS/WHO WE ARE.
On Point Ink
AN ABBREVIATED EPIC FOR THE GIRL SCOUTS 1. At Normandy, they landed in skis and snow-shoes, ready to stamp out whiskey and pornography. No one told them it was summer. They did not make it off the beach. 2. When we woke in the morning, only the bees had survived— only the bees, and your grandmother’s fruit trees, fringed with ice and old wool. Give us women such as her! sloshed, peddling thin mints and peanut-butter oolongs in the parking lot after church.
3. Greatness is the death of birds: when we woke, James Polk was at the door, with a bag full of water snakes and snapping turtles. He’d put on weight, dyed his hair blond, dressed himself in feathers: That night, our closets were filled with parrots, white and silent, each, a fallen scout. 4. That we do not forget when they held the cathedral at Mon Pierre, with only cigarette butts and salmon snouts— six hours against Germans, enough time for the sonderkommando to build a monument to his wife, a scout herself, who turned into a bee-hive when her husband joined the Nazis— that we may not forget those scouts!
Six hours against the Nazis and when they looked again, the cathedral was full of snakes, startled and angry, scraping honey from the saints.
A WATER TALE
t was a nasty morning. Nasty. There was trash in the street, mixed in with swirling gutter water and dead leaves. That was the week my boyfriend Ed had decided to stop loving me for no reason he could articulate. Also, my supervisor had written me up for insubordination, for a pretty good reason that I could articulate if forced to. I was hungry, wet, and exhausted, and wretched beneath the weather and inside my own skin. I shrank back behind the scarred plexiglass of the bus shelter as the old woman approached. Not that she was noticing me. She was there every morning, rain or clear, mumbling and gazing forward at nothing. She waited beside us, but she never got on the bus. I donâ€™t know why. Her eyes cloudy with disease. She seemed frail, and a little sick, or out of her mind. It was none of my business. Â I stood in angry silence among the crowd of familiar strangers shivering in the rain. Then the 7:18 roared by without stopping, farting diesel. Seven of us regulars were left in its wake, notably me with a spatter of mud across the lower half of my fresh-that-morning hospital whites. The old woman stood apart, her face upturned towards the sky, and rain streaming down her cheeks like tears. The rest of the crowd at the bus stop had begun to mutter and curse under our breath, like a pot on the stove about to boil over. It was not the first morning the bus had passed our corner without so much as slowing, but it was the worst sort of morning for this 29
insult. We were wet; we were cold; we were late for work. Another bus shrieked past. Not a public bus: this time a orange-andblack school bus, its windows filled with jeering children. The injustice! I raged at the thought of those dry, coddled brats and the also-dry, comfortable passengers on the 7:18 that had ripped us off. I was angry not to have a seat inside the shelter when others used up valuable sitting space to prop up their backpacks. I was angry at myself for not bringing an umbrella. For wearing my fresh-polished shoes. For sleeping too late for breakfast, but not late enough to feel rested. It was a rage that would have been better directed at Ed or my supervisor, Mc Minion, who had written me up already this month. As I mentioned. But in the cold, damp, gray of the too-early morning, I could think no further than the immediate misery of the water trickling down my forehead and neck, and leaching through my socks. The old woman moved slowly towards the shelter now, her eyes fixed, but still unfocused. At first I thought that she was blind; however, she moved with slow assurance, never stumbling or groping. I leaned against the plastic wall and gagged. The shelter smelled of wet coats, wet newspaper, wet French fries, wet oily hair. She was moving her mouth, but made no sound that I could pick out above the street noise. I shifted my weight forward and peered around her towards the small crowd that had gathered just outside of the shelter. They were talking to a man in a dirty white van that had pulled up against the curb, blocking the right lane of traffic. It was one of those rogue cabs you read about on warning signs at the airport. A volley of horns rang out, and again, longer this time, dissonant and sharp. 30
“He says he’ll take us,” said the man-who-wears-berets. He was a fat old guy who owned an assortment of different berets, which he wore at a cocky, asymmetrical angle, like he thought he looked sexy. Like he thought he was French, or communist, or something. The beret guy leaned towards the van driver, his hat slowly darkening with rain. “Five bucks apiece. I’m in.” Then he flung open the van door and climbed inside. The woman-who-wears-fake-Burberry climbed in beside him like a schoolgirl on a field trip. The backpack-seat-hog, probably a college boy, dove in next; and then the dreadlocked woman I knew from the cafeteria line. She worked on a floor downstairs, and we had never acknowledged one another even though we saw each other every morning waiting for the 7:18. One by one, they piled inside until the van was full. “Well?” said the backpack-hog, peering out at me from inside the van. There was a single seat left, up front beside the driver whose face I couldn’t see. “Five bucks to King of Prussia, aren’t you coming?” barked the hog. I was late enough already. I was cold and wet. There was no one left at the bus stop besides me and the blind woman, and she wasn’t getting in. What choice did I have? I swung my bag onto the massive bench and climbed up beside the driver. The front seat well was cluttered with blankets and bags; there was practically no room for my legs. I rested my feet on a lump of black canvas and pulled my knees together like a school girl. The driver was wearing sunglasses, and on such a dark morning. His eyes were fixed on the windshield.. Another chorus of horns sounded from behind. Before I could slam the door he peeled away from the curb and merged clean into the stream of traffic. Glancing back, I saw the blind woman alone inside the shelter,
growing smaller by the second. And then we whipped around the corner, and she was gone. It was uncomfortably quiet inside the van. We were a group of unhappy strangers who waited together every morning. We had never had so little personal space between us. The odors of our eight bodies—knockoff perfume from the fake-Burberry women, armpit odor from the backpack hog, wet wool and cigarette smoke from the beret guy, and the soft earthy odor of an anonymous fart—rose and filled our lungs, connecting us in a way that our minds and voices could not. My toe bumped against something soft. A growl rose up from the floor of the van and I was surprised to hear the Burberry-woman croon, “What’s the name of your dog?” “I call her Baby,” said the driver. He had an accent I couldn’t identify. Macedonian, Albanian, Ukrainian. He wore fingerless gloves, his exposed fingers grimy as a mechanic’s. His left index finger and thumb were missing. Just a couple of angry pink stumps. Well, I like dogs as much as the next person, but my pants were already dark with rainwater, and last night’s careful home shoeshine was now undone. All I needed was to be written up by Mc Minion for a uniform violation. “What kind of dog?” asked the hog. “Part collie,” said the driver. “Part wolf.” He pronounced it volf, like a cartoon. “I’ve heard of that,” said a male voice in back. “Friend of mine in Missouri, he’d leave his bitches tied up outside when they were in heat. If
they were still alive next morning and he was lucky, he’d get himself a litter of part-wolf.” I glanced behind me, but I couldn’t tell which man in back had spoken. “Now that sounds cruel. What would be the point of that?” asked the dreadlock-woman indignantly. “Point is, they’re damn vicious watchdogs,” said the voice impatiently. “Ain’t no one gone mess with you if you got a wolf.” I peered into the dark space on the floor of the van and the needlenosed wolf-dog stared up at me with clouded eyes. She was blind. Some watchdog she’d be. But as I reached to pet her a growl rose up in her throat. “Is Baby friendly?” asked Burberry. The driver shrugged. “Maybe she’s not used to the passenger in front.” The passenger in front? Did he mean me? Specifically, personally, me? Or just any shotgun rider? I crammed my hands into my coat pockets and sat straighter in my seat, my feet very still. The van had exited the highway and was driving on the road beside the river. “This ain’t the route the bus takes,” observed a voice from the back. “Maybe—maybe it’s to avoid the traffic,” suggested Burberry. “No busses allowed on park roads,” said the hog. “But he can drive here because he’s just a van. We’ll be at K of P in twenty minutes.” The road left the river and wound uphill towards the park mansions. I gazed out the rain-streaked window, trying to take my mind off the dog at my feet. Trees. A garden, with statues. Trees. More Trees. It was hard not to think of Baby. Sitting up front beside in this small space her felt like taking a
bath with a shark. But at least Baby had helped me take my mind off the rest of the morning. As we passed the entrance to the Japanese Tea House, the van swerved a bit on a sharp turn, sending my weight forward. My leg pressed unwillingly against the flank of the wolf. My muscles tensed instinctively, and I could feel her tensing, too. A female voice in back—I’m not sure whose—let out a long gasp. I looked up and saw the overturned school bus, fresh steam rising up from its still-spinning wheels, horrible upside-down faces peering out at us from its shattered windows, like Halloween masks. “Shouldn’t we stop?” cried the dreadlock woman. “I’m a nurse—” “I’m calling 911 on my cell.” said the hog. “We should turn back,” said a grave voice in back. “There are no other cars on this road. There might something we could do.” “There’s nothing we could do,” said the beret. “Emergency will take care of it. We’d best stay out of the way and go to work.” “But I’m a nurse,” repeated dreadlock. I’m a nurse, too. Which should be obvious to anyone, thanks to my uniform. But I said nothing. The dog growled softly at my feet. The van turned again and we were back beside the river. Curiously, there were no other cars on the road. “Tree down across the road behind us,” said the driver. “I hear it on radio, take shortcut. It’s good.” “I don’t hear sirens,” said dreadlock. “Didn’t you dial 911?” “I’m trying,” said the hog, “but the call keeps dropping.” “Oh dear,” said Burberry. “I left mine at home. Who else has a cell?”
My fingers closed around the cold little phone in my left pocket, but I didn’t move. Baby groaned and relaxed against my leg. My heart was racing. “I’m calling, too,” said a voice in the back, “But I can’t get through. It’s the damnedest thing.” “Maybe we should go back. Those children back there—they need help,” said another voice. The van was picking up speed now. Beside us the river was swollen and brown, carrying branches, and whole trees. We were driving upriver, against the current. The driver kept accelerating. I watched the logs racing downriver where they would inevitably jam against the netting at the top of the falls. Below the falls lay the city, and in the city lay our bus stop, and three blocks from the bus stop lay Ed, still fast asleep in his own bed in his own apartment, dreaming his own dreams, about anyone but me. “—or at least he should slow down,” the beret was saying. “The road’s so slick,” said Burberry. “And this van isn’t in the best of shape. Who knows what condition the tires are in. I can’t even find my seatbelt!” We raced forward into the mist, the woods streaking beside us to the left and the river to our right. So much angry water. I sat paralyzed in my seat, the breath of the dog hot on my shin. Baby’s breath, I thought, a vision of white flowers, bride’s flowers, rising unbidden in my imagination. There was a high-pitched sound—the van’s brakes, or was it someone simply whistling in the back seat—and we began to slide sideways towards the river, a strange horizontal accomplishment of gravity. The driver corrected towards the left and the van over-corrected towards the oncoming lane. But
there were no cars in the lane. There were no other cars on the road at all, or we would have been killed on the spot. In a fraction of the time that it would take to write these words, we were sliding again towards the river, and again away. My hand closed again on the phone in my pocket because it had begun to vibrate. Then the sound began, and it was Ed’s special ring, Ride of the Valkyries. I fingered a button on the side of the phone and disconnected him. The river was sliding towards us again and we were heading straight for its yawning, angry mouth. Forward and away, but closer every time. Oh, to be a log drifting passively down the river. That’s what all of us were thinking as we sat mesmerized. The wolf moaned at my feet and watched me with her milky eyes as we swung, again, towards the river.
POLYPHONIC MONODY 1. Brother under the rubble sand shepherd without a name who searched for greenness and became a nation between two rivers, I bring you before the sun and the moon so they can see your face and your hair, for the earth to quake against a battle so unjust and the stars to neigh against the fire from afar that fell upon your bed. You were a father
in your dwelling in your land heart of a herd from the desert branches by the bank of the watersâ€Ś and they transformed your wheat into thistle within your eyes befell bare hills and dead waters. You died in life, you shall live in the rain that searches for its ponds. 2. Sister widow in the afternoon without a morning you prepare lamb wrapped with eggplant (tongue of the judge) that resounds and denounces the crimes
against your people. If you only had a neighbor of peace! If you only had shelter on the road away from the war! They shoot arrows, murderous tongues flocks of falsehood and uniforms disguised as the desert poisoning your streams. The lament of your eyes shall return to town to awaken a united cry and destroy the hideouts of the jackals. 3. Boys and girls, white shrouds on living shoulders, life returns to the windows
and the newly swept streets hear a funeral elegy Will the nations understand this? Who will press the trigger of a camera to show us the blood in the rivers that border the cradles spattered by civilization? The cattle bellows, the storks flee their nests, and mothers lift their smiling children, shrouded in white in the scopes of the soldiers of the candidates
FIREWORKS FOR A SOLDIER The rockets whistled up Like witches on brooms, shrieking, And blossomed into tangent Emerald spheres, releasing gray smoke Into the wind like the blood of a Fish into a slow moving creek. The man stood far from the fence Separating the crowd from the street But not far enough from the show Of fiery sound, and a small knot Of people formed around him as he Fell to the ground and convulsed on the Parched, yellow grass of America.
SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION It’s always the same vignette: a lonely abode, its solitary occupant supine in a naugahyde recliner, presumably smoking a cigarette. Nothing remains of the body: spot incineration surpassing cremation, except for a foot still clad in its felt slipper. Not even Dali could paint this kind of melt.
ugustine, my cousin, buckled the safety strap on my car seat. I hated that thing. I remembered the day my grandfather installed it in the car. He had buckled the huge, blue car seat, quick as lightening; and with that, my high rolling passenger seat freedom disappeared forever. Dad’s face flashed through my mind briefly, as I remembered the day not too long ago that this stupid device had entered my life. I looked out the window. The scenery of the neighborhood rolled past my line of vision. A dimly lit sky, chain food restaurants with tile roofs, and the tallest palm trees in the world walked on past the car. An unusual silence filled the vehicle. It usually boomed with laughs and impersonations and teasing remarks, seeing as all my cousins belonged to a completely different world: that of preteen boys. The silence suddenly shattered as we pulled into Star’s, our local version of Sonic. We’d order our food at a drive through with a giant menu. A waiter on roller skates would later bring the food out to our car. My cousins eagerly shouted into my uncle’s ear what they wanted to eat. Gerry—my oldest cousin and to this day, the one I admire most—placed a double order of a burger and a corndog. I had never eaten a corndog before but I asked my Tio Casey to place my order as a corndog as well. Our food came, and we hit the road again. For my cousins and I, it didn’t matter where we lived. Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Austin—it didn’t matter. Our grandparents’ house,
here in Brownsville, Texas, always played the part of home base. Where we said our first “I love you’s.” Where we learned how to make toast and butter. Where we cursed profusely in Spanish, without even knowing it. Where some of our greatest adventures took place. As we turned the corner onto Elizabeth Street, I took a good look at home base. The red, clay, tile roof and stucco walls. The small, tile patio with two white wooden rocking chairs--one for each grandparent. The big, bright Texas stars, that I heard about in songs all my life, glistened over the entire property. The stars playfully winked at me. I had acquired the dexterity to wink the summer before and my grandfather and I considered it to be one of my many talents. I suppose it was then that we knew I was destined for greatness. My small, yellow swing that hung off a papaya tree in the back yard twisted ever so slightly in the light breeze. My eyes followed its sway. I wondered why we had even left the house in such a rush. None of us felt particularly famished. I should have probably been in bed by now. Oh, well. As we pulled into the tiny driveway, I noticed tons of cars piled into the driveway and on the lawn too. I knew that—like a typical Latino family—my family consisted of many, many people. But this many unfamiliar cars never filled our driveway, except on special occasions, like Christmas. My gaze was fixed on the giant pick-up trucks--that decorated our front yard like ugly lawn gnomes--as Augustine unbuckled my car seat. We waddled into the house, one behind the other like lost ducklings. Tio Casey instructed us to eat in the dining room instead of at the small, kitchen table at which we usually sat. I unwrapped the aluminum foil that hugged my corndog tight. This thing looked weird. It resembled a popsicle… except fried. I watched my cousins devour their fast food. I,
however, lost my appetite. I hesitantly took a bite. I twisted my small mouth in utter disgust. I recall spending the next couple of minutes wondering why I hadn’t just ordered French fries. I knew my family’s clean plate policy and analyzed my one way out of eating this dumb thing. I had to bring in the special forces. As the baby of the family, and the only granddaughter present (since my sister was back in Philly), I had my grandparents wrapped around my finger. I got up from the table and ventured towards my grandfather’s room. The back of my sandals smacked against my heel with every hurried stride I took. He had been spending a lot of time in bed lately. My Tio Casey reached for my arm as if to stop me from going any further. I ran. I opened the door to my Dad’s room. To my surprise, my entire extended family filled the tiny room. I found myself in the middle of an ocean, unsure of where I had entered or whether anyone knew I was there. All I could see was a crowd of floral printed skirts, high heels, cowboy boots and denim pants. I pushed between legs and weaved between grown-ups until I found my grandmother. She pulled me into her arms and from the higher up view; I noticed that nobody in the room had dry eyes. I suddenly realized why. My grandfather, Dad, lay in his bed just as he had for the last few weeks. However, his brown skin looked flushed and his “Snickers” colored eyes weren’t open. Through tears, my grandmother instructed me to kiss my grandfather on the hand. “Dale un besito, Mijita,” my grandmother’s trembling voice echoed. I held his massive hand in my two hands. Squeezing my eyes shut, I pressed my face to the back of his large, brown hand. The same hand that built a rocking chair for my sister from scratch; the same hand that cradled me by the ocean when I was two years old; the same hand that taught me to pet his cows. I didn’t cry.
As I got older I made my own assumptions about that night. I tried to fill in the blanks for myself. I decided that my grandfather had spoken his immortal last words before closing his eyes. I pictured my grandmother stroking his head, confidant that everything would be okay. I thought maybe an angel had flown into the room to help my grandfather along. The angel’s name would probably be Ariel seeing as my grandmom had once told me all angels’ names end in “el” (In doing this she assured me that “Isabel” was an incredibly angelic name.) Also, Ariel was my favorite Disney princess. I never talked about that night with anyone. And all I could remember from the funeral was sitting in a church that felt more like the Coliseum. That ocean of floral prints returned to the service, this time in all black. As for my grandmother, she put away her bright embroidered Mexican dresses for the rest of my childhood. This past summer, I spent a month back at home base. I was reclined on my aunt’s sofa with my head on her lap as she mindlessly twisted tiny little braids into my hair. We were in the dark living room watching Celebrity Ghost Stories on her DVR. She was telling me about a supernatural experience she once had in which she was positive that she saw Dad on a busy street. Suddenly, a sigh escaped me followed by a list of things I remembered from the day Dad died. The car seat, the swing, the corndog, and his massive hand. Without hesitation, she delved into the night from her perspective. She told me about my grandmother’s frantic attitude. She told me about how all my relatives filed into the house moments after he died. However, the part that hit me the hardest was my aunt’s recollection of how scared Dad was in his last moments. My grandfather was a lot of things to me. He was the family superhero. He was a police officer. He was a cowboy. He was a motorcyclist. He was my best friend. The only thing I never imagined him
being was human. So many people have suffered more than I ever have or ever hope to. Other people have lost parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles. Others lost people with whom they grew up. In health, freshman year, we learned about the Five Stages of Grieving: a five step method that ends with acceptance. However, I grew up with an entire family that has yet to fully recover from one death. Brownsville, Texas was hit with a full-on hurricane when we were just a house of cards. And all the king’s opossums and all the king’s Chicanos couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. At least, not completely. For everyone, there is a simple thing that can trigger an avalanche of memories. For me, it’s the Star’s on West Elizabeth Street. Eleven years later, I still burst into tears at the sight of Star’s. I’m not quite sure when the grieving process ends. People say that children don’t understand death. However, I remember looking at my 61-year-old best friend through a 4-½ -year-old’s eyes. I can’t remember a minute of my fifth birthday, but I can’t forget a minute of the day Dad died. I’ve never eaten a corndog since.
PAPER LANTERN After twenty one years of neglect, Countless promises of next time, And a Father who swore on his bank account, The only God he has, that I better be here today, I arrived at my Grandmother’s hospital bed, In some parallel universe, I’m sure we were inseparable, I would come after church on Sundays, Dressed in clothes that made me look more like a small penguin than young Christian, She would bake me apple pie, Let me eat it before supper, And never make me finish my broccoli, While told tales of the old country, Fables of the handsome prince I would’ve become, And I would in kind recount these anecdotes to all my friends, Because everyone loves a good grandma story of simpler times and glory days, But that never happened, I arrived here a life too late, I used to pull the sheets over my head when I was afraid,
Now I’m terrified of what’s beneath them: A scarecrow crucified on wooden bones and tattered skin, Her breath sounds like crumpled paper Two Bright red lanterns wrinkled beneath her breastplates. She smiles…painfully, Her lips clawing away from her teeth like soldiers retreating from a two front war, and they just want to smell a home cooked meal again, Pops says she recognizes me, He’s always been a clever liar, She has Alzheimer’s and I haven’t seen her since I could still hold my age in my right and left hands, Strawman she is, Her brain is absent as I have been, How do you cry for a stranger? Visiting hours for friends and family, This feels more like hospice care. Once upon a time, My father dragged me to her convalescent home, Where I played hide-and-seek with pale faced zombies, Ravenous for human flesh and anything warm that would touch them, A hand A cup of coffee Or her last memory of the sun, Years ago the Great Wall of China ran up her spine,
Rumor has it you can see this wonder from the moon, But that’s just an urban legend, Trust me, I’ve watched from farther away From the other side of a casket, And the front seat of a rental car, She laid to rest in Monterey, I can’t say Steinbeck ever walked this cemetery, But I felt guilty with every sin east of his Eden. We had the ceremony in a church, Because that’s what people are supposed to do, The service was me, my father, and a priest paid by the hour, No procession, No mass requiem, No Ave Maria sung by a woman in the only little Black dress she’ll never to want wear again, Just prayers read off paper sheets folded like fast food menus, Hands pressed like mantis, Eyes up, Ears open, Hadn’t heard her real name until the undertaker read it in Chinese off the tombstone. A shotgun funeral, Fitting for a life that ran from bullets. Fled a communist revolution with nothing but a suitcase and a first born son, She put her past behind only for me to forget her until she past. It’s only now that I realize I should have loved her like the lotus she was, A flower that blooms from the mud, But remained unstained. Grandma I am so sorry,
If I ever have the chance to make it right, Find myself in the Human province of the Chinese countryside, I will craft this poem into a fleet of origami boats, Place a candle in each, Sail my one-man navy of flames, down the Yangtze river until the ghosts know that my Grandmotherâ€™s face launched a thousand ships, And I intend to bring her back, This is an Illiad penned on the inside of a paper lantern, May it illuminate her story into the night, Amen.
Justin Ching 52
ON RETURNING HOME: LARYNGOLOGY when I arrived everything was different the moths that had flitted around the light were still and overturned the cupboards were empty except for a can of condensed milk I was asked to speak a woven square crossed my throat my mouth opened and nothing came, clavicle sewed shut even my voice was afraid if only the floor had come up to meet me when I arrived I sat on my shins lilies like twisted fingers trellised along what I couldn’t; a bed of cardboard the heavy boots choking, choking my chest did not resume its usual rise and fall I sat down on the floor because my life was moving too quickly, the houseplants stuttered a magazine was opened to an article I had already read: there are only two bones in the throats of
mammals and I think mine are broken the cupboards were empty the moths were still on the table because my life was moving too quickly, the tea I drank, which tasted of metal, spilled since I had been gone shame made everything taste of metal I can’t say who was responsible just a tiny pool of mud next to my boots, just that it was possible, for a moment, to believe in growing smaller
he invitation to your engagement party had my name and the name of my ex-wife on it, so it had been a couple of years. At the party I sat with your old friends from college. They asked how I knew you and I lied and told them we got caught side by side on the floor of a bank during a robbery; the criminals with shotguns drawn, waving excitedly, ready to fire hundreds of holes into anything standing in their way. I told them your face was too beautiful to feel such pain so I crawled on your back to shield you from them. I saw the looks on their faces. I knew I said too much. Then someone came to the table behind me. It was Tim, your soonto-be husband. “Stewart. So glad you could make it,” he said through his shiny teeth. His suit was expensive and tailored. “Congratulations,” mine was too small and the sleeves rode up every time I extended my arms. “Where’s Susan?” “I don’t know anyone named Susan,” I said. “Your wife?” “I don’t have a wife. Listen, I like you, David. I just want to wish you all the best,” I shook his hand again and smiled. “It’s Tim, Stewart,” he said. “Right. Congratulations.” 55
I went to the bar while he made his rounds at the table. I sat back down at the table with your friends, Tony, Amanda and Rosemarie. I brought them all Old Fashioneds. They wanted to know more about the robbery. “It was cold that day. A cold day in November. They yelled ‘don’t anybody call the cops’ on their way out. One of the tellers tried to pull the silent alarm but they shot off her hand. The blood on the beige tile looked like a painting. Not a Monet, more like a Twombly.” “Were you afraid?” Tony asked. “I was more than afraid.” Amanda asked why she never heard the story before and I said you didn’t want to talk about it. Post-traumatic stress. Then Rosemarie piled on with more questions about which bank and when it happened, and why hadn’t she read about it in the paper, or seen it on the news? I opened my mouth to make something up. Then I saw you. You were in a white dress with black lines circling all around. It was strapless and to your knees. You had everything. I wanted to run across the room. I wanted to buck off my chair like bull at a rodeo. I wanted to tell you that I never stopped wondering what would happen. That I thought getting married to Susan and buying a house would make it stop. That I thought getting older and having a career and money to spend could somehow change the way I felt. But it never did. You looked at me. You looked right into my eyes and you saw something. Maybe you saw everything I was thinking, because you bit your lip the way you used to when you had something serious to consider. The 56
same way you would when we were both just starting out and I would walk by your desk in the morning on my way to some meeting. Then it was gone. Someone else said hello and a smile whisked it away. You were kissed on the cheek by an old man with a paisley handkerchief in his breast pocket. I asked if anyone needed another drink before I got up and left. At the wedding they will remove the ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ part from the sermon. They always do now. And I won’t come rushing in like Dustin Hoffman anyway, banging on a sheet of glass. I’ll just keep going to work every day looking forward to football games and the weekends.
the letters of LAMONT B. STEPTOE and DENNIS BRUTUS 59
Dennis Vincent Brutus, 1924-2009.
Dennis Brutus, poet and lifelong activist, first came to the United States in
1977. By that point, he had already served as a vital force in South Africaâ€™s anti-apartheid movement, focused on expelling South Africa from the Olympic Games. After suffering a gunshot wound to the back during his arrest, Brutus wrote his first two volumes of poetry while imprisoned on Robben Island â€“ in the cell next to Nelson Mandela. His aims shifted towards the divestment movement, persuading corporations, colleges, and universities to divest from South Africa. After his release and exile, he continued his literary and political work from London, and then moved the United States to teach, first at Northwestern University. He then taught briefly at Swarthmore College, but left due to opposition to the divestment movement, and moved to a position at the University of Pittsburgh. He released 11 books of poetry and brought together a community of African writers. Towards the end of his life, Brutus felt betrayed by the African National Congressâ€™s political stance. This led him to broaden the scope of his activism to a worldwide push for economic justice and a resistance of globalization by corporate entities.
During Brutus’s years in America, he formed a bond with Lamont B. Steptoe, a native of Pittsburgh and today one of Philadelphia’s most prominent poetic voices. Steptoe, an American Book Award winner and Pew Fellowship recipient, has published 8 books of poetry and edited two collections of Brutus’ work. Steptoe is a Vietnam Veteran, an activist, and a photographer. He has graciously allowed us a glimpse into his archives of correspondence with Brutus, including unpublished poems, as well as his own verse written in honor of Brutus.
GOOGLE EARTH Using google earth I flew over Cape Town, South Africa Looking down on the city wondering in what dwelling You passed over in-- rising up through ceiling into clouds Into stars traveling in reverse of your arrival Did you remember then coming from the stars To take root in a woman? A woman you would not be allowed to say goodbye to When she crossed over as you stumbled in chains on Robben Island Sun drenched at the tip of a continent Capetown, looked inviting I imagined myself there arriving too late to dine with you have coffee With you watch you pen a haiku on a napkin I would be an arrivant mystically late finding only those who knew you Not you yourself Now free of a diseased body do you accept your death and move on Or do you continue to walk among the living not quite accepting Your new condition trying to make your presence known to family and friends Wondering why they do not see you? Oâ€™ Dennis! Embrace the sunlight that marries the elements that birthed you Search out those gifted dreamers that own the future Whisper to them in dreams and reveries the inspired language you own Move on to the neighborhood of the cosmos that has waited for you four score and five
Carry our memories in your luggage fatten your wallet with our laughter, our hopes our dreams We carry you in the Robben Island of our hearts forever hearing the shackles and chains The brutal marriage of fists and boots delivering blows to defenceless bodies Somewhere in the sound of wind and waves digesting the obdurate cliffs of a continent There are poems roaring ashore endlessly speaking of beauty and truth in that country Between wave and shore where sea makes love to land is where weâ€™ll find you now Lost in thoughtâ€”hair silvered with wisdom shivering with the beauty that you own Caped in transparency wearing a rainbow crown
Lamont B. Steptoe
QUEENS SUMMIT We separate the sun into syllables so that cirrus meets stratus Solving world problems with EmpaTHematics Quoting quotients like oceans that vanish Like Bible passages, care-on So burn the bush Tame those wild fires with your tongue Or start them And harken Back before the dark when He Paper- mached these pages from genesis to revelations Some call me a sword swallower I breathe scripture God’s got a photographic memory always snappin my picture But he’s my Father So I call Him Papa-razzi Always keep a right hook in my palm trees Cause you never know if it’s a grade school scuffle or a spiritual war Brewing in the breeze Either/or
I tour the battlefield Listen to the message in the cadence that my unborn babies rattle yields Snake around the apple peel The atoms of eve revealed Naked Deoxy Rib-O Nucleic Acid I steal Sacarin-ly acrid I’m bitter sweet Medicine with the meat Please kneel Let us SAY… We will choose our own names so Call me Dendera, Audre with out the y Call me Anyanwu I have lived 400 years not because I’m immortal But I have learned to heal A queen So I practice Makiye And adorn my scars Gold flecks in the nether regions of my heart My breast milk is the life blood of the battlefield you thirst for And I’D risk my Iris for enlightenment
Until I mature into my proper aperture So if you loose both your eyes from staring too long at the sun Remember You’ve got a third one - A hand-woven heart and a spirit for a gun so SHOOT! I pop bullets off my tongue like good bubble gum! Treating your wounds with Windex or “Tussin” Never pause to consider the re-percussions So beat it again And twirl to a rhythm determined by the wind I am the stealth of the sin committed in the name of righteousness. Lay these kisses on the wind And when they descend upon you Know that they were meant to mend you Suture your soul and send you Daily meditations to blend through To… OMmmmmm… to Cause today we’ve got no right to sorrow So I address my pain to: morrow With love… And I take my chances String them into the lines of your face and double cross them Not like betrayal but seeing God in the faces of my people, Awesome I want to be the next angel on the roster
So I was faced with a decision Either clip my strings or clip my wings and I aint no puppet, I will make Girl Scout knots of them and see what becomes of it I am a scholar I just travel a different Rhode I ate the fork so that my supernova could explode Leak down the sides of my skin I think you call it a glow Or maybe I’m just a “lucky so and so” My ears made of horseshoes So I bring luck when I think up Constructing highways I overpass the buck Brutes mulattoes mammies and such I type the stereo so its music to your ears when I erupt Butterflies perish in the volcano pit of my stomach I just, Filled up So my hunger lets you know Im in love with my greater purpose Dj world spinnin don’t even scratch the surface My mind A seven ring Saturn circus! I’ve got the potential of an unlit match so match that
Auto-picto With a clear self visual Auto-GRAPH that Welcome to the queen’s summit Ill be speaking on solar panels In chamber 4 Next to your left ventricle Just beneath where you lay your patriotic oppression It don’t cost much, just two ears per session Positive energy All the joy you can afford… So put it in your budget If I don’t like what I see I might off the subject And pardon my expository I was ordained to deposit stories And the teller jumps before me But it’s a long way out So understand if Sometimes I don’t look exactly like myself I’m “bigger than my body” And sometimes “the words don’t fit in my mouth” I’m busy making friends with the multiple personalities of God Attaching each of my chakras to Her mood swings Making permanent sandcastles of understanding I only LOOK fragile
But I am agile, I am like water I narrowly escape any false fate plus “Nobody puts baby in a corner!” So don’t fight this I am learning that life does not always feel righteous And I own this onus So put it on my card Shuffle the deck and examine the shards cause I’m a broken vessel But I still beam light Best friend of the night Cause I drink from cupped hands that deliver half moons to passersby Got a 24 hour supply And I runneth over Filled to the brim mixed in with Jehovah Yah- Wey too sober Take three Prophets Imbibe three quarters to know ya You know how they say you can see your reflection is still water? Well I may not be God but I am (still) God’s daughter Welcome to the Queens Summit
This is your Uppence So …COMETH God knows for whom the bell tolls…
And an angel just got her wings
Nina “Lyrispect” Ball
FOREIGN FOCUS relation is another country and i can’t find a second proof of identity to drop the money on a passport. you smuggled in cubans from canada. your smile says that you just smoked one. i don’t find that attractive. i don’t find anything. my bed is empty. my phone is silent, not just because of setting. i can’t write. i write about a body. i can only write bodies, write on my bodies with a body. it seems so impersonal. it seems i take it personal. it seems like a writer block. i want to block your body into this scene. i want to ask you if you get along with your mother. there is a time and a place. i want to know what your regular childhood meals were. all i can focus on is wanting and it is driving me, since i don’t have a car. i don’t have a car or a big bank account. i have two cats and a comfortable chair. i resist the urge to use the word “comfy.” i resist the urge to consume chocolate. i indulge in writing about it. i want something else. something cinematic, a waking point a conversation at 7 am. watching the sun do one of the two things it does during the day. or ignoring that for night sky. i want to see nature. i want to see movies of nature. it isn’t my nature to think this and that and that’s why i pour it into language
framework. i feel like a geriatric Jackson Pollack. i feel like O’Hara’s last cigarette. i feel like i want a cigarette. i feel like i want someone to touch my hair and say “is that okay?” because i need that question even without a question. i need for someone to say “it’s okay. it’s cool.” i need for someone to take my glasses off.
HITCHING TO NIRVANA excerpts
THE WORLD Thea, 1977
he next day, Adrianne found out that it was too late for Thea. The first trimester had already passed. Thea was absent from high school for a few days. Then she came back—just for one day. She barely said a word. A ring of bruises circled her right eye, black and purple, swollen red. Her story came out in a whisper. He threw me down the stairs. It was a warm day, but she wore long sleeves and winced when she moved her arm that her father had twisted behind her when he shoved her from the top of a high narrow staircase. Her father threw his pregnant daughter down the stairs and she screamed as her two bodies thumped to the bottom. Thea would never return to school. There were whispers that she was put into foster care and six months later there were more whispers that she gave birth to a daughter who was given away to strangers. Mother and daughter were taken from her within a year.
In another time, things would have been different. Thea’s mother would have marched along the Sacred Road. Her hair would have been garlanded with myrtle. She would have carried sheaves of grain tied with woolen string. Her head would have been held high, a clay vessel bound on top. Thea would have walked in her mother’s footsteps. She would have cradled her child in her arms, a cause for celebration. Several years later, Adrianne ran into Thea. The two of them were at the wedding of a mutual friend. A line snaked around the room and up to the bar. The bride wore a fairy tale white dress with a hoop skirt and threw the bouquet to someone in the crowd who could be counted on to repeat it all again including the divorce, a few years later. They sat in a church basement at a long folding table covered with white tissue paper. Adrianne sat across the table from Thea. The last time they saw each other was in the high school bathroom when Thea’s eye was bruised from her father’s fist: He threw me down the stairs. One by one the others at the table got up and went to the bar, the buffet, the dance floor. “You know, Thea, we never really had a chance to talk.” Adrianne’s voice was measured, even after three Double Screw Drivers. “We talked all the time.” Thea’s voice was as flat as the side of a knife. “You know what I mean, talk.” Adrianne couldn’t stop the words from coming out of her mouth, but she knew immediately that she had no business prying. Thea’s eyes narrowed. Everything about her was sharpened, even her smooth shoulders under the pale blue straps of her dress.
“There’s nothing to talk about.” Adrianne picked up her glass, put it back down, and then changed the subject. It was awkward at first, but Adrianne and Thea began to talk. They talked about the drinks, the food, the music, the bride’s dress. They talked about nothing. Adrianne looked into Thea’s eyes. They were still brown and large, but they no longer held the world. Like the rest of her, Thea’s eyes were flat and sharp. They deflected everything that she looked at. Thea’s life was sharpened on a whetstone. She had gone from being a girl to being the flat side of a blade. She was a third of who she had been. The three lives that had been her—her mother, herself, her daughter—were severed. Adrianne imagined a procession from a lost time. Thea’s mother wove a myrtle garland into her daughter’s hair. Thea did the same for her daughter, holding her in her arms, and then setting her down to walk in front of her. They walked the Sacred Road to Eleusis, the Temple of Demeter and Persephone, the Shrine that paid homage to all mothers and daughters. Thea’s life had been hurled down a long narrow staircase. A tyrant stood at the top and at the bottom were the railroad tracks, the rush of light and steel. The quivering air—that Thea fell through—was sliced through with her mother’s screams. A red purse lay beside the tracks. The red purse held something mysterious—beyond a tube of lipstick, a mirrored compact. A pomegranate seed. Ruby red. Blood. 82
THE VORTEX Thea, 1977
drianne’s life was drawn through her friends’ lives like thread through the eye of a needle. Their fates drew them together. Diane, Helen, Thea, Danae, Art, and herself, Adrianne. Adrianne left the high school girls’ room and then the school building. She crossed the parking lot and climbed the grassy hill—not caring if someone saw her or reported her. She walked methodically up the hill, finally crossing over the ridge and starting down the other side. This was the point where she usually felt like she had escaped. But this time, there was no sense of freedom—no rush of adrenaline, no whoosh of air filling her lungs. No matter how far she got, she would still be trapped in her thoughts of Thea, her friend who she had recently learned was pregnant. It was Spring: everything thrummed. Sun pumped in her blood. She heard birds chirping and she smelled the air, but she didn’t bother to contemplate the awe of everything. She put one foot in front of the other and walked a straight line toward the railroad tracks. Just before she reached the railroad crossing, a tunnel formed in her mind. Everything inside the tunnel was black and white: the train tracks; the gravel, even the sky. Overhead, a lattice of wires caged sky. This was the place where Thea’s mother threw it all away. Just over three months ago (a little before Thea would have become pregnant by Pat,
a man in his twenties who hung around the high school girls), her mother walked down to the railroad tracks, laid down on cold metal and never got up. Adrianne stood transfixed, staring at the metal railroad tracks. If she kept walking, past the train tracks on the narrow road that veered to the right, past the orchard and under the stone bridge, she would arrive at the farmhouse where Thea lived. Adrianne still remembered flat planks of wood on the side of the old house, peeling white paint, and rocks that jutted from the ground. Thea grew up there, neck and neck with stalks of corn. On the Saturday afternoon before Thea’s mother died, Adrianne, Diane, and Helen hitchhiked to Thea’s house. They spent the day swinging on stable doors, throwing handfuls of golden hay at each other, and staring into the large brown eyes of a mare. Thea’s mother had greeted them on her way out of the house to the station wagon sitting in the driveway. She was a shorter, thinner version of her daughter. Her hair curled back in a brown wave, and her eyes were startlingly round like Thea’s. She was wearing a mousy gray pantsuit with a red leather purse slung over her shoulder. That was the thing that Adrianne remembered most. The red purse. Adrianne was standing at the train crossing—suddenly, she was exhausted. Still facing the train tracks she stuck out her thumb to hitch a ride in the opposite direction—away from the train tracks, away from Thea’s house, away from the farms and country roads that sprawled behind them. A car approached from the other side of the tracks, growing larger as it came closer. Adrianne thrust out her arm and stuck her thumb out further. She couldn’t stop thinking about the tracks. It felt as if she was supposed to find something there, but she didn’t know what. What could she possibly expect?
A drop of blood? A pomegranate seed? The first car passed without even slowing down. A few minutes later a second car approached. This one slowed and pulled to the shoulder of the road, tires crunching on gravel. Adrianne climbed into a VW Bug with the engine in the back, trunk in the front. The driver’s face was round like his bottle cap glasses. After he asked where she was going (the mall), he stared straight ahead and drove silently, leaving Adrianne to unravel the thread of her thinking: Thea. Pat was calculating. He used the girls’ own powers against them, enslaving them with his seed. Did he sweep Thea off her feet? Did he take her by force? Would she have known the difference? Adrianne had her own close calls. The boys who insisted—before she pushed them away. The boys had their own problems. One was sent to reform school for setting fires. Others were killed in car accidents. Another chugged down a quart of pure grain alcohol, passed out, and died on the spot. But they were still boys. They could put their penises in the girls’ vaginas and ruin their lives. The girls were girls because they had vaginas. But by the time the girls became adolescents their vaginas didn’t really belong to them anymore. They were down there. They were dirty. They had lives of their own and they were the cause of new lives. They made noises in gym class. They left large red stains in the wrong places. They were the source of
shame and embarrassment. In junior high, the health teacher told them about tampons. She told them to be careful about what they allowed into their vaginas, including boys. The teacher never told them about using their own fingers. She never revealed the secrets of streams of water. No one ever said it was good to give yourself pleasure. Adrianne’s fingers had found their way into her own body, but only after a boy had been there first. She told herself that she wanted to feel what he felt. It was as if she was a finger puppet. Sexual experimentation was normal. It felt good—in a quivering, dangerous, kind of way—but it also felt like an invasion. Adrianne’s thoughts swirled around in the vortex of her vagina. She was a girl, but she didn’t know what that was. She stared out of the VW window. The driver said he would stop, but he went right by the shopping mall. Then he began mumbling—Adrianne couldn’t make out what he was saying—and put his hand on the inside of her thigh, reaching. Adrianne was whirling. Her vagina was a hellhole. The bottom of her dropped out, like the ride at the boardwalk amusement park. Gravity pressed her to the spinning wall—her body flattened and grew longer. Below her waist, waves ate away at the wooden pillars on the pier. Saltwater sprayed. She was pressed against the door. The
driver had to stop at the light. Her hand was on the door handle. The driver inched forward trying to keep the car in motion. Adrianne opened the door. She jumped.
NEW GROWTH A peach pit severed in two. A hemisphere of earth. I am a bitter core shielded from sunlight and a predatorâ€™s beak. There is a knot of old growth maple leaf lying silver-side up in the grass. Perhaps given time I will push through I will rear new legs grown custom made for blooming, an open hand expanding towards the east, and a tusk worth thrusting forward, but this is all pride. it is not good for the young 88
to speak in absolutes as if seeds become trees cuz they wish too.
THE SAD ONE I am from Vietnamese gods, from snakes and fish. I’m from cats and bad luck and Vietnamese songs. I am from the brick wall (smells like scented candles). I am from the dandelion, the blossom tree. I’m from cleaning and doing homework, from Tri and Lee. I’m the lonely one in my family tree while the other members fade away in the air and I miss them.
BEING AND DOING I used to think that I could be like Steve McQueen simply because I, too, had a driver’s license. And maybe also because I used to deliver pizza in Norman, Oklahoma and was known to be a man-about-town there. That was before the world came crashing down. Before it all went to hell. Before the trip went south and all the stigma and the suffering that followed. Now I think I can be like Steve McQueen because I do the laundry for my fiancée and cook a little for her as well. And can drive, and haven’t gotten a ticket in a few years, which is more than I can say for my sister who graduated Phi Beta Kappa, while I was merely cum laude, in a different place, in a different time, when going a little crazy was called psycho and if your roommate claimed she was raped
by the rugby team she was bound never to graduate. In a different place in a different time – Yuppies. And skiing doesn’t count. Skiing is more like going to a spa. My father has 80-year-old friends who ski, Jews from Budapest, survivors. Skiing is more like going to a spa, unless you’re one of the Crazy Canucks. “Jungle” Jim Hunter or the like. The Herminator. Yeah, skiing doesn’t count. But it sure makes me feel good.
twice translated from “nueve maneras de ver la sombra”
interpreted version la versión interpretada
the original la original
the translation of wood la traducción de madera
I. when one moves, the shade moves, a tireless mirror
I. cuando uno se mueve se mueve la sombra, un espejo infatigable
I. when one moves oneself the shade moves itself a mirror tireless
II. Hiroshima was tasty for Harry Truman, the Japanese… were stuck by the shade
II. Hiroshima fue rico para Harry Truman, los japoneses… se les pegó la sombra
II. Hiroshima had been tasty for Harry Truman the Japanese… shade stuck itself to them
III. Mom says “my sister” her shade
III. dice mama “mi hermana” su sombra
III. says Mom, “my sister” her shade
IV. lightning bolts and trees creators of shade and security in bright light
IV. relámpagos y árboles creadores de sombra y seguridad en luz brillante
IV. lightning bolts and trees creators of shade and safety in brilliant light
V. take the train, shade functions on two sides, ask your eyes, ask the Blackberry
V. toma el tren, y la sombra funciona por dos lados, pregunta a tus ojos, pregunta al Blackberry
V. take the train and shade works on two sides, ask your eyes, ask the Blackberry
VI. that which we don’t see is not shade, but Heidegger
VI. lo que no vemos no es sombra sino Heidegger
VI. that which we don’t see is not shade but Heidegger
VII. tops of mountains which float for themselves, desert shade
VII. las cimas de montaĂąitas, que flotan en si mismas, la sombra desĂŠrtica
VII. the tops of little mountains which float in themselves,
VIII. some blind are fearful not vain, save the sound shade of echo
VIII. ciegos tienen miedo, no tienen vanidades, sino la sombra-sonido del eco
VIII. blind people have fear they do not have vanities, but the shade-sound of echo
IX. the sun does not know the shade, for this
IX. el sol no conoce la sombra,
IX. the sun does not know the shade,
it cries light
por eso llora luz .
for this it cries light
IN THIS HOUSE In this house, the walls cry cry with mourning cry with sorrow cry with fear as I scrub away the ruby tears. In this house, the floors scream, scream with misery scream with agony agony screams I hammer away at the damaged wood. In this house, there is cold dead silence. Hearts donâ€™t beat, mouths dare not move. There is no life in the living room. In this house, there is a group, not a family, not a loving whole hearted woman or a caring strong man. There is not a joyous child not a smile for miles. In this house, there is deep
regret, deep hatred, deep ignorance. But in this house there is hope, hope in the eyes of tall slender ebony skinned girl. Hope that she will grow to know that there is better somewhere out there. Hope that one day, someday she will feel her fatherâ€™s mustache pressed against her forehead. Hope that she can stomach food and eat when she is hungry. Hope that she and her sisters can laugh together without fear of being heard. Hope that she can be happy in this house.
Sleepwalk with the Blackmonks at an early age. Empathize with
the armadillo lizard. We can’t ever have anything nice in this house, said the broken old man. But curly-haired knowitalls go nowhere thinking in triangles, as a cloven-hoofed hypotenuse is formed through the power of suggestion. Good shepherds gone bad in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (heavy fall the footsteps of the handbasket bearer toward the bearer of his young, bearing down with a bareknuckled fist for the Breaking Ritual). Take everything you know, little knowitall, and throw it out the window. A hand raised to God and the crowd falls silent upon deaf ears on the second story. Their sequel, set in stone, watches silent films by the handrail, white as a ghost, as the nightmare continues. This doesn’t leave this house, said the broken old man. Baseball bat in the umbrellastand for rainy days, perhaps, or just such an occasion. As autumn’s evening chill burns through his nostrils, turning turbinate bones to chalkdust behind the eyes, mother’s tears well and whisper his secret identity, screaming hysterically for the daily listener to please, turn that dial. Or so the story goes. The old man makes for the umbrellastand. The child makes for the solace of the nightlight in his bedroom. Feet locked tightly at the foot of the bed when all falls silent. When the possibilities of shattered glass diminish to historical context, left with only sweaty pajamacollars and a flickering nightlight, trying to escape for you. As a
child can do nothing but wait and cover his ears, more is destroyed than can fill a rowhome. Consumed by the silence, the boy’s imagination makes for a more horrible outcome, and prayers for violent voices to return. At the least, the violence downstairs means everyone is still alive and there will be breakfast with a family in the morning. In the wake of breakage, the silence leaves uncertainty. The nightlight burns out finally and he is left with a mind in pitch darkness, for hours, left to wonder if such things as hours exist. The moonlight reveals another life. The life existing outside these walls, outside former planes of experience. From his bed, the boy can only see outside the window. Through this brief window the boy will escape; out of bed, to his feet, to the window, up on the windowsill, onto the ledge, up through the sky, into infinity. He will drift out into space until he’s too far to hear downstairs. Too far for the volatile world below to reach for him, as the boy reaches for distant suns, holding one in his fist to throw it like a baseball. The threefoot child towering over his cowering self selflessly as his own guardian angel, tolling bells of angelus for Pagans once beat to Hell like screwdriver pulp, drawn through straws like drugs for nicht as beatniks draw straws against Hell’s Angels, fixed and drugged by nacht for naught. So nightly, he lay tightly covered under a comforter, something unable to live up to its name, and the boy could only pray he’d be unable to live up to his own; some cold and beautifully violent inheritance that was given to him before he could ponder the existence of hours, or clench the stars without throwing like a girl, or develop complex cocoons from which he’d someday flourish and fly away fearlessly, floating on warm updrafts, flaunting his freedom. But for now, he is unable. For this child knows true terror like a statue, chiseled as a 103
monument to the Faun, knows it could neverâ€™ve been chiseled by an idle nor alien hand. But for now, for the boy, there is nothing but his bedroom before sunrise. Back to bed you go now, boy. Witches watch through his window as the boyâ€™s frightened shadow slips in through his skin, snapping him out of nearly napping, still, wrapped tightly, at the foot, feet crossed ready for the final nail. He felt frail, physically; a testament to the power of panic, when, with a flash in the pan, the Beast of Placebo can foster an unparalleled pandemic, leaving the mind petrified, paralyzing the body, a face flushed pallid, devoid of precious porcelain, now poison through the plush of his pillow, now pressed into his palm like the mortar into pestle. In the throes of hypnagogia, the slightest tap against the pane by waning winds guides the childâ€™s eyes toward the window. There, a silhouette. Eigenlicht antichrist risen from the dustbowl, dressed accordingly. Pontiff staring through the glass, unbroken, pries open welded palpabrae, providing a pulpit from which to deliver more palpable a prophecy. Playing dead to predators, a primal pantomime in the face of dark fathers, may fool the fox, but not the phantom. Eyes, though invisible, stare through the child as children stare through windows. And through this brief window, two stories up, silent and motionless, as the boy himself was, at some point in the evening, or earlier in life, at an early age, the man in silhouette. The Man in Shadows. The howls of winds and neighborhood dogs vanish soon after the
violent voices vanish. The flesh goes numb as a draft goes unnoticed along the fine hairs of the arms and behind the neck. The child pulls the covers up to his neck, waiting. It’s never easy when it’s just a boy, still full of awe, in search of everything. Crawling inside the child was a memory, which he’d swallowed, now crawling his intestine like tapeworm. And here, this man has spent an eternity in search of windows; the windows of the few tired and terrified who cry through their prayers up through the sky into infinity, and will do so for many more to come, as many more have done so before him, doubting the others’ existence. Doubting their own, as their separation was merely an obstruction of light. The identity dies with every individual. The secret is in the wind and delivered through windows by whispering silhouettes. To the scared and sacred they come, destroying dreams as a means of salvation. But it’s never easy when it’s just a boy. They’ve never seen it coming, so it’s hard to take the dark lightly. Now the child lay tightly wrapped in the throes, not afraid or awake, nor sleeping through a nightmare. Not awake nor sleeping, the cocoon is shed to mattress while parlorgames raise bodies from the living at the fingertips of a slumberparty. In the wind, now poised in the burial position. Now listen for the wind against your skin against the window, now open. Open for questions, now ask the wind a question. Now listen. You can close your eyes and pretend I can’t see you. You can bite your tail and make light of the obvious. You can make for the last ditch, digging ‘til it’s lights out, like a nightlight flickers and dies. Like leaves, drying in the light, make for
light like the dying in the Hour of Darkness. But in darkness, the shadow is not so obvious; and the fearful, oblivious. You’ll need your ears now boy, now listen. How small are the moments multiplied by the millions, with an inch of dust for every hour that pass, falling through the hourglass, weighed to the Earth with every other miserable creature; everything under the sun or anything that cast a shadow, or so the story goes. Now listen. You’ll need your eyes now boy, look at me. See now the world with the lights out; trust in whisper. We’ll play a round of Marcopolo around the son, excuse me, the Sun, and sweep the dust into a dustpan. Say goodnight to fascination as a whole. Nothing will ever come to you as a surprise, as there is nothing but this bedroom before sunrise. Look to your left, you are a son, excuse me, the stars and sun you are still in bed, let the stars and the sun speak to the living. We now, boy, are left to the right. Our breath in the night, a visible mist of life for us shattered for magick under the Moon, on speaking terms with Monday. Your fears will not subside. The silence will always frighten you. This is my silhouette. What frightens you, boy, I’ll tell you. When the glass can no longer hold itself together, your world, as only you know it, will soon follow suit. Through your veins will run his coldrunned blood, a broken old man, until that blood lay stagnant in your own broken old body. When all falls silent, you will hear the violent voices below, howling up a wind against sails set to sail off into a vast sea of smooth, unbroken glass. You’ll settle on your little island, you won’t. You’re going where there are no islands, child. No solace in nightlights and crossed feet. You’ll’ve crossed the threshold of light and dark, child, land and sea. And when you see not a shadow, there will be a shadow. And when you hear not a voice, there will
be voices violently whispered silently into your ear, from deep within you through a brief window. That which you fear most will live with you forever, and long after you’ve become just a memory. Your shadow will continue, like a nightmare continues into your first waking moments, to bring light on a rainy day or just such an occasion. You tremble, hovering above the covers because you’ve heard my words and understood. You’ve seen through your window the shadows you’ve seen before; in the pinholes of your father’s eyes, in your own eyes in the mirror, in the eyes of all who walk the earth and all that lie beneath it. For as long as there is a sun in the sky, there will be shadows on the ground. And as long as there is mystery, there’ll be a wind to whisper secrets. The wind falls still as I leave you; up through the sky, into infinity. You, child, still just a boy, fall asleep falling to mattress as one jumps awake from the height of a fallingdream. Now you know the breadth of hours. Back to bed you go now, boy. Now breath fills his lungs the way the hours fill the evening. Wide awake the child lie, watching through his window the morning spill over rooftops as the Sun puts the shadows in their place for the day. Light fills the bedroom. The sound of footsteps step lightly up the stairs. The door opens slowly. First, a soft hand, then the child’s mother. It is early, and she is tired. She looks to her son, and smiles. “Good morning,” she says. “Good morning.” “Go downstairs,” she says. “Breakfast is waiting.” Angelo Colavita
ROUND MIDNIGHT 12 Strikes of midnight 12 reasons for your body to shutter, jolt, flinch, squirm Or sit frozen as your heart beat becomes schizophrenic And your breathing held hostage by your throat 1. Your mind acts as your life’s personal polaroid. Each shutter showcasing past events of happy and sad moments your fortunate enough to have to saved, stored for future life lessons to learned. 2. Every blink of your eye lids is a jolt of electricity shocking every polyatomic ion of your being with the most painful sense of rejection you have ever witness. Just to make you realize you feel pain on your own. 3. With each strike you flinch. Jumping at the sight of your own shadow … or the fear of someone else’s. 4. Laying alone, you squirm in discomfort. Missing the body heat that once shared your skin you forget how to feel comfortable. Forget the mid-night serenity you once knew.
Your dark thoughts and suicidal demons are now the only cuddle buddies you can seem to conjure up. 5. You sit … lying to yourself in the part of your soul you consider to be your gullible inner child. Frozen, Afraid the truth will spill out of your holy spirit and corrupt the little bit of innocence you’ve been trying to hold on too. 6. I can still feel your gentle kisses on my cheeks. Closing my eyes I let the darkness surround me, I imagine your still here. 7. Mid-night brings on thoughts of not being. Failed attempts of being washed away dried up called to rest gone. 8. Why won’t you love me? Is it that my knees don’t bend the same way for our GOD or is it that they don’t bend for any other reason? 9. “I love you’s” will always be second guessed. Never given hope. Especially not your chalk filled speech. 10. The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. And lately the only problem I’ve been seeming to have is …
You. 11. You have a piece of me I will never attempt to recover in fear it’ll just hurt more knowing you use to cherish that piece of me so ill let it die with you. I love you enough still to keep you complete … even if it means losing myself. 12. Flames always burn brighter when feed off of despair and nievness. So I guess that’s why they have been mistaken you for a rising star instead of this burning house feeding off of souls like mine for so long. So Dear Rising Star, I pray your cycle of shackled lovers let lose with no warning end with me. That your mythical screwed up reasoning for ripping the light out of “I love you” makes your spirit and soul cry and takes sleep form your eyes lids, So no other supernova will be sentenced to life in your palm Light sheltered form he world But baring the pain of you useless so called “Love” Love, Sleepless Mid-Night.
POEM CANâ€™T ACTION NUMBER FOUR Our perfect logos, patches of dry skin with no cure. There is excitement in a power outage. Youâ€™ve already failed the driving portion of our humanity. Knowledge and the way it starts to drift toward the way you forget language. Only three armed robberies in the last few hours. Nobody builds televisions, they just come together. We can be followed at any time from beyond the grave, unaware that our first instincts were belated in the black market of the soul. You enter the room to find the lost parts of your wrist.
Slurred, faceless bodies come out of our limbic systems, still attached to power sockets. We feel ourselves to be superior, sinking inches every year. Coming into wealth like a naval under the fingertips of strangers. I destabilize this form and shift into another.
THE POEM TREE I. Thereâ€™s a dead tree on Passyunk I write on the dead tree The Dead Tree (a poem) The tree is DEAD it is a Dead Tree that has died & is NOT ALIVE now
just dead I hang some leaves on the dead tree with fine copper wire & some aluminum can tabs & some red plastic rings from my Spirit Stick & a green ribbon & a single pigeon feather from my Spirit Stick (like a bird has come to pay respects, and left a card) I think the tree feels better even though itâ€™s dead I know I would II. Â I walk to the bench by the poem tree I affix 5 poems & aluminum tabs & colored circles
walk north out of the shade sit on the blue wall in sunlight under the oak whose leaves have only begun to turn the oak tree the wind sounds like water waves breaking on a sandy shore sixty years ago wind borne to this city street this wall tugging at the poems the little tree a mast on the deck of the earth sailing through time
* * * III. Blue Wall I sit on the blue wall by the bench on Passyunk I watch people pass I watch them pass the dead tree the dead tree with the poem written on the trunk & the aluminum tabs & the leaves dangling in the wind from fine copper wire They don’t see the dead tree they don’t see the poem or the aluminum tabs or the leaves dangling from fine copper wire they don’t see me I wonder what would happen if I were naked 117
sitting on the blue wall I wonder what would happen if I took off all my clothes but I donâ€™t I would be cold & people would see me for what I am my old manâ€™s body made of aluminum tabs & leaves dangling from fine copper wire & cops would arrest me and treat me badly & put me on a list & I would never be allowed to see another child for the rest of my life I cover myself with leaves and fine copper wire with aluminum tabs with invisible wings spread wide to hide what I am what I have become
IV. Night Visit (The) Spirit Stick (I dare not call it mine) -trembles before the Poem Tree poor brother dressed in tatters, ribbons of honor and shame dangling poems cupped (like hands in prayer) by scrotal cards words seed the night invisible invade the eye begets a soul, a second voice barking like a dog coughing breathless faint synecdoche of vision waking waking
from old bodies borne a will a way awake! V. Searching for Lost Poems Lost, then ? wind or taken poems left hanging old men speak Italian did they?
See who took them search street gutter, walk the parking lot No sign the tree as symbol, then? lifeless moving blue on blue cards against the sky Newly written 120
then now wind whipped clack & flick on branch on barkless trunk flips breaks loose three poems or four unclipped windborn wild breathless free
GAVIOTA I was eighteen years old the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean. But when the time came, and I was close enough to smell the sea breeze, and just a hill kept the sea from sight, I had only one thing on my mind. Cassie stood a few feet behind me as I knelt and drove the tent stake into the dirt. She had her hand on her hip, and when I turned to look up at her, I could see the yellow burned out grass covering the hill that rose behind her, the final obstacle between me and the Pacific. She moved the hand to pull her black hair from her shoulder, distracting my eye as she tied a ponytail behind her head. Her eyes met mine and I looked away, both of us pretending we didn’t know, and I gave the tent stake one final smash. “It’s right there, man,” she teased as I stood and brushed the dirt from my jeans. “I mean, you know that, right? After all this time, it’s just on the other side of that hill, and we’re sitting here putting up the tent.” She shook her head in mock disbelief and disappointment and gazed at the rising earth that kept the ocean out of view. “I know it’s there,” I said, squaring my shoulders to hers, so that we were facing each other. “And since when are we putting up the tent?” She couldn’t keep it up, and started laughing, and then smiled and put the tip of her tongue mischievously between her top and bottom front teeth, biting down ever so slightly and driving me all kinds of crazy. I made an exaggerated assault, like a boxer’s, my mouth sounding an explosion noise as a false uppercut landed at her side, and she fell into my arms and we laughed
and I hugged her tight but only for a moment. “You’re lucky I like you,” I said. She did the smile thing again. Gaviota State Beach is near Sonoma, California. Just to the north, the land juts out into the ocean to a point near the Channel Islands, so that the shoreline at Gaviota faces the south and runs west to east. There is a small valley, tucked away only a few hundred yards from the ocean, landlocked by hills to the south so that it is not possible to see the ocean from most of the campground. The hills run parallel to the shore, rising softly from the campground and falling as cliffs into the Pacific Ocean. A few hundred yards to the east of the parking lot, there is a narrow pass, about 100 yards wide, which leads to the beach. Over this pass spans a trestle bridge and the railroad line that winds through the land crosses over it once every few hours, sending a rumble through the valley below. With the tent secure, we walked down to the pass, and as we rounded the corner, the land opened onto the beach, and there, at last, was the Pacific. We stood beneath the bridge, looking out at the ocean in awe, and then at each other. I heard the surf pounding the shore, but I couldn’t look away from her. We didn’t have to say anything. We both knew. She wanted to. God, did I ever want to. And we both knew it about each other. But we knew we couldn’t. We just couldn’t. She had sometimes over the past few weeks made it difficult—no— downright impossible for me. She wanted to push me. She wanted it to happen, though she knew that it couldn’t. It couldn’t. So she’d push me, and that way if it happened it’d be me and she wouldn’t have any responsibility for the thing. By the time we’d reached the
coast, I just wanted it to happen. Honesty, promises, my goddamn soul—I didn’t care the cost. I just wanted her. “I’m jumping off that fucking pier!” Nick said triumphantly as he rounded the base of the hill to the right and entered our shade beneath the bridge, breaking momentarily the impossible tension. He’d disappeared half an hour before. “Legal or not, I don’t give a shit.” I knew he meant it, although I had no idea what he was talking about. I gathered that there was a pier, and Nick was evidently going to jump off of it. I looked over his shoulder and saw the pier down the beach, and though I thought he was crazy, I didn’t doubt him for a second. When he said something like that, he meant it. He’d proven that enough times. “Soon as it’s dark,” he said, smiling proudly and then punching me hard in my shoulder, as if to drive home the point. I laughed as he walked to the tent. Cassie and I walked out to the beach, and sat in the sand. She rolled a sand dollar from knuckle to knuckle, the way an old man might do with a half dollar. I looked over her shoulder and surveyed the pier. There were a few people fishing in the surf, and I tried to work out the pier’s height by stacking them on top of each other’s shoulders in my mind. It didn’t work, and I just settled on the fact that it was very high. Cassie was bored with her sand dollar and I felt her looking at me. Nick finally came back, wearing his bathing suit and nothing else, ready to jump off any pier at any moment, I suppose. We laughed at him, that kind of laugh boys only share with girls, as if to say “Fuckin’ Nick,” with a smile, shaking our heads. It was pure. “Won’t be long until sunset,” I said, as Nick produced a small pint bottle of Jameson and passed it to Cassie. “We’ve been waiting a long time,
haven’t we? Come a long way to see that sun set over this ocean.” The bottle came to me and I tipped it high and felt the whiskey burn its way down. I passed the bottle back to Nick. It made the rounds like that, tipped up and brought down, and we were shaking our heads and wincing at first, and then it was just good. Soon there was only a little whiskey left and we all felt warm and good and happy to be alive and in this place. The sun was sinking low in the sky. “Hey, let’s go for a swim,” Cassie said. I nodded thoughtfully, as if it hadn’t occurred to me before. “Yeah?” she said, looking at me and fighting a smile. Nick didn’t answer. He just stared at the pier. “There are people out there,” he said to himself. “They won’t stay out there when it gets dark, will they? They better not give me any shit.” “I’ll get changed,” I said, looking at Cassie, and she smiled as I headed back to the pass. It always hits you most when you first stand up, and after walking to the tent I felt the full effect of the whiskey. I fumbled with my jeans, pulling them over my shoes, and laughed to myself, realizing how ridiculous I must have looked. I changed into my bathing suit, and from where I stood outside the tent the sun was low enough to be obscured by the hill, so I walked quickly. When I reached the pass, I found Cassie beneath the trestle bridge, standing there in the waning sunlight, leaning against one of the twelve-bytwelve posts, waiting. I thought about asking what she was doing there, but I stopped myself. I was just glad that we were alone again. I stared at her.
She looked to the ground, embarrassed, and then brushed her hair behind her ear with her hand. My nerves were gone, and she held up the bottle to me, offering the last of it, and I took it. “Kill it.” The ground shook as I drank, just a light rumble, and Cassie stepped forward to me. Before long, a freight train roared over our heads, and the ground rumbled more. The steel of the tracks screamed at the mercy of the wheels, and the wooden posts shook free of dust and groaned under the weight. Cassie pressed against me and I held her tightly to my chest. When the train was gone, I still held her there, and she lifted her head and looked into my face. “Are you starting something?” she asked, her breaths short and her voice nervous. “Why?” I asked, and then immediately I wished I hadn’t asked. “Fuck it,” I said, and we kissed for the first time beneath the railroad bridge It seemed to last just a second, and she stepped back from my embrace, and looked at me with a panic in her eyes, her eyebrows raised and her face afraid of what we’d just started. I touched her hair gently, and walked away. I got to the tent and dropped to my back, my head spinning from whiskey and infatuation. She came in without saying a word, set herself down beside me, and then we both got what we had wanted so badly in that valley at Gaviota. And it was never like that before or after. I emerged from the tent to find the stars overhead. The sun was gone, and I didn’t care. I looked back at Cassie, and I could see her chest rise and fall with the deep, rhythmic breathing of sleep, and I zippered the tent door shut. The gravel of the parking lot crunched softly beneath my shoes, and I could hear the surf from the other side of the hill. The gravel gave way to
soft grass and dirt beneath the bridge. I walked across the sand on the beach, just the small post lights of the pier and a sliver of moonlight guiding me. I walked the length of the pier, for what felt like miles of stiff and splintering boards, first over the sand and marram grass, then over the sea foam and hard packed sand of the shoreline, then over the whitecaps of the breakers, and then, finally, Pacific. Still, silent, and powerful, the ocean rested below. I saw Nick standing at the end of the pier. Three fishermen stood with him. He was gesturing wildly and they were laughing. When he saw me approaching, he said something excitedly to the fishermen, and ran to meet me. “These assholes are gonna pay me 50 bucks to jump!” he said, incredulous, but hushed as to not blow his cover. “They have no idea! That’s what I came out here for man!” He was victorious, and I smiled warmly, happy for him. I kicked off my shoes as we reached the fishermen. “Your friend is a crazy guy,” one of the fishermen said to me. I took off my socks. “Fucking gringos, man,” another one said, shaking his head. “They got sharks in that water, man.” The first fisherman laughed. I pulled my shirt over my head. “Ellos no son gringos, guey, ellos estan burros!” said another, everyone laughing. I stepped up onto the metal railing, and looked back at Nick over my shoulder. He stood motionless, his face turned serious, and I nodded and smiled ever so slightly. I went over the rail. I heard Nick yell something, I don’t know what, as I fell. I heard something shouted in Spanish right before I hit the water. Under, it was silent. I seemed to sink forever. I stayed under a long, long time. When my head finally breached the surface, I saw the stars overhead, but I didn’t hear anyone speaking. Just the long, hoarse whistle of a freight train.
STRONG Sometimes I turn to you while I’m sitting on my couch and find myself just facing a pillow, that thought I had meant to share with you is lost to a fortress of feathers, but for a few more moments (before my practicality kicks in), I stare at the upholstery and pattern that I know so well, my mind still scrambling to fashion fabric into your skin. the first time I saw you cry (the first time you ever cried?) we were on a bus, shoulders touching, munching peanuts, when we passed a billboard for Michael J. Fox and caught off guard in the emotion of it all, you let slip salt on diagonals, so I shrugged my shoulders higher to shield you from others’ eyes as cars shifted by and it began to rain. it rained the first time we met too, me alone and lonely in the lunch line, eyes shifting for a spot, a safe seat to pass a few bites of banana, when you brushed my elbow with strong fingertips and motioned across the ocean of boisterous limbs and fatty foods to a refuge that I couldn’t swim to alone. and when the bus finally stopped and we got off alone, I took you into a public bathroom and pretended it was home, plastering pictures onto cracked yellow walls, pretending flickering lights
were angels, making muscles in the mirrors laughing at the frailness of our physiques and how weak we sometimes feel in those chasms between sleep and awake, where for seconds at a time your arm hair stands on end and your heart breaks over and over again. Then we left, clutching our heads, me saying take heart, find strength, my friend.
I sleep around. At art films, mostly, with nowhere to put my head. You are watching Andy Warhol film bohemians at the Factory. I am taking a nap. Twitching. Roused by a sonic outburst from the Velvet Underground, everyone is thinking very hard. I close my eyes. I’ve fallen asleep on every train in this city. Park benches. I may be the only person who has slept onstage at Carnegie Hall in the middle of Beethoven’s Ninth. Three glorious movements before a rousing chorus. Few things are pointed like the elbow saying, This is the moment. You aren’t even here.
AINU “Ainu, aboriginal people inhabiting Hokkaido...and Sahkhalin, and formerly also found in the Kuril Islands... Traditionally hunters, fisherman, and trappers, they practice animism and are famed for their bear cult.” 1. Across the circle group – to me – a young woman says “You’re like a big teddy bear.” I still remember, still say to her / myself I am a bear, but no teddy! am full of piss and more. can roar. can hunt. love to sleep. love cave of pillows about bear-head. can wait at stream-edge
to fish out salmon with either big paw.
Big paw. Big bear-skull facing hearth fire. feeling good. feeling at home. 2. At home on nursery rug Mariah – nine months un-hibernated from Giselle’s warm insides -eyes this: six-inch sitting-tall white-furred teddy animal with human heart and red bow-tie. fair-haired daughter’s plush wet-nosed escort.
The Ainu wait outside. We honor them. thank them. will have them for dinner! then send them away with this message: it is okay to be consumed after all other bears will wait by water other food will be here when we and Ainu are gone Long gone.
Steve Burke 133
MOVE move move move a slither is to slide as it is to slip chittering is chattering, the movement of the lips drawing back and thrusting forth the whipping of a whip lapping licking lifting the slipping of a sip a soft peeling out the blooming birth of a flower a subtle lift and click is a hand on the hour drawn is a face
from a lemon that is sour large stampeding animals a force of great power move move move
Aleyah K. Macon
SUMMER â€˜10 please forgive the inelegance of this cluttered desk; i have lost someone today. the sun boils the asphalt, catches in the hair of children, summons from the high rises armies of men in dark suits, withers the plants, passes the time. with every unwanted phone call I receive, the subway doors shut, the air conditioning preserves me, and another sleek train
hurtles into the unplumbed darkness from which there is no return service.
DEFEND THE HONOR Who will defend the honor of the Congolese rape victims? There has been no convening of the great council of grand bubu wearing imperialist, whose daughter’s lie safe in each other’s arms at Swiss boarding schools. Nelson Mandela has made no appeal on their behalf, there is no sign of the war apparatus of the Zulu Nation, we do not hear the beat of the drum summoning the wrath of the ancestors, no juju conjuring Marabou’s in sight! We cannot see the militia marching just over the hill, no jihad has been called, the Americans will not send fighter planes to defend them, the Queens navy will not launch a single vessel to avenge them; These decedents of Sheba, distant cousins of Mensa Musa, poor relations to Nefertiti, great, great, grand nieces of Askia,
kinfolk to Hannibal! Mother, sisters, daughters, nieces, wombs defiled by the diseased jism of rapist butchers, clitoris torn and mangle, spirits crushed, forced into oblivion by this atrocity! Is there no one to defend the honor of our dethroned Queen?
A NEST ABOVE
The open door and April’s bright light washing in. Lumbering bees harvest wood from the lintel. They leave behind perfectly round holes, echoes of motory humming. The darkness resides in your chest, the wrong cells growing— God willing, they’ll go, science aligned with blue snows of hydrangea, a perfect graft of stem cells, tongue and groove rows smoothly fitting with the flourishing tree
of your spine, greening us back into belief. Miraculous as the empty tomb and strewn clothes, may the darkness halt in its tracks, lift its fierce chin and shambling flanks and simply go. Each night the howling more separate from you. Each call a wave that wonâ€™t be met, peaks fading with morning. All along the Beaverkill, wrens and finches, warblers and kingfishers are at it againâ€” hidden by profuse lanterns of bloom.
Horse hair loose of the curry, chestnut strands from a young girlâ€™s hair, one long curl laced with another. With this and that, they make their wayâ€” neither beggars nor choosers but gatherers gathering the unused riches of our days.
ETIQUETTE LESSONS: THE FORK AND KNIFE TOGETHER At last! It seemed impossible, but here they are, together. So many families of endless etchings, countless flowered patterns, one for every day. Today, the matching rose blossoms (brushed cloudy silver, a dead manâ€™s custom set) have found each other, cutting through oily gristle, splitting bones, piercing flesh like possessed children; theyâ€™d do anything for each other.
TOBY ALTMAN lives with his dog and friends in Philadelphia. His chapbook Asides is forthcoming in the Summer of 2012 from Split Leaves Press. His poems have recently appeared in The Adirondack Review and Philadelphia Stories. NINA “LYRISPECT” BALL has performed all around the U.S. and Canada, and has shared stages with Mos Def, Conya Doss, Kenny Lattimore, Eric Benet and many others. A Baltimore native with strong roots in Philadelphia, she is one fifth of Spoken Soul 215 and host of monthly open mic The Harvest. Her work is featured both locally and nationally, and is the recipient of the Sonia Sanchez Women’s Studies Award and The NAACP/Center Stages Young Playwrights Festival award. PETER BAROTH is a Philadelphia area writer, artist, and musician. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Temple Law School. He has published a novel, Long Green (iUniverse), and a poetry chapbook, Ski Oklahoma (Wordrunner Chapbooks). He won the 2009 Amy Tritsch Needle Award in poetry. RACHEL BROWN graduated with a BA in mathematics and nine houseplants. Her work has also been published in a recent edition of PANK magazine. THEO BROWN writes poetry, prose, and plays and was a winner of the 2009 Philadelphia Young Playwrights’ Annual Playwriting Festival. He his a student at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. SAM BURKE was the winner of the grade 10-12 division of the 2010 Montgomery Country Youth Poetry Contest. STEVE BURKE has been published in the Mad Poets Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and Spitball. He has been a featured reader at the Free Library’s Monday Series, the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, the Green Line Poetry Series, & the original Painted Bride Gallery. He lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia with wife-Giselle and daughter-Mariah and has worked for many years as a labor and delivery nurse. MARIE-ANTOINNETE CLARK is a senior at Upper Darby High School, and will be attending Cabrini College to study Criminology and Sociology. She is a member of Philadelphia Youth Poetry
Movement, and has competed in their semi-finals. The first poem she ever read was Crystal Stair by Langston Hughes. ANGELO COLAVITA has been reading his stories and poems throughout his native Philadelphia for the past decade. In addition to his literary work, he has written and produced two theater pieces, Audience and The Cage & The Hearteater. JIM CORY is a PA Arts Council and Yaddo fellow whose poems have recently appeared, or are about to, in Burp, Fell Swoop, Fuck!, Court Green, 5 AM, Lungful!, Skidrow Penthouse and unarmed journal. Favorite words include: pestiferous, palaver, pulchritude, and piece-of-ass. No Brainer Variations, a thoroughly obnoxious chapbook, is the winner of Rain Mountain Press’ 2010 Ron Wardell Prize and will be published by those good people shortly. He lives in Philadelphia and can be reached at email@example.com. JUSTIN CHING hails from Los Angeles, California, and serves as the Director of The Excelano Project, the University of Pennsylvania’s award winning poetry collective. He was a winner of the Collegiate Union Poetry Slam Invitational, 2009 national championship and has shared the stage with Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Anis Mojgani, among others. Justin works with the Youth Arts & Self-Empowerment Project to bring poetry to local Philadelphia jails and recently served as Chair of the School District of Philadelphia’s Comprehensive Committee for Racial and Cultural Harmony. J.A. CURCIONE is a playwright and short story writer from Philadelphia, PA. He has published stories in several magazines, his latest including The Cynic Online Literary Magazine and Instigatorzine. As an actor he has most recently worked with sketch comedy troupe “The Dependable Felons”. His play, “Rough Beast” was recently produced in Philadelphia where he has also workshopped, in conjunction with Tabard Inn Productions, his newest play “The Garden.” JOSEPH DORAZIO’s poems have appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Boston University’s Clarion Journal, Nerve Cowboy, The Maynard, and elsewhere. NICK FORREST will be working on APIARY from afar in the coming years as he writes at the University of Montana, but hopes you will send him postcards in the meantime.
ZACHARY HAYES grew up in Whiting, New Jersey, a town next to the site of the Hindenburg crash. He moved to the Philadelphia area to attend school, and has plans to move to West Philly this spring. His favorite word in either Spanish or English is vagabundear. SON HUYNH is a 6th grader at John H. Taggart Elementary. He likes blood and gore and war video games, but also loves animals, and is always looking to make a new friend. His name means mountain in Vietnamese. DREW KALBACH lives in Philadelphia. He is the author of CAN’T ACTION (forthcoming, Cow Heavy Books 2011) and of THE ZEN OF CHAINSAWS AND ENORMOUS CLIPPERS (Achilles Chapbook Series 2008). ANDREW KOLBENSCHALG is a writer from Howell, New Jersey. He is currently living in Trenton, New Jersey. His short stories have appeared in Instigatorzine, and he was featured in The College of New Jersey’s 2010 Student Reading Series. BLAISE LARAMEE was born and raised in Philadelphia, attends Central High School, and is involved in frisbee, musical production and visual art. Blaise explores life, death, love and spirituality is his verse, but his most recurring topic is poetry itself. NICK LEPRE is a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston. He has been published previously in The Threepenny Review. He lives and works in Cambridge, Massachusetts. WARREN LONGMIRE is one of the founding members of the Excelano Project Spoken Word Collective. He has been published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pax Americana, Mad Poets:San Francisco, and the 16th and Mission Review. You can read his work in his chapbook “Ripped Winters” and see him monthly at the Mosaic Reading series. ALEYAH K. MACON is a student at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. JANET MASON is an award winning writer of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry whose literary commentary is regularly featured on This Way Out, an international radio syndicate based in Los Angeles and aired on more than 400 radio stations in the U.S. and also in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout Europe. She is also the author of Hitching To Nirvana : a novel (Cycladic Press). Tea Leaves: a memoir
of mothers and daughters will be published by Bella Books in 2012.Â Her chapbooks of poetry, include When I Was Straight (Insight To Riot Press) and a woman alone (Cycladic Press).You can visit her at www.amusejanetmason.com NINA MELITO writes out of a second-story window on Poplar street. She studies at Temple University. TESSA MICAELA binds books, supports women during childbirth and works towards reproductive justice. She writes about cities real and imagined, monumental and minute and believes in the transformative power of language. In a former home she co-hosted the Never on Time reading series and journal project, and is still on the lookout for other community poetry events. Currently she is working on a poem series of letters without recipients called Without Winter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. MICHELLE MYERS is a spoken word poet, community activist, and educator. She is a founding member of the spoken word poetry group Yellow Rage, a dynamic duo of Philly-based Asian American female spoken word poets; the group is best known for appearing on the first season of the criticallyacclaimed HBO television series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. She holds a PhD in English from Temple University and is currently an Assistant Professor and Reading/ Writing Faculty Specialist in the Central Learning Lab at CCP. Read more at yellowrage.com ON POINT INK is a Philly based artistic collective made up of Steve Megga, Alisha Dantzler, Lindo, and BlackCancer aka Rell. They are mentos to youth in the Mural Art Program and Germantown Poetry Festival, and speak at various coferences, creating dialogue around social issues in the surrounding areas of Philadelphia. On Point Ink has performed in New Jersey, Baltimore and Washington, DC. ISABEL RAMOS is the winner of the 2011 American Voices Award, a member of the Philadelphia Writing Project, and a student at Masterman High School in Philadelphia. KAREN RILE is the author of Winter Music, a novel set in Philadelphia, and numerous works of fiction and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Southern Review, American Writing, Creative Nonfiction, and Other Voices, and has been listed among The Best American Short Stories. She teaches fiction and creative nonfiction at the University of Pennsylvania.
JACOB RUSSELL lives in South Philly with Murphy-the-Cat and Spirit Stick. His work has appeared in dcomP, Criiphoria 2, Conversational Magazine, Connotations, BlazeVox, Scythe, Battered Suitcase, Clockwise Cat, Apiary, Fox Chase Journal, Connotations, Dance Macabre, Pedestal, and Retort, and he has two chapbooks: THE POEM TREE (available with decorated one-of-a-kind covers), and Chronic Chronos Kairos, the first Rondo of his POEM FOR THE END OF MY DAYS. He manages the literary blog: Jacob Russell’s Barking Dog. ENRIQUE SACERIO-GARI’s poem Monodia Polifonica (Polyphonic Monody) has been published in Spanish in Cuba in Poemas interreales (La Habana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 2004) and in the journal Diálogo (Chicago: Center for Latino Research, DePaul University, summer 2007). JACLYN SADICARIO is a New Yorker, poet-student living in Philadelphia, in her last year of studying English, Psychology, and Women’s Studies. She is currently the Executive Creative Editor of Hyphen, Temple University’s Undergraduate Literary and Art Magazine. She is the proud owner of two cats, a comfortable chair, and a diverse collection of vinyl records. More of her work can be found in her blog, jaclynsadicario.blogspot.com. CATHERINE STAPLES teaches in the Honors program at Villanova University and has published in Blackbird, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Third Coast, The Michigan Quarterly Review, West Branch and others. Honors include the University of Pennsylvania’s William Carlos Williams Award, two APR Distinguished Poets’ Residencies, and The New England Poetry Club’s Boyle/ Farber Award. Last month, she was named a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award, Utah State University. Betsy Sholl selected her chapbook Never a Note Forfeit for Seven Kitchens Press’ 2010 Keystone Prize: Never a Note Forfeit is scheduled for release in May 2011. LAUREN STRENGER is a freshman at Temple University, studying history and splitting her time between the city and the sea. She enjoys playing video games, taking pictures of people’s eyes, having public transportation adventures and staying up too late. Lauren takes her coffee with milk but no sugar and has been making poetry ever since she learned how to write. JAMES ULMER received his BFA in Illustration and Design from The University of the Arts in 2005, has shown at many galleries locally and nationally, and is a member of Philadelphia artist collective Space 1026. See more of his work at jamesulmer.com and at space1026.com.