Founded in 2009, is a magazine of contemporary poetry and prose featuring writers from the Philadelphia diaspora. We publish work from writers of all ages and backgrounds, in print and online. is also its staff: we are a collective of Philly writers dedicated to championing and amplifying our cityâ€™s dazzling literary scene. Our mission is to further connect and inspire Philadelphians through the power of their own words, and to celebrate Philadelphia as a great literary city on the page, the stage, the screen, and in the street.
DEAR READER, What you hold in your hands is APIARY X: a culmination of ten years of writing, reading, making, printing, listening, dancing, and building together in our home, Philadelphia. It is a living document of the people that shape our shifting, evolving literary city. And it is a long time coming! Thank you for believing in this scrappy magazine, which first sprouted between friends in a South Philly apartment in 2009. Your support and community is our water and light: we could not grow without you. Our tenth anniversary issue celebrates friends new and old. You’ll find freshly published work in conversation with voices from issues 1-9, alongside intergenerational interviews with local lit heroes reflecting on Philly's past, present and future. Digging through a decade of APIARY’s archives, we were frequently surprised, delighted, and touched by all the criss-crossing connections between our authors and collaborators: like meeting someone new at a party, then finding out they used to live on your corner years ago. We hope you'll feel that way too as you peruse these pages. Where you stand holding this issue marks the “X” in our title. X means “you are here.” It means “we were, too.” X is a place to pause on the map: a person’s proof of passing through, of being seen, held, found. It’s a point lodged between neighborhoods and tangled timelines, trolley tracks and graveyards, layers of living rooms and far-flung future coordinates. X is both treasure and burial, evidence and erasure, a crossing-over and a crossing-out. An anonymous signature. A street marked for construction. A stitch in time binding us. APIARY X is where we’ve been. It’s also where we’re headed. Let’s go together.
XO, The APIARY Staff
PROJECT DIRECTOR Steve Burns
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Alexa Smith
POETRY EDITORS Hiwot Adilow Kai Davis
PROSE EDITORS Amanda Buck Kareem Groomes
YOUTH EDITOR AND AMBASSADOR Veronica Nocella
4 Poetry, Prose and Art
Sojourner Ahebee x Octavia McBride-Ahebee
Apiary x Plaque To The Future
Anne-Adele Wight x Paul Siegell
Raquel Salas Rivera x Husnaa Hashim
A Novel Idea
The Head & The Hand x Larry Robin
Author Bios 3
THEY ARE TEARING DOWN THE CONVENT Carole Bernstein
“...for the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary... a decline in the number of women choosing to enter... Philly developers purchased the building and the lot for a tidy $2.8M...” What is private is what hangs out the window: a toilet agape, mirrors—no, chunks of mirror, that held their faces, reflection stabbing the afternoon. In August,
stand behind the fence that was a gate.
Hot, unimaginably up-ended slabs: a giant casts dice. When did the sisters...? Dead or gone on to wild New Jersey.
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
Hunk of a bathtub shattered, world without end, tile of 1940s black and white blasted to dust the color of parchment, ceilings X’d with blackened fans. They watched TV in black and white, Sunday evening, the nature shows. The little weeds fear not, finding chinks to flourish, spring up dark green, quickly fatten, flapping clumped and swollen on hairy stems.
Children pass with loaded baseball bags, uniformed, eager to do battle. Their parents search for a new brunch place. Sweat, dust. Haze swims in the eyes. Over here, mountains of huge filthy tree roots press against the fence. Industrial penises poke out: newel posts wrecked in the titanic swell, bearing the pineapple of welcome. 4
Artwork by Nicole Counts
They didn’t ask for much, they woke, prayed, ate, prayed, planted vegetables, cleaned, washed dishes, prayed, slept. In this ground: shit and hair, menstrual pads, leftover prayers, vespers compline nocturns matins lauds (black dangling shred in an upper window) the Prayer for the Returned, the Prayer to Redeem Lost Time No men here, it’s Sunday, they are resting, the men who put up walls. The men dig, they like to dig. They stand in the pit and joke. Sweaty, they start to yank off shirts, drape them over the fence. Black men and white men step away to take a piss in Johnny On The Spot. Convent to church, the welltrodden path. The church is still there. Their feet tamped down the soil.
It’s hard to be good every day, it just turns into life after a while: quarrels, hemorrhoids, macular degeneration, old age and its accoutrements. After a while, to tear down the body, let the soul go out the window, out of the many-eyed panes. I saw it pass into memory. The plain iron cross on the iron bars, not sold yet, peeling hospital green, buried in poison ivy, buried in morning glory, twining, heat-loving vines no longer only blue, but red, white, pink, purple, and bicolor. 5
COME JOIN THE JUBILEE Ras Mashramani
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 6
If I were a Christian again I would find a church with the best and blackest choir and go there. I would sit next to the oldest church lady, and hold her hand during opening prayer and hold her hand when the children praise dance. When the girls in their white robes slowly lift one leg like little black cranes during the chorus and crescendo of that Donny McClurkin song ‘Stand’ I would cry and the old lady would sleep. I would give with a loving heart as I fill out the tithing card. I would lift the child in front of me to the baskets so that her dollar can join the rest. I would sing with real joy from the pew while the choir does that heartfelt dip during the song ‘The Presence of the Lord is Here’. I would pray with my hands pressed between my thighs. I would block out the pastor’s words and speak to the empty space behind my eyes. While the deacon reads off the prayer list, I would search for a hand in the dark. I would roam across the inside of my skull, groping. And I would keep my eyes closed and I would ask God questions. I would sit with the silence and feel humbled and punished. I would say thank you. I would say I do not deserve your answer or your love. I would feel my heart swell and seep with humility and penance. I would go up to the altar and rest my knees on the pillowed benches. I’d wait for their hands and try not to run. Penance. I would feel the word gauntlet, like these tongues are those of imps and iniquities pulling me to oblivion [not to hell, but the unanswerable]. I would try not to run. I would look around and note bodies splayed out—Sunday dress stiff padded shoulders— diabetic stockings—lace front wigs—gaping mouth of a mother whose son has died of aids because he was too black and too Christian to tell himself the truth. Tears in all our eyes while they touch our foreheads with oil. Not thinking they’re making it up. Words like hot foreign water. Words like a blanket. Like hoodoo in the swamp. Like acid baptism. Cauterized. Then Pastor would say the doors of the church are open and it’s like an escape route. And if that would be a hint of hell, this would be a beam of light. The doors of the church are open and I would be small and clean from now until tonight. I would stand at the front of the church alone like I did when I was 17 and selfrighteous, when I thought giving my heart meant getting something back or giving up my darkness to something that could handle it. I would say sorry for my sex, for seduction, for hating my mother and loving my father, for liking it, for liking anything, for being here. I would be so sorry for marring Creation. For Nietzsche, for atheists all the white boys and hard-legged girls. I would cry and agree and I would say Just take it away, I’ll do anything. I would say Kill me now. I want to die in the light of You, Lord. I want to die at Your feet during this 11 hours of purity. I am awash in pain and I can grovel like an old pro, like a young prostitute, like your boozing born again uncle. Because I have my own dark cross, now take it away.
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
MYTHOLOGY OF A THERAPY APPOINTMENT Lawrence Mullen
it seems like everyone goes to these appointments i thought i’d give it a go after i left the art museum i was looking out the window on the subway and i heard these kids behind me ask what is it? they weren’t asking me though they were asking each other about me what is it? and the way the sun blocks out their voices filling up so much space of the train car reaching from the clouds down across the bridge and through the plexiglas window but the way those kids repeat repeat repeat repeatand i swear i saw a siren screaming for me to jump you’d need to be more specific there’s an awful lot of those oh she’s no myth matter of fact i saw a sculpture of the myth of me in the museum and i’m sitting right here.
why are you here today?
that’s a perfectly good reason do you want to talk about it?
like the mythological women?
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
HEART OF BLACKNESS Mariam Williams
He approached me as I descended the steps into the SEPTA station under Dilworth Park. Black man, dressed in a button-down shirt, slacks, and a hat too warm for that late summer evening but neat and apropos, given that the hair in his beard was gray and the thinness of aging skin makes the elderly feel colder than the younger. He carried a tourist style map of Philadelphia and said, “Excuse me, ma’am. Do you know the trains here well?” “Mmhm,” I said, nodding. He opened his map, set it on the banister between us, and continued, “I need some help. See, I’m trying to figure out ... well ...” He looked around, then looked me in the eyes and said, “What I really need is a token or just a dollar to ...” I had to start a policy upon moving to Philadelphia: no handouts in the form of cash or tokens. It always seems mean. I always hate myself. But I always suspect a hustler can identify people not raised in the city, and I don’t want to look like a sucker. That and I don’t want to have to think about why I believe one person and not the next, why I feel one person is more justified than the other to receive the little bit of help they’ve asked for. So I said the same thing to the man I say to everyone who asks me for cash or tokens: “No, I’m sorry. I can’t help you.” Most people walk away. This man got indignant. His lips twisted. He snatched up his map and busied himself folding it as he looked up and down at me the way some people look at people who ask them for money, and he mumbled, “Can’t help. ... Can’t help.” He continued mumbling as I walked away and called after me, “And you need to learn how to talk like a black woman.” I was surprised by how intensely his words stung. The entire ride on the train, thirty-seven blocks, eight minutes, I cried. I cried partially out of anger at myself for crying and not knowing why in the moment. This is silly. You don’t even know this dude. You’re used to this. I was thirty-six at the time, and I had been accused of “talking like a white girl” at least since my middle school years in Kentucky. The first instance I remember is a girl I’ll call Alice eyeing me suspiciously one day as I talked with the group we were assigned to in our science class. Alice and I weren’t the only black girls in the class, but we were the only ones in our group. When we returned to our regular seats—alphabetical assignments that landed Alice on the row of desks in front of me, another black girl beside me, and the other black girl in the class behind us—Alice turned around and asked, “Mariam, are you mixed?” No, I said. “Oh. You’re light-skinned and you talk like a white girl,” Alice explained. She shrugged and turned to face the front of the room again. I don’t remember how I or anyone else around us reacted 10
in that moment, but I probably felt confused. I knew my speech was nerdy—one of my cousins had called me a nerd when I was seven, then laughed at me when I responded, I am not a nerd! because, as she explained, if I weren’t a nerd I would’ve said, I ain’t no nerd!—but I hadn’t associated nerdiness with whiteness before, and I certainly hadn’t associated whiteness with myself. Books by black authors overflowed on my mother’s bookshelves. My parents took me to black arts shows and readings from Alvin Ailey to Gwendolyn Brooks to my father’s own productions. I lived in a neighborhood and attended a church where the sight of white people was greeted with a polite “hello” or welcoming smile but also cautious curiosity from elders who had known white people to enter black territories only to survey land or women they wanted for themselves, or to find a black man to torture. Alice’s inquiry was strange to me, but I didn’t receive it maliciously, nor do I think she meant it that way. She had witnessed incongruity—wide nose, full lips, relaxed hair, speech that didn’t sound like her own—and had sought an explanation for it. When Alice said, “Mariam, are you mixed?” I hadn’t yet experienced judgement via side-eye from darkskinned black women who believed the, “She think she cute” narrative of black women with my complexion. I hadn’t yet noticed black boys and men in my school and on my television trading up, progressing from black girlfriends, wives, and side chicks to mixed ones, then white-looking Latinas, Asians, and finally, white women and girls. I hadn’t yet felt unwanted and out of place among my own. The man in the station hadn’t asked a question; he had given me a directive—“And you need to learn to how to talk like a Black woman”—and within it, he had made an accusation. You are ashamed of who you are and who we are. You actively try not to be like us. We disgust you. My natural voice—my flat, Midwestern, feminine, and often childlike voice that lacks the Kentucky twang everyone in my family except my father possesses—had again signaled betrayal where black people least expect to encounter it. The first time I saw nora chipaumire (she spells her name all lowercase), she looked like a black person one would expect to see in the crowd at Afro Punk. Tuxedo jacket. Oversized graphic tee. Loose-fitting black pants cut off just above the ankles, threads still showing. High-top red Chucks. Closely shaved head. Nose ring. The other panelist on the stage set up in the of Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building wore a suit. The moderator wore a dress, Pashmina scarf, and fleshtone high heels.
Everyone on the stage was black, but only nora was Zimbabwean, and more specifically, Shana. Event organizers had chosen the evening’s topic, “new perspectives on African art and traditional perceptions of Black cultural production,” to correspond with Creative Africa, the museum’s current exhibition. The latter juxtaposed innovation and tradition in African art and design through contemporary photography, installations, architecture, and fashion design by African-born artists, and sculpture from unknown artists born in an Africa many centuries past. At the panel discussion that night, the moderator, a professor at Bryn Mawr University, began with the question, “What is Africa?” nora responded, “Africa is an idea, a construction. It doesn’t exist.” Jotting down notes as nora spoke, I immediately thought of religious studies specialist Tracey E. Hucks and discussions I’d had two years ago about her book, Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism, assigned reading for the Religions of the African Diaspora class I was taking towards my Pan African Studies degree. Hucks argues that African Americans who politicized African identity created Africa—an idea of the existing continent—as a sacred symbol embodying the origin of Black America and a “projected object of redemption and recovery.” For them, the continent was a source of racial, social, cultural, and religious purity, a place uncorrupted by Eurocentrism and white supremacy, and the only place on earth where African Americans, descendants of people taken from the African continent and enslaved, could find their true culture, their authentic ways of being in and relating to the world. I knew this idea of Africa still existed in everything from rites of passage programs in black churches to Hotep Twitter musings, from canonized African American literature to Home-to-Africa tourism in Mali, Senegal, and Ghana, so that was my understanding of what nora meant when she spoke of a constructed Africa: U.S.-born blacks fixed in their heads an idealized image of a continent they had never set foot on yet claimed an allegiance to and identified with. (Really, she could’ve just meant Africa was constructed by cartographers.) “Black is an aesthetic. Africanness is a cultural thing,” nora said later, emphasis hers. “You can’t just put on an African thing, an American thing, and take it off. It’s something in the soil, in your blood.” I scribbled those words in my notebook, too, but I wasn’t sure how much I agreed with them. I believe the natural and built environments influence culture, which influences who we
become as people, but I wanted to ask, does blood not travel eighteen, nineteen, twenty generations? How rooted do black people have to be to the land to be African? How far removed to be American? Whether we have been Negro, colored, black, or African American, have we not existed simultaneously as insiders and outsiders, as Americans conscious of their blackness, as black people conscious of their removal from their ancestry? Near the end of the panel discussion, nora shared a story about an incident in which a woman she described as a black woman told her after a performance that she was African but not black. nora didn’t elaborate on what the woman meant, but she said she was hurt by the woman’s comments. The incident turned out to be a pivotal moment in nora’s career; she had been educated in the U.S. and had lived in New York for decades at that point, but she decided to embrace the woman’s critique and put her African identity—nationality: Zimbabwean, ethnicity: Shana—and her African family history at the center of her work. I saw that family history a few days later in her performance, portrait of myself as my father, a show the 2016 Fringe Arts Festival catalog described as a celebration and critique of masculinity. “nora considers the African male through the lens of cultural traditions, colonialism, Christianity, liberation struggles—and how these ideas impact the African family and society.” In a collapsable boxing ring set up in a warehouse, the petite nora and two muscular men left an audience in tears. In their dancing, running, boxing, simulated humping, and chanting, they performed black masculinity with a level of physicality and artistry I hadn’t seen in staged performance before, but had seen performed by boys I had gone to high school with, men I had dated, and every other black boy and man trying so hard to be hard, he died. Some of the dancing, I learned later, was a hyperbolic version of a gangster walk Shana men use to demonstrate manhood. The performance culminated with nora standing center ring, one of the sweaty, muscular men draped over her shoulders, spent, the two creating the shadow of one large, dark male figure, after they chanted the refrain, “to be a man, to be a black man, to be a black African man... to be a champion, nigga, you better learn how to fight ... run ... fuck ... die, nigga, die.” I heard in the refrain a message men, women, and media alike gave to black boys and men. I knew too many black people embracing this as truth. During the Q&A after the show, I raised my hand. “I went to the talk you gave Wednesday night, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the story you shared about the woman in Oakland who said you were African but not black. And after seeing 11
this, I’m even more shocked by that comment, because this is the blackest thing I’ve seen in a long time. Even the references you included to Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, the themes of hyper-, or toxic-masculinity, are all things that would resonate with black men and black people in the U.S. and perhaps anywhere.” nora stiffened in the high-back chair that had been brought to the stage for her. “So you’re having difficulty seeing the difference between the black aspects of the piece and the African references? Well, I suggest you look harder. Is anyone else having difficulty understanding the difference between black and African?” The room of a hundred or so people was silent. Earlier in the Q&A, the black people in the room who had been born somewhere on the African continent had identified themselves. They collectively looked at me the way people sometimes look at people who ask them for money, then looked at each other and smirked. “Well,” nora said, “next question.” But she didn’t drop the point. Someone else asked if she altered the piece to correspond with where it was being performed. nora said there are Japanese, Brazilian, Zimbabwean, and Senegalese versions of portrait of myself as my father, then turning to me she added, “See, Zimbabwe and Senegal are not the same country.” “I know that,” I called out from the audience. I didn’t like being mocked, but what finally pissed me off was when nora revealed her age (51). Most of the audience gasped, and nora said in reply to their shock, “Black don’t crack.” “Oh, so you’re black now?” I said to no one in particular as the rest of the audience laughed and applauded and nora flashed a smile and caressed her own head. Most of the people who had stayed for the talk-back also crowded around nora for autographs and to ask her additional questions. I marched to the door and refused to look at her. *** I shouldn’t have taken it personally. I know he was just mad I didn’t give him money. I shouldn’t have taken it personally. I know artists are sensitive about their shit. But why, of all the other low-hanging fruit to insult, did he focus on something so often interpreted as me denying my own culture? But why, in front of an audience that was 75 percent white, did she make me the other? He could’ve called me fat; I had gained ten pounds over the summer from a diet of seafood and sangria in Portugal, but I hadn’t bought new clothes, and rolls on my back and stomach were pushing against the dress I wore that night. He could’ve made fun of the ’fro-hawk I could never pull off as well as black women with thicker hair and a generally more chic aesthetic, or the sandals I was wearing that night—flat ones with little 12
rhinestones that don’t exactly scream, “Grown and sexy!” He could’ve said, “That’s why your snobby ass is alone,” like men often do when I ignore their street harassment and their fragile masculinity is shattered. She could’ve said, “This is a U.S.-specific version of the piece, so I reference historic African American athletes. But let me point out for you the distinctly Shana aspects.” But no. Instead, he commanded me to “learn how to talk like a black woman.” He said this as I was on my way home from a show where I was the only black woman in the audience, and every black man there had been on a white woman’s arm. She acted as though there were no parallels between our experiences, as if the British Empire had never existed, as if she didn’t carry her deceased father’s Rhodesia identity card around with her, and a white supremacist sporting a Rhodesian flag on his jacket hadn’t shot nine black people in an historic church with “African” in its name the year before I saw her show. As if only one of us had grown up in a country impacted by white supremacy. Like she didn’t know just a few weeks earlier, a man in the subway station had accused me of trying to be white. It compounds, all of this. It exhausts. When I was nine, I wanted to stop wearing leotards and tights to dance class and wear biking shorts and sports bras like the other girls. Traditional dance attire was part of the dress code at the studio, and my mother wouldn’t allow me to bend what I thought was a small rule, even after I noted, “All the other girls are doing it.” “You are black,” she stated as her reasoning. “You have to learn you don’t get to break the rules like everyone else does.” I wanted to tell the man in the SEPTA station about that, to explain I wasn’t trying to be white, though I could see from nine that whiteness brought certain privileges. I just wanted to be in style, to wear what I wanted to wear, to have that little bit of freedom. Confession: I revised this essay with the soundtrack to Black Panther playing in the background. I admit this for irony’s sake. Though I’m willing to entertain Killmonger’s idea— What if every police baton and bullet strengthened our body armor through kinetic energy? What if Haiti demanded reparations while pointing indestructible weapons at France? Would conflict in the Congo end if the country had an endless supply of vibranium?—Pan-African solidarity isn’t that important to me. I don’t want my only connection to nora to be oppression. I want acceptance and belonging. Maybe I’ve looked for them in some of the ways and places U.S.-born blacks have been guilty of looking, though I can’t say I attempted to construct an Africa that would love me in ways America would not. At 34, I began my graduate career in Pan-African and Women’s Studies departments because those fields made sense for my career path then and for the road
I saw towards understanding myself. I wrote in my graduate school application that I wanted “to pursue a course of study that [would] prepare me for long-term research on women who embrace indigenous practices as tools for resistance in social movements in the U.S. and abroad.” “And abroad” because I was a Christian struggling to understand why I was a Christian, and (as nora knew) Christianity had impacted African society, too. I wanted to know if black women practicing Candomblé, Santeria, Yoruba, Shango, Orisha, or Vodou were feeling better about black womanhood than I was. “And abroad” because I had taken two semesters of West African dance in my early twenties as an undergraduate, and when my best friend in the class said, “When I do West African dance, I always feel like I’m doing dances that were made for my body,” I knew what she meant. It was like something was in our blood. Even the black women in the class with the lightest complexions and the ones whose body types weren’t stereotypically “black” adapted to the moves and performed them differently from the white half of the class. We weren’t better than the white women; it’s just that when we danced, our bodies looked more like the instructor’s, a recent immigrant to the U.S. from Côte d’Ivoire, than theirs did, as if we had a comfort and familiarity with the steps that none of the students, all U.S.-born and raised women in their early twenties, should’ve had. True, some movements we knew from hip-hop. Others we felt on a cellular level. Yes, I know race is a social construct and there is no biological basis for it. I know there is as much variety of facial features and body type within one’s race as there is between races. I reject racial essentialism. Yet I know what my classmate meant. I felt it, too. I took West African dance classes because someone told me they were good exercise. I also took the class at a university that was 90 percent wealthy and 80 percent white. Confession: I have wanted to find black hearts that would love me in ways America would not. Since I was nine, I have wanted to feel like I would at 34, when my study abroad classmate and I walked into a hotel lobby in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and could count the white people in the room, and we did—instinctively—neither of us cueing the other. We told each other on our way back to our group, “There were only eight white people in that lobby!” and “I counted five sitting outside.” Two Kentucky-born Black girls in Trinidad and Tobago’s capital city, forgetting the code words our parents used to ask us and we used to tell them the racial composition of our class each year whenever we held this conversation in public. Are you the only one? Mostly vanilla or chocolate in the mix? How many of us? I would feel it again at 35, in Lisbon, Portugal. Black people there were sure I was a half-caste from Cabo Verde or Angola, former Portuguese colonies. They spoke to me in Portuguese.
They spoke to tourists in English. The dance the Cabo Verdean band performed one day in the plaza looked like the dance people would do in my black church in Kentucky when somebody caught the Holy Ghost. Our ways were familiar to each other. I had hearts of blackness in mind when I chose not to apply to creative writing programs in places made to huddle indoors reading and writing, in cities where it snows nine months of the year and there are no black people for 30 miles. Instead, I chose a school adjacent to Philadelphia, a city where 44% of the residents are black. And here, I “talk like a white girl.” And here, a few weeks later, I was too black to be African. Some six months or so after I met nora and the man, acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared a stage with Ta-Nehisi Coates, an African American writer of equal prominence, in front of 3500 people at a writers conference in Washington, D.C. Following their respective readings, the two had a meandering conversation about race and identity. “Without the crime, African Americans don’t exist,” Coates said, referring to kidnapping and enslavement. “But we can’t talk about African Americanness as only beginning on the slave ship. The slaves are brought, but they come with their culture,” Adichie said. I felt validated again. Coates then paraphrased a question he said Amiri Baraka had brought up in the 1960s: Which is worse, to be stolen from the land, or to have the land stolen from you? It is a competition not worth fighting, yet it leaves us with a paradox that has lasted more than 500 years. People who were Shana became Rhodesian, then Zimbabwean, then, once they left the continent, African. Unlike that of the ancestors whose names I likely will never know, nora’s departure was her choice. But the result of the separation is similar: distinct ethnic groups and nationalities have been homogenized, and yet, we people who are black wherever we are, are no longer one. And yet, there are moments, sites, whiffs of something passed down, more prominent than mitochondrial DNA. A man from Côte d’Ivoire teaching dance to young Black American women asks, “How you know this step?” Port of Spain, Trinidad. A look of genuine confusion as I open my mouth and Americanaccented English comes out. And there, I am home, I am welcome. Anyone who looks at me recognizes my heart and knows it is one of blackness, and they say with every action, “The love. The love.”
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 4
For Sojourner I heard her friends laugh at her that laugh which is square that stops at points never to wonderonly to breathe in base expulsions of uncurious air she had proclaimed in a combined fit of wistfulness and swaggering insolence she had had combs in Abidjan with names – Akissi, Ahou, Abla, Ama, Adjoua – who understood the temperament of each day’s hair story who could dress your head while weaving choruses of victory threads in your brain preparing you to meet the day haughty and wholly armored.
AMINATA HOLDS US ALL Octavia McBride-Ahebee
Aminata, always wearing a sacred lotus behind her ear told me as she entwined with weavers’ precision the temple hair of Indian girls into my New World head view – a luminous batch of premenstrual hair, color 2B streaked with a girl’s rage long and ancestral blue with fury for having to repay with body, however dead, an old god’s eternal debt – Aminata told me as she chewed on licorice root the way my Big Nanny chewed her Red Man while rocking her disappointment on her Raleigh back porch, told me how she crossed the Sahara in a boubou yellow with appetite sheer enough to seduce wandering genies into numbing her body with storytelling so the furies of the desert – its inferno and its frigid cousins – would not abuse her body demean her into drinking her own piss Aminata whispered as she greased the sorrows of my scalp how she fled with her escorts, ambition and purpose, -they- dressed to the nines in voluminous clarity trimmed with Venetian trading beads she fled the old order of her world that just kept breathing while all the time barren she fled in grace, in henna-stained feet, in a pair of flip-flops open to the world no track-dogs sniffing for blood this time just another kind of beast
HOW MAMY WATA MADE HER WAY BACK HOME Sojourner Ahebee
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 1
Long, long ago along the Coast of Ivory, there were villages filled with people who were happy and content with their lives. People like Bintou and Adoua, who were young girls who swam the sea in search of seashells and lost treasure. People like Parfait, a well-to-do fisherman, who with the aid of his handmade pirogue and fellow villagers, rode the ocean’s waves way out to the horizon to catch the best fruit of the sea. There were people like Fanta, who turned these catches into tasty dishes or sold them to buy wisdom for her children. There were boys like Adama and Yao who use the ocean to prove their bravery and strength and then dry themselves under the shade of coconut trees. But the ocean could be mean and temperamental and that was why these villagers felt themselves blessed to have the protection of Mamy Wata to aid them on their ocean adventures. Mamy Wata , the most mystical mermaid ever, could always be seen riding the waves like a rollercoaster, her black and gold braided hair swishing through the ocean, giving it the color of wealth. She rode through the ocean as if on patrol, always looking to help and play with these villagers. As I said, these were times of happiness and contentment and then came the time of great sorrow and a parting of ways between Mamy Wata and the villagers. One early morning Parfait had gone fishing alone, just for pleasure. A big wave the size of ten palm trees standing on top of each other dropped over him. He was surprised that Mamy Wata had not been there to shield him. He was shocked that he had survived such a wave. When he had got himself together, he could see in the distance the back of Mamy Wata and she was talking to a big ship, a kind that Parfait had not seen before. He felt slighted. How dare Mamy Wata ignore him because his pirogue was small and give her attention to another. He rode back to the shore in great anger and told the other villagers what had happened. They tried to calm Parfait and told him to remember all of the many good things Mamy Wata had done for them. They encouraged him to be patient and wait for an explanation from her. After drinking some palm wine to calm his anger and nerves, Parfait went to sleep in a grove far from his house and he awoke to a nightmare. The big ship that Mamy Wata had been talking to had anchored near Parfait’s village and men the color of the sea’s foam had descended. They descended prepared, knowing where to go and who to call by name. To make a long and ugly story short, these foam-colored men took almost the whole village, against its will 16
and in chains, aboard this ship. It was discovered later they were taken further down to Elmina, a slave factory. Those who were able to escape into the forest joined up with Parfait, who told them that it was Mamy Wata who had collaborated with these evil people, these ghosts with smoking sticks, these thieves of happy and contented people. Deep in the forest, these survivors drew from a greater strength than Mamy Wata, those of their ancestors, and they banished Mamy Wata to the side of the ocean where these body snatchers came. Unfortunately, the ancestors’ strength was no match for the evil that was about to eat their villages for 400 years. And this is how Mamy Wata ended up on this side of the ocean, exiled and out of water, living for centuries in other people’s bodies. Mamy Wata had lived many lives in the New World, but she was never happy. She could sneak into the ocean and become a mermaid again, but her time in the ocean had lost its magic. Whenever she attempted to go in the direction of the Coast of Ivory, the bodies thrown overboard or those bodies who jumped over on their own during the Middle Passage, would stand tall on the bottom of the ocean floor and block her passage. Her last station in the New World was West Philadelphia. She spent a few centuries in the South America and a few in the Caribbean. She arrived here with ghost of a man, who was also once the king of the sea and who had been banished for similar reasons like Mamy Wata. He was called Neptune and he worked as a swimming instructor at the University of Pennsylvania and she was called just called Mamy. Neptune was quite naughty as wandering ghosts are inclined to be. He made an extra copy of keys to the pool and he and Mamy often went swimming for whole nights, becoming again what they once were—magnificent! One Saturday, Mamy Wata went to have her car cleaned. She normally cleaned her own car, but her body was beginning to tell its age and she could feel this. While she was waiting as the men cleaned the inside of her car, she heard from them familiar words, the language of the villagers she use to swim with and protect hundreds of years ago. She began to cry, uncontrollably, and as she did, she transformed slowly into Mamy Wata the Mermaid. The men who had been cleaning her car, recognized her immediately from stories they had been told about her as children and they knew of her banishment to the New World. They, Boubacar and Kouame, quickly took her to a shed in
the back of the carwash. They, too, were a little shaken by this event of seeing the real Mamy Wata in West Philadelphia. She spoke to them in both of their languages which was music to her ears. She asked why Boubacar and Kouame would leave their beautiful homes across the ocean to be hereâ€”lost like her. They told her, yes, they had been fishermen, but now the fish are gone and nothing is left to live on. Big ships from Europe and Asia come near their fishing areas and use the latest technology to sweep the ocean of its fish. Nothing is left for them.
on wheels and took thousands of children to the ocean. For many, it was the first time at the sea and they were thrilled. Their happiness and contentment traveled across the ocean to the ancestors who opened their hearts and called Mamy Wata back home to do battle with those fish-eating ships.
They shared with Maya Wata how badly she was missed over on the other side of the ocean, on the Coast of Ivory. Many people, they said, felt she was harshly judged before she had a chance to explain her relationship with the white ghosts in the big ships. They asked her did she know she could return home, if she did just one great deed for children. This could clean her record and she could return home, no questions asked, to help battle those big ships which were eating the fish all along the coast and far out into the seas. She was shocked to learn that her return home could be so easy. She thanked Boubacar and Kouame and promised to rescue their villages, but first she must do her good deed for children. Mamy Wata slowly transformed back into her human form and left in her car. Once home, she shared her news with Neptune and asked what might she do to help children. Neptune wanted to know first, if she would leave him alone in this new and lonely world. She smiled and said they would always travel this world, old or new, together. Neptune, then, said he had the good deed for her. He had just learned that all of the public swimming pools in Philadelphia would be closed for the summer and many children would not have other opportunities to cool off or learn to swim. Mamy Wata listened and thought and smiled. She had the plan to bring happiness and contentment to children and get her chance to return home. She and Neptune could not only change back and forth into sea creatures, but they could also transform the size and shape of their bodies. The next day, Mamy Wata ran an ad in all the papers and on all the billboards in the city telling the community that the Mamy Wata/Neptune Ark on wheels would be traveling each day, to each neighborhood to pick up parents and their children and ride them to the ocean for a day of fun and for building memories. The response was overwhelming. Each day, for the whole summer, Mamy Wata and Neptune morphed into one huge ship 17
BR IN G IN G T HE R I C H E S
Mother and daughter Octavia McBride-Ahébée and Sojourner Ahébée have been published in APIARY Magazine in different times in their lives. Octavia’s work appeared in APIARY 4; Sojourner’s work appeared in APIARY 1 and APIARY 7. In 2019 Octavia released Praise Song for the Gravediggers. In 2018 Sojourner released Reporting from the Belly of the Night; she was also a National Student Poet in 2013. Dates and titles aside, these two women were intellectually and spiritually formed by poetry through a web of intergenerational, brilliant black women both in and outside of Philadelphia. To read our full interview, head over to apiarymagazine.com. 18
APIARY What is your relationship to Philadelphia right now,
about living here and being a poet here? OMA I’m falling in love with the city in a different way because I feel like I’m part of a community. Before we lived on the edge of the city, in more of a suburban environment. Here you’re just in a community and you just feel it. I’m two minutes away from the school where I work at. It’s lovely to go into the market or the library and you see your students and your families. But also in this space, in the neighborhood, you really feel the forces of gentrification. In two years, we’ve seen a couple blocks we’re familiar with, [where] people of color are not there anymore. Development is happening in terms of making housing for students. Powelton Village was always a nice balance of middle class black folks, hippies, students. But now that’s changing. You feel like you’re kind of in the middle of that. It’s a combination of loving the city but being concerned that people are being pushed out of opportunities. SA I’d have to completely agree. I was born in Côte d’Ivoire but I came here when I was seven so [Philadelphia is a] city I associate with my childhood, with my blooming, with my growing. Even in these different iterations of my life when I move away from the city or spend time away, Philadelphia always feels like an anchor for me. It’s that place I’ve always returned to and in that way there’s something sacred about returning to a place over and over again. For me, that kind of love can never be broken. But the way that we’re remembering the city is really changing and that sort of memory work is going to become urgent as gentrification takes its hold and we think about who belongs. What does it even mean to be local to Philadelphia? What does it mean to be indigenous? We don’t even talk about the first people who were here. We don’t say their names. People just kind of forget. It’s here, but it’s not and it’s not acknowledged. I’m really concerned about that and it does make me a little anxious. You see a lot of good, really interesting development - all this new stuff happening, all these new bookstores, and now there’s a bubble tea shop in walking distance and who doesn’t like bubble tea? I’m excited and I want this city to grow, but who is this for and can it be for everyone? APIARY How did you each enter the poetry community? What was the first reading or experience that you can recall that was really jolting or electric for you? OMA In my neighborhood, Overbrook Elementary, anybody who went there during my time will tell you there was one woman there named Rose Martin and she had The Black Poetry Panorama. Every grade had to prepare for this huge performance at Overbrook High School where we had to learn several poems. You have this school of maybe like 500 little people, an elementary school, learning African American poetry. This is the late 60s, early 70s. You have these communities - can you imagine blocks and blocks of homes where the parents are helping kids memorize [poems]? It was just mind-blowing. I had
to do a poem by Langston Hughes called “The Negro Mother” and it’s a long poem and I’m a little kid. I’m like 7, 8 years old and my Mom is helping me memorize it. Of course, she memorized it; she learned all the poems. And Sojourner will tell you, my Mom died of Alzheimer’s, she forgot who we were - she could memorize that poem! Poetry was always in the house, it was valued in our community. I felt so proud that Rose Martin, this wonderful teacher at Overbrook Elementary, inspired a community. That’s how it started. I was young. APIARY What a gift to grow up in a community like that. OMA I, with intent, placed my children in spaces where they would love their city. They went to a school that was out of the city. I wanted a counter to that. A lot of kids, especially kids of color, who go to these quote unquote elite spaces, white spaces, they feel that they are less than. I wanted them to feel that they come from a city that is so rich, so diverse; we’re at Larry [Robin’s Bookstore], we’re at festivals down at 8th and Lehigh, we’re in Chinatown — like methodically. My kids are coming from this source of richness. So when you go in those spaces it’s like, I’m the King and Queen here. I am bringing the riches. I’m proud of Philly for that. Philly has allowed me to expose my children to so much that has made them kind people and people full of wonder. APIARY How do you feel like the poetry community has changed since you first got involved? SA The thing that jumps out to me the most is the spoken word presence in the city. That’s a particularly young demographic. When I was coming up the only place you could sort of read at was the Robin’s crowd, which was a slightly older crowd in an open mic setting. Whereas now there’s a really thriving spoken word and performance poetry space. There’s so many options now. There’s The Philadelphia Pigeon; KP Brown’s Breedlove; Yolanda [Wisher] and Kirwyn [Sutherland], and I think KP is involved with this too, they do this Cherry St. workshop situation. There are different options now, to develop work, to bring it to wider audiences, to hear new and emerging options in a way that didn’t exist 5 years ago. Each space is really intentional with the kind of space they want to create so it feels like a really safe space. OMA I’ve been really excited by the work that Raquel [Salas Rivera] has done. Even though I’m from Philly, they had a reading in South Philly in the Italian Market, where I haven’t been since I was a young teenager. To come to that space for a reading, to a space in my city that has changed, there are new communities there that I wasn’t aware of, it has allowed me to grow in that way. Raquel is bringing in a lot of Puerto Rican poets who are letting us know what has been happening in Puerto Rico and that’s really been my sense of information. What is happening is not the news media or print media, it’s been poetry. I’m happy that we have folks like that in our city who allow us to grow in terms of our art and in our awareness in what’s been happening around us.
YELLOW FRONT MARKET Gabrielle Martin
I can’t remember the last time I kissed the breeze as it brushed across my neck — Philly can be like that. You get mired, swimming in the Avenue and before I knew it there I was screaming down Broad Street after the Eagles won with them, all of them rolling a tire Brian handed me his hands clenched eyes loved. No matter how long I live here there will always be something I won’t be able to touch a word, breeze, time rising off the pavement history settled deep beneath the El. Kids set up a hoop on Stiles keep trying to miss the rim. An unattainable anchor, to belong here and never question where “here” could be. I have found refuge as such a small thing, a moment among so many but how could I forget unending rapture to be alive in this place this time with these people and Good Lord how wonderful it would be to be a sparrow and fly between these endless tiled roofs, see us all from above the way God might? I climb out onto the roof to meet branches: trees only grow where they are needed most — this one etches its shadow into the home of one of the Wheelie Kids. Past Poplar and Carlisle and Girard each awkward corner an ode to unbent palms placed on another. Like Vijay’s memorial bike on 19th flowers in the basket never seem to wilt.
Yellow Front Market is there, at the edge of a five point intersection that is less ordered and more of a suggestion leaning back on its foundation to rest into the Fall. Faded awning, concrete floors, butcher in the back. Deadknettle pushing up through the cracks as is their duty while the man in front of me kneels down down so his knees caress earth to hand his young son a few dollars so he can pay for the milk himself. Sliced melon on a hot day. Fly strips visible and testing. My fingers weave through the heat as if they could barely believe it and they can’t. They can’t.
AT THE INTERSECTION... Ebony Malaika Collier
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 3
feet like horse-hooves— he talks to someone. I am not aware. if I just speak, are there beings I am not aware of who hear? do they wish to speak to me or through me?
NIGHT MARKET Stacy Li
Now fenced by the Vine Street Expressway and the Convention Center, Chinatown remembers when the streets didn’t stir. Chinese husbands carried their disappointment from California, where they found no gold or God or deliverance from laying down railroad tracks. A reverse manifest destiny: go back East, and Philadelphia said yes. Follow this country back to its shore and you are sure to find a city that will feed you for a while, even if it robs you of everything else. Now Chinatown has excellent food: dim sum, ramen, roast ducks curtaining 10th street, caramelized bloating, necks delicately broken. She is hair salons and tea shops and cultural centers making the best out of these seven blocks, but damn, if it weren’t for the customer’s appetite, you’d wonder if this could be called a community. You’d wonder if this assemblage of people, these pho spots and sushi bars who don’t speak anything approaching the same language, could be called anything at all.
Artwork by Michael Haeflinger
LIVE NATURE Chris Bullard
On Cornell’s bird cam 131 of us are viewing 4 starlings 2 pigeons scarf up the seed set out on a wooden tray framed by tubes hanging like IVs when 2 anxious cautious goldfinches show up in plumage the brilliant yellow of Lamborghinis and though the starlings display oily iridescent throats and the pigeons are dappled like fawns, the finches are the stars of the video feeding us these images that we see as glorious and natural so that all 131 of us watching the 2 of them snatch thistle are uplifted and might even applaud as we would a celebrity actor offering his first line onstage until the hungry indifferent starlings crowd them off camera and back into the preserved suburban woods around Ithaca NY a place notably distant from bricked-up Philly which is why I am amazed
to find on today’s walking commute a finch corpse not the size of my loafers splayed upon the sidewalk still vividly colored though its ornamentation seems almost artificial outside its former staged You Tube setting its demise perhaps confirming how dangerous it is to move between two realities one of which this stranger literally bumped into probably a skyscraper like someone who hasn’t learned the rules of city living yet and who stands close to the platform edge risking getting pushed but here we all end up transitioning from those prettier places to life under the street security cameras though a percentage gets lost so maybe there’ll be less beauty at the feeders next time I think nudging the finch forward with my toe and into the gutter to protect its carcass from the march of lunchtime foot traffic.
Artwork by William Lukas
Benjamin Curttright ON THE WAY to Honest Tom’s, Maeve stopped and pointed down at a dark smudge on the sidewalk, an oblong mark about the size of a walnut. “Dead bird,” she said. I tried to pick out parts. It was June and hot like June. The back of her t-shirt was stained by an inverted trapezoid of sweat that started at her shoulder blades and went down to her waist. “That’s what they look like at the restaurant, too,” she said. “You wouldn’t know what they were unless you already knew.” She’d told me a couple days ago, in my bed after we’d had sex for the first time, her voice hoarse and muffled by the pillow into which she was burying her face and over which fanned her dry blonde hair, about the baby birds that had been falling, one by one, from the tree outside the bar where she worked as a waitress, little naked fetal things, strawberry-pink, their skulls cracking like the eggs inside which they’d so recently been tucked tight as they hit the concrete with a sound like big wet raindrops that you could just barely hear from inside, if there weren’t many conversations at the bar, if you listened real close. “People step on them,” she said. “And then they look even less like birds. You couldn’t tell them from a piece of gum.” She rolled onto her side. In the mid-afternoon sun, with my white sheets and off-white duvet cover and her white skin, she was a Renoir, blurred by my nearsighted eyes. I smelled sweat, hot skin, crushed berries, and something faintly chemical. “That’s terrible,” I said.
“You’d need a lot of nets.” “Then I’ll get a lot of nets,” she said. “I’ll string nets across the whole city. And no baby bird will ever die here again.” So, that’s what we did. We ate walnut tacos with Halloween sauce and oniony guacamole at an orange metal table outside the taco shop and we bought a roll of nylon netting and we ran through the neighborhood, creating canopies across Cedar Park, arcing strings between fire escapes and chimneys like power lines, like tents, like Maypole ribbons, and soon, we’d created a circus, a place where the artificial and dangerous is clearly demarcated from the real and safe, where nothing dies but everything, always, is dying, slipping, strung-out and pained. Birds fell as we worked, hailed down from the verdant branches, always a block ahead of us, it seemed, always too soon, so we moved faster, sprinting through the streets, cutting through construction sites, dancing to the blaring car horns and barking dogs and the steady wet beat of body against body against concrete, until we’d thrown blankets over every gap, plugged every whole, double-checked every knotted rope. As evening crept across the sky, we sat down in the middle of 48th Street to see what we’d made. Maeve smiled. Her face was red. She leaned over, I thought to kiss me, but she didn’t kiss me; her cheek tapped mine for half a second and then she pulled away cometlike and settled down and looked up at the sky. For a while, we waited there, at the apex of a spiderweb of shadows, until the sun slid behind the row houses and everything turned grey.
“I haven’t told my boss. I know he’d just make me sweep their bodies up.” Maeve paused. “This is what I want to do, though: I want to put up a net, to tie a net between the awning and the streetlight and the tree, and when birds fall into the net, I want to pick them up and put them back in the nest.”
BELLY SONG Shanel Edwards
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
the wind whistles and wallows along the bow of my ear. the blades of grass flutter along while my stomach moves up and down in rhythm. there must be something to sing along to, something roaming and howling underneath my skin and outside my murky west Philly window. on nights like this, I become a home, and a good song pulls breath, like the warm sea breeze saying yes to being alive. the wind always moves even though no one sees it. the wind is made of gas that does not know how to kill. I praise the bellowing and hidden wind that brushes along my face, nod and bow my head in reverence. I feel its hand cupping my face. I open my eyes. the saddest grace has no lover, except the in-between mouths of two bodies panting, running out of what is, at its core, infinite.
BETWEEN DJANGO & THE THRILL IS GONE Yolanda Wisher
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 6
u melt my melancholy dew my bop canyons licked clean my heavy girl mouth draped with your kisses u disarm me with the traffic light of your musk u blow your horn & cause an ancient accident between these nipples
TO EVADE A FLOOD Miriam Akervall
The sea receded On an evening in July, and Rose before me, blue, To call me by name, and, Kelp cloaked and frothing, Found a shore beneath Two windows on South Camac Street That strung the street lights like notes For jovial whistling carpenters, who On Sunday mornings, with alarming Caliber, would fish us from Beds of bright coral, the kelpies’ arms,
with each thrust of your steamboat romance u exert somethin over me u make somethin rise under my cheeks u are the rose pressed between these bible belt legs
Long before sleep settled.
Artwork by SKOVeS
if i could hit a high note for every epiphany u rustle in my bush & briars, every rake u run through my dread i’d make opera out of the begone eras in your eyes i’d make altun ha shiver with ruin comin out of your pores i’d thrill u with this voice that wells up to say your name
FLASH MOB Ryan Eckes
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 5
you get a message says come down so you come down so which way to the river, a boy asks and i point my finger east into the empty TLA video store AVAILABLE AVAILABLE AVAILABLE the pink papered up windowfront fronts nervous moms obvious answers lock their restaurants whose lookouts keep it coming whose windowlight turns night into a story that goes on the streets which talk of water til our hearts nod and know what home is home is a rival high school as segregated as your own room it’s tired of listening to you collect yourself into buckets from the ceiling that edits you down to a status update can you watch my bag? sure there’s a love that’s nothing in another
place you can’t find there’s a love it sleeps and wakes your days beyond letters stamped, i clock in the time is ripe for endless foolishness a flash mob mops up the jizz of april my jacket the weather counts the people an arm of the river meets the mouth of a sea if more people live here kill the people! or turn the page and continue along an arm of the mouth the house fronts painted shut a shade too for the mobbed heart so goes the leak of jackets so go flutter yourself somewhere a knock at the door dumbs down your freedom pamphlet you can be in love in a target parking lot and sleep for days under the country’s front page a bus just blew right past me robbed of lightness i walk and walk and walk and walk down the street to be open like a door open like a door
OCTOBER 28TH Mariah Hall
Everyone is spilling out of bars or spit from revolving hotel doors stumbling drunk-happy. Bite of October, air blueing. Girls shivering in sheer thigh highs, platforms toeing the curb. Everyone is loving in languages I don’t understand and I feel ugly, hair kitchen-greasy, hands soaked in dishwater. Lentil soup & sabji from Govinda’s on South Street. I know everyone at the Wawa from a past life. Boul asks for my number he says he’s not in school but got his own crib now. Oldheads on the corner, lips pursed around the tail of a black & mild. Dutch guts pinched & scattered. They’re shooting a film at 20th and Sansom, the gelato place graffiti-tough. Cops perched like bluebirds. Shaner is working the door tonight. He says are you okay, he’s got a pornstsache that tickles my neck in the cage of his embrace. Fleeced jacket collar. He smells like whiskey. It feels like everything.
Artwork by Shelby Fisk
Boston Gordon I was taking the coward’s way out, my clothes off beneath the first snow, paradoxical undressing. The more they use bolt cutters to snap my body, meld by meld, the more I will show it off. Watch my small town peep show. If I can juggle coal as well as my chest will they knock politely this time before they open the bathroom stall to grab me by the neck and examine my genitals? There are small towns all over this country, and there are small hands. You have big ones. You lift me up by three fingers during the climax of the peep show. Our shelter wriggles like instinct, our chains rattle like a corvid’s warning. I worry about you because of your name. I can’t tell how obvious any of us are. Every day we have to transact our identities like trading pyrite or feather weights. It makes me take out a lot of cash, and bless myself that my bank reimburses ATM fees. We pay for firewood in cash. Whiskey was credit, had to slap my government ID in their hands anyway. I borrowed the flour. I busked across the street for those quarters then slipped them into the eggcup machine, popped out a plastic dinosaur for your palm.
I hope you felt like the dinosaur. You have something in common besides your beautiful plumage. They’ve tried to say you were not a part of His plan. This is impossible, or rather nonsensical because no plan can disappear its own frays and hitches. No plan can account for variety, for chance. Evolution is not an alternative intelligence. It is a huge scientific chance, that one limb, one organ, one prey might be the one. Or maybe not, and we’ll hatch out and see. You hatched, and I hatched and we didn’t come here wrong, we came here with desire. When we hide inside each other’s bodies it is from a thrill to live. That same thrill that once made us eat, or scream for warmth or forage flint. When we scream this is my body, and this is what makes it my home they can’t say that we are polluted unless they are willing to give up on chance, on condition, on creation.
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
APIARY X P2TF
PL A Q U E T O T HE F UT U R E
Plaque to the Future creator, Lily Goodspeed, is dedicated to democratizing time and memory, but she does so in a way thatâ€™s smaller than you might imagine. For this issue of APIARY we teamed up with Lily to collect and scatter sticker-sized plaques around the city to showcase the stories of everyday Philadelphians. Location-based happenstance and tall-tales combine with guerilla artwork to reveal how memories born in particular spaces can overlap, contradict, and surprise us. Thank you Lily for making this collaboration happen! Visit plaque2thefuture.com to read more Philly memories and submit your own. 32
APIARY What inspired you to start P2TF? P2TF I was originally inspired by all my bad
dates in 2016 through 2018! I was walking along Passyunk Avenue, and I realized that multiple bars and cafes had indelibly connected to mortifying Tinder anecdotes. It was embarrassing but immediately made me wonder what other memories Philadelphians linked to the same places. Once I connected that concept with visual vocabulary of the plaques, it just took off. APIARY Describe your editorial process and what you love about the chosen plaques. P2TF Strangely, the majority of submissions are two types: (1) I got so drunk and <got in this awkward situation> or (2) Here’s this memory and now we’re married and have a bouncing baby boy. So I love when I get plaques with unique situations (For example, check out the “Pigeon Snatcher” plaque from September 1999.) I also think it’s really important to seek out a diversity of stories -- diversity of time periods, diversity of geographical locations, diversity of story writers. When the project started, I unsurprisingly had an over-abundance of memories from millennialaged South Philadelphians. So I’ve tried to consciously seek out different experiences. Often times strangers are super forthcoming when you chat them up a bit. I also gather stories by collaborating with community organizers and leaders, since there is an established trust that helps people open up and feel safe. Some of these leaders also provide translation which is amazing! I hope to have plaques in different languages and dialects in the future. APIARY How do you hope Philadelphians engage with the plaques? What do you want viewers to walk away with having discovered one? P2TF A city is an “imagined community” of sorts... It’s more than the physical spaces or the city government or even the people themselves. That unspoken pulse is always there, but sometimes it’s hard to connect to that invisible net of connections and history. So I hope that the plaques help people feel both small and large -- small little pieces of the puzzle and large contributors to the (ideally) democratic space of memory.
SAFE HOMES Emma Dorsey
From age four to age nine, when I started menstruating, I wet the bed every night. Years later, a therapist told me that was a pretty common response. Still, it felt sort of symmetrical when I peed myself when pregnant. Two days past my due date, my baby was cozy with my bladder. The contractions I had off and on for weeks weren’t helping me not pee. At my work baby shower, they gave me too many newborn diapers. I had cut them up to fit in my panties for times like this. I was thankful for that diaper chunk as I stooped to set down my buckets. The teaching tools inside them—charts, mops, etc—clattered in the cold air. I rapped out a playful rhythm on the front door—even in a rush, I tried not to knock like a cop. Just one last teaching session to meet my quota for the end of the year. The LeadSafe Homes program didn’t like when we used clients’ toilets, but the second thing I said to the girl after my name was, “Would you mind if I used your bathroom?” “Sure. But there’s no toilet paper.” My eyes adjusted from the bright December day as I stepped into the cluttered room. The gangly white girl who had greeted me stared at the floor and held her sniffling toddler son. Tonya looked younger than the seventeen listed in her file. I would have said thirteen. Either way, she could have been my daughter. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you.” I stomped quickly into the house to avoid dancing in the hallway, trying not to pee my pants. “Let me get you a paper towel.” Tonya moved slowly towards the kitchen without turning her back on me. She tore off too many sheets, one by one, in no hurry. I twisted my thighs around each other tight, holding both buckets in one hand to use the other to clear space for them on the table. I was sort of thankful that Tonya didn’t offer to help, pregnant as I was, but it made her seem even younger. It was rare that people didn’t make a fuss over me in my state. I moved a plate of dried macaroni to the side, placing it on a pile of coupons. I also moved an empty DVD case titled “Miracles From Heaven.” Tonya watched me, big-eyed, from the kitchen. I put my buckets on the table, with the “LEADSAFE HOMES TEACHING TOOLS” labels in her line of vision. I kept the buckets clean and I liked the professional look that they gave off. I liked the font, and I liked the logos to be aligned when possible, even now. “Do you mind if I put my buckets here?” “Sure.” She stuffed four crumpled paper towels into my hand. “Great. Thanks. Where’s the bathroom?” “Upstairs. The door doesn’t really work, though.” “That’s fine!” I was already on my way up. 34
The upstairs was partly charred. My supervisor told me that the house had had a small fire but was still structurally sound. I was out of breath and nearly to the top of the stairs when my belly tightened. I gripped the rough railing hard with one hand. The other on my tummy felt the flesh firm. I tried to breathe slowly as my insides were wrung out. My mind left my body and, for just a second, I found a calm place. But then, like always, I saw his face. I could see the same details: the spit in his mustache, his shoulders the size of a giant’s, his hairy forearm pressing all the weight of his body onto my lungs, the princesses on my bed sheets that I used to count. He faded and the whining sound of my breath came back as the contraction ended. I collected myself and continued to climb the stairs. Tonya had said that the door didn’t work well, but it turns out that there actually was no door. In a fluid motion I dropped my khakis and sat down to pee. There were pristine squares where the hinges had been removed. Someone took the door off after the fire, I guess. By the smell of the room, it seemed like the fire hadn’t been recent. You would notice more Febreeze than old smoke. My aunties and my mom told me me this would happen. They had circled me at a cookout early in the pregnancy, and told me all the things that would happen to my breasts, belly, bladder, vagina, feet, and butthole. It felt as bad as an almost identical moment that made up my education about puberty—the women in my family laughing, tipping back their beers. They talked about bodies like boogiemen, talking and cackling even after I asked them to stop. They laughed at me, just like they’d laughed when I was four and five and six when they told me to stop telling perverted lies. They were right about everything and nothing. Since my pregnancy began, I had isolated myself from my family as much as I could without starting a fight. I stopped texting the father of the baby, too. We had only known each other three months and I don’t think he thought much of it. He lived in New York and only came to Philly for work. I wasn’t important to him and he didn’t know about the baby. It was all I could do to push off intrusive questions from strangers and get through the prenatal visits. I didn’t need one more person owning the pregnancy more than I did. I still hoped that my family would help me with the baby, though. I hoped that they would hold her close and keep her safe and let her be free and love her, and that I would, too. I had planned all my final teaching sessions to be near my sister’s house, just in case labor started at work. But every day, I hoped it wouldn’t. I used a portion of a paper towel, and the shard just
Artwork by Gina Lerman Gina Lerman illustrates the spaces where our dreams connect to our reality. She reconstitutes childhood stories of loss and transformation into newly textured landscapes. Her recent work can be seen on Facebook and Instagram under the name Lermworm.
swirled in the bowl when I flushed. As I turned on the faucet to wash my hands, I thought I heard a rustling nearby. I tucked my head around the corner and saw movement in a room at the end of the hall. A thin white man 4 stood in the dark. He was maybe 40, beside a big and shiny brass bed, new since the fire. His bright skin and white underwear stood out against the flameblackened wall. He was in the middle of lighting a cigarette when I suddenly saw that he was staring back at me. “Sorry, sorry!” I said. “I didn’t know anyone else was up here,” I skulked back a step or two, looked hard at the sink and thrust my hands under the icy cold water that sprayed out, nearly yelping from the shock. “Don’t worry, baby. I’m not mad at you,” I heard him say in a low voice, his “m” dampened by the cigarette. “Sorry, sir. I apologize.” There was no soap and I used the rest of the paper towels to dry my numb hands, blanched to almost blue. I waddled down the steps as fast as my girth would allow, trying to feel the rail. I had been working for the LeadSafe Homes program since I was eighteen years old. I had seen a lot of houses in Philadelphia. In one house, insects fell from the light fixture while I talked with my client, who, mortified, Windexed the table after every bug. One basement apartment had nice pink light bulbs that nearly distracted from the mold growing in the corners. Lots of houses were just overfull of people and stuff. Up here in the northeast, where my family lived, most of the folks were getting by OK. I mostly worried about some confederate flag or sticker in the window or some comment made between white people thinking that you would agree. Honestly, it wasn’t until I started this job that I realized that some people don’t say those things. We used to actually seal in the lead paint and even sometimes change out the pipes for clients. There was good funding for the program when I started. We employed lots of men who did real work on houses, and the teaching I did was just extra. Then finally teaching was all we offered: ladies like me with buckets of vinegar-based cleaning supplies and pamphlets. Even the ladies were fewer with all the downsizing. A lot of them got fired right around having babies. Now I was thirty eight years old and pregnant with my first child. I thought I had earned a little loyalty, but I wasn’t about to depend on it. I made it to the bottom of the stairs, a little breathless again, and got a real look at Tonya. She seemed almost see-through, like the photos of fetuses at the doctor. She might have been ninety pounds, even with her large breasts, and she had a small jaw with little teeth. Her vivid green eyes stayed pointed at the floor. She wore a fuchsia spaghetti strap shirt and grey short shorts, even though it was winter. The file said that her son was fifteen months, but he was also small and he seemed younger. 36
A blue floral couch, missing a cushion, sat near the door. A huge table jutted into the space, nearly blocking the path through the room. A wonky child gate hung askew in the kitchen doorway. Tonya’s little boy stood beside his mother in footie pajamas with footballs on them. He reached his arms up and she hunched down to pick him up again, setting him on her protruding hip. Right away, he started to squirm in her arms, reached back and smacked her. A tiny red mark flared up on her pale shoulder. I had a strong sense then from her blank face that she couldn’t feel her body. “Were you talking to yourself ?” She looked at the floor. “No, no I just said hello to your father upstairs.” “That’s my boyfriend,” she smiled briefly, then sucked her lower lip between her teeth in order to stop grinning. I felt nauseated. “Oh, of course. Well, thank you both for inviting me in your home. I suppose you’ve heard a little bit about the Leadsafe Homes Program. You were referred because...” I looked at the chart to have something to do with my hands and because I didn’t want her to know that I already knew the answer. “Because my son’s got lead in his blood.” She pretended she was texting, but I saw she was just opening and closing Facebook, looking at the same photos over and over again. “Yes, because your son has elevated lead levels. Could we start by you telling me what you know about lead poisoning?” “It comes from babies eating paint.” She still held her son in her arms and he had slipped the end of her ponytail into his mouth. “That can be one cause of high lead levels, yeah. What else have you heard?” “It can make you retarded.” She yanked her hair out of the boy’s mouth and he reached up to grab it again. She put her thumb in his palm and he pulled his head away and arched his body from hers. He let out a mix of a scream and a laugh, so glad to have her attention. Then he nearly swung out of her arms. “Quiet, Tony. Why won’t you be good?” “So, Tony has some lead in his system and the levels are increasing. Do I have that right?” I smiled as maternally as I knew how, wishing the boy would quiet down, too. “Yeah, pretty high. The doctor gave him some vitamins, but they make him act bad. I stopped giving them. They said they would send you to my house.” Tonya finally gave up and put her son on the blue couch, where he stared at the dark television. “I’m glad they did, Tonya. Should we start the learning session? It usually takes about thirty minutes.” I could feel my personal phone vibrating in its holster on my belt. I was pretty sure that Mercy OBGYN was calling again to say that they wanted to see me and induce me. I didn’t go to my last three appointments because I had work to do and I knew what they would say anyway. Baby was moving fine and her heartbeat was always about the same when they checked and I wasn’t going to wait two hours just to pee in a cup and
have them tell me that I should go to the hospital. Besides, the last time I went in, a doctor put her fingers up me and nearly split me in half with her knuckles. I didn’t feel like myself for a few days after that. I didn’t mean to never go back, but that’s how it happened. Tonya sat beside Tony and flipped through channels on the TV until she found a cartoon about fairies running a bakery. I asked if I could share the couch with her. She agreed, and I took the far end. Tony and Tonya stared at the colorful figures on TV as I told her about how the lead comes from all the dust in an old house, not just from eating paint chips. I told her about washing her fruits and vegetables and cooking with water from the cold tap instead of the hot. I told her about mopping the house after she swept it and she told me her boyfriend did most of the cleaning since she had a back condition. That was really the only part of the teaching she responded to. “Do you think your partner would like to participate in our learning session?” I hoped not. I would just as soon never see that man again. She didn’t answer me directly, though. Instead, she darted her small hand out to press it against my belly. “I always loved being pregnant,” she said. Usually I recoiled when folks touched me. Pregnancy was all sudden touching, staring, and comments about my body. I wore baggy clothes my whole life, but even the biggest work shirt couldn’t hide the contour of my stomach; this uterus invading my personal space. “I lost the second one early on, they said because I hadn’t made my blood back, but even that one I loved.” Through my uniform, the palm of her hand was welcomed cold against the flushed heat of my skin. “I’m sorry for your loss,” the words came out sounding high pitched. She withdrew her hand and turned her back to me, suddenly snatching her phone from her son and jumping up to plug it into a charger. “Oh that was almost a year ago. It’s ok. My boyfriend took it hard, though.” She didn’t raise her voice as her son screamed, so I leaned in to hear her. “He wants one of his own. He makes me eat hamburgers and hotdogs whenever we go out now, trying to get my blood levels up.” She smiled again, but her mouth moved uncertainly through what might have been happiness. I thought of the connection between anemia and lead poisoning and wondered if anyone had thought to test this young woman for lead, or if her levels had been of no concern to the public health department once she became a mother instead of a child. “Do you want to learn more about foods like that? The ones with iron in them? For Tony but also for you?” “Yes.” I gave her the handout, but she didn’t look at it. Instead, she watched me. I told her about the iron in plants and meats
and the way that eating them together helped you absorb more. I told her about taking her iron pills at a different time from her calcium. I felt another contraction coming. What were they, every fifteen minutes? I realized I needed to be keeping track of them. It rolled onto me, pressing me down and churning me with pain. I closed my eyes and the mustache and shoulders and princesses and I lost my breath again and was only vaguely aware that Tonya was yelling out. “I’m sorry, Tonya, would you repeat that? I had a bit of back pain and I didn’t quite hear you.” I noticed her son was playing with Tonya’s phone. She must have given it to him. How long had the contraction gone on? “You had a contraction?” She looked into me and I was surprised to notice that she was worried about me. “You caught me,” I said, laughing a little. She looked at me and smiled with her teeth showing then, nearly perfect but for one missing near the back. Then she looked up at the top of the stairs where her boyfriend stood. So she called out to him. “What do you want, T?” he barked. He looked down on us, now wearing an Eagles hoodie and a pair of sweats. He acted annoyed, but he didn’t wait for her to explain before he came down the stairs as she had asked. “This lady is going to teach us how to make Tony stop eating paint.” She crossed her arms tight, pushing her breasts together. Tony lay nuzzled against her shin, sticky fingers leaving shiny smears on her skin as he dozed. “We’ve been trying to help that boy,” he said earnestly, nodding very fast. When he locked into my gaze, I registered that I knew him. Jason Trevors. He was two years ahead of me at Northeast High. He was in my math class and got detention once because he had his pants open in the back row. I sat in the front row in math to escape his sour milk smell. I guess he was nice but I don’t think he really had friends. He was more handsome now than he had been when we were kids. He was thinner–too thin– but handsome. And now he was walking to seat himself in the cushion-less space between us on the couch. Jason’s proximity towards me had hit Tonya like a slap in the face and she bit her lip. “You were crying, Miss.” Tonya held out the whole roll of paper towels to me, across Jason’s body. She addressed me but she looked at him, cracking a smile. As an adult, Jason smelled like body spray and cigarettes, not sour milk. He radiated heat. He looked at me like teenage Jason eyeing a substitute teacher and wrapped an arm around Tonya’s tiny shoulders. “I’m sorry.” I took a towel and dragged it across my eyelids and down my cheeks. I busied myself blowing my nose and felt the heated damp of my face through the rough paper. “It must be the forced air.” “You can’t have your baby here, Miss Linda. You should call your husband and get going.” I held my breath. She had turned on me fast. Jason looked at my belly with concern, as if a baby 37
might already be visible. He reached his hand out as if he were reaching for a remote. I pulled as far away as the couch would let me, its frame pressing through the upholstery into my back. I was surprised by how gentle his hand was when it landed on my stomach but I still hated him. He looked at my embarrassed face. “Maybe she don’t have a husband, T.” He wrapped both arms around Tonya tenderly. “Not every pregnant woman has a husband. You should know that.” He kissed her forehead and I really thought he loved her. Tonya smiled through force of will. I wondered if Jason saw my child self anywhere in my face. I hoped that she was totally erased. Even as I thought that, the sick feeling in my stomach, her sick feeling, flared. Tonya dug her fingernails into the veined underside of her left wrist and looked at me. “What were we talking about, Tonya, before your partner came?” My eyes stung. “Umm, I don’t remember. Something about raisins?” Her smile broke when she noticed one of her fingernails was a little bloodied. She slipped it in her mouth. I wanted to run away from her and also take her with me. “Would you like to learn about cleaning methods that prevent lead poisoning?” “We’re very clean here, miss. I mean, information is good. You seem very professional. It’s always good to learn. But we clean all the time. You told her right, T?” Was he nervous? I knew then that he didn’t know me at all. He squeezed Tonya’s nearest thigh, leaving his hand there. She grinned. They were a family. Jason with the Lace On, that’s what we called him. They used to say he wore women’s underwear. It was just him and his mom at home and they said his mom was a mess. “Well we’re nearly at the end. Maybe you’re right that I should be going.” Jason stiffened and raised his hands as if I pointed a gun at him. “Now, now. Calm down. I’ll leave the two of you.” In standing, Jason turned away from me. Tonya caught some secret look from him and giggled as he strode up the stairs. She really was lovely. She thrived under his gaze. Would she have been safer or less safe if she were less beautiful? As soon as he was gone, Tonya suddenly became very serious. “But I still get the full credit for the teaching, right?” She grabbed her drowsy son’s hand and held it unnaturally, so he made a game of trying to twist away. I offered her so little. I wondered what adults had let her come here. I wondered who made her pregnant when she was what, fifteen? Who left her with this man in a carcass of a house? I wondered what was the worse place that she had fled. Someone was threatening to take her baby away because of the paint in the poison place where she had landed. “Of course I’ll give you credit, Tonya. Is there someone you want me to inform that we completed our education session?” I took the pen from my shirt pocket. 38
She went into a folder with elaborate flowers on the cover in pink and purple. It looked new, pristine glitter standing out and not a single scratch or a scuff. From it, she took three papers. One form was from her son’s pediatrician, one was from DHS, and one was from her school to excuse her absence. She was still in ninth grade. When I was Tonya’s age, or I guess nineteen, a couple of years older, my abuser had just been released from ten years in jail. He had wanted to talk. My folks thought it would be good for the family if we reconciled. We had a coffee in a public place after work. He had shaved his facial hair, which was a relief somehow. We mostly discussed Seinfeld. It was December then, too, and night fell early, so he walked me home to protect me. I don’t remember anything I said to him when he tried to enter my building, but I guess I scratched him up pretty bad. The landlady happened to hear the noise and she pulled me off of him. She forced me to apologize and said that I should start looking for a new apartment. “You’re afraid about birth,” Tonya snapped me out of my haze. “I was, too,” she confided. “Really?” I asked, hoping I sounded more surprised than I was, “How did you get through it, as scared as you were?” I started putting back my teaching materials. I slammed spray bottles, wet mops, and charts into my buckets. The sour milk smell choked me from memory. Was I wrong about Tonya? Maybe she was playing me this whole time. How could she let him touch her like that? “I just pretended that the pain was good. Then it was just me and the pain and my baby.” There was that missing tooth again, throwing her grin off balance. I stopped. She was so bare, really. I asked her if I could leave the van on the street for a coworker to pick up. She said that was fine. I started walking the few blocks to my sister’s house. A few contractions came upon me during that walk, each one more intense than the last. The air was so cold against my face. I felt the fear start to build, so I dared it to go higher. I stoked the pain. I collapsed into it. It rose up around me like a barricade. It protected me and my baby. If the pain was real, and my baby was real, nothing else could be.
Alyssa Loughery YOUTH
that’s why my mother taught me my self-worth is a weapon against the tongues of old men trying to deceive me into thinking i am less than what she gave me she was killed long before she died by the catcalls on the street the “hey babys” and “where you goins” i watched the strong woman i knew walk silently while being screamed at on the way home from school my mother was no broken woman she stood proudly asserting herself making a career they called her a bitch frigid nagging
YOUTH EDITOR PICK
I’m from a place where Picasso couldn’t paint a perfect picture I’m from a place where I see people trapping just to make they pockets thicker I’m from a place you talk, you die so most nights my bedroom was my alibi I’m from a place where the nights are longer than the days I’m from a place where everybody’s in aching pain I’m from a place you sleep all day and work all night Can you blame a sista for tryna get her life right? I’m from a place where the kids don’t play I’m from a place where the nightmare stays all day I’m from a place where you feel like you stuck I’m from a place where you start to begin to say “enough is enough” I’m from a place babies have babies. I’m from a place where you wake up high from the night before I’m from a place where your life suddenly hits the floor. I’m from a place where the fights aren’t fair I’m from a place where everyone really just don’t care. I’m from a place where the fiends have more money than me I’m from a place where the bullet casings hit the floor daily. I’m from a place where everybody’s shady, nowadays you can’t even call nobody your lady I’m from a place where you see no, speak no, hear no evil I’m from a place where they say, when pigs fly, but what, you ain’t know they got cops in the sky? 39
RITUAL FOR BLACK SURVIVAL HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 8
a freewrite from calling on spirit Fall 2015 Become the pain
Be the pain
Breathe the pain
Break open across pelvic
thresholds Spelled out in your mama’s mama’s maiden name Rename your mama’s mama & speak to her The way the wind curdles in your womb Every body has a womb: a womb is the calabash of your soul & it is dark, so dark it holds light
Hold your hand to the light until
Your fingers flame on & your thumb is a torch song to your sweat Remember to sweat milk From every pore that is not your bosom Remember your core Skin yourself red & alive Like the first apple that told Eve that Adam aint shit Lilith is just outside the edge of Eden
Grow your own garden
Spread the wings on your legs Become lush in your loins Become tender & pink In the space between your lower lip & collarbone Smoke your neck in lavender
Spill some other kind of blood from the you
could not let live outside the body Do not keep your grief, I repeat Do not keep your grief, I repeat Do not keep your grief in a bag of your own skin Love every sin you dared to commit In a name you cannot pronounce
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
ALEXANDER PAUL Lillian Dunn
on the phone it always goes “he’ll get better or he’ll die” and “or” like a big black galaxy out there expanding and i am a little NASA man “or” pushing a button that lights up “or” but how does it feel in my body to feel your body dying right here on earth six feet four inches 300 pounds of dense bone bad tattoos huge feet long gnawed fingers belly sewn by stretch marks from the year you got clean and then got fat throat stubble brows elbows well honestly it is pretty hard i have never seen anyone shoot up so i imagine it like Law & Order you sprawled out in a tunnel somewhere that rubber tube around your arm where do people even get those rubber tubes just the heroin store like what are those even and you green faced and then the cops go through your wallet and the money’s all gone but there’s your ID but you always lose everything just like me so you definitely won’t have an ID how will they find us to let us know? they won’t so i’m pretty sure you won’t die because you have asked me to wire you money for your laundry and you have slept on benches and you have been rolled and you have been pulled off a greyhound bus and you have been punched in the face by a cop but you have never died so i don’t know what it feels like i do know that every time you come home again you bring us a different dog there is hobo from the pound and roscoe from under the pine tree in the city park and red dog from the shack in the desert the summer you dug pools and red dog that is just her name she is the prettiest girl she follows you without a leash all the way down the street
Artwork by Tabitha Arnold
RECOVERING Natalie Lyalin
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 7
The police asked to retrace our steps Which was odd just like the movies Bev disappeared Went up, up, up The dead all float majestically and back to nature for more nurture more gathering of materials before the great return How strange what a feeling children coming up from nothing taking everything like giant gorgeous flowers covering a field and ten hills beyond that my veins deemed good the sun intensifying the hot water electric light These are some blessings These are some points of pride
Oh well, we all disappeared into our own enclaves private ovens ceramic classes new songs Oh well, how grand like a ballroom like a drink like an island like a staircase a a a Remember when we decided not to go to Thailand and we still regret it or at least I do Oh well, I did not make it in time for Bev I stayed behind with my own process A map I was drawing drowning Darwining Whatever I was doing it was not enough no movement and not in the right direction
Goodbye, you went uptown to look for a hat we never saw you again oh well you are just upscale shopping in the tropics moving with the seasons
CENTER CITY SINISTER Anne-Adele Wight
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 4
One-eyed man gestures with his arm in a sling pulling fistfuls of wire from the heart of a hotel he’s younger than he looks volcano building its crater corner bartender swats flies for the deep-fat fryer we get nowhere fast by parsing beer signs his fist became a scarred knee that time they sold hell on Broad Street hawked it as a Parisian festival mudslide Ferris wheel a sad mistake you understand theory of flies mating in the lap of your skirt it’s the practice that throws you has Tiffany’s gone fishing? window rife with ice cream cones pickup trucks fold their wings earthquake position he extends his imaginary tryst while she waits behind a sandwich everybody loves Paris at least once.
WHILE EN ROUTE Paul Siegell
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 8
*While en route to pre-game at Tattooed Mom with outta town poets Jerome Crooks & Jason Baldinger before our final reading at Moonstone Arts Center* If its figure, upon approach, an indiscernible concern: Some clump in narrative’s November night branches. But upon questioning the couple, city-block stopped/ Gum-to-sidewalk stuck, attraction in their lifted gaze—
Artwork by Tabitha Arnold
The beacon: a falcon, chest intrepid, gripping its victim: A pigeon plucked from peace of nearby park. One stern Bird above one dangling, what then depends upon such So much? Shall the falcon not account for the talons on Which it lands? For as you then enter the spectacle upon Your fixed bicycle, & just as you swerve from the shock Of corpse that falls from the sky, Life, know that it is the shriek of Eek! you freak that will ultimately describe you.
TH ROW A ROCK I N PHI LLY, H I T A POE T
Anne Adele Wight (An Internet of Containment, BlazeVOX) and Paul Siegell (Take Out Delivery, Spuyten Duyvil) are two poets in Philadelphia who happen to be longtime friends and friends of APIARY. Anne Adele and Paul met in 2011 at a reading at Head House Books featuring Debrah Morkun and Carlos Soto-Romá, an event that would spark years of collaboration, support, and Anne Adele’s moniker, “The Great Mother Earth of Poetry in Philadelphia.” Their friendship proves that poetry has no bounds. To read the full interview, head over to apiarymagazine.com. 46
APIARY When did you know Philadelphia was a city you
wanted to write poems in? PS I just moved to Philadelphia. I guess it was April 2006. Some time that late Spring/Summer I was in the Barnes and Nobles in Rittenhouse Square. This man came up to me saying, “Can I help you?” I said, “Yeah, I’m looking for Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons.” And CA Conrad goes, “Oh, we don’t have that here!” He starts showing me around, showing me local poets. He starts asking about me. I’m all nervous. He, very calmly, in the voice that he has, reassured me that conversation we were having was totally okay, that he knows stuff about Philly poetry. He invited me to a reading that was maybe two nights later and I went. I just saw how large the scene here, even in 2006, was. The PhillySound Poets became known to me. After that it was Debrah and Carlos and Angel Hogan with the New Philadelphia Poets. There were all these new groups. But it all started with CA Conrad in a bookstore looking for Gertrude Stein. Before this I was in Atlanta. Then I came to Philly and found community. APIARY How do you feel about the poetry community today? AAW CA Conrad was such a towering figure. When he was based in Philly he was the apex of the community. I won’t say everything radiated from him, but a lot did. Now I think the community is several different communities and they overlap like Venn diagrams, they ebb and they flow. It would be a mistake to think that any one person belongs to the entire community. It’s it constant flux and I think it keeps itself going that way. I would like to see...more intersection between academic poets and “grassroots” poets, I guess. There is a distinction and it often seems artificial. Some of us who don’t fall into the academy have nevertheless been to school for God knows how many years. That has been happening more. You see Kelly Writers House doing that type of outreach. I’d like to see more of it. I think it can benefit both sides of the aisle and perhaps overgrow the aisle so there isn’t one. PS People come and go…I always say, you throw a rock in Philly, you hit a poet. Sometimes there’s five readings in one night. You can only go to one, maybe two. That’s overwhelming. There is more care now than when I got here on diversity. We have this Poet Laureate Program now, that we didn’t have when I first got here. One thing I noticed early on, with Conrad and his friends, is that there was no real competition here amongst poets. I know in other cities there is. But here here everybody was literally supporting everybody else. Everyone was going to each other’s readings and I walked into that and saw the sensitivity to each other. They would bring writers in from other cities and celebrating them as much as they were celebrating people here. And then became like, wow, someone is winning something. Somebody is getting elevated. Then it was like, a win for a Philly poet is a win for me. A win for Philadelphia poetry is a win for me. To me, boom, I am part of this too. These poets are doing
amazing. They are being honored and bringing Philly poetry up. I am part of that. I love that about this city. APIARY Any big literary moments or readings that stick in your mind as incredible? AAW Last February I went to a reading at the Kelly Writers House and there was just one featured reader, Kirwyn Sutherland. Kirwyn is incredible. Every time I hear him, he’s gotten better. I think “there’s no way he can get better” and then the next time he does. He had a good generous stretch of time, 40 or 45 minutes. I was just sitting there on the edge of my chair throughout the whole thing. I don’t remember breathing. I was totally blown away. Afterwards somebody tossed an idiotic comment into her question and I remember the grace with which he handled it. Her question was something unremarkable. This is a white woman, she said, “I don’t believe in race.” Kirwyn took a step back and took a breath, and possibly counted to ten, and said, “You may not believe in it, but it’s real.” And I thought, what presence this guy has and what a gift it is to be part of a community that has people like that in it.
REQUIEM FOR A HIGHWAY
At ten, Liga was a tall girl. She found a way to stretch out her leggings with the arch of her heel & wear ballet flats without the comfort of socks. At night, she pressed ice-daggers to her foot, whittling away at the bone. Cold water rose up from the brushfire and quenched her dehydrated soul, thickened her blood against those who dared to wear dirt-trodden sneakers.
The scene plays in trichromatic when I close my eyes. At night, colors blend together, as car headlights illuminate a heaving sky halfway across the world. I see her walk towards cars speeding through the highway. She holds a broken wicker tray in one hand, and pulls jasmine flower garlands from it with the other. My heart stops for a moment. Memories flash through my head of my amma weaving jasmine flowers together into a garland and preserving them in our refrigerator. I think of her pinning them to my seven year-old hair as I knelt on the cold floor, seas away in America. I yearn to buy something of no use to me. The rough straws that I called hair had been woven into a wicker braid. They were no longer fit to be crowned in jasmine flowers. By the time I realize it, she’s hundreds of feet behind me. Beyond the sight of the rearview mirror. I imagine her walk towards car after car behind me. I imagine her pained smile decorated with jasmine flowers from her basket. I imagine her as a ghost from a horror movie, walking towards cars with no need to consider consequences. I wonder where she goes next.
YOUTH EDITOR PICKS
At fifteen, flats no longer fit a hunched foot. She felt phantom pains in the arch of her foot as she imagined bathing in River Styx. When Liga’s mother asked her to remove her shoes, she’d let out a hollow laugh & replace her home with a wedge. In her heels, she still felt too short for a growing world, devoid of growing pains. With her sleeve, she sharpens her foot to a point and carefully listens as passersby whisper “stil-let-to.” Burnt air disseminates when she opens her mouth, resembling a fire extinguished by forbiddance. At twenty, her shoes were eaten by a stray dog, but it was her feet that looked half-chewed. When she came home late at night, she rubbed her foot, kneading it like the dough her grandmother pressed in her palm to bake bread. Bread is good in these growing times, she imagined her grandmother saying, and wished her heel would rise like bread. A sudden pain rose through her body, beginning at her toe, that caused her to gag. She watched her toe twitch and swallowed air, hoping to grow.
WING DEEP Uma Menon
somewhere deep under, i find my voice buried in the red ashes
pure in form. i peel off the wings for ember in a warmer world
of a fallen bird. burnt wings choke me even after they
& hope, in hibernation, i will not be mistaken. nauseous
have gone, floated above not as wings do, but as lifeless bodies. i taste the winter snow in the cavity of my mouth & choke the cold air with (dis)chords of white noise. these tonsils are made to be removed in the silence of someoneâ€™s springtime. i have heard that angels keep vehement voices hostage somewhere in heaven so that they never die as mortals, wounded by fox-feathers. tongues tied in an effort to preserve something, to stay alive in a silent city buried in blood of unwilling martyrs. from heaps, i find a body to call mine beneath the crust, where snow is still
of late i drink spoiled milk cold to make my body feel better about deep-diving in topsoil salivate thinking about disgust the aftertaste of bad blood in late-night coffee find conversation decaying [soaked in an otherworldly sort of decadence] in a page of me soon vultures will come for it [find something] discriminate aloofness peck at cold-blooded elbows bend & break take advantage of the empty-fisted i harrow into land occupied by geese & pour water over my lips hoping they will notice me.
Ahmad Almallah HIVE
ARCHIVE: APIARY 9
After my last trip to Palestine,
how did we survive all this moving?
I sit in Philly staring
we are all trying my wife beside me,
at the bookcase in the living room,
telling me I have to
remembering mother’s lips moving—
while our daughter smiles at moving images,
“You are all waiting for me to die” she said,
she tells me I need to see
“I want to go back to my mother.”
this picture. Where? The world? The child’s
All memories lost, no calculation, pure emotion.
body lying on the shore, the waves rocking it
How did it all happen? So quickly, how?
I sit in Philly staring at the bookcase, my daughter watching Arabic cartoons on TV, the wood collecting everything, not books: time, how many times did I pick up from the sides and the streets in America,
I see the little dead boy sleeping, I see death seeping, mothers crying, the order, all things disappearing— all of us lining up, against the sea and the waves shouting: “You are all waiting for me to die, I want to go back to my mother.”
SHE HOME BOUND Michelle Myers
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 2
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 heartless stepfather, her bare feet swept She and her younger sister along suspiciously shifting mountain roads seemingly filled with growling horangi —tigers— to stand on a train platform to Seoul singing songs for candy and sleeping on benches, trusting the kindness of passing strangers to get them on the right train to somewhere-other-than-here. But her sister’s feet did not bear the same kind of aching and so she retraced their 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 And knowing that She had not yet lived, her naked feet bore her across a fluid earth, seeking refuge in solid ground that they —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, 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 as the seasons came and went, the winds ever relentlessly pushed and moved the dry unreliable dirt around her, eventually exposing her cracked 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, they tried to dig her out but soon understood that She would only leave this place if She were ripped up 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 along precocious air currents. The dandelion daughter watched her brother until he was out of sight then turned to She and pleaded 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.
Caroline Rivera HIVE
ARCHIVE: APIARY 8
The seasons were slanted this year, in mid Autumn the sun broke the spell of the cool air wrapping around my face. My mama and I were walking to the post office, hand in hand. I felt her skin, cool and shaky, pressed against my arm. Today, we were getting my passport and federal gestures always made my mama nervous.
“Just do it, I’ll explain later.”
It was a week after my eighteenth birthday, and it was the first time I saw us as being different. Her fear of being asked to identify herself was more foreign to me than ever. Her future was a mix of knowing she couldn’t leave and uncertainty of being able to stay. Growing up, my mother was a brilliant artist telling me stories about parts of the world I dreamed to see. Now, I saw those as places she hadn’t actually been to, that she’d been dreaming of them just like me.
“Alright, everything here looks good. When do you plan on traveling?” He asked.
We walked into the building. I before her, and I went over to the counter to grab the application that asked who I was. I told it my mother’s name as well as my father’s. I let it know that my father was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. The information had to be exact, precise, the boxes didn’t allow room for my informality. Applications like this are a reminder of how complicated my American story is. My mother was born in Montevideo, Uruguay – but my mama grabbed the application before I could completely confirm her existence.
She grabbed a new application. This one felt less like mine, and while the man at the front desk wasn’t looking, my mama filled it out. When the man called us up, I looked at his name, it was Jube, and he spoke to us warmly.
“In January” I responded. “Where are you headed to?” “Uruguay.” He stopped his questions there and asked me to stand against the wall to take my photo. I pulled my hair, recently cut, behind my ears. The flash went off and hurt my eyes, which were replicas of my papas, Ojos Chinos, he used to call them. The process was almost done, and the last thing I had left to do is swear that the information on the application was true. I stood there, no longer a child, truly seeing for the first time the walls that were already surrounding us. My mother, with eyes that were no longer mine, decided it would be best not to climb.
“Why did you do that? I wasn’t done!” I whispered frantically. I looked at my mama, who looked at Jube and said “yes.” “Redo it, write that I was born in Santurce, like your Papa.” She spoke calmly. “Why would I write that?”
Artwork by Cynthia Alvarez
coats are not exchanged for coats Raquel Salas-Rivera
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 8
let us take two commodities such as 50 years of work and one debt accumulated over 50 years. as proprietor of the first you decide to take it to caribe hilton banking where i offer my life to pay this debt. but they explain that it’s not enough: just as the debt and the fifty years of work have use values that are qualitatively different, so arethe two forms of labor that produce them: that of the investor and that of the colonized. your life is not enough. you will have to pay with the labor of your children and your children’s children. let’s say you tell them i never had any because i never wanted to make heirs of those who barely know the difference between milk and coquito. but they explain that even if you don’t have a lineage your neighbors, the dog that plunders your trash, doña sophia with her luminous rosary, your abuela that barely leaves the house to go to the pharmacy, angelía that still awaits your book, luis that finally has a job but still has debts to pay, that guy who mugged you for ten bucks will inherit. imagine that you come back with your neighbors, with your abuela, with the dog that sometimes searches your trash, with angelía, with luis, and say here are my heirs. do you accept our payment? will you terminate our debt? will you erase our names from the system?
but they say where are the rivers? el río guajataca, el río camuy, el río cibuco, el río de bayamón, el río puerto nuevo, el río grande de loíza, el río herrera, el río mameyes, el río sabana, el río fajardo, el río daguao, el río santiago, el río blanco, el río humacao, el río seco, el río maunabo, etc. etc. etc. they will be your heirs. this time you decide to get ahead. like a specter you haunt all of puerto rico. you grab handfuls of whatever: gasoline station umbrellas, limestone, birth certificates, shutdown shops, etc. etc. etc… you go back to the bank with your island so densely ingested that you cough up burials and streetlights. you say here i have all that fits between the caribbean sea and the north atlantic. here i have: my imaginary. but they say you owe nothingness, your account has a negative balance. in exchange for this debt we only accept coats, but this you definitely don’t have because it’s almost never cold in puerto rico. let’s say you go to philadelphia to look for the coats much needed by the abuelas, the angelías, the río maunabo, etc. you work hard, look for a license
with a renewed address, buy three four five hundred coats, go to the local branch and say here they are; i would like to pay that debt. but without looking up they answer here in philly we don’t accept coats. let’s suppose that in the pasteles box you send the coats to your mother with a note that reads payment: puerto rican debt, and mami [after decoding your handwriting] carries the box to the local branch of the banco popular, caribe hilton banking or loquesea bank, where they give her a look and— before she can say a word—indicate to turn in coats, use line number three. imagine that it is a long longer almost interminable line, a line that spans 50 years.
no se cambia una chaqueta por una chaqueta Raquel Salas-Rivera
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 8
tomemos dos mercancías, por ejemplo, 50 años de trabajo y una deuda acumulada por 50 años. como propietarix de la primera decides llevarla al caribe hilton bancario donde daría mi vida por pagar esta deuda. pero te explican que no da: así como la deuda y los 50 años de trabajo son valores de uso cualitativamente diferentes, son cualitativamente diferentes los trabajos por medio de los cuales llegan a existir: el del inversionista y el del colonizado. tu vida no es suficiente. tendrás que pagarla con el trabajo de tus hijxs y lxs hijxs de tus hijxs. digamos que les dices nunca tuve porque nunca quise que heredaran mi deuda aquellxs que apenas saben distinguir entre coquito y leche. pero te explican que aunque no tengas linaje la heredarán tus vecinas, el perro que saquea tu basura, doña sophia con su rosario luminoso, tu abuela que apenas sale a la farmacia, angelía que aún espera tu libro, luis que finalmente tiene empleo pero con deuda todavía, y el tipo que te asaltó por diez pesos. imagínate que vuelves con tus vecinos, con tu abuela, con el perro que a veces rebusca la basura, con angelía, con luis, y dices he aquí mis herederxs. ¿aceptarás nuestro pago? ¿darás por finalizada nuestra deuda? ¿borrarás nuestros nombres del sistema?
pero te dicen te faltan los ríos el río guajataca, el río camuy, el río cibuco, el río de bayamón, el río puerto nuevo, el río grande de loíza, el río herrera, el río mameyes, el río sabana, el río fajardo, el río daguao, el río santiago, el río blanco, el río humacao, el río seco, el río maunabo, etc. etc. etc. ellos serán tus herederxs. esta vez decides adelantarte. recorres todo puerto rico como un espectro. agarras puñales de lo que sea: sombrillas de gasolinera, piedra caliza, actas de nacimiento, tiendas quebradas, etc. etc. etc... vuelves al banco con tu isla tan densamente ingerida que toses semáforos y entierros. dices he aquí todo lo que cabe entre el mar caribe y el atlántico norte. he aquí: mi imaginario. pero te dicen debes la nada. tu cuenta tiene un balance negativo. a cambio de esta deuda sólo aceptamos chaquetas, pero esto sí que no lo tienes porque casi nunca hace frío en puerto rico. digamos que vas hasta philadelphia a buscar las chaquetas que necesitan las abuelas, las angelías, el río maunabo, etc. trabajas duro, buscas una licencia
con dirección renovada, compras tres cuatro quinientas chaquetas, vas a la sucursal local y dices aquí las tengo; quisiera pagar aquella deuda. pero sin mirarte te contestan aquí en philly no aceptamos chaquetas. supongamos que en la caja de pasteles le envías las chaquetas a tu madre con una notita que lee pago: deuda de puerto rico, y mami [tras decodificar tu letra] carga la caja hasta la sucursal del banco popular, el caribe hilton bancario o el loquesea bank, donde la miran mal y—antes de que pueda decir palabra alguna—le indican para entregar chaquetas, utilice la fila número tres. imaginate que es una fila larga, largísima, casi interminable, una fila de 50 años.
58 Artwork by SKOVeS
JUNGLEPUSSY Husnaa Hashim
YOUTH EDITOR PICKS
On this day. We blare Junglepussy throughout our suite in the College House. Hope the lyrics drip, slosh, creep slowly beyond the door frame. It is in this moment that I feel the most safe “dancing.” Swaying stiff hips as Aseal laughs at my discomfort around being within my own self. Then Junglepussy says it. Look at you, want a piece of me/The right fruit hangin’ off the tree/I’m a mango mami, pero te quiero papi. And I feel like the shit again. Junglepussy teaches me what it means to love myself despite the angst. I know you want me. I want you. I’m too good. My hips still arthritic. Pained. Unlearning patriarchy. Suddenly. I am able to miraculously forget that one person who never texted me back while still recognizing my desire. In an interview with Paper Magazine Junglepussy says, The ocean is the Earth’s thermometer . . . So imagine being a water sign. We feel it. Oh my gosh. Who feels it like us? And I experience those words within my body as a poem. What it means to move as the entire ocean down the cheese aisle of Trader Joe’s perhaps. And someone special to me longs to be there with me even though I am well aware of the temporary nature of young love(lessness). The drums pick up again. All of this water encircles my ankles as my feet pivot, glide, skid down the hallway. And I drown. We dance into the abyss. Beyond the depths of the Earth’s thermometer. Buckling over in laughter with each other. And actualizing Black joy. Not the commodified kind they put on t-shirts. But pure joy that is no one’s business but our own.
FIRE SZN W/ INCONSISTENT RAIN Husnaa Hashim
Allah, Allah run(s) to meet me at the highest v e l o c i t y I’m tired of being the “mom friend.” Wrapped up in Toga Party ihram You watch, as I move my weary body down Locust crisscrossing squirrels and roaches as my shadow soaks in Your moonlight. Dripping in Your angels’ laborious tears, let me chew prayer stones as I did as a child: I do not remember how to sing towards Mecca, I do not know where the qiblah is is it better to do haraam before or after I cry out for the rain?
SNAP, CLAP, AND N OD I N P RA I S E
Raquel Salas Rivera is the 2018-2019 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia; their most recent release is while they sleep (under the bed is another country) was published by Birds, LCC; Husnaa Hashim, the 2017-2018 Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, is the author of Honey Sequence from The Head and the Hand Press. Together, Raquel and Husnaa are pressing Philadelphia’s citizens, poets and non-poets, to engage with communities unlike their own, to adjust their perspectives, and make space for healing and compassion. To read our full interview, head over to apiarymagazine.com.
APIARY How has Philadelphia’s literary landscape changed or evolved over the course of your respective tenure as laureate(s)? RSR Every day it gets more and more gentrified. It is devastating to watch neighborhoods change in such a short span of time. Gentrifiers don’t seem to care much about the history of this city and don’t seem too worried about the impact they have on already existing communities. I have also changed a great deal. I have become less and 60
less interested in participating in spaces dominated by white poets. I just don’t care about poets that never make the effort to learn about black and brown poets in a very black and brown city. It’s weird seeing white some people complain about the “poetry scene” when I know they’ve never been to Breedlove and the Freedom Party or any of the spaces run by black poets in this city. The work done by poets like Christopher KP Brown is indispensable and I find it embarrassing that someone can
talk with any kind of authority about a “scene” when they only hang out with other white poets. In other ways, it has changed for the better. Some poets are finally asking for their due and new spaces and festivals are being created that are important and beautiful. Victor Jackson organized a festival, Dagmawe Berhanu started an open mic series, Ursula Rucker got a PEW, Sonia Sanchez won the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. I love these things. APIARY What has being a leader within the poetry community taught you? What are its greatest challenges/rewards? HH Having a platform to share my work and be listened to has been incredibly daunting and rewarding, although…I wouldn’t necessarily say that having had a platform makes me a leader. I have felt/feel an obligation to honor my various literary and cultural lineages in public, as well as continue my usage of poetry as an exercise in survival. The poetics of survival, or survival as both a literary and literal tool of worldly and spiritual autonomy is of interest to me, and I hope that my journey and struggle with the intricacies of life through the vessel of the poem has been intentional. It was especially stressful and complicated holding the title of Youth Poet Laureate while being a dual-enrolled high school senior, applying for college, working on a chapbook, etc., however this notion of using poetry as a tool of survival was therefore “enacted” on a regular basis, and I believe that to be a thing of beauty. That experience taught me patience, how to accept both praise and critique, and that being a poet is a way of being alive. For me, poetry is not a hobby or a privilege, but it is a way of orienting myself to the world. Being a poet is how I show up again and again attempting perfection on the page while knowing that it cannot be reached, just as we attempt perfection in life, yet make numerous mistakes. Poetry is humanizing in that way. RSR I’m not sure to what extent I am a leader in a poetry community. More than a leader, I feel my role is to be of service to different poets and spaces and help in whatever way I can. I have learned that I have a great deal to learn about the history of poetic scenes in Philadelphia. Every day I find out about a series that disappeared, a journal that was at some point important, and a poet that no longer lives in the city. The greatest challenge is also the greatest reward. It has been a challenge to find the time and money to do all the things I want to do, and I often feel exhausted. On the other hand, I get to be Poet Laureate! People are curious about my work; they feel comfortable approaching me; and I have daily conversations with strangers who love poetry. APIARY Who is still being left out of the poetry community today and how would you invite them to support, experience, and witness poetry in their city firsthand? RSR I am on a bit of a mission to make sure Latinx folks in North Philly get access to more poetry spaces that aren’t run by gentrifiers. This is why I’ve given various workshops there and have brought Nicole Cecilia Delgado from Puerto Rico to run
a workshop on Puerto Rican poetry and book-making at the Kensington Branch of the Free Library. I want there to be more of a scene in North Philly and I also want there to be a stronger connection between island and diaspora. HH Broadly speaking, people who have preconceived notions of what poetry is are being left out of the experience of bearing witness to/writing poetry, for they have not received the right to view poetry outside of an academic or whitewashed perspective. If all one knows is Whitman, the limits of that particular worldview, and the repercussions of that particular worldview on the history of the United States, for example, has the potential to jade the observer on multiple levels. I’m interested in who “the greats” of the 21st century are. And who are “the greats” of the past whose work has not been shared enough? How can we get the work of these people into the hands of as many children and skeptics as possible… Because of this, like anything, poetry is a political tool that can influence entire communities/generations depending on how it is being regulated or hidden at a given time, and in a given place. APIARY What was the most powerful reading or performance you have seen in Philadelphia? Describe your experience. RSR The most powerful reading I experienced was the book launch for while they sleep (under the bed is another country). I don’t say this because I think it was the best or most polished reading, but because it personally meant so much. Reading from that text has always been difficult because it is a record of a deep collective trauma that hasn’t quite healed. I almost always cry when I read from it. This particular reading was important because of the participation of people who helped me become a better poet in Philadelphia, but also because I tried to recreate some of the conditions of the hurricane. There were a set of instructions that opened the reading. People couldn’t drink water, talk to each other, or drink alcohol. I read with a flashlight. Many were sobbing. When the reading was over, the room felt different. I also remember something Yolanda Wisher said that night. She asked us to celebrate and acknowledge the work we as poets and organizers do in Philadelphia. She noted that we often just make magic and then go about our lives, but we don’t often stop to celebrate all that we have done and continue to do. I carry those words with me everywhere I go. HH The gatherings that hold the most sacred of spaces in my heart are those created through community, such as Raquel’s unforgettable book launch mentioned above, and the “Poets for Puerto Rico (Philadelphia)” reading in 2017 organized by Yolanda Wisher and Denice Frohman. We came together to support those affected by the hurricane. Broke bread, laughed, cried. In a way, that reading was an awakening into the multidimensionality of Philly/east coast poets, some of whom I had met for the first time, and I have now begun to regard as family. We are civically engaged. Interconnected. Proud. And I am so blessed to call this city my home. 61
DELTA: A RETELLING Olivia Pridemore
“Our story is about Italian farmers and fishers who uprooted themselves from their native land and settled the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta. I begin my account standing on the dust of those courageous people who paved for us the way to that better life they sought. How sad, most of them never lived to experience the better life.” —Paul V. Canonici, The Delta Italians: Their Pursuit of “The Better Life” and their Struggle against Mosquitos, Floods, and Prejudice
1970: Eldina teaches her boys to be rough and hateful. It’s a shame they’re strong, no one can stop them.
Spring 1887: Millionaire, Austin Corbin, establishes a colony in Southeast Arkansas.
1985: With a AAAA ranking, Ray can go wherever he wants. He goes to FSU, steals $20 from the dean, goes back home.
Summer 1887: Prince Ruspoli delivers 100 Italian families to Sunnyside Plantation. Colonists are given twenty acres of land, a house, farm implements, food, clothing, a matchbox, a book of script, and 21 years to pay off their mortgages.
1987: Ray meets Andrea. She teaches him how to love.
Summer 1888: Austin Corbin dies; his heirs have no interest in maintaining the colony. Drainage projects stand unfinished; mosquitos swarm from Lake Chicot; over 125 die from malaria. December 1895: Pacifico Fratesi is released from the army and boards the ship, City of Naples, to join his family in Sunnyside. The interpreter will only take him as far as Greenville; he must board the ferry alone. Pacifico sees no signs of life in Sunnyside, but an outdoor brick oven shaped like an igloo reminds him of home. It is getting dark. The house belongs to John Bariola who agrees to put him up for the night. By the end of the month, Pacifico convinces John and twenty other patriarchs to relocate their families to Arcola, Mississippi. 1933: Amelia Fratesi weds Reno Mangialardi, gives birth to her eldest daughter, Eldina, within the year. 1952: Eldina works long hours in her parent’s grocery store so she can watch the naval officers passing through. 1953: Eldina is the first of the Delta Italians to wed outside of the original 100 families 1953-1965: Eldina builds resentment for Nathan, taking solace in her children.
1976: Raymond takes his pent-up emotion out on the football field. Coaches ask him to do it again and again. 1983: Ray drinks and smokes and fights—enough to worry Eldina—never enough to warrant academic intervention.
Spring 1988: Ray proposes to Andrea. Summer 1988: Ray joins the army; Eldina pleads. They straighten him up. He’s failed his last drug test; the air feels fresh. Summer 1990: Ray runs into my mom at a bar; she mistakes him for a good friend. He tells her he can be whoever she wants him to be. My mom teaches him self-respect. Fall 1990: Ray is stationed in Saudi Arabia for the duration of the Gulf War. He exchanges letters with my mom; she sends VHS tapes. Ray records his proposal; he’s clean-shaven in full uniform. Mom saves the tape, shows me when I’m old enough to tear up when his voice starts to break. 1999: At Nathan’s funeral, Ray speaks to no one but me. We sit graveside long after the procession leaves: the only time I’ve ever seen him cry. Fall 2000: Eldina can only hold in her bitterness for eleven months. Ray cannot meet her eyes as the caustic matter spews forth. 2001: We live near my mom’s family, hardly visit the Pridemores. Eldina blames my mother for keeping us away, blames me for resembling her. 2009: Eldina compares me to the other grandchildren, disapproves of my freckles, doubts my sincerity.
1966: Eldina gives birth to Raymond, her last baby. 1967: Nathan is cold, but Eldina is colder. She will not build a home she’ll be forced to abandon. 62
Spring 2017: At Ray’s urging, I invite Eldina to my wedding. She does not agree with my decision to keep my last name; my dress reminds her of her own.
Spring 2018: I call Eldina several months after Christmas and my birthday to issue a general thanks for the holiday season. My husband travels around the country to calibrate and repair chemical laboratory equipment; she wonders how Iâ€™ve been getting on, encourages me not to isolate myself
Artwork by SKOVeS
Summer 2018: I drive Eldina to Arcola, take in what remains of the Mangiarldiâ€™s general store. She asks to be buried with Reno and Amelia. She looks as if she might join them now.
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT Enoch the Poet
In 1972, Edward Lorenz chose to illustrate the chaos theory and sensitive dependence using the image of a butterfly. He stated that a butterfly flapping its wings in one space could create a small change in the atmosphere that could build up enough over time to create or prevent a tornado in a different space far away. This theory was coined
“The Butterfly Effect.”
When I was in high school, my grandmother began referring to me by other family members’ names. A few years later I became a whole family within myself: one day I’m me, the next week I’m a cousin, the next month I’m a cousin and an uncle depending on the hour, the next year
The next year, she talks about my birthday parties but places the face of her dead brother over my shadow, copies a funeral and places my mother in the casket then calls my sister by my mother’s name. She begins to see half the family as both alive and dead and she doesn’t know the difference. She becomes both alive and dead and she doesn’t know the difference. I call this disease
“The Butterfly Effect”.
One small memory flapping in one time period can create a ripple that grows big enough to erase a whole grandson in another. That one birthday becomes that one funeral becomes that one dead aunt that’s still living becomes that one living uncle that died 5 years ago.
They all flutter inside a grandmother who can’t remember her name most days. A grandmother who remembers the act of forgetting but can never remember what she forgot. Memories turning into butterflies that palpitate in unison creating a flickering image that looks nothing like the original. I imagine, somewhere in another time, maybe 1931 My grandmother is playing in a house; her mother calls her by a name that’s not hers and it creates a ripple effect that wipes my grandmother from herself 80 years later. I imagine, somewhere in another time, maybe 1980 My great grandmother lay on her deathbed with granny by her side but she doesn’t have enough strength to say I love you one more time and it creates a ripple effect that wipes my grandmother from this world in June of 2016. Laying in a hospice bed, she says I love you to everyone in the room but doesn’t have enough strength to make it to me ...I wonder what kind of ripple that will create.
Artwork by SKOVeS
MERELY A GIRL Veronica Chang
He looks at her as she puts the bib around his neck and places a spoon into his left hand. His useless right arm hangs limply by his side as he slowly scoops the congee into his mouth, half of it spilling over. She is quick with the napkins. He stares at his daughter, his fourth and the only one left with him in this house, and wonders why she’s still here. He remembers when his children were born. His first girl; a disappointment, yes, but he was sure the next would be a boy. The second was another burden, yet it was okay. There was still time. By the third, he recalled what his Uncle Yuan had done to his second girl; perhaps no one would notice if this one shared the same fate. But his wife would not allow it, so he acquiesced and let the girl live. He was raised in a traditional Chinese village where there was nothing more important than having a son, someone who would carry on his name and look after him when he grew old. So by the fourth pregnancy, he was desperate. He bought herbal medicines and traditional Buddhist charms for his wife. They visited herbalists, monks and fortune tellers, but all for naught. He does not remember what the fourth birth was like, for what did it matter? She was still merely a girl. There was no honour in it; he would need to raise her until she could be married off. Just another burden who would not carry on the family’s legacy. Where had they gone wrong, to have so many, but not be blessed a single son? Then with the fifth pregnancy, they finally had him: Cheng Bao, meaning successful treasure. A boy to cherish, to carry on the family name, and finally an entry into the family’s ancestral book. A son who would be there for them when they grew old. This was the child they had been waiting for. I wipe his mouth as the congee drools off his lips. I would like to think that my father loved me. I would like to think the fact that I was born a girl, let alone the fourth girl, did not change how he felt. I would like to think that I take care of him and stay in this lonely house, even now, because I, too, love him. I would like to think a billion lies. This house is too large, with its creaking staircases and broad skylights; it is not made for only a bedridden father and his sullen daughter. All the rooms lie empty, reeking of mothballs and layered with dust, save for two, as there is no one left now. Not since my mother died. The funeral was the last time I saw most of my family, in a room that stank of the cloying smell of incense and burnt paper money, filled with the quiet sniffles and murmurs of all my relatives. There was my younger brother, desperately trying to hold back his tears, for to cry as a man would be shameful. He was my mother’s golden boy, a sign of her accomplishments as 66
a Chinese woman, and he had been doted on throughout his childhood. To have such a comforting and solid presence vanish within a split second; what would that be like? My sisters, too, were crying, openly sobbing as they stared at the wooden coffin, wedding rings gleaming on both of their fingers. My third oldest sister, Dai Di, meaning bring little brother, did not make an appearance. I have not spoken to her since she left for university in America, after she denounced our father and cursed the family name. This was the highest level of disrespect a child could show. Our father had refused to pay for her university education, the same way he would not pay for any of his other daughters, viewing it as an unnecessary financial burden. To him, girls did not need to go to college. You did not find a good husband by getting a degree. My sister refused to accept this and left on a scholarship, and none of us have heard from her since. She would not have been welcomed back anyway, for a Chinese child never disobeys their parents. My other two sisters have done well in my parents’ eyes, each marrying financially successful husbands and producing at least one son. But like me and Dai Di, they are not entered into the family’s ancestral book and will never truly be regarded as one of the family. In fact, having married into other families and taken on their husbands’ last names, they are considered outsiders, even more than myself. Their children will not carry on my father’s legacy or name. Nonetheless, they wept and mourned for my mother, just as I did. The only one with dry eyes was my father. He stood, spine stiff and straight as a ruler. To me, he seemed like a symbol of unbending pride, standing tall as the head of the family in front of our aunts and uncles with their heads bowed down. My father was the eldest son of his generation, the one to care for his parents until they died, and support all six of his siblings. His face appeared to be set in stone as he gazed down at his wife. I think he loved her, in his own way. She had been the mother of his only son, after all; she had proved her duty as a wife and supplied him with a healthy heir. But now she is gone. The house, once filled with seven, only has two in it. My sisters have their own families to take care of. My brother left to follow his ambition as a neurologist halfway across the world. There is only me, struggling through my first year of part-time college paid for by student loans and looking after my father. He wonders how he fell so low, to be left decrepit in his old age with only a daughter for company. He knows he should be thankful that he has someone looking after him now that he is unable to even go to the washroom himself. He cannot blame
his son for not being here with him. He is a smart boy, the pride of his whole family clan, having excelled in school and now a neurologist! Who would have thought that he, who was born and raised in a rural farming village in China with only a primary school education, could raise such a fine boy! No, it is right that his single spinster daughter is here to help him. She is an obedient girl, dutiful. It is her duty to be here to look after him until she has her own husband’s parents to look after. Yet, as he stares at her now, cleaning up the dishes from his dinner, he wonders what she is thinking and what she is studying at that school. He doesn’t understand why she insists on wasting money there when she can find a good husband like her sisters and fulfil her duties as a woman. He wonders if he doesn’t understand because he has never had a conversation with her. There is no lost love between me and my father. No hidden acceptance of an extra burden to the family. As I prepare his bed for the night, before retreating to my own room to study for my exams, I ask myself why I am still here. I was brought up as a Chinese daughter, to respect and look after my parents. I do not feel any familial love compelling me to take care of him. I know he wishes my brother was here in my place so that he did not have to rely on a daughter. Maybe it is because I am the only one left. My father, so blinded by pride and tradition, so desperate to have his son near him, seems almost pitiful in his old age. Once the head of a legion of aunts and uncles and cousins, he lives alone in this dilapidated old house. While inconsequential, his own daughter has forsaken him. His son rarely visits. Perhaps I feel bound to this family. Chained by generations of culture and filial obedience. Obligated, as any Chinese child would be, to look after my parents. I cannot leave this place, because I am all, albeit unwanted, that remains. That does not stop the pain in watching my father’s gaze slide over me, cold and distant. It does not stop the sting of disapproval when I hear his snort of derision as he looks at my books. It does not help my envy when I see the simple check my brother sends every month, to be able to do so little yet be so loved. I want to leave this house. Its drafty corridors and frozen floors are for someone else to enjoy. I have thought, before, of running away, of marrying someone. Although, would that truly leave me free? Or would I only be shackled to a different family name, as my sisters are now? I have also considered what my third sister did, to move to a foreign country and never contact the family again. However, she had the defiance and courage that I lack. Disobedience has never come easy to me. It might
be because I am the fourth disappointment for my parents, something I have tried my entire life to overcome. But no matter how well I do in school, or how respectful I am to them, it doesn’t make up for the fact that my parents are bound by their culture and traditions, and in their eyes, I am merely a girl. As he settles himself in bed and his daughter places the bedpan next to him, he looks at her face. He does not remember ever seeing her smile. Is she incapable of smiling, or just when she’s with him? She is always silent, other than asking him what he needs or what he wants to eat. He recalls the jubilant grins of his outside grandchildren, the children of his eldest daughter, who came to visit him today. He can still hear their shouts of “Gong Gong!”, as they ran into the house. His eldest daughter has done well raising them. They are good, respectful children, but of course they are not his grandchildren. They do not carry his family name. When he sees them, he feels nothing. He has not seen his son in so long; could he have found a wife by now? A chance to produce a real grandchild for him? Today, my father’s condition grew worse. He was not even able to sit up and I had to ask his doctor to come. The doctor said that with the colder weather, his arthritis has flared up, and he will be even less mobile than before. He suggested that I hire help, but I know that this is beyond my financial means and my father will not spend an extra penny on his care, so I make a mental note to call my brother. My father grew up poor, and although he has done well for himself and his family, he wants to also be able to pass on something to my brother and his eventual children. My father. A familiar term I have used all my life, yet foreign as well. What is a father, exactly? Is it the head of any family? Is it an automatic name for any male whose genes I carry? Does it make me a bad daughter, to not understand what it means? Perhaps, but would it also mean my father is a bad parent, to have a daughter who sees herself as fatherless? I have lived in the same household all my life, experienced the traditions carried down from generations of ancestors, but I will always be regarded as a temporary guest. This was something I felt most strongly a year after my mother’s death, when my father had his stroke, one that paralyzed half his body and left him crippled for life. That was the day my father felt he had lost his manhood, his dignity; to have to rely on another, let alone a girl, was unsightly to him, almost the equivalent of dying without a son. His face, so pale, against the stark white bed sheets of the hospital. The monotonous beeping of the machine beside 67
us, the only sound in the quiet aftermath. Myself, standing next to the bed, gazing at the wall behind him. I had felt terror and panic, yes, when I first heard the phone call. But there was also the slightest tinge of joy, the slightest possibility of freedom. I wondered first whether I would be able to leave now. We had waited for my brother to arrive. He showed up almost a day later, having taken the first flight back. In a way, I suppose that he, too, was bound by the same traditions I was; as the only son, he was the one we were all supposed to rely on in times of need. But I cannot feel sympathy for him, as when he showed up, I saw my father smile for the first time since my mother’s death. My father’s stroke both freed and contained me. He was no longer able to try to stop me from attending college, but I was no longer able to stay away from the house for too long. Someone needed to take care of him now, despite his wishes otherwise. Later that week, my brother had left again, unwilling or unable to be responsible for our father. He told me that he had to finish his residency. Being the only son, my brother did not truly understand the principle of family first. He had been doted on all his life, and believed he was entitled, as the future head of the family, to become successful, and to leave caring for his father to his siblings. My father accepted my brother’s excuse without complaint. To him, his son was bringing honour and success to the family, as only a son could do. As long as my brother was doing well, it would be fine. Soon, however, I might have to call for my brother again. Artwork by Shanel Edwards
He wakes, and the sun is shining against the back wall; it must be late afternoon. His daughter has fallen asleep in the chair beside the bed, with her school textbook open on her lap. She must have stayed there the whole day after the doctor left. He doesn’t know how much time he has left to know his daughter. He struggles with the right words, words that he’s never closely uttered to her or any of her sisters his entire life. “What are you reading?”
BEHIND THE COUNTER Alisha Berry
I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair set up in a booth by the register in the restaurant where I worked three nights a week through high school cramming homework into the lull between set-up and dinner rush, learning not to sit back in the wooden booth cause I hated cockroaches crawling in my hair I studied calculus during my weekend job at the movie theater, behind glass smiling at customers trying not to lose my flow, pausing to calculate the cost of two adult tickets while ringing up discount, pocketing the difference and splitting it with the usher inside. Marx, Foucault, Nietzche I discovered later in college, behind the bulletproof plastic of the check-cashing window, though it would take me years to understand the politics of who had banks in their neighborhoods, bank accounts, versus who paid $3 flat plus 1% of their check to get their cash for the week But I understood living on a check, counting every dollar, adding up the little extras I could pinch with some guilt but more necessity. As I walked through campus I felt more at home with the gardeners, janitors, cafeteria staff, campus cops who I knew on a first name basis. They were often surprised to see me with a backpack looking all student-like, when they knew me as the girl who could crack jokes behind plastic, counting out tens and twenties in a whirl of hands as I listened to their quips about their wives, their kids, their bosses. I was surprised, too, because I was not one of themâ€”the people keeping things running, or those frittering away their afternoons behind frisbees. And I was all of them, spinning through my life, pulling for my future. It turns out, I would come to understand years and years later, books read behind a counter expand exponentially
SAVI NG SHEL F SPACE IN SOU T H PH ILLY
Christina Ross-Schneider and Alex Schneider are co-owners of A Novel Idea on Passyunk, a brand new independent bookstore in South Philadelphia. According to their research, a new bookstore has not existed on Passyunk Ave for nearly 20 years. As part of our interview series for this issue of APIARY, we reached out to A Novel Idea to ask about, not only the challenges of opening a bookstore in the age of Amazon, but how independent bookstores can best reflect and support the communities of readers and writers they sit beside. For our full interview, visit apiarymagazine.com. 70
APIARY How has A Novel Idea changed and evolved since
its opening? CRS We originally had YA [Young Adult Literature] in the back. It’s now up front. We’ve expanded certain sections, expanded Kids. Expanded Bio, History, Sociology, Poetry, New Age. We started really general interest and wanted to see what community was buying, what they wanted. From the beginning, we always wanted the space to reflect the people coming in. A lot of that is constant evolution. We’ve had a big rush of kids in that middle grade area who read things like the Dog Man series of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and are through it - so where do we go? There’s a lot of graphic novels in that genre. [I didn’t know anything] about these genres before. As you’re having conversations with parents and they look confused as to where to go, there’s only one thing to do. I’ve read everything I can to see what’s good for kids. Graphic novels can go two really different ways. The first pages look identical in two different books, and the second page is violence, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. There’s a lot of that, us evolving to reflect the people coming in. It’s just having a conversation. APIARY Recently, The Strand Bookstore was granted landmark status, which sort of signals that the age of bookstores is behind us. The Penn Book Center was also recently on the verge of closing. [Editor’s Note: As of June 2019, the Penn Book Center will be open through Summer 2019] Amazon is now the biggest seller of books in the world. What can bookstores offer Philadelphia that a giant muscular corporation like Amazon can’t? CRS When we first heard about Penn Book Center closing my first reaction was, “Shit.” We’re a 6 month old bookstore. But we always knew going into this business that it’s going to be an uphill battle. We get one of two responses when we tell people we own a bookstore. It’s either, “Wow, that is so brave, that is so amazing, we need more independent bookstores!” or it’s “Do people still buy books? Do people still read?” We knew this going in. We have to have an angle, we have to keep reinventing ourselves so we can offer the community something different. We feel really fortunate to be in Philadelphia, which seems to be a city that is rallying behind small businesses, especially bookstores. Because we are such a technological community and world now, people are starting to crave that actual interaction again when you can go in and hold a book and talk to a person about it. Sure our books might cost more than Amazon, but you are talking to a human being. You can have a discussion about the book. We can say, based on what you’re saying, this might not be the best book. We feature a lot of local authors. You have the opportunity to meet the people you’re reading in the shop. Sometimes totally randomly. You’re not going to find the James Patterson and Nora Roberts new releases. We could not sell [those books] when we first opened. The biggest compliment that we get regularly is that we have a really interesting mix of books on the shelves.
APIARY Has there ever been a moment where a customer
was bothered by a book in your store? CRS I can think of one specific moment where someone felt offended by something we had out. It’s by local small press and it’s a collection featuring fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from people who have been assaulted. A parent was upset that we had [the book] facing out. We had an event for it that day. It has the word “rape” on the cover. It’s interesting that we have books like Go the Fuck to Sleep, which has a ‘dirty word,’ if you will, and parents don’t have a problem [with] their kid seeing that. [The book] wasn’t in the kids section and most kids wouldn’t be tall enough to see it. At that moment, for me, I was like, then you’re not the right person to come into this store because there are certain things that we feel strongly about and one them is people being able to share their stories no matter how difficult they are. You don’t have to come to the event we’re doing for it, but to be offended by people speaking about trauma, for me, I was like, I don’t need to have a conversation with you about that because it’s something we feel strongly about. We held a meditation that was a fundraiser to donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds when the abortion bans started happening. For the most part, the neighborhood has been overwhelmingly supportive. We’ve had some people say, “You don’t want to put your business politically out there,” but if these are the views that are important to us, why not? Our business should reflect us. Not every event that we do is political. Just by having a bookstore, we’re already doing something that’s pretty political in today’s world. Being a space where we have authors of every single kind and are willing to do events with people who have all different types of stories and experiences already think that’s pretty radical on its own and people should expect that from a bookstore.
WHERE DO YOU GROW
The Head & The Hand is a non-profit, independent craft publisher and writersâ€™ workshop based in Philly, with a new pop-up bookstore in Kensington that shares a space with our friends at Fireball Printing. Larry Robin is the former owner of Robinâ€™s Books and the founding force behind Moonstone Arts, two beloved Philly lit institutions. We sat down with Larry and The Head & The Hand members Nic Esposito, Linda Gallant and Claire Moncla to talk bookselling across the ages, plus the process of keeping a literary organization alive and thriving as your staff, your city and your community all continue to evolve in new directions. For our full interview, visit apiarymagazine.com. 72
APIARY The last time we interviewed The Head & The Hand
was in 2013. Now you guys have a bookstore, which is crazy! Can you talk about what’s changed since then and bring us up to speed on what you’ve been working on? H&H (NE) The core values haven’t changed: we’ve always existed to bring publishing opportunities and give a platform for writers here in Philadelphia, and publish them in a really professional, unique and collaborative way. When you first interviewed us, we were a for-profit publishing company/ coworking space. We realized pretty quickly that it was going to be really hard to run a coworking space for writers in the city [on top of ] just trying to publish in this world, especially long-form fiction and novels, and doing that whole game of advanced reviews... it was too much. So we were really fortunate to be connected to the Culture Trust, a really brilliant project here in Philadelphia (which Apiary is part of as well, so you know how great it is). We went through a lot of iterations and ended up becoming a full nonprofit. We converted the whole operation slowly, first bringing the coworking/workshop aspect over, and then finally the book publication, and just kept chugging along. Since 2013, a lot of the core people like Claire, Linda, and myself are still involved. I think it’s really special that we’ve stayed together this long. H&H (LG) I think part of what keeps us energized is reaching out to new partners throughout the city. One of the most rewarding partnerships that we’ve had recently is with the Drexel Writers Room: our traveling vending machines (the thing we became known for at the very beginning of our publishing life) have now come home to live at the Writers Room, and that’s where we have our Shockwire chapbook series displayed, and writers from that community came out and participated and brought new life in the form of their stories. I felt like it created more diversity and the voices that we publish and represent. Because of the physical space of the bookstore, I feel like there’s even more opportunities now to have community-focused relationships and partnerships. APIARY Larry, you’ve been involved with Philly writing and poetry for over 35 years. Could you talk a little bit about how you entered the poetry community? LR My grandfather opened Robin’s Books in 1936, and my father worked there, and I came into the business in 1960 when I graduated high school. The problem with family businesses is that you end up competing with your relatives, but because of the Paperback Explosion, I had my own little area. In the Second World War, they began to publish cheap paperbacks for the military, and after the soldiers came home that changed the industry. Grove Press is a pivotal example: when people started looking for paperbacks in stores, Barney Rosset (the head of that press) actually went into their warehouse and ripped the hard covers off his books and rebound them as paperbacks. He spent most of his career fighting censorship, publishing works
like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Tropic of Cancer. In those days, [if you stocked Tropic of Cancer] the police would raid you for selling pornography and lock you up. In Philadelphia they decided to make it a civil case, with an injunction against the book’s sale. It was on the front page of the newspaper during a week of court action. Our store was right next door to the City Hall annex, and the Jersey bus station was right across the street, so there were just masses of people who this incident drove into the store. So my grandfather, father and I had a conference on what to do . . . and every day that week I drove to New York, got 1000 copies, brought them back, and sold them all. So it’s the early 60’s and it’s the Civil Rights Movement, and I ended up coming to the literature through the politics. We were the only bookstore around that offered African American history and poetry and literature, which then also meant that the authors came in, which established relationships and friendships with this incredible array of fine, fine writers. My interest is the relationship between art and society. APIARY Philly has undergone a lot of gentrification and economic shifts in recent years. How do you feel about Philadelphia right now as a place for writers and poets—is it a space where people can make the art they want to make, and be able to survive doing it? LR People moving from New York is a tragedy. It’s driven prices up so that places which used to be maybe 30k are now a million, I mean that’s a portrait of Center City. The whole country, including Philadelphia, was industrial: these communities were industrial centers, they were built around factories, and that’s what drove it -- so how do you make that shift when the city’s gone into finance and medicine? We have a great cultural community, and in terms of poetry you can find three readings any day of the week now. It means you don’t get fifty people in the same room anymore, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a contradiction of growth: a question of “where do you grow”? H&H (NE) It takes so much more to live. For better or worse, things are a lot more organized around technology now, which takes a certain level of privilege to access. I think one of the things that’s lucky about Philadelphia is that we still have these very hyperlocal neighborhood connections, that we still have scenes here and the opportunity to create a scene organically. That’s something that we’ve always tried to tap into, creating a scene that’s not too academic, that always feels comfortable and welcoming. But there are also things where you have to institutionalize now. That Larry’s family owned this bookstore and he was able to take it over, we didn’t have [that option], but we do have a kind of family with Culture Trust. They have a very forward-thinking way of asking “how do you support small arts organizations in the city?” as everything’s grown more competitive.
APIARY How do you each approach the editorial process,
and the act of collaborating with a writer to support their work through publication? H&H (NE) When we put someone’s work out, we do them justice. We make our books beautiful so they can compete with any other book in the bookstore that comes from a big publisher—so when you look at it, you can’t tell that it’s coming from a small press. H&H (CM) But because we’re so small, there is so much personal investment. Working 1-on-1 with authors, we want it to feel like a craft experience where the author is really being heard and getting the look and feel that they want. We want to bring a certain level of craftsmanship to our covers, to our aesthetic— even the look of the store, where Linda’s family was really involved in putting together the shelves and the artwork. (Shout out to John Gallant, Patricia Gallant, and Amanda Gallant!) H&H (LG) My dad’s a carpenter, my mom does set design, and my sister’s a sign artist/visual artist, so it became this group effort that was integral to getting the store made as a family place. Friends and family made this, we built this with our own bare hands, and I think that’s important in everything we’ve done. Even the authors we work with, those relationships have become a sort of web that makes our Local Lit shelf so much more personal here—like I’ve helped edit books with Lanternfish, and I’ve published authors who were in our Almanacs. I see the store as a place where we can showcase these evolving relationships that began years ago, where you can see them and hold the tangible results. LR I come from an entirely different direction. I come out of the bookstore and I’m totally non-academic; I never went to school. My job as I see it is to facilitate, to educate, to help people get stuff out there. I’m not an editor -- I tried a couple times to get a publishing thing going, and people would say “We want quality!” but well, what does that mean? It means what you like. For our chapbooks, we do have an editorial committee and we have turned down people, but my view is that our job is to help someone get it out there. It lives and dies on its own, and the question of its quality is up to the audience. One way I deal with this in our events, when we have our big Poetry Inc. program that’s 100 poets [reading in one day], we reach out to everyone, you gotta sign up, and then I put everyone in alphabetical order. You don’t get to read with your friends, you don’t get to choose what you’re gonna hear. It’s not your club anymore. You’re part of this world, and you gotta recognize how much there is to it. A lot of our focus is on expanding peoples’ consciousness to be more accepting and embracing. One year at Poetry Inc., we had two readers sign up with the same last name, and when we called the first name, it was 14-year-old girl reading in front of an audience for the first time. When we called the second name, a woman gets up and says “I’m her mother, and I have been writing since I was 74
her age, and I have never read in public before.” That’s exactly what we’re about: events and creation and getting everybody together. APIARY Moonstone organizes so many different event series year-round, each with their own changing hosts and features to coordinate. How does that calendar keep its structural integrity with all these parts constantly in motion? LR I’m basically an anarchist. I understand the need for design and structure, but I believe in people doing whatever the hell they want within that structure. My problem is that I always say “yes”, which can become too much, so I depend on my committee. The Moonstone Arts Center has a general board, and then there other committees so I have a team of about ten people. Rarely does everyone show up in the same meeting, but those talks help direct my decisions. I am also totally dependent on interns. I do not understand social media, but on our New Voices project we had two interns going “I’ll do Twitter,” “I’ll do Instagram,” “I’ll make a list of high school teachers” -- it’s a constant outreach of “what is new” and “how do you get them there?” I’m too old for that, I can’t think that way, but these kids can and they’re great. One of my pet peeves is people who say “I did this myself.” Nobody does everything by themselves. APIARY H&H, how does the bookstore’s structure work and how do you curate your inventory? H&H (LG) We are leaning into the fact that we are a 400 square foot space. There’s no way we can stock this store with every amazing book that comes out, so how do we choose books that we love, and that we know the community will also respond to? This is the equation I’m learning to calculate. On our bathroom door, there’s a running list of books that were suggested by community members, and that’s an amazing thing where it just sparks a domino effect. It’s been this communitydriven, idiosyncratic process in a crazy small space that we’re just trying to make as personal as possible. On a basic level, it’s just about having our doors open and actually listening when people speak to us. So if someone comes in and says “I love this one book, I think you should have this,” we don’t say “oh cool” and then just keep going. We order that book immediately. We’re small and nimble enough, flexible enough, to act on it. I think that’s how we’ve always been, and now we’re just bringing that energy to a bookstore. I don’t know if it’s a good business practice, but I think it’s a good community practice.
ON MEETING LAMONT B. STEPTOE Tracey Ferdinand
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 5
Artwork by Jeremiah Jordan
eager to hear a whirlwind traveling man read, and baptize my spirit in the WORD, i arrive early, take an elevator up to the sky floor then sit waiting for a congregation. Steptoe hands me a flyer for an art gallery show, asks me where I’m from. “Trinidad, Tobago, New Jersey” it’s crazy down there in Trinidad. drugs, kidnappings, rotting youth over ripe with potential spoiling in sun. asks me, how big is Tobago? as deep as calypso? as wide as your grandmother’s feet?
GOOGLE EARTH Lamont B. Steptoe
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 2
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? O’ 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 we’ll find you now Lost in thought—hair silvered with wisdom shivering with the beauty that you own Caped in transparency wearing a rainbow crown
SCHUYLKILL EXPRESSWAY Christian Sammartino
I didn’t believe I would need the vase with a fistful of honeysuckle — the one my daughter populated with pearlescent honeypots just to fill my mouth with slivers of sweetness instead of curses and my cotton mouth slurs of fatigue. Pure honey won’t change my busted tire on the Schuylkill — blossoms aren’t the correct currency to purchase roadside assistance. Flowers won’t coax my graveyard shift muscles into working overtime to budge stubborn lug nuts, even if it means I get to bed early and earn a pension of kisses. The tire stares at me like the belly of a gutted deer. So much absence stares into me, so much is hollow where some wayward hunger decided to carve a feast, stranding me on the shoulder of this highway. Because I was all raw, double shift phantom limbs, a disembodied ghost man rising from the tomb of work. If only I could’ve swerved, if only I could’ve missed the goddamn glass carcass of that bottle some jackass deserted. If only I had grace instead of clumsy hands fumbling to keep me awake, to keep me alive. But as the headlights of the 18-wheeler barrel towards my body, like all the lightbulbs on Boathouse Row focused on me, I recall the modest whisper of honeysuckle in my daughter’s vase. How they sparred with the giants of the forest to find daylight until there were exit wounds where beauty could flourish. Cantankerous honey, underdog prize fighter, jabs through vines, rope-a-dopes with hulking tree trunks, bamboozles opponents into surrendering enough daylight to survive. Honeysuckle teaches me how to duck and weave, how to evade my heavyweight overnight freight challenger, by finding a sliver of moonlight the size of a stem and growing towards that source, until sweetness is heavy on my tongue.
These blossoms canâ€™t heal me like a cast scribbled with names, the alphabet of everyone I love, but the smallest bouquet of tenacious grace teaches me how to deflect body blows, how to avoid punishment. How to revive my phantom limbs in time to dive away from the truck, into a hospital room, where my daughter holds my hand
like the jaws of life, guiding me away from a casket.
This is what survival tastes like â€” a mouthful of squalor and blood competing with the flavor of honeysuckle. One clenched fist of flowers is the margin between my hospital bed and a roadside cross.
JUNCO IN JUNKYARD Michael Levin
(Luria Bros. scrapyard, Chester PA) Obsidian-eyed, she wheels and flits past pitted bumpers through the monotones of engine blocks and peeling limousines; lights pertly, preens, then on a delicate flexed wing sideslips precisely like a seamstress threading a needle. A breath; she banks; is gone.
Artwork by Lillian Dunn
FRACTURED Laura Walker
“You see those crosses on the side of the road. Or tied with ribbons in the median. They make me grateful I can go this mile.” —Indigo Girls When I recall that night, the minutiae come to mind first: my favorite band playing on the stereo; two grocery bags full of oranges and grapefruit from my parents’ trees in the backseat; my backpack on the seat next to me and my phone in my lap. The dreariness of this biweekly two-hour commute across urban sprawl, through mountain passes, and along the coastline. Anxiety to be home and in bed. Rain slowing me down, forcing attention to the miles sliding past. I was singing along with the radio and thinking of nothing, the way you do when you don’t know your life is about to change forever.
I felt no foreboding as I left my parents’ house on March 22, 2005. The sky was threatening rain, but it had been that way all day, and I honestly thought nothing of it. It seems like there should have been some sense of the terror and tragedy to come, yet no premonition shook me as I called out goodbyes to my family and pulled the door shut behind me. It was the end of winter quarter, finals week. I’d just taken my first two exams, then stayed late on campus to study for my next set of exams, two days away, before heading to my parents’ house for dinner. That day’s tests had been grueling, and the upcoming ones promised to be even more so—especially Modern American Lit, taught by one of the most demanding professors in the department. He looked like Hemingway and spoke like Emerson, streaming out literary theory and biographical detail that would slip right by us if we didn’t scratch it into our notebooks at breakneck speed. I needed the extra hours of study time for sure. I also needed the time with my family to relax and decompress before the two-hour drive home to my partner. By the time I headed home, it was almost seven o’clock, and the weather was just deciding to keep its stormy promise. The rain followed me sporadically, a torrential curtain in some 80
areas and an inconsequential sprinkling in others. In Temecula, the halfway point, it was pouring—as it had been doing all evening there; the downpour muddied up the shoulders of I-15 and filled in every depression of the roadway, holding invisible pools of water against the shiny blackness of asphalt. Of course, I didn’t know any of that. I was just passing through. When they say things like “He never even saw it coming,” they’re usually wrong. You might not have time to react—or even think how to react—but you definitely see it coming. For me it was blurred headlights swinging at me from the left. I saw them, memorized them, can still see them when I close my eyes—but I didn’t even have time to suck in a breath before the car hit me and sent me spinning blindly across the rainslick interstate. If there were a film reel of the scene, it would play out something like this: A car driving in the fast lane to my left, suddenly cuts across the lane just in front of me and we slam into each other with all the noise and force of a Hollywood explosion. My airbag erupts from its compartment in the steering wheel and my seatbelt locks up, both holding me against my seat as I spin across two lanes of miraculously empty Southern California highway. Completely out of control, I slam into a car driving in the slow lane, virtually shoving it out of the way before I continue on my spiraling trajectory. Perpendicular to the lanes of traffic, my final impact is stunning and head-on: I smash into a tree and my right knee smashes into the steering column. I know that’s how it happened, but the truth is that my world went mad for those few seconds. I lost my sense of time and space; I don’t even know if my hands stayed on the wheel or if my foot ever touched the brake—control was so obviously out of the picture. Now, like some kind of mundane magic, like snapping on a light switch, the music comes back on and suddenly I am back in my car. Sensory details reassert themselves singly, slices of pie filling in a chart. There’s a burnt gunpowder smell in the car from the airbag deploying. There’s the sound-memory of my screams, three short bursts of pure terror, that echo in my head like an embarrassing dream. There’s pain in my knee keeping me pinned in place as effectively as a jammed seat belt would have done. And coming down in drips and drops and splashes of innocent menace, there is the rain. Question: A car leaves Las Vegas, NV at 2:30 in the afternoon, travelling south at 80 miles an hour. Another car leaves San Bernardino, CA at 7:00 in the evening, travelling south at 70 miles an hour. A third car leaves one end of Temecula, CA at 8:15 at night, travelling south at 55 miles an
hour. When will the driver of the first car reach San Diego? Answer: Never. Later I found out that my sister, standing in the doorway of my mom and dad’s house to say goodbye, felt a pang of worry as I ducked into my car. She said a quick prayer that I’d be safe. Later I found out that vehicle 1 on the police report, what I now call “the other car,” hydroplaned and lost control. The report listed the driver as at-fault, but it wasn’t his fault, not really. He just wanted to get his girls home and in bed in time for school the next day. Later I found out that the stretch of freeway where the accident took place is notorious among law enforcement and emergency personnel for accidents during inclement weather; hollows in the road—the beginnings of potholes—fill with water, tires skid across the surface of the water, drivers lose control.
while I was still driving home, she left her phone in the car on purpose. She didn’t want to hear from me. When she got back to the car, there were nineteen missed calls on her phone: two from me, one from my mom, and half a dozen each from my sister and hers. There were voicemails, too: “Hey, Amy. Um, I’ve just been in a car accident…” “Hi, I don’t know if you heard, but Laura was in a car crash…” “Amy, I heard about Laura’s accident…” Since then, we try to mitigate all arguments carefully. Try not to fight when we have to be away from each other. Try to communicate, even when we’re mad. Try to remember that anything can happen anytime. Any thing. Any time. But a lot times, we forget. I never talk about the way the paramedics covered me with a sheet to keep the rain off my face as they carried me to the ambulance, and how I thought desperately—as if to tell the cars passing by—I’m not dead. I never talk about how guilty and broken and shitty and glorious it felt to wake up the next day. Just to wake up. So there’s this:
fig.1—$8,697 worth of damage: a total loss.
fig.3—The incision site after the second surgery when the hardware was removed.
fig.2—The doctor used two pins and a wire to hold the pieces of my broken patella together until they could heal.
But now there’s this, too:
A walkie-talkie crackles on the hip of a paramedic pulling me out of my car. I hear the words dead on arrival. I don’t usually tell people this, but my partner and I were in a pretty bad fight the night of the accident. It was about something small and forgettable, like our fights usually are, but it was enough that, when she went over to her friend’s house later,
fig.4—Julia Michelle, my niece, was born 03/39/05, one week after the accident.
fig.6—Always, always there is this: that Amy and I are still together.
fig.5—I can still run! No permanent bone or tissue damage and no signs of the arthritis I was warned about.
Amy and I drive past the scene of the accident a few times a year. We don’t live in San Diego County anymore, so it’s not as often as it used to be. One afternoon in 2009, we decide to 81
stop. It’s not an anniversary, so there’s no chance of running into the family today—tasteless pun unintentional—and anyway, no wooden crosses mark this spot to indicate whether the family has ever been back here. It’s the first time I’ve been back. It looks like so many other spots alongside this busy but illkept thoroughfare: a strip mall on one side of the chain-link fence, and on the freeway side, weeds, litter, oak and eucalyptus trees. Nothing to give away what happened here, what was lost. The trees that witnessed our tragedy tell no tale to other travellers on this road. Even the tree is meaningful only to the handful of us who know its history. I step out of the car, scuffing up dusty roadside dirt. In the dry heat it hovers then settles over my shoes the same way it’s coated our tires. I stare at the ground for a moment, taking in a shaky breath. By daylight, unlittered with the detritus of the accident, it looks so different. It feels different, too. I’m not stunned, confused, in pain. I’m solid. I’m here. I walk without a limp to the tree, put a hand on it. It’s been cut to the quick and the damage still shows, layers of bark and underlying wood sheared away by the bumper of a car that sits rusting in a local junkyard. Its surface is rough and splintery, like any other tree. Standing there, the tide of maybes feels inexorable: If this tree hadn’t been here, maybe the other driver would still be alive. Or maybe he would have plowed through the chain link fence and right on into the McDonald’s drivethru. Maybe he would have hit another car, killed someone else. Maybe I would have. Maybe he and I would both be dead. Because, the thing is, you can never know.
To-do list, post-accident: • Contact insurance. Plan to speak to a different employee every time you call, and understand that you will have to tell your story to each one of them. No, your partner can’t talk to them for you, they need to hear the details of the accident directly from you. Again. • Sign insane amounts of paperwork from insurance, the police, and the emergency room. Pay out-of-pocket for a notary public to come to your home so you can sign from the relative comfort of the bed you can’t get out of. 82
• Call every surgeon listed in every phonebook you can find in hopes that one will be willing to work with you on a lien, meaning you don’t pay for medical care until the settlement comes through. If the settlement comes through. • Call a lawyer, just in case. • Fight to remain upbeat—smiling and grateful—through exhausting visits from family and friends. Laugh at bad car accident jokes (“Ooh, I’d hate to see the other guy!”) and politely turn down perfunctory offers of help. • Negotiate the insurance settlement on your car’s total loss. Eventually shop for a new car that you won’t be able to drive for at least two months. • Because you can’t drive yet (see above), coordinate rides to various medical offices and hospitals for consultations, pain-management, pre-op, and follow-up appointments. Find out that your city and county offer no ride services for the temporarily disabled. Ask your partner to take yet another day off work. • Try to return to your job assignment with the temp agency only to be sent home because your apparent pain and discomfort make the clients feel awkward. Apply for state disability instead. But I’m alive. I get to watch my nieces and nephews grow up. This past June, I was at the graduation of one niece, two nephews, and next June, I will be at the wedding of my oldest niece. Passengers 2 and 3 will never get to say that about their dad. I get to laugh and cuddle and talk with my partner before we fall asleep at night. Passenger 1 will never get to do that with her husband again. I get to learn and grow and try to be a good person. I get to write stories and listen to friends and find ways to connect with my world. Find ways to live with meaning. Driver 1 doesn’t get to do that anymore. Everyday life is a struggle for perspective, a battle against ingratitude. Sometimes the weather’s bad, or my clothes don’t fit right, or I have way too much work to do, and my instinct to complain kicks in. When I’m drowning in the obligations and frustrations and banality of daily living, I try to pull myself back to shore with that thought: I’m alive. And then I think of that father, absent from his family’s lives. I think of his wife and daughters. I think they must have moments like this, too: moments where they forget and then remember and swear they will never forget again. But we always do.
ERASURE/COLLAGE ELEGY Liz Chang
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 3
from “Speak, Memory:…” and emails received between April 24 and May 5, 2010 It may be a long way,
but on a good day
it’s where the work gets done; analyzed— It’s a curious thing to discover everything and as we know His discharge date keeps changing. Morgan is still in the hospital amid all that mild expressive doctors are not very clear heels side-by-side and humming sometimes with their explanations of words that are similar in meaning (such as “cat” for “dog”) or similar in sounds (“foot” for “phone”) But that was exactly to us what we already knew As of now, it might be this Wednesday Everyone flocks together. Once you get outside the scenes popping up He’s still a bit disoriented, especially at night, And occasionally during the day probably the only errors made are sometimes secret because he just hasn’t mentioned anything. hasn’t mentioned any more of the hallucinations Recently you realized last night, driving—i late, and the
transformed. We passed Constellations of what keeps you in I think we’ve been really lucky that we’re a city of misfits, close-knit we have such a strong connection We grew up but it’s still sometimes difficult not trying to be invented. And Yesterday, after a few days of declining mental insularity, becomes clear he will be heading directly to hospice care. Hubble discovered that the universe was out there, with the cancer all over his lungs as well as in his lymph nodes playing one month before Just that one month, when there was nothing else—only Or a freeway and a garden, like us. No one knows what this means in regards to the future. Everyone always says to us concentrate quietly: God, you maybe we don’t need to come back together, and to breathe to figure out what kind of cells there are we happened to be the memories, color, and that— maybe there are some things you ought to say out loud— together.
whole city 83
Davon Loeb And the right-hand turn out of our suburban neighborhood, where the houses hid behind long driveways and were safe beyond the oaks and the pines and the maples—and the doors that were never locked and my house was his house and his house was my house and our house, and we were all like brothers; but that’s not the point—because after that, passing someone’s red mailbox and a blue mini-van and a black SUV and a double-quad pick-up truck—where the asphalt was no longer asphalt and the grass grew like how moss is said to grow—we rode on into the back trails that some kid, whoever he was, built long ago—built as if giving us a secret, a special entrance into the Pine Barrens, like a key—quick, under there—the lone street light with some tattered Chuck Taylors wrapped around, and our sign on the map that said—enter here, but beware, the Earth will swallow you up—will break your skin, kink in your bike, demand your blood—and the deer tick, and the wolf spider, and the poison ivy, and the chigger bites—and watch where you pee, where you sit, where you go off to wander—because there are some boys out there, dangerous boys—boys who take off their shirts, who run from your doorbells, who trample down your flowers, who swing at the pinecones, who spit up in the air—boys that bark, boys that howl at the moon—boys that smell like the sweat of a forest, like balsam, and underarms, and cider; and those boys were us—and that place is where we grew—where we returned after school, after a fight with Mom, or a breakup, a bad test grade—where we gathered, on our bikes, an extension of our bones—maybe on the back-pegs or balancing butts on handlebars, or just two feet peddling as if in stampede—looking and waiting to hit uncertainty—to spring off the dirt-mounds, The Jumps—what we needed, what we lived for; and when we did, like a band of Motocross bikers, when we found our front wheel aligned on one of those masses of rounded ground, we flew—our shadows cascaded, some sudden wings sprouted, and we shared those pieces of sky.
Artwork by Steve Teare
TRIBUTE TO CHYNA Fantaja Jones
YOUTH EDITOR PICKS
You know how they say you can see the white light when you’re dying? I saw the white light but it wasn’t me dying on the inside it was me walking into a room as cold as a freezer and the lights were as bright as that white light and as cold as the room was, there was a whole furnace burning the button was cold when you pressed the button and the whole room was quiet, but the only thing that was loud was the fire starting, burning the casket through the silk lining, through the flowers through her body through her bones. when I think of Valentine’s Day that’s where my mind goes it don’t go to hearts, roses, love, flowers it goes to cold crematorium hot burning furnace the sound of a body burning you never know what a body burning sounds like until you’re in a quiet room and that’s the only thing you hear. we filled her casket with over two hundred flowers her face showed, her hands showed, her feet showed but all the rest was flowers. I saw yellow, and lavender, and orange but no red flowers. the store clerk probably thought we were buying all these flowers for some big Valentines thing but little did they know we were tying them up with incense and candles and putting them in the casket. my grandmom set out food every night to feed her soul. how do you feed someone’s soul? some people put out a candle light and everyone surrounds it bringing candles they would think that everyone gathering is feeding a loved one’s soul how do you feed a soul with candles and incense? you have to a feed a soul with actual food. even though they’re not here, they see the food and their soul eats you’ll wake up in the morning and the food will be untouched but to my grandmom the food is not untouched. she would say, “she ate. oh, she ate.” still to this day I think, are you really feeding the soul? is there really a realm between heaven and earth, or hell and earth? or is it all just in between?
Excerpts from Ambrosia, a chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press written by Harry Palacio
SKY VERSE I read the sky to see if it will open up. Those cumulus stained with lunar light. I read my horoscope longingly pondering the day. I drag myself out of the car after long days of work. The face of reason is absent on my bed. There are shades drawn and silent days setting besides my dark skin and thin body. I face you nightly those resting eyes I see watching me. I wake up dreaming of tiny angels. Darkness dissipating from my forlorn lips. You nudge me, and I watch you dress so many times before. The absence succeeds in carrying me distant into the past where there is no one. I come closer to being, laying here bearing myself. I talk to strangers and long for a time of what love had to give. There I am in the aging summer seeing. The long days of work become my solace. The books they grow tongues and speak their peace into my mind a tantamount vernacular of longing. I am lying in bed thinking of the quiet in my room.
GROWING LIKE A CHILD Long walks with hands entwined within yours. My body populates some other region of space. There’s a theory in quantum physics where the electron not observed is found to behave in erratic ways, the observer is omnipotent if one begins to think about it. I sit gazing alone into the ether and think about ever expanding space growing like a child would. Scientists say this may not be the only universe in existence. You forget sometimes I drove you to get your mammogram. You were fine but those hard-spent years you wear on your face are still working on you. The hammering of her voice as she went for it was like nothing I had ever heard; the music is searching. We talk a little bit about life from time to time. You said you wanted to win the lotto and help people, but I think it’s just a waste of money. You did your natal chart and your numerological chart and so did I, sometimes we spend nights like this as you drink your chai and eat your two cups of oatmeal. You give me some dried fruit and say, “it’s good for you.” For a little while we both drove Saabs and you liked talking about yours and even mine, even though I could have gone without those talks. When the indigo sky is ready to burst, music playing, and that voice is nursing seduction telling you she’s dancing, asking you for one more time I become satisfied.
ESPERANZA I look you in the eyes and you have been drinking the Holy Ghost. The work burrows underneath the distal edge of nail plate. You fall asleep on the easy chair dozing off dreaming of your native home. Family and friends from back home, they are the reason you haven’t lost it completely and it is why you stay or a fate far worse, returning with nothing. I see you with your friends sometimes in the slow, winter season dreaming of esperanza your eyes give it away. Waiting for the Holy Ghost to free you from the melancholy of your hardship as you keep drinking. Your eyes are bloodshot, and as time wears down on you, is this an American dream? I don’t see you as often now. It’s the season for work, will the years of esperanza go on like this until you save up enough money to find home again.
LINDA Your smile and laughter are leaving here, soft whispers of going home. And what death sometimes reveals is the taciturn voicebox of God. Your presence is requested in farther destinations. I left a rose quartz and another strange stone by the hospital bed for my mom to put in your hands. I have such ancient memories of you, what will become of us, of you; that reclusive place in your eyes now. I remember the house in the Dominican Republic where you would practice your chanting when you were a Buddhist still from years prior. Words like the passing of time, change us in indescribable ways. They told me you passed, and I didn’t believe the foreign immutable language. Is it so strange that I sit up late at night and read books on Buddhism postulating the existence of something beyond death?
WAITING ROOM My dad’s heart is weak, he gets winded walking up the stairs. I drive him to his appointments because of his glaucoma. At the cardiologist’s office I take a seat. Maybe waiting rooms are a kind of purgatory, plaster pastel walls to ward off the bad juju. I’m reminded of: the green River Styx where the sun recedes into the ashen red fire dust, the death no one escapes, singing psalms, praying to a misunderstood God about death, a wake where we mourn the dead, and a pink quartz sunrise. Veins pulsing in the phosphorus sky fire. In a waiting room of pastel light my dad comes back with a nurse bringing good news. I am still fleshing out this poem, the life that moves from room to room. 87
ABUELA’S DANCE Denice Frohman
HIVE ARCHIVE: APIARY 4
I creep into your room, Abuela. Like an 8-year old on Christmas morning up 3 hours too early, but it’s 1pm and you’re still sleeping. I decide to wake you. Call me selfish, but there’s something left in you that I need to hold before you’re gone. As your eyes open, I wait your face, trying to make sense of mine, trying to translate me into something you’ve spoken before And I know it only takes about 22 seconds, but I swear, it’s long enough for me to fall in love again. “Abuela, yo soy tu nieta. Recuerda?” And there your eyes widen like football fields, as you reach for me in your back pocket, like a crumpled dollar bill you forgot you had, showing me that I have always been worth holding onto. After we exchange short Spanish greetings, I try to keep the conversation going, but I’m not fluent, this language, your language was always bumpy road. So I turn the radio on to fill the pot holes in my tongue and we dance. Let Celia Cruz lay the clues that stitch you back to me the lyrics pulling themselves over the gaps in your seams like a jacket covering the puddles in your memory lapses, synapses snapping, and though your mind is a retired dancer with two left feet, your spirit is a 22 year old woman, with legs that could wrap Christmas presents for days and hips that could make God want a lap dance. Every chorus a question I ask like: “Abuela, how did you feel when it was illegal to wave 88
your own flag?” Every melody, a moment to capture your history like: “Abuela, did you really walk 3 miles to school everyday?” Every riff, a chance to end those sleepless nights once and for all: “Abuela, did you ever figure out how to stay in love? I promise I won’t tell a soul I know.” See when we dance, we make corpses wanna boogie. You in bed, moving your arms conducting the skeleton of my body like a symphony my hips, rocking back and forth, with a dip and a twist, kissing the accents in your favorite song’s lips, reaching for the dimple’s in your memory for me to take a picture with. I can make you feel like when she was 22, growing up in a poor Puerto Rican town too high up to place on the map. Abuela, do you remember you yet? And I know this just amuses you, but the truth is this was never just dancing. You represent of part of me that people said I could never claim. You give me the language to speak my identity fluently, for the first time this was never just dancing. And maybe it’s because I’m the only one that can get to you, the 22 year old in you, the joy, the smile that forgets to show itself on most days. Abuela, you make me feel useful. You make me feel like I come from someplace, so who needs maps any way, I have you. So go ahead Abuela, sleep – just not forever. Because you and I have a lot more dancing left to do.
Artwork by Lillian Dunn
I WISH YOU SOFTNESS, SOFTNESS, SOFTNESS Ashley Davis
Setting: field of lavender & california golden poppies Open: the room transforms as people create a space that reflects the question “what does a world look like that centers the healing of black womxn and femmes?” The black womxn and femmes step into the center of the room while all other people situate themselves accordingly thinking about their positionality. Everyone must consider their role in the perpetuation of violence through white supremacy, antiblackness, voyeurism, misogynoir and thereby consider their distance to the center of this new world and what they are doing in their place. Are they turned around and just being listeners? Are they sitting and silently holding the space from the outskirts? The black womxn and femmes are only considering one thing: what does softness look like for them? Are they laying down to rest? Are they engaging in consensual touch with their neighbor, like holding hands? Giving massages? Are they dancing with each other? With themselves? The Song “Healing” by Sampa the Great plays on repeat in the background when i’m soft with myself, i let my belly button bowl the sun, golden poppies silk sheet the grass, i’m wearing my grammas necklace. her earrings. her bracelets. her rings. i’m adorned with all her yellow sky for golden hour. i’m breathing, a deep sigh. my breath the scent of peppermint my gramma uses to ward off pestering mice and eager roaches. my breath the scent of vinegar and ammonia lord’s prayer my gramma whispers into a thinning white rag. she frantically rubs all the bedroom door knobs to ward off nightmarish spirits. i learned from a black femme who was soft with me— silver hair lining her crown locs— sighing is our bodies’ way of shifting our organs around for relief. when we sigh, we take in twice the volume of a typical breath. when we breathe one way for too long, our lungs become stiff, less efficient. so sometimes, unconsciously even, we sigh as a natural reflex to ease ourselves. my gramma always says “if you need something done, do it yourself.” the other day i tried to be soft with myself. i haven’t been to a dentist in a while. i’ve had a tooth pulled, a root canal, too rotted and too expensive to save. that was years ago. lately another tooth has been hurting, one close to the front this time. so i’m scared about it. if i have to get it pulled you’d see it when i open my mouth. so, i sat. for an hour. in a grey lobby. got called back. to a grey room. with grey walls. a grey seat. with wrinkled white paper sheet covers. the dentist slides inside the room, white lab coat whipping around his knees. with his wide back facing me, eyes examining the black and white x-ray, he mumbles something about holes. i’m concerned. like any concerned person, i have questions. like, where are the holes? what exactly do you mean by hole? like, tell me what is happening in my body and what you plan to do about it? statements slithered out his mouth, “it’s dying, we’re going to bring it back to life.” over and over. same answer. answers that promise a fantasy, just to shut you up— i’m familiar with those answers. i shut up anyways. sometime during the questioning and answering, he’d already covered a q-tip with vaseline numbing ointment. before he uses his heavy ass hands to slather my gums, he realizes he hadn’t told me his name. Chuck. black man. thin grey eyebrows. bald head. white lab coat and a wide back. once the slathering stopped, he pulls a long needle from the side table, lifts my top lip, and starts injecting its liquid 90
substance into the pink flesh gripping my teeth. “we’re gunna wait for the numbness to set in” he yells over his shoulder as he disappears halfway out the door. at this point the numbness is creeping across the left half of my face when a black womxn with long black marley twists, the dentist assistant who i hadn’t even noticed was in the room, hands me a clipboard to now ask for consent to operate on tooth 13 and 21. mind you, nobody has even come to clean my mouth. the confusion must have lept from my face because she carefully bends closer to my ear to say “ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
“ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
“ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
“ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
“ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
“ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
“ i wouldn’t let him work on my dogs mouth.”
my eyes tried to say something my stuttering tongue failed to. something like thank you. or, praise you. she nodded her head something like you’re welcome. or, we’re the only ones who can. i picked up all my things and left with my numbing, dirty, mouth. my human mouth. that breathes. you know… peppermint and the lord’s prayer. when i got home i sat down with my gramma at the kitchen table. she just looked at me as if she heard this story already. with all her own teeth. she told me when her dentist retired, she cried. i imagine, the kind of cry that happens inside a parked car sitting in its driveway. “all the work” she said with her arms, “all the time spent searching for someone to trust.” there’s a long enough pause for me to notice the feeling coming back into my cheek after the numbness of it all, i remember: my gramma wanted new teeth to replace all the ones lost and pulled over the years. hoped for a pretty new smile. instead, what she got bothers her gums in the front, she doesn’t like it, she looks in the mirror says “look how its changed the shape of my pretty face” my gramma wanted a new bathroom. one she picked out from a magazine. the one she got doesn’t have a tub, a shower door, gets water all over the floor and now is leaking from the ceiling into the living room. my gramma ordered a new a cream couch set. last one in stock. was promised every piece untouched and brand new. the mothafuckas still sent a chair from off the sales floor.one hundreds of people touched. gawked at. sat on with outside clothes. she sent it all back sat in the living room with plastic furniture from the porch until she could find what she wanted, what she asked for. all this happened in a matter of months, over and over again promises that shut you up like “we’re going to bring it back to life.” when the men left with all the furniture, and the house fell quiet, she stood over the kitchen sink, shook her head, her 91
shoulder blades cut from her back, her arms stretched and fingers held the edge of the countertop, she laughs to herself, “this is just my life, don’t shit ever go right.” a deep deep sigh lifts from her chest. a sigh that expands the width of her gut, stretches her lungs, a deep deep sigh. one that moves all her organs around so she can find relief. a deep, deep sigh. i wish you softness, softness, softness. i wish you a body, belly button pointing to the sun in a grass field of lavender & california golden poppies. i promise you, no matter what story i ever tell about you gramma, i will not let people forget about your breath. i won’t let the story forget about your breath. i can’t forget about your breath. that in all of these moments you are breathing. like i am breathing. like we are breathing. peppermint & the lord’s prayer & california golden poppies.
Artwork by SKOVeS
(repeats to fade, all cast stops moving and begins a meditative breath pattern while statement repeats as meditation) scene fades.
THE DYING WORDS OF A PHILADELPHIA MONUMENT Ashley Davis
after Frances E.W. Harper “Let The Light Enter” i was tasked to build a monument for Philadelphia and i wanted it to be grand. so grand that a person’s dying wish would be to see this monument something grand like light “your great-gramma had the whole block in her kitchen on North Patton St. her and Jeremiah drinkin corn liquor kickin legs to the blues vibratin from “Lucille’s” strings and flappin their wings for the funky chicken shufflin to Muddy Waters’ MoJo spittin through harmonicas tellin stories of the dusty flatlands they traveled from, and did you know, Ashley, this block was in the newspaper so clean, imagine when you let the light enter it shines off everyone’s front steps” for my gramma the light pierces through the dead wood of abandoned homes “like the ones i would have bought over by mamas house had i known the block had gotten so abandoned” for my gramma the light is a ghost a memory a city her grandmother raised her in a city she met the man she left this city with a man whose name she can hardly speak out loud a man she left after 40 years of grief to come back to a city to take care of her mother in a house where the front door has fallen apart twice this year like the washer like the pipes like her high rollin’ thievin sister that calls to tell the same stories “...i ain’t gettin my hair done at Tasha’s no more cuz that one time she just threw my head under the water and did two lil’ scrubs andand what day is it today?” again. for my great-gramma the light changes we were all sitting in the kitchen watching the news and she starts talking about how we couldn’t have a parade without the black people and the white people fighting and i’m looking all confused and my grandmother’s at the table looking all confused like she must not have understood the question you know old folks and how their brain don’t work like it used to but then she starts talking about a statue of a family, with a child, marchin, and all the generations coming together and my great-gramma prays every night, says her family’s names, takes the 93
phone off the hook so no one disturbs her prayer and she “gotta keep movin’ you know my arth-ur-ritis be actin up in my knees i’m damn near 100 you know but i keep movin’ you gotta keep movin’” for my great-gramma, the light becomes a dream a movement an old southern rooted great-gramma’s prayer at night for her family to keep movin’ in a parade that won’t end in fighting and on my block temple students are moving into a house that’s been boarded up and my great uncle laughs about the day the boys at the end of the street will bust their windows and my great gramma just wanna march and our damn house is falling apart and my gramma shakes her head besides what’s that matter when her sisters brain remembers the honky tonk in the kitchen but forgets how to get to her mother’s house, a house her mother’s lived in for 50 years my great aunty is becoming a ghost inside memories of a philly that once was and i gather these ghosts, memories, abandoned homes, dreams, movements, prayers and i bring them all to an elder black womxn friend with a gentle smile and i ask her “what kind of monument would you build for Philadelphia?” she speaks and out the light pours “it’s got to be living, like fairmount park, breathing, absorbing light and surviving in a city that threatens to reflect the light away” and i hold these stories and the light they each contain and when i hold them in my arms i think how grand, to witness and listen to stories by black womxn, all who have shared the shadows and the splendor of this city. and for me the light becomes a black womxn like my gramma like my great-gramma like my great-aunty like my elder friend how they each have been surrounded by grief how they are still moving still alive still breathing..... how grand, Philadelphia how grand indeed
Artwork by Shanel Edwards
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Sojourner Ahebee writes stories about African diaspora identities and the eternal question of home and belonging. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Atlantic, The Academy of American Poets (Poem A Day), Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine Review, and elsewhere. In 2013 she served as a National Student Poet, the nation’s highest honor for young poets presenting original work Miriam Akervall is a Swedish American margin jotter. She lives and works in North Central Washington on the traditional lands of the Okanogan and Yakama Nations. Ahmad Almallah’s first book of poems Bitter English is now available in the Phoenix Poets Series from the University of Chicago Press. He received the 2018 Edith Goldberg Paulson Memorial Prize for Creative Writing, and the 2017 Blanche Colton Williams Fellowship. He now teaches Arabic and Creative Writing at Penn. Cynthia Alvarez, Latinx Woman. Lover of life, good books, spicy food, all things plants, traveling and her family. Tabitha Arnold is a Philadelphia-based artist who creates narrative textiles. Her meticulous, tactile images reflect on the political and personal experience of navigating the urban landscape. Imagery in her rugs evokes the jarring symbolism found in late modernist war rugs from Afghanistan, which she uses to confront recognizable and deeply storied fixtures of Philadelphia past and present. Nefertiti Asanti is a poet and cultural worker from the Bronx. Nefertiti is a recipient of fellowships from The Watering Hole, Lambda Emerging Writer’s Retreat, and Anaphora Writing Residency. The Queer Cultural Center commissioned Nefertiti’s writing and performance work-in-progress Black Blood Is… for the 2017 National Queer Arts Festival. Nefertiti has also read poetry for the 2018 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest. Nefertiti’s work can be found at Winter Tangerine, AfroPunk, Foglifter, and elsewhere. Visit Nefertiti at nefertitiasanti.com Carole Bernstein’s poetry collection BURIED ALIVE: A TO-DO LIST just came out from Hanging Loose Press (www. spdbooks.org). Previous books include Familiar (Hanging Loose Press) and And Stepped Away From the Circle (Sow’s Ear Press.) Her poems have appeared in Antioch Review, Chelsea, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and Yale Review. Alisha Berry grew up in the Philadelphia area and has lived here most of her life. A math and English teacher, activist, camp director, and writer for the past twenty years, she currently directs Camp Sojourner, a nonprofit organization providing affordable summer 98
camp and year-round leadership programs for Philly girls. Chris Bullard lives in Philadelphia, PA. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Wilkes University. Finishing Line Press published his poetry chapbook, Leviathan, in 2016 and Kattywompus Press published High Pulp, a collection of his flash fiction, in 2017. His work has appeared in publications such as 32 Poems, Green Mountains Review, Rattle, Pleiades, River Styx and Nimrod. Veronica Chang is a current student at the University of Chicago (current location: Chicago, IL), although she grew up alternately between Vancouver, Canada, and Hong Kong. She enjoys writing both fiction and poetry, and her work has been published in the anthologies Island Tides, Fires of Autumn and The Night’s Voice. Liz Chang was 2012 Montgomery County Poet Laureate. Her 2018 chapbook Animal Nocturne is available from Moonstone Press. Chang’s work has recently appeared in Verse Daily, Rock & Sling, Breakwater Review, and Stoneboat Literary Journal. She is an Associate Professor of English at Delaware County Community College. Carolyn Chernoff is an Philadelphia artist and scholar. Her work examines the sociology of everyday life. www. carolynchernoff.com @CarolynChernoff Davon Clark is a Philadelphia-raised artist based in Chicago that uses investigative journalism practices in his camerawork and poetry. His work looks to fill in the gaps left behind in coverage of the worlds that he lives in and peripheral to. He likes flowers and the little things in life. You can find out what he does and how he does it at daybydavon.com. Ebony Malaika Collier is a poet and a visual artist from Philadelphia. She has a B.A. in English from Temple University. She has just finished up her fourth season as an actor in the haunt, “Terror Behind the Walls” at Eastern State Penitentiary which ranks consistently on lists of best Halloween attractions. She currently works in the museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. My name’s Ben Curttright. First-time submitter, long-time reader (unless I submitted to APIARY 9 & forgot). I’ve lived in Philadelphia for four years & in West Philly for two. I teach at Temple & at UArts. Eventually I will be in APIARY, I hope. I’ll certainly be living & writing here for a while longer. Thanks for your time. Zoe Darazsdi is a Philly writer, podcast host, and dog mom. She co-hosts Weird Kids Wanted, a literary and social criticism
podcast for the alternative community. You can find her work and many grumpy pictures of her at weirdkidswanted.com. Ashley Davis is a black queer femme womxn (she/they) artist, poet, human. Born in California, currently based in Philly living with her Grandmother and Great Grandmother. Ashley has upcoming work being published in the anthology “A Garden Of Black Joy: Global Poetry From The Edges Of Liberation & Living”(2019), and work currently published in WusGood. Ashley was a part of 2017 Voices of Our Nation (VONA) cohort facilitated by Patricia Smith, was a member of the “House Slam” slam team in 2016 where the team placed 3rd at the National Poetry Slam Competition (NPS) and where Ashley was a 2nd place finalist at the National Underground Poetry Slam Competition (NUPIC). Ashley seeks to center stories of the intergenerational black femme in an effort to unearth stories that give us more context to our humanity and help pave way for softness like self-forgiveness for the ways we are surviving in societies that try to kill us. Emma Dorsey is a fiction writer in Philadelphia who has been a part of Backyard Writers Group since 2014. She worked as a home visiting nurse in Philadelphia for a number of years and currently works as a midwife. Her fiction is concerned with reproductive justice, the body, language, and power. Lillian Dunn is a cultural organizer and poet in Philadelphia. She’s co-founder of APIARY Magazine, now in its 10th year of publication; teaches poetry at New Pathways Project, an LGBTQ recovery space; and is a 2-time Leeway Art and Change Grant recipient. Ryan Eckes is a poet from Philadelphia. His latest books are General Motors (Split Lip Press, 2018), which is about labor and the influence of public and private transportation on city life, and fine nothing (Albion Books, 2019). Eckes has worked as an adjunct professor and labor organizer in education. He won a Pew Fellowship in 2016. Shanel Edwards is a Jamaican-America freelance visual, performance and teaching artist based in Philadelphia, PA. Their work has appeared in The Philly Pigeon’s multimedia show ‘How to Take Space’ and ‘Vanishing Point’ as well as Wusgood Magazine. They have attended writing retreats with The Philly Pigeon and are a Winter Tangerine Fellow. They hold a BFA in Psychology and African American Studies. Tracey Ferdinand holds a master’s degree in Africana Women’s Studies from Clark Atlanta University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Ursinus College. Her main areas of interest and research are Africana women’s literature, womanism, and narrative medicine. Her writing routinely explores how multiplicative intersecting structures of oppression affect our health.
Shelby Fisk is proud to live in, work for, and love the City of Philadelphia. Shelby’s nights are spent in Queen Village and their best days are spent all across the City. Shelby holds an MA/MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, and originally hails from Scranton, the Paris of Northeast Pennsylvania. Denice Frohman is a poet, performer and educator from New York City. A CantoMundo Fellow, she’s received residencies and awards from the National Association of Latino Arts & Cultures, Leeway Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center. Her work has been published in Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color, What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump, ESPNW and elsewhere. A former Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, she’s featured on hundreds of stages from The White House to The Apollo, and co-organizes #PoetsforPuertoRico. She lives in Philadelphia. Boston Gordon is a poet and writer living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They run the You Can’t Kill A Poet reading series - which highlights queer and trans identified writers in Philadelphia. Boston earned their MFA in Poetry through Lesley University. They are a winner in the Free Library of Philadelphia’s inaugural Cultureshare. They received a Leeway Foundation Art & Change grant in 2017. They have previously been published in burntdistrict, Bedfellows, Tinderbox, PRISM International, Guernica and more. Husnaa Hashim is the 2017-2018 Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, and author of the poetry collection Honey Sequence. She is a first year student at the University of Pennsylvania. Husnaa has competed with the Philly Youth Poetry Movement, performed at various conferences and festivals, and received numerous Scholastic Art and Writing Awards including a National American Voices Medal awarded at Carnegie Hall. Husnaa’s work can be found in RookieMag, KidSpirit Online, the Kenyon Young Writers Anthology, the Voices of the East Coast Anthology, and APIARY 9, among others. Michael Haeflinger lives in Tacoma, WA. Fantaja Jones: I am an 18 year old alum of Philly Slam League. I write to express myself and share my world and what I go through with others. I’ve been writing for four years now and plan to publish a book full of my own poems someday, including poems from where I first started. Jeremiah Jordan is a self taught visual artist born in Philadelphia. His method of painting uniquely combines acrylic, epoxy, glitter, oil stick, and spray paint to create unique compositions. In his most recent work he hopes to convey a dialogue of “visual short stories” and a glimpse into his ever-changing imagination. 99
SKOVeS (Sammy Kovnat) is a Philly based artist, navigating different materials and subjects with empathy, integrity, and earnest. They are passionate about breaking plates, public art, and all things warm. The collection of collages in this issue were all inspired by, or utilize, old issues of APIARY, sewing together text or images to explore complex feelings of longing and desire. Gina Lerman illustrates the spaces where our dreams connect to our reality. She reconstitutes childhood stories of loss and transformation into newly textured landscapes. Her recent work can be seen on Facebook and Instagram under the name Lermworm. Michael H. Levin, born in Philadelphia, attended Central High School and the University of Pennsylvania and later was a contributing writer to the Pennsylvania Gazette. He currently is an environmental lawyer, solar energy developer and writer based in Washington DC. His work has appeared in two chapbooks and over 50 periodicals or anthologies, and has received numerous poetry and feature journalism awards. See michaellevinpoetry.com.
formative years were spent shucking corn. Their work has appeared in YesPoetry, Vagabond City Lit, and Queen Mobs Teahouse. Find them on Twitter @crabbygabie, mostly critiquing birds. You can find Ras Mashramani’s work in the Procyon Press 2016 Science Fiction Anthology, at rasmashramani.tumblr.com, METROPOLARITY.net, the Painted Bride Quarterly, Bedfellows Magazine, and METROPOLARITY’s Journal of Speculative Vision and Critical Liberation Technologies. Octavia McBride-Ahébée: I am fascinated by different cultures and what happens when cultures converge as well as why and how people move throughout the world-what forces compel them. I present human relationships within the context of global inequality. Never are my subjects victims. They seek to be victorious. Uma Menon is a sixteen-year-old writer from Winter Park, Florida. She is a 2019 National Poetry Month Editor’s Pick Poet and won the 2019 Lee Bennett Hopkins Award in Poetry. Her first chapbook was published by Zoetic Press and her first fulllength collection was shortlisted by the 2019 Erbacce-Prize.
Stacy Li graduated from Temple University in 2018 with a B.A. in English. She served as President of Babel Poetry Collective from 2017-2018. She was also a member of Temple’s 2017 CUPSI team, which took home the title of co-champions. Her work can be found in Temple University’s Hyphen, Caldera Magazine, and The Bridge Magazine. She currently resides in Philadelphia, PA where she continues to teach and write poems.
Lawrence Lorraine Mullen is a non-binary Philadelphia-based poet who holds an MFA, and is pursuing a PhD in American Literature at SUNY Buffalo. They have been published in ‘Driftwood,’ ‘Maudlin House,’ ‘Ghost City Review,’ ‘Crab Fat,’ and ‘Meow Meow Pow Pow’. They are also a founding editor of Harvest Apothecary Review. Twitter & Instagram: @prince_yikes
Davon Loeb is the author the memoir The In-Betweens. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden, and he is the assistant poetry editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. Davon writes creative nonfiction and poetry. His work has been featured in Split Lip Magazine, Harpoon Review, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere. Besides writing, Davon is an English teacher in New Jersey. His work can be found here: davonloeb.com.
Michelle Myers is an award-winning poet, community activist, and educator. She has presented at the Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Bowery Poetry Club, Asian American Writers Workshop, and Sierra Arts Foundation. Drawing from her experiences as a biracial Korean American woman, Myers attempts to employ the power of spoken word poetry in the hopes of taking audiences on a journey that educates, challenges, and inspires.
Alyssa Loughery: My name is Alyssa Loughery and I’m 16 years old. I’ve lived in Philadelphia my whole life, and am constantly inspired by the city. I started writing at about 10, and have only improved since!
Harry Edgar Palacio has been published in the Chronogram, The Artist Catalogue, Gamba Zine, Council of Poetic Experimentation, New Thoreau Quarterly, Quail Bell Magazine, and International Voices. He has a Masters in Education from Manhattanville College, where he worked as an assistant director at a social justice center. In 2017, he was certified to teach yoga in Nepal, he has also traveled and worked in the Dominican Republic as an assistant art teacher. His parents are immigrants, his mother is from the Dominican Republic and his father is Colombian. Harry was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and now lives in Mount Kisco, New York.
Natalie Lyalin is the author of Blood Makes Me Faint, but I Go for It (Ugly Duckling Presse 2014), Pink & Hot Pink Habitat (Coconut Books 2009), and the chapbooks, Try A Little Time Travel (Ugly Duckling Presse 2010) and Short Cloud (above / ground press 2019). She lives in Rhode Island. Gabrielle Martin is a poet living and working in Philadelphia. Originally from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, much of their 100
Enoch the Poet is a writer and educator from the north side
of Wilmington, DE who uses his art to address issues of mental health and the Black condition in America. He’s the 2017 Philadelphia Fuze Grand Slam Champion and before the end of 2017 he published his first full length book of poetry titled “The Guide to Drowning.” Currently, he teaches various workshops around the tri-state area geared towards exploring self and using poetry as a therapeutic aid. When he’s not watching anime, performing or teaching, Enoch serves as the treasurer and creative director of non-profit Urgent 365, Inc. which works to move communities of color forward by way of resource distribution, social engagement and workshop facilitation. Olivia Pridemore is a multi-dimensional artist and cofounder of Silver Needle Press. Her photography, poetry, and comics have appeared, or are forthcoming in, Portland Review, Permafrost, Broad River Review, Memoir Magazine, Sand Hills, Five 2 One, Bridge, The Ocotillo Review, Pidgeonholes, Round Table, Ampersand, and elsewhere. Olivia lives in Pleasant View, teaches writing courses at Austin Peay State University and enjoys spending time outdoors with her two dogs. Mariah Rose Hall: I am a part-time poet and creator of a Philly-based art zine called Boy Tears Mag. I survive serving tables at a comedy club and freelance writing for WXPN. Sour beer and vegan pizza is the way to my heart. Caroline Rivera is a writer born and raised in Philadelphia and a proud daughter of a Puerto Rican father and Uruguayan Mother. Raquel Salas Rivera is the 2018-19 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia.They are the recipient of the Laureate Fellowship, the Ambroggio Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the New Voices Award. Their books include lo terciario/ the tertiary and while they sleep (under the bed is another country). Christian Sammartino studied religion and philosophy at West Chester University. He is a Library Communications Technician at Francis Harvey Green Library. His poetry is influenced by life in the Pennsylvania Rustbelt near his hometown of Coatesville. His work has appeared in magazines such as Ghost City Review, Voicemail Poems, Yes, Poetry, and Rogue Agent Journal. Paul Siegell is the author of Take Out Delivery (SDP, 2018), as well as wild life rifle fire, jambandbootleg and Poemergency Room. He is a senior editor at Painted Bride Quarterly and has contributed to American Poetry Review, Black Warrior Review, Rattle, and many other fine journals: @paulsiegell. Lamont B. Steptoe is an African American with Cherokee ancestry, born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A graduate
of Temple University, he is the author of twelve collections of poetry and the editor of two collections by South African poet Dennis Brutus. He is the recipient of an American Book Award, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, two fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and an inductee of the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent by the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago State University. His work appears in the Longman/Penguin anthology of African American Literature edited by Keith Gilyard and the Oxford University Press Anthology of African American Literature edited by Arnold Rampersad. His most recent books are A Long Movie of Shadows, Crowns and Halos and Oracular Rumblings and Stiltwalking. Steve Teare is an illustrator and educator living in Philadelphia, PA. He is the author of the graphic novel “Back and Forth,” the short story “The Spider Grandmother,” and the story “Surviving Life Under the Khmer Rouge.” Laura Walker holds an MFA from Northern Arizona University and teaches writing classes at Southern Utah University where she often finds herself wishing for a little more snow and a little less sun. She has work featured or forthcoming in “Black Works” from Underwood Press, Gravitas, Roanoke Review, and CircleShow. Anne-Adele Wight’s latest book, An Internet of Containment, was published by BlazeVOX in December 2018. Previous books include The Age of Greenhouses, Opera House Arterial, and Sidestep Catapult. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Poets, American Writing, Luna Luna, Bedfellows, Oz Burp, Have Your Chill, and Read On 2. Mariam I. Williams’ first loves are dance and language. In addition to founding the empowerment series, “Black Womanhood Revival,” the Kentucky native is currently writing a memoir, leading the archives project “Chronicling Resistance,” and trying to bring dance fitness to more people. Find links to her published work at mariamwilliams.com. Yolanda Wisher was named the inaugural Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1999 and the third Poet Laureate of Philadelphia in 2016. The author of Monk Eats an Afro, Wisher is the Curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary and regularly performs with her band The Afroeaters. They’ll pronounce my name wrong and remember the details I never said; they’ll judge me on my shape, size, and color but not for what’s in my head, so today I ask that you judge the pain I put in the lead or the heart I put in the ink. My name is Cyara (key-R-uh) Wongus, I am sixteen years old and I am a junior at Kensington Health Sciences.
A LETTER FROM APIARY’S FOUNDERS Dearest APIARY authors, readers, and staff; dearest Philadelphia writers and readers of all ages— Happy 10th Issue! We love you, and are so happy to have been part of your literary lives for almost a decade. We started this project just for fun, to see if we could capture the wild vital variety of writing and writers in this city. Then came our first issue launch party, held on all 3 floors of an old house in West Philly. Spoken word poets and fiction writers tromped up and down the stairs; children wove in and out of rooms wearing face paint and glitter. Elders, teens, and grown folks laughed and clapped, called and responded, and the rooms filled with late autumn light. We saw APIARY’s deeper purpose—to make spaces where we could belong to each other, across identities, needs, and generations, even just for one afternoon. Once this purpose was clear, idealistic as it was, many people came to help us make this magazine. They have continued to do so well after we founders hung up our bee puns. To all of you APIARY staffers and supporters through all of the years, thank you. The best compliment APIARY has ever received came from Kai Davis, then a high school slam champion, now this magazine’s poetry editor. One night after a performance, Kai said, “I like APIARY because it feels like riding the bus in Philly.” This makes us proud. The bus is open to everyone. You get on, rest your feet, look around and see who’s there with you. As long as you ride, you’re part of a delicate community, held together for the moment by respect, shared direction, and mutual need. This is a difficult time to belong to our country, our city, and each other. A bus ride is not enough, a literary magazine is not enough to repair the divisions and oppressions we experience or perpetrate within ourselves, between each other, and in relationship with the earth. It’s just a moment —to breathe and rest our feet, to look around and see who is here with us. Passing by in darkness, we may even look like we are sitting together, carried to our destination in a room full of light. Thank you for riding with us this far. With love, Tamara, Lillian, Michelle, Nick and Tiana 102
APIARY X is the culmination of a decade of writing, reading, publishing, dancing, and living in a shifting, evolving literary city. In this...
Published on Aug 3, 2020
APIARY X is the culmination of a decade of writing, reading, publishing, dancing, and living in a shifting, evolving literary city. In this...