Summer’s End

Don’t talk about them.

Don’t talk about that family at the end of the street, don’t talk about the house with the woods beside it.

Just ignore them, and don’t talk about them.

And they didn’t really talk about the grass that always grew too long. Nor the disarrayed wooden front porch, which rotted away a little more with each season. Nor the tattered screen door, hanging limply on by its rusted hinges.

They didn’t talk about the boy who lived there, nor the two girls, and how they seemed to vanish each time a neighbor came much closer than the sidewalk.

They didn’t talk about the odd clothes those kids wore, like hand-me-downs, both too big and too small and mismatched from shirts to sneakers.

The closest they ever got to saying anything at all was a Sunday morning, where they had stopped by the woods to strip some bark from the loose branches, to play swords in a backyard.

One of the boys nudged another and breathed as quietly as he could, “look.”

They watched as the father and son got into the front seats of the tan-brown station wagon and the mother and teenage daughters into the backseats. The car drove up the gravel path and past them as they watched, gawking awkwardly from the corner.

The car drove away down the street and turned out of sight.

The neighborhood went quiet. It remained quiet for some time. And for that strange amount of time, the boys seemed just to wait, as though the scene had not entirely ended, as though the other shoe would soon drop.

Something sodden seemed to form over them, inarticulate and heavy. They stopped playing.

And after the short time had passed for waiting, they quietly threw down the sticks among the trees’ roots and picked up their bikes where they had left them. Without speaking, they began to walk home.

“Did you see their faces?” one of the boys asked after they had walked past a few houses.

“My mom says not to talk about them.”

“Yeah, that’s probably right.” A pause came, and then went. “But did you see their faces?”

“No. I don’t know.”

“Why did that boy sit in the front seat?”

“I don’t know. We shouldn’t talk about it anymore.”

“Yeah, I guess.” They quietly walked on for a bit. “Has your older sister ever let you have the front seat? – And he didn’t look any older than us. And – Why did their mom sit in the back seat?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about it.”

The neighborhood fell quiet again.

The tread of the bike tires purred on the street as they walked back home. It felt like the only noise in the entire neighborhood – or the entire world.

A breeze passed, but it was not cool, and they passed under the shadow of one of the cedars.

Soon, very soon, the summer would end, and they would go away again – away from here, away to school, away from childhood – and these strange and quiet moments would fade.

“I mean–did you see their faces?”

Isaac W Sauer is a writer and poet currently working as an investment analyst in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Eastern University, studying literature, politics, and philosophy.


Editors’ Choice: 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

To you, connoisseur of cave mushrooms,
imperious orderer of the underground,

when you finally shuffle out from your hidey-hole
into the clean random dark
and look up in desperation again after a turn of stale seasons;
to you, gruff reactionary; to you, bigot;

the night will read as though
I, devilishly,
will have collected with the left hand
a swath of stars
and shaken them out again from between thumb and forefinger
familiarly, both too brilliant and made too strange.

Judd Hess holds an MFA and an MA from Chapman University. He won the 2014 Fugue Poetry Prize, the 2011 John Fowles Creative Writing Prize for Poetry, the 2009 Ellipsis Prize, has been a finalist for several other awards, and was nominated for the 2013 Pushcart Prize.

Warning, Do Not Eat Your Fortune: 40 Dating Reminders Every Woman Over 40+ Needs to Hear Now!

Editors’ Choice: 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

1.      You are not a ghost.
2.      Welcome the change coming into your life.
3.      The world may be your oyster, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get its pearl.
4.      You must try, or hate yourself for not trying.
5.      Birds are entangled by their feet and men by their tongues.
6.      Land is always in the mind of flying birds.
7.      Nothing is as good or bad as it appears.
8.      Benefit by doing things that others give up on.
9.      Alas! The onion you are eating is someone else’s water lily.
10.     In case of fire, keep calm, pay bill and run.
11.      A man without aim is like a clock without hands, as useless if it turns as if it stands.
12.     You are often asked if it is in yet.
13.     Try everything once, even the things you don’t think you will like.
14.     Bend the rod while it is still hot.
15.     You learn from your mistakes, you will learn a lot today.
16.     Never cut what you can untie.
17.     Remember this: duct tape can fix anything, so don’t worry about messing things up.
18.     Finish your work on hand, don’t be greedy.
19.     Happiness is often a rebound from hard work.
20.     If your desires are not extravagant, they will be rewarded.
21.     Your tongue is your ambassador.
22.     Hard words break no bones, fine words butter no parsnips.
23.     Your mouth may be moving, but nobody is listening.
24.     Think of mother’s exhortations more:
25.     Don’t worry, half the people you know are below average.
26.     “Accept yourself.”
27.     If everyone is a worm, you should be a glow worm.
28.     It’s tough to be fascinating.
29.     Sometimes you just need to lay on the floor.
30.     The quotes that you do not understand are not meant for you.
31.      Today is an ideal time to water your personal garden.
32.     Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.
33.     The secret of staying young is good health and lying about your age.
34.     Take the chance while you still have the choice.
35.     Being alone and being lonely are two different things.
36.     Some dream of fortunes, others dream of cookies.
37.     Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.
38.     Next time you have the opportunity, go on a rollercoaster.
39.     When all else seems to fail, smile for today, and just love someone.
40.     If you eat a box of fortune cookies, anything is possible.

This cento is comprised of lines borrowed from Fortune Cookie Message:*

S. Erin Batiste is an interdisciplinary poet and author of Glory to All Fleeting Things. In 2021 she is the recipient of PERIPLUS, Jack Straw Writers, and the dots between fellowships, and is a Writer in Residence at Prairie Ronde and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Batiste is a reader for The Rumpus and her own Pushcart nominated poems are anthologized and appear internationally in Michigan Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and wildness among other decorated journals.

A Black Body Stuffed in a Villanelle

Editors’ Choice: 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

One day, I’m going to be a star.
Immortalized on a t-shirt at a justice walk,
Momma pray that I make it to the squad car.

Bury me in my hood. I don’t want my soul too far
and save my voicemail for some rapper’s album, real talk.
One day, I’m going to be a star.

Spray paint my face on the hearse’s hood. Clean up the shot scar.
My copper brown skin decayed to a grey cast; they’ll gawk.
Momma pray that I make it to the squad car.

Bathing in blood for wearing a hood. This life is bizarre.
My starring role on CNN, cemented like caulk.
One day, I’m going to be a big star.

My killer will don their white hood. Press my head to the tar
and slather my entrails to serve the best hawk.
Momma, is being a nigga, all we are?

The bullets still go through the cap and hood. Never on par,
they can’t ignore me in death, even after the cleanup of chalk.

One day, I’m going to be a star.
But Momma, if you’re reading this, I didn’t make it to the car.

Jaya Montague is a 2018 graduate of Temple University’s journalism program. She was the first runner-up for the first iteration of the Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia and mentored under poet Sonia Sanchez. She has work published in Apiary Magazine and is based in Philadelphia, PA.

Why I Never Talk About My Mother

Editors’ Choice: 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

When my father remembers my mother has died,
when he realizes he had forgotten, and he cries
— if that’s the word for those great, wracking peals of thunder
I feel against me, holding the hollow tree
he has become as it waits to fall — he shudders
in the sudden storm of memory, and I know
I brought this down upon him,
the lightning bolt loosed from my callous hand.
I decided, then and there, I would never
speak of my mother again. I would lie
if he asked where she was. The dead die
again and again in their remembrance.
It is I who would kill her, the coward with my words.

But there is this: they are also reborn in the forgetting.
I become young again, the little boy he expects
when the nurse tells him I’m here, your son,
here to see you. Maybe he thinks to bounce me
up and down on his knee, a bronco I tried to,
but could never, tame. Up and down
goes time, rushing, fierce in its will to throw me.
But in that moment of his expectation, my mother is alive
and she is young and, oh my, so beautiful.
I never knew how beautiful she had been,
as she is again in his mind
when he hears the words Your son is here.
We are all young, and strong, and not even a little
bit broken. It’s why I lie.
It’s exactly what I wish I could see.

In addition to Philadelphia Stories, Joe’s poems have appeared in journals such as the Schuylkill Valley Journal, Philadelphia Poets, and Apiary. He was the Featured Poet for the Fall 2014 Edition of the SVJ, which has nominated two of Joe’s poems, “Light” and “Forsythia,” for the Pushcart Prize. Philadelphia Stories recently selected his poem, “Hospice,” for their 15th Anniversary Edition. Joe’s first book of poetry, Always in the Wrong Season, is available on


Runner Up: 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

To read “Plural,” click HERE.

Jessica Chretien is a person and poet from New Hampshire who only recently discovered, after twenty-five years of living, that she likes the sun, the ocean, plants, poems, making meals, reading Critical Theory, crying with gratitude, and being alive. She doesn’t seem able to stop overflowing with wonder and suspects everything might just be okay. This past spring she won the Victor Howes Prize in Poetry through the New England Poetry Club.

On a Day’s Pause from the Rigors of Metastases We Walk Through Laurel Hill Cemetery, You and I

Runner Up: 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

We have returned to see the lion, his human-like fingers
of stone gripping stone where he sits above the river
in the rain, high above us on a massive pedestal. Fall
colors are muted now but still beautiful against the gray.
The river is rising. Bright wet leaves stick to everything.
Our current distance between the dead can be measured
in the peculiar family names no longer heard of—
the Herknesses, the Spancs and Frinks, all folded
into other nomenclatures, other families persisting.
Colossal mausoleums anchor the familiar names—
Elkins, Widener, Lippincott. The die is cast so early
for some, there seems little variance, even over time.
Out over the river I see no evidence of living things.
What I think of living, movement over time. The river
is moving faster and becoming muddier as it rises.
Between headstones, we notice a flash of color—
a red fox with sprays of white on his chest and tail
loping over wet grass between stones and monuments.
He notices us but has little concern. Our distance is
insurmountable and we do not matter. Like everything
he is dead and not dead, living and not living as time only
seems to move. The still air in the empty spaces inside
the mausoleums do not support anything living. The illusion
of death persists. If it is an illusion to the dead, it is quite real
to the living, and not real, of course. I try to will my mind
to images of those underground in various states of decay
but I cannot. That reality is unknowable. Biocentrism postulates
that existence cannot suddenly become nonexistence.
(The pallor of death has left you and yet it is with us.)
Last night, we watched a fire on a large screen television.
A beautiful fire at the base of snowy mountains. Wind
whipped flames higher and we enjoyed it at a cellular level,
something deep in us connecting to ancient advents of survival.
We started noticing the points where the fire was revived
as it was digitally morphed to a return of the robust fire.
The fire was neither real nor without bounds, endlessly
looping for the hours it was created and we consumed it
with our eyes. And what do you make of the notion that
all this may just be a vast simulation? The possibility that all
of existence as we know it is something like a video game
created by greater beings. Maybe we are simply dream factories
firing up pre-programmed sequences of events. Just as the lion
was created to honor a General whose life spanned two centuries
and several wars in a time far removed from us and unfathomable.
The lion, though stately and august, has unmistakable fear in his eyes.
The sculptor could not help himself. Try as he might to create
a representative lion, he kept creating himself. The knuckles
that resemble exposed birch roots—his knuckles. The mouth
articulating awe and terror—his mouth. The tense haunches—
what he sees in his own legs. On our way back to the car,
hidden under a holly tree, surrounded by a manicured hedge,
we stumble across a remembrance in mosaic. Tiny bright tiles
that have been assembled to create a map of this exact location.
You would hardly notice it unless you just happen upon it,
or already know from some divine guidance that it is here.
We are walking past Millionaires row now, I imagine
straight lines leading up to mountains. Well planned grids
of cities laid out in valleys all around the world. Uniform
roads, regulated development, routines and codicils. There is
sense in the thoughts. Order in the musings. Civilization,
even at arm’s length, returning us to the rest of our lives.

Sean Webb says, “ I have received many honors for my work, including fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Utah Arts Council. Recent awards include the Passages North Neutrino Prize and I was the winner of the Gemini Magazine Poetry Open. My recent chapbooks include “The Constant Parades” and “What Cannot Stay Small Forever.” My work has appeared in many publications including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, The Quarterly, Seattle Review, West Branch, and Schuylkill Valley Journal.”


Winner of the 2021 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

While they are sitting
with the empty seats between them
I am cleaning the flies
stuck, dead, to the toilet seat
in the apartment no one has touched
for four months.

Waiting for me
was the musty damp
of unwashed clothes in the laundry
and two rolls of disinfectant wipes
on the made bed.
Today, this is care:

methods to kill what can’t be seen,
maybe isn’t even there,
packaged neatly
for my arrival in their absence,
and the exaggerated repulsion of strangers
long in advance

avoiding meeting.
They breathe through cloth and plastic
even sealed among the clouds,
as I waste sodden paper towels,
lift a window
for a gust of sound to feed the candle flame.

When they land
their message is the same as if
they’d just pulled up downstairs
or at the grocery store on Harrison.
I can’t tell
if they made it there alone.

I am trying to read out of the air
what I can’t hear: the ticking
of the next second,
the shape of air currents
around missing bodies, the things
those molecules run into,

the pressure drop of a kiss.
The sigh before the mold blooms
already like an aftertaste
as I fold the sheets.

Caitlin Kossmann is a PhD candidate at Yale University in the Program in the History of Science and Medicine, currently completing a dissertation entitled ‘The Myth of Gaia: Gender, Ecology, and Community in the Making of Earth System Science.’ A dancer and rock-climber originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, this is her first poetry publication.

Pond: a synonym for hope

To read “Pond: a synonym for hope,” click HERE.

elijah b. pringle, III has facilitated workshops on writing. Published nationally and internationally, he is nominated for a “Best In Net 2020.” Elijah has been the MC/Host for Panoramic Poetry, Moonstone Art Center, ToHo Journal and PhillyCAM’s “Who Do You Love”. He has been a mentor to many and a student of everyone.

Washing Stockings

Around Midnight

the same fashion Daddy’s arms would rest
on the torn edge of his seldom used easy chair
which sat lonely in a corner trying to be unseen
Mom’s arms would rest on the lip of the basin
bending over a sink made white with Comex

water would dance between strong sturdy hands
as she scrubbed vigorously ‘puff of smoke’ stockin’s
to move the dirt and dust collected from the week
when she would fix the kids for school and please her man
after the day’s work for money to close the gap

between can’t afford and thrift shop bargains
second handed stuff that was given another chance
the ritual of familiar made us all comfortable
we knew it was Saturday soon to be Sunday
Mommy’s steps were bunions and corns then

the bottom of her feet black from the walks
barefooted because her shoes were too tight
and so was money and I needed new sneakers
just so the white kids wouldn’t laugh at me
or we needed something, always something

but Ivory soap lathers up extremely well
when rubbed against used nylon stockings
about to be glory bound in eight hours that’s
after they had dried in front of the heat vent
even in summer the ritual meant everything

elijah b. pringle, III has facilitated workshops on writing. Published nationally and internationally, he is nominated for a “Best In Net 2020.” Elijah has been the MC/Host for Panoramic Poetry, Moonstone Art Center, ToHo Journal and PhillyCAM’s “Who Do You Love.” He has been a mentor to many and a student of everyone.