Paternoster Lakes

Ryan Halligan

Ryan Halligan_poetry

Paternoster Lakes

looking down on the Grinnell Valley, Glacier National Park, Montana


Five blue pools of water in the mountains

sewn together by strings of icy streams—

half-decade of the rosary, or full

if each bead counts twice.

Dammed by moraines dropped by moving masses


of ice, each could be its own mystery.

Above the green and red strips of sediment

lies a lonely frozen tarn that showers

the four beads below.

Snow drifts block its path from unsure footfalls.


But glacier lilies finish the prayer,

trail receding ice, lift the spring up slopes

with their golden crowns, delicate heads bowed

until dormancy,

when they’ll store the spark in bulbs.

Ryan is a writer living and working in the Philadelphia area.  He holds an MA in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph’s University and writes poetry and creative non-fiction. 

Greased Lightning

Lori Widmer

Lori Widmer_poetry

Greased Lightning

It’s like old times

the way we are laughing in

this dive bar, the smell of

stale fry oil soaked into

the wooden tables our

elbows stick to.


My friend is telling us about

the day the upper-class boy

popped her cherry—


only the details now are hilarious

and not heart-racing like

it was then, but the

way we are laughing, it’s


as though the decades hadn’t gone

anywhere and we were

those nubile, smooth-limbed does

burning simultaneously with

embarrassment and promise


when the world was at our

feet and we were too unsure of

how to tread—


The papers that year marveled at

balloon angioplasty and test tube

babies and the first successful

transatlantic balloon flight


and Jim Jones would change the way

we look at Kool-Aid forever—


but we were inventing our own vocabulary,

racy admissions whispered behind

hands, our heartbeats and the

ache between our legs matched the


hard rock thrums vibrating from the

muscle cars driven by boys with wild

hair and no inhibitions—


they’d drive by slowly, trying

out their best Kenickie come-ons,

we’d respond with Rizzo taunts

then turn away and lock arms, laughing


just as we are now, drunk on

the reflection we see

every time we close our eyes.

Lori Widmer is a full-time freelance writer and editor who writes for businesses and trade publications. She was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in various publications, including TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics, Tipton Poetry Journal, and Philadelphia Stories.

Our Roof is the Nose of a Rocket

Christa Pagliei


Our Roof Is the Nose of a Rocket

Our entire building hums,

as a beetle does before it takes to the air.

We break bread and give thanks and make things

with such frequency and repetition

that our awareness of time passing

is telescoping inward.

We’ll demand innocence,

but we know the hum,

this static-white-noise

in the field of our mind

is to remind us that

the ratio of life lived

to life left to live

has shifted

the first of many times.

Climb six flights of pre-war stairs

open the hatch to the roof so we

can drink green wine from flea market crystal.

It takes so little work to unhinge

there is little doubt that we are living doors.

We can calculate how concrete makes

geometric shapes between cities.

There is a cold front,

and coats are thin so we

cast a gaze across the skyline,

a play’s curtain.

Audacious, we cut holes

through and peek at the actors.

From the roof of that building

with it’s wild hum

like buzzing wings

we dopplar out

convinced that, tomorrow

we will lift avenues

and blocks and all

with only our will.

Christa Pagliei is a writer and media producer from Wyckoff, NJ living in Brooklyn, New York. A published poet and fiction writer, she co-created the podcast Lost Signal Society- a series horror/fantasy/sci-fi plays. Additionally, she’s a Film and TV professional working on shows like Succession, Sneaky Pete, Mr.Robot and many more.

Conversation between Saints

Evan Anders


gladiolus gather in an attempt to deflower spring.


doves console a dying falcon.


a fig utters a final prayer as ants read last rites.


please do not pluck my feathers in public.


a dozen oysters reject their pearls

a dozen minnows are swallowed by los angeles

the cardinals swear i am saved.


ordinary cities rest laughing upon history.

there are no more great kings

it’s better this way.


the crabapple tree waits to die

as a conversation between saints

dissolves into hymns.

Evan Anders brews coffee for mass consumption in Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in Five 2 One Magazine, California Quarterly, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and forthcoming in North Dakota Quarterly.

My Father Sells a Vacuum Cleaner to James Michener

Barbara Buckman Strasko


On the writer’s doorstep of a large house overlooking the river, my father speaks to the housekeeper. Inside he dumps dirt on the rug, sucks it up in one whoosh, shows her that the Electrolux will even suck up a steel sphere. Mr. Michener hears the noise, comes to the front hall. Agrees to buy the vacuum cleaner. Invites my father into his office where an Underwood sits on a large mahogany desk, in front of a photo of the author and John Kennedy shaking hands. Mr. Michener asks about my father’s family history in Bucks County and is surprised to find out the salesman is a descendant of Edward Hicks, the folk artist. That my father dropped out of pre-med during the Depression and built airplanes for WWII. How would the Quaker Hicks paint a Peaceable Kingdom in 1964? A war raging in Southeast Asia, the civil rights movement on the move, the next generation not accepting anything less than peace. They speak of these things as if they might solve them standing in this doorway. A canoe floats downstream on the Delaware River in front of them. On the way home my father will buy corn from a farm stand where they let him cut it from the field himself.

Barbara Buckman Strasko was the first Poet Laureate of Lancaster County. She is the 2009 River of Words Teacher of the Year and is the Poet in the Schools for the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in: Best New Poets, Rhino, Nimrod, Brilliant Corners, Ninth Letter and Poet Lore. Her book of poems, Graffiti in Braille was published in 2012. Her poem “Bricks and Mortar” is engraved in granite in Lancaster’s main square.

Each Morning I Pray to the Microwave

Claire Scott


I see God through greasy glass

or is that last week’s potato

I forgot—I am sick of potatoes

with their many staring eyes—

I prefer God to a potato most of the time

unless I haven’t eaten for days &

no feast hath been prepared at the table before me

which is most of the time since Sara left

in a bitter cloud of flying shoes, DVDs & fuck you’s

complaining my refrigerator looks like

a failed science experiment

stacks of newspapers cover the couch,

the chairs, the kitchen counters

complaining the cat rarely uses its litter box

preferring the bathmat or the carpet

or the sweaters in her closet

complaining I crunch potato chips in bed

leaving crumbs on her side

why is either side hers when I paid

for the humongous thing, lugged it up five

sweaty flights because she found my futon

too cramped, too creaky

but I am losing track here

the point is God is preferable to a potato

most of the time—each morning

I say a prayer to the blurry God

behind the glass door

hoping his many eyes are

growing nearsighted and he can’t see

the mold, the newspapers, the cat

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t.

Betsy Ross’ Girl

Deborah Turner


Tried to put in some

orchid purple yellow, and some

coffee colored brown

like my fingers I pricked

helping with all her stichin.


“Nah,” she say,

“keep it like the Brits,

our forefathers.”


None of that tobacco green

she threaten to put me in

should I open my mouth

bout how Master

have his way with me.


None of that

sunrise orange

come over the water

like my Mammy’s boat



Just the blood red

with the deep blue

and the white stars

like the night

that swallowed up my daddy

took him north to freedom,

I hope.

In addition to writing poetry, Deborah Turner is working on a memoir about her life in West Philadelphia. Her early works appear in the Lavender Reader as well as in anthologies including the Body Eclectic and Testimony. She regularly blog publishes at

The Idea of Ruby Seeds

Lorraine Henrie Lins



We left the pomegranates

to leather in the back of the fridge,

unrounded withering

thumping hollow

against the carton of milk each morning

when breakfast was through—

a whim during Christmas week

when I thought the idea of ruby seeds

knocked into champagne flutes

or over dense, white yogurt

would indulge

but each morning

the coffee was enough

hot and strong.

Lorraine Henrie Lins is a Pennsylvania county Poet Laureate and author of four books of poetry, most recently 100 Tipton. She serves as the Director of New and Emerging Poets with Tekpoet and am a founding member of the “No River Twice” improvisational poetry troupe. My work appears in publications and collections, and a small graffiti poster in Australia. Born and raised in the suburbs of Central New Jersey, this self-professed Jersey Girl now resides just outside of Philadelphia where I have learned to pump my own gas and order a cheesesteak…..wit.

Letter from the Poetry Editor

Courtney Bambrick

Letter From the [Poetry] Editor

Courtney Bambrick

This year’s Sandy Crimmins National Prize poems explore deep grief and remind us of the system we operate within—a system that will kill difference or defiance. Danger and comfort are braided throughout the poems in this issue; they twist around the poems creating space to both grieve and grow. Some poems tear back the bandage painfully, but do so in order to apply balm. Often in one poem, we find a voice crying out in rage, then finding clarity and direction. These poems feel necessary: we frequently look to poetry for comfort, but that comfort can be untenable in an atmosphere so saturated with violence as ours is.

This year’s contest was judged by M. Nzadi Keita, author of the poetry collection Brief Evidence of Heaven which elegantly considers the life of Anna Murray Douglass, first wife of Frederick Douglass. The winning poem “Elegy for Breath” by Carlos Andrés Gómez is, according to Keita, “unrelenting” in its presentation of the trauma. She continues:

This poem haunts our very own breathing with a question, both mournful and matter-of-fact: how much, in the U.S.A., does breathing inside a human black body redefine, from birth to death?  Focused on the long tradition of American citizens murdered by police, each stanza in this poetic montage answers in a different way.

Many of the poems selected as finalists reckon with the realities of racial, sexual, and religious violence. Of her selection of poems, judge M. Nzadi Keita says, “The stunning compassion, honesty, and force of witness in the [selected poems] reinforces and affirms.….how poets solidify our human bonds.” We need one another. These poets deftly, through a variety of styles and tactics, present humanity as broken, but—staggeringly, stubbornly—capable of healing.

Philadelphia Stories thanks Joe Sullivan for his robust and continued support of this contest. We also thank Nicole Mancuso, contest coordinator and assistant poetry editor, and Yalonda Rice, managing editor, who both exert gentle-but-considerable authority and keep us moving forward. Mostly, we thank the poets who generously share their work with us and we encourage local writers to continue to do so.

We will celebrate our winners at the LitLife Poetry Festival presented by Philadelphia Stories along with the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program at Rosemont College, April 6. Attendees will enjoy master classes with Crimmins judge M. Nzadi Keita and poet Dilruba Ahmed, judge of this year’s Montgomery County Poet Laureate competition. A series of panels will discuss and reflect on a variety of ideas related to the place of poetry in our lives and the world. We will celebrate the winning poets of the Crimmins contest and the new poet laureate of Montgomery County in an afternoon reception which will be free and open to the public. For more information please visit



“Elegy for Breath,” Carlos Andrés Gómez (Forest Hills, NY)



“All Objects,” Brittanie Sterner (Philadelphia, PA)

“Nine-Year-Old Suicide in Reverse,”Chad Frame (Lansdale, PA)

“How to Read Whitewater in the Mid-Atlantic Region,” Kimberly Andrews (Chestertown, MD)



“Post Rehab,” Claire Rubin (Oakland, CA)

“Phantom Limb,” Fran Baird (Flourtown, PA)

“Bruce,” Chad Frame (Lansdale, PA)



“Imagine Sisyphus Happy,” R.G. Evans (Elmer, NJ)

“Tapestry Room,” Rebecca Levi (New York, NY)

“Neighborhood Report,” Julia Lattimer (Boston, MA)



“Chugach,” David Hopes

“The Silence of Emma Gonzáles Teaches Us about Language,” Matt Hohner

“I wonder why they never taught us about Sylvia Mendez,” Mercedes Lucero

“Sestina as Kabbalah/Kabbalah as Sestina,” Leonard Kress

“Oceanic Moments Outside a Discount Superstore,” Hayden Saunier

“If none are strangers,” Brittanie Sterner

“H.O. Andrews & Sons,” Kimberly Andrews

“Poem about Death Ending with Reincarnation,” Carlos Andrés Gómez

“Edge of the Dance Floor,” Carlos Andrés Gómez



Neighborhood Report

Julia Lattimer


Neighborhood Report

by Julia Lattimer


The day after we read the Leda

poems in class, I am smacked alert by



            BY TWO MEN, ALLSTON.


At Commonwealth and Linden WOMAN

is pulled out of the dirty yellow street-


lamp light and finds her fingers pink

with fury against the cross-hatched metal


fence.              Leda is a gold day-lily, outspread

and resting in the purple summer heat. The poets


soften Zeus’s feathers, and hold her nape in their beak.

Inside her, they engender a civilization changed


into something irreversible.                But

in ALLSTON, The B Line will cross loudly over rust-


ed tracks in an hour, and the blade—indifferent—

lets WOMAN drop.

Julia Lattimer is a poet living in Boston, Massachusetts. She is an MFA candidate at UMass Boston and the Poetry Editor for Breakwater Review. She hosts a monthly queer poetry reading series out of a living room in Allston.