Momma House*

Yvonne

Yvonne final headshot 2

from Rosetta on the Bus

 

Touring is a kind of homelessness,

The price the body pays as the soul takes wing.

Fans brought to their feet, the faithful to their knees!

Yet meals on a tray in her lap left its sting.

Under the spinning stars on a midnight bus

Sleep came and washed away the heaviness

Of the heart. Sleep and the wisdom of dreams.

Miracle child with flowers in her voice

And in her fingertips unquenchable flames—

Did she ever have a choice?

Echoes awake and bend laggard legendary.

Momma, beloved Marie, a far galaxy.

The end of the line. Everybody’s got one.

Same old same old. For decades, no tombstone.

 

*In 2011 a marker at the corner of 11th and Master Streets in the Yorktown section of North Philadelphia was set to commemorate where Sister Rosetta Tharpe lived in a modest rowhouse from the mid-Sixties until her death in 1973. She is buried in Northwood Cemetery.


First poetry editor of pioneer feminist magazines, Aphra and Ms., Yvonne has received several awards including NEAs for poetry (1974, 1984) and a Leeway (2003) for fiction (as Yvonne Chism-Peace). Recent print publications include: From the Farther Shore (Bass River Press), Home: An Anthology (Flexible), Quiet Diamonds 2019/2018 (Orchard Street).

Impermanence Alight

Risa Pappas

Risa Pappas final headshot

The little church that is the morning

the stillness that allows (at least)

for breathing—we are to be alive

and Holy and pour forth into the day

of trials both as the fire punching

birds into the sky and as the water

to make of the world a cleansed

nest once more. Almost cruelty

each day in dawning a sermon

of hope cresting the trees and we

by breakfast cleft into apostle

and disciple. Even the doves

can only hold aloft for so long.

By sundown we roost into one again

united by the exhaustion of both

wings beating.


Risa Pappas is a poet, filmmaker, writer, editor, audiobook narrator, and public speaker. She has most recently been published in bluntly magazine and Black Fox Literary Magazine and is a senior editor at Tolsun Books. Risa received her MFA in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She currently resides near Philadelphia.

The Journalist

Ann E. Michael

Ann Michael final headshot

What is it you observe? Maybe traffic

because you are in your car so often

it’s an extension of self, a familiar

surround, while you keep an eye on

the blue Subaru creeping up on your

right and you know the light will change

at about the time that rental truck

reaches it, so you move into the left

lane. But what do you notice, beyond

what must be noticed? Do you register

a wedge of geese struggling against

headwinds or a paper wasp nest in a

poplar’s bare bough? What about

those small events in the cosmos

beneath notice? You notice them.

Not on the screens which scream look look

but through your eyes: plastic bag, empty,

pirouettes across a lawn, and you don’t

know who lives in that house but likely

they have children—swing, slide, tricycles.

And here, streets littered with walnuts,

the black walnuts of your childhood, so

that now what you observe is yourself

in recall mode and thinking of a winter

many years ago, the only time in your life

you ever saw a snowy owl in the wild—

the shock of admiration that pushed out-

ward from your chest cavity, outward

and into the wholly brilliant world

where you walked, trying not to twist

an ankle, on the bitter shells of walnuts.


Ann E. Michael resides in PA’s Lehigh Valley. Her previous books include Water-Rites and The Capable Heart. Her forthcoming chapbook, Barefoot Girls, will appear early in 2020 from Prolific Press. Website & blog: www.annemichael.wordpress.com

Kirkman’s Schoolgirl Problem

Leonard Kress

KRESS-photo

If fifteen young ladies in a school

walk three abreast for seven days

in succession, how would you

 

arrange them each day so that none

would walk twice abreast?

This problem of combinatorics

 

was first proposed by Thomas Kirkman

in 1850, in his query number VI

in Ladies and Gentleman’s Diary.

 

If you want to know the answer

you should ask the middle aged man

in the front of room playing Bach

 

on the baroque flute. He solved it

120 years later, a Caltech undergrad

to great career-making acclaim.

 

Ask him, too, if he can he come up

with an equation to graph the movements

of the Philadelphia Hallahan Catholic

 

girls on their last day of school

lined-up in the halls three abreast, who

when the bell rings its dismissal

,

break free and surge into the streets,

bolting across the Parkway to swarm

The Love Fountain downtown.

 

They leap over the mid-day smokers,

noshers and sun-soaking secretaries

into the warm water, screeching.

 

They splash and shove, topple and dunk

each other, until their loosened hair

and shabby uniforms are thoroughly soaked.

 

And then, as they emerge onto the hot

concrete plaza, leave perfect dark droplets

in glomerations of 16th notes.


Leonard Kress has published in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. Recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems, and Craniotomy as well as his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. He lived in Philadelphia for the first 40 years of life.

Fooling the Angel

Ken Fifer

Ken Fifer final headshot 2

When my grandmother was sick

her parents changed her name

in order to fool the Angel of Death.

They gave her an orange,

not to cure her, but to let her taste

light and warmth once

before the Angel returned.

And as she ate, her parents said,

Oh how worthless girl children are,

trying to avoid the Evil Eye.

Then they sent her to New York,

near Yankee Stadium, a place

an Angel might not look right away.

In her first American photos,

two weeks off the boat, she paid

to pose with a buffalo herd and

teepees painted on a screen

behind her. The fringed buckskin,

the beadwork boots,

the cowgirl hat and leather chaps

seemed to her, at sixteen,

neither wasteful nor strange,

but a necessary expense,

her most likely defense,

better than the rental

white-handled pistols.

She returned to Houston Street

a buckaroo,  no longer a green horn.

just another Yankee with two names,

one for real and one to say,

hoping to find Miss Liberty, too,

while trying to evade an Angel’s gaze.


Ken Fifer’s poetry collections include After Fire (March Street Press) and Falling Man (Ithaca House); he has edited three anthologies of poems by children. His poems and translations have appeared in Barrow Street, New Letters, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, and other fine journals. He has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from The University of Michigan. He was a 2019 finalist for the Gunpowder Press Book Contest.

Ode to Gliders

Kathleen Shaw

Kathleen Shaw final headshot

1950’s turquoise totems

escape providers on countless

porches, not grandmotherly

like rockers, more kinetic

than lawn chairs, gliding

hypnotically, going nowhere

on cricket-studded summer

nights. Where did you end up?

Rusting silently in far-off

dumps, next to train sets

and Spam cans, as obsolete

as the clothes we wore

and the things we used to

believe.


Kathleen Shaw is retired from teaching at Montgomery County Community College. She now works as a writing tutor there. Her poems have been published online as well as in Anthology, Derailed, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and various other journals.

Homage to John Coltrane

Leonard Kress

LKress_poetry

Homage to John Coltrane

Times when it got too tough to tame my toddler daughter,

we drove out to a place she called the indoor playground,

because it was—a gilded age mansion, mansard roof

and all, gutted and filled with toys, dolls, board games, fully

stocked, itty-bitty kitchens, soporific gliders.

The basement was jammed with scooters and trikes and big wheels,

bumper-to-bumper around oval lanes, casualties

off to the side bawling. It had my favorite things,

she said, as we motored through the city neighborhood

called Strawberry Mansion, turning on 33rd Street,

cruising by the onetime brick row home of John Coltrane,

the cynosure of a dilapidated quartet—

marked by a plaque visible only from the porch stoop.


Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Missouri Review, Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex and Walk Like Bo Diddley. Living in the Candy Store and Other Poems and his new verse translation of the Polish Romantic epic, Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz were both published in 2018. Craniotomy will appear this fall. He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens Community College in Ohio.

After Analysis

Jonathon Todd

Jon Todd_poetry

After Analysis

What I meant to say was clear /

Corrupted.

Like, look at this comp

arison:

Says, no it’s late.

Eyes betray me, look I gave agency to flesh,

But what I meant to say was I exhausted myself

To pass out, to pass the time,

Twirling a cigarette to hail the darkness.

Always picturing movement,

Because what I’m trying to say is still / silence.

As if motivation is a secret,

Sugar secreting from a pear.

What I mean to say is two things coming together like a glance,

Like a glass of milk.

What I wanted to say was whiskey,

Sound of a crack opening bottles.

What I really mean is a door has multiple parts engaged in function.

What I really mean is I’m apart,

Indivisible sections laid out on a rug.

What I mean is some part of me would see these pieces, another part would just

bang them together to make sparks.

This reminds me of the wild,

& this is me not admitting it,

& this is isolation of myth,

& this is my exit.


Jonathon Todd is a poet and musician, living in South Philadelphia. His work deals with observations mainly written between breaks, trying to find humanity outside of and within labor. His work has been featured in Philadelphia Stories, The Lower East Side Review, and Shakefist Magazine among others.

Breaking 200

Sydney Doyle

Doyle.headshot

Breaking 200

 “There is no time to think or savor the thrill of speed. And as you go down that strip, you don’t see anything. It is a no-man’s land.” – Don Garlits

 

Did it? Did it? Didn’t it? It did! By God, it did. Don Daddy did it. Big Daddy broke hot rodding’s barrier with a bam and a bale of smoke, barreling down the straightaway. Cheers from the bleachers. The rocket speed shock of the year we’d all been waiting for.

 

Did The Greek do it earlier in Illinois? All’s I can say is today the Chrondek clocks called it. In Great Meadows, at the Island Dragway, Big Daddy Don Garlits did it.

 

But it happened so fast—couldn’t see a damned thing. A shroud of fumes. Let’s pause. Take it back. Slowly now, back up the quarter-mile belt of tarmac. The Swamp Rat back across the starting line. The amber bulbs blaring again.

 

Now our rare hour—clear the area!—Daredevil Don, engine revving, raring to tear track. Slower, now, watch how the slick-wedge car’s back tires stir a whir of smoke, burning rubber. How, like an arrow, this 2000 horsepower nightmare dragster blasts down the blacktop, shatters the barrier, buries its challenger in vapor and exhaust.

 

Watch the parachute burst from the back. Watch the car break to a halt. Watch Don Garlits turn the wheel, drive back, rattling down the strip, his parachute dangling limply behind, his white glove waving from the glittering mist, already clearing it.


Sydney Doyle grew up in the Great Meadows mucklands near the Delaware Water Gap. She received her MFA from Johns Hopkins University and is currently a Doctoral Fellow in English/Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Her poems appear in The American Journal of Poetry, Canary, Waccamaw, and elsewhere.

 

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.