Pentecostal

by Steve Burke

POET_pic

The middle-of-the-night ride through the fogged-in hills,

the way the road can’t help but follow.

Curves the truth headlights try to defy.

 

The way the filament of infection

is creeping up my daughter’s arm: the first illustration

in a monograph on spider toxins.

 

The way something seems to be speaking through you

even when you don’t want it to.


Steve Burke’s poems have been published in a number of journals & magazines; has had two chapbooks – After The Harvest & For Now – published by Moonstone Press. He worked for many years as an obstetric nurse; lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.

Espresso

by Steve Burke

POET_pic

“This world is the other world too.”

– Tomas Tranströmer

 

Sometimes the first sip is enough: shadow

ribboning into the depths, the casting

of a spindly Giacometti striding-figure.

Skeleton of music, of imagination, out

on a lawn I would keep trimmed religiously,

a caretaker sunburnt and weathered

in the name of Stillness – a stillness

that makes a case for inherent grace, that

reminds us how we move through this world,

a non-stop exchange of touch.

 

Alberto, you’ve confirmed what I’ve long suspected:

the soul resembles bone. Hard but darker,

coarsely-surfaced enough to skin knuckles.

But which, if the ground begins to shake,

can be gripped as if embracing another ‘you’ –

the one you’re glad to see, the one who

runs next to your speeding train, taps your window,

then gives a little wave before peeling off, laughing,

toward the other world.


Steve Burke’s poems have been published in a number of journals & magazines; has had two chapbooks – After The Harvest & For Now – published by Moonstone Press. He worked for many years as an obstetric nurse; lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.

Letting Go of God

by Claire Scott

POET_Clair

My mother thinks she’s a saint.

Her website promises spiritual guidance,

thinner thighs and a cure for infected cuticles.

 

She calls herself Worship Warrior,

offering prayer groups in our shabby living room

filled with plastic Jesuses and plates of Ritz Crackers.

 

I sit on the floor, my mitt on my lap

with its soft smell of leather and I dream about

home runs while the women drone on about redemption

 

And sad-eyed Jesuses stare down

from their crosses. Hours of boring prayers instead

of stealing bases, hours of hymns instead of pitching no hitters.

 

My first tooth fell out when I was five, I tucked

it under my pillow and the next day found a dollar

that looked like the torn dollar my mother had yesterday.

 

Each Christmas we left cookies and milk

for Santa, waited for hooves on the roof, until

I realized all the tags were in my mother’s handwriting.

 

I hear my mother guarantee everyone a seat next to God.

Dots connect. My heart crumples once more.

I grab my glove and head to the park.


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.

It can be dangerous

by Varsha Kukafka

Mom

It can be dangerous to wake up in the morning.

And go downstairs.

Or back upstairs.

It can be dangerous to read a poem.

Or answer the phone. Or care.

Or get on the highway. Or say goodbye.

Yes, it can be dangerous.

It can be dangerous to look at the sky. Or ask a question. Or cry.

Or open a letter. Or answer the door. Or buy a ticket.

Or feel forlorn. Or feel.

It can be dangerous to read a poem.

Or to go to the ocean. And love that smell. And feel that swell.

Or to think about telling a secret. Or tell.

It can be dangerous to keep old notebooks. Or throw them away.

Or to remember. Or forget. Or never say.

It can be dangerous to go somewhere new. Or never go looking.

Or to cook. Or not cook.

It can be dangerous to read a poem.

Or go for a swim. Or a walk.

Or talk to your sister or mother or daughter or son. Or not talk.

It can be dangerous to pet a strange dog.  Or to say yes or no.

Or look in the mirror. Or sneeze.

It can be dangerous to write a poem.

It can be. It will be. It may be.

Oh yes, it can be dangerous to breathe.

It can be. It will be. It may be.

It can be dangerous to stop.

Or to start over again.

It can be dangerous.

Be dangerous.


Varsha Kukafka is a Philadelphia native who began writing poems at age six. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Salamander, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere, as well as in limited edition letter press broadsides with images from her visual art. She worked professionally as a tapestry weaver and served as an assistant district attorney for twenty years.

Love Letter to South Jersey

by Maya Georgi

POET_Maya

Your kiss is a prayer

to winding back roads,

one block farms,

and the river that connects us to Philly’s humble skyline.

 

Your hands are tuscany yellow,

Jersey summer sweet corn

and sudden sunflower fields

on the way to the shore.

 

Your jet black curls swing like oak leaves

in a wild canopy,

hiding oasis wonders

and springtime bonfires.

 

Your drawl is cicadas

humming at twilight

right before their wild envelop,

a song amidst suburbia’s lull.

 

Your grenadine smile is the receding sun

warming this sliver of the Pine Barrens,

a watercolor on the Delaware

holding us golden before it sleeps.


Maya Georgi is a Latinx writer and South Jersey native. She grew up on the many bridges between Mount Laurel, NJ and Philadelphia, vacillating between suburb and city. Maya is a recent graduate from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. She has been previously published in The Carson Review.

On the Solitary Death of Uncle Mike

Editor’s Choice: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

You better hope that you’re lucky
enough to die outside like a tick-ridden
raccoon, bloating and frozen in the first
week of March, lucky enough to be
casually murdered or mowed down
on a busy street by a hulking heap
of American steel, then they just might
tag and take you to the cold heart of the city
morgue where at least you could rest
like old plans for some benignly useful
city project in a tidy municipal drawer,
or you better hope your loved ones have
twenty-one-hundred bucks on them
when the ambulance arrives, futilely,
because if you happen to die inside
your family rowhome in the city
of brotherly fuck you and no one has
the cash on them to pay the undertaker
to come, they’ll leave you without
a second thought, lifeless and decaying
on your plaid couch, because after all
even when you are finally incapable
of doing anything, you better have
the money to grease the wheels of
America’s rust-bucket free-enterprise
shit-show of callousness, I got mine-
get yours, godblessamerica, too stupid
to get ourselves out of sad festering
state of pigheaded dysfunction or
you’re fucked for good. Capiche?


Sean Webb has received many honors for his work including fellowships from The Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Utah Arts Council. Most recently he was awarded the Passages North Neutrino prize, 1st place in the Gemini Magazine 2017 Poetry Open, and 2nd place in the 2017 Public Poetry contest. His chapbook, The Constant Parades, was selected by Afaa Weaver as a runner-up in the 2017 Moonstone Poetry chapbook competition. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and in 2005 he served as Poet Laureate of Montgomery County Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in dozens of publications including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Nimrod, Mudfish, The Quarterly, The Seattle Review, Greensboro Review, and the anthology Frances and Clare in Poetry.

Lightbearers

Editor’s Choice: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

The zebrafish’s neon stripes
and globe eyes flash in LEDs
as our bodies marble in reply with squiggles
of phosphorus. Who can say
what spirit moves in us as it moves
eel-like on my mom’s blue hat, the one
with a crab on the front, brim hovering
like a cave mouth over her invisible face?
Who can say what god spoke to her
earlier at church while I was sleeping?
My brother extends an awkward hand to spook
some arowanas gliding too close to the glass,
and mom twitches as if she means
to stop him, then reconsiders, stills her hand
and rests it in the dark as if upon
a shoulder, as I wonder what the pastor said
today and if it would have moved
me still in spite of everything.

Mother Explains

Honorable Mention: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Jane Miller_poetry

Where your brother went, a river met him at the shadow’s edge, a river he walked on
we cannot see, though it flows near us and all the small fish you can imagine wait, circling as if on a merry-go-round until he toes in; and it is then they feel his small steps, each vibration a plated splash and they rise: blue gills, pygmy puffer fish, black mollies, orange clowns, all clamber, making for him a path.

He is not alone. Every step he takes, a fish takes its place underfoot, each fish a finned rock holding him as he walks so that your brother who cannot swim begins to hopscotch, sinking ever so slightly and then popping up, the fish under him shimmering like landing lights; in the dimpling water, the kiss of stars where he treads. He twirls and looks back; his arms spread wide beckon us, but the shore he left is fogged and fading.

Now he is distant and small, but in the vanishing I see him crawl into fins and scales
and become one of them, joyous and teeming. He has learned a new way to live and here inside us, who are mostly water, when you least expect it, you will shiver
and feel him.


Jane C. Miller’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals. She received first prize in Naugatuck River Review’s 11th annual narrative poetry contest. A fellowship recipient from the Delaware Division of the Arts, Miller is co-author of the collection, Walking the Sunken Boards published by Pond Road Press (2019).

Matthew

Honorable Mention: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Chad Frame_poetry

We’re twenty, nude, everything firm
and responsive to the touch, soft
breeze cool on our flanks as the pool
laps small waves at the edges, night
purpling above us. You tell me

you have feelings, but I am young
enough to believe chemistry
waits dormant in all things for fire
to ignite—that perfect bonds form
on a whim. Years pass by in months,

six not talking, three back in touch,
each fuck-of-the-week with his flaws
you sob to me—the built frat boy
with awful car playlists, the twink
who texts you from across the room,

the circuit boy who makes the clack-
clack of credit cards on mirrors
every morning as he cuts
his breakfast lines. And each painting
you finish with a casual

mastery, sneaking some aspect
of one of them onto canvas—
the hyperreal Spartan soldier
who looks exactly like the guy
really into getting tied up,

the abstract square that is the house
you move into for a few months
with the one with the high-pitched voice
that drives you to drink and tell me
in some drab diner, like always,

that you wish we could have made it
work. A tentacle of cold cream
slowly wraps around my coffee
as I joke At least you’d paint me,
and the whole dark is strangled pale
again.


Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth, and other journals and anthologies, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is the Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv performance troupe, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat.

On Wassily Kandinsky’s Painting: “Little Painting in Yellow”

Honorable Mention: 2020 Sandy Crimmins Poetry Contest

Kathleen Shaw_poetry

Just before the Great War, Kandinsky
took time to paint something yellow,
something little, something that looked
like nothing anyone had ever seen. How
shocked they were– how outre to
paint something so unwarlike, how
perverse to veer from standards.
Is that an egg? Is that a sun? Is that
a cloud? Is that a mouth?
Yes, yes, yes, yes and no, no, no, no,
said Kandinsky, silently out loud,
thinking, while not thinking of war.


Kathleen Shaw is a semi-retired assistant professor of English at a community college. She has had poetry published in Philadelphia Stories, Anthology magazine, Derail, Schuylkill Valley Journal and online journals. She is now in the process of completing her first novel.