What Our Fathers Didn’t Tell Us About the War

To read What Our Fathers Didn’t Tell Us About the War, click HERE.


Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

Dear Renee

We used to sit together every day, the dusty bus, those long dirt roads.

Your father, old when he was young, hobbling to the barn at milking time.

My sister keeps embroidered pillows in the closet with her holidays, hums

all through the house, long and slow. Are you that kind of woman now?

Renee, my dumb heart cannot remember If I ever played with you in school

or if I left you by the swings for those girls who only let me be the monkey.

 

Did I forget you, your long braids in that wet field of grass? I was the one

who swallowed all the knives, key tied round my neck with a grey ribbon.

Today, I brought out the flour bowl and rolling pin, the salt and baking powder.

Habit you’d do without. Kitchen quiet, emptying, its low deliberate light.

Renee, I didn’t use the wheelbarrow. Nor stripped the chicken from the bone.

Can you understand my lumbering, my rusty hands?  Do you miss our home?


Ellen Stone grew up in the hills of northeastern Pennsylvania.  She advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ellen’s poetry collections are What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013.)  ellenstone.org.

Just Before

In a hospital room

I stand next to your son,

watching you drift

in and out of consciousness.

I give you flowers,

their stems clipped.

You drop them in a pan

of shallow water.

 

Outside, I can see the bus station

near the last stop on the subway line.

 

Remember when you moved to Mount Airy,

on the second floor? We talked all night

about politics. Then Watergate broke, and

you foresaw that Nixon would fall.

You always drove me home

pounding your palms on the steering wheel.

 

Kamal takes a napkin and wipes your mouth—

“Are you hungry Mom, do you want a drink?”—

while I keep asking if you know my name.

You raise yourself and say it once,

just before you fall back.


Since 1990, Robert Coles has published over one hundred poems in various literary journals, anthologies, and magazines. His most recent poems have appeared in Peregrine (Spring 2017), Mudfish (vol. 20, 2018/vol. 21, 2020/vol. 22, 2021), and Cura Magazine (Fordham University, Spring 2019).

Freeze All Blue & Black

Should I just leave you in this frozen night

since you’re no help? Go there and plop that heart

in the gut bucket. We’ve packed the fridge tight

with cabin food already, so for the parts

we’ll keep, we’ll pack some snow on them. Your deer

should make decent venison jerky. Look,

it’s just dead meat. There is nothing to fear

about a dressed deer. Now, down past the brook,

Dad leaves the organs deep in the thickets

and then he wipes the blood off his hands.

Here’s his rag for that. Take that gut bucket

then go dump it in the snow like a man.

But that heart, I always chuck it far back

where it can wait for spring all blue and black.


Having grown up in Chester County and worked in Philadelphia, Andrew Weller has a deep connection with Eastern Pennsylvania. He just graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Masters and Bachelor’s in English. He continues to write in his spare time while starting his career as a technical writer.

The Time on Dali’s Watch

To view The Time on Dali’s Watch, click HERE.


Nick Cialini lives in Lancster, PA where he teaches literature and is a PhD candidate at Temple University. He adheres to Joy Harjo’s principle that “life begins at the kitchen table” by sharing food and games with those who matter most to him. This is his first poetry publication.

A Stranger’s Time

I’ve never been less than an hour early for my train. I don’t know if it comes from a sense of heightened preparedness or an ongoing current of anxiety that doesn’t even let me sleep in on weekends. Years of sitting in an airport two hours before another passenger arrived ingrained this practice into me. For so long I hated the limbo of traveling yet sitting still. I ended up counting the seconds as they strolled by to occupy my brain. I don’t mind the time now. It’s a moment to pause. It’s a moment to observe the world around me I take for granted every day.

I walked into 30th street station at 1:15pm. I gazed at arrivals from the entrance way trying to find my train to Connecticut. I took note that it was harder to read this sign now than it was last year. It seemed constantly staring at a computer screen for the last ten odd years had started to wear away at what was once 20/20. I walked towards gate three which housed tracks three and four as my Acela never left from anywhere else. That never stopped me from matching up the numbers on my ticket and the ones on the sign about twice every minute. Look down, 2170. Look up, 2170. Gate three, track four, as usual. It was 1:20 now. I had seventy minutes to kill.

I found a seat on the aged wooden benches that offered lodging to travelers much more homesick than I. I put on my headphones and tuned out the sounds of the mostly empty train station but kept my eyes alert. I watched the people around me lug around their suitcases, make phone calls breaking the news of another delay, while a man filled out some form on a clipboard. A bird had haplessly flown its way into the building. It sat a mere three feet away from me. I took out my camera, but it flew away before the lens could shutter. Almost as if it was telling me the moment was not meant to be captured. Please, I wish only to be a fleeting memory, it seemed to say to me.

The man with the clipboard now stood opposite me. Using the top of his bench as a desk. I noticed his continuous glances and wondered if he wanted me to fill out his survey or sign his petition. Whatever it was, he was furiously working away at it.  He grabbed my attention with a wave of his hand and spoke. I couldn’t hear him. I took my headphones off and he repeated the words.

“Can you pull down your mask for me?”

I was confused but automatically obliged.

“Give me a smile.” He enjoined with one of his own.

I replied with a mix of confusion and amusement “Are- are you drawing me?”

He began walking over to sit next to me and motioned for me to return my mask to my face. He sat next to me and began to tell me about himself. Well, more accurately he told me to look him up on my phone. I obliged. I typed “Irving Fields Philadelphia” into the search bar and waited for the results to load.  There he was. The photos that appeared depicted him in nearly an identical outfit. The flat cap and scarf he wore perfectly fit the role of artist he was playing. His square frame glasses still hung over his nose, only helping him see the page below him and not my face. His dark skin devoid of wrinkles did not reveal his age but the rasp in his flamboyant voice and grey moustache did.

As if he was reading from a script, he began to recount his story to me, detailing the articles that appeared. He spoke in muffled words, and his story didn’t seem to come to him in chronological order. I did my best to listen carefully and closely as my eyes flickered back from him and the clock hanging on the wall. He wanted me to look at him for the drawing, but enough time had passed that fear of missing my train began to creep in.

As far as I could tell the story begins the day he was struck by a car. To put it bluntly he said the accident left him both physically and mentally fucked for a number of years. Almost to add validity to his story he lifted his left pant leg revealing his prosthetic leg.

“Say Ouch!”

“Ouch.”

Whether the medical bills or the unemployment during those dark years, he ended up living on the street. He spent a long time living without a warm place to sleep until he got an idea. He began going to the grocery store and asking women if he could draw their portrait or help them with their groceries for something to eat. No doubt the unusual nature of his request stood out to people, and he found himself with a new source of income and, more importantly, food.

“I would always ask women, and they’d say ‘well, I’m not wearing any make up’. I told them it wasn’t a picture! It made no difference to me. “

Eventually, Irving’s habitual workspace became Pat’s Cheesesteaks. In the same manner that I met him many people found themselves sitting across from a man with pencil and paper in hand sketching away asking them to hold perfectly still mid-meal. One of those subjects just so happened to be a journalist reviewing the restaurant. They began talking, having about the same conversation that I was now engaged in, only eight years earlier. By the end of the exchange Irving became a part of an article. As he told me the story, I could sense the pride and accomplishment in his words. Being written about adds legitimacy to one’s craft. I hope I’m doing the same for him here. When he asked me what I did, I told him I was a writer. I’m currently fulfilling a promise I made to him with these words.

“When I first started out, I only drew women and sometimes their boyfriends. It seemed to pay the best. But now I can draw whatever I want. Now I only draw pretty boys like yourself, but remember, I’ll always be pretty boy number one.” He joked with a level of sincerity.

The words did not really faze me as I had prepared myself for anything at that point, but I did take it as the unusual complement it was.

Being published helped him find a home, he told me. Irving continually reminded me that he used to be homeless. He wasn’t any more. I couldn’t help but feel sad about his constant reassurance, knowing how many people must have treated this incredibly friendly and eccentric man less than human. He no longer had to draw to eat, but it clearly meant a lot to him. I could tell he wanted the first word associated with him to be artist and not formally-homeless.

“I’m drawing to feed the homeless now.”

He was about to ask the question I knew was coming from the moment we began speaking. But I didn’t mind.

“Can you pay for your portrait?”

“Sure.”

“Alright, that’ll be a thousand dollars.” He laughed.

“How about twenty?”  I countered.

“Yeah, alright, man. That’s beautiful, thank you.”

Art and money exchanged hands, and I saw his work for the first time.

“You like it?”

“I love it man, thank you.”

“Give it to somebody you love. And tell them they’re beautiful.”

“I’m going home right now. I will.”

An hour had blown by, and it was time for me to board.

“You know, before he wrote that article about me, I had no idea Philly was known for cheesesteaks, and I’ve lived here my whole life.”

I laughed and thanked him for making my wait infinitely more entertaining. I won’t lie. The likeness isn’t exact. But I really do love the drawing. I’d like to think the portrait was free, and I paid him for the story. I suppose, that’s why I always show up early.


Drew Kolenik is a creative writing student at Temple University. Since a young age, he has always had his hand in one creative endeavor or another. He has taken his passion for story-telling and daily journaling to begin the search for his audience. 

Something a Ghost Told Me at Dachau

I’m not the type to fall under the spell of a false religion. The lesson has been on the books for ages. The catastrophes supposedly done out of desperation are more closely connected to opportunism than conviction. It’s been irrefutably argued that even Hitler was not a true believer.

However, lies, particularly the Big Lie, have real world consequences. Moments after I walked into Germany’s first concentration camp in Dachau, a hand gripped my right shoulder. A voice rattled my cranium, ominously stating, “The whole of Dachau is guilty.”

I didn’t ignore its exhortation. But its meaning was sidetracked by overwhelmed senses. Waves of human sweat permeated the air of dirty stained wood barracks. Forty-seven years later and I could still smell the perspiration of condemned prisoners. I visited the memorial of Methodist pastors murdered for their faith. Dachau was not a killing ground for Jews alone. Nazi’s arranged high altitude experiments in sealed chambers for Russian prisoners of war, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and various Catholic and Protestant ministers.

I sat in the cinema and watched films of victims with shattered ear drums, suffering from hallucinations and brain damage stumble out of chambers and die. Their disfigured bodies hauled off to a crematorium on site. Once I saw the ashes of human remains float above the camp into the environs of the town, I immediately understood what the voice exclaimed.

The town of Dachau was regularly visited with ash raining down on its cottages and streets. After the liberation the townspeople told visiting journalists they had no idea what was going on at the camp. Security forces prevented them from asking questions. The Camp’s walls and four towers were not tall enough from many in the town’s buildings and elevation to block forced labor, torture, and the bodies of failed escapes hanging across barbed wire.

But the raining ash sticks in my conscience. The whole of Dachau is guilty. Each day walking to the bakery covered in black human ash. Each week walking to church wiping away the last remains of people utterly destroyed. How do you explain this? How do you answer your God when the time comes? Why shouldn’t Hell open its mouth and swallow this place like a rat eaten by a snake?

I left the Camp, and that hand left my shoulder. Many people were killed in that camp for being artists. Maybe one reached out to me to make sure I do not forget what I saw. I am no cosmic judge. How an entire town is morally weighed is beyond my understanding. I needed a drink and a good dinner. I did both in another town. Every so often, staring at the sky and wishing eternal peace for the persecuted.


Mark Antony Rossi is an USAF Cold War veteran, poet, playwright, and host of the literary podcast “Strength To Be Human,”
https://strengthtobehuman.podbean.com. His work has been published in Bombfire Lit, Earth & Altar, Lethe (Turkey), Leere Mitte (Germany) and Uncomfortable Revolution and has work forthcoming on Ariel Chart, Granfallon, Indian Periodical (India) & Route 7 Review.

Mid-Century Triptych

Stanley’s Hunch

Shelly’s fiancé. Dirk. What kind of name is that? Stanley’s hand twitches. A horsefly bumps against the screen. Dirk’s smooth. Maybe too smooth. Knocks back Scotch like it’s water. Cocky. Ok, so was Stanley back in the day. But there’s something else that he can’t put his finger on. Dirk’s parents—they’re decent enough. They can be pain-in-the-ass-yacht-club snooty. But they’ve got the yacht, they’ve got the yacht.

And yeah, isn’t that what he wanted for her, putting in 70 + hours building his business to give her the best? Even returning to the ring when cash was low. Nearly got himself killed. He’d do it again. You’d better believe it. Sent her to Germantown Friends when the neighbor kids went to Northeast. The pricey business college for girls up in Rhode Island. His Shelly won’t marry no bum with a busted-up face and scarred hands. A guy who stinks of diesel fuel, fingernails black with chassis grease. Find someone with smarts and money, he told her. In that order? She asked, and he said, Nah, and they both laughed. Hell. But Dirk? Stanley could ask Marlene to talk to her but planning the wedding has helped ease that stepmother thing. It’s nice when they laugh together.

Sometimes he just wants to lock Shelly in her room. She’s been turning men’s heads since she was twelve. She’s got her mother’s sparkle. Those blue eyes wide as the ocean. Every guy was in love with Julie. Even after she got sick. Docs falling all over themselves for that high-beam smile. The surgeon’s face when he realized Stanley was Julie’s husband! Like, how’d this lout land her? And Shelly introducing him last week to Dirk’s father, who looked from Stanley to her, Stanley to her. Like, how in the world does this happen?

Now it’ll be Dirk’s job to protect her. Dirk. Christ.

Maybe it’s just father-of-the-bride jitters, but Stanley finds himself back in that old nightmare. No one said, but part of him knew Julie was dying. He knew and he didn’t know. In his dream, he’s in the ring, but can’t see his opponent. There were just gloves. Huge. Black. Hammering hammering hammering. A hook to his jaw, corkscrew jab to his kidney. His footwork is shot to hell. He tries to twist away, but he’s locked in cement. Another hit to the kidney and he’s down. He’d piss blood for a week.

 

Dirk’s Rehearsal

It’s been building all evening, each under-her-breath comment his mother makes at the rehearsal dinner fueling it, each complaint from his future mother-in-law with her purse-string lips, Shelly yoyoing between giggling and pouting, and that look his father gives him as they argue over who will sit where, that same old look no matter how hard he works, how smart, the old fucker’s never satisfied, he could sell a million boats, load each one with every option in the book, it will never be enough, he will never be enough, and it’s that sucker-punch look his father sneaks in every goddamn single time, and he never sees it coming–how does he never see it coming?–and after the bullshit about the bar tab, the tip, the centerpieces, his lack of a tie, to top it all off, there’s Shelly’s stupid stupid giggle when they go parking after the restaurant, and when he levers the car seat down, she starts whining she doesn’t want to have sex, It’s the night before our wedding, Dirk! and she rounds her big blue eyes and pushes his hand away and fuck! can’t he even get some relief. They’ve been screwing since their third date, and now she’s going all virgin on him? and when his fingers move further up her leg she slaps him, not even a play slap like she sometimes does, his cheek stings, dammit! and that’s it, he lets loose, fingers coiling into fists, he gives in to his rage, stoking it, pretending he is even drunker than he is, but his fists avoid her face and somewhere inside he recognizes he’s been moving towards this all along; it’s that cool calculation to avoid her face with his fists that shocks him, appalls him, makes him howl inside for who he once was, for who, until this moment, he might still have been.

 

Shelly’s Secret

Shelly waits until her parents’ bedroom darkens, then slips off her shoes, opens the door, moves through the dark living room where the cuckoo clock screams 2 A.M. and she stops on the stairs, realizing it’s the last night she’ll hear the clock at this hour and how sweet and sad this moment should be, but now it’s just lonely and awful and upstairs under the fluorescent bathroom light bruises bloom on her arms and ribs and she knows knows that her father will kill Dirk if he finds out and it’s this, this certainty, more than the white cake at the bakery, the white dress in her closet (thank god for its Victorian collar, the tapered lace sleeves that graze her fingertips), more than everyone waiting to watch her walk down the aisle, more than the shame if she backs out now, after all the decisions and preparations and checklists, the fights over flowers and the dessert table that makes it impossible and her legs shake as she sits on the toilet to pee, shake as she washes her hands, as she wipes the mascara and glimmer shadow from her eyes—how blue and startled they look, pink-rimmed like a rabbit’s (is that why Dirk calls her Bunny?) and she stares long and hard, wondering what he sees when he looks at her, wondering how they’ve lasted this long (he’s always had a temper, he’s screamed at her, put his fist through a wall inches from her face, once even pushed her but instantly his eyes filled with self-loathing, and she always knew it wasn’t her he was mad at, it was work, his dad, the guy who cut him out on the Boulevard, the barkeep who told him he’d had enough, it was never her he was mad at and how tender he was afterwards, his fingertips tentative, gentle, but tonight was different, it was everything and for the first time she was just another thing in that everything, and maybe she should have just slept with him or at least given him a hand-job, after all, why shouldn’t he expect something (how about a little sugar, Bunny?) to tide him over, but she can’t shake what she saw in his eyes, something calculating and cold, but what would she say, how would she explain (her father will kill him) and so she turns off the bathroom light, tiptoes to her bedroom, searches the bottom dresser drawer for her old baby doll pajamas, soft and thin with wear, the elastic loose, and she climbs into her childhood bed, the sheets smelling faintly of sunlight, listens to the murmur of traffic beyond the park, and waits for tomorrow.


Mary Rohrer-Dann is the author of Taking the Long Way Home (Kelsay Books, 2021) and La Scaffetta: Poems from the Foundling Drawer (Tempest Productions, Inc.) Additional work appears/is forthcoming in The Clackamas Review, Vestal Review, Third Wednesday, Rat’s Ass Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Philadelphia Stories (issue 2!) and other venues. Although she has long lived in central PA, she is still a Philly girl at heart, and is finishing a collection of story-poems based on the Philadelphia neighborhood she grew up in.