Based on the Philadelphia Inquirer story ‘Pilot gets 366 days in fatal Duck crash’.

“You should’ve stepped away
You were trained to step away
I don’t know why you didn’t.”
Said the captain yesterday
But the deaths they saw were hidden
When her call came to me, unbidden

A single call
A courtroom wall
She never should’ve told me
Their final breath
The stench of death
The law would take and hold me

The steamboat rolled
The gray river rolled
2:37 P.M. in July
When the teenagers’ fate was told
I felt guilt when they asked me why
And it’s not in my heart to lie

A single call
A courtroom wall
She never should’ve told me
Their final breath
The stench of death
The law would take and hold me

“I shouldn’t have called him
Oh, why did I call him?”
Cried my wife, and tore at her hair
She said “Surgeons have sinned
Left our son without air
As his eyes were fixed in their lair.”

A single call
A courtroom wall
She never should’ve told me
My sentence stands
In judges’ hands
A year and a day, they’ll hold me.


Lily Alexandra Mell is twelve years old and is homeschooled. She lives in Center City, Philadelphia. She has written many
short stories and poems in the last few years, though this is her first time being published. She is currently writing a science
fiction – fantasy novel. She greatly admires the published author Tamora Pierce and aspires to write as well as she does.


I am time.
I am that which was, which is, which will be.
I am the now, the then, the flexible future and the potent past.

That which is, was.
That which was, will be again.
That which will be, is now.

I am creation.
I am destruction.
I am all.

All that is great, is nothing.
All that is worthless, may be vital.
All that is mighty, all that is proclaimed to be great and wonderful,
is nothing before me.

I am all.
I am that which you lose and gain.
I am the infinite, the immeasurable, the unstoppable.

The greatest giants, the mightiest mountains, the most amazing
creations, both artificial and natural-all those are dust before me.
They who live may try to control me-to measure me, change their
travel through my flow, disrupt me, even harness me, shift my ebb
and flow. Yet the most ambitious plans must fail before me, the
mightiest beings bend to me.

I am infinitely complex.
I am the bringer of darkness, the destroyer of worlds.
I am that which was, which is, which could be, and that which
must never be.
In creation, there is destruction.
In destruction, there is rebirth.
There is no such thing as void, all things are in flux.
This is my nature.
Fire and ice, light and dark, life and death, energy and matter,
all these bend before me, for I am time.



Jonathan is 16 years old and attends Northeast High School in Philadelphia. His favorite subjects are English and History.
He has lived in Philadelphia for 12 years, previously he lived in Cleveland, Ohio. His hobbies are reading and writing stories, particularly science fiction and doing karate.

Insights of a Dying Man

If a knife is stabbing me in my chest
While my wife and child are sleeping
And some superior force is burning me
In the pitch black dark
Over my head under my feet,
While I on my porch
Sing, killing me softly by Lauren Hill
Out to the people of the world
As they throw sticks and stones, as they break my bones
As I tell myself: “I am not afraid, I am not afraid,
I was meant not to be,
So I shall stay that way!”
If I take my pride, strength,
And power
And put myself against the world,
Who is anybody to say I’m dying?



Eliah studies creative writing at the “Teen Lit Magazine” workshop at the Musehouse Literary Arts Center in Germantown

Day and Night

When it is day, it is blue
When it is dark, the sky is new
When it is day again, I feel free
When it is night, the stars twinkle
When it is day, I try to fly
When it is day, I like to swing up high by the sky



Elle Julius is 7 years old and lives in Ardmore, PA. with her mother, father, aunt, and brother Wyatt, who is 5 and has autism. Elle is a wonderful big sister to her brother.  She attends Penn Valley Elementary School and is in 2nd grade.  She loves reading books and writing poetry.

Prose Poem

As I stand here, ready to take on the world in a fight that will seem to last an eternity, thoughts of doubt, intimidation, and sorrow swirl around my mind sucking away any confidence I have left. And more and more as my confidence fades it leaves nothing more than these thoughts that tear away at my esteem. I sit through the night waiting for the battle to begin, the sun slowly arises and more and more like a fungus the fear starts to grow inside infecting everything. With all this internal pain it seems my only escape is to submit and give into the enemy and all my uncertainty, but through all the fear that tears away at my spirit a gentle voice as quiet as the whistle of the wind seeps through my ear and says “Stay strong my weary child for greater am I that is within you, and it by my anointing that you will stand against the forces of evil till you return to my kingdom to mend and heal the wounds of battle, be encouraged for you are my child and victory will be guaranteed for thy faithfulness.” For it is then that all fear was cast away and my spirit and courage was renewed with confidence ready
to fight another day.



John Thomas attends the New Media Technology Charter school.  On Thursday, July 14, 2011, (his 17th birthday) he attended the PS Jr. Poetry workshop at the West Oak Lane Library with Teresa FitzPatrick.  The attached work is the result of his attendance. John lives in the West Oak Lane section of Philadelphia.

Brave Soul, ii

In this lugubrious land
where coltan and fighting decide to rhyme
where the Congolese and its splintering neighbors forget
what they’re really fighting about,
it’s easy to not hear Parfaite’s dive into a lake of dreams
and dismiss the battles fought on her brave brown body
like she was the war.

What happened to simple desires unattached to the manufactured desires of outsiders
like fu-fu pounded fresh, obnoxiously yellow
mated with deep fried Nile tilapia
that Parfaite had pulled a thousand times from Lake Kivu
like Sundays after Mass when she moved with the shield of some god’s word
like those voices of the market folk haggling just to extend the day
like the dress makers exciting Parfaite’s sense of her own beauty
with a bounty of pagne sold by the meter.

When the sun was obnoxiously yellow
and the cries for justice and the fall of machetes clashed in evil dissonance
Parfaite carried a basket pregnant with the bloom of coffee flowers
and she hummed a tune to match her simple delight
when he attacked
with a broken bayonet and a mercenary’s penis
in front of a basket of fallen flowers
not just her vagina, but her place in the world.

Parfaite returned home with her story between her legs,
backs briskly turned,
time did a wicked dance
she was left with life inside her belly
that kicked
and would never be welcomed.

Abandoned, displaced
and now carrying a sinless sprite pushing for its own attention
Parfaite, wrapped in new found pieces of pagne-audaciously yellow-
returned to Lake Kivu
to the memories it held
to the sustenance it gave
to the laughter of the its fish
and with a pardon to her god
she jumped in
tightly holding on to her sense of her resplendent beauty
and humming a tune to lull her baby into a watery dream.



Sojourner Ahebee , 16, is a 10th grade student at Interlochen Arts Academy. Originally from Cote d’Ivoire, Sojourner now resides in West Philadelphia when not away at school. Her poetry has been published in Stone Soup, Teen Ink , Apiary Magazine and Red Wheelbarrow. Sojourner’s poem Listen to Africa was recently published as a poster for sale by the Syracuse Cultural Workers. Sojourner has maintained a culture blog for teens for the past four years. It’s called Sojo’s Trumpet:

The Blood Orange

Ughhh! Why do all of the other oranges pick on me for being a ruby red blood orange?! I even get death threats from the Giant Boy now! He threatens to eat me. And since summer has begun, the attacks from the Flies have been worse since the Giant Hand has forsaken us! It never comes by and smashes the Flies anymore. It’s like it isn’t even trying. But, according to the Wise One (I don’t know why we can’t just call him Apple, since that’s what he is!), this means one unlucky banana and one unlucky ruby red orange must be sacrificed to the Giant Blender From Which There Is No Return. Since I am the last of my kind, I am sure they will sacrifice me!
    You’d think they’d have more respect for me since I’m the last of the ruby red blood oranges. There’s no way I can escape this evil fate. Unless…no! That hasn’t happened in the kitchen for decades. But it is a possibility. No one has been taken by the Canine since the new Woman has taken control. She doesn’t let the Canine in since he took my mother underneath the couch.

But now that I think about it, I could be—Oh no! The sacrifice has begun! They took Lenny! NO! I almost tricked him into becoming my friend. I can’t believe the Giant Hand betrayed Lenny like that. Wait…the Giant Hand is moving this way! It wouldn’t sacrifice me. I’m the last of my kind! Ahhhh! The Giant Hand has me. And its clone is peeling me! It’s taking me to the Giant Blender From Which There Is No Return. I’m falling into the Blender. SLOPT! Jjjjtttt.

Where am I?

“Follow the light, Paul.”


“Follow the light. It’s better there.”

“Woah, woah, woah. Are you really my mom?”

“Yes. I can prove it. I died on a Wednesday, remember? We were enjoying a day at the edge of the basket. Then the Canine took me. He hid me under the counter, and I was reunited with your father.  Then, about 20 minutes later, the Canine returned and relieved himself on my face. I quickly became rotten and came here, waiting for you.”

“Wow, Mom. Are you saying you were waiting for me almost 15 years?”

“Yes, Son. Now follow me into the light.”


Wow! We are in the Better Place! It’s not a myth! And look, they have an ice cream parlor! I’m going to get some chocolate ice cream.

“WAIT! Don’t eat the ice cream!”

“Why not? Who are you?”

“I’m Anita. I’m an apple as you can see. And your mother just took a lick of ice cream and now she’s gone forever. After this second life, there isn’t a third. Trust me.”

“What was that you were saying? Yum! This ice cream is delic—“


Why does no one ever listen to me when I warn them? That’s the 33rd time some poor fruit has died. Poor ruby red blood orange. Sigh.  

Sharon Zea-Rineon will be a 7th grader at Planet Abacus Charter School in the fall. She wrote this short story at the PSJr writing workshop at the Tacony Branch of the Free Library.

The Shoe Thief

Once there was a little red fox.  She had clear green eyes and pointy brown ears. She had very good taste, but she had no fears!  Every day, she took five minutes to lick her pretty brown coat, five minutes to brush her pointy white teeth, and five minutes to groom her well-padded paws.  However, it took this little red fox more than thirty minutes to decide which shoes to wear around her den.  When she grew tired of wearing a pair, she set it aside to chew and tear.  Simply put, this was a fox with flair!

More than anything else in the world, this little fox loved shoes.  If she had to choose, it was always shoes!  She would choose a shoe over beef stew!  She would choose a shoe in any hue!          

All the other foxes chided her, “Silly fox, why do spend all your time with shoes when there’s an entire forest to play in?”  Amused, the little fox replied, “You choose the forest grooves, but I choose the groovy shoes!”   With that, she turned and walked away with her spirits up, her head up, and her tail   up!

One morning, the little red fox woke up before dawn.  In her den in the woods, she decided that it was time to fetch more goods. So, she set out for her favorite village.  There she always found a large selection of irresistible shoes that came in all sizes and colorful hues! Shoes in reds and blues!  Shoes with glittery glues!  Shoes always in twos!  All the villagers here left their shoes on their porches overnight for the little red fox to take.  At least, that’s what she thought!

As the little red fox trotted through the sleepy village looking over all the shoes on display, a large black, yellow-eyed cat, named Rudolph, yowled angrily at her.  The little red fox was used to it.  What she was not used to, though, was a big, black dog whose mean growl made her heart beat faster than a spinning top.  It was all worth it, though, when the first sunbeams of the day danced upon a shiny purple shoe.  How it caught her eye!  The little red fox gasped, “How gorgeous!  How glorious!”  She ran towards the gleaming purple shoe, picked it up with her teeth, and carried it home.

Soon, all the villagers began to hiss, “There must be a shoe thief in our midst.”  Shoes were disappearing now on a regular basis.  The town sheriff then ordered a search of every house in the village and in the surrounding area.  The shoes were nowhere to be found!

In the following weeks, more shoes disappeared from this little village.  Then, a policeman, still searching for the traitor, found a slew of chewed shoes scattered along a forest trail. Bemused, he thought out loud, “Could this be the clue to the mystery of the missing shoes?”  Cautiously, he looked around until he stumbled upon a crumpled, discolored shoe in front of a fox’s den.  Carefully, he looked inside.

The policeman was amazed at what he had found!  Surrounded by a multitude of colorful shoes, the little red fox sat happily chewing on a bright yellow shoe!   Then, the policeman looked even more closely and was surprised to find something else!  It was a happy brood of little red foxes!  And, what were these little red foxes doing?   Chewing!  Each little fox was all aglow, gleefully chewing on a bright and shiny shoe, each a different color of the rainbow!

Born in Christiana, Delaware, Sarah is the youngest of four. She attends the Charter School of Wilmington and has won awards for her essays. She also plays violin and viola and likes to bowl (her three-person team won 1st place in Nationals in Washingotn, D.C. at the National History Bowl in 2011).

SIDE NOTE: This children’s tale is based on a true story from a small town in Germany. Have you read a news item that you wanted to turn into a story?

To The Sea

Armal, Asturias, Spain, 1898

There was no wedding. If I could’ve done anything differently, there would’ve been a wedding. A wedding with a gown, many guests, dancing, food and music. All my friends were as disappointed as I was. They’d been planning my wedding since before I had turned ten. The same with me for all of them.

No wedding. Instead, these documents.

I sign my name, and everyone bursts out in applause and singing. It is not much of a wedding ceremony, signing a piece of paper, but when José and I are an ocean apart, what can we do?

It is raining. Again. The muddy ground and chilly air gives me a headache. But there is something in my hand that separates this rainy day in Asturias from any other. To some people it may only look like a piece of paper, but to me it is my life.

A ship ticket.

“I wish you didn’t have to go, Eloisa,” my mother says, handing me my cloak. Poor Mamá. She had everything set on me marrying Luis, who is in Armal like us. Instead I go overseas, to Puerto Rico. “There’s still time…”

“No, Mamá.”

She sighs, and I tie the cloak around my neck. The journey across the sea will be long and tiresome in of itself, but today I leave my house, my siblings, and all my friends with their weddings and parties. Are there parties in Puerto Rico? Will I have friends? For as much as I’ve been longing to leave Spain, I feel a pang as I glance around my little house.

“Safe travels,” my sister Carmen says.

“Gracias.” I kiss her on the cheek, and she wraps her arms around me.

“How I will miss you,” she murmurs.

“And I you, Carmen.”

We break apart.

“They are improving the ships,” my father says. “Soon a voyage will not be long. We will come visit you, Eloisa. Do not doubt it.”

And with that, he turns the doorknob, and I leave the house.

San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1911

I cannot imagine my other life. I cannot imagine life without José, without the children, and I cannot imagine life away from Puerto Rico. Today is the anniversary of our “wedding.” With Mercedes in my arm, I open the door to my husband’s shop, which he shares with his brother Bernardo. The smell of foods imported from Spain mingle delightfully in the air.

“My husband has bought the smells of Spain to Puerto Rico on a warm summer’s day,” I announce, since he is not busy with a customer.

“Eloisa!” he says. “And Mercedes! Whatever are you doing here in the middle of the day?”

“But it is not just any day, José. It is our anniversary. Do you not remember?”

A smile creeps across his face.

“Of course I do,” he says.

“I thought you might be able to come off work a little early.” I smile at him teasingly. “For a little party, no?”
“One thing I’ve learned about you, Eloisa, is that nothing you say is ‘little,’ especially when it comes to parties.” But José is not exasperated; he is preoccupied. He sits down on a crate. “Eloisa, I must tell you something.”

The smile fades off my face, and his.

“What?” I ask, the word sounding as a breath rather than a word.

“Bernardo is leaving.”

 His words send my vase of a life in Puerto Rico into shatters. “Leaving? But why?”
“He wishes to return to Spain,” says José. I cannot say I blame him; I cannot remember the sight of my mother’s face.”

“We aren’t leaving.” It is a statement, not a question. “We can’t leave – you love it here! No?”

“I do love it here,” he says quietly. “I do.”


“We will not leave,” he says with a decidedness that helps me to let out my breath. “I am taking over the business; he has sold his share to me and it will continue to be profitable, I am sure. Do not worry, Eloisa. We will stay.”

The party lasts late into the night, but the children fall asleep early. Bernardo, José, and all our friends in Puerto Rico eat the foods I prepared; and our celebration sways between talking, eating, drinking, and dancing. At one time, José lifts me in the air, and we swing around and around.

Still Bernardo lingers in the backdrop, not physically, but in my mind. He and José have not been home for many years. I see the image of Mamá in my minds’ eye, and Carmen and all my friends in Armal, but my link to them lies in the letters they send me. Will I one day leave Puerto Rico, one day when the letters have yellowed and the faces blur?

Miramar, Puerto Rico, 1913

To see the sea! Now this is paradise. Holding Mercedes’ hand in mine, the other children behind us, I throw open the doors to the balcony. The sea, the glorious sea sparkles at us. Antonio, the oldest, grasps the railing.

“Imagine, the sea whenever we want it,” I whisper, almost to myself. “Miramar. To see the sea.”

José steps onto our balcony. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I say. “Thank you – “

He shakes his head. “You found this place all by yourself, Eloisa, and I am so glad you did.” He kisses me on the forehead.

“I want to see too!” Luisa says, jumping up and down. Rosario crouches down to peek between the bars.

“But you are looking at it, right now,” I say. “See, the sparkling blue out there? That is the sea.”

That is the sea, I write in a letter to Carmen. The blue expanse that looks like a precious jewel, it sparkles so brightly in the sun’s light. Back in Armal, we are enclosed by mountains.

The door opens and Antonio, Little José, Rosario, and Luisa burst wildly into the house. I smile at them. “How was school?”

“Good,” Antonio says. Little José nods.

“We learned a new letter!” Luisa pipes up.

“I can sing a song!” says Rosario.

When they leave, I turn back to my letter:

And we have schools here too, Carmen. The children go every day and learn new things.  José is well, and …
As if my words summoned him, José walks in the door. He has a strange look on his face, one I have not seen before. He sits across from the table where I have been writing, and looks me in the eye. “Eloisa, listen to me.”

And I listen.

It does not matter, I had told José. As long as we find time enough together over the next few years, I will be happy. It does not matter at all.

But of course it matters. It matters to learn that your husband is going to die.

I throw open the balcony doors, and I breathe in the Puerto Rican smell I love so much, the smell we will leave behind when my husband wants to go back to Spain and see his family. I think of how selfish I am, and I cry.

I wish he wanted a funeral. A big funeral with lots of people, singing, talking and prayers. Instead, he wants a quiet service for just the family. And of course I do not argue with my husband over his wishes. It frightens me to have to discuss this with him.  


It is Luisa.

“Yes?” I worry my voice will crack with emotion.

“When are we leaving?”


“You know. For Papá. Spain.”

I sit on my bed. “Next week. We have the ship tickets, and we will be leaving early in the morning.”

Luisa sits down next to me.

“I don’t want to leave,” she says. “And I don’t want Papá to leave either.”

“Neither does anyone, Luisa,” I murmur. I want to say something more to comfort her, but instead of words, there are tears.

At the port a week later, I catch my last glimpse of the sparkling sea. I wonder if José sees it too. I do not ask. He has gone silent. Where once he was laughter and parties and the business, he is now a kind of statue. I want to say something, to wave a magic wand and cure him, but I am helpless.

We board the boat. When the children are eating, somewhat occupied, José waves me over.

“I’m sorry, Eloisa,” he says. “I know you don’t want to go back.” He takes a deep breath. “You and the children can leave after the service. But it’s important to me, to see my family one more time before… “

And then I am crying. “Don’t say it; it sounds like you’ve given up hope. I am selfish. I’m so sorry… ”

The boat rocks and jerks against the Atlantic Ocean.

Castropol, Asturias, Spain, 1913

I had never been to Castropol. I lived my whole life in Spain mostly in Armal, but José is from Castropol. And so now here we are, in Castropol by the sea, just as the winter weather sets in. It is damp, cold, rainy, just as I remembered Spain, and the wind makes a lonely, howling sound. But José is embracing his brother. “Bernardo! Oh, I missed you…”

His mother stands to the side, and when José lets go of Bernardo, they embrace.

“What do we do, Mamá?” Luisa whispers to me, her forehead creased. “We don’t know these people.”
“No, but they are family,” I remind her. “That is your grandmother.”

  “She is?” Luisa asks.

  I nod. “And you have more family, in Armal, where we will visit soon enough.”

  “Eloisa!” José’s mother calls out. “Oh, it is good to see you! And the children too – such, bright, happy faces…”

If anyone passed by, they would think it was a family reunion, but I glance over at José, and I remember the real reason we are here.

The winter holidays slip through my fingers like water through a sieve. All I can think about is José, and: is this his last holiday? The words make my stomach hurt. He travels Asturias like I don’t think he would have otherwise. We leave Castropol. We see Ovideo, Gijón, and Aviles. The children come with us, enthralled. Even the little ones seem to comprehend somewhat.

One day we stop by a mountain range.

“There,” José says.

“There what, Papá?” Antonio asks, which is what I was going to ask.

“This is where we come from,” José says. “This is what I wanted to see. This is Asturias. This is home.”

I remember how glad I was to leave Asturias. I never thought of it as “where I come from.” But it is true. My throat is tight with emotion.

 “I love it here,” Luisa says.

Everyone agrees.

Castropol, Asturias, Spain, 1917

There is no funeral. The way he wanted it. In the days following his death, it is the way I wanted it as well. I cannot think of the funeral like a party. I need to cry. I need to remember.

I do not notice the cold, the wind, or the rain. In general, I do not think about where I am, where I come from, and where I want to be.

The children cry. I think. I hardly notice. José’s mother takes care of them. I walk outside, a misty haze drifting through the tips of the mountains.

I complained. I wanted a big wedding. A big funeral. To stay in Puerto Rico. But I loved him. I loved him without a big wedding. I loved him without a big funeral. I loved him if we were in the mountains of Asturias or seeing the sea from our house in Miramar. And did I ever tell him that?

Hours pass. How many, I do not know. I wrap my quilt around me for warmth. And then the question comes to me, the question I do not want to answer.

Now where do we go?

Armal, Asturias, Spain, 1918
As the days passed, the option of leaving became clearer in its ridiculousness. The Great War had broken out soon after we arrived. All we could do was to hope that the war would not come to Spain, and it did not – Spain stayed neutral.

And now the war is over. Just as I can allow myself to see the sea again in my mind, this offer from Mamá.

“Stay in Spain with us, Eloisa. You and the children. Please… we missed you in Puerto Rico.”

I do not want to stay.

It is drizzling a little today, which is not a surprise. I take a picnic basket and call the children – who are now not so much children as they were when we arrived – to the mountain range José showed us in our travels.

“Your grandmother has offered – ” I begin.

“I heard,” Antonio said. “She told me as well.”


“There is a better life for us in Puerto Rico,” I say. “An education for you children. Your father’s business, carried on. A view of the sea…” I try to smile.

“But Mamá, Abuela is not young,” Little José says, and the other children nod their agreement. “When she is… you know… will we have to come back?”

I take a breath. This is a possibility. “Maybe,” I admit.

“And then Abuelo? And your uncles, and aunts, and how will we ever see them again?”

Luisa’s voice brings back a memory, a memory of when Bernardo left. He had not seen his family in years, and he couldn’t stay in Puerto Rico, no matter how beautiful. For the first time, I feel a flicker of doubt. Is it wrong to leave my family for where I would be happier?

And then the answer comes to me.

“Maybe,” I say. “It is important to know who came before us. But it is also important to carve a path for those coming after us, and their future. And I believe that the path is in Puerto Rico.”

There is another silence.

Then – “Can we see the sea?” – from Mercedes, who had heard me talk of our home in Miramar.

I nod. “We’ll buy a place near the sea again.” And with those words, I feel hope rising in me.

Author’s Note: ‘To See the Sea’ was based on the true experiences of my great-great-grandmother, Eloisa Castrillón Infanzón. Though I have fictionalized the story to make it richer, I believe I have not changed the basic facts.  Soon after the family returned to Puerto Rico, Eloisa died at age forty-eight, in 1926. I am the great-granddaughter of her youngest child, Mercedes.

Lena is a fourteen-year-old Philadelphia homeschooler who loves writing, reading, spelling competitions, and pretty much anything that has to do with language and literature. I have really enjoyed participating in the “Teen Lit Magazine” workshop at the Musehouse Literary Arts Center in Germantown and am excited to be published in Philadelphia Stories Jr.!