Book Review–Scranton Lace: Poems

Scranton Lace cover Margot Douaihy

Review of Scranton Lace: Poems (Clemson University Press)

A lyrical and brutal dismantling

by Emma Murray

“In Vulgar Latin, Lace means entice, / ensnare.” Poet Margot Douaihy and scratchboard illustrator Bri Hermanson do just that with Scranton Lace: Poems. Douaihy’s poems lyrically and brutally dissect coming of age as a queer person in the Rust Belt, and the Scranton Lace Company—a hometown fixture turned ruin—is her muse. From sleeping off a first hangover in “The Lace” parking lot, to falling “in lust” with a diner waitress who worked nearby, this fixture and the lace itself serve as portals through which Douaihy conjures and reconciles her adolescent homophobia, as well as what it means when these familiar structures falter. “Like a honeycomb, the more you turn a memory / the more doors you find.”

Not only is this collection a tour de force lyrically, but also visually. Hermanson’s signature scratchboard illustrations guide the reader through interludes about two imagined female factory workers. Hermanson’s medium seems symbolic of the collection’s intent—etching away literal and figurative edifice to get to the raw wound. This, combined with how Hermanson has dappled pages with relief prints of genuine Scranton Lace, will leave readers fingering the pages for more. But don’t let the enticing lace fool you—this collection has teeth, as Douaihy reminds: “yes lace is porous / but it can still smother.”

Poet and visual artist Emma Murray received her MFA from Oklahoma State University. She received an Academy of American Poets Prize in 2016.



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The Writing Prompt

A little known fact, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was inspired by a writing prompt suggested during his Thursday evening writing group at the Moscow library. The prompt: “write a story that ends with a suicide via railway. Make vocab twelfth grade reading level and use numerous flashbacks, a minimum of one blizzard, and two characters with names ending in ‘nina.'”

I confess a certain snobby, literary disdain for the idea of writing prompts, as if a real writer wouldn’t need manufactured inspiration from the exercise section of a how-to writing book.  A real writer wouldn’t enter the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest for worst first sentence similar to “it was a dark and stormy night.” And yet, the truth is that I’ve had personal success using writing prompts. One of my grad classes at Penn required us to write a story in the form of an advice column. My story (and others) found publication in volume based on this idea (Prompted). Without that very specific nudge, I never would have written the piece, or probably even conceived of the format.

I’ve also found that when I teach writing, students often respond with creative work that dazzles based on some basic constraints (examples: giving students a startling first line of dialogue, asking them to base a story on a single painting, writing exercises that start with “I remember the first time I…”). Most students seem to thrive on some level of prompting, rather than facing an entirely blank page and carte blanche to write whatever they want.

My hesitation to suggest that you use writing prompts to get started comes from some bad writing prompts I’ve seen. This one, for example: “Suddenly, she discovered…” To me, that prompt sets the writer up for a fatal first sentence that places the climax at the beginning of the story, rather than near the end. It also sets the writer up for some bad first ideas. “Suddenly, she discovered she was a dog. Suddenly, she discovered, she was on Mars. Suddenly, she discovered she didn’t want to marry Bob.” And yet…One of my favorite short stories by Amy Bloom, “Love is Not a Pie” begins very similarly: “In the middle of the eulogy at my mother’s boring and heartbreaking funeral, I began to think about calling off the wedding. August 21 did not seem like a good date, John Wescott did not seem like a good person to marry, and I couldn’t see myself in the long white silk gown Mrs. Wescott had offered me.”

In addition, there are a number of writing contests that use writing prompts/constraints as formats for submissions. NPR used to do an excellent fiction contest called “Three Minute Fiction” that would give writers a first line to start with, and the constraint that you had to tell a complete story in under 600 words (something that can be read in under three minutes). I never won any of those contests, but I tried them every time. There’s a recent contest by Owl Canyon Press that dictates the first and last paragraph of a story, asking the writer to fill in the 48 paragraphs in between to create the story. I started that challenge on a day when my brain wasn’t giving me much else, and the trickiness of trying to weave in the first details with the last details in mind felt exhilarating, like figuring out a difficult crossword puzzle. In the meantime, a story started to take shape and I was able to get my word count done for the day. They are out there, those rogue writing prompts, and they are often associated with other constraints, including a deadline to finish.

There is a part of me that still resists this idea of prompts because it feels like I’m cheating somehow by not coming up with my own fuel. But the truth is, it’s sometimes hard to jump-start the creative mind, and so anything that moves you forward—first lines, last lines, deadlines—has value. The goal each day is to put words on the page, and so I suggest that if you, like Tolstoy, find you’re getting the work done by starting with “Suddenly, she found herself on the train tracks…” then by all means, jump in.

After A Phillies Game

Sitting in the backseat heading

north on 95 after the

game eating cold pretzels straight out

a crinkled, brown paper bag like

they’re going out of style―four

for a dollar, salt settles in

your lap, refineries burn in

Port Richmond―three pretzels to go.

Matt was born and raised in Levittown, PA, and now resides in NC where he writes poetry and short fiction.

To Start A School

Music to read by: “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” Shelly Berg Trio

When John Thompson Morris of Philadelphia turned forty-four, he took early retirement from the presidency of his father’s Iron Works to pursue other interests. Morris, unlike his father and uncles, preferred the role of benefactor, one who reaches into the past and buys up rare objects, then donates them for public edification. While still in his thirties, Morris took on this role by embarking on three significant tasks: amass an impressive quantity of objects of antiquity from around the world, create the most excellent pleasure gardens in Philadelphia, and serve—with tenacity and candor—on boards of civic organizations. After retiring in 1891, he was able to give unlimited time to these interests. Morris was no different from other benefactors of the Gilded Age. They too set for themselves similar tasks, those prosperous, ambitious Philadelphians with famous surnames . . . Wharton, Pennypacker, Stotesbury, Wanamaker.

When it came time to draft his will in 1909, Morris was fully aware that much depended on him—he was the last male in his immediate family. All his life, Morris had been a good steward and it was up to him to ensure the future of many things. Through trust funds, Morris provided a gracious plenty for his household servants, for charitable organizations, like the Philadelphia Home for Incurables, and for cousins (he being unmarried, his siblings being without heirs). After taking care of all these, he bequeathed his family’s ancestral home, Cedar Grove, which he considered a colonial treasure, to the Society of Colonial Dames of America.

But Morris’s will makes it clear that he had one more task in mind, an ambitious task that required all of his residuary estate and depended on close cooperation of several organizations. He wanted to start a school.

In a 12-page treatise in the middle of his will, Morris designed his school and its two supporting auxillaries. He named it “The Morris Botanical Garden, School and Museum.” And, in typical founder-itis fashion, Morris didn’t leave any aspect to the notions of others. He outlined the major goals and defined the complex administrative and fiduciary relationship between the garden, the school and the museum. He specified a corporate-type Board of Managers, to be composed of representatives from three institutions, Haverford College, The Academy of National Sciences of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. He then launched into the curriculum, a program to suit the hybrid institution he envisioned—a trade school with a scientific foundation.

Morris set parameters for entering students (16 years of age, proficient in basic school subjects, male, possibly some females), for methods of instruction he deemed most appropriate, housing, and rules of decorum. He went so far as to state how students should spend their weekends, adamant that they attend church on Sundays. As for tuition—it was free. Room and board—free. Clothing—free. Students only needed to render service on the grounds while attending school. Plus they would receive a $100 honorarium at the end of their four-year course of study to help them launch their career.

This school/garden/museum was no pipe dream. In fact, a few years later, Morris plucked his dream out of his will and decided to carry it out during his lifetime. He had done this before, when he jumped ahead of his will by commissioning the Morris Infirmary for Haverford College, and afterwards changed his will, canceling the bequest. He sensed a pent-up demand—there were so many country estates in the region and so few practical gardeners.

All Morris needed was the perfect property for situating his school. And he found it within waving distance of Compton, his country home in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia. Morris purchased Bloomfield Farm in 1914 for just this purpose. Located on the Wissahickon Creek across the road from his estate, Bloomfield came with a couple of houses, a mill and history traceable to the 1740s.

With property in hand, the dream could be turned into bricks and mortar. Morris did his homework, coached by a consultant who traveled anywhere there was a training program attached to renown gardens—England, Scotland, Germany, Holland. A highly qualified consultant whose surname was Bartram (as in descendent of John Bartram, Father of American botany). Frank Bartram’s task was to scope out what other gardening schools were doing and return to Philadelphia with a plan for something even better; something that grafted the practical onto the academic.

Morris most certainly took to heart the words of President James A. Garfield, promoter of all things agricultural, whose memorial monument had been unveiled in Morris’s beloved Fairmount Park a dozen years earlier, “At the head of all sciences and arts, at the head of civilization and progress, stands—not militarism, the science that kills, not commerce, the art that accumulates wealth—but agriculture, the mother of all industry, and the maintainer of human life.” But to Morris, although farming may be necessary, it was not the raison d’être of his school.

It mattered a lot to Morris that a horticulturalist was proficient in plowing and cultivating. And that a greenhouse manager knew about plumbing and steamfitting. And that a gardener understood accounting procedures. It all mattered to Morris because his goal was to produce “competent and useful gardeners” who gained most of their experience outdoors, not in classrooms, and whose credential was a diploma, not a degree. He believed he was onto something very few were doing except at a handful of U.S. schools and at botanic gardens on the Continent, like Edinburgh, Glasnevin, Frederiksoord and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens (the ne plus ultra of the day).

A call for practical training had grown out of the 1889 national convention of florists, landscapers and horticulturists. It was a vociferous call that named names and laid blame: “Let us have a great horticultural training school, where the professors are not afraid to stain their fingers in laboratory and garden nor ashamed to don a blue apron and lead a class with skilled fingers in any line of practical work . . . one such school, well endowed and properly manned will do more for American horticulture than all our agricultural schools will ever do . . . to correct much that is now erroneous and ridiculous.” It was time to end the “great farce” of teaching horticulture without getting dirt under the fingernails.

In all likelihood, Morris paid close attention to this dispute. And when it came time to plan his own school, he could probably name all the practical work schools on the East Coast. But as with all Morris’s prior projects, he was aiming for the very best—a distinctive school with its roots firmly in the past and its hope in a new profession of practical gardening.

Now that he had a charter and a location, Morris turned to physical facilities. He favored the functionality of the I-shaped Pennsylvania Hospital. Could something smaller be designed for the north corner of Bloomfield Farm, leaving the center open for greenhouses and fields, he asked Bartram?  Regardless of architecture, he knew exactly how the school should operate—just as it had during his school days at Haverford College. He informed Bartram of this, more than once.

In early July, 1915, Morris told Bartram to start on the next project—designs for practice greenhouses with plenty of space for plant propagation. Together, they reviewed sketches and Bartram took notes as Morris approved this, nixed that. Though news of the war in Europe was taking up more and more space in Gardeners’ Chronicle from London, Bartram drew Morris’s attention to reports of a new professional diploma in horticulture. Could this program be refashioned for Philadelphia? How quickly could they get the course of study designed and the first class enrolled? Several well-respected horticulturalists had already offered to leave their positions and come to Philadelphia. Morris debated whether to go ahead and engage them.

The U.S. Commissioner of Education was ready with names for the Board of Managers; an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture was scouting potential faculty. Morris told Bartram he was willing to open the program with a small group of day students, even before buildings were constructed. Yet despite the approval of virtually all the leading agencies and institutions akin to the project, Morris reversed his decision: “Mr. Morris feels the school cannot open before 1916,” Bartram noted in February of 1915. Apparently, Morris felt a school wasn’t a school without dormitories and classrooms.

In August, John Morris and his sister Lydia vacationed at their usual place—the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. And Morris continued working on a myriad of design details, sending Bartram sketches and comments on student accommodations, dining hall, lecture hall, labs. On August 10th, Morris had a better idea about fixtures for the dormitory bathrooms, so he wrote another “long epistle” jammed with his latest thoughts on the administration building, auditorium, seed collection room and dormitory bathrooms. And why, he queried Bartram, hadn’t he received a response to his previous letter about the bath sinks. Time was marching on. He had a lot to attend to—permissions, contracts. “I am ready to go ahead at once if data is presented to me for consideration,” he wrote. That was Morris’s final letter. He died of acute kidney failure August 15, 1915.

Morris’s determination to start a school did not die with him. Lydia Thompson Morris picked up where her brother left off by commissioning Edgar V. Seeler to design the educational buildings and greenhouses at Bloomfield, and to draft a plan for converting the Compton mansion into a museum. Seeler began work with a trip to Boston to meet Arnold Arboretum staff, who provided positive feedback—the location was ideal, the demand for gardeners was high, the time was right.

Many in the world of horticulture were eager to see what would become of this “interesting proposition” of a school: “Its development will be watched with peculiar interest by all in the horticultural and floricultural business,” proclaimed the editor of The Florists’ Exchange. But as harvest season came and went, there was no further word of progress on John Morris’s vision. No press releases, no interviews, no small-scale models.

Frank Bartram finished up his journals and turned them over to Miss Morris’s staff. Then in the spring of 1917, as young men began leaving farms to enlist in the military, Bartram took on the resulting farmer shortage by joining a regional committee. The following spring, Edgar Seeler submitted drawings of Bloomfield buildings and Compton renovations then he, too, turned to war-related tasks. His next commission was to create a new community of 500 homes in Ridley Park to alleviate the housing shortage near war-related industries.

Miss Morris had her own tasks to attend to. Once the U.S. entered the war, she gave liberally of her time and money to the social welfare of thousands of sailors and marines stationed at the Navy Yard.

For these necessary and laudable reasons, the Morris Botanical Garden, School and Museum, as envisioned in the pages of a will, remained a vision . . . until 1929. That was the year Miss Morris updated her will and by then much had changed, economically, culturally and institutionally. Several attempts had been made in the early 1920s to establish cooperative gardener education programs, including the Massachusetts Agricultural College’s arrangement with the National Association of Gardeners. But the American system of gardener education has always leaned toward the scientific and theoretical. And most practical work programs did not survive long.

In 1929, when Lydia Morris was faced with how best to carry out her brother’s vision, she understood that his approach to gardener education was not in keeping with current trends. At the dawn of the 1930s, it was more important to conduct botanical research and disseminate that knowledge to the world than to prepare head gardeners for country estates; to offer advanced courses for students whose preliminary education was done elsewhere; to build offices and research labs rather than dormitories. And thus, under these terms as specified in Lydia Morris’s will, Compton and Bloomfield became the responsibility of the Botanical Department of the University of Pennsylvania, hereafter known as The Morris Arboretum.


This essay was made possible by original sources at the Morris Arboretum Archives.

Joyce Munro’s work can be found in Broad Street Review, Hippocampus, Minding Nature, Poor Yorick, The Copperfield Review, WHYY Speak Easy and elsewhere. She writes about the people who kept a Philadelphia estate running during the Gilded Age in “Untold Stories of Compton” on the Morris Arboretum blogsite. 


Trail of Ghosts

When I was a junior in high school, I got a job at a flower shop. I worked there for almost five years, scraping money together for SATs and prom dresses. On the weekends I roamed South Jersey roadways and highways in the shop vans. Both vans, big or little, had filthy cupholders full of pennies, center consoles stuffed with fast food trash and business cards, broken starters, funky brakes, and were my chosen form of escaping home.

Being on the road was addictive. The vans were high above the pavement, where the echoes of my father’s death, the debt he left my family, and its strain on my mother, couldn’t reach me. I was secure in the way roller coasters feel secure when you’re strapped in, just before the drop.

Big Bertha was my favorite van. From its height, I could see down into any car below. Maybe it was the feeling of control or maybe it was the feeling of breathlessness, that as high as I was, as far as I was from my problems below, I was still moving. As a restless teenager, this was a peaceful feeling.

The first time I drove Bertha was a few weeks after I got my license. I was 17. I grabbed the key from the shop and trekked across the street towards the parking lot. I didn’t think I could handle a vehicle of her size, even if only to drive her across the street to the shop-front. I was used to smaller vehicles, and looking into other drivers’ eyes, not the tops of their heads. Climbing upwards to reach the driver’s seat was new territory for me. The seat was so far from the pedals I had to sit on the edge of the cushion to reach both gas and brakes. It would be months before I learned to move the seat forward.

The next time I drove her was also my first time delivering funeral flowers. I knew the location well. It was where my father’s funeral was held ten or so years prior. My boss did the flowers for my father’s service too, which meant they were delivered in the same van, Big Bertha.

I pulled into the driveway, set far back from the road by a hill jutting awkwardly above the street below. I braced myself for the flashbacks to come: four vases with a blue flower to represent my brothers, one vase with a pink flower for me. My mother crying. Sitting in the front row, the cremated remains of a former half of me resting in a box at the front of the room.

Before I entered the funeral home, I sat in the van, counting off arrangements, matching flowers to delivery slips, making sure none were forgotten.

I opened the side door, arms full with a funeral basket so large I couldn’t see over it. I watched my feet, making sure to avoid tripping on any steps and destroying the flowers of mourning. After setting the arrangement down, I stood up to find myself facing the casket.

It was open and the corpse inside looked puffy and waxen. I averted my eyes though they kept gravitating towards his body. I couldn’t look at him, yet I couldn’t look away. His gray hair was slicked back perfectly atop his balding head. Years of living well had carved smile lines deep into his skin. His mouth had permanently set into a smirk.

I shifted my focus and found the carpet and wallpaper matched that of my memories. Dark floral patterns on the walls clashed, or perhaps meshed, with the deep green of the carpet. Behind me, the rows of chairs matched my memory too. I turned to see the chair I sat in the last time I was in the room, fifth from the left, front row.

My mother had been seated closest to the wall, first in line to receive guests, my brothers and I following her, positioned chronologically. Before us, instead of a coffin stood a table bearing the box of my father’s ashes, and the five tiny vases.

Everyone had worn black as they huddled around pictures of a man no one would see again. I had smiled at them, awkwardly attempting to offer joy, failing entirely in that attempt.

That day ushered in an era of silence, of quiet tears spilt alone late at night. I don’t remember much of what happened immediately afterwards. My mom finally finished the kitchen renovation they’d begun long ago. We went to Florida for our first vacation without our father. Eventually, money became tighter. My brothers and I became closer, conscious then of the ease at which a person goes from being there, to never being anywhere other than in the past tense. We were deeply connected to my mom too. As a unit, we spent no time looking back.

Maybe it had been too easy to walk out of that room. Maybe I had never really left it.

I left and came back with more flowers. Trip after trip, van to funeral home and back again, until finally it was over. I brought the final arrangement in and set it gently on the carpet  in front of the casket. I looked at the silent and peaceful man and wondered how he would feel if he knew I was looking at him. I imagined his laughter and his hugs during the stories he would tell his grandchildren during the holidays.

I ran from the room without shutting the door. Bertha started on the first turn in the ignition, a rare feat, and I drove off so quickly I almost tipped her on her side.

Away from the room and the man and the memories, I wanted to go back to sit with him for a while but I had other deliveries to make. Birthday balloons, bridal flowers, “I’m Sorry” bouquets awaited.

Soon, I would learn how common it is to see corpses in the flower industry, how often it is not the flowers of the living, but rather casket decorations and peace lilies. How, more often than not, I would carry flowers whose recipients are in the process of being forgotten: silent arrangements, ones no one calls the sender about, as opposed to the flowers of the living.

In the hours before the services would begin, funeral home directors accepted the flower deliveries. After a while, these deliveries became quiet, peaceful places for me to be with the dead. Knowing I was one of the last people to share their private time with them, I began reading the obituaries, not just glancing at delivery dates and times, to glimpse who they were: veterans, nurses, teachers, students. I could learn how they died based on the wording, Passed Suddenly usually meant overdose or suicide, while Is Now At Peace usually translated into cancer or some other illness.

They were sometimes young, oftentimes old, and their loved ones were always listed at the end of the obituary. There, I learned how these people lived and who they left behind. People who were losing life partners, children, grandparents, mothers, and fathers. Then I would bring in the flowers ordered by those loved ones, and set them at the base of the caskets.

Quick and clean, in and out, bouncing around South Jersey, leaving a trail of ghosts behind, I’d strap myself into the safety of the van after each delivery. I’d blast NPR, or music, or both as I drove.

At the end of the night, I would park the van at the shop, hang the keys on the wall, then lock the door and leave, forgetting the names of the bodies I’d seen that day. I would trade their faces for those of the living and abandon the dead until my next shift.

I still notice when I’m near one of the funeral homes I used to deliver to. The familiarity of the routes have ingrained into my subconscious, next to the wallpaper patterns and obituaries, and ghosts of those whose funerals I’d crashed.

Devon James is pursuing an accelerated BA/MA in Writing Arts and Writing respectively from Rowan University in Glassboro New Jersey. She grew up in Southern New Jersey where she spent time exploring the surrounding area’s diverse landscape. From forests to farms to Philadelphia, she is grateful to have grown up in an area with such unique offerings. When she is not writing, she enjoys hiking, needlework, and tending to her many plants.

Evensong, King’s College Chapel

Our days are longer than glass, longer than

Stone, longer than light and air, longer than

The waters of this softly flowing river that will

Pass, rise, fall, and pass again while we speak

These words, sing these words. Our days are

Longer than prayer or scholarship, than ambition

Or boasting or riot or sleeping or waking or food

Or kisses or the bright exalting summer of youth.

They are longer than sorrow or rejoicing or love

Or bones turned to powder. Our steps trace and

Retrace the paths of echoing generations, and

We are indistinguishable among them. For a

Thousand years has the black-haired girl sat in

Choir and stared black-eyed, and for a thousand

More will she sit and stare. We will speak these

Words, sing these words. For centuries the man

Has sat dry in his faith, and for centuries more

Will he sit. We will speak these words, sing these

Words. The dry man will find his faith and the

Black-eyed girl will look up. We have no need

For rushing. With our words and our singing

We make this glass and this stone the great

Still center of creation. The long grass moves

From the breath of our words. The trailing

Willows sway from the breath of our singing.

The river flows softly while we speak and we

Sing. These words and this singing pass from

Mouth to mouth and their living is continuous.

We do not matter at all. Our broken ineluctable

Particulars are translated into these words and

This singing, and we are made whole by them.

When the windows are blank cold darkness we

Speak. When the stones glow skin warm we sing.

There is confidence in our words and endurance

In our singing. The softly flowing river passes.

We speak and we sing.

Peter McEllhenney is a writer living in Philadelphia, PA. His work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, the Seminary Ridge Review, Referential Magazine, The Apeiron Review, and Blast Furnace. He blogs at

Field Study


E A G L E S written in vapors in the sky

A dalliance of eagles overhead

Midair clasping talons cart-wheeling down toward earth

Chant of boos at the site of the purple-winged god of the north wind,


A procession of green double decker buses carrying the champs moves slowly up Broad Street

A rage of joy screams           people  barricaded swarm the parade route,

bearded player wearing a turban and Mummers costume dives into the crowd

floats on raised arms


A few clutch urns of ancestral ashes

Man wearing a jersey with number 99

circles in a ghost dance

empties ashes on the edges of a park at Broad & Oregon


Elderly couple wearing fated team caps holds a sign

58 Years! The Curse Is Gone!

Wings on everything

Every shade of green expressing loyalty to the Champions

The reflective glory on the back of jerseys: names numbers of their heroes

The face of Nick Foles taped over the image of a saint


Two giant marble Pylons open out to the Parkway to a roaring sea

Boys huddled together standing on the shoulders of the sculpted soldiers

on the Civil War Memorial

A cap placed on the head of The Thinker at the Rodin Museum

A ski cap on the head of George Washington at Eakin’s Oval, a boy riding side saddle

Beer bottles stuck in branches decorate a tree in front of the Barnes


Go-go dancer swivels up a light pole spins with an outstretched hand to the crowd

Two young men mud wrestle

Another body surfs through another mud patch

Cans of beer hurled at pole climbers

Finally one reaches the summit, guzzles a beer, directs the chorus below

in Fly Eagles Fly

Charles Carr was born in Philadelphia, educated at LaSalle and Bryn Mawr College, and has lived here his whole life. Charles was The Mad Poets Review’s 2007 First Prize Winner for his poem “Waiting To Come North” and has two published books of poetry: paradise, pennsylvania, (Cradle Press, 2009) and Haitian Mudpies & Other Poems (Moonstone Arts, 2012). For five years, Charles hosted the Moonstone Poetry series at Fergie’s Pub. Since 2016, he has hosted Philly Loves Poetry a monthly broadcast on Philly Cam. He has read poems in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, Ireland as part of the international project, 100 Thousand Poets For Peace.

Made Up Saints

I weep at cartoons.

Wile E. Coyote free-falling from a cliff,

Sylvester flattened by an iron safe,

scads of sodden Kleenex at my side.


I put my name on a wait list for mercy

(a light-year long).

I murmur worn mantras,

send prayers to made-up saints:


Saint Jackson of bankruptcy,

Saint Sophia of clogged toilets,

Saint Lester of shapeless days

& tedious tomorrows.


Someone else dreams my dreams at night.

I toss on sweat-stained sheets.


Am I missing the point

or was it never there?

A diver yanks a rope,

a wrestler taps out,

I tip over my King.


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, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

Home-Made Gods

Why not

create gods that work better for us

no gods requiring two sets of dishes

or prayers five times a day knees-in-agony O Lord

maybe not gods who talk of turning a cheek

or promise happiness in some tenuous heaven


come Tuesday, bring clay or fabric, easels,

buttons, paint, scissors, paper, old magazines

let’s each make her own god or goddess

mine a marionette with gossamer wings

pale blue eyes and a lacquered smile

more capable than Siri or Alexa


mine obeys every flick of my finger

whips up a chalet in France or a sleek Ferrari

collapses quietly in the corner when not needed

expects no penance or confession

no tithing or coins pinging a collection plate


some strings attached

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, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.


For Southeast Philly

The fragile bones.

The highway snaking

through the maze of rigs.


towers rising

and belching invisible

stink into your ovaries

ripe with coming

sickness and perhaps

forbidden        or forgotten

desire. The pinched lips.

The dusky pink

carpet stretched out behind glass latched doors.

The elevator narrow

and smoky and closing and rising and releasing

us to more dusky pink,

more stretches of beige to your tall beige door.


glass cabinets filled

with plates, tea cups, silver

spoons, leprechauns, Matryoshka

dolls, sheltered from the dust of

what? Of concrete

lots stretching to the edge of the Delaware?

The unspoken legacy of unspoken things,

sifted.             The not speaking.

The ladyfingers spongy

under the roofs of our mouths.

Our mouths too full

of sweet things

to ask questions. Still.

Amy Elizabeth Robinson is a poet, historian, and many other things living in the hills of Sonoma County, California. She grew up in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, spent summer vacations in Cape May and Cape May Point, and also went to college in New Jersey. She holds degrees in history from Princeton, University College London, and Stanford, and studies Zen and creativity with the Pacific Zen Institute. She is a Contributing Editor of PZI’s online magazine of Zen and the arts, Uncertainty Club, and her work has also appeared in Deluge, Literary Mama, West Trestle Review, DASH, Vine Leaves, and as part of Rattle’s innovative Poets Respond program.