You’ll drizzle rich black sesame oil over everything.
You’ll want things spicy and pickled, with tiny whole fish when
normally you don’t eat things with the head or eyes.
You’ll take your dumplings, in any form,
with a thin, transparent skin, or a hard fried shell
still hot from the oil.
You’ll crave your noodles still slightly firm, and garnished
with crisp dark crowns of green onion.
Sushi will become your bread and butter.
You’ll stir-fry all the time.
You’ll eat peanut sauce like catsup.
Your skin will smell like curry steeped
in coconut milk with onions.
You’ll eat it over and over,
until even your tears taste like ginger.


Jin Cordaro received her MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming inFaultline, Sugar House Review, Main Street Rag, Flywheel Magazine, US1 Worksheets, and Cider Press Review.  Her work also appears in the anthology “Challenges for the Delusional.”  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the recipient of the 2009 Editor’s Prize from Apple Valley Review.  Born in the suburbs of Detroit, Cordaro now resides in central New Jersey with her husband and twin daughters.

You’ve Been Dreaming about Streetlamps Again

Before the same strange house,
many nights in a row.
And a light begins to stir in your belly that says
you were on this street before, but
they called it by another name.
It shows you the turned up stone where
you once fell and your blood
left a small horseshoe of a stain,
and the hundreds of people
who have lived in that house, and passed
over the front walk so many times
the stones became smooth.
And from each of their bellies,
there’s a burning, soft glow too, that calls
to the light in your belly.
Calls it by name.  They discuss you,
how those streetlamps are burning for you.

Jin Cordaro received her MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming inFaultline, Sugar House Review, Main Street Rag, Flywheel Magazine, US1 Worksheets, and Cider Press Review.  Her work also appears in the anthology “Challenges for the Delusional.”  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the recipient of the 2009 Editor’s Prize from Apple Valley Review.  Born in the suburbs of Detroit, Cordaro now resides in central New Jersey with her husband and twin daughters.

A Neighbor Like David

I live across the street from a forty-year-old man with Down syndrome. Every morning, a bus takes him to—well, until this winter, I didn’t know where the bus took him. I knew only that his name was David (same as my dad’s), that he lived with his parents (as I did), and that the insignia on his hats and jackets marked him as a sports fan. We regularly said hello from our respective curbs, but that was about it.

As usual, one morning in December, when my mom and I were leaving for work, David stood across the street, waiting for his bus, his construction worker-style lunchbox at his feet. He smiled and waved at every car that passed—his routine. “Hi, Dave!” he called when he saw us. Dad was out of sight, waiting in the car. But my mother and I brightened to realize our neighbor had expanded “Dave” into an all-purpose name for our family.

“Hi, David!” we called back. 

“I love you!” he shouted, still waving. 

There is nothing like a spontaneous declaration of love to start your day. I want to say “I love you” all the time—to the security guard who tells me stories about her son, to the waiter who accommodates my food allergies, to the homeless girl and her kitten on the corner near my office in Center City. People would think me odd, though, so I don’t. Here was a man uninhibited by the conventions that limit the rest of us. Tears came into my mom’s eyes, and mine.

Growing up in South Jersey, my best friend’s sister Alexa had Downs, but she couldn’t be left alone or feed herself, and the sounds that came out of her mouth weren’t so much words as repeated syllables. I used to look into her eyes and wonder what she was trying to tell us. When I was five and Alexa three, I said to her mother, “When Alexa learns to talk—” and she corrected me: “If Alexa learns to talk.” Alexa didn’t learn, though as a teenager she used to sneak away to listen to Power 99 FM. Emotions would play over Alexa’s face, but she couldn’t articulate them, and I limited my words to her even though, at the time, I practically lived at her house. That morning when David declared his love felt like the breakthrough that Alexa and I had never had.

A few weeks later, in January, Mom was taking a sick day from work when David appeared at the front door with a piece of paper in hand. He had written “DAVID” in block caps on the top line—denoting himself or my dad, we weren’t sure—with his phone number in the middle line, and on the bottom, “7:30 PM.” He was inviting us for dinner, he said, to see their Christmas tree.

“What day?” Mom asked.

“Oh. Um, tomorrow.”

Mom grabbed an amaryllis plant and a holiday card and scrawled our phone number on it, asking him to bring the gift to his mother, Dorothy, whom we’d never formally met. Not long after he left, Dorothy called to say thank you. Mom asked if she knew her son had invited us over for dinner.

“No! Oh, I’m so embarrassed,” Dorothy said. “This happens all the time at our Shore house. Every summer on his birthday, David invites the lifeguards over without telling us.”

But that Saturday, David got his wish. His parents called back and officially invited us, along with our next-door neighbors. Ambling downstairs in athletic shorts, David gave handshakes all around, introducing himself as “the manager.” We saw the Christmas tree that was still up and followed him to his “office,” a den with an entertainment center in the corner and a calendar on the coffee table. “SmackDown, SmackDown, SmackDown,” he said as he ran his finger down each Friday on the calendar, talking me through his hand-written schedule of wrestling TV shows. We looked at his Special Olympics medals on the wall. That’s when we learned that the bus takes him to his job at an abilities center, where he lifts boxes like a pro. As we left, David’s father told us to look in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday for an article about David’s athletic accomplishments. 

At work the next week, we looked up David online. There on the screen was a picture of our neighbor gripping a barbell. We beamed at the video of him power-lifting at the gym. I appreciated the quote from his mother: “He’s such a good-natured fellow.” But in the next paragraph, the writer claimed, “Although he is unable to read or write…”

Not so, I thought, and I had proof in the form of an invitation David wrote without his parents knowing. Had the article come out just a few weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have known the truth; it would have been like reading about a stranger. But as it happened, our neighbor had invited us into his life. Once he did, his early morning waves and smiles became my wake-up call. These days, when I get to work, I may not say “I love you” to the security guards who greet me with smiles–I’m not up to David’s level yet–but he convinced me that it makes a difference to grin back and at least think those three little words.

Not long ago, I saw David trudging through a snowstorm to his bus. While wind pelted flakes at his face, he carried two large recycling bins, his lunchbox, and a tall water bottle—all at once. His weightlifting had paid off. David was also engaged in another form of strength training: Every day, he exercises his bravery by operating in a world that doesn’t often celebrate differences. Articulating our love may be something the rest of us wrestle with, but this guy says what he means.

Elizabeth A. Larsson grew up in New Jersey, now works in Philadelphia, and spent most of the interim living up and down the East Coast. Her writing has appeared in New Moon Girls magazine’s series of advice books and Cicada, among other places. She keeps David’s hand-written invitation on her bulletin board.

September 5, 1957

Jack, I can see you on that New York corner waiting
For the Times, knowing a review was coming out,
knowing something good might happen.

In that classic photo, you stand by the corner
window, a Lucky Strike dangling from your lips,
an Orpheus in a black leather jacket.

That night you’d never forget. Going out at dusk
you got an early copy of the Times. The next day
On the Road would be on the streets and highways.

You’d be celebrated as the beat. Who was to know
how your life would change? Who could understand
it all? Who could imagine what would come?

You drove across America,
always on the move and always moving on,
searching for wherever that somewhere never was.

Peter Krok, the editor of Schuylkill Valley Journal, serves as humanities director of the Manayunk  Roxborough Art Center where he has coordinated a literary series since 1990. Because of his identification with row house Philadelphia, he is often referred to as “the red brick poet.”  His poem “10 PM At a Philadelphia Recreation Center” was included in Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. His book, Looking For An Eye, was published by Foothills Press.


After a postcard of van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles”
If, in some night, I saw beyond
The newest moon,
And my thoughts would carry me on
To where un-bounding time
Once ran for us, but soon ran past-
I’d turn up the postcard I almost sent
To show you van Gogh’s bedroom at Arles,
And I’d set to stare
At the slats of wave made fast
Where the floor was a pitch to climb or descend,
If there were time to draw us in
And try to be at rest in that room,
In its waited way
That dangles all the feet
Above the flooding of the ground,
Leaving the bed un-touched and dry:
But the looking glass over the basin-
It must be broken, as it’s blank. Or
This room really has no door leading on from any hall,
But rather, in plan, has only the fourth and lunar wall.
And yet now, from here, we both of us glare-
Without a shadow to chase.
And time-pricked in this
-Can only desire for more of itself
To sprinkle now, like a brief thread
Drawn all ways through a needles eye.

Sean became a poet at Haverford College, the best of Philadelphia’s suburban Quaker schools.  He currently reads and writes at “Rutgers…the State University of New Jersey.”  He shares his name with a boxer, a comedian, and an alleged IRA member; we apologize for any confusion this has caused.


Bundle of White Flowers

Every time I see a bundle of white flowers
I think of my mom on hospital bedsheets
borrowing her last lungs of air. Before
passing it on, sharing it with the rest of us
as a cooling wind makes her way through
bamboo. My sisters and brother sat
arrayed in a semicircle, waiting all night for
her to die. I had to leave. Why was I in such
a rush? My mom was unconscious as
I leaned in and whispered, “See ya later,”
a nervous laugh caught a wave around the
room and I left and it was such a hot June
evening outside. My mother was so small
and frail, shrinking as the hours crawled
into closets. Yesterday my heart stopped
and started and stopped for a few beats.
I stood there with no heartbeat and it was
kind of annoying because I was busy and
had work to do and I asked mom if she had
lent me some air from Mount Fuji, if she
could squeeze her hand around this
reluctant thing in my ribs or send an errant
spark from New Jersey, whatever the
burning did not consume.

Roy Word Smith. Lives in Bucks county, loves to visit Philadelphia every chance he gets. He finds poems and stories growing out of sidewalk cracks and purring cats. He doesn’t have much education but like Einstein, feels imagination is more important than knowledge.

When Harry Left the Trees

Harry’s wife stopped me and started to
say things, so I listened.
“You know Harry never had it easy,
especially in 1964.
He didn’t want to fight,
or kill anyone for that matter.
I married him without a ring and a wedding dress.
All he did at our wedding night
was to stare at his own face in the mirror.
Harry told me that after the war
he still continued to hide out
and called it force of habit.
He used to sleep under the bridges,
in farms, and stole chickens and corn.
Sometimes on hot nights he played dead
and slept in morgues to keep cool.
He said one time he even refused the open
legs of a prostitute cause he had forgotten
how to make love. He said he made paper birds
and whistled their tunes to blow his fears away.
He had many interrupted sleeps, hearing death
screaming into his ears.”


Fereshteh Sholevar was born in Tehran where she studied literature and foreign languages. She received her Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. Fereshteh has published six books of poetry, two of which are bilingual: And the Blue Continues in English and Spanish, and Walking with the Moon in English and German. Her Name Was Samira, a novel, was published by Infinity Publishing in 2012.  She won the Editor’s Choice award  from Philadelphia Poets in 2011.

Is It Better to Sleep

I am trying, I am trying
to be right with my mind again.
for what else should I be trying
and to what end
when all the night around me
rises to my room
like the waters of a lake?
I want to make the call
the nightblind hours
refuse to make
and patiently distill-
the sky mercurial,
slick as a kill.
Again, the dead have come full soon
to shed themselves
thin as a moon.
Thin as the horizon’s
cold, blue arc.
Every season
is their season.
Every evening, their mark.


Luke Bauerlein’s work has previously appeared in the NY Times, Mid-America Poetry Review, Shot Glass Journal, and elsewhere. He currently lives in West Philadelphia, and writes songs and performs with the band, The Late Greats.

Returning Home from the Fertility Clinic

She destroyed the garden in her good pants—

Cherry tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers and lettuce—

Using a spade, rake, and hoe.

Using her bare hands.

She trampled ordered rows, snapped stalks,

Raked it all under, and tamped the ground flat.

She was methodic. In possession of herself.

How could I stop her?

She had to get back at her body.

She had to get back at the earth.

After, she sat down in the dirt

And rubbed her raw hands.

Michael Phillips has published short stories and poems in several journals, including Pebble Lake Review, River Walk Journal, Dark Skies Magazine, and The Monongahela Review (Forthcoming). He lives with his wife in Downingtown, PA, and works as an editor for a nonprofit healthcare research institute.

Why I Need to Downsize

Because I looked for two months for the wind-chimes.
Because those soundless bells were stuck in that desk drawer the hole time.
Because I hate dust.
Because I hate to dust.
Because I have less energy and don’t know why.
Because disability is a time-bomb for some.
Because I mostly don’t eat healthily.
Because I started my sixth decade.
Because I forget.
Because I remember.
Because I can’t always hold morning in a fist of wanting.
Because people can build on what I give away.
Because there isn’t enough success.
Because I want more than I can.
Because dropped things sink.
Because I must know necessary from nostalgic.
Because what I need to pray for is changing.
Because I will want this draft tomorrow.

Nancy Scott, Easton PA, is an essayist and poet.   Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries.   Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, Foliate Oak,  Stone Voices, and WordGathering.  Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.”  Her essay “One Night at Godfrey’s” won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest.