For the Living on 12th/Catharine

At the park a birthday picnic glitters

safe as a mirage: soap bubbles float slow

past the Speedo-clad neighbor’s languid sprawl

beneath tinkling pop acoustic covers,

past the silver island of cone-capped guests

as rippling streamers breezily announce

another year gone, and what can they do

but mock the bottle’s label as they toast

one last livable, sour-tongued month of heat?


From a passing window, the driver sings

a PSA: “don’t be no fool baby


as boys spring launch tests off benches, turn sticks

to scepters hurled skyward as sister bolts

after them, a chain of vectors flashing

as a toddler in a flowered smock learns

to ride the rafts of her father’s feet raised

wave by wave, her open face exposed and

sunlit, helped and helpless, arms held up

Alexa Smith is a poet and essayist from Washington D.C. She lives in Philadelphia, where she works for a local textbook publisher, edits Apiary Magazine, and teaches creative writing at Temple University. Her work has appeared online in Entropy, Interim, Memoir Mixtapes, Peach Mag, Dark Wood, and STELLA Radio.

Philadelphia Geese

In Fairmount Park the Canada geese

migrate from the west side

of the river to the east, from sun

to grass to shade across azalea-

crazed spring days.


These geese roam only the Schuykill River.

These geese will take your offered treats

then bite the hand that feeds them.

These geese will get all up in your business.

These geese leave landmines

of bacterially-loaded fecal matter clusters

in clumps of hundreds everywhere they go.

These geese do what they want, don’t care

what you think, and will give

as good as they get any day of the week.


These are Philadelphia geese.


Our geese—most days

we ignore them, or complain about

their shit and their attitudes.

But in May we watch, needing

the yellow-green gosling announcement

that spring has fully ripened, needing

the traffic-stopped for goose-crossing excuse

for staring at the river rather than hurrying

to work, needing the honking sunset flight

as witness to day’s passing, needing the shock

to our hearts as our geese

fly so close overhead we feel the beat

of their wings through our shared air:




Elliott batTzedek is surprised to find she has lived in Philly for 30 years and probably always will. She holds an MFA in poetry from Drew University and is a bookseller by trade and a liturgist by passion. Or maybe the other way around. Her work appears in: Sakura Review, American Poetry Review, Massachusetts Review, Cahoodaloodaling, Naugatuck River Review, and Poemeleon. Her chapbook the enkindled coal of my tongue was published in January 2017 by Wicked Banshee Press.

Haibun After a Tornado in Pennsylvania

The late summer brings forth baseball, roses, and wreckage. A chainsaw roars. The high school gym roof gapes open and unmasked to the cloudless sky. Guests survey the damage. A prostrate street sign blasts the words Left Lane Must Turn Left pinned to the concrete. A tree limb excalibered deep into soil. Children grasp and tug, then give up on removing it. Smells of wet grass and sawdust. A family drags debris to the curb, first fence posts, then shingles, then a pink plastic doll house. Second-floor bedroom pried open, cross-sectioning bookshelves, wall, insulation. On one roof, blue tarp flaps while across the street, a patio table and three chairs stand in tea-party formation. It is somehow the most perfect day of the summer. Pennsylvania is not in Tornado Alley yet this year there have been 28. A pickup truck stops in front of a house. The driver plunks a case of bottled water on the curb, then drives to the next house.  A neighbor is leaning on her car, head down. When the passerby nods to her, says, I’m so sorry, she starts talking and she can’t stop. I’ve lived here all my life, she says, Never saw anything like it. I’ll never forget the sound, like a train, she says. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.


Look at that steel strung

around the high oak branches –

like it was woven.

The author of three chapbooks including We Marry We Bury We Sing or We Weep, which was named a runner-up in Moonstone Arts’ Chapbook Contest in 2021 (Moonstone Press), Faith Paulsen’s poetry and prose have appeared in many venues including Ghost City Press, Book of Matches, Thimble, Evansville Review and Mantis. Faith lives and writes in the Philadelphia area where she and Barton Sacks raised three sons. Please check out her website at


Becoming intimate with spirits,

I put my ear to the ground and listen

to the ocean rumble


I see wolves

they wear their hides like masks

prey on the flesh that peeks out from under skirts,

between breasts

what wanders in the dark


eschúchame, mi amor


Make yourself hard to chew


The ants are hardworking–

carry petals like treasures,

heavy and bright

 each a wish already made


Take one




Attune to the water, cold like a first breath


Most of the fruit is half lost,

decays slowly

like magic

feeds the strays

soaks the sand


The darkness is a friend


Perhaps this is why the air is sweet,

why I find kisses in the cracks of the pavement

awaken dreaming

a face I remember

but don’t recognize


This is how they paint the sky–

the gods I mean

Drinking moments like mead,

danger is dust behind them

they follow a golden road

and it never ends

Liora Hassan (she/they) is an ambitious nonbinary writer and recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s English department. Hassan likes to draw from various facets of her identity as well her everyday experiences to guide her work. They’re fascinated by the potential that literary art has to upset the norm and unearth new considerations. Hassan recently made Philadelphia to be her new home and looks forward to the changes it will bring.

In Paradisum

The basement furnace died at 3AM.

The chilly weather of early spring

Arrives by degrees inside the house,

Like seawater leaking into a hull.


We bundle up, treasuring our warmth.

By afternoon, the halls have chilled, as wind

Whines tunelessly and rattles at the glass.

“In Paradisum” from Fauré’s Requiem


Chimes down the crooked stairs like lazy stars

Revolving overhead, pining away

For me, yearning to have me home again,

Out there shining in solar Sargassos


Or ocean swirls of discarded plastic

Gathering in Pacific emptiness.

Fresh dust snows on furniture and floor. I breathe

The busy air, teeming with life, split by shafts


Of sunlight. My voice is dry from all the dust.

It’s taken over everything. It coats

The meniscus of my glass of water.

It’s made of us, our cats and candles—


Rumors of how our lives will be consumed—

Particles of meteor and pollen,

The powder that puddles on the floorboards

As nails are hammered into old walls—


Iridescent archipelagos of pearl

Trailing lagoons of chalk dust in their wakes.

Our self-incineration, which hardly hurts,

Starts lightning racing into nothingness.


I know we’re dust, and stardust too, but more—

Phosphorescent dust in oceans of sunlight,

Like breaths exhaled, diffusions, traces of song,

Engines firing in the voiceless dark.

Ernest Hilbert is the author of Sixty Sonnets, All of You on the Good Earth, Caligulan—selected as winner of the 2017 Poets’ Prize—and Last One Out. His fifth book, Storm Swimmer, was selected by Rowan Ricardo Phillips as the winner of the 2022 Vassar Miller Prize and will appear in 2023. Visit him at

Brutem Fulmen

Man is the only creature that is not always killed when struck — all others are killed on the spot; nature doubtless bestows this honour on man because so many animals surpass him in strength. — Pliny the Elder


The talk-radio host is provoking listeners to weigh in on what language we believe acts as the official discourse in hell. The host thinks it must be Latin, too many sins, he says, tented under Papal vestments, meaning too many thighs grazed behind the doors of countless sacristies for perdition to be voiced in any tongue other than that of its most zealous arbiters. The callers, on the other hand, are sure it’s English, or Hebrew, or that demons speak all languages, or none, because suffering existed before language, which to me seems the strongest argument, as I shift my car into park up the block from the warehouse you let slip was your last work delivery, last obligation, when you called to say goodbye (a contraction of “God be with ye”). I keep the engine running like Kojak or Columbo, watch you over my trash-strewn dashboard as you load boxes onto a hand truck. I will follow you, stop whatever crime you’re planning against yourself, because I know you’re asking for a savior. On the radio, another long-time listener shares that the word “suffering” comes from Vulgar Latin, a variant of “sufferer,” meaning to “endure,” or to “carry,” and for a moment I resent you. But then I see your truck bumping down the rutted warehouse drive, and I swing into traffic behind you. I keep at least two car-lengths between us. As we twist through rush-hour, the topic has turned from Hell to Heaven. The host believes we have no need for language in the afterlife because God is complete understanding. And while I agree that there’s comfort to be found hiding under the blanket of omniscience, it still makes me want to call in and remind everyone that awareness, God’s or our own, is essential to our suffering. Without it we wouldn’t know we’ve been abandoned. God couldn’t get angry. There’d be no Hell, no reason for it, or for any of our actions, and as the great TV detectives teach us: motive is everything. You jam a quick right, screech your van into a supermarket plaza, and I’m thinking, good, if you want groceries, it means you don’t want to die. Still, I shadow you into the store and calculate our surprise meeting among the vegetables, perform my shock at running into you like this, while you act as if you don’t know I’ve been tailing you since before we both ran that red light.

Keith Kopka is the recipient of the 2019 Tampa Review Prize for his collection of poems, Count Four (University of Tampa Press, 2020). He is also the author of the critical text, Asking a Shadow to Dance: An Introduction to the Practice of Poetry. He is the recipient of the International Award for Excellence from the Books, Publishing & Libraries Research Network, a Senior Editor at Narrative Magazine, and an Assistant Professor at Holy Family University.

The Masterpiece in Our Bedroom

San Girolamo, Caravaggio, 1605


In a dark room, San Girolamo writes with a quill pen.

He’s partially draped in a rich, red cloth, maybe a cloak,

maybe the covers from his bed as if he rushed naked

to the table straight from a dream, fevered with ideas.

A thick book on his lap. A thin halo’s edge,

barely visible in the dark, hints above his balding pate

at hallowedness. For all the years I’ve dusted this framed

postcard on our bedroom dresser, that little light remained hidden.

The blessedness I’ve always seen, what gets me

every time —the firm arm of a man reaching for — what?

a word? some truth? Muscled, alive, tendoned. Only the holy

of a bare-shouldered body.


Here’s the tableau: the ancient saint stretches without looking

toward an inkwell in shadows — books, cloth, oaken table,

and a blank-faced memento mori.

The man reads. The skull stares.

That hollow head a warning that the world’s fleeting,

the dark and light of afterlife eternal. But, oh, Master,

this is a game. The skull is half hidden, a dull

paperweight, unheeded.  Your model — bright, vital,

glowing with thought.


I conjure you whispering

as you paint, a voice escaping time from that museum

postcard on the bureau as my love and I loll in bed —

Listen, before it’s too late. Allow yourselves scarlet

bedclothes, and strong bodies in a glowing room,

and work you want to dive into, and books,

books are good, piles of them to retreat to,

partly naked, after rolling around

half the night with your love, alive, hungry,

eating up this life and one another while you can.

Mary Jo LoBello Jerome, a Bucks County PA Poet Laureate, edited the creative writing prompt book Fire Up the Poems. Recently named poetry co-editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal, Mary Jo has published poems and stories in many journals. Her chapbook, Torch the Empty Fields, is coming out in 2022.

A Widow Learns About Mars, Molten At Its Core

Even now, is it possible to consider the self-original: the source

from which something arises?


Nothing solid after your death, one hour in that loss-space equaled

seven years of earthy life. Grief unoriginal and shocking.


Learning that Mars is quiet and seismically stable,

oddly reassuring. The silence inside of me

after you died. My thin, rigid outer layer, my lighter

volatile elements. Maybe,

I was not alone.


What trust is required to stay behind,

to hear good luck close by?


Like me, my new lover returns from near-empty space where sound

could not be heard, where atoms and molecules could not carry

our voices through air or water.


Now faith follows the sound

of our original music, wounded and delighted.

Amy Small-McKinney’s chapbook, One Day I Am A Field, written during Covid after her husband’s death, is forthcoming with Glass Lyre Press. Her second full-length book, Walking Towards Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize 2016. She was the 2011 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, judged by Chris Bursk. October 2021, she co-taught a workshop with poet Nicole Greaves, Poetry & Aging: Does What We Have to Say Matter? at the virtual Caesura Poetry Festival. Small-McKinney resides in Philadelphia where she was born and raised.

Mama and the Clothesline/Tuckahoe 2001

She bent slowly, grabbin the damp

bedsheet from the laundry basket.

then stood, arms stretched

so nothin touched the ground.

Mama snapped the sheet in the

wind to scare the wrinkles out,

took the splinterin clothespin and

stuck it on the thin line runnin

cross the parkin lot. all our stuff

danced on display but the drawers.


We headed back to the basement to

wash the next load and she watched

me run behind her, her brown eyes

soft and laughin. this time, Mama

let me hold the quarters and the

whole buildin could hear me.

skippin and jinglin.

Edythe Rodriguez is a Philly-based poet who studied Africology and creative writing at Temple University. She loves neo-soul, battle rap, and long walks through old poetry journals. She has received fellowships from The Watering Hole, Brooklyn Poets, and Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Her work is a call for aggressive healing and is published in Obsidian, Sonku, Call and Response Journal and Bayou Magazine.

Springtime in Philly: A Mirror Sonnet



Wake crocuses—push through crumbling asphalt;

purr and croon, slumbering cats curled like snails—

let feral dreams rumble through the sewers.

Snowdrops: root through the frost, unlatch her vault

and show her the way out; read the rock-braille

with fingers deft as mice feet, lithe as worms,

and tunnel to the Market-Frankford line.

She’ll board that train. Wake up, weeping cherries

and forsythias, down rows of brownstones

till the thaw gives way to fluttering vines—

my trademark welcome back sign. Wind: carry

my love notes by sea—fragrant balm of storms,

lilac, and exhaust. If only she would

eat that scent like seeds, undo sleep for good.



Eat that scent like seeds, undo sleep for good—

lilac and exhaust—if only I could.

Love notes come by sea in a balm of storms—

my soon-I’ll-be-back signs. They carry me

till the thaw gives way to fluttering vines

and forsythias. Down rows of brownstones,

I’ll board that train, wake up buds of cherries.

I’ll tunnel to the Market-Frankford line—

my fingers deft as mice feet, lithe as worms—

and I’ll feel my way out, read the rock-braille.

Snowdrops root through frost, help unlatch my vault.

My feral dreams rumble through the sewers—

cats uncurling from slumber to croon, wail.

But first, I must push through this crumbling asphalt.

Dawn Manning creates art with words, metal, photography, and other media, in Delco, PA. She is the author of Postcards from the Dead Letter Office (Burlesque Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in CALYX, Ecotone, Smartish Pace, and other literary publications. She also herds cats for local rescue efforts.