The Prodigal Daughter by Maria Ereni Dampman


Maria Ereni Dampman lost count of how many newspapers, magazines, websites and blogs she has written for over the years.A graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Communication Studies and Journalism, she’s also an award-winning speechwriter and orator with examples of her winning works featured in collegiate textbooks for the past two decades. One of Maria’s greatest passions is social justice and equality for all. She’s a staunch crusader of a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body, a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, the LGBTQIA+ community, and a vocal proponent of nationwide election reform.

Review of Maria Ereni Dampman, The Prodigal Daughter

by Stephen Brown

Opening on the aftermath of an explosive terrorist attack, the second installment of Maria Ereni Dampman’s Daughters of the New American Revolution, The Prodigal Daughter, is a story of highly privileged family drama and political intrigue set on a dystopian stage. Dampman’s main character, Emma Bellamy, might at first be mistaken for a “quaking, terrified, grief-stricken girl” but she soon transforms into the pregnant action hero I never knew I needed, while squaring off with the pussy-grabbing “Purity Police,” an aptly named paramilitary force controlled by, you guessed it, her own father. The secretly-multi-ethnic de facto leader of the white supremacist government that has replaced our own, Edward Bellamy, is as contemptible as any comic-book supervillain. If Emma has her way, she’ll be the one to put a bullet between his eyes. Succeeding isn’t without its own complications, of course. The only person more powerful than Edward is the government’s near-comatose Supreme Archon to whom Emma is engaged against her will. Emma can count on one hand the people who know that she’s already married and that the father of her baby is miles away. If the Supreme Archon regains his ability to do anything other than make occasional furious eye contact, that number may grow!

Emma’s actual husband is casted as a hunky healer and all-around

damsel-in-distress. “Lithe,” “athletic,” and not so unlike “those ancient Greek statues of young warriors,.” Declan seems to have such a tough time keeping his clothes on and nobody’s complaining. We get it, tying your scrubs can be tricky! Unwilling to risk the last remaining East Coast oil refinery to civil unrest, the Supreme Archon commissioned a wall erected around the adjacent city. The inhabitants were presented with the option of surrendering or starving within. They chose neither. Declan embarks on a harrowing recovery period under the authority of Brother Love, the hulking leader of the Broad Street Bullies and the devout practitioner of a patient, forgiving, and now-outlawed form of Christianity. That isn’t to say Declan is welcomed with open arms. As far as the BSB is concerned, if you don’t have the accent, they don’t trust ya!

Dampman’s characters spend a significant amount of time separated and relatively clueless about one another’s activity, a storytelling choice that is more validating than fatiguing. Viewing the novel as a broad commentary on current events, this feels like an homage to our years spent in various forms of social isolation. Much like our own world during the quarantine era, Dampman’s is ruled by the cumulative, individual efforts of her characters.

While Dampman takes care in navigating post-traumatic stress from the nuanced perspectives of former military combatants and the male survivors of sexual assault, her most tragic portrayals are those of the queer and interracial partnerships that find themselves invalidated under the rules of this new regime. Perhaps the most heartbreaking of these is the story of Dr. John Andrews and his wife, Marta, both of whom suffer unimaginable losses yet somehow persevere through the sheer might of their adoration for one another. Their commitment to each other and their community is a triumph that brought a tear to my eye.

For Dampman’s queer characters specifically, the need for secrecy is sometimes so severe that even those closest to Emma share romantic histories she knows nothing about. I tend to read storylines of this nature with a heightened level of scrutiny and to

her credit, Dampman doesn’t disappoint. Her queer characters feel complex and thought out. Their personal motivations define them well beyond their sexual identities or their proximity to her straight characters. Without knowing how Dampman personally identifies, it’s possible she accomplishes something I rarely see from straight writers — that being, the joy of her queer characters is as represented in their storylines as their oppression. The Prodigal Daughter counterbalances the abject suffering of life under fascism with dark humor, friendship, and… a whole lot of Philadelphians doing exactly what Philadelphians would do.

Stephen Brown is a Philadelphia-based writer, editor, and LGBT+ activist. A graduate student at Rosemont College, Stephen holds a BA in English Literature and Gender Studies from Temple University. His work has appeared in the Women’s, Queer, Trans, and NB Anthology from Querencia Press, Wicked Gay Ways arts journal, and others.

Apartment Poems by Cord Moreski


Cord Moreski is a poet from the Jersey Shore. Moreski is the author of Apartment Poems(Between Shadows Press, 2022), Confined Spaces (Two Key Customs, 2022), The News Around Town (Maverick Duck Press, 2020), Shaking Hands with Time (Indigent Press,
2018) and was featured in the PBS show Driving Jersey for the NJ Poetry Renaissance. He is currently the host of the New Jersey poetry series Coffee & Words in Asbury Park, and the virtual poetry series The Couch Poets Collective. When he is not writing, Cord waits tables
for a living and teaches middle school children that poetry is awesome. You can follow Cord here:

Review of Cord Moreski, Apartment Poems

by Jada Cox

From the title alone, I instantly connected with this collection. Having lived in an apartment all my life, New Jersey native poet Cord Moreski’s newest chapbook “Apartment Poems” takes issues, culture, and diversity of apartment living to make poems that read more like small stories/snippets of Moreski’s community than actual poems. The voice of each one of his neighbors echoes different themes and feelings about apartment living and the sub-culture that surrounds it.

The first poem, “Welcome,” introduces the poet’s voice as a wildflower living in a world of differences in a small apartment complex. Each line reads with a flow that pulls you into this small, diverse complex. As a reader, if you close your eyes, you can see the place Moreski builds with each line using descriptive smells of weed, dusty doormats, and barking dogs. He pulls you down the hallways with him as he describes the neighbors and the landscape he calls home. The contrast between the loud environment and the graciousness of the last line, “just
watch your step,” brought me back to my days as an administrator of an apartment building. It always felt like the world was at your feet culturally as people of all walks of life lived all around you, so many people that you may never see, but you can hear and smell what they leave behind.

Moreski continues the soft tones of remorse in “ANGEL.” Each line has a velvety softness that amplifies the depressing thought of someone overdosing. You feel sorry for Angel, but hopefully he’s on the other side. As a reader, you feel reminiscent of a familiar death, as he connects you with these characters right from the beginning of the collection. For me, this poem brought a vision to what could have happened to the spirit of my uncle, who has recently passed; who had a drug problem. “Angel” ends with hopes of redemption for troubled souls.

In “Casual Friday”, the lines contrast the a flamboyant neighbor who hides in a gray suit. Gray being a color of bland, static, and nothingness. The writer pushes the reader to think about how what they wear could tell a lot about how they feel about themselves. Similarly to how you decorate your apartment, the poems leading this one center around being who you are, even if the world may not accept it. This particular poem pushes its reader to question if the outside matches the inside.

These poems are more than just a collection of poems but a love letter to the people that Moreski leaves around. They are memories of what used to be, homages to the person hiding in normalness, and a tribute to complex community culture and the people inside it. Moreski uses a light and relatable narrative that allows the reader to connect easily with each poem. He goes past stereotypes and clichés and pays tribute to the people who live there and the culture they bring.

Jada Cox is a spoken word poet, event planner, and filmmaker, born and raised in Union, NJ. In 2022, she founded Blk Hippe Productions, a full-service creative entertainment company that supports POC talent, stories, and ideas.This idea came about while she was attending graduate school, where she earned an MA in screenwriting from Wilkes University. In the summer of 2022, she released her first short film called “Part/time.” Currently, Cox is working on an MFA in Directing and Production while launching her podcast “Damn’s She’s Strong,” a podcast focused on health, fitness, cannabis, and spirituality.

Creole Conjure by Christina Rosso


Christina Rosso-Schneider (she/they) lives and writes outside of Philadelphia with her two rescue pups and bearded husband. Together, they run an independent bookstore and event space called A Novel Idea on Passyunk. In 2016, Christina received an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from Arcadia University. She is the author of CREOLE CONJURE (Maudlin House) and SHE IS A BEAST (APEP Publications). Their fiction and nonfiction work centers around gender, sexuality, fairy tales, and the occult, and has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. She is represented by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary Agency. When Christina isn’t writing or working at the bookstore, they lead various writing and occult-based workshops.

Review of Christina Rosso, Creole Conjure

By Linda Romanowski

Horror fiction is not a realm I visit often. My recent exposure and appreciation for the short story genre led me to read beyond my comfort zone and find a most compelling story collection written by Christina Rosso. I was partly drawn to Rosso’s book because in 1977, I
visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Aside from the raucous activities, there was time to tour the area. I never gave a passing thought to swamp-witch sorcery in a place noted for its refinement and charm. I unconsciously braced myself as the tourism aspect of the city
disappeared and the fog of the mysterious dominated my thoughts while reading this collection of stories. The curiosity of the spells and occurrences described dove my physical memory of New Orleans underground. I felt the shift in location. The word “Creole” in the title sets in my mind an immediate image of unfamiliar territory, a culture floating around me and apart from me, yet rooted in the fiber of the surroundings. Rosso’s dedication, “For New Orleans. This is a love letter to you” questions what that means.

This is a reading where revenge and vengeance is in the eye of the beholder, the villain, the scorned, whether real or imagined. It did not cross my mind until days after my reading of Creole Conjure, that women control the narrative in every one of the nine selections. They are the protagonists. They are not infantilized but strong and determined, They become demi-gods as their stories are unveiled. In my reading experience of mythology, women are often punished by the whims of the gods, with loss of physical beauty a common outcome of some act or situation. In this collection, it is not the prevailing issue. Theirs is a persistent, at times disguised manic control of lure and punishment.

There are moments when wincing before reading the next paragraph became nearly routine. But with the squeamishness, there are moments of tenderness, encased in wondrous imagery and prose. Most central to Rosso’s presentations are the backstories, enough to explain
but not excuse the characters’ motivations. They keep our near repulsion in check. Disclosed in bits and pieces, they provide a texture to the tapestry of the unfolding tales, perhaps quelling judgment. They provide layers and challenge the reader’s thinking. Rosso’s is not a gratuitous spate of random exploits. What you read might bring a reaction of horror or upset, but her presentation draws your mind back to the page. The motifs of beauty and ugliness are not so dramatic here; it’s more a delineation of the victims, all males.

The concept of The Seven Deadly Sins came to mind as they manifested in the men-turned-victim and are the draw to the perpetrators. Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth highlight and destroy, perhaps causing the reader to respond, “Take that!” As the
reader is drawn through every telling, they become captive to the action (p.1) …riding the carousel at the carnival,…always with a new attraction waiting for you. Meanwhile, prose as beautiful as it is alarming jumps from the pages when you least expect it.

These stories are separate puzzles that attest to the spiritual, to realms nefarious to those who scoff at the presence of the invisible. Rosso makes us pause and ask who the monsters truly are. You might find yourself asking this question. Each tale is worth reading again. Try one read from the tourist’s point of view. And save the last line of the book for its deserved proper place in your reading.

Linda M. Romanowski graduated from Rosemont College with an MFA in Creative Writing in 2021. Her thesis, her hybrid Italian memoir, Final Touchstones, is pending publication with Sunbury Press. Her non-fiction and poetry publications include The City Key, the Marion Lanza Institute Facebook page and website, Moonstone Arts, Ovunque Siamo, and Vine Leaves Press.

The Size and Shape of Comfort


You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

             –Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”


Cooper, the doomed beagle,

leaves his owner’s side and

nuzzles my hand for attention.

When he opens his mouth to yawn,

the air fills with sickly breath,

fetid from the liver failure

he doesn’t know he has.

We have to make a decision soon,

Cooper’s owner tells me

as I stroke the dog’s grateful head,

my hand the size and shape of comfort.


I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius–

the ones who reached old age

have no advantage over the untimely dead–

when my doctor says I have a choice:

stop drinking or die. Aurelius: Ask yourself:

Am I afraid of death because

I won’t be able to do this anymore?


My hand shakes from all of the above

and a soft sound escapes from me

which is not my own voice.

I steady my hand and wonder

how or where Cooper is today.

Good dog, I say, and stroke a handful of air.

R.G. Evans’s books include Overtipping the Ferryman, The Holy Both, and Imagine Sisyphus Happy. His albums of original songs, Sweet Old Life and Kid Yesterday Calling Tomorrow Man, are available for download on most streaming platforms. Evans teaches creative writing at Rowan University in New Jersey. Website:


Solitude is crowded this morning


A carpet of rust colored pine needles

Blanketed a path to the water, a still canvas


Fish painted circles from below while birds

Waited their turn at karaoke


The dragonfly said, you were wrong

You’re not alone

Dominica Ciccariello lives in Bucks County after moving around the country many times. She is new to poetry and is finding her voice.

Perhaps it Won’t be All Bad

I cannot stop the world from burning


But I can add extra bittersweet chocolate

to the flourless chocolate cake, dressed with strawberries,

topped with coconut whipped cream.


I cannot replace the mounting loss of plumage,

of song, of calls.


But each morning we can enjoy the songs of the sparrows

as they squabble over breadcrumbs in the backyard.


I have no red button to stop the accelerating melting

of Greenland’s ice sheet into the ocean


I can pull my pants over my belly button,

slide my glasses down to the tip of my nose,

walk with a slow shuffle into your studio

mumbling my nonsense Danish, just to make you laugh.


We can decide what can happen for us in the moment.


I can take your blouses from the dryer, iron them—

better than the Dry Cleaner—place them on hangers

put them in your closet.

Charles Carr, a native Philadelphian, was educated at LaSalle and Bryn Mawr College and holds a Masters in American History. In 2007, Charles was The Mad Poets Review’s First Prize Winner for his poem “Waiting To Come North.” Charles has two published books of poems, paradise, pennsylvania and Haitian Mudpies And Other Poems. Charles’ poems have been published in various print and on-line local and national poetry journals. He is host of Philly Loves Poetry a live monthly broadcast on PhillyCAM. Charles has also hosted a Moonstone Poetry series at Fergie’s, and Charles has been the host of Philly Loves Poetry for six years.

I will not make a poem of this. Wissahickon will remain

imperially ours, not rendered impossible by a poet’s word.

And yet, there is something to be said for the impossible break


in the river. For the rock-strewn crossing that fades halfway, as if to say

there is no need for an end.  For the way stones shoulder

the age of sentinel cliffs, and sap slows the progression of ants.


We spoke about it each morning, sliding down hillsides in too smooth

soles. Poems make of memory, history and I am keeping Wissahickon

for us. Besides, the woods are not metaphorically

beautiful—they burn in crimsons and ochres and reject

asylum to fantasy. And still you are


insisting on the poem, as if we haven’t thought

to make love by the Devil’s Pool, as if our roots


don’t share soil with the ferns.

Joyce Hida loves the city of Philadelphia, war literature, the Albanian language, and late-night comedy. She was a previous Best of the Net nominee for her work in Empty House Press, and has been published or is forthcoming in Kissing Dynamite, South Florida Poetry Journal, TYPO Magazine, and others. Joyce is currently based in NYC.


She built a nest from shreds,

sliver of straw from far away,

feather from a crow she never met,

crumpled cigarette pack cellophane,

a partial note someone wrote,

green grass, brown leaves, red yarn,

gray fur from an anonymous cat

to create a nest on my window ledge.


I’m like that scavenger robin

who flew away in a wink of movement.

I’ve gathered one wrinkled watercolor

from I can’t remember where,

a piano stool from the side of the road,

a rickety rocker where I secretly sit

to admire my counterpart’s artwork.

Kathleen Shaw was born in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, grew up in Philadelphia, and now lives in Schwenksville. Her poetry has been published in Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill Valley Journal and various online poetry journals.

Just Off Valley Forge Trail

Just off Valley Forge Trail, a casino rises. Weather resistant and waterproof. Abundance and opulence atop acres of historical plots. Promiscuous promises of prizes and dry spaces. I enter—seeking refuge from a cold rain. My pockets are heavy of coin and hopes for change. The allure of games of chance and, perhaps, artificial sweeteners enhance the experience. All patrons are dutifully checked. ID please, the guard says. While his senses appear dulled, mine fully engage. I consume the ambience. Soldiers in all corners. Clocks remain on a perpetual pause. Landlines disconnect. Cunningness on LED-lit displays. Cells turn off. Slots ping on. Souls in rubber soles shuffle. Like Washington, a Sheraton once called this lot home. As I wander the carpeted floors (Berber with patterns of rectangular firs), I think of bar and bat mitzvahs of decades past. Post sanctuary parties housed in suburban hotels turned arcades. Pre-teens in Lycra and lace dresses at the buffet. Pomp and circumstance. Pay to play charades. Bright lights. Grand gestures. Trades on replay. High-heeled black patent shoes swapped for low-rise cotton socks. No coins needed.

Now grown, unfamiliar faces in familiar clothes feed machines and fuel memories. Rows of fruit-bearing slots smile. Heavily glossed lips and scantily clad hips pull levers, across multiple levels, in the grand hall. Games of war replicate a mere stone’s throw (aka diesel engine and Wawa-fueled hop, skip, and jump—no pun intended) from Revolutionary War quarters (both shiny metal and Washington gray). Dealers dazzle in smart black-tie attire. Cashiers exchange chips for currency. Like gravy on Thanksgiving, stakeholders seek to smooth lumps and avoid unexpected truth dumps. False stories on full LED-lit display. Bravado and brakes on delay. Some slots promise apples—in both bushels and barrels. Others taunt lemons with powers by the dozen. Truth be told, it’s a losing game. Washington chopped the tree. Cherries dropped at his feet. Casino floor plots share similarities. Mt. Vernon a shade (and shadow) of Valley Forge. Both battlegrounds. I wonder what Washington might say if I told him of what would come—the freeway, towers, and artificial flowers. The casino living on luck and a prayer. Poinsettias and pomodoro timers planted and plucked. A place where dusk blends with dawn. Silence in most corners. Charlie Chaplin as much a Founding Father as the Washington brigade.

I hear the casino is expanding. The surrounding area making gains in ways Washington might relate. King of Prussia on steroids. A modern-day encampment. Rooks and guards stand ready, eager to stake a claim in this allegedly impressive feat. Players in a game of smiles and nods (give and take). We’re a democracy, Washington whispers. As big-boxes and bandstands bounce corner shops and convictions, I retreat. Retrace my steps. Shoulders at rest. Past the tables – all cards on deck. Past the slots – all marks made. Through the oversized concrete lot. Up hills. To Washington’s Valley Forge encampment. A man sleeps on a bench. The log cabins cold this time of year. The sod still damp. I find a tree and sit—just beyond the cabins where souls in rubber soles wept. Stacked and stocked on wooden cots in vertical fashion. A man hikes. A biker sings. I trade seats with a white-tailed deer. Toss tokens—heads or tails. Wait for cherries to drop.

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of Recollections, Invisible Ink, On Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups. She is the 2022-2023 Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate.

Summer in Key of Civic

The city is alive with boom bap.

Utterly defibrillated with a bass

even alley cats can’t ignore.


Car alarms set off several blocks away.

A welcoming of a foot pedal growing louder.

The clout is in the approach.


When this sound tornadoes down

every block, cutting around buildings

entering through a perchance open door


and slipping out the back window

like a secret lover hearing the

beep of a spouse’s car in the lot


it vibrates to the beat

in our chests, a palindrome’d

thump-tha-thump, thump-tha-thump.


Where questions like, “Why did

the poet cross the road?” and side door

sound systems respond, girls dem sugar.


A childhood crush soon after singing

if I can be your girl is the wish

but game is weakly spit


when the Escalade approaches

beating down what’s left

of ambient noise.


*italicized lines are borrowed from the 1999 dance hall hit, “Girls Dem Sugar” by Beenie Man featuring Mya

Dimitri Reyes is a Boricua multidisciplinary artist, YouTuber, and educator from Newark, New Jersey. Dimitri’s book, Every First and Fifteenth (2021) is the winner of the Digging Press 2020 Chapbook Award and his poetry journal, Shadow Work for Poets, is now available on Amazon. His forthcoming book, Papi Pichón, will be published in 2023 by Get Fresh Books. Some of his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and you can find more of his writing in Poem-a-Day, Vinyl, Kweli, & Acentos. He is the Marketing & Communications Director at CavanKerry Press. Learn more about Dimitri by visiting his website at