Death of Levon Helm Alt Country Blues Poem
I'm washed up and the tribe is thinning.
Lunch can be hit or miss — either way
if I'm not hungry afterward
what's to complain about?
Turns out extinction is not the issue,
not if the formats are steeped in formaldehyde
and there is a regular circus.
I'm worried when I get the box home
I'll have two shoes for one foot and none
for the other which will make me walk in circles
like the groupies around Robbie Robertson
in 1969 must have.
Summer came in ahead of spring this year.
Funny how we all just take it lying down.
No one has the guts to switch out the months.
Drum up some reaction, however screwy —
call April August, March June —
give notice we noticed.
— Sharon Black
Sharon Black lives in Wallingford. She is widely published in such journals as The South Carolina Review, Cimarron Review, Slipstream, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mudfish, Rhino, Poet Lore, Artful Dodge, and Painted Bride Quarterly. Her poetry was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2005 and 2007. She is the librarian at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.
To My Future Daughter Dissecting Light
Pinning its tissue-thin skin onto the foam board, what did you expect
to find? Little shining lungs? Pulsing blood a kind of happy yellow?
I told you: don't go inside a body unless you want to see what makes it so.
Your hands are in there good, and it's all disappointment, isn't it?
Feel how full it is of regret, with fathers it's tried to fix but fattened instead,
women it's abandoned with no explanation, full of more and more of itself —
all apology and failure. With your palm cupped around its heart, you are
my daughter, Daughter, wishing away the old and muted truth:
that light isn't anything but show. It did gleam honestly on the outskirts
of your mother's life but once, the day I decided you were no mistake,
no matter what, and then it fled. No matter that today's deed has taken
your innocence away for good. That's what innocence is for is what light
would say if it could talk. I'm sorry it would also say. And it will
say that, over and over, as you unpin its skin. And it will keep saying it
through ugly sunsets and injury, through men and bodies that will come to you
only to hurt, through joy's bright planet orbiting your life always
in a wide, wide berth. I'm sorry for using myself up, it will say, on others
who deserve me less, for time's rough strokes, for not being there
to greet you when you arrive on the other side. That's how much it cares.
Daughter, with your hand on its borrowed pulse it will ask of you
what you cannot give. And I ask with it: Pardon me. Forgive me. For everything.
— Laura Didyk
Laura Didyk is a writer, editor, and teacher living in Great Barrington, Mass.
Marché aux Puces
You don't bargain
for the itch to scratch
— it comes attached,
the way the past
to the present.
Don't resent it.
is still of use: reach
inside your purse,
buy it with change
— Joseph Dorazio
Joseph Dorazio's poems have appeared widely in print and online. He lives and writes in Wayne.
When he died his heirs discovered an accumulation
in his clothes: in a left pants pocket a torn belt loop
and a lozenge embittered by lint, in the right
a coin with the face of a dehydrated president.
From a back pocket — the one without a wallet —
they extracted a shy ticket stub. An old suit
contained an invitation to an empire's collapse,
an expired analgesic, and a steadfast comb.
From an oversized robe they dislodged, with effort,
a sleepless night that inspired his preoccupied mind.
From a leather jacket they set free an American
highway parallel to a longer, more scenic route.
At last they removed each item from the pocket nearest his heart:
a crushed pine cone, an unattached button, a charred ambition.
— Alan Elyshevitz
Alan Elyshevitz is a poet, short story writer, and teacher from East Norriton. His story collection The Widows and Orphans Fund was published recently by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. His poetry chapbooks include The Splinter in Passion's Paw (New Spirit) and Theory of Everything (Pudding House). He is a two-time recipient of a fellowship for fiction from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Currently he teaches writing at the Community College of Philadelphia.
Graduation is nearing and I will soon leave my home
friends, familiar places, and comfort zones
Soon I will live in a shoe box of a room
with a complete stranger
sharing shampoo, toothpaste, a printer
and stories of home
Parties will distract me from homework,
deprive me of sleep, and slowly damage my liver
And boys, yes, hoards of college boys
casting their charms, breaking hearts, and never
calling me for a second date
Exams? I didn't know they would be this hard
all-nighters, flashcards galore, and nightmares
New friends offer a breath of fresh air, relief from a
hectic schedule, a lunch date, and tons of new clothes
too many decisions
with unknown consequences
a fresh start for failure or
a second chance at getting it right
— Tori Fellenbaum
Tori Fellenbaum is a senior at Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls. She lives in Frankford and loves singing, theater arts, gnomes, and working as a cashier at ShopRite. She looks forward to fun, prayer, and learning at Immaculata University next year.
Thinking I see Philip Levine in the clearance section of a TJ Maxx
It was a jacket I was looking down at.
Actually, it was a picture of a snow-
covered mountainside with an incandescent blue
sky and three people overdressed in fur-lined hoods, with black
skis stuck into the fluffy ground, looking up
the steep grade they presumably just skied —
all of this was printed on the jacket's tag with the jacket's bar code,
its retail price of $79.99, and its mark down price of $20.00 in soy-based ink
I couldn't swallow when I saw him two clothing racks away,
between two rows of marked down Made in China shoes,
wearing a fedora with a fake plastic feather
tucked into its felt brim, which made me think, nope, not him.
I hung the jacket where someone cold might find it
before I jammed my hand into my pocket
where I found and folded my money in half, and then in half again.
— Brett Haymaker
Brett Haymaker is currently a master's candidate in Drew University's low-residency M.F.A. in Poetry program. He was born and raised in Hellertown, Pa. He attended Drexel University.
I dodge down the crowded July street,
Breathing garbage and humid perfume.
The stifling block is wild at noon.
Stores prop their doors open to lure in buyers.
Banks of icy air waft out in columns,
And I cross through one and nearly shiver.
As I delve once again into warmth,
I remember swimming in cedar lakes
That flashed like dirty tin in summer,
Buoyed in greasy tea-stained water.
We kicked to keep afloat near the adults,
Then raced past the roped orange markers.
The lifeguard's whistle pierced our splashes.
Undercurrents from freezing springs gushed
On our bellies, then sun-kettled eddies, then cold,
Paddling and lunging for those small islands
That seemed to recede with each breathless lash
Of our arms through the churned, cloudy water.
— Ernest Hilbert
Ernest Hilbert's debut collection is Sixty Sonnets (2009). His second collection of poetry, All of You on the Good Earth, will appear in 2013. He lives in Philadelphia.
Sonnet for Dry Leaves
Like ungulates on the Serengeti,
leaves gallop in herds across the empty
lot, carving uneven arcs through the air.
Straight October winds lend velocity,
acceleration, lift, fluidity,
and I imagine myself in midair,
high above the plains, observing frantic
herds of bushbucks, impalas and dik-diks
breaking around acacias, they scramble,
moving as if of one mind, erratic
turns punctuating smooth parabolic
leaps as they evade some unseen jackal.
Leaves skitter across asphalt, sunset glare
glinting gold as they fall still by the wall.
— Laura Eleanor Holloway
Laura Eleanor Holloway lives in Washington Crossing, Pa. She tutors both writing and math.
sunrise bike ride in northern colorado
the moon commas over the dusk,
a chalk smudge on glimmering slate —
a few stars faintly asterisk
the dark west horizon —
goats quote mark in their mud yard,
to them i just apostrophe —
galloping beside me ponies escape
their corral with wonder —
a snake crushed flat becomes an "O"
in shimmering skin italic —
a mule grazing through wire fencing slashes its back,
tasting tender rain-green grass —
— Jeffrey Ethan Lee
Jeffrey Ethan Lee teaches humanities at Temple University, creative writing at the Community College of Philadelphia and the Shambhala Center of Philadelphia, and composition at Drexel University. He was recently an artist in residence at Ursinus College. His 2006 poetry book, identity papers, was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.
Today there are strange, flightless birds.
They preen and strut, they pass in an endless pageant
of wenches, fools and dumb-show grotesques,
they glisten like plastic and spilled beer.
Today is nostalgic belief in some primal order
of things — the ritual, drunken gaiety,
the oily wigs and sweat-stained frocks,
the lupine smiles of desperate men,
their eyes as deep as the corner drains.
This is the new year in Philadelphia.
And this is the way things need to be —
the feathers and sequins of faith
and assumption, the gaudy illusions
of paupers and pilgrims,
and finding oblivion.
— George McDermott
After five years as a high school English teacher in Center City Philadelphia, George McDermott recently moved to Boston and resumed his career as a freelance writer. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Pivot, Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Many Mountains Moving, and Clarion. He is also a poetry editor of Philadelphia Stories.
Looking Out at the Aegean
Once in a sleep tinged with sun, tinged with night-dark wine on a white porch
Dry heat cracked under foot, under hats, in my lungs like an old curse.
Five thousand miles in a ship with a silvery skin and a bright torch,
Can't quite silence the soft-toed sinking of songs into blank verse.
Sing me a myth with a strong call, stronger than nineteen's blue lull,
Wider than all of the waves you can see on a chilled day, storm-worn;
Faster than I'll ever go with my own oars, slick sail, thick hull
Stuck on a strand where I ought to be gold-hearted, gold-haired and first-born.
Once in a book that I swallowed in syllables, medicine parsed pure,
Travelers told me the way through the whirlpools and yawn–flooded quicksands;
Didn't they see that their hero was nothing but eyes on a lost shore?
Hate in his nobody-name and an echo of home in his sick hands.
— Mara Miller
Mara Miller, 24, is a writer and editor with a Classics degree from Haverford College. She lives in Fairmount. Visit her at theeffecteffect.com.
The night domes, a Bach Fugue. One of us
lifts her iPhone like the Statue of Liberty. She
has an app that identifies the stars. "That red one?
That's Venus," she says.
We pause, expand.
Someone says he read somewhere that
all the elements came into existence at the Big Bang:
carbon, oxygen, the whole periodic table,
ashes from furnaces where stars died.
The atoms of our own bodies — found poetry,
sculpted from smithereens. We point, draw circles on the
Jackson Pollock sky, and, like children
who take turns cupping a flashlight in their hands,
we marvel how skin glows red as Venus.
Our eyes contain Cezanne apples, our bloodcells novels,
ideas doing performance art all around our DNA,
and someone says, "Joni Mitchell was right,"
and Hamlet, and Leonardo, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
Our parted lips accept the stardust,
and it seems, tonight, we are golden.
— Faith Paulsen
Faith Paulsen lives and writes in Norristown.
Trumpet flourishes of scent called us to wild hedges
by abandoned houses, to creamy slender-throated mouths
the tallest of us reaching high or deep inside on tip-toe
drawing down great arcs of sweetness to our hands —
then we'd divide the sprays between us, settle on a broken step
to slowly strip the boughs of blossom, press our fingernails
to petal-flesh above the tiny sepal, score it just enough
to see the inner pistil stem that science class so distant then
would teach us is a style, the knob atop the style a stigma —
and we'd pull the pale green pistil down the slender neck
draw nectar to the broken end until a gleaming bead of liquid
trembled at the break and we touched blossom, nectar, knob and stem
to tongue-tip like first taste of sex and every time
the care we took made it first time again — we scored and slid
and sipped the sugar of a thousand trumpets until dusk
or someone's mother called or rang a bell to bring us home.
— Hayden Saunier
Hayden Saunier is a writer and actress living in Doylestown.
On Paul Muldoon's Wings
In one continuous movement stipple
becomes ripple, John shifts to join,
hell morphs to help, posse — possibilities
that are unending as he adds or subtracts
a few letters although sleight erroneously
still sounds like slight. In his head words rise
on thermals, winged creatures that soar,
music seared in their souls. While they float
he merges notes into quirky arias from
Ireland, nocturnes, plucks arpeggios
until they grow heavy, collapse on themselves,
transform into rustling rose petals. From
those piles his nimble mind draws
juice inside dying marrow, composes
new bones for those sounds to live in.
It's always their sounds he rearranges
like attracting molecules in peptide strings,
a bonding almost beyond his control: fright
becomes freight, pall tumbles into pale,
ever expands to never, finite to infinite.
— Wendy Fulton Steginsky
Wendy Fulton Steginsky is a poet and interfaith minister living in Doylestown, "within," she writes, "a community of extraordinary Bucks County poets."
Today is Charlie Chaplin's birthday.
In his honor, my father breaks a tire,
works in silent comedic
struggle to change it.
I stand on the corner.
My heels aerate the soil.
Brother turns the levers, shifts
machinery as needed.
We refuse the help of strangers,
we huddled, we tired,
we tire, tire, tire. Charlie,
what I remember
is your mustache, your hat
and your scamper. We, inept, would make you proud.
We'd build you a wagon,
burdened by loose wheels,
and a door perfect for slamming.
We'd paint ourselves sepia,
two-toned, like the drawings
of parts in the instruction manual.
— Madeleine Wattenbarger
Madeleine Wattenbarger is a senior at Germantown Friends School. She lives in Mount Airy.