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Death of Levon Helm Alt Country Blues Poem

Death of Levon Helm Alt Country Blues Poem

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

(Flea Market)

You don't bargain

for the itch to scratch

— it comes attached,

the way the past

comes hitched

to the present.

Don't resent it.

The oldfangled

is still of use: reach

inside your purse,

buy it with change

that's loose.

— 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

of failure

New friends offer a breath of fresh air, relief from a

hectic schedule, a lunch date, and tons of new clothes

to borrow

College life

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.

Walnut Street

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,

fashioning hope

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

Star Dust

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.