“Red Philadelphia Years” by Carlos Jose Perez Samano


Years like bubbles,
leaves, or cups.

Before Market Street
just a plateau,
back in time
those old trees
that now name
our beautiful streets.

Lenape woman,
an Armewamese one,
corn, beans, squash,
three sisters,
daughters of

cousin of William Penn,
son of two good Quakers,
also called friends.

Can you imagine
Richard Saunders
writing in his almanac,
words to the wise,
just to become Benjamin Franklin,
our first American guy?

Coming from Haiti,
a relative of Mackandal,
speaking only Creole.

Summer 1800,
slave 24 years,
from Cuba by boat
waits in Lanzaretto a month.

In 1849
the Moyamensing prision saw
how Edgar Allan Poe
tried to kill himself.

The same year,
some boats,
some Germans came,
the 1848 revolution ended.

By 1984 a guy from South Korea,
with a name hard to pronounce,
came after rolling for years
in the South Cone,
also called South America.

Coming from a wealthy family,
he became poor,
like an Allegheny or Kensington
meth woman dancing
without mouth.
Now his name is Jimmy Pak.

We all came
from different places,
and different times,
and here we go,
the years like empty drawers,
rusty dishes,
broken and dirty dolls,
pieces of me and you.

We all know that brotherly love
is a beautiful image
but Lorraine Hotel was full of stories
that we try to forget.

L-O-V-E in red,
pictures of Philadelphia.
with or without the hashtag

Philadelphia can be,
a nest,
a red brick,
some red
and yellow
and pink,
falling leaves,
touching lightly
the surface of the river
floating smoothly
through the small waves of
the Schuylkill.

And Philadelphia is
snow when it snows,
and heat like hell
if you don’t have a fan.

Years will come,
we will be gone.

But today here we are,
sharing this
Philadelphia year.

Carlos José Pérez Sámano is a literary fiction and nonfiction author, teacher of Creative Writing Workshops in countries like Mexico, USA, Kenya, and Cuba. He has four published books, and is the recipient of the “Best Seller” award of Ad Zurdum Publishing House. His work has been featured in more than 20 international magazines like Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Errr Magazine, Quinqué, Poetry in Common, Cultura Colectiva, among others. He is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Publishing at Rosemont College. He will be published by Temple University Press in “Who Will Speak For America?” in 2018. Find him on Twitter: @carlosjoseperez

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Three Poems by John Grey


A city grew out of where I lived,
full of voices,
full of bouncing on the box spring.
It kicked stray dogs in the teeth
but worshiped whatever lurked inside its cracks.
It was loud on its feet
and lost a lot of blood when the moon came out.
The city listened in.
It figured me out.
It said “Sorry, no work,”
as it chiseled out slabs of stone
to honor some long-dead gangster.
But it never cooked enough
so it could feed everyone.
And nor was there ever enough warmth
so its inhabitants could sleep.
The city just sprawled away from my chair
in the small kitchen
of my second-floor apartment.
Whatever promises it made to me
were undone like my bed.


Grand view.
Game board streets.
Taxis like moving pieces.
Factories below smoking cigarettes.
This is the highest of the high-rises.
Lungs feels like they’ve climbed ten thousand feet.
But here I am – eyes in the clouds,
elbows in the wind –
up fifty stories.
Hats off to the architect
with his inflated dreams.
And the construction crew of course.
And the electricians. And the plumbers.
There’s power and water all the way up here.
All adding to my vision.
All making me this human sky-cam.
I pity the generation
addicted to social media.
Is that a pavement down there
or a cell phone screen?
Their awe will pay for it in the end.
Such a small price to pay to ride the elevator
but the pettiness of talking to a friend prohibits.
So here I am, top floor, delirious with
the kind of fever
doctors cannot classify.
Look at those overworked corporate-slaves below.
Those ants must surely be cursing their luck.
They can’t even get out of the city’s shadow
while all I have to contend with is my own.
So how long can I stay up here?
Vertigo’s no issue.
I’m sure I’m part mountain goat.
And the spectacular never wearies me.
Only my ordinary life does that.
Yes, I will have to rejoin it eventually.
That’s the far shore, the cruel one,
straight below.


Jackhammers crack open a sidewalk two blocks away
to get at civilization’s mysterious underworld.
It’s the necessary noise of living in this age.
It’s the sound of the car engine, the cries
of lovemaking, the hellos of people who vaguely
know each other, the loud music some need
in their lives to compensate for how little
impact they’d make on the world without it.
I imagine a city in which we were all deaf.

How well we’d need to know our fingers.
Eyes would follow hands as we each spelt out our needs, our desires.
No worry about being shaken out of sleep
by the pounding of our surrounds.
I’d really want to have you in my presence
for your sense to get through to me.
Can’t you just see it.
In fact, that’s all you could do –
our hands flapping like wings,
a dainty twirl of the thumb,
a slight cock of the index finger
bringing such a smile to your silent lips.
But I would miss the symphonies and the jazz
and the lilt in your voice of course.
So I must endure the worst of buses
to get at the resonance of the heart.
Honking horns, screaming neighbors –
they’re archaeological digs
scouring down to the timbre of the true treasure.
The phone rings – another necessary evil.
Your warm greeting vindicates one sense at least.
All kinds of noise in the background.
For now, at least, it knows its place.

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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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Two Poems by Mitchell Grabois


The boys in baseball caps
wolf down ice cream
grab their temples and
moan about headaches

They toss remnants of cones
onto the dull green linoleum
and run out the door

the bell ringing in their wake
leaving me and Eppa with
a whole lot of quarters

I go get the broom


I feel the heaviness of my body
It has too much age
has suffered too much exertion
Its labor has been exploited
and used for others’ pleasure
Soon I won’t be able to move it

Vivian refuses to send me a photo of herself
I haven’t seen her in forty years
as long as Moses wandered in the desert

Perhaps she is doing me a favor
We want things that are
not good for us
She claims she is marred by warts
and carbuncles
but perhaps it is even worse than that

Perhaps her la raza cosmica
has lost its cosmica
and all a photo would show
would be a graceless chunk of mud

Vivian is right
It is better that she remain invisible,
that I not be subjected to reality
but instead imagine something finer

photo 4

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over twelve-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes.  His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.

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Three Poems by Spencer Shaak

Winter Janggi in Chilseong Market

You can hear the two men’s chuckles
throughout Chilseong Market.
Their fingers tap
cold octagon pieces
on wooden board
propped by stool.

Hot coffee, scallions, and garlic
rest by their restless feet
as they plan each other’s defeat.

People come and go
sometimes stop in street
to watch both sides unfold,
like two suns splitting rays
over Sincheon River.

Boys and girls run
with fried eomukguk on sticks,
their parents close behind
carrying fresh fruit and vegetables.
Jung-go furniture sells in stands,
mulmandu and gimbap steam
underneath colored umbrellas.

Many hours later
still warm coffee, scallions, and garlic
rest by restless feet
as both men plan each other’s defeat.

People come and go
sometimes stop in the street
to watch both sides unfold
like two half-moons casting shadows
over Sincheon River.
Here you can hear each man laugh
and listen to their Janggi pieces
tap tap tap.
It’s with tips of their caps
they become most alive.

They look like two werewolves
eyeing a full moon.

PC Bang

Oh, but it is smoky!
-this little PC Bang
smoke-filled, smoke-stilled
to choking encounter.
Be careful with your lungs!

PC man wears a hoody
that droops over his face
concealing his cigarette embrace
smoke between teeth.
Who does he meet
on his way home?

Poker cards flicker
on his screen
as he opens brown paper bag.
Three azaleas sleep in back
on a window sill,
still and patient.
Why such pretty petals?
Shouldn’t they be on Mt. Biseul?

Somebody must water these azaleas
or soju them.
Somebody must arrange them
watch them grow
amidst flickering smoke
and poker cards.
Somebody must love us all.

Seoul Man’s Soul

Strumming silver-lined strings to Hey Jude
Wearing New York shirt and shoes
I heard Seoul man play
Down on Dong-Seong-ro the other night
By his radio store’s fainted light.
He rocked back and forth
To the tune, Hey Jude
With his calloused hands on each string
He made that goose-necked guitar sing
Hey Jude
Rocking back and forth on his swivel seat
He played that tune while tapping his feet
Sweet Jude
Coming from a Seoul man’s soul.
O Jude!
In high-pitched voice with pleading tone
I heard Seoul man’s song, his guitar’s stroke:
Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better.
Tap, tap, tap, went his foot on the ground
He strummed more chords then opened his mouth:
Hey Jude, don’t be afraid
You were made to go out and get her
The minute you let her under your skin
Then you begin to make it better.
And far into the night he played Hey Jude
Till Dong-Seong-ro radio street was lit by moon
Then Seoul Man stopped playing and rested his eyes
While Hey Jude traversed through his mind.
He dreamt like a child, or man missing his wife.


Spencer Shaak is a MFA Writing graduate from Rosemont College in Philadelphia. He has had many great experiences in South Korea from teaching kids to spending great times with friends in downtown Daegu, Pohang, Busan, and Seoul. The following are poems about his own experiences and reflections in South Korea.

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Three Poems by Ben Nardolilli

The Nightmare Network

I went through several forests full of metaphors
Before I got anywhere close to the city,
There were the trees clustered together in vines,
Woods resembling the nervous impulses of the brain,
And a forest dead in the center but alive at the outskirts

I reached the river and other bodies of water,
Occasionally I reached bodies sitting by that water,
We never talked or looked at one another,
But I felt a kind of unity since we were both counting
The contours of the waves spackled with sunlight

I only became a minor celebrity in the city,
People talked about me and children
Were told to stay away from the potential dark cloud
Of hidden disasters that my presence represented,
My black cape and top hat finally a good investment

Hudson Valley News

Sunday’s pastime: Hudson Valley wanderings
Under a nebulous cliffhanger fog,
Empty town and city and country pass by
Along with solitary mountains
Which break from the horizon
To peak without any friendly range nearby

Even the train is having trouble keeping track,
The cars swing and screech over each bank,
Outside, a river thankfully knows
Its course and stays in the vessel
It carved out for itself over centuries
While making the commute south to Manhattan

Looking Critically

Empty city streets, so what?
The colors are out
And I can enjoy them, from red to white

If the streets overwhelm
With their procession of cars and banners
I have the sidewalk to clean my eyes

So then I can look up again
At every light post and power line,
The auburn wood a leash for glowing pets


Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, fwriction, Inwood Indiana, Pear Noir, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is looking to publish a novel.

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“The City” by Jenny Keto

Where every gram
of every human
inhabiting this place
is ground to dust

poured into cement
and mixed with the
water we only see
when it rains gray.

Gray that is hard
but is not rock
spreads over this
Earth we call home

and the land is
plotted out with
the width and height
of every human here.

Human sized
human sourced
boxes, we build
and we pave

and we build
with our waste
until we run
out of room.

Yet we come, we all come
here, because it must be here

and we pound
this pavement
thirsty, so thirsty
for something

we cannot see or hear
or smell, but we come
and we build our boxes up

until there’s no more light
until there’s no more
blue or green or brown
and gray is all we have in sight.

So we wait, we all wait underground
and we close our eyes to air that rushes but is not wind
and we sit or we stand in place, not moving

while something else moves us
waiting for someone to move us

because it must be here…


Jenny Keto is a writer and actress born, raised, and currently living in Austin, Texas. She graduated with a B.A. in Theater from the University of Texas at Austin and acted regionally until wanderlust bit her.  As a life experiment, Jenny moved to NYC just shy of turning 30.   After the city taught her what she needed to learn, Jenny returned home to switch gears and become a nurse.  She looks forward to the prospect of helping people for a living.  Her first publication can be seen in the upcoming web publication of Painted Cave Literary Journal.

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Three Poems by John Grey


We struggle to negotiate
mid-morning traffic,
not just cars
but a half-naked drunk
stumbling across the road,
a horse-drawn cart,
and heedless children hauling goats.

At the red light.
homeless men heave forward,
a ragtag army of open palms
going car to car
until the light turns green.

Windows down,
we risk the beggars
but enjoy the scents of
plantains fried in palm oil,
the exotic aroma
of crain-crain and okra
stirred in a large pot.

Our travel is a series of glimpses:
an artisan carving lions and rhinos out of stone,
children munching on
butter-soaked cassava bread
as they shamble into school.

We pass out of the city,
skirt the ocean by road,
watch dazzling painted fishing boats
ride high on the waves.

This world comes no closer
nor does it keep its distance.
It appears here, there,
as if for benefit
of a foreign couple
in a rented car
for whom West Africa
is only slightly less myth now
than the moment we arrived.


A young boy waves
from the side of the rough bumpy road.
It might be a welcome.
He could be warning us off.
Travel’s like peeling away
the baffling, the strange.
until what you’re left with
is nothing but ignorance.


stuck to the bedroom walls –

I stretched out my arm
to try to hold light –

the dark was ominous
the stars were well-intended
and they needed no prompting
to shine my way –

tacky yes
but almost beautiful –

I believed in them
as I did in the ones
who glued them into place –

intimate flashlights,
precious objects
of permanent fire –

a wall-paper galaxy
no universe
should be without –

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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. He has recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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“Boston” by William Doreski

The Monument

The newest skyscraper offends with its defiant geometry inscribed in brutal planes and striations. The graveyard looks up and pleads. The last tourist drops on all fours and scrabbles in the dirt. He’s eating clods, spitting out the grass and swallowing the earth. It doesn’t matter who planted this garden of graves, or why the dead lie head to feet, feet to head. Only the glistening skin of the skyscraper can repel the relevant ghosts. Only its acute and unlikely angles can situate the suffering tourist in time and space. But he refuses to look up and enjoy the spectacle of a sneer of glass slicing the pure hard rind of the moon. Such gelatinous events occur almost every night, now that the President has re-elected. Maybe when the criminal charges toughen into bedrock, when the petroglyphs become more legible, everyone will learn to more convincingly blame everyone else. The graveyard sighs a modest but apocalyptic sigh as it ingests the tourist. When he awakens at home in the next century his hands will smell of dead heroes, and his feet will have petrified to agate. Someone will say, I told you so; but the skyscraper with its awkward stance will dominate still, its windows oozing spectrums the human eye can’t process or even detect.

The Current State of Matter

Expensive watches grimace
in a shop window so pricey
a security guard drools on it.

Fresh from the dimmest fusions,
I drift past with open pores.
Every neuron feels alit.

Every sentence seems too short
to describe the caffeine moment
when books I’ve read all my life

kick in with unearthly roar.
Sleek and seamless adolescents
sporting smartphones like rhinestones

chatter past in clots of flesh
a carnivore would tooth to rags.
Nothing edible for someone

of my persuasion, however.
Nothing but a stutter of goods—
expensive sunglasses, flimsy shoes,

jewelry pimpled with evening gloss.
I’ve walked so far my shoes fit
more firmly than ever, my hands

have swollen with tired blood.
Too many troubles converge
in this corridor of storefronts,

skyscrapers lilting overhead.
How much shine can I withstand
before my bones soup themselves

in whimpers of yellowish birth?
Those born digital recall
nothing of the egg. Their lives

elongate before them like shadows
thrust from the heart of the moon.
The books I’ve read all my life    (Stanza Break)

need not apply. Competing
shadows of tall buildings duel
in the fiery dark, and sales clerks

hover over powerful goods
no one has the moral power
to either purchase or refuse.

This Possum Hour

You say you’re nocturnal like
a possum. Remember that Pound
called Eliot Possum, meaning
the creature that plays dead
rather than express emotion.

At two AM the avenue
plays dead. The sidewalks curl
like lips. The tame trees planted
to shade dog walkers and pimps
defy lamplight with gloomy leers.

I should to describe you sitting up
in bed reading the bible
with the faintest hissing sound
like sand singing in an ebb tide.
Downstairs chuckling over puns

while you become too serious
to tease to life with sex, I picture
the mall leafless, cushioned with snow,
but the June night embraces me
with an argument I won’t refute.

Maybe when the shops creak open
and the famous hairdresser arrives
with his little moustache tingling,
maybe when the sailboats cream
the basin in the first big hour

of daylight the summer will seem
summer enough to enhance us.
But at this possum hour the cries
of dreaming dogs remind me
that so much has gone up in smoke

or fog or mist or unraveled ghost
that the trees have no cause to sneer,
and the bible you’re reading
may or may not falsify
the reckless history of our souls.

Your Favorite Tree Looming

At dusk in the public gardens
small, medium, and large dogs
off-leash speed across the lawns,

ears flapping. Propped on a bench
with your favorite tree looming
we merge into a single mass.

Einstein predicted warps in space
and time as energy flows
around large gravitational fields.

What about smaller entities
like a pair of seventy-year-olds
crushed together by the pink

of a fading sky? The glamor
of this hustling city passes
at a distance, a creature flowing

in a skein of yellow silk,
its assorted bling clinking.
A footfall shaped like a series

of grotesque errors tracks us
to our bench, smiles upon us,
and clomps off, dragging one foot.

Surely nothing in the bible
explains the parsing of souls
through digital processing.

Yet faces lit by smartphones
look ennobled, if sculpted in lard,
their spiritual excess burned off.

How long do we have to recline
with our senses bubbling before
the light fails so completely

that whatever wants to devour us
can approach without a whisper?
We refuse to move. The last cloud

sheds its colors. Your tree thickens
to warp us into a shadow
so deep we’ll have to escape it

like clambering out of a well
with the entire world watching
to see how naked we’ve become.

The Street of Many Spices

On the Street of Many Spices
only one toilet functions.
All night I hear it crying

down the sewers, plaintive notes
crumpling in the slush. The dead
of this long street congregate

at every corner. Tatters
of cigarette paper stick
to their lips. Their lack of breath

reeks of the rooms they occupied
before coughing up what passes
in most religions for a soul.

The local religion, however,
describes that emanation
not as soul but toxic gas,

and warns that inhaling it condemns
the victim to uncertainties
like lost wallets, passports, and keys.

I stay in my room after dark
and drink the local vino
and watch the one TV station

with sitcoms in several languages,
none of which anyone around here
speaks or understands. The creak

of giant footfall prowls the street.
I keep the curtains drawn and hope
the glow of TV doesn’t tempt

whatever skulks out there
to clamber through my window
and push its ugly face to mine.

Maybe when dawn arrives I’ll run
to the grocery for orange juice and milk.
I’ll pretend that living on this street                                      [stanza break]

is like living anywhere, the stink
of the one toilet stoking a blue
flame many stories tall, mocking

or maybe commemorating
the functions of the body
none of us love anymore.


William Doreski recently retired after years of teaching at Keene State College in New Hampshire (USA). His most recent book of poetry is The Suburbs of Atlantis (2013). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals.

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“Jahrzehnt in Berlin” by Kara Cochran


The only thing I’d feared
in the west was the cold

der Graue Stadt swaddling us in winter, my chest shuddered
as I breathed my scarf hot, wiggling wool-socked toes in boots
cars slicking down ice-platted streets and buses
sighing their unending exhaust as the first flakes fell

the slow-moving water that waited below frozen facade
as my brother and his friend parted glass branches
with ungloved fingers, laughter echoed through darkened trees,
through my shouts of protest, sneakers to pond’s edge,
closer to the other side when the glazed surface cracked
and my heart stopped cold —
until my hand found a branch to pull them ashore.


I thought I knew what fear was
until the train to Sachsenhausen

my teacher’s wrinkled finger across pursed lips, whispered
reden sie bitte nicht auf English, es ist unsicher.
I looked from face to blurred face, city stops full of dark
winter figures, to fields and rural platforms
blanketed in snow. Neonazi?…Neonazi? I wondered,
pulling my jacket collar close.


It wasn’t until I was older that I understood
some walls are never gone

remnants of bright eighties cheapness, posters on posters
outside construction sites grown wild with weeds,
rusted Trabbis and 99 Luftballons and Goodbye, Lenin!
Nina Hagan’s lipsticked mouth dangling a cigarette.

I no longer fear the Deutschpunks with neon-spiked hair
all-black and combat boots, headphones blaring Rammstein
a decade of freedom from Stasi and wires beneath wallpaper
der Mauer that once constrained them sold in pieces
at souvenir shops, a generation shouting

we are here,
we are still here.


Kara Cochran is a writer, editor, and instructor. She holds an MFA from Rosemont College and a BA in English Creative Writing and German Studies from Denison University. She teaches English Composition at Temple University, Widener University and Delaware County Community College. Kara is also the former Managing Editor of Rathalla Review, the Assistant Program Director at Philadelphia Stories Junior, and a Mighty Writers workshop teacher, volunteer, and mentor. Her poems and craft essays can be found in Schuylkill Valley Journal, flashfiction.net, and Fiction Southeast, and she tweets from @philawriter.

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Five Poems by James Croal Jackson


Two years ago, we would drink tall beers
hidden in black, plastic bags ’til we passed
from laughter, fluttered to fill
our glasses with more.

There would have been more pages
to turn, but none of us spoke our
human language anymore.

Now, a browned frond slumps
between parked cars.

Two teenagers flirt
underneath a palm. Whispered leaves
are fragile– each movement
a link to the next
until it is not.

Their laughs reverberate
when they, too, part. Uncork
those swan bottles–
let them go, graceful
into night.


I know you want to leave, to take a bus
out of Columbus, to fight your battle
in Seattle, or Denver, or wherever
your heart may lead–

to be a nomad is to go
where the landscape dreams,
and to scrunch it all in your hand
like wisps of dandelion in the wind,

and in your palm its feathery white
is dissolution–

however far you go, know those you meet
will occupy the room in the tiny hostel
of your heart, sharing wisdom and laughter
despite however many days we spend apart.


our short harmony brushes my teeth
flosses the ridges bending eating
at me the yellowy plaque on white

the yolks in morning how inside
we are tender sunny side up I love
the way you look at me those

runny eyes gushing off the pan
onto black-and-white tile floor
grids the burgeoning cities

in our minds cars read
the streetlights’ caution
as go, go, go . . 


wandered along the avenue to find Kurt
sitting at the mountain of a three-step staircase
don’t come up here he laughed
but the neighborhood spun faster
than the blue room I escaped
so I continued to High along the alleys
of wafting leaked gasoline and nectars
of dried roses this was not spring
but the cold allowed me briskly hack time
in a direction indicating forward
where I pleat the confines of the sidewalk’s
imaginary boundaries I drifted from
but felt motionless and free



stationary at the couch by the window over the street the cars move unseen beneath me in lines in some complex order that means they don’t crash into each other    the sound of engines is replaced with repetitive 4/4 pop music snare singer pleading for her lover to return but in Los Angeles   who do you return to


locks click from storefront doors a Chinese family appears from behind the off-white pillar the mother in loose pink flowy shirt and dress takes a photo in front of the window her daughter in a white-and-red striped shirt her husband in a blue-and-pink striped shirt so much pink so many binding stripes and the mother captures that lone moment  the sky a tender backdrop


a grandma walks a black stroller and makes a soft kind of train noise shh guh shh guh in syncopated beats as she travels in circles the rolling sound of the stroller-like luggage in an airport    constant whir her mouth a muted hi-hat to some imaginary beat on her third pass-by the baby in pink stirs and she stops her mouth’s percussion and tends to the baby who is absolutely quiet but lifts her arm in the air   silhouette to the window of the world cookies-and-cream    loose leggings


a man in his fifties eats macha ice cream alone near Dillard’s   walks in front of a blonde man in a cowboy hat water bottle in hand hair tying his shoelaces      the ice cream man on the other side of the window underneath the Westside Center sign stares at his reflection     he moves from the window bits of cone now lodged in his graying mustache


the green palms reflected on the speckled cream floor    ripples in a pond that blew so gently     outside a man with twenty hands and countless fingers     dances and puppeteers


two Mexican women with glowing purses hanging on their right shoulder walk in near-unison one just a half-step ahead until the fast one stops to fix her shoe before walking into Nordstrom glass door squealing open       at its most open it sounds like a bad brake on a car      the other keeps walking


older man in a reddish shirt has a chocolate cone at 11:45pm and stands on the wide black stripe on the floor in front of the imposing silver pillar that splits in the middle like a buttcrack     he stands    licking staring forward at TVs     that advertise movies now playing in the theaters of his daydreams


half of the iPhone billboard outside would be indiscernible    half white space stubs of fingers touching green fabric in a lazy V the space below it a half-globe of nothing   the squeaking of shoes slowly silence the man in blue beneath as he does not even notice I watch as he tucks his manila folder under his left armpit


mountains are indiscernible from buildings in the distance     curved with specks of white that hint at strange windows or a deepening mist that seem to want to envelop the rest of us    and how do we know it won’t


a faraway pedestrian timidly crosses the intersection illegally   she slows but proceeds   and from my vantage point she crosses to the smell of the soy in the pad see ew that steams in front of me


the light which hangs above these walls of shades of gray is latticed in spiderweb    I cannot tell if the gentle sway-shaking is imaginary  or earthquake  all these little triangles hovering jittering above me   I wonder if this is how the universe actually moves   or what it truly looks like


upside-down reflections of walking legs move as the inverse of walking and sway with a sexy air voluminous breeze parting    moving away in a regal but ultimately    aimless sashay

James Jackson

James Croal Jackson is a writer, musician, and occasional filmmaker whose work in film and TV in Los Angeles led to a rediscovery of his love of poetry. His poems have appeared in magazines including The Bitter Oleander, Lines+Stars, and Cosmonauts Avenue. He is the winner of the 2016 William Redding Memorial Poetry Prize via The Poetry Forum. He lives in Columbus, Ohio. Visit him at jimjakk.com.

Please note: Poetry is compressed to fit smart phone screens. If you are reading this poem on a phone screen, please turn your screen sideways to make sure that you are seeing correct line breaks for this poem.