“The City I Knew” by Sarah Gallagher

Grand mom had a row home on a city street with a corner store. There were bars on her windows and double bolts on her doors – but that’s not why I remember her home, the house where she raised my mother.

I remember playing seesaw with my sister in the park across the street and my family and their friends all down the block in one direction or the other. I remember the little, white ceramic tree with lights in her window at Christmas time and banging pots and pans on the stoop every new year.

Grand mom was a cookie baking, card playing, chain-smoking matriarch with an open-door policy who let me be a kid in a changing world. She taught us that there were not so nice people who ruined our playground and kinder people who fixed it up. She let us play in the hose and sent us down the block for ice cream but never let us go anywhere alone at night.

Back then, the four block radius around her house belonged to us. Everybody knew each other – the people were struggling, but the people were good. But as the years went on, the neighborhood changed – heroin overtook those streets and ripped through the neighborhood leaving behind fatherless children and mothers shedding tears. It ravaged my family too, but grand mom never wavered.

Still, it felt like the neighborhood didn’t belong to us anymore. I don’t like to remember that city or see my memories through the lens I view the city through now, the one that’s filmy, the one that’s gritty.

The city I knew loved everyone. It was my weekend home with spaghetti dinners every Sunday and neighborhood gossip over cheese Danish for grownups at a Formica kitchen table. A vibrant little world light years ago in a small bubble of Southwest Philly, the city I will always miss.


Sarah Gallagher is a social media manager for the City Key. She’s an outgoing introvert who likes to spend her alone time lighting incense and writing poetry or reading memoirs and literary fiction. She likes pop surrealism, traveling, antiques, horror sketches, kitschy diners, and getting lost in movies. She has a Bachelors degree from St Joseph’s University and belongs to three honor societies, serving as a Chapter Advisor for the National Society of Leadership and Success.

“Swimming in Montevideo” by Steve Carr

Swimming, my arms slice through the water, one arm, and then the next. Over and over. My fingers are held firmly together, and pointed, like the head of a spear. My shoulders swivel from side to side, twisting my torso. My muscles are like pulled taffy, pliable, twisting, elastic. A continuous flow of power – an electric current of physical, bodily, energy – courses through my legs. They are scissors cutting the water. My feet are fins, paddles, webbed-like, kicking and churning up the water, leaving a continuous splashed trail of bubbles in my wake. The water is cool. It slides over the smoothness of my flesh. I shed it like ever-changing layers of liquid skin.

Continue reading “Swimming in Montevideo” by Steve Carr

“Kensington Park Road” by Eileen Moeller

Holding a container of milk in my hand,
I walk to work under the creamy sky,
that usually covers this place,
muffling everything beneath its layer of fat.

The milk is cool in my hand,  and held out like this,
it becomes a talisman against the drunks who rush at me
shouting Help the Homeless, Luv, like two clowns in a reckless ballet,

against the German skinhead boys
who will not part their ranks enough to let me through
so I’m forced to cross in front of and around them.

The end boy shouts a stream of Deutsch words
over shoulder as I pass, and I imagine that cow
is one of them, floating over me: gutteral and ghost white.

I mean it’s a matter of logic to call me that,
since I am the bearer of milk,
its glad tidings gently sitting
on the pillow of my palm
to ward off demons,

as I pass the mother jogging behind a stroller,
the running businessman in his pinstriped suit,
the women in saris at the bus stop,
the private park that says No Entry,
the pub and temple,
a hint of barbed wire
that turns into a crown of thorns
whenever it curves even slightly.

The blessing of milk: part-skim.
Have mercy on us.
Low fat. Pray for us.
High protein. Have mercy on us.
Carbohydrates. Pray for us.
Energy. Grant us peace.

Eileen

Eileen Moeller and her husband, Charlie, have lived in the Philadelphia area for the last twelve years. She has two books: Firefly, Brightly Burning, published in 2015 by Grayson Books, and The Girls in Their Iron Shoes, published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press, and has many poems in literary journals and anthologies. Her blog: And So I Sing: Poems and Iconography, is at http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.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.

Artwork by Howard Skrill

 

The following are works from the Anna Pierrepont Series, which is is an exploration in words and pictures of public statuary throughout New York City that maroon the past in the present.

 

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Howard Skrill is an artist, and art professor at St. Francis College and Essex College in Newark, NJ. He lives with his wife and one of his two adult sons in Brooklyn. His work has exhibited from St. Francis College, Bronx Community College, the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, Wheaton College and Holy Family University. He has also shown at the Safe-T gallery and the Kumon pop up space in Brooklyn and Chashama in Manhattan. His pictorial essays and other works have appeared in Newfound: Art and Place, Red Savina Review, Assisi, the Columbia Journal, Average Art [UK), Streetlight and pending publication in War, Literature and the Arts and Districtlit.

Five Poems by John Grey

ALLEYWAYS

If it weren’t for alleyways,
these creatures would not exist.
If trash didn’t overflow the bins
and bleary faces stare down
through cracked window panes,
there’d be no predator
with hat shielding his eyes
or knife-wielding tattooed hooligan
stabbing his blade in crumbling brick.
A cardboard hovel
sheltering a white-haired jabbering homeless man,
breeds a fleeting taloned stranger
barely deeper than the wind
or a shadow on the wall of something horned.
Rats bear some of the guilt.
Random gunfire also.
And likewise the cop who patrols
the neighborhood
but leaves the dismal dark dead ends
to their deadly discrete marauders,
Every so often,
in the best light day can manage,
Rescue drags a body out
of one of those smelly pits.
For an hour or two,
it’s Lumley Lane
not spawning ground.

AT HOME BELOW STREET LEVEL

occasional glance through the window bars
of the room I’m in…
closed in judgment and in fact –
promise to bathe more often,
or give the tanned young man in my head
a chance to breathe –
or stop lapping up tap-leak with my tongue,
and ignore the landlady
screaming about the rent –
sky can never clear,
air can’t warm up not even a little –
spend my last years
surprised to meet a man
of my shrunken dimension –
take money where I find it,
converse with my dead mom but not my dead dad –
ask a cop – sip the flask –
rot in my cellar, unequal even to the buzzing flies
sucking on the crystal sugar of my energy –
imprisoned by the roof, the windows, everything…
sad fate of a dead man in a cellar apartment
clutching the tattered family Bible,
my sins staring up at the street

JUNGLE

in the jungle,
red ants, lounge lizards,
jaguars, both feline
and valet parked,
potential prey
done out in the latest
slinky fashions,
spiders as big as tabletops,
piranhas and vultures,
snakes of all varieties,
vines and other stranglers,
interact, compete
and prey upon each other –
a paradigm of Gaia’s
ever-evolving
dynamical system
or Saturday night
once the clubs heat up

DEATH OF A WARRIOR

The cracks in the face are painted over.
The eyes are closed,
two bulges in the forehead,
where red veins used to be.

That’s normal under the circumstances.
As is the closed mouth,
that raspy voice no longer required.

And there is nothing of barrooms
and diners,
those bookends to his daily routine.
The man in the box
could have attended church daily
for all the lies
the undertaker’s handiwork tells.

But what choice was there?
A man who began his day
eating greasy slop
to disregard his heart.
A drunkard at night
with an entire family to defy.
Wakes are general exhibition
not parental guidance.

So the man is concealed.
Someone smooth, innocuous,
takes his place.
Maybe the mourners won’t notice.
Or memory will make good times
out of bruises.

Thankfully, the eyes are closed.
Now death is only sad.
It could have gotten ugly.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

Yes, we were the ones
who scooped tadpoles from ponds,
gave turtles new unwanted homes,
boys in our early teens
with the belief that nature
didn’t belong in nature,
was more suited as periphery,
atop dressers, on bedroom floors.

With nets on sticks,
we chased butterflies,
pearl crescents with black and orange wings,
red admirals, eastern commas,
killing them with one squeeze of the abdomen,
pinning them to project books
where their wings crumbled,
and bodies turned to dust.

Our parents said,
at least they don’t get into trouble
like other kids –
no shoplifting,
no breaking into abandoned houses.

But we stole from the leaf-mold and the wildflower.
We busted into the fragile cycle of life.

A glass jar half full of brown water,
holes punctured in its lid,
and a creature stalled, stiffened,
halfway through metamorphosis –
a crime scene.
I was there.

 

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John Grey is an Australian poet and 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.

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.

Editor’s Post: “The City’s Wild Promise.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “the city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time. In its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” Fitzgerald describes something that I’ve always felt when arriving in a city; the word that comes closest to explaining this feeling is hope.

Continue reading Editor’s Post: “The City’s Wild Promise.”