“Empire State to World Trade” by Natasha Cobb

In South Carolina, Ester spent years wondering what big cities were like – Visiting her cousin Tessa in New York City, Ester initially found that they could be overwhelming with smells of fuel and perfume mixed with the sounds of cars honking and people speaking quickly as they searched for their loved ones. 

As Ester waited for Tessa at Kennedy Airport, she thought of how lucky Tessa was to be able to make it in N.Y.C. Ester looked forward to the week ahead because Tessa had promised her that she’d show her the best parts of the city. From the moment Ester placed her suitcase in the trunk of Tessa’s car, her cousin did not disappoint her. Tessa took Ester right into the heart of the city. They boarded a train at one of the main transportation hubs in the city, Atlantic Terminal, and then caught the three train to thirty-fourth street. 

Tessa gave Ester a crash course in train etiquette before they got on the train. 

“Don’t stare at anyone. Don’t talk to anyone, even if they say something to you. And if you accidently touch anyone in anyway apologize immediately, even if it is not your fault.” 

Tessa knew that Ester would stick out as a tourist – It was March, but Ester had brought her winter coat, hat, and gloves. N.Y.C in March was too chilly for Ester, who was used to sixty as a low temperature in South Carolina at that time of year. Also, Ester would stop without warning, take out her camera. and take pictures of the most ordinary things like buildings and streets that didn’t stand out to Tessa at all.

Tessa knew Ester would want to take a lot of pictures where they were going. Standing in line outside to get into the Empire State Building and looking up, Ester noticed that the top of the building disappeared into the clouds.  But from the top of the building looking down, the view was clear but impossible to fully take in. Tessa had hoped there would be a restaurant at the top of the building, so they could eat while keeping their bird’s eye view of the city.  

Tessa walked around the circle, pointing out landmarks when she could find them among the concrete clusters. After asking a stranger to take a picture of them together under the Empire State Building sign, they headed back down to the street to catch an Uber to The World Trade Center, which did have a restaurant at the top of the building.

Since Ester had never used Uber, she asked Tessa if she could put the app on her phone.  Tessa knew that Ester would never use it in South Carolina, with her two cars, but she humored her cousin and added the app on her phone like she asked. 

After arriving, they headed up to the restaurant at the top of the building. The elevator ride up to the restaurant was eventful and a voiceover automatically chronicled the history of the World Trade Center as the elevator moved. The World Trade Center was impressively strong and beautiful.

They arrived early for their reservation, so they took time to take in the landscape and beauty of the city again.  From different angles at the top of The World Trade Center, they could see the city’s bridges as well as the Statue of Liberty. Ester zoomed in with her camera and took pictures of everything as if she were close enough to touch them. They sat on a bench beside one of the windows. Overwhelmed by the wonderous sights around her, Ester let out a deep exhale.

“Your mom would have liked this,” Tessa said, thinking of her aunt and how she hadn’t had a chance to see her before she died. It seemed right that the city brought Ester and Tessa back together. Their life experiences could be added to the city landscape within those buildings, already filled with the hopes and losses of others. 

“I’m glad you came,” Tessa said. 

She then looked at her phone and realized it was time for them to claim their table.  They made their way to the restaurant and sat in a booth right next to a floor to ceiling window, and the way the booth was positioned they could both see the magnificent view. They ordered a bottle of wine to go with their burgers and fries because neither of them had ever had wine with burger and fries before. They had angus beef, double cheeseburgers with bacon, lettuce, tomato, a pickle, and shoestring fries with gourmet ketchup, and the red wine they ordered blended perfectly with the meal.

With a slight buzz they made their way to the train station to catch the four train back to Atlantic Terminal. Given the effect of the wine, Ester did end up making eye contact with strangers and accidentally brushing up against others, but she did remember to apologize. When they reached Tessa’s apartment without incident, Ester began to think that maybe Tessa worried too much.

Back at the apartment, Tessa slept on her couch, and Ester slept in the only bedroom. Ester checked in on Tessa, who’d fallen asleep. Ester went into the bedroom to watch When Harry Met Sally to see which of the same places she’d visited that day as the characters in the movie. 

Ester’s visit helped her see the city in a new way, and her curiosity about the city continued to grow. To Ester, New York City was a big and daunting but friendly city. She found that it was just the place to go when she longed to be anywhere except South Carolina where she’d spent all her life with her mom, who’d then died a little over a year ago. 

Natasha Cobb is pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Queens University of Charlotte.  She is also a playwright who has had several plays go up in multiple festivals throughout New York City.  Her most recent production, Foreign Born; New Home, will premiere at the New York Theater Festival this summer.  Natasha also has a podcast, Black Bipolar Female, which is a fictionalized account of her experiences living with Type I Bipolar Disorder.

“Lost Chicago” by Joshua Ginsberg

This will be the only key now
to the map that leads back
to that place I left –

All other directions take me
somewhere I don’t know,
down endlessly defeated rows
of broken, boarded windows
and too-quiet streets
beneath the lonesome
shriek of wind.

Empty towers lean shadows
over every intersection
of is and was,
like a just-finished necropolis
of glass and steel

waiting to find
new use.

Joshua Ginsberg is a writer, entrepreneur, and curiosity seeker who relocated from Chicago to Tampa Bay in 2016. He is the author of “Secret Tampa Bay: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure,” (Reedy Press, 2020), and his poetry, fiction, and non-fiction has appeared in various print and digital publications. He maintains a blog, Terra Incognita Americanus and has been a business proposal and resume writer for over 10 years. He currently resides in Tampa’s Town and Country neighborhood with his wife, Jen, and their Shih Tzu, Tinker Bell.

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.

“Notre Dame” by Patrick Vitullo

Was its best face seen from
the Quai de la Tournelle,
Pont de L’Archeveche,
or Square Jean XXIII?
Whether the proboscis of facade
or the gothic grey body worded
and etched from the bookseller’s stalls
on the Quai de Montebello,
every look was different.
An arch of neck brought one up
its twin towers and shunned down 
the spouting gaff of gargoyles.
Its rose window bloomed before the Seine
while pigeons peripatetic gathered
en masse before a statue of Charlemagne.
A man bedecked in the
beauty of his language
asked for francs, a baguette,
and then, when none were offered, 
simply said, bonjour.
Like the countenance of its people,
that lean church beveled 
its spire to the sky.
As Emmanuel tolled
solemnly the moment when
Christ died, the Elysian arms of 
Our Lady buttressed 
the man’s tired hands.
And all Paris
foamed in the wake of a bateau-mouche.

Patrick Vitullo is a writer, poet, essayist, and world traveler who lives in Havertown, PA. He was awarded the 1979 John T. Fredericks Prize in Literary Criticism by the University of Notre Dame where he graduated with a B.A. in liberal arts. He also has a law degree from Villanova University and limits his law practice to representation of injured workers. Patrick has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Antigonish 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.

Five Poems by John Grey


No foot can survive unscathed,
not walking over these coals,
not while the city burns
and before the guilt rains down.
Nowhere to run
that isn’t molten,
a pool of tar
flooded with crying,
a conflagration,
where even the gutter creatures
barely survive.

Broken glass, syringes,
acids and powders,
hookers in flaming dresses,
the angry heat
sputters around,
red and luminous,
yet weeps to itself-
incandescent tears
in a dreaded backstreet
of people fused to the spot.

Heaps of them burn,
variegated scars
begin to smoke
intense as hell
in clots of black,
red-stained rivers
smog orange moon,
overheard wires sizzling,
the sky is aflame,
the coast can never be clear.


I don’t do
this out of despair.

It’s just that the part of me
that’s been down so long
wants to exert itself,
to make something
of all this nothing.

It is a series of events
that do not aim
for release,
and certainly not joy.

How it works
is that

all off my truths
hit the water
at speed,

create suffering
for myself
but end it

Then I can claim victory,
that one breath left to me.


Prideful is the last word I’d ever use
to describe the man
but as we step outside
through the sliding doors,
there’s more than shyness
in that awkward smile,
more than addiction
in the way he releases a cigarette
from the box
and lights it in a kind of
unspoken triumph.

His blue shirt is open to the throat.
His skin is leathery
but his mood is as smooth
as the petals of the tulips
slowly shutting down for sunset.
I feel as if I’m on a tour of
a historic house
with him as my guide
when it’s just the place
he finally can afford
after years cocooned in one of those
pale stucco dwellings
pressed into the side of the hill.

And now here he is,
after a hard day’s work
in which he can feel every dollar earned,
with a cigarette in one hand
and the palm of the other
flat against solid brick.

He watches the smoke rise.
dissipate, be rendered invisible by air.
Now, for certain,
with his name on a deed,
that will never happen to him.


You know there’s rooms such as these:

a dull kitchen
with a woman slumped in her chair,
a cigarette burning down to ash
in one hand,
a cold coffee cup holding up the other

a parlor
and a man crashed on a couch,
staring at a baseball game
on a dusty television screen,
half-slobbering, half-drinking,
his fourth beer of the night

a dark bedroom
and a young boy
hanging from a belt,
one end wrapped around
a light fixture,
the other crushing his throat,
and a chair kicked to the side
for all his life was worth

You already live in these rooms.
And some day,
you’ll meet the occupants.


People stop what they’re doing. The guy in the
bar raises his beer in salute. The ones who’ve been
there overnight toast the uniform with slowly
raised eye-brows. A little kid is slapped by his mother.
“Stand to attention,” she says, as if the anthem
is playing though it’s just the usual voice warning
all and sundry not to leave baggage unattended.
An old woman wipes a tear from her eye.
She’s seen it all before. It doesn’t always end happily.

It’s not like you see in the movies, the train load
of men in brown uniform hanging out of the window
kissing their childhood sweethearts. The farewells are
scattered. And it’s a busy airport of course. Over
by the x-ray machine, an entire family is paying
their tribute to a bespectacled man in his thirties
who was a banker yesterday. By the sign that says,
“Welcome to Rhode Island”, a middle-aged couple embrace.

Boy kisses girl between sobs sure but it’s the girl
who’s in green and brown, her tickets stamped Baghdad.
A pregnant woman leans over her belly to peck.
And a child of eight or so turns away from a departing
figure, cursing his father for leaving him. Goodbye is
a strange kiss, odd meeting of the mouths, one lips
off home, one to war. Swapping spit, we used to call it.
In lieu of touch, a jaw full of each other.


File0005 V3 (2)

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.

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Editor’s Post: Enchantment

Constantinople calls, sitting between continents,
crossroads of civilizations, a city of starlit
streets, of blue domes, gargantuan in size,
alien steel floating in sky.

Istanbul mornings fill with light as cold
air from water wafts in. The beauty
of buildings of every color bright,
surrounds with blue, red, yellow, and green.

Shivering under covers, city dwellers
wait to hear the call to prayer. At break
of day, the Istanbul sun hits eyes from behind
buildings, off water, until bright rays
become locked in the mind.

Stay until reference points change, nightmares
dissolve as night falls, freeing you from
memories of disenchanted days.


Ayesha F. Hamid is the founder and editor in chief at The City Key.  Ayesha has an MFA in Creative Writing and MA in Publishing from Rosemont College and an MA in Sociology from Brooklyn College. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Big Easy Review Philly Flash Inferno and Rathalla Review. Ayesha is a lover of cities, big and small.

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: “Walking the City”

Walking through a city is a transformative act. Contemplation, movement, and observation come together in a wonderful whole, so that walking in a city proves to be a transcendent experience. During this pursuit, we seek greater insight into events in our lives and our minds. We can simultaneously be alone but connected to the multitude of humanity surrounding us, which puts us in tune with a larger consciousness. In this way, walking the city can be one of the most contemplative state in which we find ourselves.

Continue reading Editor’s Post: “Walking the City”

Editor’s Post: “Finding Magic in the City”

Even on an uneventful trip to New York City, I’ve always had one moment, at least one, that was magical. Take my last trip to New York. After a relentless winter with little sunlight, I thought that a trip to the city, on a relatively sunny day, would be a welcome change. Hopeful for a fun-filled trip, I woke up at six a.m. and prepared myself for an eight o’clock bus ride. As I drove to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, the sun was already bright, heating the city and melting snow. After boarding the bus, I fell asleep immediately, so the ride to New York seemed to happen in a matter of minutes. I woke up as the bus entered Manhattan.

Continue reading Editor’s Post: “Finding Magic in the City”