Enter the City

Three Poems by John Grey

NEWLY SINGLE

It’s been two months
since she told me she loved another.
That’s her explanation
but I still know so little
as I try to catch up to
the truth behind her words.
At least the bars were open by then.
And I felt sick enough
to risk the muted sunlight
of a drinking establishment
while her image floated smugly
in the alcohol.

Of course, the semi-darkness
did me no good.
I couldn’t help wonder
how the truth became a lie.
All that was left for me to do
was be part of her history,
even as I said goodbye
to all who lived it.

So now I can do what I want.
But I don’t believe happiness arranged all this.
Not now that I’m talking to the walls,
trying to explain to a blank TV screen,
almost went mad asking the refrigerator questions.
So goodbye coppery hair.
Goodbye large soft breasts
No doubt I know people I can talk to.
But to be in love with a woman?
I’ve no wish to be suspected of that again.
For some reason, it mattered once,
It would be wrong to deny it.
But perhaps a man is perfectly suited to living alone.
It is a difficult thing to do, and so maybe
it is just as well to learn how to do it –
without the presence of a saboteur.

I’ve said it aloud,
if that could make me feel any better,
a proclamation untitled and undated,
my sorrow made brave by alcohol.
I am speaking as clearly as I can,
mingled with the sincerity of the tears she shed,
her altered face, the change in my own,
the promise to never get this way again,
to not even look at anybody else.

Surely there’s enough in disinterest to keep me occupied.
I’ll be like the funeral of someone
musty and fusty, narrow-minded but clean
and only breaking out in bitterness
when no one is looking, not even me.

REHEARSAL

He cleans himself up
in the railway station bathroom.
Water has at the grit
lodged in the seams of his leathery skin.
He even nudges an old razor
across his stubbled chin.
Then off comes the shirt
and. with a moist paper hand towel.
he scours the dirt from his breasts.
see-through rib-cage
and scarred stomach.
Once done, he slips by
those with a train to catch.
back out into the streets
where his destination is
the same as every day –
a park bench, the shadow
of an overpass, the ground floor
of an abandoned factory.
His hair is matted.
His clothes dirty and disheveled.
And he still reeks like a dumpster.
But. in that men’s room,
those were more than just
half-assed ablutions.
more like rehearsals for a better life.
He never will get good at it.
He no longer expects to.

JOGGERS IN THE PARK

The joggers pass by me –
some float, some struggle,
a pant here, a grunt there,
maybe twenty of them
from the gazelle up front
to the red-faced tortoise at the rear.

The cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Day-lilies fringe the trails a tawny orange.
But these runners
are too consumed by how
they’re doing today
compared to yesterday.

No rocks. No pines. No oaks.
No sunbathers sprawled across the lawns.
No Frisbees. No dogs let loose from their leash.
No pigeon-soiled equestrian statue.
No quick kiss and the stroll that proceeded it.

They could just as easily
be jogging through the city dump,
an abattoir, City Hall, a department store.
Most likely the track is
in and out of an old clock factory,
tick-tocking their current pace,
teasingly clanging their best time ever.

I ramble on
and a squirrel darts up a tree at my approach
as if it’s life depended on it.
A jogger, if pressed,
would tell me the same.
I stop to admire a cluster of white flowers
in a cockspur hawthorn thicket.
That’s three lives,
three dependencies.

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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.

Three Poems by Jeff Nazzaro

June Afternoon

But on a Friday afternoon,
first real scorcher of the year,
forgiving that January El Niño
aberration, they’re out

and about in the city. In a backyard
the size of an Orange County
bathtub, on the stoop, the sidewalk,
fire escape, passing a blunt

like a baton in a relay race. In the
street, old black mutt wobbling by,
a fresh-faced young mother,
husband at her side, presses an infant

into a minivan window for a final
grandma-grandpa kiss goodbye,
as a hunched old man pushes
his ice cream cart towards

Roosevelt Park, looking to cash
in on the vibe and the heat,
trading cold and sweet
for cold and hard.

Red on the Green

We’re all together here on the Green Line
this morning—Asian, black, white, brown, and all.
The man to my right sports a red knit cap.
In the bike space a man supports a pair
of boxing gloves around his neck, the laces
suspending the red leather mitts. There are
three red backpacks on shoulders, hands, and seats;
there’s a red lunchbox, too. This woman in
a tight red sweater just got off at Harbor
Freeway, maroon bag matching the torn shirt
of the large man asleep and snoring, matching
the ’68 Collegiate Tourist’s frame.
The vintage owner shifts the vintage bike
as needed, off the train and on the platform,
then back onboard. Original black grips
and pedals worn thin, worn black leather seat,
smooth-clicking 5 speed thumb shifter, brass Schwinn
nameplate screwed tight. The fenders steal the show,
polished chrome arcs reflecting LA sun.

Just Sayin’

Obviously cold and syrupy sweet,
the grown man in the Dodger cap
can’t wait to scoop it up into his mitts,
spoon it up into his mouth, having
stood in that parking lot in the shadow
of the Dollar Tree and the WIC office
and watched those strong little sun-bronzed
hands grip the blade, scrape the solid
block of ice perched on a red cart
beneath a rainbow-pie beach umbrella
to overfill a foam cup with cold shavings,
then ladle one, two, three full splashes
and a little dip, for just a skosh more,
of golden syrup into the golden setting sun
of a late afternoon, late October
in the twenty teens in the high nineties
on Washington Boulevard, downtown LA.

 

NazzaroPhoto

 

Jeff Nazzaro lives in Riverside and works in West LA. He commutes three hours each way using Southern California’s wonderful public transportation system and swears he loves every minute of it. His poetry has appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Ekphrastic Review, Cholla Needles Magazine, ClockwiseCat, and Thirteen Myna Birds.

“Bus Station” by Eileen Moeller

You:
Mister Bulgy Hair Rasta Man

and You:
Miss Spike Heels short skirt geography tights

and You:
School Uniform Knee sock Girls whispering about school
uniform boys passing by

and You:
Mister White Hair Highland Fling braid down the back

and You:
Mister Prep School Tie and pinstripe attache case

and You:
Mrs. Old Lady like a dumpling

and You:
Mrs. Sleek Chanel gold chain and button everywhere sheer
stocking alligator handbag

and You:
Mister Buzz-cut Leather Jacket Pirate earring tooth gap football fan

NONE OF YOU EVER
NONE OF YOU
NONE OF YOU

NONE OF YOU
EVER WILL

GET INTO A POEM OF MINE

UNLESS I WANT YOU TO

AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT.

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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

Two Poems by John Grey

ENCHANTED EVENING

Back alleys, dye works,
factory-crawling brown river,
drunken melancholy of the bars,
loneliness of traffic jams,
flashing sign with three letters missing,
burnt-out tenements,
shuttered grocery-store,
hookers and junkies
and beggars
and homeless hunched together
underneath the overpass –
and still the stars come out.

EIGHTH AVENUE, FIVE A.M.

On a trip to the city,
I walk through
early morning
subway fog,
pass an old beggar
with an empty cap,
women, painted, formless,
against a concrete stoop,
trace the light
of late shift traffic
to its natural conclusion –
a young girl’s waking face
in a basement window,
hear distant sirens
like wolf howls
deep in the skyscraper woods,
and muffled voices –
shadows speaking
and then slowly speaking less.

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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

“Pot It’s Not” by Linda Romanowski

One of my Grandfather’s greatest pleasures and talents was his green thumb, which, because he was so tanned, I’d jokingly refer to as his “Italian Brown Thumb.” In the mid-seventies, when he came to live with us in Roxborough, my father and uncles made a small garden patch for him at the side of the house, and every inch yielded vegetables, plants, and flowers – there wasn’t a seed which wouldn’t grow for him. Grandpop’s favorites included the Italian herbs, oregano, parsley, basil, and rosemary. His summer harvest yielded far more than we and our neighbors needed, so he decided to dry the herbs and bottle them for use during winter months. He’d methodically cut the herbs, wash them gently, and then string each leaf with needle and thread in a long strand, hanging them on the clothesline, rigged up from our garage door to the end of our driveway. The herbs which dried best were oregano and basil.

 The neighborhood kids knew exactly what my grandfather’s herbs resembled, so the rumor spread that Grandpop Archie, as he was known to the entire neighborhood by then, was growing pot. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I finally told him why he’d see kids pointing at the clothesline, waving at him, and giving him the thumbs-up sign. He let out a roar of laughter when he realized what the kids thought. After Grandpop acquired this knowledge, the bumper crop increased one hundredfold.

Today, on the anniversary of his death, I went to the cemetery, fresh basil and oregano in hand. Defying cemetery rules, I furtively spread the herbs across his name on the gravestone and placed some at the base of the tombstone. I spread the rest among my parents’, uncles’ and aunt’s graves. Perhaps some bold seeds would take root.

I smiled through my tears.

The cemetery is full of Italians. They will keep my secret safe.

Linda

Linda M. Romanowski is a resident of Ardmore, Pennsylvania. She traces her roots to South and Northwest Philadelphia. Linda obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Rosemont College in Psychology and Elementary Education. She is currently enrolled in Rosemont’s MFA program, specializing in Creative Non-Fiction. Her primary focus is portraying her experience of her Italian heritage. She joined the Rosemont Alumni Board in 2008, where she is presently the President Elect, following her role as Secretary. Linda and her husband Ken have served as presenters for Pre-Cana marriage preparation sessions since 1982. She is an active parishioner of St. Denis Parish in Havertown, PA, primarily involved in their adult choir. Her interests include a passion for art, in its various forms, and a reverence for the beauty and the limitlessness of the written word.

“London: St. James Street, Out the Window” by Eileen Moeller

a woman, sitting at a desk
framed by a rectangle of light,
looks through a rectangle of dusk,
that sections off a tree, the curb,
two cars, a brick row house across the way,
lit by smaller rectangles, one of which
frames a fragment of room in which
I sit watching her as she writes.
Writing her as she watches.

*****

I don’t like getting dressed in unnatural light,
and want to fight the city this way,
leaving the curtains open,
as if we lived in the woods.

Then I turn my back to the glass,
move quick as a rabbit for cover,
mindful of keen-eyed foxes out there,
hungry to pounce on my privacy.

*****

After all, even I can’t resist
the lure of a big pink blur, clearly naked
swimming behind rippled glass.

I am caught like a fish
by this bear, as I lean toward
the window, waiting for coffee to brew.
Feel like an ass, watching an awful
reality show, titled One Man’s Toilette.

He reddens, and gawks, and scrapes at
his flesh, a magnifying mirror scissoring out,
so he can examine his every pore.
When he goes on safari
up cavernous nostrils,
the gleam of his clippers sends me
wheeling toward the cupboard,
and the zen of an empty cup.

*****

I clean mildew from window frames and sills.
Red, it is, like kelp, grown in a tiny
ocean of condensation: product of a dance
going on near the glass, as heat wraps itself
around the insistent thrust of each cold draft.

Which makes me turn to you, as snow blows
wild outside. Salty, warm, and damp will be
the dance we do,  awash in a gray tide of light.

*****

Two months we’ve watched the man next door
go across the street and through the gate
wondering what he was up to.

Dreamed him in one of those gardens
tucked like a beautiful secret behind the houses,
a bliss of vegetables in need of tending,
a bower of pale pink roses.
Something we yearned for
as spring crept over everything.

Him with his rusty knees and swollen feet,
wobbling over to Paradise day after day,
while we were trapped in this brick box.

That’s what I wished he would say,
instead of what he told me, when I finally asked:

My  neighbors eighty-five and a widow.
Weve lived here thirty years.
Her husband was my mate.
She doesn’t get out much any more,
poor dear, so I bring her groceries
and fix her a cup of tea. It’s the least
I can do, and pray that someone,
some day, sees their way
to doing such for me.

*****

I watch the girl,
in the garden flat below,
brick up her flower beds
to keep the cats out,
as my hands imagine touching
that damp earth, now choked, compressed,
unable to yield to the feel of skin,
or be stirred awake by the midwife sun.
Tomorrow I’ll plant purple pansies
on the sill in a white plastic box.

*****

The tree out front, caught plain-leafed now,
and jaded as a weed, belies its former life,
as a blushing girl looking up at her first beau.
All her pink snow, loosed on the sill
by late May gusts, and long ago swept up,
a bit bruised, and hauled away in a skip.

Soon we’ll be leaving this place,
bumping our suitcases down the steps,
and into a cab. I watch for it out the window.
One last look before we give this place the slip.

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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

Editor’s Post: City Escape

The suburbs are never the place
for one searching to find a somewhere,
a someplace where everything isn’t the same.
Here, the voices which are different
are silenced under conversations
of incomes, houses, cars, and kids.
Every sentence uttered
is some sort of competition,
a contest for dominance
in which the quiet are never invited.

What if the conversations could instead,
while walking down Prospect Park or gazing
up at buildings or metropolitan blocks,
revolve around one’s innermost thoughts,
scars, or saving the world-at-large?

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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 Blue Bonnet Review Philly Flash Inferno and Rathalla Review. Ayesha is a lover of cities, big and small.