The Obsequious Pen: Tara Lynn Marta

Tara Lynn Marta

Tara Lynn Marta is a local NEPA writer who has read her works locally, including the Writers’ Showcase. Tara Lynn writes about herself in the following:

Tara Lynn Marta is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her work has been published by Aaduna, Inc., The Humor Times, PoertySoup, The Gorge, and Heartaches to Healing. Tara is a graduate of Wilkes University where she earned an M.A. in Creative Writing. 

Tara Lynn Marta’s short story is titled, “The Diary.”

Inside the red Oldsmobile Cutlass was a secret hidden beneath the layers of clothes that were strewn over the backseat – a secret that Rebecca and Charlene inadvertently learned after agreeing to clean out their grandmother’s house. Grandma Jean had been dead nearly a month and the girls decided to relieve their grief-stricken mother from the task of having to clear away all of Jean’s personal belongings.

Rebecca rummaged through closets and dresser drawers, while Charlene battled cobwebs in the basement. Then it was on to the attic where both girls needed flashlights to light the way through the dusty upper level. Boxes were scattered across the attic floor, some piled one on top of the other. The girls patiently emptied the contents of each box and sifted through their grandmother’s things.

“Can you believe she kept all this junk,” Charlene said, amusingly.

“It obviously meant something to her,” Rebecca shot back.

Charlene reached into a large cedar chest and pulled out a metal box marked “personal.” She couldn’t resist opening it now that her grandmother was no longer around to stop the intrusion. “Wonder what’s inside?” she said, as she used a small screwdriver to pry open the locked box.

Inside was an embroidered brown leather diary with a tie wrapped around it. “Grandma kept a diary?”

“Don’t read it, Charlene. It’s private.”

“Grandma’s dead, Becky. She had to expect someone would read it after she died or else she would have gotten rid of it.”

Charlene untied the diary and sat on the floor leafing through her grandmother’s private thoughts. There were entries about birthdays and anniversaries, and notes about her children and grandchildren. But there was one entry Charlene did not expect to stumble upon. Charlene read with fervor before letting out a gasp.

“What?” Rebecca yelled.

Charlene read her grandmother’s words aloud:

Monday, March 1, 1947

“The baby is due in seven months. Joe has been good about the whole ordeal. Oh, I do care for him. But I have much guilt that he has agreed to raise a child that isn’t his. Joe always was a dear friend. He didn’t judge me the way others would if they knew the truth. He wanted to marry me in a hurry after I confided in him that I was pregnant. I know he will be good to this child and love it as his own. And the baby must never learn that Joe isn’t her father.”

Silence enveloped as both girls remained in dismay. “Grandpa wasn’t Mom’s real father! We have to tell Mom,” Charlene announced.

“We certainly do not. It’s not our business, Char. Let it lie.”

“She deserves to know, Becky.”

With that Rebecca charged at Charlene, grabbing the diary and heading for her car. She threw the tattered book on the backseat, then piled clothes on top of it.

“We’re not telling Mom,” Rebecca said. “Nothing good will come of it after all this time. Nothing good at all.”

Just then, Charlene’s phone rang. “Hi, Mom,” she answered, giving Rebecca a sudden look of angst.

“How’s the packing going?” her mother said on the other end.

“It’s going,” Charlene replied. “Mom, there’s something I want to talk to you about.”

Rebecca waved her hands in the air, cautioning her sister not to reveal their grandmother’s secret.

“It’s like this, Mom,” Charlene continued before being interrupted by her mother.

“Oh, sweetie, guess what I found in my jewelry box? The locket that Grandpa Joe gave me for my fifth birthday. Oh, how it takes me back. So many wonderful memories. He was the kindest father any girl could have asked for.”

Charlene removed the phone away from her ear and closed her eyes. Her mother’s words echoed in her mind. Her grandfather had been good to her mother and always regarded her as his daughter, not with words, but love.

“What is it you wanted to say, honey?” asked her mother.

Charlene brought the phone back to her ear. “It’s not important.”

And it wasn’t. Charlene realized that it wasn’t the blood running through one’s veins that brought people together. It was the love between them.

Writers’ Showcase, Spring Edition: Lynn Braz

Lynn Braz

Lynn Braz’s work has been published in Philadelphia and Cosmopolitan magazines, The Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and USA Today. Lynn is an adjunct writing instructor at Lackawanna College and an M.A. Creative Writing candidate at Wilkes University. She is a flying trapeze artist and instructor whose book, Flying Free: Life Lessons Learned on the Flying Trapeze, details how an acrophobic middle-aged woman turned her fears into thrills through embracing a natural high. Lynn is a featured writer in the in the upcoming Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition.

Lynn contributed a teaser to her essay, titled, “Kashmir.”


Imagine being a goddess. Don’t think about the adoration and the power. Try not to let the glamour of being the source of constant attention and fascination seduce you. Imagine what being a goddess is like in reality. The enervating pressure. The enormous responsibility. The stress of maintaining grace and dignity in speech and behavior, every day, all day, even when you’re hungry. Imagine having no friends, no peers, no one who doesn’t want something from you. Imagine the loneliness of being a goddess.

I was a goddess in Kashmir for exactly nine days.

It was January 2007, pre-iPhone, when travelers still went places for the experiences rather than to snap and post selfies. I’d been backpacking around the Indian Himalayas, mesmerized by the majestic snowy peaks, when I was overtaken by a powerful urge to ski. Never mind that I’m a terrible skier. I’d heard the Kashmiri ski village, Gulmarg, had some of the best powder on the planet and was the perfect resort in which to learn how to ski. Lift tickets cost five bucks. Private ski instruction was seven dollars a day. And due to recent terrorist activity, the lone luxury hotel was holding a fire sale. As a canny budget traveler, a bargain trumps everything, especially common sense.

My enthusiasm for a bargain did not fade even after receiving the ominous email from my ski guide: “Despite what you’ve heard, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists live together in harmony here. You will probably not die.”

Come hear the odyssey of an American Goddess in the center of the conflict in Kashmir at the The Writers’ Showcase. The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.

Love Bites: “That One Time” by Ali Pica

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Photo by Connor Wells on Unsplash

Today’s contributor for “The Obsequious Pen” is our own columnist and creator of Thirty-Third Wheel, Ali Pica. Her poem is titled, “That One Time.” She will be reading her works alongside other local writers at this Friday night’s “Love Bites: Writer’s Circle” reading at the Game Chateau in Wilkes, Barre, 7:30 p.m. and at the Writers’ Showcase, next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. This poem was inspired by the song “Two Blue Lights” from Songs: Ohia on his album Didn’t It Rain.

That One Time

I think of you
That one time
You held my hand—
For sentimental reasons
I rejected the possibility of stars
Being born
In this universe.

I saw you smile
That one time
Through the haze of your smoke
And self-deprecating humor
Intertwined in the binding
Of literary analysis,
You lit up a ring of laughter
Underneath the flood lights.

We joked
That one time
I thought you were into her and
I was invisible as an auditory hallucination,
When I listen to your voice,
I know you know I am real.

You listened
Every time,
That one time
I thought I loved you
And still do—
Don’t know what to do
That one time
I will have to.

Ali along with other local talented writers will be reading their love-scorned works at the “Love Bites, Writers Circle” reading, Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Game Chateau, located 1112-PA 315 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The cover is $5 at the door.

Want to be featured in our column? E-mail us:

Don’t forget to check out our playlist! You can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel

Writers’ Showcase, Spring Edition: Joe Weil

Joe Weil

Joe Weil is a poet, musician, and activist, whose work has appeared in National Labor Forum, Boston Review, Saranac Review, On PBS, and Verse Daily among many other publications. Joe is a featured reader in the upcoming Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition.

Joe’s featured poem is called, “A Litany of Questions.”

A Litany of Questions

Whose house are you?
How many days have you
rolled up the scroll of your being?
And if the hour should come,
come like a procession of
dignitaries, like a parade of
paupers, like something set
loose upon the grain fields at twilight,
what will you say to each room?
Will you say I was a house but
for whom I do not know?
Could you smell the scent of dirt
on the night’s cracked hands?
Was jasmine your concern?
Did the peepers singing in the wet marsh
receive you? How many years more
did you hear them? Were you
my house? Did I walk beyond
the lintel of your doorway, and sit in the near
dark, listening to the susurrus of
wind through your walls? And how did those
whispers accompany the first feint stars?
Was that a fox in the field or only the last
light scratching its back against the stones?

The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.

The Obsequious Pen: Monica Noelle Simon

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Today’s featured contributor is local writer, artist, and activist, Monica Noelle Simon. Monica wrote the following about herself and her work:  

Monica Noelle Simon is a poet and visual artist residing in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She explores the world through written word, spoken word poetry, acrylic paint and ink and paper sketches. In 2014, she created #BeKindScranton, a grassroots campaign to bring more compassion and kindness to Northeastern Pennsylvania. Her writing has been published on Elite Daily, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Burningwood Literary Journal, Commonline Journal, Poets of NEPA, and HelloGiggles. Her work can be found at:


Here is her poetry:



Alligators are no joke
They will jump out of the swamp
While a horse peacefully drinks water
And take his whole life under
It seems the horses are just naïve
Almost blind to it
And I guess in the end
The alligator isn’t hungry anymore
But ask me any day of the week
And I’d still rather be the horse



all you need to be a scientist is yourself
and maybe a theory
and maybe a way to test it
to be clear: i never asked for the storm
but i wanted to learn
to test its power, its strength
match it up against my own
so while they all hid in basements,
shouting their warnings from tiny windows
begging me to come inside
i sat still and watched,
a lonely endeavor,
stubbornness masked by science
i am here to learn
maybe it would’ve been better if he reverted back to sea
or if i’d just let the rain suffocate the side of the house
while i sat inside, warm, drinking tea
instead i became the continent
with bustling cities, intricate contidictions,
and i wanted to prove that even after he came,
i would still be standing, and i was,
with a heart collapsed, brain shaken up
inability to tell right from wrong
maybe i never asked for the storm,
but why did i have to wave it on from the shoreline?
and afterwards the people, all dry and warm,
came out from their houses,
all arms with hoarded hugs,
surprised i’d survived it, unsurprised i wasn’t the same
helped me clean up, even among their resentment
i just had to experiment, i just had to observe
a scientist curious about things bigger than myself
always explaining, excusing,
“hey, i never asked for his storm”
and as we wander among the rubble
shattered glass, leveled towns
the question remains…
did i learn?



the unsettlement
… of reading tragic poems laced with love and ugly, the likehood of Ginsberg, Plath, Bukowski, Kerouac. All destined for death, as everyone else. All martyrs and depressants, gasoline added to hearts already on fire–

the unsettlement
… of an apartment much to quiet, air rationed and used up with panic demanding more attention than a lightening storm in February, with ghosts packed in, all faces of people I recognize but don’t know–

the unsettlement
… of the stark difference between the narrative and the reality of burning buildings, flood waters leaking pain and poison all over the goddamned place–

the unsettlement
… of waking up when you’d forgotten, forgotten all of where you’ve been, wondering if you were ever even there. men with theories on philosophy, political climates colder than poles, tricks and treats and trollies, rolling away like runaway cars–

the unsettlement
… of questions never asked, answers flashing like a lighthouse after you’ve already crashed into the shore. summer with it’s long days of playfulness, my atoms bouncing in the heat, I swear I’ve forgotten how to properly breathe. him a problem I’ve grown to love, as if being lulled to sleep by the sound of termites using their teeth, expensive repairs budding from senseless hesitation–

the unsettlement
… of cars and paint and floors speckled with the residue of tears with no label– why was I crying? of murder and suicide, the destination of death and the value of the visit. itineraries and lectures, cookies tasting of magic, secret dances on the beach throwing stones into the waves, proving anything can sink if it’s heavy enough–

the unsettlement
… of what comes next. timelines dissected with joy, happiness, and raw red pain. a blank canvas, we all just wait for life to throw paint. we all just hope it turns out pretty.


Monica Noelle will be reading her works alongside other powerful female writers, performers, and musicians at Grrrls Night:  The Galentine’s Edition, this Friday, 2-16-18, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Ale Mary’s, located 126 Franklin Ave. Scranton, PA 18503. There is no cover charge, but a suggested donation to the NEPA Youth Shelter

The Obsequious Pen: Marcie Herman Riebe

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
This week’s contribution is a poem written by our amazing columnist of “The Writer’s Edge” and “All About Drama,” Marcie Herman Riebe

Here is her poem:

A Desert

A cold desert formed between us
when neither one was watching.
Lips once lush have
with anger
and separateness.
Curves captured willingly once
now lay listless
too soon to wither away.

Marcie along with other local gifted writers will be reading their love-scorned works at the “Love Bites, Writers Circle” reading, Friday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Game Chateau, located 1112-PA 315 Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702. The cover is $5 at the door.


Writers’ Showcase, Spring Edition: Jerry Wemple

Jerry Wemple

Today’s contributor is Jerry Wemple, who is a featured reader in the upcoming Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition. Jerry Wemple describes himself and his work:

A Pennsylvania native, Jerry Wemple writes frequently about the people and places of the Susquehanna Valley. His work includes three poetry collections: You Can See It from Here, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winner Yusef Komunyakaa for the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award, The Civil War in Baltimore, and most recently The Artemas Poems. His poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies including internationally in Ireland and Chile. He is the recipient of several awards for writing and teaching including a Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Word Journal chapbook prize. He is a Professor of English at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Jerry’s featured poems for “The Obsequious Pen,” are the following: “Nickel Rides,” “Bridge,” and “Tapies.”

Nickel Rides

Back in the days when your grandfather’s father,
maybe his father, was a young man down at the shore
amusement piers or the scruffy city lots over near

the wrong side of town, they used to call them nickel rides.
Steel boxes jacking up and down, bucking around,
make your back feel like it was worked over with crowbar,

your hips like they was smacked with a plank.
Back in my day, word was out about those nickel rides
on the Philly streets. I was in from the country, hard

down by the river and the woods, but even
I knew what was what. Saw clear enough that one day
while stretching my legs near the 30th Street station

waiting in between long-run trains, when the paddy wagon
pulled up and four cops jumped out, jumped a man I hardly
noticed, whacking him good with long sticks. I figured soon

enough that I needed to take a left, cross the street,
head up another, act like never saw nothing, especially
a side-vision glance of him being cuffed and dumped

in the back of the wagon for a nickel ride. That unit
screech-lurching down the street like the driver wanted
to bust the brakes and run out all the gas all at once.

First off, the war on drugs is a concept. There ain’t a war on drugs;
there’s a war on people. All wars have casualties, atrocities.
All wars have losers. Only some wars have winners. Tonight

I see Charm City up in flames. Orange tongues of fire taunt
us from brick buildings. The old people say it’s just as it was
back as the King riot, nearly fifty years ago. They say

the neighborhood ain’t changed much since those days.
We had one good store. Now it’s burnt. Kids too young to remember
Tupac let alone Reverend King dodge in and out of focus,

like they were spun off their own nickel rides, dazed from the experience.
Philly, Baltimore, D.C. – I’m not much for cities. But a twist of fate,
a change of luck, and I could’ve been. Missed being born in Baltimore,

city of my conception, by a few weeks or a month. I got a parcel of kin
buried in the German saint’s cemetery in the Manayunk section of Philly.
Generation or two before them it isn’t hard to fathom other blood kin,

all those years removed, being sold in an auction lot in swampy D.C.
Of course, there’s a war on despair, too, though not official
and having no spokesperson. It’s often erratic, explosive even,

but is long-going like the rest. Likewise, despair too is a concept,
and so needs a people enemy. And sometimes it’s them, but in the end it’s us.
Me, I avoid the nickel rides. I watch on my TV what’s happening

one hundred fifty miles downriver in slacked-jawed sorrow.


Someday soon, 
 he says, I'll go to sleep and not wake up. 
 You tell him no. 

-- Richard Hugo

Tuesday night and I’m driving over the river bridge
that connects the old highway to the village.
The bridge is long, and low, and lighted.
Rain water drips from the rounded steel side railings.

No other traffic is on the bridge, and I think
how easy it would be to pull to the side,
slip from the car, and slide into the darkness below.
It’s been raining for days: the water is fast and cold.

It would only be a moment.
Tonight firefighters and volunteers search
for a seventy-something woman who disappeared
in another village ten miles downriver. In two days

they’ll find her washed up a bit farther down,
jammed against a log on the north end of Packer’s Island.
Had she missed the island, gone another mile or so,
she’d have spilled over the dam at the south end of Sunbury,

churned and churned in the water until morning
when some passing trucker on the nearby bridge
phoned it in to the county dispatch.
The woman’s husband knows she always gets sad

come the short days, the long nights, that he needs
to be on guard when she says she’s going for a walk.
He knows, despite the saying, there are some things time
does not erase. Cold rain can seep deep into the hollow.

I’m no expert, but I remember from my Navy days:
a few minutes in the water this time of year and the limbs
go numb, breathing is labored, the heart is taxed then
shuts down. That’s why it’s rare. Damn near no one

walks back out of the river once they go in.
Tonight I finish my trek across the bridge,
turn right on a side street, pull into the lot
of a neighborhood grocery. Inside I say hello

To the store clerk, then search the bright
Ordered aisles for the things I need.


Hot summers we played ball in the carnival lot
using tapies, old baseballs, covers worn and gone,
held together by quarter rolls of electrical tape

pilfered out of our fathers’ garages or bought
from the discount bin in Guffey’s Hardware
with pennies and nickels earned from bottles

redeemed at Jean’s corner store. Those summers
Were hot, the nights never cool enough, still
Mornings we’d be out by eight, the air already

heavy, sky filled with a haze that would remain
until the evening rains. We’d pound the ball all
summer, using wooden bats too long or too short,

too heavy for our arms. With tapies, even the kids
without mitts could catch a fly ball, though we usually
had enough gloves to go around if we picked sides carefully

and shared. Those days our fathers, or worse,
our stepfathers, laid off from the mill would drink
cheap drafts from noontime on down at Shaffer’s Tavern,

watching the Phillies lose again on an old-style set
with rabbit ears and adjustable dials, mounted
sturdily on a corner shelf next to the Schmidt’s

beer clock. The men would grouse about the heat,
about the snow last winter, about maybe moving
to Florida, someplace where there was no need

for the expense of winter coats and winter tires.
And sometimes in the fall a kid would be missing:
Bobby, or Timmy Mathis who lived a few blocks over

past the Spruce Street cemetery and who none of us
much liked anyway. Still, he was good for another
outfielder, willing to play catcher, and now he was gone,

disappeared. Our fathers would sweat as they walked
the afternoon blocks home, just in time to cut the backyard
before supper. We’d scuttle home too, dusty, scraped,

our shirts and hair matted wet. After supper, our fathers
might take a call on the kitchen phone from a cousin
who says they’re hiring drivers up at the bread plant.

But more than likely they’d go out on the back porch
with one more bottle of F&S beer and think about how
two years ago, when the mine shut down in the town

over the mountain, six hundred union jobs just disappeared.
And we’d drift back over to the carnie lot for a few more
innings, play a few minutes past when it was too dark

to see the ball. Fireflies would be blinking in the deep
outfield. And when it was our turn to bat, we’d swing
with all our might, smack that crinkled cover of the make-do ball,

hoping to make it safely home.

The Writers’ Showcase is an event that features readings of poetry and prose from Pennsylvania based writers. The Writers’ Showcase: Spring Edition will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at the Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W Market St. Scranton, PA from 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Admission is $4 at the door.