Today’s featured “15 Seconds of Art” is a snapshot of a weekend in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I find inspiration in quirky details, architecture, and people watching. You can see more of my photography on Instagram: thirtythirdwheel
Today’s featured local NEPA based artist is Cloud Bembenek. Cloud wrote about himself in his following artist’s statement:
Cloud Bembenek studied Illustration and Design at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, graduating with a BFA. He focuses on symbolic design and illustration with a strong sense of type and overwhelming work ethic. His influences run from the history of Russian posters to contemporary metal iconography. He enjoys design tasks that provide space for problem solving and working as a part of a team.
Dive in into my first day of Summer on the streets of Scranton, Pennsylvania. I am inspired by nature, architecture, and the simple random things in life. Check out my work on Instagram: thirtythirdwheel
Siobhan Casey is a writer originally from NEPA. She wrote the following about herself and her work:
Siobhan Casey completed her Master’s in Fine Arts at Chatham University in 2011 where she studied Poetry and Creative Nonfiction. She worked as an assistant editor on the graduate publication, The Fourth River: A Journal of Nature and Place Based Writing as well as Assistant Poetry editor for Weave Magazine. Siobhan also spent time as a creative intern on Creative Nonfiction. Her work has been published in Blood Orange Review, Caper Literary Journal, Rougarou, Monongahela Review, and Coal Hill Review. She published a chapbook of poetry, Three Fourths of a Dream in 2016 and presented her work at the Scranton First Friday Arts Festival. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her cat, Zooey.
Siobhan included the following poems: That Time I Met Buddha, Story, Mary Oliver Way, and Ode to Objects that Hold.
That Time I Met Buddha
The stones, they
were hands pressed
hard along my vertebrae. Hot,
they formed straight
lines, rows of fires along my legs.
who didn’t claim to be a healer
said that she was born in Hong Kong
and that she was Buddha
that she was a man with power
in her previous life.
−and when I opened my eyes
I was not the same.
I was pure light, weightless.
The dark was not so dark
and the boats were not so far.
The beginning is always improbable: a good hook. You can sense
a seed blowing through the air about to land, anywhere, and turn into
peony or zinnia or, human.
all conflict—a bar fight, communal
shunning, disease, or storm after storm on a broken raft.
If the story is good, the conflict
is so much like the one you are living and yet
not so to the naked eye.
It is one you can feel in your breastbone, in your sleep,
and you mention it to your bedmate
the breath knocked out of you each time
you finish a chapter.
When the story finds its end
you are stunned or unsurprised. Either
way you would like to return
to the moment when the seedling fell from the tree
a magical thing at your feet,
and was just about to become.
Mary Oliver Way
The world blossoms, whether or not we are ready.
The violets and vines creep without design. The backyards purple into blue, cracked asphalt hot underfoot. To the right: a gym with graffiti-d doors. Painted ice cream cones and a man lifting a barbell, his face rendered in the peripheral. The latest addition: a swan with folded wings who floats like a snowy apparition in the winter.
It’s a short meditation, this path, before it breathes onto the boulevard.
To the left: rows of houses, unkempt gardens and stoops where the neighbors, my neighbors, exchange recipes and slumlord stories. Where grandmothers take care of the children and call them in for supper at six o’clock before mothers and fathers return home from their shifts, feet aching.
I walk this alley often. The cats follow, slinking out of garages if the sun is low enough in the sky.
I am learning, like this, to be soft and rooted. To grow whether or not you are visible, not in defiance but in awe.
Ode to Objects that Hold
Julia said I would hear the bagpipes
once it was warm again. And finally
they woke me, the sound clear
on a Saturday morning.
I climbed the fence.
like I would have as a child, my fingernails chipped
from so much living.
A young girl, sixteen, was playing
in Schenley park, under a grove of trees.
I’m not sure how this sound can exist,
holding the opposition
of joy and sorrow together.
metal feathers hang from my ears
and the only sound I can make out is
sleet on the horses
where the fields shiver.
I want to build
a fire. I want to make blue white sparks
so the horses and I can warm ourselves and keep ourselves safe.
Instead, I walk home
and take comfort from solid names
like shelf and bed and tea-kettle
the things that hold
and do not cave.
Would you like your written work to be featured in the The Obsequious Pen? Fill out the form below:
Ever feel like the doors of opportunity are real-fake doors? Ali Pica wrote this poem out of ennui and listlessness of searching.
I Know How To Waste My Time
I know how to waste my time.
I took too many selfies
That all looked the same
Minus the duck lips and cleavage.
I swiped left on my phone,
Edited, and re-edited
A bio no one read.
Vintage vinyls and art,
I struggled to figure out
If someone actually liked me
Or if it was an accident?
As Bob Ross said, there are only happy accidents.
Then, I thought I would be more productive
And use an app to apply for jobs,
Which I kept swiping left, editing,
And re-editing my profile
That no one read
Until I applied for a nursing job by mistake
And received a free resume analysis, which said,
“You have no accomplishments.”
Now I get messages from men
For potential random part-time jobs
Or meet-ups in coffee shops for potential hook-ups.
It’s all the same to me.
A few summers ago, an older gentleman
Rolled up in a BMW convertible
And chatted with me
While I waited for an oil change.
He gave me his business card, which read:
“Service with Happy Endings.”
The card was littered with hand prints
Like that of a child would press against the wall.
He offered me a job waxing boats while wearing my bikini
And promised I could live in his condo on the beach.
I politely declined and moved back home after two masters degrees.
Daniel Rosler is a local NEPA writer and musician. He writes and performs with his bands, “Esta Coda” and “A Fire With Friends.” He has published a short story, “Dog Whistle,” in the Jawline Review, and a non-fiction piece, “Technology and the Death of the Individual: Chaplin’s Critique of Modern Times” for Moviejawn. He enjoys literary criticism and theory, particularly psychoanalysis and Marxist criticism, as well as continental philosophy. He is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a minor in psychology and received the 2016 Academic Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in English. He currently works at the Scranton Times-Tribune and is debating whether he can afford pursuing his Ph.D at Binghamton University. He’s the loving father of daughter, Nora Kate, his dog, “Dobby” and grateful for his girlfriend, Ashley Farrow.
Daniel Rosler’s excerpt from a longer fiction piece is called, “Remembering Jane.”
“There’s nothing funny about the situation,” she would say matter-of-factly.
“As a matter of fact,” was something she also said a lot.
I met Jane in the summer. She wore a sundress that I thought was strange but later found out was a supposed rare, vintage outfit she picked up at a thrift store in her hometown. Either way, I told her then, and still believe now, that her shoes were stupid.
We ran into each other again at a mutual friend’s house shortly after. This time, and maybe it was the wine, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The summer was nearing end, but it was still hot as hell. I watched her wipe sweat from her forehead near our friend’s pool. She refused to go in because she was afraid of public pools. I explained to her that a pool in someone’s backyard was hardly public.
“That doesn’t mean I know who’s been in here,” she said.
“Who cares who’s been in here?”
That’s when she pushed me in the pool. Everyone laughed. As soon as I came up for air, I laughed too. She had a huge smile. I hadn’t noticed it before.
“Now, I’m definitely not getting in there,” she said.
Later that night, she joined me in the back of my car, and there was hardly any time to come up for air.
We started dating. Became a serious thing I guess. We moved into a small, upstairs apartment. Jane would sit on the floor and listen to her records. Said she could feel the music better there. I told her she was crazy and would pour myself a small glass of Scotch and watch her. She would keep her eyes shut and stay there for hours. I remember her saying she could hear eternity like that but could never explain what that meant.
“Can you flip it for me?” She would ask every so often.
There were a lot of nights like that. Even though I thought she was nuts, I never minded.
She told me that when she was younger people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she’d tell them, “myself.” The grown-ups got a kick out of that. They’d laugh, always noting that “kids say the funniest things.” They stopped laughing when she turned eighteen and her answer didn’t change.
“Just being yourself is hard enough,” she would whisper to me in bed. We liked to lay under the sheets and talk. I thought it was strange, but she said she felt safe like that.
I worked for a local garage and she stayed home working on her paintings. I guess she was pretty good at it, too. I wouldn’t know. Sometimes, she’d tell me in great detail of what she was trying to say in her art. A lot of it was political. A lot of it was about environment. And war. And peace. And people. And religion. And the economy.
It just looked like colors to me.
One day, I came home from a long day and Jane wasn’t home. I passed out early. When I woke up the next morning, Jane still wasn’t there. I started to worry, pacing around our living room. That’s when I finally noticed her newest painting. It was a portrait of me. She never painted me before. There was a note underneath it that said:
“You are the kindest, most gentle, and loving thing that’s ever happened to me. And yet, for some reason, I’m still not happy. I can no longer accept how unfair that is to the both of us. One day, you will hear from me again. I promise.
With all the love I can muster,
I spent the day sulking, had a little too much to drink and decided to drive around town to see if I would find her anywhere. I knew it was pointless. But people used to tell me love was pointless, and every single one of them still tried.
I tried for hours that night.
I stopped in a local pub, and the bartender Bobby told me I looked like I had seen better days.
I feared I had already seen the best.
Years and years passed before I finally heard from Jane.
It happened yesterday. A neighbor of hers called me. She told me she didn’t know of Jane having any family or friends. Told me she would check in on her when she could. After Jane died, her neighbor helped clear some of the stuff from Jane’s house. That’s when she found a photo of Jane and me. It was taken many years ago outside of an art show Jane had one Friday evening. The photo made it into the paper and had our names beneath it. Her neighbor told me she looked me up and decided to call me, thinking maybe Jane and I stayed in touch. She seemed disappointed to tell me the funeral had already happened. I told her not to worry about it, and she told me Jane passed peacefully. I’ve always thought that was a weird expression, but I thanked her. I couldn’t help but feel a little numb to the news.
I spent that night nursing a Scotch. I set up an old record player and put a Sam Cooke album on. Jane loved Sam. I used to hear her humming “You Send Me” while she painted. I flipped Sam Cooke records over more than any other.
That’s when I remembered something Jane told me once, that she could never be content with just “trying.” She said she had one life to live and that it didn’t mean anything unless she left something behind to feel proud of. She was full of passion, but I disagreed with her and still do now. I used to tell her to at least try meant everything. Made a world of difference. I wonder if she ever learned to agree with me. Or if, even better, she felt she had reached whatever goal she had set for herself. The kind of goal you can’t really explain to another person.
“Maybe those kind of goals are unattainable,” I would tell her.
“Nothing in this world is unattainable,” she would tell me.
She painted her whole god damn life away, and all I ever saw were the colors.
Today’s featured writer is NEPA based writer, Janine Dubik. Janine writes about herself in the following:
Janine P. Dubik caught the writing bug in elementary school. In the years since, she has done radio copywriting, newspaper reporting and editing, as well as technical writing and editing.
She placed third in the fiction competition at the 2016 Pennsylvania Writers Conference. Her six-line poems were selected in 2016 and 2017 for Poetry in Transit, a joint project of Wilkes University and the Luzerne County Transportation Authority.
Janine received her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Wilkes University in 2017 and is pursuing her MFA at Wilkes.
She resides in Northeastern, Pennsylvania.
Janine submitted three poems: DICHOTOMY, FOCUS, and SNAPSHOT.
Day brings desires
to laugh with you,
to hear your voice
vibrant, loving, alive.
Night, meanwhile, brings
images distant, untouchable
and leaves a black hole
in my heart.
Right then left.
Take a chance.
See the world.
Don’t look back.
Stop hiding behind your fears,
your list of should nots, could nots.
Find your dreams.
Challenge your heart.
Believe it’s possible.
Yes, even for you.
The gentle embrace
as we swayed
slowly to King Harvest.
The soft flutter
of his lips on my cheek.
A geeky girl’s dream
Interested in submitting to “The Obsequious Pen?” E-mail Ali at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form below: