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,
Now,
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: adawnpica.ttw@gmail.com

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

Writers’ Showcase, Spring Edition: Joe Weil

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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

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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: http://www.poetrybymnoelle.tumblr.com.

 

Here is her poetry:

 

Alligators

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

 

Storms

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?

 

Unsettlement

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

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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
turned
twisted
gnarled
with anger
and separateness.
Curves captured willingly once
now lay listless
barren
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.

 

Poet Progressing

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Mischelle Anthony, Poet

Poet Progressing

Sometimes it’s daunting to do an interview with your boss. But when you have a talented and sweet boss like mine, it makes it easier.

Mischelle Anthony is a poet, department chair, associate professor, and Poetry in Transit creator hiding and writing in plain view. I honestly don’t know how more people in Northeastern Pennsylvania don’t know about her and the good she does for our community and its local university students.

Professor and Poet

For more than a decade now, Mischelle has been teaching in the English Department at Wilkes University. Her favorite thing to teach isn’t creative writing though—and it’s not really even a class. Her chosen subject matter is getting her students to analyze structures and to find what the piece is actually about. She also likes to have students analyze first-person plural narrators. The “we” fascinates her—and it’s even better when the narrator is unreliable because it’s, as she says, “way too true to life.”

But it’s not all unreliable. Since 2007 Mischelle’s creation, Poetry in Transit, has been a staple of Wilkes-Barre. Not familiar with it? Just hop on one of the Wilkes-Barre buses and you’ll see the fruits of her program. Poetry—short poetry—lines banners on all of the city’s buses for riders to read and enjoy. The program idea came to Mischelle when she was on the #6 bus that runs from Luzerne to Wilkes-Barre. She and the other usual riders she talked with on their commutes would read the advertisements for fast food and community groups. Often, they’d be encouraged to find a breakfast sandwich when they got off at their stop from the encouragement of said advertisements. Mischelle thought—why not give riders poems that they can read and talk about on their bus rides instead? She mentioned it to the marketing department at the university, who offered to pay for the program for the first year or so. After that, the bus company had had such good responses from their riders that they cover all of the costs of the program now (after a grant that helps out). Poems are switched out every month, and the program gives local writers the chance to submit their works for consideration each April. Submissions are chosen by English departments of five local colleges each year and in late August the launch of the new set is held in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Writers in NEPA—watch for the new theme coming this April.

She’s not only busy on the buses or in the classroom though. Mischelle is also a poet who’s been writing since her piece about her Cheer Bear Care Bear she wrote at just nine years of age. She admits she hadn’t taken creative writing too seriously until graduate school, but since then has been active in poetry and writers circles and has been published often in American Chordata and, by the poetry press Foothills among others. Much of her writing focuses on her family and growing up in Oklahoma. She feels “it’s the only thing [she] knows how to write.” She credits this progression in her writing to Sir Richard Hugo, for after having read his Triggering Town (about how writers need to find the one subject that is theirs—and then keep writing on it), she realized her days in the Midwest were what she had to tell others about in her writing. One of her poems, “Keep Your Eyes Open,” which was recently nominated for Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net Award, treats the subject of her Aunt Karen’s rape that the family avoided talking about, and only finding a voice in Mischelle’s work.

Fertile Space and Sage Advice

Mischelle stresses that to become a better writer or a published writer, you need to gather with other writers and be a part of writing community. “This is not a world for writers—we need each other,” she says, and goes on to say that it needs to not only be writers—but it needs to be writers that you can trust showing your work to as well. Whether it’s writing groups or workshops, just try to find other writers you know that want to get together and share writing and ideas. Creating a positive environment is crucial to being able to feel confident to keep producing writing and to be able to test out the new. This “fertile space” will yield more pieces and more words and will give you a chance to figure out how to think about your writing in new ways. And that’s what it’s really about.

And here, a taste from Mischelle Anthony:

Simulacrum

Sure, we had cowboys. I knew five
men from different families
with “Bubba” worked into
their State Fair belts. But my town
was no metaphor. The dairy farmer’s
son grew up a banker with that
fieldstone walkway, every Saturday
digging irregular shapes in the clay.
His shovel tangled in chickweed,
sent up red eddies from his sloping
lawn. We all sucked our teeth
when his corner bank went under.
We worked stalks of dried grass
with our tongues, nursed porcelain
mugs at the Cafe. Some of us sympathized.
Most didn’t. That family had it coming
with their Lincolns and slacks. Mr. Morris
approached the wife’s office, belt buckle
shining over Lee denim, to show that woman
she deserved it, perched there while electric
hands swept around the dial, her buzzing
typewriter’s metal ball ready to strike.
Later we recalled a prairie woman captured
in some silver-screen Western, pale dirt rivulets
dividing her skirts, straddled
by a Seminole who made her swallow
her own jeweled chain, the necklace
stubborn as a bull snake in a well line.
I want to tell you the superintendent
sheriffed in, paunch spilling over
his trouser snaps, and defended her
from the savages. But he didn’t.
My town was no metaphor—
the secretary lived, no sticks or stones,
just a quiet dinner that night,
my father’s grim mustache
over the Swiss steak,
my mother smiling, smiling
across the dark wood expanse,
even as she choked around
the clasp and settings in her mouth.

Writers’ Showcase, Spring Edition: Jerry Wemple

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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

I.
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.

II.
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.

Bridge

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.

Tapies

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.

The Black Cap Innovator 

Dan Pape is a mysterious fellow. When we first met at the NEPA Creative Writers Group, I’ll be honest—I was intimidated. His writing was visceral and powerful in a way I could only dream of mine being. I know I need to share his works with you.

A fan of Ghostbusters, beer, and hanging out with friends, Dan has countless facets to him. Getting a start in middle school as a writer, he’s dabbled with many genres: lyrics, novels, short stories, and poems (his main squeeze for now). Having recently entered the blogosphere, too, it’s certain his time to shine past the bounds of this region is nigh.

Dan’s enigmatic appeal is not only in his writing but in talking with him. One thing that is not obscured is his emotion captured in his works through his words. His allusions run from classical to modern, and even if you’re not sure of their references, you still feel what he wants to get across. And he challenges you to want to find out more.

Dan started writing recently on The Game Chateau’s blog, Rolling the Dice. A different approach to blogging, the site takes topics that all contributors for that quarter write to. Dan’s contribution, “Rapture,” is bittersweet and magnificent. His first piece of magical realism ready for the masses (in the vein of some of his favorite writers including Marquez and Borges) pulls the reader into the narrator’s raw, heart-rending world. The seeming brief romance of two young women ended abruptly from intolerance punches deep—and leaves you willingly wounded. He talks about this piece humbly, as he does about most of his writing, saying that he was concerned about taking a chance on writing from a woman’s perspective, and from another sexual identity’s perspective as well, but that in the end he wanted to do the characters justice.  He went on to add that he hoped his piece would, “[help] to put [a sensitive topic] out there by a voice you don’t expect it from,” and that hopefully his sincere treatment of the trauma involved in the story would help others see people who are “different” as not so different from the rest of us.

Dan doesn’t mind a bit of pain himself it would seem though. I had heard through mutual friends about his monstrous Master’s thesis pursuit of James Joyce. Having tried to read several of the author’s works (Finnegan’s Wake? Come on. That’s just jibberish…), I felt compelled to find out why Dan had chosen such a great, and complex author for his topic.

“I thought if I could pick it apart, maybe I can learn something about the craft [of writing]” he confesses. And what a pursuit it sounded like he was on. It involved a whole section of the library and special access to Joyce’s notes on his masterpiece Ulysses. Dan insists that the novel is “the most human thing I’ve ever read” and he appreciates its commentary on loss and the randomness of its topics just adds to its beauty.

The Joyce influence is clear in Pape’s works, whether it’s a story or his poetry. We discussed poetry as a genre while we were talking, too, and Dan had some spot-on insights. He feels it’s time for poetry to make a comeback—that it is a way for writers to attack all of the “poisonous stuff out there” though he admits that online rights are sketchy and unclear as to who owns what, and that that can be a downfall of fighting the powers that be with the written word. Still, he knows that if poetry can be taught well to younger generations—and not as some unreachable and opaque genre that no one can penetrate—that poems can push our culture forward and out of its seeming  recent complacency.

“Anyone can try poetry and with practice [they] can get pretty good at it,” he goes on to say, and his hope is mine:  that the intimacy and directness of poetry can get people to take notice.

Some Sage Advice

Not only poetry is accessible to all the would-be writers out there. Dan says writers should find a group to share their work with, and give feedback on others’ works in return. And then, he put it even more simply—in a list!

  1. Read great writers.

  2. Challenge yourself.

  3. Join groups to hone your craft.

  4. Meet other writers.

  5. Start submitting.

Just get out there and do what you have to do, in other words. And like Dan Pape says, “You’ll find something about it that’s lifelong. Don’t be afraid.”

And for the record, he wore the black cap long before Jim Halpert from The Office did.