The Obsequious Pen: Daniel Rosler

Daniel Rosler
Local NEPA writer and musician, Daniel Rosler

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.”

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,

Jane.”

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.

The Sizzle-Fingered Scribe

IMG_1766
NEPA-based writer, Karl Hubert

The Sizzle-Fingered Scribe

 

When I asked Karl Hubert what made him start writing, I didn’t know what to expect.  One never can with Karl.  His response was that he was very photogenic as a child, so I followed up with the question of when he started writing.  Again, I was not disappointed.  His response:  “when I laughed at the end of Pan’s Labyrinth.

And a new writer was born.

Karl is a stalwart member of our Ink Writers Group, but I’d mostly heard poems and short stories from him until he raised the idea of National Novel Writing Month (or more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo) last November.  Turns out he’s been hiding numerous novel drafts.

If you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo entails, it’s simple.  You write fifty thousand words of a novel draft in the month of November.  If you make it within that amount of time, you win.  It’s hard.

Karl’s won it six times.  He’s been doing it for the past decade or so.  Most of it is his own genre—a “fun and squicky” comedy-horror-sci-fi blend.  Some of his completed drafts include “Needlin’ the Dermis,” a story of a tattoo parlor plagued with tattoos coming to life to kill people, and this past year’s “Meme the Dream.”

Having a particular personal interest in “Meme the Dream” (for it follows Karl’s character, Benjamin James, from our Unknown Armies roleplaying game), I asked about it.  He admitted that this year’s winning draft came somewhat easily.  It was a familiar character and a chance to develop the ten years prior to the game for the character’s background.  It was a bit of Benji’s things fondly remembered and ranged to things that might have been able to happen to him.  It even had his cheerleading girlfriend from high school.

The nerds always get the best girls, right?

There are many writing benefits beyond a draft of a book though.  Karl feels that NaNoWriMo is a great experience for writers mostly because it forces you to write, whether you reach the final goal or not.  He can ease your mind about it though—“No one’s going to hurt you if you don’t write,” but a good support group of people (like the ones you can find with NaNoWriMo or a local writers group) helps you.  And you don’t have to write anything great—just write.  If it’s bad though?  Karl says if it’s bad, just cry, maybe drink, and then that’ll get you more to write about.  And that’s the point.

NaNoWriMo isn’t all fun, however, but Karl encourages us to keep trying to get past the days of falling short of your daily goal, or when you can’t get in the writing groove.  If you’re really stuck, he has the best advice that he shared with me when I had writer’s block:  “When in doubt, write porn.”

It sure helps pad that word count.

Karl is a good example to follow.  He’s been writing off and on since senior year of high school with not only novel drafts but a couple of novellas and a script about shark attack survivors on a cruise.  You can, and should, write about anything that interests you in any form you feel like playing around with.  And if you’re bored, just write.  “Just don’t post any stuff on the internet that could get you arrested.”

Karl’s full of good advice.

Karl also shared that he feels writing has been “part therapy and part giving a louder voice to the voices in my head.”  It can be easily done, and it’s pretty fun.  And as “one of the oldest forms of entertainment, it’ll let people argue about your work for years.”

Karl’s always one to get people talking.

Find his works on his Deviant Art page (he’s “wendiigo”) or on The Game Chateau’s Ink Writers Circle, “Rolling the Dice” blog. He’ll also be reading at the Ink Writers Circle event, Unexpected Landscapes, on April 20, at The Game Chateau in Plains.  Our theme is “Unexpected Landscapes.” Karl’s sure to come up with something unexpected, as usual.

The Obsequious Pen: Tara Lynn Marta

taralynn
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: Joe Weil

225-1.jpg
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.

An Illustration of Loneliness

Photo by Christian Gertenbach on Unsplash

Today’s song is “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” by Courtney Barnett, from her album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit.

It’s that time of year again, the Hallmark of b.s. holidays we fall for every time we see it, like a horrible ex, who was great in bed: Happy Valentine’s Day! We spend money on wilted flowers, sparkly mushy cards with professions of love that read like a word salad, lard churned drug-store Whitman’s Sampler chocolates, and overpriced-under portioned dinners at restaurants where we are sardined in a can, hoping to get something in return.

I may be a little jaded, but I would rather take it all back. I would rather drink with my friends on Galentine’s Day. Or any day, really.

Consequently, Valentine’s Day has a way of nagging away my painfully single human existence, just a little bit. It’s only painful if I cared. Then, I reminisced lately about the past as if it were something great, someone great. The thoughts would ebb and flow as I zoned out to whatever I have been binge watching all week.

I recollected my past relationships and romantic encounters as if I were trying to remember what to buy at the grocery store.

I got a text last night, which read, “I was thinking of you and just wanted to say hey.”

“I’m thinkin’ of you too…”

I didn’t actually text that in response. I said something like, “same here” as to be slightly vague and sarcastic. He knew what I meant. We both stay in touch randomly, which I suspect is to ease his singledom. It doesn’t matter to me.

His random text made me think about how a few years ago I had a different life. I would have dates booked back-to-back on weekends, and went to upscale restaurants, roof-top bars, and concerts. I was always surrounded by people, but somehow felt even more lonely? Did I not appreciate it?

As I shift back to the present, I think I would rather bury myself in my hoodie and watch Rick and Morty than deal with the constant search, the mind-numbing dry-wall conversations, the awkward good-byes. Rinse and repeat.

But what’s the point of the mundane every day? I make it sound as if I am as lonely as a microwavable dinner, but I am lucky for what I have. It’s not all bad. I enjoy loving myself and others in my life, even if it’s not the romantic love of partner. I love my spending time with my family. I love having close gatherings with friends. I can talk to anyone if I feel like it or choose to simply be. I love making people happy even if it’s just cracking a joke to make my students laugh, because they had a bad day or listening to a stranger’s problems, because I “seem like I am a good listener and won’t judge. ”

No matter how alone we feel at times, we must remind ourselves of how we fit into the universe and that there are people in that universe, too. Our actions can have a ripple effect on others, good or bad. True happiness comes with self-acceptance in numerous ways. I accept that although I will be single on Valentine’s Day, I am not alone. You are not alone either. And sometimes if you are physically alone, it can be a good thing. Take some time for yourself and enjoy your place. Remember: “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” It may not be a life-changing quote, but it can get us from the present to the future. It may not be a great place where we are, but remember, there is a possibility it can change for the better, tomorrow.

Truly yours,

A. Dawn

Check out our playlist! You can find it here and on Spotify: thirtythirdwheel

Poet Progressing

IMG_1687 (1)
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

IMG_0234
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.