Whirlwind Magazine Issue #3

Dear reader,

Hello, and welcome to the third issue of Whirlwind Magazine. Much of this edition features writing and art created by our friends whose families originated from Latin America or Spain. Latina/o writing is an integral part of American literature. Spanish is a beautiful and poetic language that so often sounds smoother and lovelier than English. Our Latina/o sisters and brothers are essential elements to the culture of Philadelphia and Camden, the two cities which we at Whirlwind call home. This all may be obvious to some, but we feel that Latina/o culture is too often still marginalized. (A quick note, I emphasize the use of Latina/o in this letter in order to indicate the Magazine’s views on gender equality, some use the term Latinx in order to be inclusive of all gender identities, and we would like to recognize that as well).

Now, admittedly, I am a novice in regards to the Spanish language. Entiendo algunos, pero nunca mucha. Hopefully Whirlwind’s new staff member, Courtney Gambrell, who is fluent in Spanish, will make sure the preceding sentence made sense. One of my favorite books in my bookcase is Pablo Neruda’s “The Captain’s Verses,” which includes every poem in both Spanish and English parallel to one another. Another favorite of mine on the poetry shelf is the late Justin Vitiello’s, “amapolas y cardos,” published by none other than Whirlwind Press. We have included four pages at the end of this issue of Vitiello’s poems in the same format: Spanish on one page, English on the next.

Vitiello passed away a little over a year ago. A professor at Temple University both in Philadelphia and Rome, Vitiello was a prolific and powerful poet who bore witness to issues of social justice and human rights. Whirlwind Issue 3 is dedicated to this man who deserves the notoriety and renown that only the best of poets gain after their death. On the Industrial Workers of the World website, Nathaniel Miller wrote, “…[Vitiello] was a fighter, and like all great working-class soldiers understood that we must fight for bread and roses too. Justin organized poetry readings against the mafia in Sicily, telling me that the best way to fight hate and ignorance was simply take a public space as collective triumph over fear, and in Philadel- phia he always stood on the picket lines. That fearless determination is his legacy.”

We honor Vitiello’s legacy in this issue by publishing writers and artists who share his love of words and images and believe in advancing human rights and equality. From exploring the tribulations of imprisonment, to acknowledging the extent of continuing imperialist oppression, Whirlwind Issue 3 welcomes you to expand your awareness along with us. As always, thank you so much for reading.

-S.W. Lynch

Querido lector,

Salud y bienvenido a la tercera edición de Whirlwind Magazine. La mayoría de esta edición publica escritura y arte creado por nuestros amigos cuyos familiares proceden de Latinoamérica o España. La escritura Latino es parte integral de la literatura americana. Español es una lengua hermosa y poética cual suena más suave y más rica que Inglés. Nuestros hermanos latinos son elementos esenciales a la cultura de Filadelfia y Camden, las dos ciudades que Whirlwind reconoce como un hogar. Aunque estos detalles puedan ser obvio para alguna gente, proveemos el sentimiento que la cultura Latina se queda marginada tanta. Nota por favor, subrayo que el uso del término Latino/a en esta forma indica que la posición de la revista en cuanto a la igualdad de género. No es raro para ver el término Latinx, para incluir todas las identidades generas, lo reconocimos también.

Es verdad que yo sea un novicio con respecto al idioma español. “Entiendo poco pero no mucho.” Esperanzadamente nuestro nueva emplea, Courtney Gambrell, quien está fluida en español, pueda asegurar que la oración anterior tiene sentido. ¡Ahora sí! Uno de mis libros favoritos en mi estante por Pablo Neruda, “The Captian’s Verses,” cual incluye cada poema en los ambos idiomas: español e inglés. Otro favorito en la estantería de poesía mía es por Justin Vitiello, “amapolas y cardos,” publicado por Whirlwind Press. Hemos incluido cuatro páginas al fin de esta edición de su poesía en el mismo formato: español por una página, inglés siguiente.

Desafortunadamente, Sr. Vitiello ha fallecido hace un año. Un profesor en Temple University aquí y extranjero, Vitiello fue un poeta prolífico y poderoso quien cuestionaba los temas alrededor justicia social y los derechos humanos. Esta edición está dedicado éste hombre quien merece el gran renombre que solamente los mejores poetas ganan después de morir. En la página web, Industrial Workers of the World, Nathaniel Miller escribió, “[Vitiello] was a fighter, and like all great working-class soldiers under- stood that we must fight for bread and roses too. Justin organized poetry readings against the mafia in Sicily, telling me that the best way to fight hate and ignorance was simply take a public space as collective triumph over fear, and in Philadelphia he always stood on the picket lines. That fearless determination is his legacy.”

Honramos el legado de Vitiello por ésta edición por publicando los escritores y artistas que com- parten su amor para las palabras y las imágenes y creen en su valor para avanzar los derechos humanos e igualdad. De explorar las tribulaciones del encarcelamiento, reconocer el alcance de la opresión imperi- alista que continúa, la tercera edición de Whirlwind da la bienvenida a Ustedes para extender la concien- cia con nosotros. Como siempre, te damos tan agradecimiento por leer.

-S.W. Lynch
Translation by Courtney Gambrell

The cover art is a detail of a Karina Puente piece. Designed by Melissa Rothman.

The cover art is a detail of a piece by Karina Puente. Cover designed by Melissa Rothman.

Burial Ground

How penetrating are the ends of days in autumn! Oh! Penetrating to the point of grief! For there are certain delicious sensations whose vagueness does not exclude intensity; and no point is sharper than that of the Infinite.   

-Charles Baudelaire, “The Confiteor of the Artist”

Eliza and I stepped out of the oblong metal box and into an expansive gray wasteland. Construction material littered the ground between pillars where walls should have been. The upper floors were supposed to be living spaces for humans, but when the recession hit the owner stopped paying for the building’s manufacture. We were standing on top of a tiny skyscraper looking over Rittenhouse Square. She was more than just my roommate and co-worker, but I didn’t know what I was to her.

While I was on break at work we had snuck into the maintenance area from the basement and took the freight elevator straight up. I was biting my nails inside the rickety machine. She giggled quietly at my nervousness and looked up at me with her bright ice blue eyes and freckles that matched her curly deep burgundy hair. My responses were bashful at best. At that time Eliza was twenty four and I was twenty one and wholly intimidated by her, even though she was almost half my size. We listened to the pulleys scream. Each floor took half a minute to reach, and because it was mostly out of service the machine would stall at every other number. By the time we found the roof access door I was craving fresh air, which while opening I realized was an insatiable desire in Philadelphia’s polluted atmosphere. At least the outdoors weren’t so closely filled with carcinogens and dust.

The late September sky was also gray and it didn’t smell like autumn yet at all. Actually, it never smells like fall on Walnut Street, although some of the trees were starting to change. So was Eliza. Her oven had become third-trimester-huge. As I turned to look at her admiring the skyline I felt guilt for worrying about my breathing when Eliza’s lungs had to work for two. You need to stop feeling so responsible for her, I thought.

“What the hell are you doing?” I yelled, after coming to from gazing off at the park below. She was leaning over the ledge, looking down a twelve story drop. Her belly was tucked under the short wall, but her torso was precariously bent over the almost abyss. Eliza laughed while I gently yet firmly grabbed her.

 “Relax John. I’m okay, really.”

I pulled her back anyway and lingered for an instant while holding her hips. The baby inside her wasn’t mine, although I put my hand on her stomach as if it, she, was, and smiled back at her belatedly. My girlfriend Selena had introduced us when I used to sell weed. Selena was fiercely jealous of my friendship with Eliza.

“Why are you looking at me like that you creep,” she said, teasing.

I told her I was sorry in a sarcastic tone. We stared at the specks of people. It was then that she told me about all the horses buried under Rittenhouse Square.

“Do their ghosts trot through the park?” I laughed as I asked, but she was serious for once.

“It’s just horrible that there’s no memorial for them,” she said.

“Their corpses must be why the trees are so big,” I replied.

She seemed sad, and I wondered if her baby felt emotions in tandem with her, then I smelled her hair while she wouldn’t notice. It was beautiful. There were memories in the ether. The various branches swayed in the distance below. We didn’t matter, although all meaning was within us. Gusts of wind kept picking up, so I ended up lying on the hard roof, mostly out of fear, but also because I wanted to experience the world in a different way. Each building was a different color even though they were all generally made of the same kind of glass, steel, and stone. I checked my cellphone for the time.

“We gotta’ get going,” I said.

Our way back down was easier than the way up. Eliza got done work early. After taking orders from greedy childish adults for several more hours, a slight exhaustion set in, but I still didn’t want to go straight home so I walked across the street to the park. Eliza and her boyfriend, Ricardo, were sitting on a bench at the northeast corner. Ricardo looked agitated, and didn’t say hello.

 “Hey, we’ve been waiting around for you after shopping. Look what I got for the baby.” She showed me the clothes and whatever else that was in her bags. I feigned interest. She asked if I was heading home, and if I wanted to walk with them.

“I appreciate the offer, but I’ve got some things to do,” I said.

She looked at me strangely, then they were gone. I could tell that Ricardo didn’t want me around. He was tired from working so much, saving up money for the coming child. Eliza knew that I had no cash nor subway tokens left, and felt bad that I had a long walk alone ahead of me. There was something about that evening though, a foreboding feeling and I needed to be by myself. Selena had texted me multiple times, so I turned my phone off then went to sit on the public lawn. Not just the sky but the air itself was orange. It looked like everything was combustible.

With legs crossed sitting in the wet grass I pulled out my small crimson sketchbook from my back pocket and tried drawing what was in the present, without any contextual interference. Leaves were changing with the atmosphere. Bark falling onto the broken, dirty soil. Most of the environment had been overtaken by the artificial. I imagined all of the invisible energy pulsing through my body, all of the radiation soaking everything. Humans began to look monster-like in appearance. I saw flesh falling off the many homeless people in the park. Walking skeletons crept behind bushes, smoking and coughing incessantly. Rotting teeth fell out of casually passing pedestrians’ mouths. Before then I felt alone, but the lack of nature made me realize how clustered we all were. I was one with the crowd. Eliza was bringing another human into this claustrophobic world.

My fingers gripped the pencil, but I couldn’t draw anything substantial. Just lines, twigs and leaves overlapping one another until they looked like wires tangled, like something so unnatural. The animal corpses underneath me did nothing but nurture the roots of those trees; their bones were barely left. Life had sucked death dry. Inanimate languages fell upon deaf ears. I looked around for their spirits and found none. Having lost my duel with creative expression, I put away the pencil and paper, and just sat there, breathing in nothingness.

Getting home was long and boring. We lived in North Philly, a far walk, but usually not too bad while drunk. I was looking forward to drinking whatever booze left in the fridge at the house, if Ricardo and his friends hadn’t drank it all already. I’d hoped not. The neon lights of Chinatown pierced through my skull. Chewing nicotine gum didn’t help either. My teeth were yellow and practically rotting. Sewage ran along the sides of the streets because of flooding from weeks of almost non-stop rain. Selena is going to be pissed, I thought.

On the southern corner of Seventh and Spring Garden I waited for the light to turn green then realized that there wasn’t any traffic anyway, so I just walked right through until coming upon a black metal fence on the other side. A nineteenth century red brick building loomed in front of me. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t really paid attention to it until then, when I lived only a few blocks away. It’s a national historic landmark. What struck me was the woman in white tending the garden. Her dress was more like a gown, and I could have sworn there was no dirt on it, though nighttime had settled in, and the streetlights were dimly flickering. She would lean over with a spade and strike the earth, then crouch down to plant seeds.

“Why the hell is she doing that in autumn?” I whispered to my still self.

I took the cellphone out of my pocket and turned it on. When I looked back up she had appeared several feet closer and was facing me, but bent forward. My heart fluttered. The screen said “LOW BATTERY” so I put it back. A gurgling sound came from the sodden soil. Vegetables and plants crawled about in the dirt before me. She altered as my face was pressed against cold iron. Her skeleton reverberated as she wheezed and hacked up phlegm all over the stems and flowers. That only made them grow faster. My hands searched around for pencil and paper to no avail.

“Swallow me,” I said, without reason.

I just wanted to be inside of her, but I couldn’t get past the fence, so I pulled the sketchbook out of my pants then opened to a clean page and began to draw verdure the likes I’d never done before, although as I looked up she was gone, and all of the vegetation along with her. Cars sped down Spring Garden with radios blasting unfamiliar music. A foreign heart beat heavy in my chest.

Getting in the house took a minute with my dull and rusted key. Once I got through the threshold Selena was ready with fists clenched. All I saw was a blur, then my temple throbbed. I put my hands over my face. Her jet black wavy hair was everywhere. She looked sexy, all done up, but for a reason, because she was furious to the point of breaking.

“Where were you?”

I just looked at her, and felt sad.

“You know what, it’s not working out.”

Just like that she was gone, so I stumbled to the fridge but there was no beer. My head was killing me. I walked back to the living room and landed on the couch, not wanting to move a muscle. I turned the television on with the remote, but all I could see and hear was white noise. I sighed. The antenna was broken. That dressed-up woman in the garden wouldn’t leave my mind.

The couch consumed me. There was even more commotion upstairs. Ricardo and Eliza were fighting now. He sounded awful. The static continued in the foreground. Ricardo was getting violent and throwing things. Eliza’s screams gave me goose bumps. It must be really bad, better go up there, I thought, although I didn’t. I was immobilized, but not out of anything physical. She came down the stairs while crying silently.

“Is everything all right?” I asked.

She didn’t answer. The television set hummed in abeyance. Eliza slammed the front door shut. I finally got up and looked out the window, but I couldn’t see where she went. Instead there were sanguine lit windows across the street, and shadows of figures embracing, which gave me newfound strength. Suddenly I was filled with anger, so I went upstairs to confront Ricardo, but once I made it to their room I found that he was passed out completely drunk and or high. Down the street I could hear a car honking.

Outside was dark, but I ran along Seventh Street nonstop while panting and sweating until catching up with Eliza. She was sitting on brick steps with her tummy sticking out and her head in her hands. I sat next to her.

“You know who lived here, right?”

I knew the answer, though I couldn’t speak just yet. It was such a simple, calm question; it took me off guard. I looked around.

“You see that statue over there, of the raven?”

I answered that time, “I see it.” She looked up at me with her drying cheeks.

Our bodies melded, and I felt warmth all over. In the distance the woman rose. Her pale face was all I could see, that faceless face I never saw.

“You don’t have to deal with that anymore,” I said.

“I know,” she said, “nevermore.”

We laughed together.

Burial Ground- Alexis Cabrera

The Other

An ancient man just barely stands on the corner of a street. He wears a red checkered picnic table like shirt while a cane dangles from his arm. Standing like a withered wingless pelican, knees bent peculiarly. His facial expression makes him look inexplicably satisfied even though walking is no longer an option for the man.

This man is wearing boots made of human flesh, scarred deeply, reminiscent of a shrapnel victim. The not too faded tattoo on his forearm implies that he is a relic of the last world war.

Beside his soft but vacant eyes lie large brown birth marks which match his many liver spots. His wispy gray hair falls down to the checkered collar.

This man is waiting to die on this corner. An anonymous man, on a named corner. Leaning back, as if forced into a perpetual limbo contest. Using all of the strength he has left just trying to stand.

In the span of ten minutes he is able to shuffle about three feet in order to lean against a trash can.

A young man sits on a concrete slab just a few feet away and observes all of this, methodically sketching figures and settings. The young man has a cigarette sticking out of his mouth, he is constantly looking up and down, drawing. Another man, middle aged, walks up to the artist and asks if he has a cigarette for sale. The young one doesn’t say anything, but pulls out a pack while keeping an eye on the ancient man.

“How much?”

“Fifty cents.”

The former’s long yellow finger nails poke at the latter’s outstretched palm as they make the exchange. The middle aged man trots away, stops, looks at the disintegrating figure, and says “old man” in a deadpan, meaningless way.

The situation reverts back to how it was ten minutes before with the artist watching the old man unaware of any other pedestrian’s presence.

All of a sudden a woman takes the old man by the hand with lightning speed, intertwining fingers and all. She leads a bulldog by a leash, and they all make it for the stoplight in order to cross the busy street.

And yet they remain there for hours. The artist does not lose interest, but leaves eventually. The stoplights blink by at light speed.

There is the angel clad in pink polyester. She is accompanied by a fat little slobbering cherub. They hover by the ancient man, he looks up and smiles. This is the first time he has noticed another being’s presence since his day began.

When the streets are vacant they venture into the darkness.

The Loser: Part 1

Pops was a bartender here back in the 80′s. He was the father of four. Three of them drug addicts, the other being Arnie, my uncle, who is now The Loser’s lone bartender.
One day, a beer bottle broke over his head while he was working and a piece of glass cut him good. He would get around in spite of his eye.
Sometimes an unknowing family ventured into The Loser. They’d think it’s quaint or something, strutting into a dive bar with a kid “on break” from college. They’d ruin the very atmosphere they’re attracted towards.
So they sat next to me of course. Uncle Arnie ignored them. The suburban-brat-child tried ordering an “abortion.” The cheeky father laughed and asked for the same. Uncle Arnie turned around from his imaginary business.
Get the fuck out.
As the duo shuffled out the door yelping about how “no one on the internet” will ever see a good review of this place, I started getting an awful headache. That wanna-be edgy middle-aged father mentioned the internet in such an unfamiliar way, with the kind of tone that implied a successful wielding of power.
Uncle Arnie knew the antidote to my ailment. A pint of lager in a glass which has never been washed. A special glass saved just for me. The dirt minerals or the unknown whatever stained within did something to dull the pain.
It still wasn’t enough. I sat there, at the edge of my stool, waiting for nothing. It was noon, as I could hear those church bells chime their extra tolls only a block away.
My uncle and I would get along because we both don’t talk much. We never really needed to communicate with words.
I often lied to myself. The only one I never lied to was the only one I could trust. A stuffed animal in the form of a bear, under a broken floorboard beneath my unmade mattress back at home. I had to hide him from Arnie’s pill-head sister who gave birth to me.
I lit up a cigarette. I looked around inside The Loser and realized that life could be worse. I could picture him with his crooked, soft brown eyes, his pudgy belly, and his stubby arms. Even though my relationship with him was a secret, it wasn’t because I was ashamed. I kept him secret in order to protect him from this grimy world. And he protected me from myself.
As I took my final drag, Arnie gave me a foreboding look. I thought he was angry about me smoking in the bar. Sometimes he would get upset about it and blame it on the owner noticing the smell. I knew he wasn’t mad because it was against the rules, but because he was worried about my habits. One time when he was really drunk, he told me that drinking had a purpose, but that tobacco was a pointless, overly addictive drug. I knew it was really the smoke I exhaled that was bothering him. The sight of smoke around a relative reminded him of the 80′s, when he witnessed his brothers succumb to the crack epidemic.
He said nothing that time about me smoking a cigarette. I looked at him as he stood there silently. As soon as I opened my mouth he spoke.
Your mom called.
He didn’t have to say anything else. Without a word, I left cash on the dusty bar and walked out the door.

A Porcelain Beyonce

Just another night, happens to be a Saturday.

He’s hanging out in a storefront.

The only other with him happens to be a porcelain wind-up musical doll.

Which also happens to be a cat wearing a dress.

He’s drinking Yuengling, smoking Turkish Silvers.

His first pack in two weeks. The nicotine left his system completely.

The desire came back.

He’s wearing torn jeans and his absent girlfriend’s sweater over an old flannel.

The cat’s dress is green and floral.

The fake cat could be considered creepy, even eerie by others.

He bought it at a thrift store in Camden a while back.

He named her Beyonce, after that stray cat that would jump through the front door

and wander throughout his old house on Christian street.

None of his roommates in that house understood her. They’d literally throw her out.

He would let her go into the basement- his room.

“I miss her.”

He takes another swig,

and one last drag,

as he stares through glass

into the street where she might still be, hopefully.