I know I’m counting my chickens before they’re hatched, readers, but this weekend felt like spring was in the air in Chicago. The air had that special mild feel; the wind that blustered about me was warm, and the sun was bright enough to make me squint. More than these little rises in the thermostat, though, I just felt that extra burst of energy that spring brings with it. I walked all over town, glad to make up errands and excuses to get outside. Before the week was out, I had filled the coming months with excited plans. I’ll be fitter! I’ll eat better! I’ll write outdoors and go to cafes and and and…
I know I won’t be able to accomplish all the excited plans on my calendar, but just having the excitement of planning is enough right now. Spring always gives me a boost of hopeful energy. And before you tell me not to get my hopes up, I know; as a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, I know April has a way of having late snowstorms. My heart is hard and ready for this little taste of spring to fade. But once nature gets a foothold, it never seems quite as bad to dip back into winter for a while.
This also means that I’ve almost officially survived my first Chicago winter. I thought it would take extra strength of character, but it honestly wasn’t too unbearable, except for a few extreme days. And of course, this has me thinking about what the change of season means for our creative lives. Will there be more time, somehow, for writing? Will we be able to sit out in the sun and jot things down in our notebooks, or just think and plan and work on dreamier things? It’s hard to say. But we can certainly set ourselves up for success by seizing the joy of spring.
refused to accept
a hilly peninsula less than
one thousand acres wide.
They flattened hills
with pick and shovel,
carted gravel by horse and train,
spent their sweat and dollars
changing the landscape
until a man could stand
in the same place
he once would have drowned.
Two Cities is expanding our delivery methods! We asked Gerald Yelle to be our first poet to record himself reading his poem “Let This One Be”. We love hearing the pieces we publish in the author’s own voice and hope you’ll enjoy it too. The text of the poem is below the audio file and can also be found in the March issue of Two Cities Review.
Let This One Be
I stalk him after lunch hoping to catch him
standing straight and tall –but he sees
me first and flaps off between trees.
He occupies the margins, foraging in runoff
flying under the radar out of the swale,
dropping long looping turds on the runway
he shares with C5A transports. Though he’s okay
with that and emery boards and other
such trash, he shuns humans –wisely.
The owner of a nearby fishery protected
his investment bow-hunting waders
till the cops caught him. Say the better part of valor
is an absentee ballot, an emergency flight plan
stabilizing industry, leaving as much
water as will hold one human, one heron
one gangly blue that pumps his neck
as if human were horseman and bird Ichabod Crane.
A sunning snake sidles off the path.
A woodchuck emerges from its burrow.
Back at the office Roz freshens her coffee.
Ruth reads about longevity and takes
virtual walks where birches shade hollows
full of foxglove she can seek and
never find. Children grow, prostaglandins
dwindle. The flea on my sleeve steers
for the light and is lost in fluorescents
above cubicles. The heron eludes me,
his heart likely set, his life here untenable,
like mine, though I’m not yet ready
to leave, on the wet Arcadian wild.
by Richard DiFino
I rode the subway trains to take me away from everything that I hated, my father, his fist, the blood and everything else in my seventh floor Bronx apartment. The train was my hero, my savoir, my lover and my escape for the day. And she was cheap. Only $2 for a whole afternoon of pleasure.
In the tunnels of the Number “1” train, I was free from my father and free from the world. I would stare out the window at the wall lights mounted along the walls though out the tunnel. There must have been hundreds of them. I would love to watch them go by endlessly, they seemed to go on forever.
I also rode in between the train cars, it excited me, never frightened me, I was calm, for once. There were enough chains and bars connecting one car to the other, but I never held on to them. I firmly planted my feet for balance, and let the momentum of the train’s speed keep me upright. Occasionally I would get yelled at by a conductor or someone’s concerned mother, but it was always worth it. My own mother was probably wasting away in some cheap motel getting drunk, trying to kill herself, so I was actually happy that some random mom seemed concerned enough for my own safety. It made me feel the tiniest bit of emotion about something positive in life.
There was this intense rush down there in the tunnels. It didn’t matter if I was inside the tunnel or above ground, it was the rush that I needed. It was amazing to stand out there, outside of the moving train and not only watch everything go by at what seemed like ten times faster than watching through the window, but to actually feel it go by, it was other worldly to me, better than tossing around a football with friends.
The mounted wall lights seemed to be inches from my face and blinding me as I remained on the outside of the moving train. The smell of rust filled my nose and the force of the train pulling me back was almost orgasmic. I guess knowing that there was a slight chance that I could die was also a rush. It felt good. It cleared my mind. It reminded me that I was alive.
I loved how the train would barrel down the track as if the conductor almost knew that I was trying to escape my retched life. It made me feel like I was in an old Western movie and I had just hijacked the train waving a shiny six shooter revolver around in the air, shouting through a red bandana that covered my mouth and nose demanding money from the innocent passengers.
Back inside the train, I always felt a little anxious before I arrived at my destination. I never wanted to go back to the outside world with all the outsiders and freaks, the people who could notice me. As soon as my eyes would adjust to the natural light of the world again and not the synthetic subway lighting, I hated life again, unlike my love for life riding in between the subway cars barreling down the tracks holding onto nothing playing with death, but it was all for fun, all for a cheap way to forget about my life and to forget about what was waiting for me as soon as I would make my way back home and through my apartment door. Dying on those tracks would have been much easier than going back home, but I was always the optimistic type.
This kind of therapy is cheap. A $2 fare as opposed to a $25 co-pay at the doctor’s office and there weren’t any pills to swallow, just the aroma of decades upon decades of rusted metal to breathe in and miles of shaky tracks to balance on. Both the train ride and the doctor’s office lasted about 45 minutes, but I choose the possibly of death and freedom over the stale and mundane atmosphere of the psychiatrists office any day.
Richard De Fino is from New York City and lived there for twenty years, but now calls Buffalo, New York home. His focus is on memoir, creative non-fiction and poetry. He has been published in Writers Digest, Two Cities Review, theNewerYork, Hallow Publishing, Purple Pig Lit, FuckFiction, Dialougal and (Cycatrix Press – [NAMELESS] Digest)
Has it already been a year since two cities first sprang onto the page? It’s hard to believe that last March we had just begun our adventure with this literary journal. In that time we’ve seen tremendous growth of the magazine; we’ve seen readership bouncing upward with each issue, and a wave of new and talented writers sending in their submissions.
There’s other news, too; just in time for our one-year anniversary, we’re becoming a different Two Cities. Blair has just moved to Chicago, that midwestern city of the big shoulders, and is eager to explore and discover a new urban space. She’s saddened to leave Boston behind, but equally excited to see a larger city, one that has always had a friendly rivalry with New York. Several poems in this issue pay homage to Boston and Chicago as we editors navigate this transition. Two Cities continues, spread across highways and states and miles, and will continue to navigate the distance between emotional and urban spaces in all of us.
It’s fitting for our anniversary issue to feature stories and poems about parenthood. Many writers in this issue are struggling with what it means to be a father, or what it means to be a child, even as we grow older. You’ll find heart-wrenching stories in this issue, and exciting, experimental takes on poetry and storytelling. Two Cities has been our baby this year, but as it continues to grow and mature, it might start growing up in ways that surprise even us.
Blair Hurley & Olivia Tandon
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Take a look at a featured poem from our current issue of Two Cities Review.
Tourist Goes Over Waterfall
First trip out west, accompanied by her father’s
disapproval and two disposable cameras
her mother tucked into her backpack.
She posed in front of state welcome signs.
Chipmunks chattered, ate from her hand
in Rocky Mountain National Park,
scampered along the guard rail. She
crouched in rock cradles at Arches,
blew kisses from the Eiffel Tower
on the Vegas Strip.
Camped in Yosemite with a guy she met
on the bus. They hiked the Mist Trail
to the top of Vernal Fall. She stood
facing the camera, spring snow melt
cascading behind her, crashing
onto boulders three hundred seventeen
feet below, droplets sparkling in her hair.
He raised his hand to frame the shot.
She took an instinctive step back
on the slippery granite.
Maybe it happened this way.
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