Volume 3, Issue ix
Wild Greens 3, no. 09 (July 2023)
Welcome to the July 2023 issue of Wild Greens
July is here and so is the Neighborhood issue of Wild Greens! I’m especially excited to share this issue with you because it features pieces of my neighborhood in Philadelphia— more on that in a moment.
This month’s new logo by our own Maggie Topel places Wild Greens in the center of a map of a neighborhood, complete with all the classic neighborhood spots: stores, town hall, museum, hospital, parks, and homes. Wild Greens is in the middle—at the center of the community.
Longtime readers might recognize our watercolor cover image from way back in March 2022. Hayley is in the weeds with her work right now and took the month off of her watercolor (though not off of editing!) I pulled the Structure/Destruction watercolor for the Neighborhood issue because the brick wall reminds me of my neighborhood in Philly! Most of the rowhomes here are brick, and there is a brick wall very similar to this down my block. Send Hayley your love while she recovers from a difficult work month!
To dive in: three watercolors by Adam Moorad, “Eastie,” “Franklin Street,” and “Inbound,” leave an abstract impression of the feeling of the city, the lights and blocky buildings creating the night sky.
“Who is My Neighbor?” a poem by Alixa Brobbey, adapts the story of the Good Samaritan to today. Do you see your neighbors?
“Bricks in Bloom,” by the anonymous artist who goes by Sidewalk, is the first of five neighborhood mosaics. The artist explains that she “offers little gifts of color to pedestrians making their way through the city, mostly in Fairmount, Philadelphia. She fills cracks and crevices on the sidewalks with images using hand-made ceramic tiles and smalti.” Sidewalk’s mosaic art pieces are inserted between other artists’ works to give the same impression they do when walking along the sidewalk, an unexpected bit of color underfoot. Find “Cement blues,” Concrete in bloom,” “Blue chartreuse tango,” and “untitled” as you move through the issue.
Melissa Lomax’s “Library Map” in pencil and watercolor is a map of the artist’s local library (incidentally also in Philadelphia!) Is summer reading an essential part of your summers too?
“Bread and Butter,” an essay by Sherri Alms, covers the year the author spent in a small town outside of Pittsburgh trying to get her bearings as an adult. “Untitled” in pencil drawing and watercolor by Irina Tall (Novikova) is a series of five images on the concept of memory, childhood, and the neighborhood.
In Lauren Kimball’s latest Turtle and Hare, Hare wonders about the unseasonal activity of his slow neighbor Turtle.
Melissa Lomax returns with her husband and partner Christian “Patch” Patchell. This time they send us home with their “Home Again” in silkscreen on French paper. They describe collaborating on the work by taking turns, passing the paper back and forth until it was finished. Not only do they depict a favorite childhood phrase, but the collaborative art goes hand in hand with everything that makes a neighborhood work—each other!
A walk in the neighborhood leads us home again.
"Eastie," "Franklin Street," and "Inbound"
Who is My Neighbor?
by Alixa BrobbeyA certain man went downon the Subway. Jello legsand floppy wrists. Sat jagged, tucked next tobright orange bench.
A silver man went downon Broadway. Droppedsideways, hands to chest.
A salty man. Fifth Avenue.Some soft man. Sidewalk steps. Scared woman. Stuttering teen. Sniffling
baby. Went down and down.Bodies dropped like leaves,brown with thirst.
A certain blazer crossedthe street. A certain crosscrossed himself and sidestepped.
And the neighbor trippedover laces, rushing cornerto car to bench. Dripping
bandaids from her hands.And the certain men keptdropping and dropping.
Again. And again. Anddown yet again.
Bricks in Bloom
Bread and Butter
by Sherri Alms
I hated the phone, a black clunky desktop model with a rotary dial, old even in the late 1980s. It sat on an end table next to a scratchy brown sofa where I sat day after long January day, trying to will myself to use it to make sales calls to sell office products. It was supposed to be the start of my adult life, moving from my parents’ house in Akron, Ohio to Pittsburgh, where I had college friends.
Before graduating from college, I had always wanted to be a writer. I imagined I would work as a journalist or a copywriter for a few years and then work on a novel. But those kinds of jobs, in the decade after Watergate and All the President’s Men, were scarce. Everyone wanted to be a journalist. And there was a recession. I rejected an offer from a small newspaper in a small town in West Virginia because I couldn’t live on the salary, because I didn’t want to live in a small town. And the truth that I didn’t want to admit: I was scared that I would not be able to do the job.
Every decision I had made since graduating from college two years ago seemed to take me further and further from a job as a writer and closer to remaining stuck in Akron. At first, I worked my old summer job as a candle dipper at Hale Farm, a living history museum north of Akron, not far from Cleveland. I dipped a row of six long cotton wicks attached to a wooden holder into beeswax over and over, the melted wax accumulating slowly. Visitors would scrunch into the dark root cellar in the Hale family’s farmhouse, built in the early 19th century, to watch and listen to my talk. The friends I had at the museum scattered to post-college jobs and graduate schools. I worked with nice older guides and full-time craftspeople—a farmer, a glassblower, a blacksmith, and a chubby, white-haired woodworker, who had the geese he fed following him like big white ellipses. “When? When? When?” they honked, waddling as fast as they could to keep up.
Then I got a job as a marketing assistant, really a glorified secretary for the marketing department of a plastics factory. They made, maybe they still do, plastic lids for Parmesan cheese containers and similar products, the ones with different size openings so people could shake or pour or measure the contents. I worked with three other women, all secretaries, for the executives, all men. I got drunk at happy hours as if it was a job requirement, almost slept with my married boss after one of those drunken nights at a bar, and torched a good relationship by showing up with a former college boyfriend at a Christmas party. Maybe it was the night I sat in the car in my parents’ driveway giving thanks for getting home without an accident, or maybe it was when the college boyfriend called to say he was dating someone else and it was getting serious that I knew it was time to go, with or without the perfect job waiting for me.
So here I was in January of 1986, living with Joanie, a college friend, at her grandmother’s rowhouse in Pittsburgh, paralyzed on the end of that sofa and trying to ignore the phone that grew more menacing the longer I did not pick up the receiver and dial. At training, they told us we needed to believe in the products we were selling, their quality and usefulness to the customer. Three months into the job, I remained an office products atheist, making a few calls and almost always getting rejections. I turned to the comfort of soap operas—General Hospital and All My Children—as I ate my way through packages of Chips Ahoy and Oreos, Fritos and French onion dip. Or I would lose myself in the distraction of long walks around Millvale, just across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh, past rowhouses, clad in drab siding, churches, and storefronts lined up on the sidewalks.
Joanie and I organized a pub crawl that winter for our college friends. For every church in Millvale, there were at least two dive bars with names like Tony’s or Joe’s, Northside Tavern, Grant Tavern, and Smokey’s Bar. They were dim and narrow, like the rowhouses that edged them on either side, a bar against one wall, a row of tables on the other, one or two tables near the front door, maybe a back room with a pool table. We burst into one of them, laughing and loud, and saw a row of men seated at the bar, some middle-aged and some older, in dark baggy pants and button-down shirts with sleeves rolled up. They cast eyes at us in our bright preppy sweaters and tight jeans and then hunched shoulders forward again toward the bartender, tired men in a tired town, more than likely a few of them laid off, no pensions, unmoored from the only work they knew how to do, their dreams gone the way of the smoke from the stilled stacks at the empty steel mills.
They drank their beer and threw back shots. “How about them Steelers?” one asked to the bar, generally to guffaws in response.
“What about ‘em?” replied a man clutching an Iron City can.
“Fuck the Steelers. I’m about to start rooting for the Browns,” came from an older man down at the end of the bar to jeers and laughter.
Replace the bar stool with Joanie’s grandmother’s sofa and their beers with cookies and Fritos and I was them. I reminded myself that I was trying to find another job, the right kind of job. I bought creamy business stationery and typed out cover letters that dropped into the mailbox without a sound. No replies.
In March, Joanie came into the living room where I was reading a novel. “Have you got a minute?” she asked. I looked up. “My grandmother asked me about the rent,” she said. “I’m really sorry, but it was due two weeks ago. Do you think you will be able to give me a check soon?” I could hear in her tentative tone how little she wanted to ask the question. I looked down again and the words on the page swam in my embarrassment. “Oh, yes, sure, I need a couple of days. I can write a check for it Tuesday. Does that work?” Relief flooded her features.
The summer before I left for college, my mom took me through how to balance a checkbook, adding up the columns of credits and debits, figuring the total with pencil on paper, and comparing it with the bank statement. She told me, the oldest of her four children and the first in our family to go to college, that she and my dad could afford to send me $50 a month for my expenses until I got a part-time job my sophomore year. Then I was on my own.
Now here I was, a college graduate asking her for money. As I wrapped and unwrapped the phone’s curly cord around my fingers, we talked about the weather, her real estate work, Dad’s office job, my sisters’ school and friends. Finally, I got the words out, “I need to borrow some money.” To my surprise, she didn’t ask questions beyond how much I needed. I was relieved, grateful, and a little ashamed.
Some weeks later, in early spring, when the sky was the same color as the sidewalk and the wind bit as it blew, I saw my mother’s Christmas gift, a Better Homes and Gardens red and white checked cookbook, sitting on a shelf in my bedroom. I leafed through it, pausing at a photo of a loaf of fresh baked bread. I remembered my dad exclaiming in happiness as he cut slices of my mom’s bread, fresh from the oven, for me and my siblings.
Maybe I was looking for that warm golden comfort, or maybe I wanted the work when I walked to the corner store at the end of the block for yeast. The store smelled like dill, caraway, garlic, onion, and cinnamon. Neat rows of metal shelves lined the walls and the center of the store with the regular selection of snacks, candy, toiletries, and cleaning products. One aisle held fresh vegetables, and I wandered down it, looking at crimson beets crusted with dirt and topped with half-wilted greens, next to pale green heads of cabbage heaped in their wooden crate, fat, long carrots still attached to their ferny fronds and tied in bunches. Near the cash register, loaves of black bread and rye bread sat piled on a long shelf.
When I couldn’t find the yeast, I asked at the front counter. The woman who owned the store with her husband, smiled at me. She was probably in her fifties, maybe her early sixties, slender and tall. She had thick dark hair, wiry gray strands escaping the bun she pulled it into. She wore a loose-fitting floral housedress buttoned up the front, like the dresses my Texan grandmother wore that I loved.
“Yeast?” she asked.
“Yes, I need it for a recipe.”
“Are you making bread? From yeast?”
“Yes,” I answered again.
“We have yeast!” She smiled as she led me to the spot. “Not many young people bake their own bread.”
“I hope it turns out,” I replied as I paid for two yellow and red packets.
I mixed and kneaded, punching the dough and then pulling it, my body relaxing into the rhythm. Whatever I felt loosening in me as I punched the dough stretched a little more. Later, I kept watch as the dough rose in its bowl and then in two pans near the stove. It was, I have since learned, an act of faith to decide when the loaves were ready to go into the oven. Soon, the smell sidled out, warm and comforting, and I could see the crusts browning when I opened the oven door.
When they were still just a little warm, I cut two thick slices, their interior marked by holes where yeasty bubbles had popped while they baked. I slathered them in butter so the airholes could do their job and catch it. I ate them with a cup of coffee.
I told the corner store lady the next time I was in her store. “The bread tasted good. It rose just like it was supposed to.”
“Ah, that is good to know!” she said. “I hope you keep baking.” It was this small delight she took in me, the interest that, like my mom’s generosity, gave me hope that my real adult life was out there and that I was capable of living into it.
Soon after, I found an okay new job with a regular paycheck. Then a friend told me there were lots of jobs for editorial assistants in Washington, D.C. I started buying The Washington Post at the corner store on Sundays for the job ads. The corner store lady always greeted me, sometimes asking if I was planning to bake bread, which I did every now and then. Every week, I carried home the thick roll of paper, opened to the classifieds, circled the potential job ads, and devoured the rest of the paper. I started to see a life I wanted, my desire finally growing stronger than fear I would not succeed.
In November, I found a job as an editorial assistant in DC. I packed my hatchback full of boxes and headed east. Away from the bridges and the hills. The men on their barstools. And the lady in the corner store.
Concrete in bloom
If you like the issue, you can donate to Wild Greens through our Ko-fi page!
Blue chartreuse tango
Ceramic tile and smalti
Read about the inspiration for this month's logo on Ko-Fi.
Smalti and hand-made ceramic tile
See behind the scenes of Wild Greens. Our Ko-fi page contains concept art for past issues.
Artists and Contributors
Alixa Brobbey (she/her/hers) spent portions of her childhood in The Netherlands and Ghana. She has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University, where she won the Ethel Lowry Handley Poetry Prize in 2020. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Blue Marble Review, Segullah, Inscape Journal, The Albion Review, The Susquehanna Review, The Palouse Review, The Exponent II, Young Ravens Literary Review, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and is currently a law student in Provo, Utah.
Sidewalk is an anonymous mosaic artist who offers little gifts of color to pedestrians making their way through the city, mostly in Fairmount. She fills cracks and crevices on the sidewalks with images using hand-made ceramic tiles and smalti. You can follow her work on Instagram: @colorunderfoot
Melissa Lomax and Christian “Patch” Patchell
Lomax and Patch are a creative couple who have spent the last 20 years together, making art and making memories. Christian “Patch” Patchell is an artist, educator, and author. He is also the creator of 'The Brothers Brimm,' the award-winning animated short and comic. Melissa Lomax is a freelance illustrator, writer, and cartoonist. Her comic 'Doodle Town' posts on GoComics.com, the largest catalog of syndicated cartoons and comics.
A freelance writer for more than 20 years, Sherri Alms recently began writing creative nonfiction. She has been published in A Plate of Pandemic and Five Minutes. After years of urban life in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, she now lives with her husband in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Irina Tall (Novikova)
Irina Tall (Novikova) is an artist, graphic artist, and illustrator. She graduated from the State Academy of Slavic Cultures with a degree in art, and also has a Bachelor's degree in design.
Her first personal exhibition "My soul is like a wild hawk" (2002) was held in the museum of Maxim Bagdanovich. In her works, she often raises themes of ecology and draws on anti-war topics. In 2005 she devoted a series of works to the Chernobyl disaster. The first big series she drew was "The Red Book," dedicated to rare and endangered species of animals and birds. She also writes fairy tales and poems, and illustrates short stories. She draws various fantastic creatures including unicorns and animals with human faces. She especially likes the image of a man - a bird - Siren. In 2020, she took part in Poznań Art Week. Her work has been published in magazines: Gypsophila, Harpy Hybrid Review, Little Literary Living Room and others. In 2022, her short story was included in the collection The 50 Best Short Stories, and her poem was published in the collection of poetry The Wonders of Winter.
Artist and Writer
Lauren Kimball (she/her) lives in Philadelphia. She teaches literature and composition at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. In her spare time, she plays with paint, digital pens, words, and home improvement tools.
You can find her comics on Instagram @turtle_n_hare_comic.
Poetry Editor and Copyeditor
Myra Chappius (she/her) is the author of six works of fiction and poetry. While her passion lies with shorter creations, it is her aspiration to complete a full-length novel and screenplay someday. She enjoys reading, music, travel, and learning. When not doing mom things, she is working full-time, seeing the latest movie, or waiting an acceptable length of time before returning to Universal Orlando to satiate her Harry Potter obsession.
Jessica Doble (she/her) holds a PhD in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She's published two critical works: “Hope in the Apocalypse: Narrative Perspective as Negotiation of Structural Crises in Salvage the Bones” in Xavier Review, and “Two-Sides of the Same Witchy Coin: Re-examining Belief in Witches through Jeannette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate” in All About Monsters. Her poetry has appeared in PubLab and Wild Greens magazine.
Jacqueline (she/her) earned her BA in English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. She was a 2021 publishing fellow with the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor and co-editor for PubLab and UCR's Mosaic Art and Literary Journal. She is currently the fiction editor for Wild Greens magazine and a copyeditor for the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Arrow Journal.
Maggie Topel (she/her) is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. She designs our seasonal Wild Greens logo and social media avatar.
Hayley (she/her) creates the cover image for each issue of Wild Greens magazine and serves as the Arts Editor. Hayley is a social justice seeker, world traveler, rock climber, dog snuggler, frisbee player, event planner, and storyteller. She loves to paint with watercolors, embroider, and write. She grew up reading sci-fi and fantasy, and to this day she still turns to those genres to help her make sense of the world. She calls Philadelphia home and wouldn't have it any other way. You can find Hayley on Instagram @hayley3390.
Rebecca Lipperini (she/her) is a writer, teacher, and academic living in Philadelphia, and the founding editor of Wild Greens magazine (hi!). She holds a PhD in English from Rutgers University, where she taught all kinds of classes on literature and poetry and writing, and wrote all kinds of papers on the same. Her essay on the soothing aesthetics of the supermarket was recently published in PubLab. She teaches in the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania.