Friday, September 1, 2017

Affinity CoLab Presents! Summer II Issue

Dear Readers,

I write you from my hometown of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. My windows opened; with air cool and sweet circulating through my home, I say goodbye to the lazy, sticky haze of summer. I love summer. I love heat blanketing me as soon as I step outdoors. Popsicles. The ease of routine when even the sun has a later bedtime. Thunderstorms. Ravenous appetites after a day of swimming. New freckles. For these and many more reasons, this issue is near and dear to my heart. This issue is full of Summer Love: a new artist and updates from a few of our favorites in our "Artists to Watch" series, a new series of poems, fiction, and essays highlighting pieces shared at our event "Live from Steel City," and a few new writers to add to our list of contributors. I hope you enjoy our Summer II issue as much as I have enjoyed its curation.

Though saying goodbye to summer is bittersweet, we at Affinity CoLab are thrilled that fall is coming! What can you expect from Affinity CoLab this autumn? This fall we will be returning to presenting weekly prompts every Monday as well as celebrating #TBT every Thursday with a recycled prompt and highlighted response. All responses sent to us at by November 29th will be featured in our Fall issue November 30th!

Keep creating and appreciating art wherever you go.

Katy Comber

 Artists to Watch Series featuring:
Anna Kocher 
Genevieve Barker
Kait Masters
Matthew Kern

Live at Steel City Series featuring:
Tia Manon
Abby Cohen
Fred Feldman

Poetry Series featuring:
Deep Blue River Poetry (Poem 1)
Deep Blue River Poetry (Poem 2)
Fred W. Feldman
Sam Traten

Memoirs featuring:
Abby Cohen

Poetry Series, Deep Blue River

Dropping the Rock
by deep blue river
In the midst of the ruins, hey!
in the midst of the house falling down and in all the dust and the bricks and mortar
Concrete dust that fills the air making it hard to breathe 
In the sense that you're suffocating and all the things you thought would build you up have knocked you down

And you don't want to be sorry anymore 
(you just want to express)
and you don't want to feel guilt anymore 
(you just want to emote)
and you just want to say this is not me this is not me this is not me
I am not the girl
In the blue house; blue is not my color 

For I am a diamond 
(So many edges reflecting light)
You couldn't hold me in this dark cave
(Horse's trough) (Manger)
I have been waiting 
and I will escape 
into the light

You couldn't bind me forever...

For I would loose my chains and be what I would be for I am what I am, as you are,
but you 

It's ok .. hey!
Let it all crumble 
house got the blues

Let it all fall-fall away

There ain't no sin to begin again, even if it's every day

Who's gonna throw the first punch
Who's gonna throw the first stone
Will you take it out of the midst of me and drive it home? 
Pick it up from the midst of your own crumbling house
Cast it! if you have the guts 
You only see in me, what's in you, that's started to rust

Then cast the stone down to the ground 
cast the wood cast the nails and the hammer
Let us all shine up from dust into the light

Become that us, that we might
Build it all into a building that doesn't have the blues 
Where there's no more tearing down of the me's and you's 
In the midst of the ruins, hey! 

in the midst of the house falling down and in all the dust and the bricks and mortar
Concrete dust that fills the air making it hard to breathe 
A crack where the light gets in 
A crack of light 
dust distilling and dancing in the light 

And someone drops a stone and then another and we all drop our stones 
A magical
Musical sound from the tumbling of
The rocks 
Like water 

Through the house with the blues 
Nothing more gentle
Than tears 
Than turning inside
And looking for the 
Crack where the light gets in
And dropping the rock

Dropping the rock. 

Poetry Series, Deep Blue River

Well... Be well. 
by deep blue river

I wasn't even quite shining yet
I wouldn't call it a gleam 
Or a luster 

(Be well) 

Every morning I would awake to apply the glue to the cracked shell
Of my face 

Stare into the bleached blue of my eyes and try to compliment them 
"You're looking quite fancy there 
Sad heart 
What's for breakfast" ? 

( be well) 

I would push and I would pull
My own carpet from under my feet 

I would sing and midway through the note 
Fall sharply off a cliff 
Like choking on a rag 
Meant to silence me
Hanging on a post out to dry 
Not dry
Still wet 
Anyone have hands strong enough to ring those waves out of me ? 

( be well) shut up! 

I wasn't lightening 
I was sawdust swept into a pile 
The leftovers of someone's laborious project that resulted in a beautiful dream for them and a semi-sonic bombshell
For me

The sound of that note descending into the chambers and the recesses of my mind was like the proverbial coin 
Dropped down the Grand Canyon
Of wells 
With God saying do you see now
How deep I have dug this well ? 

Oh well! 

Yes... Well I certainly do and climbing up the mortared bricks inside the slippery slope ain't an easy thing compadre! You call yourself a master designer, pops? 

I need to speak with the engineering department? 
1-800 I got myself 
A heartache. Holding time: undetermined. 
Approximately an eternity to wait for sunshine. 

Alternative: walk outside and stand in me; for as long as it takes. Operators on this line are constantly busy. 

(be well) ...well ... shit!) 

I am not even quite shining yet ( hello?)
( days are easier) 
I wouldn't call it a gleam 
Or a luster 
Certainly not a sheen or a shine.

I am still standing ( out here) for as long as it takes. 

( be well). 

Memoir Series, Abby Cohen

How Madame Alexander Changed My Life
by Abby Cohen

My theme is books, always books. Reading, collecting, accumulating, selling, talking about books. I don’t sell books anymore. But I still do all those other things.
When I was eight (?) years old (time is fuzzy) I outgrew my youth bed and got a real furniture set with a desk and bookshelves. My mom was tired of looking at the mounds of Bobbsey Twins in every corner of the room. Later, of course, those shelves were crammed with double rows of books until we began wedging extra shelving here and there in my room. Finally, there was the doll case. I had a set of Madame Alexander  dolls. They were a gift from my grandmother when I was little (not my favorite grandma, the other one). This collection was always an annoying part of my life. People would see it and say, “Oh, you collect dolls.”  Then, they would give me dolls for my birthday instead of things I wanted: books!
I finally convinced my parents that the dolls could be boxed up so I could fill the case with books. They were carefully wrapped in tissue, put in boxes and stored in a nice dry part of the basement. This happened to be on shelves behind a curtain, to make the basement more like a room instead of a storage area.
Some years later, I convinced my parents that it was time to sell the dolls. They were mine after all. I should be able to do what I liked with them. I was a grownup by then. You’d think I could do what I wanted with my own possessions.

Now we get to the mysterious part of the story. There are questions that have never been satisfactorily answered to this day. We have never been able to figure out how or when or who did this, but somebody had messed with the dolls. Played with some (but not all) of them and put them back inadequately wrapped and some of the colors on the costumes had rubbed off on each other. Some were missing little pieces of costume and/or accessories a shoe here an apron there. One poor doll was completely naked and missing her hair. We never determined how this could have happened in the sanctity of our basement/game-room and while I went ahead and sold the collection; it did not bring as much as it would have otherwise if it had been intact. At the very least, I got a story out of it. The money is gone. The story I’ll have forever.

Live at Steel City Series, Abby Cohen

School and Books and Clowns
by Abby Cohen

Fall is almost here, and everyone is going back to school. Including me. I guess. I still need to decide what to do when I grow up. I know, you’re thinking it’s a little late. But you see, I’ve never really had to. I worked and went to school a little. Then I got this crazy idea.
I talked my dad into backing me. After all, it would only cost as much as sending me to college, which wasn’t going very well anyway. Help me go into business for myself. Open a bookstore. It’s all I really liked to do anyway. Hang out in bookstores (Well, back then I also hung out in bars but that’s a different story). So, I went in the book business for 25 years.
Which to me at least, wasn’t really being a grownup. It was just me being me. I am not a grownup. I’ve never figured out how to be one of those people. A grownup. And now I have to be. I need to have a job. Make money. Buckle down. Pay bills. Be a grownup. I guess it’s too late to write my way out of this.
Aslan is not going to help me out here. Or Tock the dog and the Humbug. Or Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. I am going to have to figure this out all by myself. Be a grownup. Maybe it’s not too late.

I know everybody is scared of clowns these days, but I could be a clown at kids parties. Not grow up. I like it. There’s a loophole. An idea. Be a clown. Join the circus. Wait all the circuses are going away too. Bother it. I need a time machine. Then I could be a clown. And have a bookstore. And not be a grownup. Oh, well.

Live at Steel City Series, Tia Manon

by Tia Manon

Gonna. Gotta.

Stuck with gonna.
I’m gonna stop.
I’m gonna go.
I’m gonna plant.
I’m gonna sew.
Stuck with Gotta.
I gotta get to work.
I gotta pay those bills.
I gotta lose this weight.
I gotta climb those hills.
Gonna, Gotta.
Never doing.
Gonna, Gotta.
Change don’t Gonna.
Change don’t Gotta.
Change happens.
Can we get stuck in Happens.
It’s gotta happen.
And it’s gonna.

Damn, I’m still stuck!

Poetry Series, Fred W. Feldman

The Concept of Love, Given Up
Fred W. Feldman
Like when an ornament
known since early childhood,
aged and treasured monument,
falls off the mantle and breaks
into concave pieces like an orange peel,
or a picture of a globe cut out and
made to look like an orange peel,
and smaller shards sharp as crystal,
are all scooped up and thrown away,
the mass fluttering the trash bag wings
sliding into the mouth and hitting the bottom
with a thump, causing a brief burst
of plastic scent and rot,
styrofoam and molding oranges.
The initial shock of something
so hallowed turned to junk
belies the ease with which it is
soon complacently forgot.
Forgot so: slowly –
like a drip, accomplished in the
slip of a second, moment,
too instant to be catalogued.
no more point, no more reference,
no more entrance, a book at the library
about to be withdrawn, knowledge
on the verge of lost, the last tip
before the precipice, that which
Is no longer found but stumbled upon,
that rare return of a long gone
amber drop is more surprising
than that it ever was forgot.
That relican amber drop, which is,
like Pytheas said, the excretion
of the sea, or, if Nicias is to be
believed, excreta hardened by the sun,
and for scientists a coffin glass for pests,
that lingering trace of a memory that
was there and then went unfulfilled
(and no memory can ever be fulfilled).
That old cigar smell in the cushions,
the perfume and buttsweat worked into
the fabric and wound into the springs.
Everything left from those here once
who ran their race and ended their contests.
Names kept in a census sheet with cracked
yellowed pages kept in the Borough hall and,
before they were lost in the fire, seldom browsed.
A relative heard mentioned only once,
at Christmas, when your uncle was a bit drunk.
A drop from the highest roof-beam
that plinks upon and wets your forehead.
An old dream remembered for no reason
while picking up a book that fell.
The drip of nostalgia off of fingertips,
the chipped rouge on sentiment’s nails
that turns a loss into a loss. And
you used to wonder how it happened
that someone becomes unaware,
but now you know - or you don’t know –
but you see it's there, which shows it’s not,
as if you saw the disease through an inch of health.
As if you saw your waking life from within a dream;
as if the holographic trace, for a moment, flickered into view.
In such suddenness, the bauble is remembered,
Placing itself into the mind unencumbered
The old thing working itself back into mentation
And creating a melancholic collocation:
With the memory comes a hope once held
A hope from younger years, and since dispelled.
Can it be an absence if it was never there?
Can it be an absence if it was nothing but
A patch of carpet, undisturbed.
A soothing voice you never heard.
Traces of a thing; a concept lost –
Traces of a mind you never crossed.

Live at Steel City Series, Fred W. Feldman

The Return
by Frederick W. Feldman

Mallory’s back still hurt from from lugging the crate into her SUV. It had subsided to a mere twinge while she was driving here, but now it was back to a full-on ache as she wrestled with her crate, trying to pull the almost leaden package out of the trunk. She gave a great heave and it moved about three inches, then she moved to the other end and it moved another three inches that way, and in that way she got the crate to a tipping point at the lip of the trunk.
When she was a teen she had lugged her gear around all by herself using her own strength. Those days were past, apparently, and she hadn’t done enough to keep herself in peak physical condition. She was out of shape. She’d brought the dolly, swearing she wouldn’t need it, but best to have it just in case. It looked like she would need it after all.
The crate fell onto the dolly with a heavy thunk and harsh rattling, despite her efforts to lower it down gently. She tipped it back and wheeled it towards the store. The sun was heavy, and only now she realized that she was covered with a layer of perspiration, sticking her clothes uncomfortably to her skin.
The glass door was a push, not an automatic, to her chagrin. She struggled to shuffle the crate in while keeping the door open with her leg/back/whatever was handy. As soon as she was in, she was hit with a frigid blast of air-conditioning, which made her hyper-aware of being a sweaty mess and out of place in the cool and haughty storefront. Guitars hung from the walls, and an array of keyboard, drumset, and amplifier floor models were placed in tight rows from end to end. For all the instruments on display, the place was strangely quiet. Only the air conditioning hummed.
A young man was standing at the front desk. He looked up and asked blandly if she needed any help. She resisted the urge to say that she could have, but she had it through now, thanks. She wanted to, but didn’t.
Instead, she kicked up the dolly again and wheeled it over to him.
“I want to return this,” she said.
“What is it?” he asked. He peered at the crate.
“It’s my old guitar amp.”
“Woah, it’s a Marshall JCM900,” he said. “This is practically vintage.”
“Thanks a lot,” she said. Then she chirped and clapped her hands.
“What - !?” he exclaimed, jumping back.
“Nothing. Tourette’s. Ignore it,” she said.
“Uh, well...anyway, you can’t return this. It’s way too old.”
“It said it has a lifetime guarantee,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s only for repairs,” he said. “Not returns.”
“Then can I get it repaired? It’s a bit worse for wear, and then I can sell it easier.”
“Uh, no. That expired.”
“But it’s a lifetime guarantee,” she said.
“Yeah, but it expired.” He pointed to the crate, and - sure enough - on the wood, in the bottom corner, it read Lifetime Guarantee: expires 7/8/2017. “Just missed it.”
She was feeling a headache and a flurry of tics starting to form, like a hydraulic pump trying to push between two concrete walls. The tics she could get out, but the headache would last for hours.
Mallory sighed. “So I can’t get rid of it?”
“We do have an exchange program for old gear. You can turn it in and get something of lesser value. Usually it’s just like a pack of guitar strings, but your amp here is pretty valuable, so you can get a decent practice amp for it.”
Maybe the headache would go away. “That works. I only need a practice amp now, anyway. I still play all the time, but not for people. Just...for myself, I guess.”
She ticced again, and the young man jumped, but recovered himself.
“Here’s a Fender. It’s got 8 presets, 3-band EQ, gain, volume...”
“Good enough. I’ll take it.”

She filled out some forms and signed away her old amp. She watched the young man wheel it away and let it drop in the corner with a thud. Then she picked up her new practice amp, which was much lighter - surprisingly so, after hoisting the crate around - and carried it out to her car. She could put it in the trunk, but there was no point. It was feather-light, really. She tossed it in the passenger seat instead. It would do fine for her long nights plucking away in the living room. Just fine.

Poetry Series, Sam Traten

River Con Amigos
Sam Traten 07.30.2017 

Hoping for respite, hungering for nature 
we meet down by the river.
The day dry and bright, warm not hot 

after a week of muggy rain day and night.

Aha, half the town is there too.
Runners, hikers, fishermen, bikers,
kayakers --all seek sport and healthy exercise. 

Birds, turtles, and fish find refuge elsewhere.

Nothing lost. Human nature is nature enough 
for our pleasure. One Great Blue Heron 
hightails off upriver, looking for a sushi lunch 
away from our cacophony of horns, splashing

paddles, yelps of youths diving and swimming
in their street clothes, the scents of wrapped 

sandwiches and grilled delicacies wafting, mingling 
with molecules of rain-refreshed rushing waters

splashing high over the dam off to our right. To the left 
a family of newly arrived townspeople encamp.

But, wait, they’re all men, young and old, along with
a few shy toddlers and scampers. Where are the women?

A radio clicks on, Spanish singers croon and 
yodel, the songs not modern pop but Central 
American country-music, of love and merriment. 
“The women are working,” I offer,

half biting wit, half loving irony, thinking
the men have taken over childcare for the day, 

mothers home enjoying relief, catching up with 
housework, away from their work-fit men who’ve

labored the week away to feed their growing 

This is our river with friends. 

Artists to Watch Series, Matthew Kern

Filmmaker Matthew Kern's Chasing Daylight caught our attention this week and we had to add him to Affinity CoLab's list of Artists to Watch. Check out his short here, and more of his work on his site:

Artists to Watch Series, Kait Masters

On September 1st, Kait Masters opens up her studio for holiday commission spots!

Current Spots Available:
- 3 slots for custom paintings 
- 20 slots for custom painted ornaments
- 2 slots for custom holiday card designs (one slot = one painted design, digitalized, and printed)

To fill out the custom inquiry form and reserve your space in Kait's production schedule go to her website: or email Kait at: (Prints and pendants will continue to be available for purchase through the holidays without limit.)

Artists to Watch Series, Anna Kocher

"To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle." - Walt Whitman Sketch by Anna Kocher

For more works by Anna Kocher, check out her website. Also, check out her Etsy site, Homing Pigeon Studio, here!

Artists to Watch Series, Genevieve Barker

"Evie's Tea" 
Genevieve Barker

Oil on Canvas 10 x 14"

For more works by Genevieve Barker, check out her studio, Barking Dog Studio in Phoenixville.