Where Does Philly Stop?

If there’s no picture perfect skyline,

is it even Philly anymore?

Even if the schools are the same,

cockroach stuffed and lackluster,

educating only that education isn’t worth it

when it’s all for show to earn

money that the mayor now borrows from mystery sources

because we weren’t good enough to earn it.

When you and all your friends get scattered,

lucky enough to get out of the borders,

because here your C is a one way ticket to burger flipping,

but a C there is penn state admission.


Does it stop being Philly enough with the crime rate?

When there’s no more gun shots?

When you know who mugs you,

cause it’s just a way to bully you?

When your dealer’s just another kid,

a high school dropout, in his parents basement?

Where the crimes are committed by drunk teenagers,

and the cops let them get away with it,

cause they’re never gonna make it,

might as well have fun before they got their own kids?


How about how we act with each other,

is it a different Philly then?

When the neighbor girl is crying,

since someone killed her boyfriend,

and your whole family’s there for her,

is that any different,

then how anyone in this city would act

if someone they knew was hurting?


Does Philly stop before it’s close to the edge.

Because the kids across the street got it better,

more money, nicer houses, that don’t reflect

the side of the street still in the border,

where the houses are old and meticulously kept,

prided in despite the too hot summers, and the

not-enough-insulation winters.

Where the basement floods a little, smells a little,

the mold might make you sick a little.


Does Philly stop cause all you know,

are skyscrapers and corner stores?

Because you’re all about Philly,

as long as your friends back home think,

it’s all h&m’s and police alerts.

Does it stop when you don’t know,

or don’t share the part that looks like

every other rundown working class suburb,

in your hometown?

The part where you know how your life’s gonna go,

move two blocks away from your parents.

Even though it’s just as real,

is it not cool enough, or tough enough

for you to associate it,

with the city you adopted?


Beauty of the Week

As an urbex photographer in Philadelphia, I find all sorts of interesting things in the buildings I explore, such as this door with these magazine cutouts. The photographs and their connection to the idea of “grit and beauty” are self-explanatory. But they do more than express the juxtaposition of grit and beauty that we can find everywhere in our city. They are a metaphor for the changes our society goes through. Photographs like these would not be found in magazines and other media formats today, as our views of women have moved in a direction that is farther from reality. This building was only vacated in the early 2000s and these photographs can’t be much older than 19 or 20 years old. But it’s incredible to see how much our society’s ideas of what women “should” look like has changed. It is also amazing to see how much a building deteriorates and changes in a decade or two. Philadelphia’s countless abandoned structures are artworks waiting to happen.

somewhere in philly

A vine of morning glories grew out of the broken

speckled cement in the empty lot where men beg

for change and cars blow the light, where

the stray cats piss on the couch without

cushions. The lily climbed the braid

of the chain link and no one watered it

but the rain and no one tended it but

it budded and at dawn the blossoms unfurl

even if no one is watching. And at dusk they

twist shut.

18th and Diamond- Kyle Powell

18th and Diamond

Barbed wire spirals around the top of a fence

The overgrowth of dirty weeds became quite dense

The vivid colors can take you away from this block

Make you see pas the dirt between cracked sidewalk


The green as neon as a Friday night on South

A blue royal and majestic as one of the rivers’ mouth

Highlights the message and the cartoon drawings

But turning away from it we hear calling and bawling


“Defend the Future” it says in green block letters

Staying strong on the corner no matter the weather

18th and Diamond amidst both student and local

But the Jetson’s motif is what makes it so vocal


Painted by the students, the youth of this city

Who could imagine someone so young making something so pretty

Going to the north end is not a safe place for us all

But despite our fears this message stands tall

walking in philly / the Alley / Pressure Point

walking in philly

is Philly beautiful despite its grit?

is there just enough heart and art

that the stains can’t hide it

and when walking down the street

you see the gorgeous classic facade

of that row home-hidden underneath?

or is Philly beautiful because of its grit?

is the roughness around the edges

what makes the city so legit

unique, lived in. you walk around for a day

and find eloquently cracked pavement

and ephemerally alluring alleyways

is it both?

the Alley

alone in the city.

alone in the city.


Being alone in the city is unavoidable.  Everyone has moments in a back alleyway by themselves, whether it’s a familiar or unknown place.  Whether we realize or not, we all know the surroundings of dumpsters, sewers, graffiti, rust, and silence where we can have our thoughts to ourselves with the backdrop of the city giving us the freedom of anonymity.

Pressure Point

that moment.

that moment.


There is a moment you feel.  It is strong your first time here.  You are just filled with adrenaline in your guts and you hear everything: the yells and beeps and even the humming of the fluorescent light.  It’s a pure instant of pressure. The first time it feels like an uncontrollable wave and you are scared-what if you miss it or mess up somehow?  You’re on your own.  But eventually you realize that it’s a tornado and YOU are the eye of the storm and learn to drift calmly through the chaos of the Broad Street Line and appreciate what you see for what it is.


A short film of a foggy day in Philadelphia…


Hidden Views of Philadelphia

Abandoned Classroom Roof of Abandoned School Rock Garden in Fairmount Park Philly Skyline

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Photo credits to Michael Horwath. Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License

Erie to Cecil B.

Erie to Cecil B.

Alyssa Zoto


The pungent smell of urine and trash crept up my nostrils

As made my way down three sets of crumbling stairs

Into the cold underground.


Loneliness and his friend Fear tickled my neck

Dark faces kept quietly to themselves

An old drunk man teetered along the edge


Loud rumbling of steel on steel clambered past

Rushing wind gathered my hair

The metal subway came to a screeching halt.


The doors invited me to enter.

I sat beside a large black woman,

Wearing a pair of bright pink scrubs

Littered with plush teddy bears


“Does this train stop at TempleUniversity?” I asked

“Yes,” she smiled

“Thank you ma’am”, I replied.


Her face balled every so tightly together

The faintest hint of her smile

Holding back the loudest emotion.


The cab of that bustling steel horse tossed me

Along its orange plastic seats.

But the woman sat still


Was it was her size?

Or the weight of her conscience

Holding her in that seat?


Staring into the flickering of the lights

As they passed steel beams and windows.

My stop approached.


The doors ushered me out

I turned to the woman, “Thank you ma’am”

Her face, so warm and gentle, replied,“You’re welcome”


A tear clung to each corner of her eye

So young they had yet to fall

I exited the train and took a few steps


Guilt grabbed me from behind

Eyes stinging with anguish

Each thought was like a grain of sand,

Sinking through an hour glass


My fists tightened,

Teeth clenched

Bone against bone


Stopping in my tracks,

I began running back

Through a crowd of unknowing bodies.


As I got there

The doors closed in front of me

She was gone.