Thursday, September 24, 2020

Fountain, a poem by F. Richard Thomas

Fountain 
      
for Linda on her 77th birthday

Hot summer nights after parking on the levee
to watch and listen to the slow glide of barges
up and down the Ohio River,
Dad drove up Main Street,
sometimes stopping to get fresh donuts
or vanilla bean ice cream cones at Lik’s,
but almost always to Garvin Park.
Sis and I tussled to stand on the drive-shaft hump
in the back seat to be the first to catch the glow.
One hazy night she tried to convince me
she saw it from as far away as the Woodlawn Theater.
But always, when we crossed the train tracks
at Maxwell Avenue, it glistened
at the end of the long tunnel of giant elms
that lured us in.
Dad parked in the Braves’ stadium lot,
stayed in the car with Mom,
as we leapt from the back seat
and raced to the fountain
that flowered, hissed, and danced above us.
As we edged up step by cautious step,
first a slight chill, 
then a fine mist tickled our faces. 
Closer and closer, it pricked our hair 
and the backs of our hands, 
the water repeating pink, yellow, green, blue, white . . . 
over and over, your face shining 
as we licked our lips, wiped our eyes, 
and laughed like there was no tomorrow.

F. Richard Thomas was born and raised in Evansville, attended Purdue University and Indiana University for undergraduate and graduate degrees, and in 1980 edited one of the first anthologies of Indiana place poems, The Landlocked Heart, jointly with Indiana Writes. He has several full-length books of poetry, and one novella, in addition to chapbooks.




Thursday, September 17, 2020

Piano bench, a poem by Eric Chiles

Piano bench

The only music we ever heard
was the symphony of voices during
Sunday family pasta dinners, clinking
dishes in the sink, cabinet doors slapping shut.

So, the piano and bench posed a question
for years in the living room. Who sat
there to play? Instead, they got piled
with books, picture frames, flower vases.

It wasn't until the old lady passed
and her grandson hauled both of them
away that the piano bench divulged
its secret—scores of music she once played.

Long ago in the dusty past her fingers
danced waltzes on the keys. Her smile
lingered in the pages at odds with the dour
duty of feeding husband and family.

There was a different gaiety once in that house,
not that there wasn't laughter all those Sundays,
but something she enjoyed enough to learn
was stored away and forgotten in that bench.

Until it was moved, the lid flopping open
in the bed of the truck, and the wind picking
up the yellowed sheet music, scattering it across
the lawn, golden leaves from the family tree.

Eric Chiles is a graduate of I.U. Bloomington. Recently his poetry has appeared in The Aurorean, Chiron Review, Canary, Main Street Rag, Rattle, Third Wednesday, and elsewhere. His chapbook, "Caught in Between," is available from Desert Willow Press.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

All This Chaos, a poem by Marjie Giffin

All This Chaos

Bricks are flying and folks are crying, cursing 
at cops who barricade the streets and chase fleeing
protesters with tear gas and faces masked
and buddy sticks raised with arms aloft, seeing
that the straight blue line pushes forward
against the masses they perceive as unruly.

Lest we miss the point of all this chaos,
the injustices pile up from time immortal
and grievances are rife with grief and tears.
Mothers have sobbed into dank, dark spaces;
wives and offspring have cursed their losses,
cried and begged for God’s saving graces.


Marjie Giffin is an Indianapolis writer who has authored four regional histories and whose poetry has recently appeared in Snapdragon, Poetry Quarterly, Flying Island, The Kurt Vonnegut Literary Journal, The Saint Katherine Review, The Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, Through the Sycamores, The Blue Heron Review, and the anthology The Lives We Have Live(d). One of her plays was produced in the IndyFringe Short Play Festival.  She’s active in the Indiana Writers’ Center and has taught both college writing and gifted education.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

End Road Work, a poem by David J. Bauman


End Road Work

A line of traffic cones arcs
toward the berm, where an orange
sign reads “End Road Work.”

Good idea, I think. This fixing things
is getting in the way of doing them.
Hard to get somewhere when your path

is constantly in repair. And anyway,
lately things have been fixing themselves.
The car stopped making that noise.

The birdbath stopped leaking.
And I’ve finally started sleeping
more than just an hour at a time.

But I don’t want to think about what’s
really going on. That the squeaky piece
is quiet now because it fell off

somewhere along the road, and the whole
driveshaft is just waiting to drop out.
That crack in the birdbath is plugged

with built-up rust and crud. Rest-
less bodies will run out of fuel
eventually. I’m grateful for the sleep.

There is no end to roadwork.
But I know nothing about tarmac
or car parts. When your child is so hurt

that he lies down in the street, what tool
or piece can mend the break? If I clean
the bird bath, it will start to leak again.

When gravel is the skin you wear, it is no
wonder, this instinct to lie down, to make
a road of us, and let the world drive over.


David J. Bauman is the author of two poetry chapbooks, most recently, Angels & Adultery, selected by Nickole Brown for the Robin Becker Series (Seven Kitchens Press, 2018). He has new poems published or forthcoming in New Ohio Review, Watershed Review, Citron Review, and Third Wednesday. His recent poetry reviews have appeared in Windhover and Whale Road Review. A resident of Pennsylania, he attended IWU in Marion where his first son was born. 



Thursday, August 27, 2020

Epithalamion from the ferris wheel, with birds, a poem by Susanna Childress


Epithalamion from the ferris wheel, with birds

Which summer was it I lost    my kid brother
at the carnival? I spent                        my quarters like clouds spend
rain. When I could not find him, fire-slaught sluiced through me, his name

from my throat like the sounds           rising off the tilt-a-whirl, lifted
higher than the carriage           of the ferris wheel. I ran
the fairway. Please, I panted,                         and this is the part

repeating in me like a robin’s song. Lover, I’m still greedy, still
at the trickster’s stand trying              for that enormous unicorn
stuffed with nothing but rannygazoo. I’ll vow it: I know so little of how

love works, how it starts, stays, soars over the cherry orchards
like a flock of starlings, flits and        ripples and settles
in the forlorn stalks of corn. My brother        wandered out

the 4-H hall, loped toward me            with a fist of popcorn. What I mean is
I remember this                       feeling: I cracked
open for you, my stolen egg in spring, and                this, our

aviary, this wheel’s                          lurch, one more way of reaching
for sky. From where we are,   its crags and funnels, its whistle
and yawp, its unfettered edge at the county line, love

seems bright with gimmickry. Who   else could bring the trill
of a winter finch, some Pine Siskin’s wing holding forth, the shimmer
of surprise—you here, me here, somehow     having found

each other        in the raucous, peopled fairway          of this life?


Susanna Childress has published two collections of poetry and is now at work on a book of creative nonfiction titled "Extremely Yours." Her work can be found or is forthcoming from The Rumpus, Fourteen Hills, Crazyhorse, Iron Horse Literary Press, Rhino, Relief, and Oakland Review. She grew up in southern Indiana.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Privileged, Creative Nonfiction by Sara Noë

 

Privileged

by Sara Noë


        Today, I faced my white privilege in the mirror for the first time.

        Today, I decided I didn’t want to be the silent spectator in the history books, the one who had to live with the guilt of watching injustices happening but holding her tongue, who shook her head in sadness at humanity’s lack of empathy but was too afraid to fight for change. Throughout my school career, I’d always wondered what I would have done during the darkest times of our history. Would I have been brave enough to speak out? Now, the pages are being written before my eyes. Change is happening, and this is my chance to finally know the answer to that question.

        Today, I attended my first protest. I’ve yearned to protest issues in the past, but my courage always failed me, because in this America I’ve come to know, mass shootings are so normalized that I barely blink at yet another headline. It’s a cycle of “thoughts and prayers” followed almost immediately by a case of amnesia for anyone who wasn’t directly impacted by the tragedy. I have always been terrified of standing in a crowd of like-minded people conveniently clustered for maximum damage if a radical with an opposing viewpoint decided to make a statement in blood rather than words. I was afraid of leaving this world as nothing more than a statistic in the next forgotten headline.

         But today, I’m reaching for the bravery to take that chance. It’s hot outside, and I don’t know what to wear. I’ll put two face masks on—this is a pandemic, after all—and stay on the outer fringe of the crowd. Safer to breathe the air. Less chance of contracting the virus. Less chance of being in the line of fire.

        Today, I realized I’m more afraid of a rogue gunman than I am of the police, and I suppose this threat priority is a glimpse at my white privilege. After all, I’ve never had any reason to be afraid of the police. I’ve never been arrested. I’ve always kept my head down and done my utmost to stay out of trouble, and I assumed that alone was what spared me. The few times I’ve been pulled over, I remained calm and respectful. I turned my interior light on in the car if it was nighttime, and I set both hands on the wheel so the officer could clearly see I wasn’t reaching for a weapon as he approached. I knew that at the end of the day, he just wanted to go home, and so did I. It never occurred to me that the color of my skin may have been a factor that let me drive away with a warning each time. When the news would air yet another story of a Black man being beaten and subdued, sometimes even killed, I would automatically rationalize, He must have been rude or threatening. He must have not put his hands on the wheel. There must be more to the story. He must have done something to warrant the beating. But I’ve come to realize there isn’t more to the story.  Compliant behavior didn’t spare others who had a complexion or background that varied from mine, and that is why today, I am cutting a cardboard box and writing Black Lives Matter on it in Sharpie.

         Today, it’s hot outside, and I still don’t know what to wear. My first choice for footwear, given the heat on this sunny and humid June afternoon, is sandals, but I don’t have any that strap securely to my feet, and I may have to run if there’s gunfire, or tear gas, or a riot. I’ve never before had to consider that factor when deciding on a pair of shoes. This isn’t a completely novel feeling—I am a woman, after all, and in this America I’ve come to know, I have to be conscious of where I’m going, what I’m wearing, and whether or not I’ll be by myself. I know to park under a streetlight in case it’s dark when I return to my car. I know not to be distracted or look down at my phone when I’m walking alone. I know to be vigilant and remain aware of my surroundings. I also know that none of those actions guarantee my safety.        

        

        Today, I stared at my pale, wide-eyed, terrified face in the mirror, and I understood that any protection my skin may have afforded me, even without my knowledge or awareness, was about to be cast off. I would be discarding the shield I’d never realized I was carrying. I would not be a white American; I would be a face in a crowd of many colors challenging the establishment by chanting for reform and justice. I would be shedding my skin to join a collective united by beliefs rather than race. Being white wouldn’t spare me from a bullet fired by a police officer or white supremacist. Not today.

         Today, despite the heat, I chose a pair of combat boots instead of sandals and mentally prepared myself to run or react in a split second if chaos were to erupt. My palms were moist, and my clammy fingers fumbled with the laces. My heart was beating so fast it seemed to flit like a hummingbird in its rib-bone cage. I was afraid in a way I’d never been before.

         Today, I stared at the slip-on sandals by the door, and I realized this small, insignificant act—choosing a pair of shoes for the day—was a privilege I didn’t realize I had. I’ve never before had to think, Are these shoes practical? Can I run away from danger if I need to? Privilege, I realized, is putting on a pair of shoes without taking a second thought to ponder how fast you can run in them.

         Today, I faced my white privilege in the mirror for the first time, and I decided which side of history I wanted to stand on when future generations read about America’s unrest in 2020. Today, I attended my first protest, and the eye-opening experience forever changed my life.

  

Sara A. Noë is an award-winning author, photographer, and artist from La Porte, Indiana. She has published two novels, the first of which received the Literary Titan Gold Book Award, and had her writing featured in a variety of anthologies and literary journals since 2005. Her poetry has recently been accepted into the Indiana Poetry Archives.


Thursday, August 13, 2020

Kitchen Romance, a poem by Bethany Brengan


Kitchen Romance

Leave the dozen roses
to their cellophane sleeve. Bring me instead a bouquet

of late summer produce:
the folded hands of the last
lettuce leaves; the vintage
tomatoes blushing purple,
yellow, oranges at even the hint of sauce.
Let lemon cukes roll joyous
in the bushel basket, carousing
with potatoes the size
of solstice hail. Turn your head, but watch
from the corner of your eye

as the zucchini and yellow squash
neck like geese. Tuck in tomatillos to await
my fingers divesting them of their paper-
lantern jackets. Serve me strawberries
by the bleeding handful, and I will fill your
mouth with blackberries from a handkerchief
stained beyond salvation.
Whisper every unspeakable
unspoken that is the Vidalia. 
And let fan the jungle stalks of rainbow
chard, not cooling this mad air of August,
but stirring it everywhere about.


Bethany Brengan’s poetry has appeared in various publications, including Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Hollins Critic, The 2015 Poet’s Market, The Gordon Square Review, and Claw & Blossom. She is an Indiana Wesleyan University graduate who now splits her time between the breath-taking Olympic Peninsula and the bowels of the internet. She is also a contributor to Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing, and Batman (McFarland Publishing). She can be found at brenganedits.com and medium.com/essays-no-one-asked-for.