Thursday, September 25, 2014

A poem from Brian Beatty

How Faith Works
by Brian Beatty

My granny always tithed

what remained of her
Social Security check at the end

of each month to a few
of her favorite radio evangelists

— to help them reach out across
the AM airwaves

to touch more souls
with their holy healing powers.

But I never saw her seal one cent
into an envelope

addressed to any of those
charlatan TV preachers

she watched just as religiously
on a black-and-white set

balanced in the window ledge

of her rent-controlled
senior citizen apartment —

no matter how often
they asked for her prayers.

“You wouldn’t see Lord Jesus
prancing around the front of a church

in a fancy suit like that fool’s,”
she told me more than once.

“Not up in my idea of Heaven,
you wouldn't, anyway.”

How her gold brick
of President Reagan’s

government-issue cheese
turned blue in the back of her fridge

I remember now, too.

Bio: Brian Beatty was born and raised in Brazil, Indiana. He received his undergraduate degree, in English Language and Literature, from Indiana State University in Terre Haute. His jokes, poems and stories have appeared in numerous print and online publications around the world, including The Bark, Conduit, Dark Mountain, Gulf Coast, Hobart, McSweeney’s, The Moth, Paper Darts, The Quarterly, Seventeen and Urthona. His poems and stories have also been featured in a variety of public arts projects. Brian has attended writing conferences at Ropewalk and Indiana University. Brian now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he sometimes performs as stand-up comedian and storyteller.

Friday, September 19, 2014

An ars poetica from Bonita Cox Searle

I Am Fat

with poems unwritten.

They came uninvited
and bred like rabbits.
They clogged my heart
and smothered my throat.

They impacted my gut—
it no longer worked.
They crammed my hippo thighs
until I became an elephant.

Elephants don’t write.

My pachyderma expanded
and expanded
and expanded
until it cracked
and words seeped out—

One thin poem at a time.

Bio: Bonita Cox Searle lives in Noblesville, Indiana, where she writes poetry, short stories, memoir, and mystery novels. Her first published story, "Murder on Potter's Bridge," won The First Annual Armchair Detective Story Contest sponsored by the Polk Street Review. It will appear in the 2014 fall issue.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A poem from Helen Townsend

by Helen Townsend

I have my father’s thumbs.
I first noticed them on a summer
road trip, when no teenager
wants to ride cross country
in a Ford Taurus
with Mom and Dad.
From a bored stare
from the back seat
I first saw the thumbs
on the hands grasping the steering wheel
were the thumbs
on the hands holding my book.

We pray to remember who we are.
That’s what Sr. Christina taught
from inside her cavern of black fabric
under reprints of Jesus and Mary.
I didn’t know yet
that I carry my icons on me.

Bio: Helen Townsend lives in Indianapolis. “One of my favorite things is sitting down to write or revise, and when I look at the clock, hours have gone by. Everyone who writes or makes art or has a great conversation has experienced that. It feels like a glimpse of eternity.”

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Literary Life and a Little Death

By Dan Carpenter

I am fresh from an online debate with bookish friends about one of America’s most celebrated living poets when death comes to a family member who shares the poet’s name by sheer coincidence and shares a trademark quality of her favorite subject matter: Non-humanity.

No sooner do I vent my weariness with Mary Oliver’s incessant animal poems than Oliver dies on me; and I must try, against all hope of achieving poetry, to write him a decent eulogy. He earned it; he gave a pet’s perfection in his six willful and sporadically violent years, and he may have lasted his full feline half score and five had it not been for my lassitude, my complacency, my wishful thinking that his profound lethargy and pitiable crying of the last day was just one more occasion for a tough little guy to barf out his troubles and trot on. Probably poisoned by some plant or refuse he ingested, the vet surmised. Who knows? Who springs for a $100 autopsy for a cat, especially if it might yield an indictment that he could have been saved?

He died all alone against a chain link fence on a sublime Sunday afternoon, abandoned by the man who fed him, held doors open for him, provided feet around which he curled and gave ounces, if not pints, of blood to his playfulness of tooth and claw. My grief is commensurate with his innocence. My anger and anguish and remorse befit the death of a child. I’ve never questioned the instructive beauty of Mary’s dogs and bears; only their redundancy. She numbed me to the pain of the single speck of the wealth of fauna, lost and lodged in the eyelid and the heart.

Ollie was a ghetto boy, gray even to his whiskers, rescued from a cardboard box of newborns outside an abandoned house by my son. His namesake is a fellow orphan, Oliver Twist. My small comfort: Ollie’s life may have ended in days had it not been for Pat’s intervention, the whim that brought him to our house, the place whereto all complications converge. He grew from puffball to lean loping miniature panther in that domain, somehow keeping his infant voice, that comic and ultimately pathetic squeak that I heard over and over on his final day and will hear for the length of memory. A cry for help, missed by a lifelong journalist who prides himself on the rare skill of listening.

Such a mousy voice and sometimes, such a mean little bastard. Those bug eyes would dilate to full round black and he would leap and rip flesh. The lady of the house – also a Mary, it is – would scream for me to seize him and toss him into the outdoors. And yet . . . Yet there’s a feline sensitivity to the environment and its human component that compelled him, when she was convalescing in lonely despondency from a stroke, to post himself at her side and on her lap for hours at a stretch. We choose to believe, anyway, that such were the workings inside his tiny skull.
I labored to exhaustion digging a grave behind the garage, in an overgrown border patch where Oliver was wont to hang out on his pretend-predator forays. The ground was stubborn, ribbed with tree roots, yielding up a brick, a bottle cap, a scrap of black garbage bag. I remember a funeral back here three decades ago, when a toddler joined me in saying goodbye to a goldfish named Simon. A tender, made-for-vignette moment, which I duly conveyed in my newspaper column. A light life given for lightweight literature.

Now, the stiff, staring corpse of a family member we all mourn goes into the hole with hard effort, and he and I and my wife make this passage alone. I pull the rocky dirt and dry leaves over my final view of my beloved Ollie, half-wrapped in a ludicrous iridescent green grocery bag, and I slap a broken piece of concrete steppingstone atop lest I forget where the earth reclaimed him, and I kiss my fingers and touch the filthy surface, grateful for the milky sky that will wash his rough bed a few hours hence, trying to be grateful the world has greater miseries than this one that tears at me right now.

Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer and former newspaper columnist who lives in Indianapolis. His poems and stories have appeared in Flying Island, Fiction, Poetry East, Pearl, Laurel Review and other journals. He is the author of Indiana Out Loud: Dan Carpenter on the Heartland Beat (Indiana Historical Society Press).  

Friday, September 5, 2014

A poem from George Fish

by George Fish

            I have often felt a bitter sorrow
            at the thought of the German people,
            which is so estimable in the individual
            and so wretched in the generality.

Is this not true of humanity as a whole,
and not just of the Germans,
both in the generality and the individuality?
Are we not, as a species,
plagued by halfwits, fools and idiots?
Does not our own stupidity undermine us?
Is it not true that the study of human history
gives the lie to the notion of
Intelligent Life on Earth,
or at least renders it problematic?
Are not these words I write true,
and all too telling?
And when I affirm my humanism
and my love of humanity,
does not this very humanity
which I wish to affirm
compel me to give that caveat
expressed by T.S. Eliot
in “The Love Song
of J. Alfred Prufrock,”
“ ‘That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.’ ”?

Bio: George Fish is an actively-publishing writer and poet whose work has appeared in several national and regional publications and websites, especially those of leftist and alternative publications. An active Indiana freelance journalist, he has been described as "knowledgeable in an unusual variety of fields." In addition to short stories and poems, George has also published extensively on economics, politics; popular music (especially blues); and humor. He also does Lenny Bruce/George Carlin-inspired stand-up comedy.