Monday, August 29, 2016

Beginnings, a poem by Dave Malone

by Dave Malone

The two grand quilting ladies
leave their mark on the street—
one a cigarette butt,
pink with yesterday’s lips,
the other a crimson handbag
catching the light just so—
when forty years back, she rode
the Panama Limited to Chicago
fresh from a divorce that never took,
her elbows back on Ozark table
a winter later. The smoker knows
the story as much as her own—
her husband a ghost running
through flowerbeds she weeds out
at the senior center where indoors
she pokers with grace—far less lonely
than any suicide king she plays.

Dave Malone’s bio:I received my graduate degree in English from Indiana State in 1994 and later lived in the New Albany area. I no longer reside in Indiana, but I consider myself part Hoosier. My great (7th) grandmother, Mary Coughman Bridgewater, was a doctor of medicine in the early 1800s and lived at the small village of Pigeon Roost with her family. Though she lost children at the conflict there in 1812, she survived.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Happy Humphrey

By Tom Weller

Heaviest Sportsmen. The heaviest sportsman of all time was the wrestler William J. Cobb of Macon, Georgia, who in 1962 was billed as the 802-lb. “Happy Humphrey”
Guinness Book of World Records, 1978

A gasp ripples through the crowd, a sound like a breath being passed from person to person to person, when Happy Humphrey enters the ring. This sound is money. 
Happy removes the flat cap from his head, raises both arms above his head, waves the cap like a stranded man trying to signal a passing plane. As the ring announcer takes up his microphone, Happy lumbers, a slow circle inside the ring, arms raised, cap still waving. Happy makes sure every eye in the arena sees just how big he is, stretches himself up to his full height like a man trying to scare off a bear.  Arms like sacks of hams, belly like a tractor tire, thighs like wine barrels, big is Happy’s job. Big is good for business. Bigger is better.  Bigger, bigger Happy thinks as he strolls around the ring, arms reaching toward the arena lights that cloak him in a hazy yellow glow. Bigger, bigger.
Feedback and reverb twist the ring announcer’s words into incomprehensibility when he announces Happy’s hometown, but the numbers ring out clear as a bugle’s call: “802 pounds.”
The numbers are a boulder thrown in a still pond.  Exhales and hoots, stunned whistles move through the crowd, come streaming toward Humphrey. The crowd paid for those numbers. Those numbers are money. Happy drops his arms but leaves them open, a man offering an awkward hug. He continues to circle the ring. He embraces all those sounds, all the voices. Each one enters him, soaks right through his skin like rain, becomes a part of him. Bigger. Soaked by those voices, Happy grows. His bones stretch like a bamboo racing toward the sun. His shoulders, his chest, arms and legs, all of it swells, bigger, bigger. Happy’s joints strain and ache. Still, he thinks Bigger. That’s his job. Happy knows the secret: giants are made of the voices around them.
Jack McArthur charges Happy Humphrey as soon as the bell rings. Poor Jack, 230 pounds. There are no voices for Jack. Jack will never be big. Making Happy bigger, that’s Jack’s calling, that’s Jack’s money. He starts with punches to Happy’s belly. A right-left combo. Boom boom. A sound like a bass drum. Again, boom boom.
Happy feels each punch, each knuckle driving into his flesh, but Happy just smiles. He looks down on poor Jack McArthur incredulous, shakes his head like he is watching a boy try to chop down a mountain with his bare hands.  This is Happy’s job. This is being a giant. 
And the people love Happy and the incredulous look on his face.  They hoot and scream and bray their approval, voicing gathering in the rafters before falling, falling into the center of the ring and feeding Happy. Bigger, bigger. Happy grows with each punch. He stares down on the top poor Jack McArthur’s head, watches it recede into the distance, smaller and smaller with each punch, like watching a lover walk away. Happy’s bones are on fire.
Then it’s Happy’s turn.  A forearm to poor Jack McArthur’s chest. Jack trembles like he’s been hit with a telephone pole. More voices. Bigger. Happy picks poor Jack up with one hand and throws him into the corner. The ring rattles, a sound like clattering chains. Jack slouches in the ropes, looks for a way out. Happy charges. There is no way out. Happy’s as big as a house. Deep breaths with each step, Happy struggles to find enough oxygen to feed his growing body.  He feels like a man drowning.   
The whole ring moves when Happy smashes into poor Jack McArthur. Happy hears the metal ring posts sliding across the concrete floor, and he hears the voices.  The voices are growing, too. Making those voices grow, that’s Happy’s job. Bigger, bigger.
Poor Jack McArthur takes one step out of the corner and falls flat on his back, falls right at Happy’s feet. Jack looks so tiny all the way down there at Happy’s feet, like Happy could reach down and pick up Jack with two fingers, pick him up like a man finding a penny on the sidewalk.  Happy raises one hand above his head.  His signal to the crowd: the end. Voices rattle the arena walls. Everybody knows what happens next. Happy’s as big as a damn barn. Happy grits his teeth. Happy feels like a man about to crumble.
Happy bends his knees just slightly, and every voice in the arena inhales in anticipation. The sudden loss of oxygen makes Happy’s head buzz. Happy counts to himself, one, two. He doesn’t want to rush.  He wants to tease the voices, make them really want it, but the burden of being a giant is immense. Happy feels like he’s standing in the center of the earth propping up the whole planet. Happy feels like he is being buried.
Three.  Happy leaves his feet, and at the exact same moment, every voice in the arena exhales. And Happy feels that breath coming at him from every direction, swirling around him like a tornado. And Happy Humphrey rides the voices, rides the breath of the people. Suspended in the air like Superman, Happy looks down upon Jack McArthur, so small, so far away.

Tom Weller is a former factory worker, Peace Corps volunteer, and Planned Parenthood sexuality educator. He currently lives in Greencastle, Indiana, and serves as the Student Support Services writing specialist at Indiana State University. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies including Silk Road, Midwestern Gothic, Catapult, Pilgrimage, Epiphany, Litro, Booth, Phantom Drift, Paper Darts, Shooter Literary Magazine, Little Patuxent Review, Bite: An Anthology of Flash Fiction, and One Hand Does Not Catch a Buffalo: Fifty Years of Amazing Peace Corps Stories. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

On Your Leaving, a haibun by Edward Alley

On Your Leaving
by Edward Alley

The sun-filled clouds glow red, shadowing power lines. Barren trees denote the season. One tree, disfigured with carvings and disease, its life threatened, persists. A train roars through my head. A light slants through darkness, as your life flits past our observation car. Time and times clatter with the rhythm of ties binding steel and earth. A conductor whistles, punches tickets, helps passengers find their way. A church with hesitant spire trembles in the wind. A burned out semi dominates an auto graveyard, its bass horn mute. As the sun sets, the train shudders to a stop, brakes sigh, the end of the line.


From Edward Alley: “'On Your Leaving' was written in tribute to my best friend of 20 years, who died in August 2014. I wrote the poem on a train trip to Tucson, Arizona, as I observed what flashed by in the window. I am a retired United Methodist minister who spent the past 35 years of my work life counseling people in distress. I believe the listening writing skills I learned there apply to the craft of poetry.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Past, a poem by James Owens

The Past
by James Owens

Refugees from that doomed country, we huddle
around a few smuggled objets d’art:

Grandfather’s insistence on his old-fashioned razor,
that day flying kites on the sea cliffs,

baths together when we were newlyweds,
meaning the bronze curve of hips,

at last a loss of control.

Now, a breathing world whispers each day
burned into the waves. We grasp the tension

between contempt for causality and love of form,
the suave gradient toward chaos.

Sunsets beat a long pulse at our wrists,
the warm rocking that landed us here.

The moon comes shimmering, that brilliant scar.

Bio: James Owens's most recent collection of poems is Mortalia, from FutureCycle Press. His poems, stories, translations, and photographs have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Superstition Review, Kestrel, and The Stinging Fly, among others. He lives in Wabash, Indiana.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Match Made, a poem by Dan Carpenter

Match Made
by Dan Carpenter

It’s all about
what you bring
to the relationship

He brought poetry
She brought jazz
They set down plates and glasses
For serving them
On a gingham blanket
They shook and spread together
On the lush grass in the wooded
Little-trammeled corner of the park
Where they sat and sighed for a fair while
Faces lifted to the sun
Then bent to the task
The spooning and pouring
The murmured blessing
The silent parting of lips
To take and taste
One another's portion

Strange nourishment
Exotic brew
Sprung rhythms and 4/4 time
Lines and chords from God knows where
Levertov whisper on the tongue tip
Coltrane claw across the palate
Seizing heart and breath
Mating them to one forever afternoon
At last, knowing their fill

Bio: Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer and former Indianapolis Star columnist, born and residing in Indianapolis. He has published poems in Flying Island, Poetry East, Illuminations, Pearl, Xavier Review, Southern Indiana Review and other journals. He has published two books of poems, The Art He’d Sell for Love (Cherry Grove, 2015) and More Than I Could See (Restoration Press, 2009). 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Savor, a poem by Michael Nierste

by Michael Nierste

A butter yellow sun
For breakfast toast
With juicy raspberries running
But I sit
Savoring the sight
Listening to the song
Anticipating that first kiss of day
This morning
This moment

Mike Nierste is an “aspiring Hoosier poet who has taken a few courses at the Indiana Writers Center.