Monday, May 29, 2017

Buckskin, Indiana, a poem by Roger Pfingston

Buckskin, Indiana
by Roger Pfingston

Back home after walking the creek,
he sits with toast
and a mug of coffee,
              a blue
morning:  how it
lifted at his approach,
leading him on,
indulging his presence with a slow wing spread,

the short
repeated flights
to the water’s edge,

until he turned back,
the heron knowing more than he could follow,

the window now, framing the steady gaze,
the fenced-in beauty of horses.

Bio: A retired teacher of English and photography, Roger Pfingston is the recipient of a
Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and two PEN
Syndicated Fiction Awards. He has poems in recent issues of Poet Lore, Spoon River
Poetry Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and U.S. 1 Worksheets. New poems are scheduled to
appear in Poetry East and Hamilton Stone Review. His chapbook, A Day Marked for Telling, is
available from Finishing Line Press.

Any Place Called Home, a poem by Rosemary Freedman

Any Place Called Home
by Rosemary Freedman

Once, driving to my childhood home,
I looked around at the old neighborhood and
I felt ashamed.

My mother, who had raised seven children,
was alone in her back room
the wallpaper peeling away, and because she had been
successful at making successful
children, I asked- "Why do you stay here?"

"This is my home where I've lived for fifty years.
This is where I feel comfortable," she answered.
Then I imagined,
children in huts, children in trailers,
in doubles, in projects, in caves.
Any place called home-
We share the same sky-
and the same sun.

Suddenly I became a little girl
playing in the rain with these other children
from all of these other places.
Our toothless smiles faced the sky,
reluctant all -
to come in from this Baptism spontaneous.

Our laughter blending like a symphony
With arms outstretched to a God that washed us all
with the same water.

I looked at my mother-
and her wisdom warmed me like the
ancient familiar cover she was wrapped in.
Comfort spilled off of her, leaving me a bit uncomfortable.
I drove toward my new neighborhood
feeling ashamed.

From Rosemary Freeman: "I am married and have seven children. I have a B.A. in creative writing and literature, and a master's in nursing education, a post-masters as a nurse practitioner and a post-masters as a clinical nurse specialist. I enjoy gardening, painting and karaoke."

The house next door, a poem by T.D. Richards

The house next door

was lifeless until yesterday when I saw
a family of raccoons. The old man and his
skinny dog who lived there before-- left
without closing the front door and no one
has seen them since. A fellow across the
street who wears thick glasses swears he
saw the old man in the Walmart Parking
Lot on Main Street the rainy night the door
was left wide open. He was singing loudly
pushing a cart filled with cases of dog food.
The paper boy says he’s owed five months
delivery and the mail lady says she can’t put
any more mail in the box and oh, by the way,
someone should return the checks sent the
old man from Social Security.

by T.D. Richards

From T.D. Richards: “After a career in corrections, Tom Richards began taking poetry classes at the Indiana Writers Center. In 2013, he published a collection of poems, This Side and That. He lives in central Indiana with his wife.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Musty Nuts and Bolts, Creative Nonfiction by Rudy Schouten

Musty Nuts & Bolts
By Rudy Schouten

What I can remember of being six years old feels random, but I suppose young predilections have a say in it, too. Trips to the hardware store with my father were among the recollections that managed to stick. They were staples in a stellar childhood, the early years of an upbringing in a big family that merged fun at home with a handyman’s insistence on drawing his children into his work. That meant home life would always favor doing things over having them. All that family togetherness kept us busy and relatively undistracted by what other people had or did, so I wasn’t so much fully aware of being happy as recalling very little to be unhappy about.     
The runs to the hardware store were part of all that—outings with your father to a place coincidentally perfect for reinforcing a few family ethics… earn your keep, learn to use your hands, and try to figure things out for yourself. Those were the practical benefits; the less worldly ones had to do with a six-year-old having some fun with his father and becoming, officially, part of his world outside the house. It felt like he was grooming me for something; what it was didn’t matter.  
The earliest errands began with short rides in a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook.  Sometimes, a brother or sister tagged along, but the best trips had me riding shotgun as my father’s only passenger. My favorite destination was The Phoenix Lumber and Hardware Company at 13th and Capitol. Old hardware stores like that had a way of saying welcome without the benefit of a greeter in a vest. The squeaky front door and the bell attached to it would have been enough. But it was the step over the worn threshold and the sound of your feet planting on those first creaky wooden floor boards that told you everything you needed to know about where you were.
Matters of the olfactory took it from there. It was the density of the place marinating a mad mix of a million elements to produce that proprietary hardware smell—like an old toolbox full of old tools, only bigger. And you surrendered to it immediately because there was no foyer for gathering yourself as you walked in; the hardware swallowed you up within the first few feet. I felt at home in it.
The guys behind the counter always greeted my father like he was an old friend. I was impressed by that, but it made me wonder how many times he’d been there without me. That was OK, though, because being with him meant they’d treat me like an old friend, too. They pretended to be serious when they showed me how easily the jaws of a pair of channel-lock pliers would fit around my nose. They gave me one of the chocolate tootsie pops they held back for the best customers. And when it was time for them to get back to work, they rubbed the top of my head to make sure every hair was good and messed up.    
Pop didn’t mind if I wandered off by myself. He knew I wouldn’t go too far because there was so much to look at. I spent most of the time trying to figure out what all the gizmos were, but found myself nearly as interested in where they put them all. Some got mixed up in piles on the floor, which was welcome proof that my mother was wrong about my room at home: there was evidently not a place for everything, and, clearly, not everything was in its place. On the other hand, her sense of order was already rubbing off, so I was intrigued by all the nuts and bolts contained so neatly in all those bins and drawers. It was impossible not to look in every one.   
But there was no way of telling how my father might find what he needed. Sometimes, he’d show the friendly parts man an 80-year-old faucet valve and then just wait for the man to re-emerge from a back room with a replacement. When it was possible, my handy father preferred doing the rummaging himself, especially when he couldn’t very well describe what he was looking for—but knew he’d know it if he saw it.
He always made a point of telling me why he needed what he needed, even when he knew I had no idea what he was talking about. When I asked questions about what some of the funny-looking things were, he always made up a story to make me laugh before offering a more plausible explanation. Sometimes he sounded like he was guessing, but he never said he didn’t know.
I was even more attentive when Pop led me out into the lumberyard. It was the forklifts and all the sawdust that got my attention; what got his were the bargains on building material—Sakreet ready-mixed concrete at $1.40 a bag, five-gallon buckets of asbestos fiber roof coat for $2.95, and piles of two-by-fours just waiting for his one-eyed inspection for straightness. He talked me through his selection process, but I didn’t need to listen or inspect the boards for myself to see which ones he wanted. I could see it in his face and the theatric contortions he manufactured for my benefit.    
He never let the dust on the wrapper of the tootsie pop keep me from peeling it open on the ride home. I always wanted the errand to go on a little longer. A stop at Haag Drugs for a box of Dutch Masters for him meant a Hershey bar for me. A longer route meant my father would have more to notice; more grist with which to entertain his eager audience. I was just one of his seven kids, so yes, getting his humor and his shenanigans all to myself was part of the entertainment. But there was more to it than that. He was almost always happy, but everyone knew how busy he was and how hard he worked, so it was fun watching him take his time and seeing him having fun on purpose.    
I went to another old hardware store more than 50 years later. The creaky floor boards just beyond the threshold sounded familiar, and told me everything I needed to know about where I came from. The owner guided me on a tour of the small white house on South Madison Avenue that had been home to Marien Hardware since 1928. He spent extra time on his favorite relics; the service counter as old as the store itself, a table of apothecary jars filled with garden seed, and racks hanging from floor joists holding axe handles in adult and boy sizes—a nod to a time when first jobs were not at all about flipping burgers.   
It was a very good look at how much things have changed. But what I saw there was my father frozen in time, and it would have taken a sheet of sandpaper to wipe the grin off my face.    

Rudy Schouten wrote sales and marketing material for a firm in the financial services industry before turning to commercial writing on a freelance basis. In recent years, however, his work and his interests have led him to writing projects that are little less technical and a little less businesslike, as illustrated by his recently published Above the Waterline. Rudy and his wife Cindy, who are parents of four adult children, live and work on the south side of Indianapolis.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chicago to Minnesota, a poem by Donald Nelson

Chicago to Minnesota
by Donald Nelson

On the elevated Quincy platform
I caught the Orange Line to Midway,
my flight delayed
and alone at the food court
I had hours watching other travelers
while reading and emailing.
There's no comforting eye contact here today
probably the look on my face,
haggard from the Lupron
that's castrating my testosterone.
If I'm lucky, I'll survive cancer like a friend
who's been through it before me,
he tells me it's not the same
but he can still make love.

In Minnesota, behind thick concrete walls,
the high energy hydrogen protons
spin around magnets in the synchrotron.
After six months of hormone suppression
and eight weeks of the high energy particles
aimed at my shrunken prostate
at nearly the speed of light,
I lie to myself, wishing someday,
that I could be whole again
or still make that profound human connection,
the male and female magic, that gave us all
our chance to be here together.

From Donald Nelson: “I'm poet in residence in my basement office. Transitioning from a life in visual art to writing about ideas and experiences distilled in words and phrases that interest me.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

The night before the inauguration, a poem by Kristine Esser Slentz

The night before the inauguration
by Kristine Esser Slentz

on ladies’ night we drank White Russians
at the local draft house
passing on the English and Irish pub

choosing to sit at the tall table
in the middle of the room
surrounded by TVs and its media

we take sips of our iced over drinks
between bites of deep fried food
we thank the black man that’s serving us

we discuss the origins of our
European surnames with giggles
ultimately reverting the conversation

back to our full time day jobs
complaining about the hours and
its offered healthcare coverage

maybe we’ll just show up late tomorrow
a shifty look from a manager
is worth this next liquid delight

at the end of our rich meal
we hand our VISAs to our server and
with a bow and a gesture of gratitude

he leaves us and we leave the
customary tipping percentage
then with elbows locked we walk

home to our high rises
openly kissing each other on the cheek
and a solid embrace of arms

we part only to meet our husbands
inside the historic renovation

Kristine Esser Slentz is originally from northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area, accent and all. She is a Purdue University alum who studied English literature and creative writing while working at the independent student newspaper, The Exponent. After college Kristine has written pieces in publications such as the HuffPost, Pattern, and Nuvo Indy’s Alternative Voice. Currently, Kristine is the Assistant Editor at Unfold and has published poetry in Sweater Weather Magazine and The Unprecedented Review.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Company, a poem by Marjie Giffin

Mother’s Company
by Marjie Giffin

Mother is having company.

It’s been years, but I still recall
turkey platters and gilded plates,
soup tureens with china ladles,
crystal stemware and cubes of ice
that clinked together musically.

There were lavender-scented soaps
tucked amidst lacey table linens
in drawers so laden with heirlooms
that Mother would strain to pull
their polished, glistening handles.

I could breathe in and catch
the scent of Chanel No. 5;
I would steal a peek and see
her lips pursed before the glass
as she coated them with red.

Today’s company is being served
on paper plates on a kitchen table
so crammed with paraphernalia
that the tasteless sandwiches
almost tip off its edge.

Photos, stacks of letters, nail files,
coupon boxes, hosiery eggs –
all compete for centerpiece space
and the attention of the
curious guests who dine.

One of the favored few shaves
with an electric razor in between
snatches of conversation, bites.
Another, his wife, balances her plate
protectively between two dry elbows.

I make clever talk with both, knowing
I will have hours later to cry.

Bio: “I am an Indianapolis writer who has recently been published in Poetry Quarterly, Flying Island, Snapdragon, Words and Sounds, and in a teaching anthology. I am active with the Indiana Writers Center and participate in many workshops.”

Subject line:usage notification, a poem by Kristine Esser Slentz

Subject line: usage notification
account number *** *** 8187

Dear Julie,

We want to notify you that you have used 100% of your Daughter Anytime Usage Allowance with your Family plan for the service date ending on this Sunday due to religious affiliations.

Generally, should you reach your capacity limit for any payment cycle, your love and compassion speeds will be significantly reduced.

To view your usage or purchase additional emotional capacity, please visit the website.

Thank you for being a valued customer.

*Please do remember that the Daughter entity retains the right to end the unconditional contract anytime as well.

                                     by Kristine Esser Slentz

Bio: “Kristine Esser Slentz is originally from northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area, accent and all. She is a Purdue University alum that studied English literature and creative writing while working at the independent student newspaper, The Exponent. After college Kristine has written pieces in such publications as the HuffPost, Pattern, and Nuvo Indy’s Alternative Voice. Currently, Kristine is the Assistant Editor at Unfold and has published poetry in Sweater Weather Magazine and The Unprecedented Review.”

Monday, May 8, 2017

Alice, Reinvented, a poem by Mary Sexson

Alice, Reinvented
by Mary Sexson

The buzz of technology chimes           in my sunroom tonight, lines
sizzle and connect me across             the continents. India lies open
on my desktop, a portal to your           world, and I am Alice, falling
through a new-fangled                         looking glass,
an open door to your day                    already lived,
into your stories and songs                 already slightly warped
                           through this odd wrinkle in time.

Mary Sexson is the author of 103 in the Light, Selected Poems 1996-2000 (Restoration Press), nominated for a Best Books of Indiana award in 2005, and co-author of Company of Women, New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press). Her poems have appeared in the Flying Island, Borders Insight Magazine, Tipton Poetry Journal, Grasslands Review, New Verse News, and others, and in several anthologies, including The Globetrotter’s Companion (UK, 2011),Trip of a Lifetime (2012), Reckless Writing (2013), A Few Good Words (2013), The Best of Flying Island (2015), and most recently Words and Other Wild Things (2016). She has upcoming work in HoosierLit Literary Magazine (May 2017).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Is Galoofah Greater Than God?, a poem by George Fish

Editor's note: May 5 is National Day of Reason

Is Galoofah Greater Than God?
by George Fish

Is Galoofah
greater than God?
The answer is
and direct.
So let’s see.
First, we realize—
even at his/her/its
very, very worst,
is still,
always and forever,
a Poofah.
And that’s wonderful.
God, on the other hand—
even at his/her/its
very, very best,
is yet,
always and forever,
merely a Wod.
And that’s
not very good
at all!
So there,
my Jod!

Bio: George Fish is an Indiana freelance journalist and poet whose work has appeared in several national and regional publications and websites, especially those of left and alternative publications. In addition to short stories and poems, Fish has also published extensively on economics and politics; popular music, especially blues; and humor. He also does Lenny Bruce/George Carlin-inspired stand-up comedy.