Friday, December 5, 2014

A poem from T.D. Richards

Why I Love Ham Salad Sandwiches With Baloney
By T.D. Richards

In the cassock of her feed sack apron,
Mom moved in the kitchen with sacramental intent,

bending under the cupboard to withdraw
the oiled meat grinder, her mother’s wedding gift.

As her acolyte, I clamped the grinder
to the counter while she chopped chubs

of baloney and cranked them into mince meat
to mix with sweet pickle relish and creamy mayonnaise

and soda crackers that crunched and crackled
through the razor edged cutting plate.

She raised white Wonder bread asleep in its warren
to chaperone the ham salad spread made with baloney.

I got the meat grinder when mom died
nd my sister got the recipes I knew by heart.

I’m told there may be a final Feast to come.
If so, I implore that Mom be chosen to make

ham salad sandwiches with baloney
and I be invited to eat them ad infinitum.

Bio: T.D. Richards is a freelance writer who has written poetry as a way of sharing his lifelong observations from working as a prison warden, a college professor, and an inner-city pastor

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A poem from George Kalamaras

Manifest Destiny
by George Kalamaras

Feel free to induce me. Press your breath against my breath.
Stick your finger down the lorikeet’s throat and expel the sleep medicines.

Ask me for a blanket and I will produce a thread.
We can each hold an end and vibrate a song in praise of pioneers.

The Conestoga part of my heart can only let you in a little.
I will gladly feed you beans and lard, watch the flames pony-prance untamed
      shadows across your face.

We have the same connective tissue inside our more-than-private bodies.
It resembles a very long river, difficult to cross.

If I were an antelope, you might be a prairie hare.
If I a sheep, you, an Australian cattle dog.

We have known one another throughout many incarnations.
One time I came to you as lightning, you, the fierce, almost-soothing rain.

Bio: George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana, is the author of seven books of poetry and seven chapbooks, including Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011). He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A poem from Ryan Frisinger

words away (in three parts)
by Ryan Frisinger

words away

once upon a time,
i moved down south,

met a girl
who never shut her mouth,

so i finally had to
kiss her

words away.

words away, pt. 2

we crossed the world in
maps and pictures,

goddess shrine
was my bedroom fixture,

book of poems and telephones,
we were never more than

words away.

words away, pt. 3

until, the ghost and star
of both tattoo and heart

pointed north to where
a happy ending, happiness

in need of mending, happy
that it’s finally ending are only

words away.

Bio: Ryan Frisinger is a professor of English, holding an M.F.A. in Writing from Lindenwood University. He is also an accomplished songwriter, whose work has been featured in numerous television shows, such as America's Next Top Model and The Real World. His non-musical writing has appeared in such publications as Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The MacGuffin, and Punchnel's. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his more-talented wife and couldn’t-care-less cat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A tribute to Galway Kinnell from Dan Carpenter

Kinnell at Butler U., Feb. 6, 1989
by Dan Carpenter

Perfect poet’s presence     Galway
limp white dress shirt
dull brown hair finger-combed raking his brow
heavy hands and gentle voice
a seamy-faced Gus Hall drunk on angels

I drink in his beauty for free
in a lecture hall packed with lit students under duress
          signed in     penned
and I contemplate the abstract and the concrete
along a straight diagonal line –
          at the far end Kinnell      pawing his glasses
          singing of swifts and frogs rescued
          when one has been a long time alone . . .
          at the near end     a row ahead of me
          within a hand’s reach
          khakied knees raised to chin level
          black hair rich with brown hints     like chocolate cake
          a third his age half mine
          a freshly made human doing what Galway says a poem does
          doing the job to be
          leaving it to the apprehender
          to make of her a lover     daughter     moment

Galway    on course in the face of beauty
takes beauty he’s made and makes it new
while I     serene     sad     by no means covetous
weigh his words and weigh
her black untroubled eyes
her wide tan cheeks pure as infancy
her enormous pantaloons denying her figure like a nun’s habit
            all this I take in and feel poetry      its ache

Bio: Dan Carpenter is a freelance writer and former newspaper staffer, living in Indianapolis. He has published poems in Flying Island, Poetry East, Illuminations, Pearl, Xavier Review, Southern Indiana Review, Maize, Tipton Poetry Journal and other journals.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Blanket

by Keith Krulik

            We all have obstacles to climb, personal barriers or demons to get over, physical or mental challenges to overcome. These are the things that build character, that turn followers into leaders. The question I pose is this: How much can you endure before you cease to build character, before you don’t build into a leader and are yourself destroyed? How much can you take?
            When my headaches began over two decades ago, I felt my body as a blanket, a thick, heavy quilt. I hung on a clothesline as Evil stood beside me, wielding a baseball bat, inflicting pain every few seconds, over and over. Back then the pain was just beginning; improbably, it seemed less intense as now. Over time and the continuous beatings, the blanket has worn thinner.  In those eight thousand days, I have transformed to a thin sheet, something even a homeless person would discard.
            Each day I receive my beatings through all sorts of conditions, through all the seasons. I hang there and look to the heavens, feeling the heat of the sun, the wind on my face, and then it slides down my body just as the bat hits me once again. In the winter, the snow feels good against my skin, reviving me, but making the sting of the bat that much worse. My body, my blanket, is more brittle in the winter. The Evil one knows this, adding a little extra to each swing.  The bat strikes me on my body, but I feel the pain on my head, at my temples.
            Five concussions over a long period of time, beginning in high school, have given me these headaches. Over the years, I have gone to doctors, the process and results always the same. They subject me to blood tests, CT scans of the head, MRIs of the brain and neck, and end up coming back with the same answer, “I’m sorry, Mr. Krulik, but all the tests came back negative.”  Does that mean my headaches don’t exist? 
            The first doctor I went to for my headaches in the mid 80s suggested that it was probably just stress. It would be five years before I would see another doctor, only to hear from him, “It’s only headaches.” I found out the medical profession didn’t take headaches and migraines very seriously. Later, when I saw a family doctor in the 90s, he offered me scripts for Percocet, Darvocet, and Vicodin. I refused because I drove for a living and I didn’t want to become addicted to pain medication. Again I returned to the clothesline and my Tylenol, 16 a day. 
            The Evil one has had me engaged in a war of wills over the years. I have a high tolerance for pain, but everyone has a breaking point. Eight thousand days of unending pain is a long time, treated by only Tylenol. On the pain scale, my headaches would reach an “8” and I would take three Tylenol, dropping it to a “3” or “4” for thirty minutes to an hour and then it would begin its rise again, and in three hours I would be back to that beloved “8.” Evil never left me. Never.
            As I hang there, sometimes I look down and stare at Evil itself as it beats on me. The body is not imposing. It is not superhuman at all, rather normal. I don’t look at the face always, but when I do, it’s different each time. One time it’s the face of the kid who gave me my first concussion in football as a sophomore in Tucson, Arizona. The next time I look it might be the face of someone I confronted while driving a cab a few years back. A few days ago I looked down and Evil looked like the woman who hit me head-on and gave me my fourth concussion in 1979.  More often than not it is Satan himself, complete with the classic horns.
            Our two kids are grown and have known for years that their dad takes a lot of Tylenol or aspirin, although they don’t know the exact amount. My own parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all know I have headaches but don’t know the severity of them. All my relatives, including my kids, see my temper has changed over the years. Everyone just thinks Keith is a “hothead.” No questions are asked, but I am lectured by my retired Colonel father. I say nothing. I would rather have everyone think I’m a jerk than have them worry about my health. What would I tell them anyway? 
            Each year that passes the pain gets worse, the depression deepens. I can feel myself slipping into a darkness I may not escape from, from a darkness I might not want to escape from. I go to my granddaughter’s gymnastics meets and my grandson’s baseball games, but I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to be anywhere. The pain crushes more than my head. It crushes my will. The Evil one beats on not just me, but everyone around me.
            Death is something I think of. Because of ethical beliefs, I would never take my own life, but I have already used my job as a cab driver to provoke the less than righteous people into arguments and fights that would see me as a victim on the late news, ending my pain for good. So far, I can’t even get that to happen.
            My rock, the love of my life, waits for me each evening. She is the only person on the planet who knows how I feel, and yet I don’t tell her everything. I don’t tell her my deepest fears.  I don’t tell her how I spent most of the day thinking of thirty different ways for me to die. I don’t tell of the near misses, of the days when guns were drawn on me and I secretly hoped the trigger would be pulled. She is on eggshells each night as I come through the door, wondering what mood I will be in. She is hesitant to ask me how my day went, for fear that I may snap, or almost as bad, say nothing at all. The Evil one strikes me day after day, but he strikes the one I love more than anyone each time he strikes me.
            My body, my blanket, wears thin. You can see through it now. Something has to be done. This has to end. This has gone on much too long. One last doctor perhaps? Confront one last bad guy?
            Some things remain constant. I am the blanket. The clock keeps ticking. 

Keith Krulik lives in Indianapolis and just finished his first mystery/thriller novel to be published soon. He also contributes to a blog called with three other friends, where Keith specializes in humorous postings. His next major project is an expansion of "The Blanket" into book form, the telling of his story of 25 years of chronic pain along with 18 years of on again, off again depression.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Crow Hour in Bloomington IN, a poem by Hiromi Yoshida

Crow Hour in Bloomington IN
by Hiromi Yoshida

That dreaded hour when they start flocking together—ruffling their black rag feathers, debris
      of the long winter days—scattering across the greying sky—intense with needless
      exclamation (raucous cacophony), heedlessly dropping scatological

calligraphies like Jackson Pollock scrawls across the sidewalks of Tenth Street leading to
      Crosstown in Bloomington IN.

Bio: Hiromi Yoshida has been described as one of Bloomington's "best writers" by Christopher Harter, editor of Bathtub Gin, and as one of Bloomington's "finest and most outspoken poets" by Tony Brewer, co-founder of Matrix organization. Winner of multiple Indiana University Writers' Conference awards, Hiromi Yoshida's poems have appeared in Borderline, Evergreen Review, Bathtub Gin, and the Matrix anthologies of literary and visual arts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A poem from Helen Townsend

How We Know Things
by Helen Townsend

It is strange to see the sky dismantled
and lowered toward the ground.
Pieces of fictional sky in the real sky,
each billboard chunk hangs from a cord.
As I imagine a blue topaz dangling
from the thinnest of white gold chains,
that’s when I make eye contact with you
And I wonder
are eyes eyes
Yours like green glass held up to the sun
Perhaps you see a green sea of milk,
a turtle floating there with a universe on its back

is grief grief
Did you howl
in the corner of the orchard
the day you understood divorce
means Daddy is leaving
Like I did in the shower
the day I left my Dad’s
prostate-ridden body in a bed
someone would too quickly clean
for another old man to die in

is wonder wonder
Did you delight in the exquisite
taste of a pumpernickel bagel
the day after your first time with love
and are you convinced
this new space in your body
is big enough to hold many worlds,
to carry truth everybody can see

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, October 10, 2014

My Big Fat Gay Marriage Issue, Resolved

by Bryn Douglas Marlow

            The minister signed our marriage certificate with a flourish, then said, “One of you needs to sign here as ‘husband’ and one over here as ‘wife.’” It was 2005. Dave and I were wed in Canada on our ninth anniversary as a couple, soon after Ontario legalized same-sex marriage—so soon that gender-neutral forms were not yet available.
            When we returned to the U.S. our marital status lodged in the Twilight Zone. It’s still there. We believe we’re married. A whole vast country north of us believes we’re married. But what happens in Canada stays in Canada. According to those with saying power, Dave is married to nobody. Guess what that makes me.
            Being nobody wears on a person. Researchers have long documented the negative effects of the stigma of homosexuality on gay people. Recent studies show that residing in a U.S. state that outlaws same-sex marriage has a direct, adverse effect on the mental health of lesbians and gay men.
            It makes me sick to live in Indiana in a marital state of perpetual confusion. Here’s my marital history: Not married, 23 years. Married, 14 years. Not married, seven years. Married, but not according to my state or federal government, nine years. Married and recognized as such by the state, 36 hours. Back to married-but-not-married, two months, followed by 10 days of being married. Then back to yes-but-no, then over to yes-but-not-really, not until the Supreme Court says it’s okay. (Did you follow that?)
            In June a federal judge ruled Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. As gay couples lined up to obtain marriage licenses, Dave and I marveled. We could sip coffee at our own kitchen table as a bona fide married couple. For all of three days. The court ruling was stayed, pending appeal. For us, it was back to life in limbo.
            Our summer vacation offered a breath of fresh air. We spent 10 consecutive days touring several states and two provinces where marriage equality is the law of the land. “This is the longest we’ve been married since we got hitched,” Dave said.
            Toward the end of our trip we visited Niagara Falls, took in the view from the Canadian side, along with a thousand or more other spectators. So much water rushing over the brink made me have to pee. When I returned from the restroom I soon spotted Dave among the crowd. It’s not all that difficult to recognize someone you care about.
            At the same time it’s easy to dismiss those you refuse to see. Experience has taught me this. My three children have severed contact with me over my having come out gay. As has my brother. As have former friends and fellow church members. No place at the table for the likes of me.     
            Where am I welcome? Life keeps me guessing. This past weekend I attended a college class reunion. I almost didn’t show up. I often encounter judgment and rejection from people who knew me before I came out of the closet. I feared more of the same should my classmates learn I am gay. I tested the waters. The first time a fellow alumnus asked about my spouse, I mentioned Dave by name. I was peppered with questions, taken to task for believing homosexuality cannot be changed, and charged with a lack of religious faith. Sheesh. Thereafter I mostly dodged questions about marriage and family. I avoided some conversations altogether. I shut down, hung back, withdrew. I was present but not present—off in limbo land again. This is familiar territory; I check in there frequently to visit my marital status.
            As you know, the federal court of appeals ruled against Indiana’s gay marriage ban. The state has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But I’ve been thinking: Dave and I could settle the matter now. As our state government is so antsy about keeping marriage between a husband and wife, we should send the folks in Indianapolis a copy of our Canadian marriage license. It’s there in black and white: on March 12, 2005, Dave took me to be his lawfully wedded wife.

Bryn Marlow (gayfeather, writes and raises chickens on a wooded 1930s farmstead in east central Indiana. His writing has appeared in The Sun, Utne Reader, White Crane Journal, Flying Island, The Community Letter and various anthologies.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A poem from Helen Townsend

Dusting Antiques the Day We Buried You
by Helen Townsend

          “Death is the opposite of time.” --Deng Ming-Dao

I wish
instead of laying you in a hole
we could tuck you into this
tall-as-a-man, weight-driven
German-designed clock.

Eight copper alloy layers
like a cake reserved for grand events
the middle tiers hold silver doors and dancers
enter, exit, twirl on the hour, each like a moon
flung around a single, familied earth.

If I knew alchemy
I could haul you from that pine bed
cast you to handheld size, tune you
to metal clockwork, watch you keep
the time as you go on defying it.

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.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sphinx the Hunter, a tale of discovery

By Robin Lovelace

I have a black cat named Sphinx. Actually, she is Antoine’s cat. But Sphinx still lives here, Antoine does not.  A three year marriage and I loved Antoine, truly loved him, but he didn’t believe me. He said I couldn’t really love him . . . or anybody else for that matter.
I met Antoine when I needed a lawyer to defend me from a hit and run charge. Yes I was guilty. Yes I hit someone and left the scene. Only because I was late for work and I didn’t need an arrest on my record and I sure didn’t need the insurance problems. Later on, we discovered the guy I hit was drunk. He was riding a moped. Swerved out in the street before I could push on the brakes and I had no previous record. The drunken moped driver lived but had to be in a wheelchair. Actually, it worked out pretty good for him. He didn’t die and he was eligible for disability checks so he could sit in his little house and drink up the rest of his little life. I got six months suspended and had to pay a thousand dollar fine.
Last spring, Antoine met someone else. A fat girl that was three years older than him, with frizzy, brown hair. He didn’t tell me about her, ever. No, he said he was working out at the gym when he was gone so much and I found a restaurant receipt in his jacket pocket. After that, I followed him. I never mentioned it, never confronted Antoine, never brought it up to anyone.

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).