Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inspired by other poets: Poems from Jennifer Hurley, Norbert Krapf, and Diane Lewis

I Watched Him
by Jennifer Hurley

I am no source of honey or sweet
but a swarm of domesticated honeybees
buzz wintry-weak in my stomach, their
fuzz bristly wire bottle brushes slowly
scraping away cleaning what’s (left) inside.

The emptiness overwhelms early in the day
when the house is so quiet sun yellow warm
I forget to crowd the halls with memories my
son simply hiding, shadows. He had loved
playing in the front yard pines lining the edge

and he knew better at least I thought
I taught him better but he ran into the street
after a dry brown oak leaf bigger than my
hand curling edges teased him along his
fingers reaching out never taking hold. Alone

I watched him from the living room
window not even sure what I was doing
so I’ll say drying a glass to prevent
water spots not protesting because I didn’t
know I didn’t know how far he would

run or how unnaturally his body would
hover legs splayed arms limp socks bloody.

Italicized text from Sylvia Plath’s “The Arrival of the Bee Box”

Bio: Jennifer Hurley received an M.A. in Liberal Studies, Concentration: English, from Valparaiso University. She currently teaches English at Valparaiso High School. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in various literary publications, including The Cresset, Etchings, Plath Profiles (multiple issues), and Valparaiso Poetry Review.

To read Sylvia Plath’s “The Arrival of the Bee Box,” click http://www.angelfire.com/tn/plath/arrival.html

Postcard to a Spanish Poet
by Norbert Krapf

Antonio Machado, how
can you dive so deep
in such small ponds?

Bio: Indiana Poet Laureate 2008-10, Norbert Krapf is the author of ten full-length poetry collections, the latest being American Dreams: Reveries and Reflections (2013) and Songs in Sepia and Black and White (2012). In April 2014 his Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing appeared. He has collaborated with jazz pianist Monika Herzig, with whom he released a CD, Imagine, and with bluesman Gordon Bonham. He has also collaborated with photographers Daryl Jones, David Pierini, and Richard Fields in books published by Indiana University Press.

The Response to Mary Oliver’s Poem “Heavy”
by Diane Lewis

This time
I went closer to see;
touched the scaly skin of grief
and did not turn away

This time
I visited with ancestors
who never knew me
and was not shunned

This time
I lingered at Grand Lady’s lap
long enough to hear
stories of my grandfather’s exploits
and was not ashamed

I paused this time
as the unexpected emotions
of the loss, the joy
preyed on an easy victim

This time, I would not die alone

Bio: Diane Lewis is the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ 2010 Robert D. Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellow. She is a member of The Indiana Writers Center and participates in other local writers’ groups. Her dream is to teach college-level creative writing while working on her own career as a published poet.

To read Mary Oliver’s “Heavy,” click http://www.christiancentury.org/contributor/mary-oliver

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Indianaville, a tale of the Hoosier swamplands from Randy Wireman

By Randy Wireman
Mint and sweat discolored his t-shirt. He spoke in fractured sentences, somehow conciliatory, into his cell. The mint made sense as there were miles of the stuff just northwest of the broiler. I remember mint always hanging in the air near harvest, and this young man must have been wallowing in that oil all morning, all afternoon. This town had always been a hub for potatoes, not necessarily mint. I’d grown up near here in the Eighties and this broiler had changed names a half dozen times. Steamy day.
The young man slipped his cell into his pocket as he waited in line. He scanned the room as he tucked in his shirt and then wiped his black hair back. He stretched, taking little notice of me as I stood behind him, much less what I would think of his green-splotched elbows and forearms below the carefully rolled denim shirtsleeves.  Glanced toward a man sitting at a table pushed into wall near the bathroom and who caught his eye pretty much deliberately, gave a single nod. His friend was similar in age and stature. His massive arms were reddened by long stress marks as if a rope had been tied around them, though Mint & Sweat’s were deeply tanned and glossy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Last word on winter: Two poems from Mary Sexson

Winter Dream
by Mary Sexson

The winter storm effect brings crowds
to the stores, lines to stand in,
the most coveted items sold out,
and we wait, see if our patience holds.

Late tonight I want to wake up
and make note of the snow,
count the flakes and guess their
accumulations, I want to gaze out

the upstairs window and look down
on the literal abundance of it, enough
to hold us all in, keep us to our chairs
and couches, books opened, movies on,

popcorn popped, the interior
defined by our presence, our gaze
to the fire, we will use words like
cozy and snug, we will chuckle softly
as we get another blanket from the basket.

A Rabbit in Winter
by Mary Sexson

The rabbit’s tracks go over the top
of the snow, all the way across
the yard to the fence, where you
can see he got out. Caught
in this urban sprawl he has
learned to deal with barriers.

I used to see him every morning,
alert in my front yard, assessing
the day, wind riffling his fur, he
did not let himself be disturbed
by me, or the bumbling city
noise that surrounded him.

Now I wonder where his warren is,
if he has one here under these
snow-covered squares of green,
or the ribbons of concrete
that border them. I’d like to imagine
a world of rabbits beneath this
city side street, snug in the womb
of the earth, riding out the winter.

Bio: Mary Sexson is the author of the book 103 in the Light, Selected Poems 1996-2000 (Restoration Press, 2004), nominated for a Best Books of Indiana award in 2005.  She is the co-author of Company of Women, New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013) with Jayne Marek and Lylanne Musselman. Her poems have appeared in various literary publications, and her newer work is included in several anthologies, including The Globetrotter’s Companion (Lion Lounge Press, London, 2011), A Few Good Words (Cincinnati Writer’s Project 2013), and the online site, New Verse News (2013).  She has forthcoming work in the Reckless Writing Anthology (Chatter House Press). 


Friday, February 14, 2014

An antidote to Valentine's Day: A poem from Jennifer Hurley

Our Breakup
by Jennifer Hurley

The afternoon air smells of summer rain, almost
overpowering the reek of bacon and onion fried
early for the German potato salad that you love.

I cook in the morning so the flavors will
grow more distinct after having time to settle
and melt into each other how we once did.

We once did.

Before disappearing for work you used to leave
notes under your coffee mug, the paper stained
brown from little spills—a watercolor

of a white-spotted deer’s hide. I always imagined
a fawn, your handwritten words crossed legs
standing for the first time, clumsy wobbly.

But last night when I tried to care for you,
checked mangy fur for ticks and signs of other
disease, your natural camouflage soon hid you

in a thick part of the forest, a forest I continue
to search, now falling asleep cold alone in a pile
of knotty pine branches and slippery sodden leaves.

Bio: Jennifer Hurley received an M.A. in Liberal Studies, Concentration: English, from Valparaiso University. She currently teaches English at Valparaiso High School. Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in various literary publications, including The Cresset, Etchings, Plath Profiles (multiple issues), and Valparaiso Poetry Review.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

It was 50 years ago today: A poem from Lylanne Musselman

February 9, 1964
by Lylanne Musselman

Before The Beatles came to America’s shores
The Fab Four were on the cover of
Life Magazine
in glossy black and white. I was in grandma’s kitchen
the first time I became aware of them.

Mom showed grandma their photo to prove
how “scruffy” those four boys were. I remember
the two of them discussing their disgusting long hair.
I begged them to see the magazine cover.

I immediately liked what I saw — youthful smiling faces,
a welcome sight for a second-grader, who loved
their long but simple hair. They became instant friends
to this only child living in a much too adult world.

That Sunday night they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show
I was sitting on the floor as close to the TV as I could get —
those black and white images flickering four young men
in dark suits and ties singing “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah…”

and “I want to hold your hand….” I had to strain to hear
them sing over all the screaming young girls in the audience,
my parents and grandparents sitting behind me in silence, until
Mom yelled, “Get back from the TV screen before you ruin your eyes.”

Bio: Lylanne Musselman is a native Hoosier with many family, friendship, and poetry ties that keep her returning often. An award-winning artist and poet, she has been published in many literary journals and anthologies. She’s authored three chapbooks, and co-authored Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013) with Jayne Marek and Mary Sexson. Although, in 2011, she moved to Toledo, Ohio, she continues teaching online writing classes for Ivy Tech Community College, Indianapolis.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Prose poetry from Thomas Alan Orr and Tracy Mishkin

How to Steal a Piano: A Prose Poem
by Thomas Alan Orr

Carefully, of course.  Keep this in mind: you must not be tempted to play “Heart and Soul” or “Chopsticks” as you lower her through a window on pulleys at two in the morning.  Don’t let her bang against the side of the building on the way down lest she belly forth with fragments of Chopin or Jelly Roll Morton.  Most say the stronger man should stay above, working the ropes, but you need more muscle down below in case a wind comes up and she starts to kick and buck.  You don’t want to waste time picking up sharps and flats on the street.  Tuck her into the bed of the truck and wrap her well. Nobody likes a chilly upright or a cold baby grand.  Wool socks on the pedal lyres keep her quiet.  And don’t drop the fallboard on your fingers or else you’ll be singing.  Driving through rough streets, avoid the potholes or the whippen will come loose, composing melodies to charm a ghost.  A haunted grand, though rare, won’t bring a hundred grand.

Bio: Thomas Alan Orr's poems have appeared in Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, and other anthologies and journals. His poetry has also been read into the record of the Maine State Legislature. His first book of poems was Hammers in the Fog. He is finishing a second book under the working title, Tongue to the Anvil.


 “Moon Chest,” Ai Weiwei Exhibit
by Tracy Mishkin

for Pat Cupp

She stands at the other end of a line of tall wooden chests, portholes carved in each one. The chests are slightly misaligned, and the curved insides swell and recede like phases of the moon, framing my friend. We peer through the holes at each other until another art lover leans in and interrupts our view. Pat, who is old enough to be my mother, served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia in the 1960s. She drank goat milk. Learned Amharic. Saw the bodies of student protesters before they were cold. When the doctor found a growth in her lung, she knew it was cancer. “After all,” she said, “I smoked for twenty years.” She has fine blond hair that she cuts herself. Tomorrow her chemotherapy begins. She is doubtful about hats and wigs. The chests are looming over us with their incisions. I want to give one a shove and watch them all fall down.

Tracy Mishkin is a career immigrant. Born in academia, she taught in Georgia and published two books on African-American literature, then disappeared, resurfacing in the land of non-profits with the Bureau of Jewish Education in Indianapolis. Three years later, she was spotted across the border working retail at the Uniform House before she immigrated to the corporate world, where she resolves insurance problems at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Finishing Line Press will publish her chapbook I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s in 2014. Her work is also forthcoming in the Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology 2013 and has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island, Poetica, and in the Focus 9-11 section of PoetsUSA.com.



Saturday, February 1, 2014

A tale of survival: A poem from John Sherman

Anna Vasileva
by John Sherman

“We ate wallpaper glue and rancid horse meat and even scraped the spoiled milk off the bottom of the fridges in the yogurt factory…. Back then, I ate whatever I could. I even ate flowers.”

           Anna Vasileva, a Russian woman describing how she survived World War
           II, The
New York Times Magazine, February 24, 2002

bringing the fragile petals to her mouth
she is surprised the occasional lavenders
lack the taste of their color

brightly displayed against
her small rough hands are
perfect whites
glorious pinks
bursting out of 
the ends of their green stems
that she also eats
the bitterness ignored
as she stifles her own

          I always admired flowers
          finding fields of them a shock
          as I rounded the corner coming home

          while I busied myself with sums and sentences
          they had opened up
          waiting for me to gasp in surprise
          as scores of startling yellows in the early spring
          teased me as I walked by
          in dull contrast
          on my way to the luxury of soup
          and perhaps bread

faster now
she grasps bunches of them
stuffs them into her mouth
imagining them to be colorful fish

wanting them to be fleshy meaty fish

Bio: John Sherman has published three books of poetry. His poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. One of his poems was selected to appear on an Indianapolis Cultural Trail bus stop. Another was selected for the poet-quilter collaboration, Poetry in Free Motion. He is the recipient of a Creative Renewal Artist Fellowship and Individual Arts Program grants for his writing.

For more information about Anna Vasileva, click here.