Monday, May 26, 2014

A poem for Memorial Day from Jeffrey Owen Pearson

Memorial Day, 1955
by Jeffrey Owen Pearson

That picture of you in our 1953 Pontiac
parked outside the Chicago brownstones

It was after the cemetery
on Decoration Day
After Aunt Florene’s cigarettes
After Uncle Tony’s Stag beer

You in your ribbed t-shirt
flexing your muscles

Sent you outside by Mom’s scowl—
or maybe the heat—
where you listened to the 500
on the radio with the car doors open

Someone’s racecar went over the back wall
You went over the fence
Mom swore you’d be back by dark

Tony brought wine and Italian bread
from the basement refrigerator—
we called it Hunka-Bunka bread—

As you waltzed in and spun Mom
to “Fly Me to the Moon”

The moon itself leaning like Sinatra
at the end of a long, long alley
above all the red and the white and the blue

Bio: Jeffrey Owen Pearson’s poems appear in So It Goes, Reckless Writing Anthology, Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island and Maize. His chapbook Hawaii Slides was published by Pudding House Publications. A member of the Midwest Writers Workshop, he lives in Muncie.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

A poem for Memorial Day from Lylanne Musselman

On Memorial Day
by Lylanne Musselman

I’m on another bored walk,
pacing a treadmill in Toledo,
Ohio, and the TV flashes Jim
Nabors singing
Back Home Again
in Indiana,
his ritual right
The Greatest Spectacle
in Racing,
where men and
women go 500 miles around
and around in the Circle City,
and sudden goosebumps rise—
sentimental over my Indiana,
where I was born, educated,
grew to be me, left family and
friends behind—with the sycamores
and moonlight on the Wabash,
when old Gomer sings
“I long for my Indiana home,”
memories come racing
back, days spent staying
with my beloved grandparents—
long gone, the carefree antics
of my youth—long gone, loves
I left or never thought would leave—
long gone. Before long
the song is over, balloons lift,
engines roar, my heart beats fast,
as I walk in place, through the blur
of tears and race cars—
my life in Indiana,
given the checkered flag.

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Nonfiction by Bryn Marlow

By Bryn Marlow

Did I grow up hearing the word “gay” mostly on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons as in,
            When you're with the Flintstones
            Have a yabba-dabba-doo time
            A dabba-doo time
            You'll have a gay old time
and notice that a gay old time week in and week out involved a grown man getting locked out of his own house and hammering at the door to be let back in?
            I did.
            Did I make my way through the world compliant and quiet, the middle child, a people-pleaser who valued appearances because they helped keep the peace and make folks happy?
            I did.
            Did I embrace the Bible thumping tenets of my family with a fervor all my own, label my same-sex attraction sinful temptation fanned by the flames of hell, plead with God to remove from me the stubborn desire to lust after other boys, promise to read my Bible two hours every day, never backtalk my mother and become a missionary when I grew up, if only I could be cured?
            I did.
            Did I hear whispered that homosexuals are monsters, child molesters with horns and red eyes who lisp and can’t hit a baseball, and know for a fact I wasn’t one of those even though the part about the baseball fit?
            I did.
            Did I lean on my reputation as the shy studious type to avoid dating women in high school and college as much as possible?
            I did.
            Did I learn to live in my body as in a house divided, keep at arm’s length the despicable part of me that lusted after men, assure myself this wasn’t the real me, and succeed so well that as a college senior I could find excuses to bathe whenever our floor’s resident Greek god padded his way down the hall to the group showers wrapped only in a towel, and envy the towel, yet banish from consciousness the idea I might be gay?
            I did.
            Did I marry a hard-headed woman in the sincere belief I was doing what was right, honorable and holy, and in the hope she would save me from myself only to learn she did not have the power to change me?
            I did.
            Did I become father to three sons, change diapers, read stories, play Robin Hood, sing songs, make funny voices and discover that parenthood, while demanding, did not lessen my attraction to men nor its accompanying self-hatred?
            I did.
            Did I finally devise a way to kill myself and test it on several small animals to make sure it worked?
            I did.
            I did all this and more. And although I peered into the void, I did not follow through with my planned suicide. After I composed my final farewell, I made a small choice for life, postponed my death for an hour, then a day, a week. (At such times grace may be measured in minutes.)
            Even as I believed hope was gone and all was finished, a whole new world was waiting to be born—a world I had never dared imagine, never heard described in positive terms, never believed would receive, bless and nurture the likes of me. A world in which I am acceptable as I am, loved without having to change, remake or undo myself. Nowadays I often see it reflected in my gay friends and chosen family, in our shared laughter, warm embraces, genuine regard.
            Here’s the thing: this world had been there all along. It had been and was and is within me. Within each one of us. The path is uncharted, the way perilous, the door hidden, the night dark. Yet life endures, cloaks itself even in catastrophe, calls to us ever and anon, in tones loud and soft. May we with courage listen, respond, reach deep, take hold the key, unlock and pry open the door, step into All that awaits us there.

Bio: Chickens and other fowl pursuits occupy Bryn Marlow ( on a wooded 1930s farmstead in east central Indiana. His creative nonfiction and personal essays, like this present one (with a nod to Brian Doyle), have appeared in The Sun, Utne Reader, White Crane Journal, and RFD, among others. His first published work of fiction appeared in Flying Island earlier this year.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A poem from Stephen R. Roberts

Wrestling Alligators
by Stephen R. Roberts

The story of the man who lost an arm
to an alligator in a lake down in Florida
makes me think I should put my arms
around these words in a reptilian intimacy,
hug my pets while they’re young
and still small enough to accept such
displays of love or whatever they call it.

I should do this at an early stage of development
because it can be difficult to concentrate
as an arm is being pulled from its socket
in a crocodilian water-dance by a stanza
easily confused with rapture or infatuation.

Mayhem and motive may be misconstrued,
the same as alliteration, if underfed
or overused while ligaments, muscles,
and the mind are being stretched
and torn beyond their capabilities
of elasticity or accommodation.

So I rub the bellies of the little beasts.
Place my pen to paper, deceptively revise
the entranced, undulating bodies to feel
the heat of cold-blooded words unwind.

Bio: Stephen R. Roberts lives on eight acres of Hoosier soil, pretending it to be wilderness. He spends more time now with grandchildren, trees, and poetry, not necessarily in that order. It is the love of these things, along with lariats and other fine examples of rope, that keeps him tying up words, knotting or unknotting poems.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers write about their children: Poems from Mary Sexson

Free Thinker: The Road to India
by Mary Sexson

You never blinked an eye when
you stepped off the plane in that
ancient city eight thousand
miles from everything you knew.

You got in a cab with strangers
and let them take you to some
dilapidated hotel, overcharge you
for a dirty room, and drop you off

at the train station the next
morning, your wallet a little
lighter, but the stink of tourist
wiped off of you forever.

The train took four days to cross
that heave of land, and you to find
your way to a quieter place
where no one would ever know
who you were, and cell phones
didn’t work. You walked in
on your own two feet, hungry,
and looking for the light. 

The Continents Between Usby Mary Sexson

You have sent me your songs,
in zip files that I downloadlate at night, listening intently, trying to discern your voice,

your style of guitar or drum work. 
I sometimes scan the online videos  
where I know I will see you
playing your instruments,
smiling at the beauty  
of what you have made. I listen 
to the words in Tamil, the lilt
and beauty of them, the 
foreignness of them, the way
you seem ten thousand
miles away and more, yet 
the continents between us can
be spanned with this, a wave
of bliss comes into my sunroom 
on a patch of moonlight, and I hear
the pitch of voice evoke you,
basking in the next day’s sun.

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). 


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mothers write about their children: A poem from Marjie Giffin

Place of Peace
by Marjie Giffin

Elisabeth sleeps,
Knees curled against my groin,
My knees tucked around her toes,
My mother body
Encircling her daughter body:

Warming the nest,
Lining the next,

Our cheeks pressed,
Her breaths puff evenly,
Play a soft cadence
Against my skin.

The space between us
Is moist and close,

And a flutter
Of her tiny lashes
Touches, tickles lightly.

Nestled as we are,
Her slumber becoming
My poetry,
I commit the feel
Of this little one’s lifesong
To memory –

That I might at any moment
Recreate this place of peace.

Bio: Marjie Giffin is an Indianapolis writer and educator who has taught writing as an adjunct professor at IUPUI and writing/literature at a private school for gifted students. She is an M.A. graduate of Butler University in English and continues to take writing workshops as a member of the Indiana Writers Center. She is an author of four regional published histories and has her poetry published in anthologies.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mothers write about their children: A poem from Tracy Mishkin

skin artist
by Tracy Mishkin

for Noah

your flesh my canvas     cortisone cream
the dots of Seurat     no brush     my finger
shades salve to skin     rough red
rash     morning bathe paint     evening
paint sleep     my hand my palette  Elidel    
Vaseline     moving easel     no model
paid to sit     still impatient impasto
greasy splotches     scream resist    dismiss
my art   quilt reed basket coiled pot     my son
my canvas     masterpiece respite
itching redness open sores

Bio: 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

Monday, May 5, 2014

A pantoum by Katherine Simmons

The Day Mother Gave the Cat Away
by Katherine Simmons

The day that she gave the cat away
she felt so desperate and bone-draining tired—
for yes, a young mother’s fatigue and dismay
bears fruit in deeds that are poorly inspired.

She felt so desperate and achingly tired.
The kids wouldn’t nap and their moods became sour,
bearing fruit in deeds that were poorly inspired.
Her whole house declined to a mad swirling howl.

The kids wouldn’t nap and their moods became sour.
The sweet baby shrieked and flailed in display.
The whole house declined to a mad swirling howl.
The pet snake escaped and was getting away.

The mad baby screamed and put on a display.
Sister pinched her balloon and laughed when it burst.
The pet snake escaped and slithered away
across sister’s lap and up under her shirt.

Sister grabbed the balloon and squeezed ’til it burst.
They giggled with glee at the runaway snake,
as it crossed sister’s lap and hid in her shirt.
Mother sighed with despair at the state of the place.

They giggled with glee at the tickles of snake
and cheerios smashed on top of their hair.
Mom cried with despair at the mess in the place.
The milk toppled over and dripped down the chair.

Cheerios smashed and rubbed in their hair—
Mother sat down and wept in hopeless dismay.
The milk toppled over and dripped down the chair
the day that she gave poor tabby away.

Bio: “I returned to my home state several years ago, where I have had the good fortune to encounter other poets from whom to learn and with whom to share the art. I enjoy the Indiana woodlands, my Australian Shepherd, the changing seasons, and oatmeal sourdough bread.”