Wednesday, February 24, 2016

River Memories, a poem by Grambi Dora

River Memories
by Grambi Dora


Jogging a zig-zag between cars
I flash a smile
                        to my regular strangers—

an old man with a brown stained bag        
            a woman pushing a stroller
                        with a baby boy
                                    sucking on a bottle.

Each running step
            along the Rhein-Neckar River jogs a
                        birthday forgotten
                                    Christmas present left wrapped
                                                a lullaby unsung.

Jogging a zig-zag between
            Humvee chalks, 5-tons, deuce and half trucks
                        flashing a smile to
                                    my regular strangers--                                                                                                               a busload of unshaven

men from India and Nepal
            waving their chapped hands to greet me hello.
                        Each running step

along the Tigris River -                                            
one Allahu Akbar Prayer
                        one Iraqi woman
                                                like a whore
                                                            a kill                                                                                                                                           forgotten

Bio: Grambi Dora served served 4 years of active duty in the Army from June 2005 to June 2009. Hee graduated from Indiana University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in General Studies, with concentrations in English and Psychology. He works full time at the Indianapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He enjoys writing, playing guitar and doing community service.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Caffeinated Alliteration, a poem by Jay S Zimmerman

Editor's note: Today (Feb. 17) is National Cafe Au Lait Day.

Caffeinated Alliteration
by Jay S Zimmerman

"What can I get you?"
said the ashen blond bedroom eyed barista
long lashed loveliness serving lattes
I am drawn to her delightful deliciousness
as I drink my morning macchiato
and eat my everything bagel breakfast

Bio: Jay S Zimmerman came to poetry from his life as a visual artist, composing poems to go with his art, finding as much joy in painting with words as with other visual tools. He has recently been published in Three Line Poetry, I am not a silent poet ,and Flying Island. He was born in the concrete caverns of New York, amid the trolley bells and sounds of subways, travelled south to Miami Beach and thrived in the warm sands and salt air dancing to the musical rhythms of Klesmer, Cha Cha and Bossa Nova, finally venturing to the dark soil, flat farmlands and rolling hills of the Midwest where his roots have grown and been nourished for over 40 years. He is an artist, photographer, psychologist,and  social justice advocate.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

From Under the Rubble

Editor's note: This month's nonfiction offers a bit of inspiration and "how-to" from a long-time student at the Indiana Writers Center. It is not intended as a plug for the Center, but rather as testament to the fact that success in writing, as in anything, is only achieved through hard work and persistence once the decision is made to go for it. Enjoy! 

From Under the Rubble 

By Enid Cokinos

’X’ never, ever marks the spot.” —Indiana Jones

Nearly two decades ago, I found myself in the East-West Bookstore in Mountain View, California. It wasn’t the New Age shop’s healing crystals, Buddha statues, fragrant incense, and CDs by chanting monks that called to me, but a single book: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The red and gold cover, with a drawing of a snow-capped mountain and a flock of Pterodactyls, begged me to pull it off its perch, promising to open my life to new experiences if I would only give it a chance. I marched to the register. I was ready to begin the search for my hidden artist.

Two innovative late-19th-century archeologists, Augustus Pitt-Rivers and Sir William Flinders Petrie, developed a written methodology that significantly influenced the way to conduct a proper dig. I was not lucky enough to have instructions on how to conduct my own expedition, but unearthing that paperback gem was the start of my journey; a personal archeological exploration in search of the aspiring writer, a truer version of myself, buried under the rubble of my life.

Before I knew it, 16 years—a mere blip in geologic time—had flown by. Two major relocations—California to New Hampshire and New Hampshire to Indiana—derailed me. The lure of big paychecks and a business career kept me working long hours with crushing deadlines. My daily journal, when I had time and energy to write, was filled with anger and frustration.  Aspirations of writing still reverberated deep inside, but I had no defined path or goal. Sadly, I was no closer to realizing my dream than the day I purchased The Artist’s Way.

Einstein promised that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result was insanity. That summed up my actions nicely.

I stepped back to work short-term temp jobs in 2013; not an easy decision, but a necessary one. I needed to decompress and reconsider what I wanted out of life. My husband referred to this transition as my “bridge year.”

Everyone has his or her own litmus test for failure. My sense of failure hit me square in the face while temping at a local company as I began my bridge year. For some reason, a woman I had once worked for—a strong, intelligent woman who knew what she wanted out of life—came to mind. An Internet search revealed she had become an ambassador to a lush, tropical country. I heard a dull thud as my ego hit the floor. I emailed my husband: Am I a loser? He replied immediately: No! Why are you thinking this? Do you need to talk? That evening, he kindly expressed that I was in a slump and should not compare myself to others. Easier said than done.

Life did not unfold for me as it did for my friends. I watched from the sidelines as they were accepted by various universities, their parents guiding them through those choices. I wanted that too, more than anything, but it was up to me to make it happen. Determined to earn my bachelor’s degree, I ultimately achieved this milestone at the age of 32, attending classes at night and on the weekends while working full-time. But even with my fair share of career accomplishments, here I was, over the 50-year mark, sitting at a receptionist desk while a former boss sat in an ambassador’s office. I felt every inch a failure.

The final Universal nudge came later that year. I awoke from a nightmare within a nightmare, jolting upright to see a figure cloaked in a dark hooded robe looming over me—my own ghost of Christmas Future coming to call. The figure raised its arm and pointed straight ahead. Asleep, I was confused. What did it want from me? Later awakened, I was terrified. Was I running out of time? I pondered, considered, and mulled things over for three more months, and the question that kept coming to mind was: If not now, when? I concluded it was time to continue the journey I had started so long ago.

Once again, my inner determination propelled me forward. Inspired by Messrs. Pitt-Rivers and Flinders Petrie, I created my own instructions for pursuing my dream.

1. Write down your objective
This is a prerequisite for accomplishing anything according to every self-help guru in the world. I put pen to paper: Write and submit a series of pieces for publication. All well and good, but how would I make that happen?

2.  List tasks to achieve your objective
Sign up for a writing class. A concrete, attainable task—equally important to the gurus. After years of attempting creative writing on my own, I needed a classroom environment to encourage levels of writing I might not achieve on my own, and to gather inspiration from others with similar hopes and fears.

2a. Actually complete the tasks
An online search brought up the local writers center. Like an explorer unearthing a priceless relic, I felt I had hit pay dirt and immediately registered for the creative nonfiction class. After fumbling around for years feeling lost, this small first step was like a bright light at the end of a lonely, dark tunnel.

3.  Develop a circle of support
Little did I know when I began the creative nonfiction class that I would meet my current writing group—a circle of support that allows our stories to come forth without fear of ridicule. I am also blessed with a supportive husband who encourages me to continue even when I feel like giving up.

4.  Dig, dig, dig!
There are many ways to get the creative neurons firing, but I recommend maintaining a daily journal. This can be anything from a leather-bound diary to an inexpensive spiral notebook. Try to write each day or, at least, most days, even if it is only for 10 minutes. Some days your thoughts will flow effortlessly onto the page. Other days you might only write, “I have nothing to say,” 100 times. The important thing is to show up. Also, carry a small notepad or keep one in your car. You never know when you’ll see something interesting or hear a snippet of conversation for later use.

5.  Go on playful adventures
Most of us lost the desire to indulge in child’s play after turning 13. Becoming a teenager made it uncool. Then adulthood (gulp), work, and family responsibilities took over. Artists need to be open to new experiences and ideas. Browse through aisles of craft paper or model airplanes at a hobby store, or spend an hour taking photographs at a park. Just have fun. It’s liberating and you may be surprised at what bubbles to the surface.

6.  Lose your fear of being wrong
At some point during our formative years, an adult told us that the picture we drew was ugly, or the poem we wrote didn’t rhyme properly, or we were singing off-key. These criticisms are what keep us from pursuing our dream of painting, writing, or performing. To quote Joseph Chilton Pearce, an American author on human development, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” 

7.  Embrace your gift
We are all blessed with special talents and it is our duty to bring forth those artistic gifts. Imagine what the world would be like if Picasso, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or Beethoven let a disparaging remark stop them from creating their great works. Ignore the naysayers and keep reminding yourself, “I can do this!”

Writing is a lonely endeavor that takes patience, practice, and thick skin. It is painful and dispiriting spending hour upon hour pouring your heart and soul into a story, then spending many more hours editing and rewriting, only to be rejected. This is enough to make many would-be writers turn tail and run. It takes dedication and discipline to come back to a blank page after being spurned. In fact, I am sure that subconsciously, fear of rejection was part of the reason I didn’t pursue my dream years ago, but no more. I will not be deterred.

“Take a small step in the direction of a dream and watch the synchronous doors flying open.” – Julia Cameron

If I had not felt like a failure that day at work, or had the horrible nightmare, I might not have moved on. The desire was there all along but I needed to embrace the reality that time would continue passing whether I pursued my dream or not.

By developing a plan, I was finally able to move forward. Registering for that writing class in late 2013—a small step in the direction of my dream—was the start of something amazing. The synchronous doors are opening. My work is appearing in print and my first short play was produced in 2015. Insecurities often surface, but that too is part of being a writer.

And so, like an archeologist using a mason’s trowel, whisk broom, and dustpan, I will continue to use my pen, paper, and keyboard to unearth my true self from under the rubble.

Enid Cokinos was born and raised in southwest Michigan, but considers the Indianapolis area home. She currently resides in Carmel, Indiana with her husband, Todd. Enid's debut play, Sweet Virginia, was part of the first-annual IndyFringe/IWC Short Play Festival in 2015. Her work appears in Story Circle Network’s 2014 and 2015 AnthologiesShe can be reached at

Frightful (But Delightful) Sight, a poem by Lylanne Musselman

Frightful (But Delightful) Sight
by Lylanne Musselman

It was an ordinary day –
small birds busy
at the Metropark feeders,
squirrels and chipmunks
in busy-ness; birdsong, me
snapping photographs
all moving quickly –
birds scattered and small rodents hid,
and in one swoop down on dead
log a Cooper’s Hawk perched:
eyeing the frozen pond, tilting
its head from side to side –
eyes piercing fierce. Not wanting
to see him snatch a feathery or
furry friend as his tasty morsel,
I still reveled in the chance
to capture him digitally.

Bio: Lylanne Musselman, a native Hoosier, is an award winning poet, playwright, and artist. Her work has appeared in Pank, Flying Island, The Rusty Nail, So it Goes, Issue 3, among others, and many anthologies. In addition, Musselman has twice been a Pushcart Nominee. Musselman is the author of three chapbooks, including Winged Graffiti (Finishing Line Press, 2011), and she co-authored Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013). Presently, she teaches writing at Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University, University of Toledo, and online for Ivy Tech Community College.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Returning to Rilke, a poem by Dan Carpenter

Returning to Rilke

who was all about loneliness –
seeking it, that elusive core
whose perfection was denied the artist
by human noise . . .

Returning once again
to the exalting struggle
to comprehend him
is an exquisite loneliness in itself.

Who, to steal the poet's language,
is there
in all of family or friends
to even begin to care
about this quest
to rise to that plunge?

Who comes off the golf course
out of the nightclub
mall or boudoir
to stand alongside the poor reader
even to watch him watch him
wrestle with the angel?

by Dan Carpenter

Bio: Dan Carpenter is an Indianapolis native and resident and a freelance writer. He has published poems in Poetry East, Illuminations, Pearl, Xavier Review, Southern Indiana Review, Maize, Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island and other journals. He also has published two books of poems, The Art He’d Sell for Love (Cherry Grove, 2015) and More Than I Could See (Restoration, 2009).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Groundhog's Shadow, a poem by Anna Grignon

The Groundhog’s Shadow
by Anna Grignon

Your absence will foretell a brisk return 
from wintertime, its freshly sheeted bed, 
your presence product of the warmth you spurn.

Your witnesses display their hats like urns,
as long and black as what we see ahead;
your absence will foretell a brisk return.

We fear our final hour will adjourn 
forecasts a web of stars forever threads, 
your presence product of the warmth you spurn.

Eternal is the burrow we discern, 
truncated is our time if you have fled. 
Your absence will foretell a brisk return.

An audience of flowers waits its turn 
to welcome us upon immortal treads, 
your presence product of the warmth you spurn.

In endless cold, hell’s fires brightly burn, 
the future disappears to where you sped. 
Your absence will foretell a brisk return, 
your presence product of the warmth you spurn.

Bio: Anna Grignon is a recent newcomer to Indianapolis, having previously lived in Washington, D.C., and Omaha, Nebraska. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and has extensive experience as a nonprofit writer. She is looking forward to publishing her freelance work.