Monday, September 26, 2016

What to say to a refugee, a poem by Mary M. Brown

What to say to a refugee
by Mary M. Brown

       “Home is the place where, when you go there,
            they have to take you in.”    —Robert Frost

is some water, some bread
and, oh, some of Grandma’s
lentil soup 

is the bed you will sleep in,
and this one for your son. If
you need more blankets,
there are some right

is a fresh bar of soap
and a light you can turn on—
see?—if the night becomes
too long

is where we will gather
when we are all awake, have
eggs and toast and talk
about the future—yours
and ours—

is the place we have all
come together, the place we
will learn together anew
to call home

Bio: Mary M. Brown lives and writes in Anderson, Indiana, a Hoosier not by birth but by long residence and disposition. She taught literature and creative writing at Indiana Wesleyan for many years. Her work appears on the Poetry Foundation and the American Life in Poetry websites and has been published recently in Christian Century, The Cresset, Quiddity, and Justice Journal.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Iris, a poem by Rosemary Freedman

by Rosemary Freedman

Three days after the burial
a call came through that I had a visitor
in the lobby. Despite his grief
this man had, as promised, taken the trowel
that his wife had wrapped her small hands around
and dug out some of her favorite Iris.
I sit on the steps of my porch
and I do not see the Iris only, tall as a small child—
instead I imagine my patient—long before I met her—and before she
lost use of her arm. She has collapsed to the ground—
and surrendered to the dirt—to plant these purple bearded giants.
I imagine she was happy then, as she had gotten them for free
from a neighbor who was moving. We so often create stories
of other people’s lives, because certainty is comforting.
I am certain of this, when I see the blooms open,
she comes back to life and we visit—if only for a short time.

From Rosemary Freedman; ”I am educated with a BA in Creative Writing and Literature from IU and also have a BS in Nursing, as well as Masters level degrees and work as a nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist. I am married and have 7 children. I enjoy writing, photography, reading and gardening.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Resurrection of the Spirit, a poem by Norbert Krapf

Resurrection of the Spirit
by Norbert Krapf

It’s in the juke shacks
where the old music plays
I live my deepest life.

Give me a blues shuffle
and the arthritis crippling
these hands goes away.

Give me the sound
of a blues harp suckin’ in
and blowin’ out the beat

and my eyes start
to see at midnight
as if it were noon.

Give me a tough mama
shakin’ her history
and the spirit resurrects.

Bio: Norbert Krapf, former Indiana Poet Laureate, is a Jasper, Indiana, native who lives in downtown Indianapolis. His most recent books are Catholic Boy Blues (2014) and Shrinking the Monster: Healing the Wounds of Our Abuse, a prose memoir forthcoming in fall, 2016. He held a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council Indianapolis (2011-12) and received a Glick Indiana Author Award (2014).

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Holding On, Creative Nonfiction by Enid Cokinos

Holding On

By Enid Cokinos

Jubilant guests lowered the bride to the floor. Her expression was unmistakable: Thank God that’s over!

My husband Todd reached out and took my hand as we climbed the broad steps of the historic Cret Building, Indianapolis’s Central Library. With its exterior of Indiana limestone and Vermont marble, along with Greek columns and massive wrought-iron gates at the main entrance, it is easy to see why our friends’ daughter, Abby, had chosen this impressive national landmark for her wedding.
This was Todd’s first Jewish wedding and my second—the first was my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in September 1983. As Todd and I entered the library, I couldn’t help but remember that day 31 years before: Little did I know that I would marry less than two years later, nor could I have known that my first marriage would end in divorce.
On this September day, with the elegant cream and gold program in hand, we took our seats in the Reading Room to enjoy the string quartet positioned in the gallery above us. We marveled at the beauty of the space, the mixture of surfaces that played havoc with the acoustics: Marble staircases at either end of the room, walnut and white oak bookcases, and two massive bronze chandeliers.
The program included descriptions of Jewish wedding traditions, providing me with a much-needed refresher course on customs steeped in historical significance and symbolism, some dating back to Biblical times. Terms like Chuppah (hup·pah), Kiddush (ki-ˈdüsh), and Ketubah (kuh-too-buh) were further reminders of my brother’s wedding day.
Wearing a red dress with black diamond-shaped speckles and a wide-brimmed black hat, I felt cultured being part of my brother’s wedding in a Chicago hotel, so different from any I had ever been to before. I grew up in a Midwestern village (it was not even big enough to be called a town), and much of the population consisted of farmers and blue-collar workers. I am fairly confident that most, if not all, of the residents had never met someone of the Jewish faith, let alone attended a Jewish wedding.
Now, arm-in-arm, Abby and her father descended the stairs to Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary.” She radiated joy and happiness. The entrance to my own first wedding was an entirely different matter.
The bridal party entered the church filled with guests and the doors closed. I took my place alongside my oldest brother and heard the organ’s sounding chord—a deep vibration that struck the center of my chest. The doors opened. I hesitated. It was my intuition telling me this was wrong. My doubts would be confirmed within a few short years.
Shaking, I crossed the threshold of a church I did not belong to, into a marriage I did not belong in, but it was too late to turn back. The guests expected a wedding. The honeymoon was paid for. I chalked up those second thoughts to last minute jitters, but in my heart, I knew the truth. I was not ready.
My parent’s marriage was less than ideal, so I had no clear vision of what was needed to make a life partnership work. Though I loved my first husband, I came to accept that—on some level—he was an escape from my domineering, possessive father. Without me, the last child at home, Dad would be alone, and he was not about to let me go without punishing me, making me feel guilty for wanting my own life. I remember the phone conversation when I told my father he could not attend my wedding. He mumbled something akin to an apology but avoided admitting any wrongdoing. I stood firm: he was not welcome. Our relationship would remain forced and uncomfortable until the day he died, alone, less than two years later. 
“Ugly crying” was evident in long-discarded photos of my entrance. Emotions so dark and complex they could not be contained. Sadness that my late mother was not there. Anger at my father’s behavior. Confusion about who I was and why I was marrying someone ten years my senior. Resignation that I must go forward. I suppressed each and every emotion and kept walking.
During the next eight difficult years, I would learn what I wanted and needed from marriage, and that I would settle for nothing less.
As the ceremony came to a close, Matt stomped the glass. “Mazel Tov”—a wish for good fortune—and applause echoed through the library. The fragility of the glass suggests the fragility of human relationships. The glass is broken to protect the marriage with the implied prayer, May your bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put together the pieces of this glass.
I was barely out of high school when my brother married, so, unlike that ceremony, I had observed Abby and Matt’s through experienced eyes. The eyes of a woman who married too young and learned the hard way that marriages do break; the ending a mixture of relief and sadness. The eyes of a woman who made painful mistakes in her first marriage and was blessed with a second chance to get it right.
I remember the entrance to my second wedding, feeling so different from the first. The intimate ceremony with less than 50 guests took place in the front yard of our Colonial-style home nestled in the woods of New Hampshire. A white tent had been set up in the front yard for guest seating, providing privacy from passing cars and shelter from the elements.
Typical of New England’s unpredictable fall weather, it had snowed just days before. Most of our nervous pre-wedding conversation centered on where we would hold the ceremony if the weather did not improve. We needn’t have worried, it was a picture-perfect October day: 80 degrees, fall foliage popping with color in the bright sunshine, the air crisp and clean, the sky brilliant blue.
My brothers were unable to attend, so I insisted on making the entrance on my own. I finally gave in to my matron of honor’s request that I let her husband escort me. I stepped out of the master bedroom, took his arm, and descended the stairs to “Trumpet Voluntary.” Though I was nervous, photos prove I was beaming (not an “ugly” tear in sight). I could not wait to marry Todd, to become his wife fully and forever.
Fifteen years after my first wedding, I took my place beside my new husband-to-be on the granite steps of the home we shared, where I knew I belonged.
Abby and Matt’s celebration was soon underway, replete with the ever-popular Horah performed to “Have Nagila.” Dancers hold hands and form a circle. The circle spins as each participant follows a sequence of steps forward and back. In its earliest version, dancers formed a circle by linking arms over their neighbors’ shoulders, spinning so fast that dancers were sometimes airborne.
Two chairs materialized on the dance floor in preparation to lift the bride and groom. They took their places—a bit apprehensively knowing what was in store. Abby’s eyes grew wide and darted around the room as the raucous behavior of the groomsmen and other male guests rose to a steep crescendo. Then up she went! I could see her death grip on the chair from across the room.
The steps leading up to the heave-ho of the groom were the same, and, although not a large man, Matt required more effort than his slender bride. Panic filled his eyes, too, but he tried to remain cool.
Mercifully the chairs had arms, eliminating the need for grasping and clawing at the chair’s seat or back. Still, it was most unsettling, as they were mere inches from the ceiling, their safety in the hands of overly zealous, intoxicated revelers. I could almost hear their silent prayers that they not be jettisoned across the dance floor or end up in a heap at the feet of the “chair-lifters” as the Master of Ceremonies repeatedly called out, “Not too high…not too high!”
I considered the dance’s symbolism, reflecting the ups and downs of marriage, as I watched Abby and Matt bouncing and jostling about. Spinning out of control at a breakneck pace in your daily life with work and family, trying to get your bearings. Struggling with adversity in all shapes and sizes. And worse, feeling like you are alone in a marriage, grasping for solid ground, and continually reminding yourself, “Just hold on, it will get better.” I know that feeling.
Abby white-knuckled one arm of the chair while grasping a linen napkin in her free hand. She flipped the loose end toward Matt, stretching so he could grab the cloth as he struggled against the unsynchronized bouncing. I held my breath until finally, he had it! I relaxed and silently cheered their success.
Yes, I know that feeling. Reaching across a chasm of chaos for the partner I've chosen from a place of confidence rather than confusion—and knowing that as long as he is there, I trust that I can reach out willingly.

Enid Cokinos’s plays include Night Train (2016 New Faces Program, Suffield, CT), Fairy Godmother & Associates and Now and Then (2016 IndyFringe DivaFest), and Sweet Virginia (2015 IndyFringe/Indiana Writers Center Short Play Festival). Her work also appears in the online journal 1:1000, and Story Circle Network’s 2014 and 2015 True Words Anthology. She resides in Carmel, IN with her husband, Todd.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Taxed, a poem by Lylanne Musselman

by Lylanne Musselman

I sit outside Starbucks under a blue bright sky,
writing poems, enjoying music, warm afternoon air.

Featured singer Willie Nelson croons “Blue Eyes Crying
in the Rain.” May draws to a close my brief break from

teaching classes, again composition all summer –
all semesters. An adjunct who works more full time

than any tenured professor just to pay my debt
for being a creative soul, for teaching students

eager to be me by degrees.
I’m not unhappy, I’m not complaining –

I’m just tired of being broke! My friend,
Glenn, teases he saw my wine at the market,

Broke Ass, knowing my predicament: another summer,
the third, strapped because of taxes. It is taxing

to live and work in America, doing what we love,
Willie and I, two of many, singing, living, crying the IRS blues.

Bio: Lylanne Musselman is an award winning poet, playwright, and artist. Her work has appeared in Pank, Flying Island, The Tipton Poetry Journal, Poetry Breakfast, 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, with a fourth forthcoming, Weathering Under the Cat, from Finishing Line Press. She also co-authored Company of Women: New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013). Presently, she teaches writing at IUPUI, and online for Ivy Tech Community College.