Monday, October 31, 2016

In Guernsey where the ghost, a poem by Mary M. Brown

In Guernsey where the ghost

of Victor Hugo rides the narrow streets
            like a roller coaster, we go to Eucharist

at the old Town Church of St. Peter
             Port, discover that the Very Reverend

            Canon is retiring soon, the after-service
cookies and tea designed to mark the day

                      in an understated way. We are
welcomed, but reluctant to intrude. Later

            we learn that Hauteville House is closed
                        today, only a placard outside the modest

            island home where Hugo wrote. There
the same deep violet wisteria that we noticed

climbing the stone of the great church
            shrieks with delight, falls fast and violent

from the locked iron gate

                      —by Mary M. Brown

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, October 24, 2016

Traveling, a prose poem by Jared Carter

by Jared Carter

Other musicians take their instruments along. On cross-country flights you see fiddle players who had to buy an extra ticket for the Stradivarius in the seat next to them. They look nervous.
It’s different playing piano. Each time you come to a new place, the piano is already there, browsing in the middle of the pasture, a long way from the fence. It’s black, usually, but sometimes roan. Once in a while it’s a buckskin.
It’s usually up in years, too. It’s been there a long time, it’s earned the right to graze anywhere it wants. Not like those cows, down by the river, under the cottonwood tree. They move with the shade, all day long. When the sun moves, they move. Not until. 
Worn steps lead up to the stage, to the flats of last night’s scenery waiting to be moved back to storage. Underneath the fake-wood flooring the actual surface is concrete. Gray corridors lead to dressing rooms, with doors you have to stoop to get through. There’s a wooden table, mottled with cigarette burns, its veneer peeling.
Backstage the walls are exposed brick. Masses and coils of rope swirl up into the darkness. Banks of switches and circuit breakers.  Styrofoam cups left on dusty ledges, stuck in behind fire extinguishers.  Windows opening onto airshafts. Anything people touch – doorknobs, levers, the backs of metal folding chairs – is worn to a pale brass sheen. 
The piano waits at the back of the stage. It stands patiently while you slip off its thick blanket. If you had remembered to bring a cube of sugar, or a carrot, and held it out now, it might raise its head and glance around at you. And switch its tail a few times.
Feel the strange vibrations echoing when you lift the keyboard cover and look at its teeth.     Tap a foreleg; it raises a hoof, so you can check the shoe. It’s accommodating. This is a horse that can stand, tie, and load. Its flanks ripple to keep the flies away.
Reach out and stroke its neck, its mane. Try a scale in G, then E-flat. Then a chromatic, middle C up three octaves and back again. Each key has a different feel. Each waits for you to get acquainted.
The trainer’s been here already. That’s part of the contract. It’s perfectly tuned. You look around. Sometimes there’s a square-legged bench grazing alongside. Or an adjustable stool with four claws made of cast-iron, each one grasping a little glass ball. Sometimes there’s a wooden kitchen chair with the back broken off.
The piano seems to know what you’re doing. It snuffles in the lower registers. Later, when the others get there, you’ll put on all the tack – blanket and saddle, bridle and bit – and you’ll swing up, and it will be time to head out.
Now, you have it all to yourself. No one else around. You try a few tunes you haven’t thought of in a long time. Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Shelton Brooks, “Walking the Dog.” King Oliver, “Hello Central, Give me Doctor Jazz!”
The horse perks up. Its ears start forward. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Bio: Jared Carter’s sixth collection, Darkened Rooms of Summer, was published in 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press. He lives in Indianapolis

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Room of His Own, Creative Nonfiction by Jay S Zimmerman

A Room of His Own
Jay S Zimmerman

It was an orthodox Jewish funeral, though my father was never orthodox, and I can’t remember the last time he was in a synagogue. In fact, I don’t ever remember him attending since my Bar Mitzvah. Our family celebrated all the typical Jewish Holidays and, except for my youngest sister, a Lubovich devotee committed to an orthodox Hasidic lifestyle, we were a fairly secular family. So, I was rather surprised to be standing here. The day was typical south Florida, hot, sticky and bright, and I stood in my suit, sweating, shovel in hand, staring down into the grave. The sound of the earth covering the coffin filled my ears as I lifted the shovel and watched his new white pine home being covered in a cascade of black dirt. I was burying my father. I heard a large rock thud against the wood and saw the top portion of the un-nailed coffin jar loose and move slightly off center. His arm around my shoulder, the mortuary director whispered in my ear, his funereal breath questioning if I desired him to go into the grave and straighten the coffin lid.  I laughed to myself, “My Dad might just like a room with a view. “I shook my head “no" and whispered back, "I don't really think it matters now, does it?"

As I continued to shovel the dirt before the bulldozer finished the task, I thought back over the last months. My father had decided he was ready for hospice. Too much pain for too long, too many middle of the night siren-filled trips to the ER, too many days in intensive care, too many doctors wanting to try procedures they thought might help him survive just a little longer. No more invasions into his body. The hospitalist was comforting and clear. It was time. My father was ready. No more treatment. He had reconciled himself to the reality of dying.

My Dad had a sweet tooth. I remember taking him to a doctor's appointment (he was using a walker by then). He spotted one of his favorite delis, smiled, "Let's get a pastry." I recalled this particular time because the place was filled with old Jewish folks with walkers and getting to the cash register meant entering a walker traffic jam. "Only in Florida," I chuckled to myself. My Dad could now eat all the candy and pastries he wanted. No more worries about clogged arteries or putting on weight. No more sneaking snacks behind my mothers back or her disdainful looks when she caught him. She worried constantly about his health.

Arrangements made, he was transported to an inpatient hospice while they prepared his home for in-home care. The hospice was located in the oldest building on the hospital campus. Ironic, isn’t it, housing the nearly dead in a building about to collapse? That first night in hospice my sister and I brought him a large bag of chocolate candy and relished in his smile. His eyes sparkled as he enjoyed the pleasant change from hospital food. We talked and I asked if he wanted anything at home. He nodded, said he would like to be able to look out the window from his hospital bed. I thought, “a simple last request.”

Nothing is simple with my mother. She is anxious and worries a lot and likes to live by routine. Any change could easily upset her. She had full time help in the house but we all thought this was more for company and less for help provided. She was lonely. My father and my mother were married for over 60 years but he was a workaholic and rarely there to provide her company. Since his near death experience ten years prior, due to his respiratory system approaching collapse, she had had to give up smoking and accommodate her life to his. He was a man who did not take care of his health and would need to be forced to see a doctor. It was hard for her to watch him refuse to do what he needed to do for himself. His behavior could lead to her becoming more controlling and demanding. She feared his dying and her being alone most and this led to many fights.

A change in the layout of his bedroom upset her and she refused his request. “It wont look good with the furniture that way. I wont have the room turned upside down," she said. In reality the room wouldn’t look any different with the head of the bed by the window. And anyway, the man was dying; why would the layout of the bedroom matter to her? But she was in her 80s now and change is much harder as we grow older. Plus, her life had been turned upside down by his illnesses and she craved sameness and stability. We insisted, telling her it was his dying wish to be able to look out at the world for his last few weeks, but she refused. My father came home at the end of the week and had a view of the stark white wall. He never spoke up for himself. A lifetime of trying to please her, a woman very hard to please, coupled with his own guilt about being absent from her life, kept conversation to a minimum. He capitulated as usual, claiming “It was easier this way.” My sister and I knew we could no longer be his voice.

A few weeks later, he ate breakfast and while waiting for some medication slipped quickly and quietly into death.

It was a little over a year later, not long after his unveiling, when I received a telephone call from my sister. “You wont believe it, Mom is moving Dad.” I didn’t know how to react. My first thought was “even in death, no rest.” My mother didn’t like where he was buried and so, now that the unveiling was over, she had arranged to move him somewhere else in the cemetery where she wouldn’t have to walk over other graves to get to the bench next to my fathers grave. She had him dug up and transported to his new “room” under some trees and changed where she and my younger sister would be buried so they could be next to him. Hearing all this, I wanted to pull out what was left of my hair, but realized it was a done deed. It was sometimes hard to know what motivated my mother. In death as in life my Dad would have no voice. I just hoped he would enjoy the short trip and my mother could take pleasure knowing they would be together one day in a pleasant spot under the trees.

Weeks later, after his move was completed, I was sitting at my computer thinking of him and missing him. I was recalling special times we had together—going for pastries and for pies at the Toddle House, the stories about Sinbad he would tell me when I was 10 and the stories he would share about the difficult early years and his army days in World War II. I remembered he would bring home donuts in the middle of the night, when I was 8, upon his return from his second job, driving a cab. I recalled all the odd and interesting investors he introduced me to, as I got older and tagged along to work, and the relationships I developed with some of them. The memories comforted me. These are the memories I prefer. I imagined my Dad now sitting in that great Toddle House in the sky, having a piece of pie looking down at all this, shaking his head, smiling and saying, “Free at last, Thank God, I am free at last,” and indulging himself in another slice of the coconut cream.

Jay S Zimmerman came to writing and poetry from his life as a visual artist, composing poems to go with his art and writing fiction and nonfiction, 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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Puck, a poem by Chrysa Keenon

by Chrysa Keenon

Wander away with me,
Don’t let them call you back and
Take my hand, little lamb.
I can show you where the magic lies,
In the green puffs of smoke and haunting tones
Listen to me, love me,
Breathe me; 
I might 
Bite and hold firm.
But you’re mine now.
My prisoner of delight.
I can make you bloom like a flower,
Help you see galaxies untouched by mortal men
Dance with me, you will feel
No pain or worry
Inhale and
Let me into your blood
And soon you will be part of me, too.

Bio: Chrysa Keenon is a student at Taylor University, studying Professional Writing. She has been published in various newspapers and magazines, including Changes in Life, The Echo, The Fictional Cafe, and Evangelical Church Libraries. She spends the time she is not writing reading and perfecting her knitting skills.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Whose Eyes Are These?, a poem by Norbert Krapf

Whose Eyes Are These?
by Norbert Krapf

Whose eyes take me in,
in my pre-dawn study?
Where does that light in your eyes
come from, young Miss Ida?

I’m listening to a song titled
“Not Dark Yet,” but truth is,
it’s been dark a long time.
You know. You been there.

You look at me and you don’t.
You look at me, but you see
something way beyond.  Who
knows what you really see?

What you see may lie beyond you,
the history of the Pinkston Settlement
founded by your great-great-grandfather
Emanuel Pinkston, freed slave from Georgia.

One side of you was free, the other
side was a Kentucky slave. You got one
eye for each of your sides, Miss Ida.
That’s how you look at and over me

but I don’t know what you see.
Seems to me you see nothing
and everything at the same time
but I can’t see what you see in me.

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).

Editor’s note: For more information about the African American Pinkston Settlement in Dubois County, click here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Annihilation, Creative Nonfiction by Charles P. Sutphin

Annihilation by Charles P. Sutphin                                      

According to the Sufis, you need to fall in love with something without a soul in order to experience transcendence: Pursue the “hidden treasure” and you will find your god and better still—release. 

In Berkshire County in the northwest corner of Massachusetts a trail crosses a swamp that borders my yard. The circularity of the path provides a mandalaic course for me to exercise body and mind—as well as spirit: deer rustle through bracken, hemlocks whisper in the canopy as their brethren, struck and fallen, transform into dirt. Over the course of years I fell in love with a piece of wood assigned to the bottom of the forest floor.

Planks crisscross the trail and elevate hikers over water in the spring and in the fall. In original form, these pieces of wood tower toward the light, now they lie felled and carved . My board spends most of the year submerged in muck or frozen ice-tight against the earth. Damaged by the elements, the wood has suffered a midline split. Who placed the board in that location doesn’t matter, the positioning is precise. A make-shift path around a bog leads over a mound as hikers cross a lattice of limbs before quick-stepping onto the plank. Water squeezes through the crack. No time to linger: the next step lifts the hiker onto a root before a final hop onto dry terrain. The board prevents the hiker from slipping sideways into the stagnant water.

For its sacrifice I pay homage. Sometimes at night, I think about the two-by-four lying trodden in the dark. In a few years its human purpose will fade. The split dooms it to an early grave from where it will transform back to dust and maybe, just maybe, rise again through the roots of a distant cousin and strive toward the light once more before being felled and stripped. Who knows these things?
I want to assist the board achieve annihilation—undo what has been done. Next time I’m at that juncture, my boots will linger, moisture will soak through my socks, my feet will chill but the plank will find a purposeful peace beneath the ground. Only I will know the burial spot—forever and always unmarked, except by me. The board of mind will find release and someday so shall I—I used to be a fern, now I’m a pile of dirt: I sleep better in repose, as does the one for which I write this . . . farewell lament.

Charlie Sutphin is a long-time Indianapolis resident and big fan of the Indiana Writers Center, formerly the Writers’ Center of Indiana, formerly the Writers’ Center of Indianapolis. He appreciates Julianna Thibodeaux for her patience in helping him bring “Annihilation” to fruition.

Monday, October 3, 2016

If God Were a Black Girl, a poem by Diane Lewis

If God Were a Black Girl
by Diane Lewis

If God were found to be a Black girl
it would certainly explain a lot:

how every summer
  accurate as the timing of a Swiss watch
  comes a storm

the mystery of the aurora borealis
the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of a child

why a saxophone pressed to the lips of Coltrane
  would evoke such deep emotion

the color orange
the Blues
the leaping dance of flames

how we know the sun is brilliant
  though we cannot look at it directly

the miracle of the clematis
  in a forsaken garden;
the morphology of butterflies;
the covenant of rainbows

About Diane Lewis: “I am the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ 2010 Robert D. Beckmann Emerging Artist Fellow. The Beckmann Fellowship has provided me the opportunity to develop as a writer, with the goal of producing a full-length book of poetry. Most recently I have been able to publish my work in Tall Grass Writer’s Guild Anthology 2013 and 2014, (Outrider Press), Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology 2013, (Chatter House Press) and Contemporary American Voices (2015). "Smoke Break" is the 2016 third place winner in the Eber and Wein Publishing National Amateur Poetry Competition.

Editor's note: Diane Lewis died on Sept. 11, 2016.