Monday, December 31, 2018

The Blooms, a poem by Shawn Chase

The Blooms
by Shawn Chase

Smoke ‘em
Crackling strings
Aroma filling my ears
Staccato flame burning
Velvety plume vibrating in the air
Choking my sensibilities
Beautiful daggers slicing me open
Writhing chills coalesce upon my skin
Orgasmic agony screams out from within
Complacency stands staunchly without
Suddenly I forget where I am
My identity frozen in the inhalation
Suspended in the lungs of plucked metallic wire
Waiting to resonate once again
Blessed are the trapped moments
Discovering solace
Recognizing malice
Releasing pent-up scorn
Dispensed to purity
Behold the blooms

Shawn Chase is a pharmacist living in Indianapolis. He says he is a product of the love and compassion surrounding him. More of his writing can be found at

Monday, December 24, 2018

Riding the Wild Wind, a poem by Gregory Troxell

Riding the Wild Wind

By Gregory Troxell

After Frederic Remington’s A Buck-Jumper (1893)

Reaching high with one hand,
He grabs a fistful of wind
And it bolts him into the air,

Face to the sky,
He scrapes the white belly of an indifferent cloud,
And strains to bring his other hand ‘round,
To tighten his hold, and buck up his hope.

He spins, and there’s the ground! Then gone in a blink!
Now the hurricane swells, and with twice the strength,
Spins him flat so the sun spikes his eyes.

He’s riding the wild wind, now and forever,
As the sky and the earth reverse,
Then right themselves, then back, and over again, then over . . .

Panic and joy joust for control of his soul
As the ground and the sounds fade away,
And shooting toward heaven he feels nothing, hears . . . nothing.

And then, as suddenly as it all began,
It ends, as the rock hard earth finds its mark,
Slamming his back and stealing his breath.

Pulling himself up, he studies the stallion,
Prancing victoriously to be free of him.
Slowly he threads through the fence, smiling to hide the pain,
But his heart is already rising on the wind.

To view an image of A Buck-Jumper, click on

From Gregory Troxell: “I am a veteran and retired corporate attorney living in the Indianapolis area. I enjoy writing poetry and short stories and I am currently working on a novel about a civil war veteran struggling with PTSD. I have been published only in professional journals including The Electricity Journal, and the Indiana Law Review.”

Monday, December 17, 2018

The poets in your state capital have asked if you still believe in Santa Claus, a prose poem by Michael Brockley

The poets in your state capital have asked if you still believe in Santa Claus
by Michael Brockley

Once you couldn’t name a jazz artist if you were spotted every consonant in the artist’s last name. Now you have difficulty distinguishing between the joy and sorrow in a saxophone solo. You spend hours with your sock monkey disciples sharing memories of county fair queens driving the lead cars in your hometown’s demolition derbies. But these days your friends drive German cars with St. Christopher statues two-stepping with bobblehead hula dancers on their dash boards. The patron saint of lost causes has opened his sleeping bag across the back seat of your Motown jalopy. He’s spent centuries perfecting the art of making cradles from civilization’s detritus and has mined your record collection of troubadours with recluse biographies and grave robber voices for album covers to shellac on the cradle headboards as hex signs. On nights when you can’t sleep, you regale the patron saint of lost causes with your week’s fantasies about the latest waitress to serve you grilled salmon with broccoli. Young women with boyfriends who won’t work and cars that don’t run. The saint no longer answers. Just shakes his head and points to a head board with some good-time Charley leering over the empty frame. Whenever Jude wanders through trash bins for discarded Barbie dolls or eavesdrops on townsfolk for clues as to the whereabouts of their pets’ chew toys, you listen to blues songs, played just loud enough for your barren ears to hear. The universe no longer allows you to remember the titles of your favorite songs. Or the calamities your waitresses confess to while you pepper seafood. Believing in Santa Claus might be the last thing you remember.

Michael Brockley is a semi-retired school psychologist who still works in rural northeast Indiana. Several of Brockley's poems have appeared previously in Flying Island. In addition, his work can be found in Atticus Review, Gargoyle, 3Elements, Tipton Poetry Journal, Third Wednesday and Tattoo Highway. Poems are forthcoming in Riddled with Arrows and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Retain This Copy for Your Records, a poem by Michelle Brooks

Retain This Copy for Your Records
by Michelle Brooks

I am a room after everyone has left.
Emptied out, you are free to imagine
anything could happen. There’s a song
playing, the sound so faint that you
can’t tell where it’s coming from
and the vending machines offer all
the candies you remember from childhood –
Fifth Avenue Bars, Milky Ways, Whatchamacallits.
In front of all this proffered sweetness, you
wonder if this is what dying feels like. You
buy a candy bar, sit down on the floor, and surrender
to the ghosts because it’s all that you can think to do.

Michelle Brooks has published a collection of poetry, Make Yourself Small,  (Backwaters Press), and a novella, Dead Girl, Live Boy, (Storylandia Press). She says she spent a summer in Gary with a now ex-boyfriend. She says she loves Gary, even as the boyfriend did not fare as well. A native Texan, she has spent much of her adult life in Detroit.

Friday, December 7, 2018

In the Name of the . . . , a Story by George Hook

By George Hook
As if the cycles of schismatic violence in faith that had torn Protestant from Roman Catholic and, more crucially to this night of nights, Roman Catholic from Protestant centuries ago are being revealed to her as merely preclusive skirmishes fought in the space of what came to only shards of seconds and minutes when set against this solitary moment on this date of all dates in this country town of Se Haute Indiana with its little more than 3,000 souls of all places that has somehow found itself drawn from across the span of preordained immutable destiny to become a millennial proving ground in a reemergent and evidently climacteric struggle between the Worded and the Wordless, she here and now bears witness to the inexpugnable walk of the True Father with each ready step—narrowly straight in its equable path like the soldered-bound arms of the cruciform doornails she has been wearing on a leather strap around her neck awake and even in her fitful sleep of late as if this home-wrought crucifix (encouraged throughout its forging by the True Father who fathered and guides the True Doors to Christ Choir in her church and who foresaw each member of the True Doors to Christ Choir wearing the eternal symbol of the ensanguined vehicle for the ancient sacrifice of the Son of Man as a metallic stamp of a link between the singers) that she is now fingering nervously had become the inspiriting key that might have opened the true doors for the boy to the choir and to their Jesus Christ—dropping in her mind with a thump of a shudder that astonishes the very earth itself into swelling and buckling under the commanding weight of the measured tread of the True Father though she in body experiences the lachrymose frowst around her where his footfalls are hushed by a thickly sound-deadening wall-to-wall purple carpet and his coming is heralded not with celestial battle trumpets and peals of sky-rending thunder but only by the faint accompaniment of trilled murmurs from prerecorded organ music as he who is also her father by earthly birth walks in the name of the truly sapient fatherhood of the boy in solemn question toward the False Father who has established himself across the room opposite her with his sacerdotal conceit standing out in the uniform blackness (save for the insidious touch of squared whiteness beneath the ridge of his Adam’s apple she sees that nags at her, as if it were the white of a mesmeric third eye that has been keeping everyone in this room under its sights the entire evening but now turns its aim toward confronting the True Father) of his mien that is the black of his cleanly dustless suit jacket, the black of the sharply pleated pants, and the black of the dress shoes polished like mirrors reflecting deep space that all together blackly form an ominous shape to be ceremoniously vestured tomorrow morning in a costume of silken and linen finery in brazen colours with sinister markings that will be more about dressing up an imperious showpiece of a heretical ritual that features a profanely gesturing performance by the False Father than about a solemn contemplation over what state the boy had finally entered even though he had surely been there along with the choir at every one of their scheduled rehearsals on those summer evenings in the assembly hall of the little white-on-white church in Vyrgle Indiana and afterward had been there among them sharing in the feast of pizza and JC Cola during their church basement gatherings and had also been there riding in the black-striped-canary-yellow school bus on the sun-swept highway of that July morning going to the Chicago Convention Center with them that did not mean he had been truly in their there as it were because she is remembering how his great and open smile would be lounging away in one of the pews like it was less a strong bench for worship and prayer than his personal couch for lazy reflection while the True Father was bringing them to harmony around the pulpit and how he was laying nonchalantly back when they did not actually have to be singing in the bus for their voices together in the soulful fellowship of merely talking or laughing to still sound like they were in a kind of intuitive hymn that had its part for each one of the choir to play to pass the long miles of time all the way to the city where he had appeared lifted out of his seat at the evangelical spectacular through their praying hands linked in a clasped togetherness of beseeching vibrancy and following their zealous whisperings that told him to come on down now to the main stage inside the galactic vastitude of an amphitheatre to exit stage right out of view until he and several others made ready would rematerialize in plastic beach sandals and transformatively cloaked in albescent garments that looked like ethereal smocks (she had been a bit surprised at herself smiling over the sight of him then, he who was usually all beat-rough bluejeans and weathered denim jacket now humbled so silly that she was wondering if they had at least left him his jockey shorts under there) and stand in line as one by one they would go up a metal ramp of stairs with the top fastened to a polished-wood deck on the brim of the mammoth outdoor swimming pool of a baptismal font brought indoors until the boy had let an aide to the starring evangelist of this day lower him from off the deck bare feet first into the sky-blue quiescence of the consecrative water and into the steadying hands of the evangelist himself who would bend the boy down to break the water and totally and incontrovertibly immerse his head beneath it as should have been done in the first place – what the True Father, pointing to the obvious right there before them in the King James Bible itself on the kitchen table at one of the late-night scriptural coffee study sessions of the True Father that the boy had been joining during his visits to her home to see her as a friend but not as a girlfriend (she would keep reminding him, and now she is left here to wonder because of this night tonight if any hopes of seeing more between them had been at the heart of his calling to the table and not the soul of the matter) had insisted be done for absolute salvation, despite whatever was inside the boy’s family Bible on the other side of the table, though judging from the distorted portrayals of the mother of the saviour that made her out to be some sort of a glittering demigoddess, ornate paperwork certifying the needless ministrations of vain sacraments, picture cards of Christian men and women of past ages who had become deceptive objects of reverence that sainted them above all other Christians to grant them intercessional pretensions that fooled people into praying through them to reach God instead of just praying directly to God like they could have done right from the start that the boy kept pulling out of (this English translation from the pig latin, she had thought, when she heard the boy say the book was something called the Vulgar, not from the original Greek that God had used to give the Word to man) the scurrilous Bible, it had never been meant for studying scriptures and verses as were the Bibles of her family, but was instead this glorified file folder holding all these insidious markers to apocryphal pages that promoted the worship of falsity – had it not been for that worldly church whose iniquitous strain of fouled Christianity had been passed down to him from his family of earthly birth who had cast vitriolic doubt on his transformation into a baby Christian that past summer of sunlit promise that has now darkened into the sepulchral murk of this late fall for she knew they had told the boy to go to the False Father with what he had been hearing from the lessons of the table and then accept the doctrinal lie about how pouring water on the brow of an infant served as enough of a baptism when the child hardly knew the faces of his parents let alone a lustrating rebirth in the face of Jesus Christ with all of that now bringing her to the wonder of being here at this fatal juncture of ending time where the foreordained Manichean showdown between the bad and the good and the light and the dark and what is of this world and what is of heaven has been apocalyptically charged into motion now that the True Father is closing on the False Father over the mystery of a question about what state of passing the soul of a common boy had entered at that instant of a second after the decrepit junker without license plates that he and his friends had been running wild like dirt-track racers swerving fast to kick up the grit-grey dust of the rougher backroads of Se Haute Indiana during this last summer of his paradoxical Christian rebirthood had lost control this fall when the threadbare tires hit an early morning ice slick from a sharp first frost and threw the junker wobbling and flipping like an infernal machine onto its roof and into the stagnant water of a roadside ditch as the rust-cracked undercarriage of the driver’s seat broke apart and sent the seat jolting and heaving backward to slam the knees and the legs of the boy sitting behind the driver into his hips and then crushing his chest as the cataclysmic force snapped his neck so that his body would be found later in the wreckage of his death trap lying in a mangled foetus position on the collapsed ceiling of the roof with his bruised and cut face down in the slime-encrusted seepage which is why she heeds now in this closed room of sombrous assemblage the magniloquent call of trumpeting angels and braying demons arising from out of the lowing sonance of taped organ music and feels the might of vast armies uniformed in black and white on the march to the epochal reckoning of the battle to bring all battles to an end in the resolute walk of the True Father that defiantly goes right past the parents of the boy and stops before the False Father where the True Father presents his hand and says for the whole world to hear “just wanted to introduce myself: I was his spiritual father” as she suddenly rises from the folding chair and cries “and he wasn’t having any of your Extreme Unction neither!”

George Hook: poet, writer, artist about town. Previously Arts and Letters editor of The Wall Street Journal/Europe.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Duluth, a poem by James Figy

by James Figy
Like some Devil’s
Kettle, the storm poured

black droplets from nowhere
we had ever been, to spill holy

buckets of frigid rain, to scour
our every pathway—this water, to

wash Duluth’s dirtiest side
streets, to wet the Superior

shoreline, to melt into puddles
like cloying blueberry ice

cream from the Portland
Malt Shoppe, but once

the weather passed,
I glanced two of

her: one in the shallow
reflection pool covering

most of the pier, the woman
there, moving toward the light-

house; and also the woman
here, who kept looking out

after the storm until she saw something
worthwhile in the lake’s long horizon.

James Figy is a Hoosier living in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. His creative work has appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Hobart, Cheap Pop, and the anthology Bad Jobs and Bullshit, among others. You can follow him (@jafigy) and check out the Fail Better interview series he runs for Fear No Lit.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Flying Island's 2018 Pushcart Prize nominations

The editors of the Flying Island and the Indiana Writers Center are pleased to announce the journal's 2018 Pushcart Prize nominees:

“In the Name of the ...” by George Hook Click here.

“Running in the Dark” by Maureen Deaver Purcell Click here.

“River That Never Ran” by Mary M. Brown Click here.
“Gravegarden” by Andrea Dunn Click here.
“Cheerios in Bed in Berlin” by Norbert Krapf Click here.
“Head Up” by Manon Voice Click here.

Barbara Shoup, executive editor
Rachel Sahaidachny, Indiana Writers Center program manager
David M. Hassler, managing and fiction editor
Julianna Thibodeaux, creative nonfiction editor
JL Kato, poetry editor

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Slow Movement, a poem by Edmund F. Byrne

The Slow Movement
by Edmund F. Byrne

With Ashkenazi at the keys
Giuliani signaled for the Brahms
and thunder filled reality
reverberating in my ears
more turbulence than I could bear

I made some tea and tried to read
old arguments that God exists
while hardly sure that I was there
or that the world takes note of me
with or without divinity

Just then the tempo changed
and peaceful strings began to coax
from gentle horns soft mellow chords
that sang inside of me a tonal prayer
which urged the universe to care

Tea and book I put aside
to let some tears reply Amen
to the awesome orchestrations that
ensued in celebration of
what life can be with hope for love

From Edmund F. Byrne: “I'm a retired professor of philosophy. Spent most of my active years at newly established IUPUI. I'm still involved with the Journal of Business Ethics and review books for online anthology called MiSWR.”

Friday, November 23, 2018

Scar Tissue, a Story by Ela Aktay

By Ela Aktay

When you cut yourself and get a wound, after a period of time there’s this weird-looking permanent mark on your skin. You know, where tissue builds up and creates a scar. Well, I have a tiny starfish-shaped one on my belly button. I love that scar. Every once in awhile, I lift my shirt and touch the ever-so-slightly ridged skin. It’s my battle wound. Never mind that it was a battle I lost, I still love that scar.

I’m in the tattoo store. My heart is racing like the Energizer Bunny. I’ve got the classic sweaty palms, lump in the throat, pit in the stomach. Just breathe and do it. I lie down on the table and grip the sides so tightly I counteract the deep breaths that I thought would actually relax me. I shut my eyes tight and brace myself for the stabbing pain to pierce through me. Faster than I can say, “ok, I’m ready,” it’s done. Really? That’s it? Seriously? That didn’t hurt at all.

I walk out of the store beaming. Look at me—I’m cool, I’m edgy. I have a shiny fake diamond in my pudgy doughboy tummy. I’m grinning like an idiot, with no idea what’s in store for me later. It’s not always the instant it pierces when you feel the pain.

I call M. and proudly announce my daring feat, as if this is enough of a reason for him to come back. Waiting for his accolades, my satisfied smile is reduced to a child-like pout when I hear him laugh, “No way. You would never get your belly button pierced.”

“Oh yeah, just wait until you see it,” I whine.

M. never believes me when I say I’m going to do something. This time, I’ll show him. He’ll be the one saying, “I’m sorry, I was wrong, you’re exactly the bold, sexy woman I want.”

I stare down at my belly button again for like the 10,000th time. I smile. I don’t care what he thinks; it makes me happy. Never mind that it’s starting to hurt like hell, I keep smiling.

Dressing is a challenge. What the hell was I thinking doing this in the winter? Pants rub at the waist and it hurts. Tights rub at the waist and it hurts. Dresses rub at it. Anything I wear rubs at it. Nothing feels right. Is it ok to wear a sack to work? The pain grows. I’m uncomfortable. But it still looks good.

My belly button starts to turn a slight red. It’s not infected. It’s just this pain that refuses to go away. I’m not giving up. I’m keeping it, even if it hurts so badly—because it looks so cool. I can make this work. I’ll just take better care of it. I’ll be really careful.

I know how to do careful. If “walking on eggshells” were an Olympic sport, I’d get the gold. Living with M. was a delicate balance between not awakening the dragon and entertaining the prince. The prince was beautiful, strong, and radiant. With him, I thought anything was possible.

I start to see little connective stretches of skin form. Scar tissue is building, preparing me for healing. “Nooooooo! I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to heal when I haven’t even been able to show off my belly button. It’s not fair.”

Even though it’s bright red and the scar tissue is building, I still think I can make this work. Yet I haven’t done anything to make it better. I’m paralyzed, frozen, watching it get worse. I don’t want it to fail. I want it to stay, looking all shiny and pretty.

More connective tissue forms, pushing the diamond stud almost out of my skin. I ignore it. Maybe it will get better on it’s own. You know, kind of like when you cut yourself, your skin closes up and heals on its own. Yeah, that makes sense. Ignore it—it will definitely get better. Ignore the throbbing, searing white hot pain and keep on smiling. Suck it up. It will go away.

With M., eventually the pain did go away—if I kept quiet long enough. No reason to think it wouldn’t work now.

But it doesn’t. And I can’t ignore it. The constant stinging is kind of hard to ignore. I finally open my eyes, look down, and the piercing is hanging literally by a thread, by one little connective thread of stubborn skin hanging on for dear life. So what do I do? Lie to myself. “I’ll call the store. They’ll know what to do. They will save it,” But I don’t actually call the store for help.

The next morning, I take a shower. Within a few minutes, I hear the indistinguishable clink of metal. A little silver shiny stud rests on the tub floor. The end. Over and done. I tell M. over the phone. “You never really did want it anyway,” he says. I start to protest, and he smugly says, “No, your body rejected it because you didn’t want it. I knew you never really wanted it.” Maybe he’s right but I’m not convinced. Maybe you can want something and just because it doesn’t work doesn’t mean you never really wanted it. Maybe you just didn’t know what to do anymore. Maybe you believe in magical fixes. Maybe you hope and pray for the best without actually doing anything because that’s what you know. No matter how bad it was doesn’t mean I didn’t love it and that I didn’t want it.


A long-time Indiana resident, Ela Aktay is a writer and storyteller currently living in Chicago. She also works as an editor and content strategist for educational publishing. She is currently working on her debut collection of short stories.