Monday, June 10, 2019

Father's Day, a poem by Gerard Sarnat

Father's Day
by Gerard Sarnat

It had not occurred
friends regularly
do choose
this day

to send greetings
and often books
more than on
my birthdays
or other good

which is just fine
with me to have
that identity
when I am
out in our

where lost brother LCohen
or now PRoth (will Dylan
predecease?) show us
how to find wisdom

Gerard Sarnat won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, has been nominated for Pushcarts and authored four collections: Homeless Chronickes (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), and Melting The Ice King (2016), which included work published by Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and in Gargoyle, American Journal of Poetry (Margie), Main Street Rag, MiPOesias, New Delta Review, Brooklyn Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Voices Israel, Tishman Review, Suisun Valley Review, Burningwood Review, Fiction Southeast, Junto, Tiferet plus featured in New Verse News, Eretz, Avocet, LEVELER, tNY, StepAway, Bywords, Floor Plan, Good-Man-Project, Anti-Heroin-Chic, Poetry Circle, Fiction Southeast, Walt Whitman Tribute Anthology and Tipton Poetry Journal. “Amber Of Memory” was the single poem chosen for my 50th college reunion symposium on Bob Dylan. Mount Analogue selected Sarnat’s sequence, KADDISH FOR THE COUNTRY, for pamphlet distribution on Inauguration Day 2017 as part of the Washington D.C. and nationwide Women’s Marches. For Huffington Post/other reviews, readings, publications, interviews; visit Harvard/Stanford educated, Gerry’s worked in jails, built/staffed clinics for the marginalized, been a CEO and Stanford Med professor. Married for a half century, Gerry has three kids and four grandkids, so far.

Monday, June 3, 2019

New Mercies Unseen, a poem by Matthew Miller

New Mercies Unseen
by Matthew Miller

Sometimes, when harvesting the garden’s cabbage
or kale, you notice a small cottontail cowering, cornered
within the grapevine. Though you have no weapon,
he does not trust your intention,
and burrows out into the thorns.

In a nest beneath blueberry stems, twisted and sparse
like a hollowed out spaghetti squash,
a kitten shivers,
born naked and blind.
You stop the spade well above his head,
slide over to transplant strawberries. It’s mercy he never sees.

There are sometimes, also, when you are sipping
dark coffee at sunrise,
eyeing the quiet rabbit.
He nips grass nestled in the asphalt cracks.
Like a mystic praying alone,
he pulls sweet shoots from this rough road,
ears up and head bowed low.

Bio: Matthew Miller teaches social studies, swings tennis rackets, and writes poetry—all hoping to create a home. He pretends his classroom at Bethany Christian Schools is a living room, filling it with as many garage-sale chairs as he can afford. He lives beside a dilapidating apple orchard in Goshen, Indiana, and keeps trying to make tree houses for his four boys in the broken branches. He vacillates between wanting to poison and wanting to feed the groundhogs, rabbits and cardinals that try to make their homes in the garden. For now, they’ve all chosen peace.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Backseat Rider, a poem by Marjie Giffin

Backseat Rider
by Marjie Giffin

Crammed into the backseat
of my daughter’s new Toyota Rav4
with two life jackets, a sack
of boxed cookies, a carton full
of tri-colored tissue-wrapped gifts,
my hefty purse, extra tennis shoes,
and this notebook, I scribble.

I contemplate my destiny:
relegation to the backseat
for the rest of my days.
I now have senior status
which, translated, means
I pay for gas and hotel rooms
and stops for burgers and fries,
and I sit forever in the back
with the baggage.

I have brought too much stuff,
my suitcase weighs too much,
my head is in the way
of my son-in-law’s rearview mirror.

I need too many potty stops,
my phone volume is set too loud,
I forgot to bring the correct change
for the trail of toll booths.

My varicose veins throb
due to my crumpled position,
and my neck aches from
bending my head out of sight.

I dare not complain, or I will be
stereotyped as a crabby old biddy—
anything I say can so easily
be turned against me.

Up front, the radio is dialed
to their station, the cup holders
are filled with their drinks,
and there, the leg-room is ample.

Back here, I chafe away at my age
and suddenly understand my mother
so much better than I did when, years
before, I assigned her to the same seat.

From Marjie Giffin: I am a Midwestern writer who has authored four regional histories and whose poetry has recently appeared in Snapdragon, Poetry Quarterly, Flying Island, So It Goes Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, the Saint Katherine Review, Through the Sycamores, and the Blue Heron Review. One of my plays was recently produced in the IndyFringe Short Play Festival. I'm active in the Indiana Writers’ Center and have taught both college writing and gifted education.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Song of the Radio Bees, a poem by Norbert Krapf

Song of the Radio Bees
by Norbert Krapf

Back then when Indy was a world away to the north
I was a teenager in Kentuckiana washing and waxing

cars and drinking beer with chums when the engines
sounded on the radio like wild bees in the woods

swarming nearer and nearer as a loud hum
turned deafening and they roared closer.

When I first sat in the grandstand decades
later as a man circling into his seventies

I heard a female voice say, “Ladies and gentlemen
start your engines” and those bees roared again,

louder than ever before. The low-slung cars
roared off, big bumps raised on my arms

and legs, and my lips smacked with the taste
of honey and malt as this late song brewed.

Norbert Krapf, former Indiana poet laureate, has recently published his 12th poetry collection, The Return of Sunshine, about his Colombian-German-American grandson. He is completing a collection of poems for children and a prose memoir about his writing life, Homecomings.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Hungry, a poem by Jessica Mayo-Schwab

by Jessica Mayo-Schwab

He feeds at night like a shy raccoon
Waiting until the last light is out.
A quiet rustling from the next room precedes a whimper.
His cries creep into my dreams and draw my head out 
                     from the pillow nest where I hide, desperate for sleep.
He waits for me in the next room,
eyes wide open and smacking lips.
My hungry boy. My animal baby.

From Jessica Mayo-Schwab:I am a new mother of a hungry boy, also a wife and a social worker. I love long walks on the Monon with my guys, reading and writing.”

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Death of Mr. Peanut, a poem by Mark Williams

The Death of Mr. Peanut
by Mark Williams

My early memories include a sky-blue Packard
cruising down Main Street past The Victory Theatre,
past the gleam of drum sets and shine of black pianos
behind spreading wings of glass at Harding & Miller Music.
Past rows of chocolate mice at Hermann’s Candy.

Today, my mother’s at the wheel. That’s me
beside her, watching Main Street narrow to the river.
Suddenly my mother’s pumping the brakes,
leaning out the window toward a parked taxi.
Mister! I’m going to hit you!” Mother shouts.
Sure, lady. Go ahead,” the taxi driver says.

With my mother’s arm across my chest,
I learn a yellow cab will stop a sky-blue Packard.
Next, I learn that Mr. Peanut, the peanut man
who stands outside his shop to hand out nuts,
has blue eyes inside the giant smile
that cuts across his giant peanut head.
You OK, buddy?” Mr. Peanut asks—
his head too large to fit inside my window.

For me, the Tooth Fairy will soon be history,
followed by the Easter Bunny and, most sadly, Santa Claus.
But first to fall is Mr. Peanut, his detached
head smiling in the corner of his shop. And there,
leaning against the nut-filled counter,
a man with peanut-colored pants smiles, too—
his blue eyes moving up my mother’s legs
as she calls my father on the phone for help.

From Mark Williams:I live in Evansville, Indiana, home of Hermann's Candy, which vanished along with Mr. Peanut. My poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Rattle, Nimrod, New Ohio Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and the anthology, New Poetry From the Midwest. Finishing Line Press published my poem, 'Happiness,' as a chapbook in 2015.”

Monday, April 29, 2019

With My Grandson on Thanksgiving, a poem by Jeffrey Owen Pearson

With My Grandson on Thanksgiving
by Jeffrey Owen Pearson

He says he is grateful for his father.
His father is dead and he is grateful for him.
He doesn’t talk about him
except from those moments that seem to come from dreams.
I remember him, too, every day. Some days I cry.
My father used to measure everything,
but I have no measure to reach him.
The boy has no measure other than gratitude.
Some places are pure. Pools so clear
we will never understand. Our first meal.
The last. Grateful for the bounty our hands planted in the earth
and the earth gave back. A plate at the dark end of the table
for the absent father. Father. The boy
is grateful. Father. I am.

From Jeffrey Owen Pearson: “ 'With My Grandson on Thanksgiving' began in a circle of friends and family. I was devastated by my grandson's gratitude for his father, it was such a pure and ethereal sentiment. His dad's birthday is the last day of November.”

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Congregant: Creative Nonfiction by Shawndra Miller


By Shawndra Miller

Up from the Grave He Arose, cued the worship leader, and the congregation breathed in as one, readied its four-part harmony for the Easter standard’s lugubrious opening line. Low in the grave He lay… My father stood on my left, deepening his baritone to hit the low-slung notes. My mother’s alto trilled into my right ear. Nine years old, I sang soprano, following the top notes in the hymnal, trying not to crack on the final long ohhhh and iiiii vowels of He arose, he arose! Alleluia… Christ arose.

I wore a bright yellow flowered dress. Sunbonnet ribbon against my white-lobed throat. The Mennonite Hymnal’s clothbound bulk steady in my hand, solid as another family member. Vainly they seal the dead…

We filed out of church on that Easter Sunday—after the pancake breakfast, after Sunday school where my handsewn dress and Laura Ingalls bonnet turned ugly next to my friends’ sleek store-bought frocks—and into a cutting breeze and long dull afternoon. Not yet warm enough to play outside without an un-Eastery “wrap,” as my mother called my coat. And I was not yet old enough to skip the enforced nap.

In my room I hustled silence into the corners, kept the closet door ajar lest something pop out to claw at me when I turned the knob. I lay on top of my brown bedspread and maybe I fell asleep, maybe I didn’t—but what I remember is getting up from lying down and seeing rain smear the window, and bursting into tears for no good reason. 

Now, decades removed from that day in time, distance, and spiritual bent, I name the feeling loneliness and bring it with me to this small house in a Washington forest where I stay alone for two long weeks. Alone but for the ghost of Elspeth, who claimed this space as her studio in years past, who dreamt of hosting women writers for solitary retreats.

Christ couldn’t dispel my mournfulness. Nor can Elspeth’s wispy spirit.

Elspeth, who tickles my neck while I stand at my efficiency stove cooking for one, who whispers, Come outside. Come now. I turn off the burner.

I’ve long since left the church, but compliance is a reflex, and I know a cue when I hear one.

Come walk the labyrinth, I think I hear her command, so I go there. Night has yet to fall, and I walk down the lane less spooked than I would after sundown, when immense darkness crowds the forest. When I round the bend, three deer lift their heads and go still. A family unit: doe, two fawns.

Six limpid eyes stare from the far edge of the clearing where Elspeth’s friends crafted a labyrinth by strewing bark mulch in a whimsied path between crooked plum and pear trees. The doe flicks her large soft ears, blinks, and takes my measure while I stand and gawp. Her black tail aswish.

The young ones, freckle-backed and leggy, mimic the doe when she lowers her head to browse. At a mosquito’s whine I wave my arms, startling them all, but they don’t leap into the woods. We all go still. Until the mother turns toward me and takes a deliberate step. And another. Each tread a high art, with bent leg raised and hoof placed, she walks straight to the center of the labyrinth. There she stops to look into my face, lowers her head once, twice. I bob my head twice, measuredly, in response. A Narnian moment. What oath have I sworn? The twisty little trees my only witness.

Much later, or maybe a few seconds later, they flow woodsward past the perimeter of blackberry brambles, where I don’t follow and sight can’t penetrate.

My dinner-for-one gone cold on the electric coil, I step through the labyrinth, obedient. A congregation of beings sings alive in the falling light, surrounding me: Arose! The notes of a hymn felt by my feet. Its crescendo rising in my chest. Alleluia.

Shawndra Miller is an Indianapolis writer drawn to stories of redemption and renewal. A two-time recipient of the Indiana Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Grant, she has been published in Confrontation Magazine, Arts & Letters, and other journals, as well as the anthology Goddess: When She Rules, from Golden Dragonfly Press. Her essay “Bleeding the Butterfly” received the 2017 Unclassifiable award from Arts & Letters. She blogs about personal and community resilience at

Monday, April 15, 2019

City Coyotes, a poem by Norbert Krapf

City Coyotes
by Norbert Krapf

They say coyotes slink
all the way downtown
in this Midwestern city

and sleep curled up in doorways
of shops. I wouldn’t mind seeing
one as we have no dogs or cats,

inside or out, but so far it’s been
only rabbits and peregrine falcons,
one of which our cigarette-inhaling

son saw take out a plump pigeon,
feathers settling on pink roses.
Maybe at night when no moon

shines they trot past our door,
not satisfied with tiny chipmunks,
and take their sly unending hunt

elsewhere up and down dim streets
sniffing for larger, more appetizing
live meat padding in the dark.

Norbert Krapf, former Indiana poet laureate, has recently published his 12th poetry collection, The Return of Sunshine, about his Colombian-German-American grandson. He is completing a collection of poems for children and a prose memoir about his writing life, Homecomings.