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.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Social Anxiety Disorder, a poem by Matthew Early

Social Anxiety Disorder
by Matthew Early

I never acknowledge it:
The tarantula that nests in people’s mouths.
Hopping from host to host,
its hair matted from heavy exhales,
pincers and legs jutting out to chins,
with weight crushing tongues
long given up on.
I am always too much a stranger, and victims—
coworkers, classmates or cousins too far removed—
aren’t ever eager to share.
I just cannot but I do know

how every sundown the spider clacks
the ivory of canines,
announcing ritual with a song
they think only they can hear.
It feeds venom to throats during descents
to sleep in stomachs,
overdosing innards and cocooning them for later.
I never call to check up.

Some mornings I see them pale and sickly
from trying all night
to drown it with Jack.
Their breathing is always strained
from the webbing covering their windpipes.
The spider marionettes
mouths to smile with silk,
but people will always run
from fangs and too many eyes.

I just cannot bring myself to comfort them,
because the spider has already stitched tight my lips.

Matthew Early is a poet originally from Columbus, Ohio, currently residing in Indianapolis. He holds a B.A. from Muskingum University and is currently pursuing his MFA in creative writing at Butler University. He is the recipient of the 2018 Beulah Brooks Brown Award in Poetry. His work has also been featured on The Academy of American Poets online website, His work has been published in Echo, and First Circle, and he has placed in several collegiate literary competitions.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Cave Painting, a poem by Terry Ofner

Cave Painting
by Terry Ofner
The man-shape on the wall
is red. The man is earthen red,
like the dust all around.

The man points an arrow upwind
where the bison range. They graze
the stony hill one wall over.

The bison are brown—
earthen brown,
like the dust all around.

The brown pigment
is hungry
for the wall.

The red pigment
is hungry
for the kill.

Desire everywhere.

Bio: Terry Ofner has published poetry in World Order, 100 Words, Right Hand Pointing, Ghazal Page, Flying Island, San Pedro River Review, and forthcoming in I70 Review. He is an editor for an educational publishing company headquartered in Iowa, where he grew up—not far from the Mississippi River.