A Tribute to Conrad Balliet (1927 – 2018) — David Lee Garrison

Conrad Balliet read poems on his WYSO (Yellow Springs) radio program, “Conrad’s Corner,” for twenty-five years. A retired English professor and Yeats scholar, he died recently at the age of 91. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Conrad was the dean of poetry in the greater Dayton area. He knew all the poets and supported their work. He came to readings, he hosted the Tower Poetry Group at his home, and above all, he read local poets along with the famous ones on his show, which will always be called Conrad’s Corner.

There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of poets and wannabe poets in America. Conrad Balliet was not one of them. He was a reader. He read poetry because he loved it, and through his presentations on WYSO he inspired thousands of other people to read and to love it as well.

The pleasure he took in what he did was infectious, and his open and generous spirit was never more evident than when, at the end of each program, he would chortle his signature line, “Thanks for listening!”

Now it is our privilege to say to Conrad, “Thanks for reading! Thanks for your support! Thanks for everything!”

David Lee Garrison

STREAMS OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DEATH THAN “BLACK ANGER”

​The inevitability of death is second to “black anger” among the people of American society. Here, we cannot show frustration, distraughtness, bewilderment or rage. As long as we are stuck in a cage, they hold us morally responsible at a young age—when we’re in a black hoodie, off to the convenience store. Or, in Oregon, when we’re fleeing from a local 7-eleven to escape White supremacists in an SUV attempting to mow our Black bodies down. Or, panicky to the inescapability of a White man who dementedly ran a red light, pushing us off the intersection to destroy our Black bodies. Or, when our Black bodies are misgendered, murdered and invalidated of our gender identities, when our Black bodies are ruled dead by our own Black hands. But, it was heteronormative white supremacist patriarchy and systemic racism in American society that truly destroyed our Black bodies.

And, when you ask why our bodies are destroyed, we explain why, but you dismiss us, and choose to see us in the same deleterious auras that destroyed our Black bodies. You tell us to be calm; you implicate that we must forget all that has happened to Black life, and be the best that we can be, but the lot of our Black selves do not know what ‘being the best’ means when we are conditioned to feel less human. You consider our bodies weapons before we show our feelings, our ongoing pain, our Black suffering, and it shows that you do not care to know us layer by layer.

You perceive us as weapons, but why not deconstruct them, throw away the bullets and see what’s inside, how far we can be cocked back, loaded, until we release the ammunition? Or consider yourself pacifying to the flux of violence Whites impose on society. Their actions are excused while we continue to be demons in a gentrified city street somewhere in Manhattan, demons in a White-washed classroom in Monroe Woodbury High School, who can’t speak legibly because they are not White, demons who graduate from Harvard, or Potsdam University, and are still demons shone on through by the same deleterious aura.

And the demonic vilification of our Black bodies stops when we ain’t bein’ niggas, so-called “defiant,” and extremists when we, as Malcolm X put it, try to humanize and defend ourselves. Death, is an unsettling, but volitional or involuntary self-suspension of vitality, a pressing part of life, an inevitability that many of you and Black me find it difficult to come face to face with first hand, some who are indifferent to it, leaving it to dwindle in the back of their heads as if death does not exist, and others who accept death as it is, but “black anger” is contrary to this inevitability; for you to die, you are loved for how great you could have been.

Humans naturally lament over whoever dies, whether they knew them or not. Those who have thought of dying, are urged to live. The Black bodies who think death do not want to die, and a lot of us do not want to be subject to the experience of living in this Republic called America.

Be it a Black body that wants to stand on its own two feet or not, Black suffering and Black death emit a dragging melancholy, but the Black bodies are still considered “weak” when they end their lives. Suicide is more so “weak” when it is committed by Black people, seeing that, to the White society, we cannot have feelings. We are supposed super-humans in this regard. This “weakness” is often viewed through the White patriarchal lens. Black men are deemed “effeminate” for not being “manly” enough to assert their will to live. Black women are also seen from this lens, and their suicides go unaccounted for.

In the Black LGBTQIA community, suicide rates are irrefutably high, but they continue to go unnoticed. But Black suicide is not immoral. It is not evil, unholy, or impure of us to destroy our own Black bodies in an Earth that has long been corroded by White supremacy.

It is not evil for us to feel fatalistic in a world where White people have created systems that have made us feel that existence is pain. It is the illusion of Whiteness, American citizens who proclaim themselves under the illusion of being White, American society and the world, which cannot fathom a melanated human with a darker skin tone being in the same existential, intellectual, and economic plane as them.

Death is perhaps a comforter that helps humans, as a whole, to understand the human condition, while “black anger” is seen like a drooping virus, an intrusive fire alarm, which sounds with such incessant dissonance that they cannot bear to hear its screeching for too long.

about the author
Patrick Jonathan Derilus writes poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction essays. His work has appeared in The Voices Project, Scrittura Magazine: Issue 6, Cutlines Press Magazine, and Stonesthrow Review journal of New Paltz (2015). In October 2016, he self-published a book entitled Thriving Fire: Musings of A Poet’s Odyssey.

ODE TO FATHER’S DAY

April 12, 1949: You were born during a snow storm. How you laughed so when you told me—that one yellow tooth shone, soon replaced with a cap—brown brows furrowed in that dad sort of way. A snow storm in April, I said. What a thing.

December 17, 2016: I buried you during an ice storm in the baby blue (same color of your eyes) casket you picked out long ago. You wore a brown cowboy hat and boots to match your favorite outfit: black and blue flannel shirt, Levi’s jeans, brown corduroy jacket, and brown leather belt, crafted from the state of Texas back in the ‘80s. I found the outfit hanging in your closet, all together, pressed and polished, as if meant to be, as if you had it ready to go for a long time.

I knew that outfit well:

1998: 30th wedding anniversary vows renewed in it.

2000: Burial of mom in it.

2001: Married to mom number two in it.

2009: Buried mom number two in it.

2010: Attended your retirement party in it.

Four decades of my life’s memories of you smiling, laughing, yelling, crying, and preaching the things that fathers preach, while wearing that outfit all left me the day I buried you—maybe to resurface one day when I can think clearly, without guilt, pain, tears, and sorrow.

I actually watched you leave Saturday, December 3, as I spoke the words, “Daddy, I’m here; it’s me,” and I watched your foot move one last time—after two days of the most horrifying drive I ever made in my life.

They said you might have been hanging on to hear my voice one last time, but last you heard, I couldn’t come because my old dog was sick and I had essays to grade (and this is where I fail, because I knew how bad it was, yet I waited—almost too long).

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, with an old dog that’s having seizures, an old dog I can’t kennel because I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I don’t know if she’ll die while I am away.

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, when it’s the last two weeks of a semester, and I have six classes worth of essays and final projects to grade and submit.

What a horrifying drive to make from Ohio to Florida, when I know you’re in a coma; when I know you’re not coming home; when I know I’ll have to pull the plug; when I know I’ll have to bring your dog home with me; when I know all that you’ve groomed me for, for the past few years, will finally happen: all the promises you made me promise of the things I’d have to take care of.

What a horrifying drive this life can be.

December 6, 2016: Hey doctor, I said, with the annoying echo of the heart monitor machine grinding beeps in the background:

beep

beep

beep

beep

and every once in a while, a sharp chirp would spike, and then, back to

beep

beep

beep

beep.

That’s it, I said. He wouldn’t want this. Remove the tubes, please.

And so they did.

And for hours, I watched your forced, reflexive breathing take over, your chest heaving like you were running your last Dayton Daily News River Corridor Classic.

I prayed for hours that you would go; go in peace. I told you it was okay, that I’d be okay, and I’d keep my promises the best I could; that I’d found all the papers you had put aside for me because maybe, just maybe, you knew your day was coming—(But did you really want it to be like this? Did you really want it to be because I pulled the plug?)—thinking all the while that we shared the same Lithuanian nose and large forehead.

I tried not to cry. You always hated when I cried, because you thought I was weak; but I only cry because that’s how strong I am.

I remember being two and sitting on your lap as we drove down a road in an old tan car with light brown leather seats. You let me hold the steering wheel. I don’t know where we were going, but I never thought it would be here. And now, looking back, I see snow and ice swirling around my feet as I stand over your grave contemplating the rest of this drive I have to make on my own.

What will become of me now, I wonder?

Orphan at 44. Instructor of English to those who can’t read cursive and only know communication via the latest iPhone model.

Executor to an estate: trying to figure out the probate; the car, home, and insurance policies; what to move, what to keep, what to donate; waiting to pay the hospital, the realtor, the lawyer.

Owner of an inherited dog I’m not happy to have because mine passed away January 2, 2017. I held my furbaby in my hands as I watched her take her last breath, my hand over her heart:

Tha thump

Tha thump

Tha thump

(skipping a beat because she had a murmur),

thinking all the while how you loved that dog so; feeding her “chicky” and cream cheese for snacks, just like you did your own dog.

And then silence.

Just like the machines in your ICU room, the silence killed me as I watched your heart rate and pulse race to the end as I held your hand and stroked your forehead; thinking like a naïve child that you’d actually sit up and flash your capped teeth in a smile that would tell me all would be well. And then the flat line. All these flat lines in my life. The thumps and the beeps.

And then the silence.

Nothing prepares you for the moment when the things you love the most in this world leave you. You might see it coming, but nothing prepares you for the moment when snow turns to ice, when the heart stops because it’s tired, and breath you once shared with those you love turns to silence.

I thought the boyfriend who once held a knife to my throat was the worst. I thought the night I saw my mother’s body zipped up in a black bag on a stretcher was the worst. I thought watching my stepmother cry as blood drained from her chemo-filled nose as she stared death in the face was the worst. I thought pulling away from the curb of the home I once shared with the man I loved, who replaced me with a younger model, in a rented U-Haul was the worst. But I was always wrong; it can always be worse. The funny thing is it will be again. It’s not over, this drive.

You told me once, over a beer with Johnny Paycheck’s “Old Violin” playing in the background, that you and mom took a chance on me; I almost wasn’t born, and because of that, I must be destined to do something. And because I was born on Father’s Day, no daughter of yours born on your special day would be destined to do nothing short of survive and do in this life.

And so, through the probate and the pain, the flat lines and the Father’s Days, I’ll write.

I’ll drive, and I’ll write.

about the author
Christy Lynne Trotter, a Dayton area resident, teaches English at Clark State Community College, and most recently, at Sinclair Community College. Her poetry has appeared in Mock Turtle Zine, and she has had a short story published in Flights. Christy’s short story work has also placed in a few local contests, and she freelances occasionally. In 2015, she wrote a profile on the city of Dayton for U.S. News and World Report.

TIME FOR FIREFLIES

When I was a child, the days were long, the weeks and months crept along slowly, and years seemed like an eternity. I laid in bed and stared through the window at the stars of the summer night sky. Listening intently to the older kids still outside laughing and having fun. Wishing I could be out there with them. Thinking how wonderful it was that summer was so very long.

As hard as I tried to stay awake until the last child went in for the night, the rhythmic sound of the crickets always lulled me into an early sleep.

But that was okay, because there was always tomorrow. I knew tomorrow would come and I could once again fill my day with hopscotch, jump-rope, running barefoot through the freshly mown grass, and catching fireflies at dusk.

Back then, time was measured differently. Back then it was marked by tangible things such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If the sun was up, it was time to be awake, (except for nap time which immediately followed lunch). If the sun was down, it was time for bed. Time was simple; it didn’t rush me.

Time was as ideal as my life. My parents, baby brother, and I lived in a new suburb outside Dayton, Ohio. Our house was built brand new just for us and was the first one in the subdivision other than the model home.

As a small child growing up in the early sixties, the middle class suburban neighborhood felt safe and perfect — perfect as something brand new should be. Everything in my memory of that time and place is bright, crisp, and clean. The yards were manicured and bright green. The skies were the bluest of blues with white clouds that changed shape as they floated lazily across the sky.

My house was equally as perfect, or at least, it must have been, as every new house built replicated its style. Ours was a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch with an attached two-car garage. Every home started life with two maple trees in the front yard, and two in the back, and all were situated on a third of an acre.

Backyards were separated with chain-link fences; enough substance to divide property, but short and open so that neighbors could see and talk to each other. Most backyards had a concrete patio with folding lawn chairs arranged in a semi-circle where the grown-ups sat in the evenings, sipping cold drinks.

A cool breeze would inevitably blow by, lifting any troublesome burden, and leaving in its wake, rest and relaxation; the ability of grown-ups to relive their youth as they watched their children play in the warmth of the summer air, laughing and running, and helping them catch fireflies at dusk.

I marveled at the fireflies. I cupped them in my hands and peered through the gap between my thumbs. In that small space, their tiny, magical bodies tickled my hands as they flitted around, making me laugh. Their bodies would alternate glowing and not glowing in a consistent rhythm that kept time with my breathing. Then, I released them and watched as they flew away before jumping in the air to catch another.

Back then, there were no goals, no “to-do” lists. The past didn’t matter and the future only held glimpses of what it might be like to be older, but it didn’t get much attention. What mattered was the here and now. What mattered was doing what I wanted to do right then. There was no guilt, no responsibility. My only job was to be me.

Growing older, however, did bring with it a few responsibilities which left less time for fun. Household chores needed to be done and a proper amount of time set aside to do them well. I helped take care of my baby brother sometimes. There were ballet lessons and tap lessons and piano lessons to go to and to practice at home for, which were all fun but required a schedule.

The more I had to do, the faster time moved. I noticed the days seemed shorter. There wasn’t always time to run, and jump, and play. My summer vacations were moving along faster than the years before.

No matter what the plans, though, I always tried to make time for catching fireflies. Instead of laughing as they walked and flew around in my cupped hands, tickling me with their small, wispy bodies, I began to marvel at how they were able to walk and fly and especially, how and why did they glow?

As they walked along my hands and arms, I stared at them intently, studying them. I wondered what their purpose for glowing was. I wondered why they only came out at night. What did they do during the day? Where did they go in winter? I would capture the fireflies and put them in a jar with grass and leaves, and my dad punched holes in the lid so they could breathe. I wanted to keep them forever, to be able to have them in the cold and boring winter. I wanted to catch fireflies in the snow.

I had a great respect for fireflies. I thought they must be something really important, really special in order to be able to glow. I thought of them like little insect fairies, somewhere far above the average insect, but not quite as high up as a real fairy. For a while, I caught fireflies in the front yard with my friends, but they didn’t truly appreciate the fireflies the way I did. They didn’t see how magical they were.

Some of the kids in the neighborhood would tear the glow part off of the bodies and squeeze it so that the glow liquid would be on their hands. Then, just to be extra sadistic, they would tear off the wings and throw the remains on the ground. It upset me, so I went back to catching fireflies in the backyard while my parents sat in their folding lawn chairs on the concrete patio, drinking their cold beverages. I didn’t want to watch what the other kids did to those beautiful creatures.

I tried to take really good care of the fireflies that I caught, maybe to counter the monstrosities that my friends were doing. I made sure I didn’t hurt the fireflies, and I made sure to only keep them in a jar for a couple of days because they were special and were meant to fly freely in the summer sky. After I released them, I would be back outside at dusk, catching them again, until they disappeared with summer.

In no time at all, I became a teenager with more responsibilities and homework and boyfriends and school clubs and lessons. I took notice that time didn’t last as long as it used to. Back then, though, I was living for future milestones, and didn’t mind the ever-so-slightly hurriedness of time.

Turning thirteen was a big deal, as was sixteen, and eighteen, and twenty-one. Life was filling up and opening up new doors, new freedoms. There was no time to catch fireflies, but it didn’t matter because catching fireflies at dusk was for children; it was a silly waste of time. Time was valuable, precious. I needed every second of my time to make goals, make plans, and work toward their accomplishment.

Soon I had daughters of my own and my whole perspective toward time changed. Suddenly, I wanted to hold onto it. I wanted my daughters to be children forever. I wanted to hold them and care for them and protect them.

The more I wanted time to stand still, the faster it moved forward. I was told that “children grow up so fast.” I couldn’t let that happen. I wanted to capture every moment together and make a memory.

I taught my children to catch fireflies at dusk. I relived my youth watching them cup the fireflies in their little hands and peek through the small gap between their thumbs. I relived the joy and excitement as they laughed with glee at how the fireflies tickled their precious hands.

As they grew older, I watched how intently they studied the fireflies and they wanted to capture them and keep them in jars with holes in the lids so they could enjoy them even in the winter. But, fireflies aren’t meant for winter, and deserve to spend their short life flying free, sharing their precious glowing gift with others, maybe being caught for a night or two to be watched intently by other children before being set free to do what they were born to do. I waited with my girls through the long, cold winters, looking forward to summertime when we could once again catch fireflies at dusk.

My daughters did grow up so fast, as everyone had warned me. It wasn’t long before they had friends to hang out with and activities and softball and so many other things to do.

One summer we somehow forgot to catch fireflies. It was the beginning of their accelerated time. The beginning of living toward future milestones. The end of living in the moment.

I lived for those milestones with them, but also began living in the past. I longed for those golden days spending time together, laughing and living and being. It all went by so fast.

They grew up and moved out. Time was at a dizzying speed. I began to age rapidly. Living in the past provided a great comfort, but has since become more difficult because the past is becoming more blurred. There’s no point in looking toward the future because it’s only a fleeting moment away.

I realized it’s been nearly a decade since I’ve even noticed a firefly. Do they still exist? Do they come out at dusk? I never did look up how and why they glow. I never discovered what their purpose for glowing was. I quit wondering why they only come out at night, what do they do during the day, or where do they go in the winter.

Now, with time moving at an alarming rate, I’m beginning to reflect and question. I know there’s nothing I can do about the speed of time. So, what should I do to make the most of the time left to me? What’s my purpose? Can I glow? Is it too late to live in the now? Is it too late to just be?

Maybe the acceleration of time is inevitable, but maybe instead of feeling hopeless and lamenting the speed, I could look at it as a sign; one that is flashing bright red neon in my face telling me that time is precious; enjoy it, live it, make it count. It’s a sign, giving me permission to play hopscotch and jump-rope and run barefoot through the freshly mown grass.

That sign is a reminder to see the world through the eyes of a child, the child version of me, full of awe and wonderment, a child who laughs and marvels as I once again, make time for catching fireflies at dusk.

about the author
Beeda L. Speis lives in Dayton, Ohio. She has an Associates Degree from Sinclair Community College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio University. She writes nonfiction and poetry, and is currently working on her memoir.

ANGLED VIEW, BLACK AND WHITE

GWEN E. OWEN

He would have passed the home goods—bright dish towels, candy-colored nesting bowls, end tables and lamps. He may have seen rows of small electronics encased in plastic. There would have been clothes on hangers, lines of shoes, tools and toys. Everything would have had the slightly surreal effect of fluorescent lighting, and the oppressively hollow feeling you get in a cavern.

At least that’s what I see in this Walmart, where I’m waiting for an unfriendly man in a blue vest to retrieve the bathroom scale I had ordered. While he’s gone, I wait and look around. It isn’t the same Walmart, but they are all the same.

It’s jarringly colorful now, but it was black and white when I watched John Crawford die. I wasn’t there, but security cameras were, and they watched and recorded, watched and recorded, so that all of us could be witnesses if we chose to be.

So, from an elevated angle and with grainy grey vision, I watched John Crawford roam the store, a cell phone to his ear, lost in conversation while his friend shopped for marshmallows and graham crackers. It was like watching a hamster rolling in a clear plastic ball: he was mobile, but not really engaged in the space he inhabited.

I watched a woman push a grocery cart nearby, two children orbiting. Was she in a cheerful mood? Was she annoyed? Or was she living one of the million moments we live that don’t really register at all? What words was she giving to her children?

I watched as John Crawford wandered through Sporting Goods and picked up an air rifle as he passed. Such an absent-minded act, as if his hand reached out of its own accord. I’m sure he had no idea of the significance.

If he had picked up a box of lightbulbs, a mop, or virtually anything else for sale in the store, his day probably would have continued exactly as he had expected it to. He would have left the Walmart with his friend, carrying marshmallows and graham crackers, and someone would have eaten s’mores that night.

Angela Williams, the shopper, would have continued with her day as well. She would have left the store with her children, and a couple of weeks later she would have gotten married, just as she’d been planning. If John Crawford had idly walked around the store, chatting on his phone and carrying a mop, I would not know his name, or hers. I wouldn’t know anything at all.

But he wasn’t carrying a mop, and someone called 911 to report a black man carrying a gun in the store. They said he was waving it around, pointing it at children, even loading it, but I watched him do none of those things. From a distance of time and miles, I wanted to shout that lies were being told. I wanted to warn him that he was in danger. But I only peered through the window of my computer screen, powerless as a gargoyle crouched above the scene.

I watched police arrive at the store that must have seemed oddly quiet and mundane, considering an armed man was reportedly threatening children there. I watched as they found John Crawford in the pet food aisle, and shot him almost instantly. He would have had no idea anything was wrong until his protective bubble exploded under the fluorescent lights. I imagine his mind filled with question marks and exclamation points as he fell to the floor.

I saw the shopper Angela Williams react to the sound of shots. She abandoned her grocery cart, reached for her kids and ran toward the exit. They almost made it, but she collapsed behind a digitally pixilated circle so I could not see her lying on the floor. I saw her kids though, held by employees in Walmart vests, and I saw paramedics kneel around the blurry circle.

Later, in a small police interrogation room, John Crawford’s friend Tasha was questioned for hours by police before she was told that he had died.

I was there too, a ghostly presence in the room.

I heard the shouting, the questions and the accusations, and I watched her cry. She died a few months later in a car accident. More recently, Angela Williams’ teenage son died in a drowning accident. He was 15.

Now I imagine a sort of cartoon afterlife in which John Crawford, his friend Tasha, Angela Williams and her teenage son all find themselves pulling up chairs at a table. I don’t know if they would have liked or hated one another in life. I don’t know if they would have found things in common, or if they’d be too disparate to connect at all. But in this afterlife, they sit down together awkwardly, expressions of surprise on their faces.

“Well, look at this,” one of them says. “Things sure do go sideways, don’t they?”

The unfriendly man in the Walmart blue vest brings me the digital scale I ordered. I pay for it and turn to leave as quickly as I can. I don’t want to be there. The lights are too bright, the space is too vast, and there are too many overwhelming, insignificant, extraordinary stories in every aisle. Too many plans, big and small. Too many expectations and assumptions. Everyone wants to make their selections and then make more. Everyone expects to finish their conversations and then start new ones. Everyone wants to go home.

I want to go home.

I maneuver through aisles of merchandise, all of it wanting to be picked up. I pass other shoppers and the bits and pieces of their lives. And, from an elevated angle, I watch myself heading toward the exit, my purchase in hand, and my vision in black and white.

about the author
Gwen E. Owen is the Content Writer for the Dayton Metro Library, which means she writes content, and she’s quite content doing so. She lives in Kettering.

SPECIAL FEATURE: CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES OF THE MIAMI VALLEY (CSSMV) REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM

CSSMV’s Refugee Resettlement Program serves refugees in the Greater Dayton area. Refugees are individuals who have fled or been forced to flee their countries of origin because of fear of persecution and violence. Often, they leave their homes with few possessions. They may spend decades in refugee camps before being resettled in other nations. Many never return to their home countries. As part of this special feature, which showcases a collaborative project by U.S.-born and refugee students, we had the chance to ask a few questions of Katie Jipson, TAG-D Coordinator of the CSSMV.

MT: Your organization serves as a portal for refugee resettlement. What does that mean? What support do you provide refugees who come to the region?

KJ: Refugees are funneled into cities through nine national volunteer agencies, or volags. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is our agency’s umbrella volag. All refugees coming in to the country have a specific location to which they are being sent. This means that each case (family, individual, etc.) is selected by a volag, and then sent to one of the city locations. We are the only portal, or service agency, for refugees coming into the Dayton area as there are no other agencies under any other volags in the city or surrounding areas. Cincinnati and Columbus have agencies under volags, but those are the closest two.

MT: What support do you provide refugees in the region?

KJ: The post-arrival support we provide is mainly as a referral agency. Pre-arrival is preparing and securing housing, and setting up the house, utilities, etc. Post-arrival we refer
refugees to social services agencies, schools, hospitals, health care, etc. We do not provide language access for any other agency outside our own.

MT: How many refugees does your agency help resettle each year? How many do you expect to help in 2017?

KJ: We resettle about 250 refugees each year. Last year, there was a push to resettle more, so we resettled more than 300. This coming year, our numbers are again at 250.

MT: Who are the refugees that come to Dayton? What are the circumstances that they are fleeing?

KJ: Our largest population comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). We also see some refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Sudan. Everyone is fleeing from persecution, that is what makes them a refugee. Each circumstance depends on the country from which they are fleeing. The Congolese have a long history of persecution, whether by colonial powers, governments, or business empires.

MT: What do refugees bring with them when they resettle? What do they need when they get here, and in the weeks and months that follow?

KJ: Depending on where the refugee is from and where they have lived, they might bring with them as little as nothing but the clothes on their back to upwards of 15 suitcases. It always depends. They need everything. When we are setting up their housing, we are using money that has been set aside for them specifically for housing (rent included). We try to stretch every dollar, so donated household items are important. Everything from a couch to shower curtain rings to utensils to shoes.

MT: What is the biggest challenge that refugees face here?

KJ: Language access. That includes the individuals learning English and organizations providing language services. The Dayton community is in need of interpreters. There are just not enough to meet the demand.

MT: What should people in the Dayton area know about the people who resettle here? What would you most like them to understand?

KJ: They should know that these families are just like me or you. They want to be safe, happy and successful in their new lives. They did not necessarily want to come to the United States but were forced to do so. Some people were very successful doctors, teachers and business owners in their home countries, and now they have to restart here.

MT: How can people in Dayton help individuals and families who resettle here? What are the most important needs that your organization and the people you serve have?

KJ: Help can come in so many ways! Donating household items or volunteering time. Welcoming new families into their neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. Asking our agency to speak at their church or organization to learn about these wonderful people. Learning Swahili or
Kinyarwanda would also be a big help.

To learn more about CSSMV, the people they serve, and how to help, visit them online at http://www.cssmv.org/services/refugee-resettlement/, or phone 937-223-7217. You can also read refugees’ stories and learn more about refugee resettlement in Dayton at http://www.welcomedayton.org/.

SPECIAL FEATURE: THE HOME PROJECT

homeprojectThe Home Project represents a collaboration among several Dayton-area high schools and Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley’s Refugee Resettlement Program. Altogether, about 30 students from Dayton Region STEM School, Belmont High School, Oakwood High School, Longfellow Alternative School, Chaminade Julienne High School, and Ponitz Career Technology Center met and worked together to produce the collages and statements that appear on the cover, the back cover, and in subsequent pages. Below, Noah Meyer, a senior at Chaminade Julienne, describes the project, which lasted from January to June 2016:

“In 2015, my brother and my mother began volunteering their time to tutor and mentor refugees with Catholic Social Services. Inspired by this, beginning in September 2015, my friend Spencer and I decided that we wanted to work with young refugees in our local area as well. We set up a meeting with Michael Murphy, Director of Refugees, to talk about our options. Initially, we had hopes to organize a tutoring program at our high school, but we soon came to the understanding that more than help with school or language, these young refugees needed a base of support and friendship in their new homes. Based on this, we developed a program to connect refugee and native-born teens through regular get-togethers in which they worked together on artwork and fun activities.

“This art project acted as the mediator between two different groups of people. You cannot force people to get to know one another, but this art project brought us all together through a common project. The goal of the art project is to capture each person’s idea of home. Refugees are tossed into an entirely new place under poor circumstances, so we hoped that this would give them a way to express their ideas of their original home while incorporating their feelings about their new home in Dayton. We decided to group people in pairs and trios so that we could merge every person’s ideas. It quickly became apparent that, despite our different backgrounds, none of us are all that different.”

All photos and collages courtesy of Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley and partner schools.

ARTWORK from THE HOME PROJECT

STATEMENTS from THE HOME PROJECT

about the authors and artists

Belmont High School
Eric
Stephen, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo
Valeur, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo
Bereket Gebre Belmont High School, originally from Eritrea
Ahmed Seid, 9th grade, originally from Eritrea

Chaminade Julienne High School
Katie Bardine, 10th grade
Beatrice Hawthorn, 10th grade
Phillip Hawthorn, 12th grade
Hkawn Myat Labya, 10th grade, originally from Myanmar
Esther Labya, 10th grade, originally from Myanmar
Noah Meyer, 12th grade
Spencer Mullins, 12th grade
Jacob Troutwine, 12th grade

Dayton Regional STEM School
Fatima Boumahchad, 12th grade
Zayneb Moumkine, 11th grade
Anjali Phadke, 11th grade
Maya Quale, 11th grade
Vyshnavi Ramini, 11th grade
Pooja Shirrahati, 12th grade

Job Corps
James Gar, originally from Kenya and South Sudan
Bior Gar, originally from Kenya and South Sudan

Oakwood High School
Elizabeth Ordeman, 12th grade

Ponitz Career Technology Center
Fred, originally from Democratic Republic of the Congo
Florida Gebrehiwot, 11th grade, originally from Eritrea
Fanuel Gebrehiwot, 11th grade, originally from Eritrea

A Tribute to Conrad Balliet (1927-2018)

Conrad Balliet read poems on his WYSO (Yellow Springs) radio program, “Conrad’s Corner,” for twenty-five years. A retired English professor and Yeats scholar, he died recently at the age of 91. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Conrad was the dean of poetry in the greater Dayton area. He knew all the poets and supported their work. He came to readings, he hosted the Tower Poetry Group at his home, and above all, he read local poets along with the famous ones on his show, which will always be called Conrad’s Corner.

There are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of poets and wannabe poets in America. Conrad Balliet was not one of them. He was a reader. He read poetry because he loved it, and through his presentations on WYSO he inspired thousands of other people to read
and to love it as well.

The pleasure he took in what he did was infectious, and his open and generous spirit was never more evident than when, at the end of each program, he would chortle his signature line, “Thanks for listening!”

Now it is our privilege to say to Conrad, “Thanks for reading! Thanks for your support! Thanks for everything!”

Numb Courage

Jaylin Paschal

It was a bad night for both of us. The bartender cut us off and some asshole (pickpocket, opportunist, whatever you may call him) stole my wallet out of my purse while I was trying to convince you that broken could still be beautiful.

We stumbled out of the bar smelling like liquor and pipe dreams. Even the moon had this haunting look of disappointment pressed into it. Cab drivers were already too tired to pull up to the curb beneath our swollen feet. Eventually one man, too desperate to pass up the fare, drove us back to your apartment.

Once there, we found a strange comfort on your balcony. We dangled on the edge a bit to flirt with Danger; to let Gravity know that drunk girls don’t fear falling.

We woke up late the next day covered with bruises and scrapes without matching explanations. We found that broken heels had scratched your hardwood and turned our noses up at the smell of our own vomit. We cleaned to the best of our abilities and tended to each other’s shameful injuries. Band-Aids and Neosporin were ineffective in a desperate attempt to fix ourselves or to erase the past twelve hours.

When we were done cleaning, and the hangovers had dwindled to mild headaches, we shared a cigarette out on the balcony, still toying with the idea of brokenness and beauty sharing spaces. We stood against the door this time, though.

Sober girls know that Gravity would make a mess of them.

about the author
Jaylin Paschal is a journalism and political science student. She publishes her sociopolitical rants on her blog, Creative Liberation.

Special Feature Section: St. Vincent de Paul at Wright State University Tutoring Program

The works on the following three pages come from students in the St. Vincent de Paul at Wright State University (SVdP@WSU) Tutoring Program.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM

The SVdP@WSU Tutoring Program is a non-profit, volunteer-based program that is focused on engaging children with educational and constructive activities that instill life skills and academic achievement as well as laughter, fun, and excitement. This approach is designed to alleviate the strain of homelessness and provide each child with hope, encouragement, and skills that might one day lead them to a stable home and a productive life.

ABOUT THE SUBMISSIONS

The tutoring program operates at two locations: the Gateway Shelter on Apple Street in Dayton and a Permanent Supporting Housing Unit in Kettering. The submissions all came from students at the Kettering location. Each student wrote to the following prompt: What does “home” mean to you?

HOW TO SUPPORT THE PROGRAM

All tutors are volunteers, and donations help drive our success. To help support the tutoring programs, please consider volunteering or donating to the cause. We can be reached at svdpwsu@gmail.com.

Special Feature Section: Homefull

This issue features a special selection of submissions, contributed by clients of Homefull.

About Homefull

Homefull has a bold vision of “a community where there is no homelessness” and a mission “to work to end homelessness by providing housing, services, advocacy, and education.”

Homefull provides prevention services and resources to clients in the community who are at risk of losing their current housing; assessment and case management to individuals and families who have entered the homeless shelter system; and on-going, follow-up assistance to clients who move from shelter into their own housing. Homefull also offers workforce development through Homefull Solutions, and training and technical assistance through Homefull Innovations.

How to Help

Originally called “The Other Place,” Homefull has served the Dayton community for nearly 30 years. Visit Homefull at www.homefull.org to learn more about the organization, its programs, and ways to help.

Homefull especially needs household supplies to stock “starter kits” for clients moving into their own housing, furniture and appliances, bus passes, and gas and grocery gift cards.

Not a Victim Anymore

I object to the idea that I am nothing.

I resent the thought that I am just an object to be used any way you please. I refuse to stand by and let you treat me as if I am the ground you walk on.

And I declare, that you won’t walk on me again.

I will not be deceived by your flattery, and I will not give way to your advances. You will find that I am more than what you see when I loosen the hold you have on me. I will listen to your idle talk no further and rise above what you expect of me. I will admonish the fear of rejection that has tormented me and see that I am worth far more than what you have offered me.

Because I am fragile, you have broken me, but I shall be mended.

I will take back the heart that you stole from me and give it all to the ONE, who made it. You may have had a hold on me, but I am stronger now, and you have to let me go. You may have caused me to suffer but in the end it is you who will suffer the greater, because you will remember me. You have left my heart vacant and empty because of all you took from me but it shall once again be filled.

I will remove myself from your crippling grip and claim victory over you.

I will hold my head up high from this day forward.

I shall not be a victim anymore.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 4.43.29 PMabout the author
Michele L. Britton says she’s just a simple Christian gal who loves to share and write about her Jesus, and is trying to make it on this journey called life!

Story

Thank God For Homefull. Please do not be disturbed. My name is “had it all to nothing at all Roy.” As I share my story of how I became homeless, don’t feel sorry for me. Just be careful yourself, ‘cause choices can make you. They can also break you in an instant.

I had a rough start with both of my parents dying in 1996. I was raised by aunties and uncles with my siblings until I was 16 years old. My brother and I were homeless at that time, so I put my pride in my back pocket and asked an older lady we knew if we could stay with her. We ended up staying there for a long time, until my brother enlisted in the Navy and I went out on my own. There were hard times from teen to adulthood, but for the most part, it was a nice life. Back then, I made my own way.

Picture a fine young man with a good paying job, four beautiful kids, and a beautiful dime piece live-in baby mother. Two nice homes, four bedrooms and two bedrooms, two cars. Yea, what I’m saying is, “Here today, gone tomorrow.” But fear not, when you make God your stronghold in a time of trouble, no one can overcome you.

For me, it happened in 2006. Everything went wrong. Family members were dying, it seemed like every week. I lost my job at General Motors after being there 14 years, since 1992. I had lived my life, handled my business, my kids were grown and in school, but I was catching hell. Before long, my house was gone, my car was gone, and I was out here on my own. I tried staying with friends, but ended up surrounded by people smoking, drinking and getting high.

I headed downtown and went to The Other Place (now Homefull). After two months, I was back in a place of my own. When things went bad three years after that, I ended up back at the shelter on Gettysburg. It took eight months of working with the Homefull staff to get my life right, and I got back into an apartment. My life still is not right, but the Lord is working on me.

Thanks to Homefull and their terrific staff, I’m housed at River Commons.

Thank you, Homefull.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 4.43.29 PMabout the author
The author wishes only to be known as Roy.

in His Eyes

Sometimes when you look into the mirror, the man’s eyes you’re looking into are not your own. They are the eyes of the person you must be to live your day-to-day life. A father, an employee, a hard-ass, a friend. All covered in the kind of manicured veneer that no one questions, that everyone knows not to question. But if you look deep enough, right into his eyes, you see the truth. You see yourself.

A little boy in brown eyes, sad and discouraged by the routine stresses. He looks back at you longingly, with all the hope you once had, urging you to follow your dreams and not clock in for another day of relentless boredom. You’ll drag him there again, won’t you? Driven by the honor and the dependability with which you have advertised yourself as capable.

It’s what makes people trust you, it’s what pays the bills, it’s what drains the happiness from that boy like honey from a bee’s hive. Out it drips, slowly pooling on the ground, collecting dead insects and soil until it’s no longer worth noticing. If you’re lucky, someone will step in it and nod at the potential it once had, before moving on.

It’s what makes a man a man. It’s what they call success and responsibility. It’s what you watch smother the child and do nothing to stop. It’s what you ignore like everyone else, until you find yourself in front of that mirror, looking into a stranger’s eyes, wishing the boy could come out and play.

Before you know it, those eyes well with tears, and the boy drowns in the sorrow.

about the author
Tomovi Keoni has had a head that won’t quit thinking for most of his life. Eventually, he learned to write and started putting it all down in text. Tomovi writes essays, op-eds, poetry, and short stories. When he decides to write something, he describes it as his mind being like a hallway full of broom closets.  When he opens a door, all sorts of stuff falls out, then he writes about what he sees. Sometimes there’s nothing, and he writes about that. Tomovi has a website with dozens of pieces, which he updates weekly. He’d love for you to go there and leave some comments. www.TomoviBlog.com

Against Grandiosity

They tell you to change the world. The kindergarten teachers and motivational speakers and missions agencies all shout with hands held high, telling you to be a world-changer. I wonder if, when these well-intentioned people say to change the world, they really mean that my calling in life is to be the one person in history who will alter the trajectory of every single one of the seven billion souls currently living and dying on this planet and everyone who will come after, born into a new world, a world with my name stamped upon it, bearing witness to my life. Because if that’s what they mean, I think that sounds really hard.

The World Changers is a group for students started by the North American Mission Board to—you guessed it—change the world. These “world changers” are attempting to complete their grand project by fixing windows and raking yards, redoing bathrooms and kitchens. They are changing the world, one loose screw at a time.

The World Changers are genuine, I’m sure, and they’re helping people, which is nice, but are they really—I mean really—changing the world? The issue, I guess, isn’t with the group; it’s with the name: World Changers. The whole thing just seems a little grandiose. It is massive and impressive and glorious and horribly, horribly impossible.

*****

I have two sets of neighbors.

The neighbors across the street are a family that just moved in a few weeks ago. They asked us to stop parking in the spot on our street so that the husband could park his blue truck that is so big it can only be overcompensation for insecurities about his manhood. I know they have a miniature Chihuahua that yaps and yaps every time I open the front door to our house and walk to my car.

The neighbors next door are an older couple. The husband sits in his electric wheelchair on the front porch, posted up watching the cars pass. The wife occasionally joins him and has even been known to strut onto the porch without a shirt, which I haven’t seen but only heard about, thankfully. Sometimes younger people, who might be their kids, come over and do work on the house.

And this is all I know about my neighbors.

What I’m driving at is this: How can I eternally affect all of humanity if I don’t even know my neighbors’ names? If the wheelchair guy died right now, I would still go to the Hive today and eat and laugh with my friends, completely unaware of the tragedy. I could go on, business as usual.

*****

I swear we were infinite.
—Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

*****

Georg Cantor was a mathematician who did research on sets of numbers and came to the conclusion that there is “infinity of infinities.” Irrational numbers contain infinity numbers, and there are an infinite number of irrational numbers.

Think about this: you can never get to the end of numbers.

But I can get to the end of myself. I swear that I am not infinite, Charlie. No, I feel decidedly finite. There is infinite knowledge to be known, but humanity is falling grandly short of knowing it. What I mean is that even Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein are still infinity short of knowing everything. The Enlightenment was grasping at the hope of progressing toward completing humanity’s knowledge—that man, with his own prowess, could realize all of the knowledge. A very grandiose goal indeed. But I’m afraid that level of progression doesn’t even exist. It’s an impossible goal. It seems like every time we figure out something, we soon find out there’s something else we don’t know. There’s always another truth behind whatever at which we’re looking. Planets into galaxies into universes. Elements into atoms into protons. Recently, researchers looking into the size of protons came up with answers that don’t fit our current atomic schemes. “Maybe we don’t understand fully proton structure,” he admitted. Maybe we don’t understand fully anything.

To live a life of grandiose aspirations is to live a life chasing phantom deeds, to try and fail at things of which a mere human is incapable.

In high school, my mom used to tell me, “TJ, you’re going to grow up to cure cancer.” Now that I’ve decided to enter the ministry, she tells me, “Your generation is going to be the one that will revive Christianity in America.”

I don’t know, Mom.

But then, there are people who seem to have changed the world. Plato, Karl Marx, Mother Theresa. What about Adolf Hitler? He seems to have significantly altered humanity. But I don’t want to follow his footsteps. What about Jesus? Jesus came and tossed a grenade onto the social strata of the day, turned religion on its head and instituted the “kingdom of heaven.” If I’m supposed to be like Jesus, shouldn’t I be doing that?

If Jesus is the answer to all of the weeping and gnashing of teeth that this world faces, the one who really changes the world, why do I have to try? I don’t want that responsibility; he can keep it. It’s too big for me. But, somehow, I still feel the weight of it on my shoulders, trying to hold everything up in some deluded Messiah complex.

I cannot save the world.

Let me off the hook, please.

Perhaps significance is cumulative. Maybe I can add up all the little deeds I do and they will expand into one grand deed. Maybe I can’t alter the existence of every person on Planet Earth, but I can give my extra game tokens to the little kid sitting on the race-car chair, pretending to play the game. I can buy Alex’s coffee when his card is declined. I can shake homeless Cool Mike’s dry hand and buy him lunch at Steak n’ Shake. I can put my arm on a friend’s shoulder, listening as he cries.

I am an insignificant guy in a world driven by significance and I want that to be okay. I need that to be okay.

I don’t know if I’ll stop daydreaming about preaching a sermon so compelling that it sparks a revival eclipsing the Great Awakening, or about writing a novel that fundamentally alters the way a generation thinks, or about quitting school and starting a non-profit organization that eradicates the AIDS epidemic, making it as obsolete as chicken pox or the flu. But there are two things I know: Decisions are right in front of me. What I do with what’s right in front of me matters a great deal.

In May, TJ Pancake graduates from Cedarville University. Afterwards, he plans to move to downtown Dayton to help plant a church and embed myself in the local writing scene, where he hopes to learn from others. He looks forward to publishing collections of creative nonfiction in the future. 

A Farewell to My Tabs

It had to happen, I suppose. For months I’ve had 20 25 35 a few tabs open in Chrome. Not always the same tabs. I open and close a lot of tabs, but about half of them have been open for a long time. Some I use frequently—every few minutes or hours. Some daily. Some I just don’t want to forget about, but I don’t look at them very often because I’m too busy checking my Facebook or writing blog posts. I don’t think it’s a big deal, but my kids treat me like I’ve got some kind of mental illness because of the number of tabs I keep open.

A typical conversation goes something like this:

Child (age 29 or 22), whom I gave birth to in a haze of pain and blood and loud swearing: Mom, why do you have so many tabs open? You have to close some of these! Your computer is so slow it barely moves.

Me: There aren’t that many tabs open. Just do what you need to do and get off my computer. I don’t want you to find my porn.

Child: Your computer is running so slow we can’t run this video. I’m going to close some of these. Do you know you’ve got 34 tabs open?

Me: Do not close any of those tabs. I need those tabs. I want those tabs to stay open. I won’t be able to find them again.

Child: Your computer would run so much faster if you’d close some of these tabs.

Me: My computer is geriatric. It’s so old I can’t even remember when I bought it, but I know it was at least five years ago. That’s 164 in human years. Of course it’s slow. The tabs are fine. Leave them alone, please.

Child: The problem is the tabs, not the computer. I’m going to close some.

Me: I SAID DO NOT CLOSE MY TABS. Those are my tabs. Sometimes you’re just like your father. He used to count the number of cans of tuna in the pantry because he thought I bought tuna every time I went to the store.

Child: Why don’t you just bookmark them so you can come back to them later?

Me: I have bookmarks. Once I bookmark them though it’s like they’ve gone into a black hole. I never look at them again. If they’re open, I’m reminded to read them. Also I have to check my Facebook and my email and Pinterest.

Child: You’re like someone on an episode of Hoarders. You collect all the tabs, and you can’t throw any of them away.

Me: I am not like those people. Those people have mouse poop in their carpets, and they walk on piles of pizza boxes and old newspapers. These are tabs, not 30 years of Good Housekeeping. Just get off my computer if you don’t like my tabs.

Child: I’m going to try your laptop. I can’t even get this youtube video to load because of all these tabs using up the RAM.

Me: Fine. Just don’t close my tabs.

Child, after opening laptop: I don’t believe this. You’ve got 23 tabs open on your laptop!

Me: They’re different from the ones on my desktop. Well, some are the same, like Facebook and Pinterest and my emails. But most of them are different.

Child: This is insane. You’ve got a problem, Mom. You’re like a crazy cat lady.

Me: I don’t even have a cat! Not one!

Child: No, but you’ve got about 60 tabs open between these two computers. Your computer would run so much faster if you just closed some of these.

Me: No, it wouldn’t. That’s what browsers are for. To keep your tabs. Besides my laptop is just as old as my desktop. They do the best they can, poor things.

Child: Mom, this is serious. You need help.

Me: A friend said he could do some work on my computers so they don’t run so slow. He said they would be like new again.

Child, slowly, as if speaking to a child: Mom, if you’d close some of these many tabs, your computer would run just fine. Me: You aren’t the boss of me.

Child, under his or her breath: Hoarder.

Me: I heard that!

Child: Tell it to your cats.

Last night, Chrome crashed and didn’t retrieve my tabs when I reopened it. The height of disloyalty. I lost all my tabs, except the ones on the toolbar. Some were really important, and I now can’t remember what they were.

I was going to write about some of those articles eventually. Or sign up to take a certificate class in Excel. Or learn a song for karaoke. Or listen to a Ted Talk.

It’s like a library burned down. An entire Alexandrian library of tabs.

But don’t worry about me. I’ve already opened a dozen tabs, and I’m sure I’ll find more soon. I do mourn the loss of those other tabs though. They were like family—family who didn’t mock me for having too many tabs open.

Carol Narigon teaches creative writing at Stivers School for the Arts. When she’s not bending young minds to her will, she can be found writing on her blog, cycling along the bike paths, or hanging out with her granddaughter Coraline. Email her at narigon.carol@gmail.com.

Like Bees After Blooms

Like Bees After Blooms
Bill Vernon

Based on my poem “Dayton” in POETRY OHIO (1984)

Could have been my imagination. I was commuting to a Dayton high school at the time, so learning was on my mind. I’d also read a lot about the Wright brothers, and their bicycle shop was just 15 blocks from my classrooms. What was left of it then was vacant and dirty. Twenty years before, Greenfield Village had taken the main building north to restore it.

Why didn’t Daytonians save it themselves? Maybe they should have, but they seemed to have preserved something more important: the Wrights’ way of thinking.

I’d wander the streets, gaze through large showroom windows, browse inside the big stores, and everywhere I’d encounter people staring off as if rapt in a vision. I didn’t understand this phenomenon until one day a girl spun out of her father’s hand and ran around him as if she were flying. These people would look at pigeons, then flatten their arms into wings, splay out their legs, and take off.

There seemed to be poetry in these visions as well, the merging of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s and the Wright brothers’ inclinations. An old timer staring off the Main Street Bridge told me that the carp leaped in the Great Miami to test how their fins were evolving.

The first fairly nice day of the year, you’d see kites darting about on the skyline like bees after blooms.

In March, when stores sold out of the diamond and box varieties, homemade kites rode the strong winds, butcher paper or layers of newspaper flapping, dragging somewhat heavy rag tails. Kids were fascinated with things that flew.

Adults as well. At ball games, they’d study the arc, spiral and spin, then argue about the dynamics of curving. Clustered on street corners, around tables in kitchens, they’d speak in angry, awed tones of the hangar on base where the Air Force was hiding the bodies of little green men, killed on a mission from some other planet. The city had to put up signs to ban hang gliders from the tops of tall buildings. However, it also planted large eXes of flowers in parks, providing targets for sky divers.

Every Easter, families religiously gathered downtown by the river to witness hot air balloons swelling colored and bright with the dawn, lifting higher than the trees, soaring off like humanity’s grandest ideas.

In those old days, my childhood, the history of such thinking inspired many people. They approached things with wonder and hope. The improbable was in fact possible. No one scoffed at the dreamers who surveyed the space between the land and the sun, bicycles lying beside them, watching hawks wheel and hover at Pinnacle Hill.

about the author
Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, then studied English literature in Ohio universities and taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folk dances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.

Pairings (A Review)

Pairings:
Poems by Lianne Spidel, Paintings by Ann Loveland

2012, 31 pp., $17 ▪ ISBN: 978-1-933675-70-1
Dos Madres Press, Inc. ▪ P.O. Box 294 ▪ Loveland, OH 45140 ▪ http://www.dosmadres.com

Lianne Spidel’s Pairings pairs her own poems with paintings rendered by an artist friend, Ann Loveland. In some cases, the painting was done first, followed by the poem; in other cases, the painting followed the poem. All of the works are stunningly beautiful, and conjoined, make for a deeply sensual, thrilling reading experience.

A fine example of the collaboration is the still life “Geppetto’s Son” and the poem that goes with it about Pinocchio and his fictional creator. The picture shows a wooden puppet that leans against a wall casting a long shadow. He is not at the center of the painting, however, which is taken up by the handle used to manipulate him. The handle lies on the floor, partially hidden by the puppet, a beautiful cloth scarf, and one of three pears in the picture. The red and yellow of the scarf also appear in Pinocchio’s costume and in the pears, bringing everything together. The accompanying poem reads:

Thoughts for Geppetto, Who Got More Than He Bargained For

I saw the angel in the marble and carved
until I set him free.
—Michelangelo

When you said the block of wood
spoke to you, I believed you.
The egg that would become my first
son did the same, telling me—
only half his possibilities intact—
to make him happen.
Pinocchio (cast aside now in a heap
of strings) emerged from your carving
to make clear that puppetry
was not an option. Nothing but being
a real boy would do. Getting there,
he took his own sweet time.

No angel—he lied, broke promises, sold
the spelling book you gave up your coat
to buy, ate your breakfast pears.
He consorted with assassins,
was imprisoned and hanged, was nearly
fried and nearly drowned.

In truth, Geppetto, our children
are never our creations. They own us,
break our hearts in finding their own way,
and if a happy ending comes to them—
no, even if they survive—we rejoice
and call ourselves blessed.

The central location of the handle subtly focuses attention on the role of the author of Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi), the artist (Ann Loveland), the fictional carver of the puppet (Geppetto), and the poet (Lianne Spidel). The handle, representing by implication all of these artists, is at the center of things because with it, the author makes everything happen, gives birth to his or her own creation and those that follow from it.

The poem turns on the metaphor of the author as parent. Despite giving birth to a boy (as the author of Pinocchio has also done), the poet realizes in the end that “our children / are never our creations.” Children and fictional characters take on lives of their own, as do paintings and poems. The role of the creator becomes, in the end, less than the creation itself. In a charming irony, the poem contradicts the painting.

Reflections on art and artist reemerge in “Apology from a Nonfiction Writer,” in which the speaker says, “I don’t intend to lie, not usually. / I start to tell it straight. / Somehow the telling makes things change.” The accompanying painting, “Forest Ranger,” is a chiaroscuro landscape of barren winter trees with a bear lurking among them. The poem plays on the idea of this animal presence:

Memory lumbers like a bear,
imagination buzzing at an ear.
Old details slip away among the trees.
New details find their way on quiet paws.

The bear emerges from the imagination of the artist to become, in the poem, a metaphor of the imagination itself.

The book includes poems about Barbie Dolls, eye surgery, rock collecting, reflections on the experience of people at home as they wait for news in World War II, falling in and out of love. In them, the poet shows an engaging willingness to be honest and vulnerable. She uses language that is both spare and yet richly textured with metaphor and ambiguity as she strives to find transcendence in life.

In one of my favorites, “Love Handles,” the poet plays with the colloquial meaning of that phrase in the surreal recollection of a marriage. The poet dreams that her ex gives her some metal handles, which she imagines placing on cabinet drawers. She moves from there to the comic metaphor of love handles and finally to expressions like “get a grip.”

Even in the dream I muse on meanings,
think for a moment of love handles—
not that he’d ever own a pair of those.

It seems clear that after all
the doors he’s closed—and witty
even without words—

he’s telling me one last time before
he goes, “Get a grip. Get a handle
on it. Get a life.”

The painting that goes with this one, “Still Life with Lemons,” pictures lemons on a table beside a yellow pitcher, a white vase with two sunflowers in it, and a gargoyle figurine on the wall. Bitterness, sweetness, madness—the stuff of dreams, of art and poetry.

Pairings will look nice on your coffee table, but it will not be just a decoration. You will pick it up, and read the poems and study the paintings again and again.

Reviewed by David Lee Garrison

about the author
The poetry of David Lee Garrison has been published in Connecticut Review, Nimrod, Rattle, and several anthologies. Garrison Keillor read two poems from his book, Sweeping the Cemetery, on The Writer’s Almanac, and one of those appears in Keillor’s Good Poems American Places. His latest book is Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro, the title poem of which was featured by Ted Kooser on his website, American Life in Poetry.

Haunted Again

Haunted Again
Herbert Woodward Martin

in memory of Jay Hoffman

My father’s death came to him like a hard roll of dice against a wire cage, tossed across a felt embankment to finally stop at some grave, unanticipated place. It was just such a noise that rattled in his lungs, ice cubes clinking in crystals they wait to crack beneath a steady stream of warm liquor in a place where warm music sounds in smoky lounges.

He died of a casual cigarette, white smoke turning into exquisite ash, an ecstasy he would not forgo, not even for life itself. It killed him, left his still body abandoned, wrapped in that dark aroma by which he had been seduced.

I, the perfect young witness, kept him from that wry embrace, which he told me he would have long ago entered willingly. He often told me of the exotic warmth of women that every man like himself wished for, searched for, and hungered to taste. He knew he would never escape. I, on the other hand, hung on to the good in him as long as I could. Then I let go.

His dying was not easy to watch; one late afternoon between a hard martini and the aroma of strong morning coffee, he surrendered. He had insisted on dying with his eyes open, so nothing would ever surprise him again.

about the author
Herbert Woodward Martin has published eight volumes of poetry and edited three volumes of the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar. He is Professor Emeritus of English from The University of Dayton. He is at work presently on a work about Nicholas II, the Last Tsar of Russia.

Sew Dayton: Where Hand Made Trends Are So Dayton

Sew Dayton: Where Hand Made Trends Are So Dayton
Tara Pettit

As we all know, fashion trends have a tendency to recycle themselves back into society, bringing with them timeless styles that have been created and kept alive by the influence of past generations. With the classic styles we have seen brought back to life in the past decade and in light of generational movements like eco-friendly and simpler living, it makes sense to preserve the ageless art and practice of crafting our own clothing, not only to prevent the loss of such a vital practice, but as a means to further inspire innovation and creativity to a long-held household tradition.

The ‘almost lost art’ of sewing as a household practice is exactly what design artists and seamstresses, Jesy Andeson and Tracy McElfresh, have sought to preserve with their creative business endeavor, Sew Dayton, a start-up dedicated to teaching and showcasing handmade clothing designs. This is the first business of its kind in the Dayton area, helping people of all ages, with any level of sewing experience, in their current projects and to further develop personal seamstressing skills.

Through public classes and private lessons and as a source for high quality fabrics, patterns and project ideas, Sew Dayton aims to focus the Dayton community and surrounding areas back towards highly creative, handmade, quality fashion.

Tell me about your business, Sew Dayton.

Jesy: I created Jkessel Design in 2008 while I worked for corporate America. Then in Oct. 2011, after 11.5 years, my job was eliminated and I needed to figure out which road I wanted to take, the road back to a salaried corporate job or to follow my dreams. I discussed this with my fiancé at the time, and he told me to do what would make me happy. So I pursued my dream of working for myself selling on Etsy and at craft shows.

I met Tracy in Nov. 2011, hitting it off creatively with her right away. We kept talking about sewing, asking each others’ opinions on projects. Then Tracy approached me with the idea of signing up for activated spaces to open our own shop. I was elated! I agreed and we worked for 6 months on business plans, funding, location scouting, and marketing ourselves.

When we were accepted to the Activated Spaces Pop-Up program, we were both so excited and accomplished opening our shop in three weeks after signing a lease!

Tracy: I’ve been working from home, making custom-ordered dresses, for a couple of years and am ready to grow into a new space and branch out in the community with Sew Dayton.

Tell me about your roles and your daily schedules. What are your responsibilities?

Jesy: Tracy and I are both filling the roles of customer service, owner, payroll, social media, marketing, banking, purchasing and planning. I come from an accounting and logistics background, which helps.

We both have clientele that we previously worked with and are now bringing in some new people. Tracy makes custom made-to-fit party dresses, alterations and cute wool hats (among a list of other things). I specialize in accessories, such as purses, bags, totes, Kindle/iPad cases, clutches, makeup bags, zipper pouches, etc. I also paint, teach art classes, work in graphic design and photography.

Tracy: Jesy and I are “wearing many hats right now.” We are working the books, balancing custom orders, ordering fabrics, etc. Networking is huge for us right now, and we are also creating cool and cute classes.

How did you get to this point in your career?

Jesy: I have always worked on the side, helping people with design work, sewing a bag for a granddaughter’s birthday or a commissioned painting. But after my full-time job was eliminated, I used the tools from my previous job and dove into learning all I could about owning a small business and selling products online. I believe natural progression and a lot of hard work got me to this point in my career. I have had the support I needed from my family and friends and put pride into everything I make.

Tracy: I worked at a local fabric shop for eight years and learned, hands-on, the ins and outs of dressmaking. I am a third generation seamstress, and that helps.

What do you feel passionate about at work?

Jesy: Customer service is number 1. Listening, understanding and helping our customers is what we love to do. Tracy and I are passionate about the art of sewing. Going into a shop where none of the employees can answer a question about a sewing foot that I need to get, or which fabric will work best with a pattern, is frustrating. When I started sewing, I relied on the Internet and blogs for answers. It was hard to find anyone who knew answers here in Dayton.

Tracy: I am passionate about great customer service and really understanding what my customer needs, as well as product presentation and looking at things from a positive attitude.

What do you find most challenging?

Jesy: Trying to get all I want done in a day. Tracy and I both tend to take stuff home to finish or Tracy will definitely come in early a lot to get a jump-start on a project. It feels like time flies while we are working and the next thing we know, it’s 7:00 and time to close. It’s great, but we both want to get more things done in a day than we do now.

Tracy: When I sew, I lose all track of time.

How does your work relate to and positively serve the Dayton community?

Jesy: There is nothing like our shop (yet) in Dayton. People have to drive to Columbus or shop online for the fabrics we carry. Also, we will be providing classes on accessories, quilting and garment construction. Right now, in Dayton, the most you can get for a class is quilting or a making tote bag. We want to empower those who want to sew to be able to make exactly what they want.

Tracy: People keep saying our work is a lost art, although there is a huge demand for classes and sharing our knowledge.

How would you like to see your job develop in relation to the community?

Jesy: I would love to see us doing more events that help the community. Tracy and I are working on an event for We Care Arts, which happens to be a fashion show. Maybe at some point we can work with the job center to get some people that want to learn easy mending. We are looking to schedule Girl Scout group classes and mother/daughter classes.

I would love to see Sew Dayton become a staple of Dayton, where people are driving from another city to see us, and then they realize everything else that is here. I think it could be a great way to get people coming downtown again, like it was before.

Tracy: I would like to see Jesy and I be able to give back to the community, succeed and make many more great relationships.

Sew Dayton is a part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan to help launch local businesses down the path of successful entrepreneurship, while revitalizing downtown abandoned storefronts. Activated Spaces is the child project developed to foster these business goals and the backing organization that enabled Sew Dayton to integrate into the larger business community. Jesy and Tracy can be contacted through http://www.sewdayton.com.

about the author
Tara Pettit pursued journalism at Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism. She broke free from her hometown mold by becoming an impassioned cultural observer and writer. Tara found herself drawn to environmental and social justice reporting and has written for various publications, including the InterActivist, Athens Messenger, Collective for Women, Southeast Ohio, and BookPage. She considers herself a sort of “ramblin’ woman” who dabbles in many different activities and projects, which often lead her to her next literary idea. Currently, Tara is a writing partner with the United Nations, and has been devoting many of her freelance writing projects to her interests in Ayurveda, nature and social justice.