Fifteen

By Thomas Feeny

Today, if I could

hungrily I would take him into

my huge hairy arms

in honest embrace

knowing far better than anyone

this alone is what he needed

Every damp night, sure as spring

he shows up

the long-gone boy

rot-faced and nearly blind

decked out in

cousins’ hand-me-downs

left to eat stale cake at

other people’s tables

Watching him balance stacks of

Boston Records, palm nickel tips

rub soot from his eyes

I die along with him

but they never got

to bury us

Hand in hand

when the rain comes

we have lived together

every hour since

After fifty years, Thomas Feeny is still teaching Italian and Spanish at North Carolina State University and, right now, spend whatever free time he has cheering for the Red Sox.

Mr. Dobie’s Desk

By Robert Okaji

Sitting at this desk, I wonder

whose words will emerge

from the stained wood,

its whorls and cracked surface

detailing a specific language

of the inert and precious.

Earlier I rapped the cistern

to verify water level,

and a week ago startled

a cottonmouth sunning its lengthy

self at the crossing. The door

just blew open, perhaps,

or a ghost wished to offer its

voice, neither malice

nor approval imbedded

in the gesture. History

shadows me despite my best

efforts. I walk, drink water,

write, think of friends left

behind or gone ahead,

reading between the grains

and dark spaces, looking for rain

in the blue, for light and benediction

and the secret poetry of furniture.

Robert Okaji is a displaced Texan seeking work in Indiana. He served without distinction in the U.S. Navy, no longer owns a bookstore, and once won a goat-catching contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in So It Goes, Buddhist Poetry Review, Genuine Gold and elsewhere.

Magiccicada

By Conrad Gurtatowski

They are a tidal wave of life

washing over farmland and forest,

yard and prairie

Stirring from their seventeen year senescence

to emerge enmasse like a

marauding army of winged warriors

Eyeballs like ruby ball bearings,

wings as slight as Kleenex,

their mating call a staggering ninety decibel screech

Like a million transmissions grinding

in unison for the sole purpose

of attracting a mate

I, for one, cannot blame them

for I would also screech at ninety decibels

if I had to wait seventeen years between mating periods

Conrad Gurtatowski is retired and resides in Northwest Indiana. He uses his life experiences as an Army vet, salesperson, postal worker and part time actor as fuel for his writing. He has had his poetry published in Blue Collar Review, Caveat Lector, Barbaric Yawp and other poetry journals.

A Lone Horse

By John Tustin

I grant you a lone horse who lives beyond the ocean shore

Be it a he or a she

And I wish for her a fastness and a strident lure

But beyond that I only wish she or he be happy

Running along without your greed or your cadence.

The wish to be happy should grow beyond you or me

As she or he runs….

John Tustin is suffering in exile on the island of Elba and awaits your rescue. fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry contains links to his published poetry online.

The Paddle

By Richard Krause

I never before imagined the acute pleasure he took from paddling us.  The twinkle in his eye when he had us bent over, our hands outstretched, shuddering in anticipation.  Our thin sixty or seventy pound bodies, our small backsides that he’d place his hand against measuring up and down, and sideways. Feeling about our hips to make sure we had no handkerchief or anything inside our underwear, and that our pockets were empty, before he’d bring the paddle ever so slowly back and forth to establish the distance, to let us feel the air that didn’t escape through its numerous holes.  It was a pneumatic anticipation unlike  those large balloon men that startle you on the street all of a sudden becoming larger than life.  Three or four times he did this with the paddle, and placing his hand on our buttocks he slid it up our hips, then onto our spine, where he made sure we were properly bent so he had only flesh and no bone, as we craned our necks around, our body like the empty shell of a large egg.  Our heads suspended, as prominent as Hieronymus Bosch, our faces as chalky white, but without the experience to know just what was taking place inside him.

 He put the paddle down, acted out the charade to the hilt, spat into his hands, blew on them and rubbed them together, cocking back his elbows like chicken wings, and working his shoulders loose.  Through gold metal-rimmed glasses he looked at us, measuring every emotion to calculate just how much force to apply.  He flicked his wrist with the paddle slicing the air upwards a few times.  The lenses of his glasses reflected the long wood. What we had done seemed to drift into a kind of meaninglessness, to be isolated there with him, acting out this ritual of childhood. None of us would watch. Though we were all close  by and could hear the cries of pain as the “swats” came, for we kept count. A count he sometimes pretended to lose.  Each of us knew exactly how many the other was getting by week’s end. And exactly what we had done to deserve them.

How he laughed when we jumped up and down, our backsides hot and “on fire,” he’d chuckle, for it was all a big joke to him, the way he manipulated our fears, wrapped them around his little finger; he needed the paddle to show love in the only way a houseparent could to a group of twenty-one boys.  Most of us felt the love behind the charade.  Knew the sting, the pain we tried to make disappear by madly rubbing our buttocks, was a form of love we never received from our natural parents. Knew he was “fair.”  All the boys had always said, “Pop was fair,” for as long as anyone could remember. We repeated this over and over again to convince ourselves of the severity of our wrongdoing, when we couldn’t find a better reason for the punishment.  He had been Dean of Boys and had administered swats for the whole school of fifteen hundred. His fairness kept him his job, and his “love of the boys.” And so when he was near retirement they put him out in a small farmhouse on the hill with a younger group of boys.  And nobody ever suspected that all this fairness, these principles, that could tally up so exactly the swats we received for our misdeeds, had anything to do with any more than his love for us.  He wanted us to grow up straight, and know when we did wrong, and admit it, to feel the sting before the punishment was applied; he wanted us to carry throughout our lives the principles of good conduct he instilled with his paddle with the air holes in it–he wanted us to forget completely the pleasure he took measuring us with his hand, a  large, gentle, and by then arthritic hand that knew every bone in our backside, every muscle, that gently rode the apophyseal processes of our spine before each swing to make sure we were properly bent over.

There was a union with us in the way we accepted the pain and the pleasure with which he administered it.  Some accepted it without a murmur; those he wanted in the worst way to get a response from.  He smiled at them broadly to make them tremble and cry out.  Those who were closest to him went through all the motions of pain, dramatically acting out the power of his paddle hitting their buttocks, jumping around as if the seat of their pants was literally on fire. Some were even brought to tears beforehand. They were his pets.  But the silent ones he had to hit a little harder to get at their pride.  And he then waxed serious to better place his swings, squinting to get them in his power.  And involuntarily, for his own labored breath, the perspiration on his reddened brow, his face changing color, turning almost purple, left him standing there so relaxed afterwards, having wielded his paddle; it couldn’t have occurred to us then how our pain infused his loins with a pleasure of exhaustion that he never received from his wife, who being large herself collected elephant figurines.

We were his pride and joy, she said, and at times she confided that he loved us more than he did their own daughter. We tried to be good for him so he would not have to swat us, but he always found something, or his wife did, and we would be called into his office. But we never for a moment imagined the heads we twisted back would one day find an analogy in Bosch’s Garden of Delights.  Our own arms like tree limbs would harken back to the wooden paddle, that look of comprehension would understand the pain we received as not altogether behind us.  That we and our clad, and sometimes naked, backsides had climbed the ladder and gone inside ourselves for the most part completely disappearing. Only this rendering and Bosch opens it up.  The flat disc on his head, the past we carry like a mock graduation, the dance of fear we made music from, the musical instruments that drowned out our cries, our shrieks, all that doesn’t faze us. 

We look back accepting the incomprehension of Pop. We weren’t damaged for not knowing any better. Though the pain that we now give women, we should know is mixed inextricably with our own pleasure in a way Pop never imagined paddling us, so exquisitely did he enjoy it.  For now we must sense as we turn our heads back to that time that we too are made of the exact same lumber as the paddle he used.

Richard Krause has two collections of fiction titled Studies in Insignificance and The Horror of the Ordinary.  A third collection, “Crawl Space & Other Stories of Limited Maneuverability,” will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2021. His two collections of epigrams are Optical Biases published in Denmark and Eye Exams.  He recently has had stories in GNU Journal, Umbrella Factory Magazine, Headway Quarterly, Club Plum Literary Journal, and Mobius Magazine. Krause grew up in an orphanage in Pennsylvania, drove a taxi in NYC for five years, and currently lives in Kentucky where he is retired from teaching at a community college.

Reunion at Starbucks

By John Grey

You and I sip lattes,

nibble muffins,.

in the green and white decor

of the Starbucks

on the corner.

It’s supposed to be

a talk over old times

but then you bring up Rita.

And you harangue

with the worst of them.

I fight back

by mentioning,

you and Peter.

Then my drinking gets

the third degree.

I return serve

with your outrageous

spending on shoes

and pocketbooks.

You snarl that I haven’t changed.

I worry for your mental state.

You poke and prod

into my life now.

I respond with my usual

round of barbed questions.

Half an hour of this

and we’re ready to

call it quits again.

Actually, you storm out

before I get a chance to.

It’s been an ordeal

I need a drink.

You probably could use

a new pair of shoes.

Or maybe a pocketbook.

But that’s life isn’t it.

Not rocket science.

John Grey is an Australian poet, U.S. resident, recently published in Orbis, Dalhousie Review and the Round Table. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” and “Memory Outside The Head” are available through Amazon. He has work upcoming in Lana Turner and Hollins Critic.

Optics

By Collin Cooper

The optics,

The optics they scream!

As plastic and chemicals drive the madness

The wildflowers torn

The wise men shattered!

But a breath of this smoke

And you shall flee from society

But as you can now see

The smoke surrounds the people…

Intoxication is sanity.

How repulsed a man becomes!

Collin Cooper is a philosopher, poet, author, and so much more. He is the author of Time Eternal, a collection of poetry and philosophy. His work has been enjoyed in over 37 countries. He lives in Indiana and is currently pursuing further traditional education.

The Gift

By Bill Vernon

What changed everything for Butch and me happened during our 2nd game of the season with Stevie Singleton’s team. After their first three hitters got on base, Mr. Philpot and Mr. Sergeant called time and met me and Butch at the mound. Mr. Philpot said, “Johnny, give your equipment to your brother and take his glove.” They wanted a switch, Butch to catch and me to pitch.

“Okay.” I started unbuckling my chest protector, but Butch threw a fit, basically saying in many, many words that he didn’t want to.

Mr. Sergeant said, “Look, Butch, Johnny can get it over the plate. We can’t afford to give ’em a bunch of runs right off. I told you that at practice. Never again!”

Butch said, “It’s my turn to pitch. I’ll get it over. I promise.”

“Son, we told you this would happen if you didn’t control yourself. We’ll try you again next game.”

As I was taking off my shin guards, the managers walked away, and Butch chased after them. The straps on those darn leg things slowed me down. They cut my skin in back of my knees and made sores that sometimes even bled. I had to be careful removing them.

I caught up with the coaches and Butch between third and home. Butch was pleading. “I promise to throw nothing but strikes. If I don’t, take me out THEN. Give me another chance.”

I held out the mask and chest protector to Butch. “Here’s the catcher’s stuff. I’ll go get my own fielder’s glove.”

Mr. Philpot said to me, “Damn! Hold on now, Johnny. Just wait a minute.” Then he looked at Mr. Sergeant. “What do you think, Amos? Butch never promised that before.”

Mr. Sergeant said to Butch, “If you can do that, why in hell haven’t you been doing it?”

Now we weren’t switching? I said, “I’m warmed up. I’m ready to pitch. Let Butch catch.”

Butch said to me, “Just shut up. It’s my turn.” He looked at the men. “I promise you nothing but strikes the rest of the inning, okay?”

Mr. Sergeant shook his head. “First ball you throw, Butch, we’re pulling you out, and I don’t want no crap from you when we do it.”

Mr. Philpot said, “Put your equipment back on, Johnny.”

I said, “Jesus, I’d rather pitch.”

Butch said, “Where’s the rosin bag? I need a dry hand to do it.”

You got to understand, the palm of my left hand got sore catching Butch despite the sponge I used for cushioning. I also got bruises all over where his pitches ricocheted off the ground and hit me. It wasn’t no fun catching him.

*******

According to that year’s last May issue of the county’s weekly newspaper, William Brasfort, Butch everyone called him, was “a right-handed phenom.” He “has Superman’s arm and breaks bats with his fast ball.” The woman writer of the story about the league starting up in June must’ve thought she was a poet. Well, it was partially true. When Butch was 14, he could throw 90 mph, three years later over 100, but he’d already quit baseball by then.

Her story left out that he was wilder than hell. Butch mowed down the hitters in more ways than one. Whoever faced him with a bat in hand knew that his life was in danger. It could end right there in the dust he kicked up. Butch’s wildness came in streaks. So did his control. Sometimes he could go most of the game without hitting anyone or walking very many. Batters and nobody else knew when the streak he was on would go away and the other streak begin. I think his problem was that he went hyper in his mind and couldn’t think straight.

Batting against Butch, catching him too for that matter, involved a lot of uncertainty. The danger of his speed and lack of control would worry kids so much they froze and couldn’t swing their bat even if Butch lobbed the ball up there.

Imagining the danger got so bad for Stevie Singleton the first time we played his team, he jumped out of the box, hunched over with his back to the mound during Butch’s windup, and waited for the ball to pass him by. Looked like he might have been praying.

*******

I walked back to home plate putting the mask on, and there Stevie was, swinging a bat beside the batter’s box. I noticed him but was trying to make the shin guards comfortable and didn’t really think about Stevie’s being there until Butch walked past squeezing the rosin bag.

Stevie said, “Hey, Butch, you still the pitcher?”

Butch said, “Hi, Stevie. Yeah, I am. How you doing?”

Stevie just shook his head.

Butch said, “What’s wrong? Are you batting now? You the clean-up man?”

“Yeah.” Stevie looked over where Mr. Rowe, his coach, was watching us. “Look, I don’t want to get hit. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t even like this game. My dad makes me do it.”

Butch stared at him. “Hey, I won’t throw at you. You’ll be okay.”

“I know you won’t hit me on purpose, but you already hit two batters and walked one.”

What was obvious to all three of us was that Stevie’s coach had put him fourth in the lineup because Stevie was so little and Butch was so wild. Stevie could hit the ball okay, but not very far. He was no slugger. So all three of us knew that Stevie’s job was to walk or, though his coach might not admit it, get hit.

Butch said, “I got to throw strikes. The managers said they’ll take me out if I don’t. So you shouldn’t worry.”

Stevie shook his head. “You ain’t even throwed one strike yet.”

“Yeah, but I’ll pitch a new way that I can control. Trust me.” Butch put a nice, dry hand on Stevie’s shoulder. “Okay?”

Just then Mr. Rowe yelled, “Get the show on the road. Come on.”

Fred Collett, the ump behind me, said, “Play ball, boys. Let’s go.”

Butch went to the mound, and when I squatted, Stevie said, “What’s his new way of pitching?”

I said, “I think he’s going submarine.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Batter up,” the ump yelled.

Butch put his right foot in the hole that four weeks of pitchers had dug in front of the rubber, leaned my way for a signal, and Stevie went into his stance. Butch stared in and stared in as if we could see my fingers. We only had 3 signals. He yelled, “Time!” and started toward me.

“Time.” Fred stretched his right hand out over my head so I bumped it, standing up. Then he said, “Butch, get back out there.”

“Just a minute, Fred. Look at how the kid’s standing. Stevie, straighten up.”

“Why?”

“Look, I know you’re trying to get your shoulders closer to your knees to shrink the strike zone, but get back in your stance and I’ll show you something. Go ahead.”

Stevie stood like he’d been, with his bat ready to swing.

Butch said, “Now look straight down at the ground. What do you see?”

Stevie looked, I looked, Fred looked over my shoulder, and Mr. Rowe came running up, “What’s going on?”

Butch said, “You’re looking at the plate, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

Butch said, “That means bending over like that, your head’s right above the strike zone. You’re putting your head right above where the pitcher’s trying to throw the ball. Understand? If a pitch gets away from him and comes in high, it’s coming toward your head. The head’s the worst place to get hit. So don’t bend over like that. Bending your knees is okay, but don’t bend over so your head’s out there unprotected.”

Mr. Rowe said, “Hey, I’ll handle his stance. I’m the coach. You pitch.”

Butch was cocky. “Well, Mr. Rowe, I’m sure you don’t want Stevie to get hurt either. And he just told me he was scared. Maybe you could tell him not to stick his head out like a turtle.”

Mr. Rowe said, “Maybe you should get back to the mound.”

Fred said, “Yeah, let’s cut out the talking. Play Ball!”

Butch said, “Can I have a few warm-up pitches?”

“Hell no,” Mr. Rowe said.

Fred said, “Not unless you’re gonna switch arms and throw left-handed from now on.”

Butch said, “Come here a minute, John.”

Mr. Rowe said, “What now?”

We went only ten feet away and with our backs to them Butch whispered that he didn’t want any batter to hit the ball into play. He didn’t think our fielders could handle ground balls or throws. I had to catch every pitch, no passed balls, and throw the ball right back to him and not to anyone else. I had to be real careful. Butch said that with Stevie, he’d pitch two slow strikes then a faster 3rd strike. He said Stevie wouldn’t swing until he had two strikes.

*******

Butch was right, and what followed was a miracle. He struck out Stevie and the next two batters without one ball being called. The first two pitches to Stevie were as slow as you could throw it without an arc. On the third pitch, Stevie swung way behind, surprised by its speed. The next two batters were the two best hitters on Stevie’s team, but Butch was in a groove.

His submarine pitches seemed to come out of the mound instead of his hand. They rose up to knee level and curved to my left. An in-shoot we called it. And when Butch released the ball with his arm pointing straight down at the ground, that pitch dropped a little. All that with speed and his sweeping curve, which slowed the ball down, and the batters had no chance. Not one touched the ball with his Louisville Slugger. Not one got brushed back. Not one walked.

When we went into our dugout to bat in the bottom of the third, we were all joking and pushing each other around. We were up two runs and alive with energy. When Butch was on a wild streak, the guys had to watch while he walked one batter after another. It was boring. Today we all were into it. Butch’s potential was obvious. How could we lose? His pitches thumped into my mitt like a drum beat, like the whumping sound of our happy hearts.

I was so happy, I yelled, “Hey Butch, you got a no-hitter going.”

Swinging a bat before getting into the batter’s box, Butch looked around at me, then went to the plate and struck out. While he was up there, Mr. Philpot sat on the bench beside me, put an arm over my shoulders, and said, “Johnny, you trying to jinx us? Never mention no-hitters when your team’s got one going. It’s bad luck.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “I forgot.”

*******

Butch limped, returning to the bench after striking out. Mr. Sergeant examined his bare right foot and, while the next two batters made outs, taped gauze around Butch’s ankle. Then he and Mr. Philpot went to the mound and watched Butch warm up. On his first toss, Butch made a face and pointed at where he’d stood. I followed Fred to the mound afraid that I’d jinxed my own brother.

Turned out the hole he’d been standing in while pitching was so deep, his ankle brushed the rubber on every pitch and so had become raw. But they couldn’t get the shovel out of the maintenance shed because it was locked and no one had the key. To fill the hole they figured that fetching a shovel, digging up, filling, and tamping dirt in the hole would take 30 minutes.

“Let me try something,” Butch said. “Go catch me, John.”

A pitcher’s foot had to be in contact with the rubber while he made a pitch. So Butch put his right foot on the farther-away side of the rubber, keeping a spike on the front and the back of his shoe on the rubber while he wound up and threw. He pivoted on that foot, twisted his hips right, raised his left leg, turned his back to the plate, coiling up. Then he bent his upper body right and down, uncoiled fast turning toward the plate, letting his body’s weight and left leg whip his right arm almost underhanded throwing the ball toward me.

It looked complicated slowed down as he’d done it, but Butch said, “Okay. I can do this.”

Mr. Sergeant said, “Try a couple more to be sure.”

Butch did, and except for being a bit slower, the pitches came in normal.

Everybody said fine and Fred yelled, “Play ball!”

It just so happened that Stevie was up, and he was all business, no talking this time, taking a straight-up stance. On Butch’s first pitch, Stevie smashed the ball just inside the third base line. The third basemen just gawked at it without moving, as surprised as I was. Stevie had himself at least a single, maybe a double, but the ball hit a pebble, hopped left over the bag and landed foul. I breathed again. We still had our no-hitter.

It seemed clear to me that if Stevie could get around on that pitch, it had been too slow. I pounded my mitt and yelled at Butch, “Put some heat on it!”

Butch nodded, went into his windup deliberately, more slowly than usual at the start coiling up, then more quickly than usual spun back around toward me so that I knew this would be the fastest one he’d thrown all day.

Just before he let loose, though, a hard gust of wind from right field blew dust across the diamond. Butch’s heel slipped a little on the hard rubber so he lurched too far right, and his arm came around more sidearm than submarine. The ball arrived a few inches outside, started in-shooting, caught the wind, crossed above the plate even with Stevie’s armpit, and soared up out of the strike zone inside and high.

Stevie pulled his chin down and turned it a little bit left before the ball hit him. Thunk! The sound rattled my nerves. It happened so fast, I didn’t see the ball actually hit him, nor the bat drop, nor him. The next thing I knew I was standing over him saying, “Stevie, you okay?’

Meanwhile Butch was running in from the mound screaming, “Stevie!”

I saw blood oozing from a scrape on Stevie’s forehead.

The coaches made me and Butch and both teams go to our dugouts. I leaned forward on the backstop with my fingers through the fencing and watched from a distance. Stevie’s parents knelt beside him, and Mrs. Claybourne, a nurse, left the stands and knelt by his head.

Someone pried my left hand loose and squeezed so hard it hurt. It was Butch, crying.

I told him, “Stevie’s gonna be all right. It’s not your fault.”

*******

All that came back to me in Kentucky at Butch’s silver jubilee celebration. He broke his vow of silence to talk with me for an hour and by way of greeting said, “You’re the first one in years to call me Butch.” I do believe that was true.

We asked about the Stevie Singleton incident, and he said, “That had nothing to do with my vocation. I was choosing it a long time before that.” I don’t believe that was true.

Butch never pitched again. I pitched and he caught the rest of that season so that our team could finish out the schedule with our leading hitter and best catcher on the field. Then he never played the game again.

I said, “Do you mean that beaning Stevie didn’t make you feel guilty?”

He shook his head. “My guilt was from dreaming of playing for the Reds, of becoming famous and rich. I was ignoring what God wanted from me. I was also showing off, trying to pitch on a sore ankle. So Stevie did pay for my vanity. I am guilty of that.”

I said, “God gave you the ability to throw a baseball fast. That was his gift.”

“Johnny, Johnny,” he said as if he were my parent, “you got it all wrong again. Being able to throw hard was the devil’s temptation. God’s gift was showing me how badly I’d hurt people if my selfish ways continued. Luckily, I learned, and Stevie was all right.”

Butch nodded with a big smile, and that provoked me.

I said sarcastically, “So I guess you think beaning Stevie was God’s gift to him.”

“Yeah, maybe. Stevie didn’t even have a headache after it and also got his wish. His Dad felt so bad he let Stevie quit playing baseball.”

Actually, I’ve always suspected that the whole mess was my fault. Some people are a jinx and maybe I’m one of them.

To end an awkward little pause, I said, “Look what I have,” and threw him his old baseball glove from the bag of things I’d brought.

Would you believe underneath the long black and white monk’s outfit, he wore Levi’s and a tee shirt bearing a picture of the new Cincinnati ballpark and the word “REDLEGS.” I took my glove and a hardball from the bag, and we played catch. We didn’t try to burn each other out like we did as kids. Just two brothers laughing and talking, throwing a ball back and forth the same way we used to say the rosary. Then we lapsed back into silence.

Bill Vernon studied English literature, then taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folk dances. Five Star Mysteries published his novel Old Town, and his poems, stories and nonfiction occasionally appear in a variety of magazines and anthologies.

In the news: Indiana population up 4.7% over the past decade

By Joseph S. Pete

Indiana’s population now stands at 6.79 million, up 4.7% over the last decade, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Hoosier state had about 6.5 million residents during the last Census in 2010. It remained the 17th most populous state in the nation after losing its 16th spot to fast-growing Tennessee during the last Census.

Indiana will keep all nine of its Congressional seats, according to the apportionment population delivered to the White House. The latest Census found the United States’ population grew from about 7.4% or by 22.7 million people to 331.4 million in April.

“The American public deserves a big thank you for its overwhelming response to the 2020 Census,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “Despite many challenges, our nation completed a census for the 24th time. This act is fundamental to our democracy and a declaration of our growth and resilience. I also want to thank the team at the U.S. Census Bureau, who overcame unprecedented challenges to collect and produce high-quality data that will inform decision-making for years to come.”

California was the most populous state with 39.5 million and Wyoming the least populous with 576,851 while Utah was the fastest growing with 

“We are proud to release these first results from the 2020 Census today. These results reflect the tireless commitment from the entire Census Bureau team to produce the highest-quality statistics that will continue to shape the future of our country,” acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said. “And in a first for the Census Bureau, we are releasing data quality metrics on the same day we’re making the resident population counts available to the public. We are confident that today’s 2020 Census results meet our high data quality standards.”

Joseph S. Pete is the editor of the Northwest Indiana Literary Journal.

Sweet Nectar

By Michael Lee Johnson

Daddy wants to see a hummingbird.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

devil in feathers,

Illinois baby come to me,

challenge my feeder

sip up, drain nectar,

no straw needed.

You are a master of your craft.

My thumb your measurements

your brain 1-grain size

white rice the same as mine.

Your vision impeccable 

clean your glasses thick and sticky,

murky migration into your

miracle little boy

prove 2 me you

are the real Wild Bill Hickok

dancing with your Calamity Jane

tick tock, a year there, year back,

3,000 miles across the saltwater

the route to Mexico, traveler

landing South America,

shake the dice toss them

you bandit.

Will you return hummingbird

daddy is on the blender,

mixing new formulas

bright new color nectar.

Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada.  Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Mr. Johnson published in more than 2,013 new publications, and his poems have appeared in 40 countries; he edits, publishes ten poetry sites. Michael Lee Johnson has been nominated for Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net awards.