The newest issue of the Indiana Review is heavy with pointed, skilled, beautifully subtle writing. The poems sit in the hand, the lines and images spilling through cupped fingers. The prose fills the room and exits without apology. Two outstanding pieces, “When My Father Was in Prison” by Hadley Moore and “Loblolly Pine in a Field of Hollyhocks” by Vievee Francis, demonstrate the withdrawn but commanding presence of the work in this issue.
Normally, nature writing slides away from my ears like warm butter on a knife—pleasant but insubstantial; however, one poem in particular from this issue surprised me, grabbed my reader’s eyes and ears and nose and gave me some nature writing to love, Vievee Francis’s prose poem “Loblolly Pine in a Field of Hollyhocks”:
There is a sweetness, oh yes, there is, like a thin pistil of honeysuckle
gone almost as soon as it’s sucked, like lips pursed just so, like a needled pine
with blossoms at its feet and far afield, and the slobbering bees bobbing
So sweet, to inhale the late afternoon and the slight damp, hint of dew,
or the rain
Francis’s piece serves as a love poem for a particular sweetness. The images are sensual, hungry: “the sweetness found in a stain of wine, or the cloy of blood soup, / thickening as it cools.”
In the short story “When My Father Was in Prison,” Hadley Moore anchors narrative with voice. Told from the first person perspective of a young boy whose father is in prison, Moore’s story reveals itself in brief narrative sections:
The girl across the street’s father waved to her every morning and beeped his car horn, and when the weather got nice the girl would come outside and wave back to him from the front porch. She’d wave until his car turned at the end of the street. I watched her while I ate my English muffin before school and practiced saying government functionary, but when I actually said it to her—I opened the door and yelled it this one time—I got mixed up and said, “Your dad is a government dictionary!” Then I slammed the door and opened it again and screamed “Dick! Suck! Your dad is a government dicksuck! Dicksucktionary!”
These moments of adolescence cradle the wider story and make the narrator real in his confusion and blossoming angst. On returning to this story, I am in awe of how full it feels from only seven pages. If you only get to one piece from this issue of the Indiana Review, this is the one to read.