About All together now, Indiana

In Paris in the 1920s, a group of surrealist poets invented a writing exercise they called the Exquisite Corpse. Each writer wrote two lines of poetry, folded the paper so that only the last line was visible and passed it on to the next poet who did the same. The resulting poem was always an interesting and sometimes unusual surprise.

I’m proposing a similar project open to the whole state of Indiana. I see this group effort as a crazy quilt where each participant adds a patch of color and texture to the whole while only being able to see a portion of the patch that came before.

The theme of the poem will be Indiana – what does it mean to be from here, to live here – what is our identity as a community, as a people? What is our history? How do we reflect and represent so much more than our notorious definition as a “flyover” state suggests?

I’m calling the collective poem Indiana and I’ll supply the first two lines.

It all comes back to Indiana — The sycamores, the candle light, the buttermilk skies.

-Matthew Graham

All together now, Indiana

It all comes back to Indiana — 

The sycamores, the candle light, the buttermilk skies.

The music— Jazz





All mixed — Kaleidoscopic.

A crossroads of sound, of people, of food.

Air a festival for all to attend.

As cardinals, robins, blue jays chatter.

She provides staple crops that feed a nation 

and humbly holds them 


For all to share. 

She is the warm hug of home 

an ultimate heartland

for all to share. 

Pies in summer, stews in winter, the family hearth burns bright year round. We gather against the wind, bugs, and snow to carve a spot of safety and love, nourishing each other with texts asking if we got home safely.

Do you ever dream of hushed backroads, of driving from dawn’s first rays into a moonlit night?

Do you ache to breathe in the scent of dewdrops and starlight resting on soil and wildflowers?

coats in the morning, thongs in the afternoon

the days mimic weeks mimic months mimic the seasons

And you think the middle is Paradise but its desires run deep sometimes bursting at the seams

Milton is found at the crossroads of America, while the scarecrow’s garb is splitting.

Finally giving way to the unrelenting winds, eviscerating his thoracic straw in search of a heart. 

Whisking away to Holliday Park he found refuge among the ruins. 

But oh, how I wish our Indiana land still had free-roaming bison and bruins

The bison, not mine, but borrowed from the earth. 

This land, sifting through my toes 

stretches from steel mill to soybeans

from limestone to lyme stoned. 

This land where, as a child, I frolicked through the lustrous green grass and brilliant-yellow dandelions. Where, as an adult, I stretch myself out on that same soft carpet and ponder things unknown as I gaze at the cloud-speckled blue sky.

Over the Limberlost, that is brimming with life in the spring.

Where Gene Stratton-Porter drew her inspiration.  

And hear a symphony of sound from the sprinkling of sparrows nearby. The trees sway gently with the wind, like dancers on stage. 

When we sit by the River, the air is crisp and soft. I rock back and forth in time while the sun steadily ticks. 

Dreaming about when the driver asked me

Where do you want to go?

Indiana, of course. 

There’s no place like home.

The hills never stop calling me back, the curving rock roads, the red maples,

lonely barns, basketball goals make me ache to shoot hoops until the sun goes down.

The tick, tick of our clocks, move hands forward with plowing and planting, making and baking

sewing and knowing, looking for ticks on brown hounds, as we text today’s communiqué 

to friends.

Time disappears in the fold of a wave, the sound of a frog, the wing of a crow. I, like the transcendent eyeball, absorb all, see everything, and dream.

Neighbors create my extended family. The dogs and cats working their way into belonging to us all. 

Brilliantly colored spring days spent moving from one front porch to the next. Crisp fall nights swapping stories while huddled around a campfire.

With your soul parked in the church harbor, and a plastic bag gagging a bush, and plumes of low clouds inching over the poisoned plain

existing in some in-between place 

house and home, nature and nuture

together we live, love, and grow

looking toward and dreaming of the future

Dark soil feeds us while bright-feathered cardinals lift our hearts

Our roots are rich and promising, our skies the same 

To cherish and protect, the new inclusive game.

Ephemerals are we, beneath the pignut tree 

For the birds keep singing and the sky gives us such fame.

And the stars shine bright at night. The cars on the track singing us songs to sleep.

The sound of silence makes me weak. I can’t wait to hit the rest button to sleep. 

the breeze in the field is calm in the spring looking at the yellow crops from a far going downtown just to see all the lights in my new car

The trees whispered to me as I walked through the luscious air,                         

Whispers of sweet nothings are all I need to hear.

The ground is lit up by the fair lights.

And all is well in Indiana tonight. 

We look up at the shaped clouds

And watch cardinals fly around. 

It comes back to the rising orange sun in the chill of the morning.

The fields range beyond the eye’s sight with the itch against bare skin.

Comes back to the colorful trees in autumn, blowing in the Brown County breeze.

And back to the basketball victories in Bloomington, and We Are the Champions blasting at Yogi’s.

the red & yellow leaves through the outrageous fall, 

fields of maizes we eat them all

The breeze in the field is calm looking at the yellow crops from a far. I always love going downtown at night with my pretty blue car

running through the cornfields having a good night. Looking too find my next destination. It might be downtown because that’s a good sight

The cornfields, the races, the Indy night sky. 

The sweet smell of rain dripping down the field.  

The air is clear and land of farms are near. 

The hall of fame is where many of us see the basketball cheers.

The bird chirps ring through the air like a train whistle and cause us to awaken in bliss. There’s nothing quite like waking up to this. 

While the clouds hover over the cars racing.

Cheering fills from Speedway to the Soldiers And Sailors Monument.

This forest that I walk is like a painting in a frame,

Walking along the great flying clouds.

The wildlife that sings during the cool Spring months.

The cool breeze on a moonlit front. 

Our weather may be bipolar. With the freezing ice as flowers try to grow.

Crossroads of America, running across the land.

Blizzards in April, I freeze now to death. 

As I continue to walk the trees dance through the air.

I begin to smell the salty fair air. 

The wind whistles through husks of golden cornfields

Where rain clouds water them generously, the sound lulls a common fox to sleep

The long roads, The potholes and devious nights. The Bipolar winds and the downtown lights 

The night sky is deep like the tree veins waving down.

The dark green grass soaking into the buttermilk air.

Feeling the poky wind, flowing softly. 

And the wind that pushes you downtown into revolving doors, big business. Past the monuments, past the old haunts, taverns and clubs where past authors wrote our future.

Past the waving corn fields, past the busy suburbs, past the chalk drawings on empty driveways, past the places I saw go past me growing up. 

There are ducks here, and they smile at me. There’s a skyline in the distance, glimmering and shining with possibility. 

the strong blue water flows in the creeks as trees blow and leaves rustle in the wind.

The pouring cold rain turns into white glistening snow, only to go back to sun a few minutes later. 

down to the Wabash, where the moonlight glows. The raving Colts fans come to say hello.

Seeing the red cardinal as it flies by. The small little state we live in, is the ultimate prize. 

but in the city, there were dinosaurs, 

where roars could be heard and laughter rang in the air.

Vibrant winds sweeping through downtown alleys- Blending the colors of her citizens into an array of past, present, and future

Air acts as if you swallow hot chocolate after eating ice cream. And dodging the Swiss cheese holes on the road. 

The bright red of a Cardinal perched in a tree,

The ball games downtown fill the area with excitement. 

Driving over the asphalt worn with years of tear, the grass scrambling to grow within the cracks. Forgotten cemeteries no longer in use litter the land here and there, the headstones cracked and broken with now illegible names. 

down the brick paved paths, stretching around and out, new opportunities around every street. People hustling and bustling around, but if you stop, even just for an instant, you may find you hear someone playing an instrument, wooing you to take the moment in.  

Futures of beautiful skies and blooming spring flowers.

The air is blowing hair around the racetrack

The unique will shine, through the weather past the vines.

All the way down to Lucas Oil Stadium.

The beautiful sycamores blowing in the temperamental weather.  The scenery of corn and everything fall are good a day out at the state fair, a show of being proud of your state.

The cool breeze kept blowing through the air. The chill is felt through my body.

I kept walking seeing the sun peeking down at me, until I heard something the rev of the car engine 

Trees along turkey trail, following the rushing water road. From Hoosiers red to a Colts blue horseshoe.

Running through the empty fields late at night, seeing the stars in the skies. Days spent at the Indy 500 watching the cars fly by.

It all happens in Indiana —holes with cars full of families. 

The smell of Mug n Bun wafts in the air, blending into one fatty aroma you can’t escape from. A raccoon runs across a curb, holding a piece of bread.

The air and the fans at football games as the pigskin flies, The team jumping and screaming in awe as TY Hilton scores. Pacers flow down the court in style as the point guard shoots and the ball sours, and swoosh the fans go crazy.

I cross from the airy suburbs into the city and its skyline. 

I stare at Lucas Oil stadium and the giant chase tower and think, yes, it’s all mine. 

Suburbs full of children riding bikes, cars racing on tracks with roaring fans in the stands.

I love the sounds of a fresh morning and clear blue skies.

my sugar maple trees are filled by sparrows and shrikes.

the tree veins waving down. the dark green soaking into the buttermilk air. feeling the poky wind, flowing softly. the downtown lights so bright they’re almost blinding. the color of it all so deep it never seems to be unwinding.

a love letter, a sonnet, to days before even them, that the future and past might connect like a circle.

A circle starting in the center, the heart, growing beyond a city to encompass the whole.

driving through the long empty roads there stands a deer

roaming in the woods looking for some goods

you pause to roam too, to find wildflowers or edible fungi

or just the footprints of all that have passed through

the mist of the trees as they shift through the wind

as the kids play through the yards of wildflowers 

Blue skies, the reflection on your eyes, when I see the natures beauty I think of you

Here we are in mid-April, and there’s snow to trek through

The weather may be inconvenient, but there’s much to love too

I stopped to envelop myself into the fields, of the iridescent hues of the wild peonies

The weeping willow trees almost hitting the long green grass.

The butterflies flying around the wildflowers.

I passed through and I find a small city with the streets busy. Above me I stare as the bronze shines in the sun. 

The silence was abundant with sound, the birds, the deer, the foxes traveled trails that outgrew. 

The sun shined bright tho the sound of sirens wailed if you listened close enough. 

the wonders of the museum, the historical beings gone through the earth

little ones walking through enjoying knowledge   

the flowers may be dead

because sometimes it snows in late April which is a thing I dread. 

You peep the buzzing honeybees and peony flowers.

The rose-colored cardinals passing through too.

The sign nearby displays the direction towards Santa Claus, Indiana

only this state would dare to have such strange city names 

The Tulip tree blowing in the wind, you look up through the beautiful sky feeling the car going up and down due to the potholes your car seems to tragically face. 

you continue to pass through and come across beautiful butterflies. You sit and pause for a little while and enjoy the moment. 

land that used to be filled of corn but now are just neighborhoods that are brand new

while the remaining fields of corn grew

The huge lake looks almost like the sea, the warm wind flowing through the air, the feeling of sand between your toes, the big difference is, the huge sand dunes behind you.  

You look and charge towards the horizon to explore

A bustling city with its vibrant activity and noise you implore

the Great Lakes to the far north, to your left the city of Chicago, and to your right the state of Ohio. The sound of the Indy— cars filling the air in downtown Indianapolis.

The amazing blue skies with the patches of beautiful bright colorful flowers

to all the way downtown with the gigantic or small business towers. 

the buttery yellow corn glistens off the beaming sunlight, its lime-green husks waving in the warm breeze that passes by

You hit a huge pothole,

while driving through downtown’s busiest street.

The people are getting in line, 

for the Colts football game.

The sound of cars speeding on the highway take away from the glory. I would say the stars are as bright as a light but the clouds make them rather dull. 

Damn it really be snowing in April. 

At least it filled up the pothole. 

The wind blowing leaves through the fresh Indiana air

Dark clouds forming above the grass; ready to bring springs rain.  

Jonquils blooming in the south while snow dusts the ground in the north…spring has its own calendar …in Indiana.

Unfair to call it flat,

the rolling hills in Bloomington remind me of Ireland.

Green green I mean the outfield where we disappeared the stars and moon into our skin. When? 

In the days before our molars were pulled. In the days after we persuaded the chickens to roost on the rocky outcrops of the remains of buildings that no longer had a purpose. 

Midwest nice swirled imperceptibly with Midwest ice,

Crossroads of America unsure of the souls those routes bring

Might these buildings salvage grace

— abandoned state reclaims to remain


to exist




— safe?

a purpose proposed

Always wanting out of the ordinary but now wanting to be back home…again.

Simple times and thoughtful actions make me yearn for peonies and Amish bread

I’m more of a “Butter-side up” kinda guy, but an empty threatening bumper sticker reminds me of my place in this state. 

Indiana is the home of the seed. Where things are planted. Where tassels tickle the doughy midsection of clouds. Where they fall and burrow, looking for nurture.  

And the soil goes down for eons

To bedrock

Limestone mostly

Where it fissures through the loam

We touch it

Soft and hard

Before it erodes into soil

Clay and sand and silt clenches in our hands

Yet we must remember it as it was in all its grandeur and glory,

Do not forget that time, though we grow old and hoary.

Is the winter’s frost in northern Indiana

Where wind chill can dip to 30 degrees below zero

Is the winter’s frost in northern Indiana

Where the wind chill can dip to 30 degrees below zero

Hiding in a farmer’s eyes that 

turn 30 degrees

Away when you trespass a 

patchwork culture

Heartland, crossroads, and simply home. 

Where the seasons change as much as this poem. 

A home before we arrived, taken and turned earth. Filled with the blood of peoples far wiser than we. 

And the hopes and dreams, strange as they seem

Have remained from what the memories will be