John Hawn's poem

Dateline: Tue 21 Sep 2010

John Hawn, who writes creatively under JL Kato, is a former Indianapolis Star features copy desk ubermensch who now whiles away his days wandering in Fountain Square, where he grew up, dirt poor, and writing poetry. Among other ventures. He was "eliminated" by the Star in one of its many purges. That heavy loss is now our gain.

His poem, "A Prodigal Daughter Takes the New Road to Emmaus," won first place in the recent Masterpiece in a Day competition held annually in Fountain Square.

Here is the link to Big Car, which sponsored the event:

and the poem, followed by JL Kato's explanation of how he came to write this (in a few hours, yet).

                                       FIRST PLACE

(A collage of images, conversations, and events during Masterpiece in a Day 2010)
by JL Kato

She sings hymns in the citadel at Laurel and Orange:
“A mighty fortress is our Lord.” “Abide with me; fast falls the eventide.”
But in the dark, her ears embrace Joplin, Cash, and Dylan:
Me and Bobby McGee walk the line down Desolation Row.
Tiring of explaining to visitors to say E-may-us, and not EM-mouse,
she runs away, lets her Lutheranism collapse, like the lines of leaning
shotgun shacks she leaves behind. And, “oh, despair tire” becomes a punch
line on the radio. Outside the flock, she is, several times, gobbled
by wolves in sleep’s clothing. “Here I am, come and take me”
on the stereo. She dances to clicks, the sloven hooves of imps.
At the tent revival, she tries to remember forgotten parables.
Without memory, she becomes reborn as Dorothy Parker.
She walks the avenue making passes at men who wear glasses.
Why not? She doesn’t care what is written about her, as long as it isn’t true."

And now, some commentary by the poet:

"The Emmaus poem came about because, as you know, I attended school there from Grades 2-8 when I lived in the Fountain Square area. Growing up poor was bad enough, but realizing it was twice as bad, especially when forced to deal with people who never let you forget it (I was a charity case at Emmaus.)

Masterpiece in a Day is an annual competition for visual artists and writers. I've been competing on and off for the past eight years. I won the writing competition once before and finished third last year. The contest's rules specify that entrants must stay in the Fountain Square area and turn in a piece of writing by 4 p.m. For this year's competition, I walked the neighborhood and tried to absorb as many sights and sounds as I could. I overheard someone explain how to pronounce Emmaus, something that I had done so many times before. Then I began to so some free-associating, mixing in images of the artists' paintings and antics of the passersby.

I wanted to contrast my childhood Fountain Square against the 2010 version of the neighborhood. As a teenager, I "ran away" from Fountain Square during its decline. Now, as an adult, I'm attracted to the community and its quirky ways. The last two lines, which reference two of poet Dorothy Parker's witty quotes, was my way of showing how something old can be reinvented into something new, which, to me, describes today's Fountain Square.

By the way, here come a shameless plug: My first book of poetry, "Shadows Set in Concrete," will be coming out soon (late September or early October). I have several poems with Fountain Square as the backdrop. The book is published by Restoration Press (owned by Tim Harmon). It's the same outfit that published Dan Carpenter's poetry book."

I love this poem. I too grew up Lutheran, so I never experienced the freedom to say Em-mouse. Emmaus and Emmanuel -- the polestar churches in Fort Wayne of youth -- were pounded into my head.

Anyhow, a lovely piece of work, and always good to catch up with a colleague.



Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Absolutely wonderful.

Thank you.

2010-09-21 10:45:33

hendy [Member] said:

Very nice work. May I suggest using to publish the poetry book. They work with the majors.

2010-09-21 20:00:07

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Great, great piece of writing, John.

2010-09-27 16:03:52

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