A Poem by Mark Jackley




you who slowly open your eyes

neck bent forward

head slumped

like a construction crane

staring into a hole

without end it seems

want to believe there is

a blueprint somewhere something

livable will rise



Mark Jackley‘s work has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, Sugar House Review, Natural Bridge and other journals. He is the author of several chapbooks, including Every Green Word (Finishing Line Press). His new book of poems On the Edge of a Very Small Town is available for free at chineseplums@gmail.com.

A Poem by Rachel Custer




Summer day like a held breath, like held words

in a woman’s mouth, like a woman’s mouth stopped

by a chafed palm. Day like a chafed palm beneath

a work glove. A work glove hung from electric wire.

Electric wire pulsing above a house. Where there is

a house, there is a straight road beside a house,

and where there’s a straight road, there’s a road’s

end. What does the city know of the road’s end? City

a perfumed woman with crossed arms. City a man

faced seaward. City man never need to think about

roads, and who make money into roads, and who

make money out of living. Who pave a living over

dirt. What does the dirt know of a knot of streets?

Where every way becomes every other way, every

day leads to another day of chasing a road that never

lets day rest. Country a hard woman, city held to her

breast. Country a woman alone at the end of a way.

Eyes running hard from field to darkling wood,

from wood to the back lawn where her children play.

Here, where a woman’s breath makes a summer day.

Here, where a word held home is still thought good.




Rachel Custer‘s first full-length collection, The Temple She Became, is available from Five Oaks Press. Other work has previously been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, B O D Y, [PANK], and DIALOGIST, among others.

A Poem by Kevin Dobbs




In art history class

My late brother Sam placed


On the overhead a photo

He’d taken of a small shack


In the middle of Death Valley

On which somebody had


Painted in white the word “It.”

Sam, filled with young-man


Resolve, declared to the full hall

That he and only he


Had found “It.” Everyone applauded.

I, thirty years later and


Filled with fear and angst,

Declare to humankind


That I have found “nothingness.”

I know this. It’s not in my mind.


It’s here in Qatar just across

The Persian Gulf from Iran. Not that I


Dislike Iran as does my government

Which distrusts any ancient culture


Whose women do not readily play

With its soldiers. Thousands are


Stationed just down the road

From Al Ruwais—or what I call


Nothingness—where they await

An official change in policy.


Don’t confuse this searing

Surface mining town with Hell.


Al Ruwais has decent hummus

With flat bread and cucumbers, a few


Children, a Shisha bar, some palm trees,

Open-pit grinding and crushing machines,


Chutes and sifters. Awash with

Powdery-white sand and minerals, Al Ruwais


Is the explosion of a trillion bones:

Know that this is what it is


And you will know nothingness.




Kevin Dobbs has lived in the USA, Japan, China, the UAE, and Qatar. He’s published poetry, fiction, and essays, internationally, in literary journals and anthologies. With poetry forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry and recent poetry in Painted bride Quarterly and Interlitq (The International Literary Quarterly), he’s placed poems in Chelsea, New York Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Poet Lore, Sou’wester, Gulf Stream, Faces in the Crowds (anthology, Tokyo), New Delta Review, Maverick Magazine, The Journal (England), Writer’s Forum, Florida Review, etc. His fiction and essays have appeared in Raritan: a Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, Sou’wester, Beloit Fiction Journal, Bluestem (formerly Karamu), and many more. Besides writing, Kevin is a university professor and was involved for many years in labor and civil rights activities in Asia as well as NGO volunteer work. Currently, he lives in California, USA.

A Poem by Grace Hughes Chappell




to look through

our long narrow window

is to see a rectangle of beyond

strangeness isolated:

your underwear drying, cotton,

my undershirt cotton, too,

skinny straps

back and front pinched to the line,

and only half of our double flowered sheet;

you love cotton, you said


rhapsodic one day:

the smell of cotton in the sun

how we see the wind—see the wind

pumping high ever back

back ever

a kid on a swing to come forward—

and how on the flowered sheet at midnight

cotton to cotton

on cotton we feel that sun

tangled in the wind




There are many things that make Grace want to get up in the morning: family and friends—sitting with them and talking—writing, singing classical choral music, cooking, that first morning cup of strong, sweet tea, working in the shade garden she made without knowing she would love it, a certain small town in northern California where she and her husband have an orchard—itʼs quite a list. Grace Hughes Chappell’s poems and other pieces of writing have been published in the Sunday SF Chronicle, the Richmond ReView, the Anderson Valley Advertiser and Short Fiction by Women, and online at Your Daily Poem, Haiku Journal, Eunoia, Every Day Poets, Tanka Journal, and Front Porch Review. She also writes the classical music program notes for the choral ensembles, Vox Dilecti and the San Francisco City Chorus—forty-two concerts and counting.

A Poem by Amy L. George

The Stopping Places



There’s a road on every tombstone.


A journey is traced

in a single dash

from when light enters eyes

to the moment it leaves.


The length of the trip

doesn’t matter as much

as the exits we take,

the shoulders we rest on,

the stars we gape at,

the hands we find to hold

at the stopping places.


It’s at the stopping places

where our breath catches in our throats

at scenic overlooks, as we inhale

the wildness of the world,

drink in sights and faces

in the warmth of the sun,

and sometimes,

clutch each other tightly,

as we are drenched in rain.


The road winds


stretching out before us.


Best travel light while we can.




Amy L. George holds an MFA in Creative Writing from National University. George is the author of The Stopping Places (forthcoming March 2018, Finishing Line Press), Desideratum (Finishing Line Press), and The Fragrance of Memory (Amsterdam Press). Her poetry has been published in various journals, such as Kyoto Journal, Pirene’s Fountain, Up the Staircase, and others. She teaches courses in fiction and poetry at Southwestern Assemblies of God University.

Relax and Renew with Moo/Mu of Writing by Nan Lundeen

Taking it easy is a productive way to work.

Many of us already know that ideas float our way without effort when

we’re doing yoga, having a siesta, watering the flowers, or hiking in the

woods. Yet, we feel as if we must sit down and struggle to write. Moo of

Writing is a practice that harnesses our daydreaming talents.

I use the word “practice” because it is that. It isn’t sitting around

waiting for creativity to strike like lightning. Instead, it’s a daily routine that

combines physical exercise such as tai chi, walking, or swimming,

meditation, and a habit of free writing daily. Hear free writing meditations

at http://www.nanlundeen.com.

Let’s look at this in reverse and start with free writing. My creativity

lies in my fingers, how about yours? I’m a poet, and when I was pulling

weeds yesterday, I heard the first line of a poem in my head—

the visceral smell of earth and rain. When I went into the house, I picked up my pen

and my journal. The next line came, then the next, and an entire poem flowed

from the pen onto the page.

If you relax first, then pick up a pen or your device and have at it,

you’ll delight yourself with discoveries.

But how do you create the habit?

You could try a habit loop.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that

our brains form habit loops consisting of three steps: cue, routine, reward.

The cue ignites routine behavior without thought. An example of a cue

would be the sound of your email dinging. A routine is your habitual

behavior prompted by the cue—you click on the email. The reward is what

you get as a result. For instance, you happily discover an agent wants to see

30 pages of your new book.

I find the cue to be a powerful impetus. For instance, I do yoga while

following instructions on a video. When I turn the video on, the familiar

music acts as my cue. Automatically, I unroll my yoga mat and take off my

socks. The reward is a relaxed and strengthened body.

Your daily writing cue could be pouring your second cup of coffee in

the morning or tucking the kids into bed at night; your routine could be ten

minutes of uninhibited writing; your reward—what appears on the page.

Envision a loop that would work for you.

And what of meditation?

Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Alice Walker, who wrote The Color Purple

and many other wonderful books, describes meditation as a “loyal

friend” that helped her write her books.

Contemporary Western science is building a body of evidence on the

benefits of meditation in an emerging field called contemplative

neuroscience. It uses the Western empirical approach to study the effects of

meditation on areas such as focus, compassion, stress reduction, and

physical and mental health. For our purposes, it is enough to know that

current science supports the premise that relaxation sparks creativity. The

concept isn’t new, but the technology for researching it is. Stories of

inventors and scientists to whom break-through ideas came while they were

in a relaxed state are commonplace.

The story of Thomas Edison is one of my favorites because it elicits a

memorable image.

Edison systematically mined the ideas that came to him in a relaxed

state, according to Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray, who

wrote The Creative Spirit. The authors report that Edison would sit in a

chair, his hands extending over the chair arms, each hand holding a ball

bearing. Two pie plates would sit on the floor beneath them. When Edison

relaxed, his hands would open, and the bearings would clank onto the

plates, alerting him. He would immediately write down what had been

running through his mind.

Relax the mind, and words flow. You’ll be as productive as a dairy

cow, chewing her cud, swishing her tail, and producing up to five gallons of

milk every day! You’ll be in the zone of mu, a Zen koan that, as koans are

wont to be, is unfathomable. Loosely, it means finding your way by getting

Out of your own way. In other words, no endless stream of coffee and

cigarettes late at night to hammer out a story!

Consider some form of exercise to get the kinks out of your body and

brain before you meditate and write freely.

Studies by researchers at Stanford University show that walking

boosts creative inspiration; one measurement of creativity increased eighty-

one percent. Overall, creative output increased an average of sixty percent

when walking compared with sitting.

Whatever your genre, whatever your dream, try this simple threefold

practice and see where it leads. Please visit www.nanlundeen.com and let

me know how it works for you.

Happy writing!



Nan Lundeen is the author of Moo of Writing: How to Milk Your Potential, a finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2016 Indie Excellence Awards. Buy it in print or e-book at Amazon.com

Nan Lundeen is a poet and an award-winning journalist. Her book, Moo of Writing: How to Milk Your Potential, was a finalist in two national indie book awards. Her columns on writing appeared in the U.K.’s Writing Magazine, the SC Writers Workshop Quill, and at femalefirst.co.uk. Her poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, Atlanta Review, Illuminations, Yemassee, The Petigru Review, and others. Her books of poetry include Gaia’s Cry, Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir and The Pantyhose Declarations. She loves helping writers find their moos. Visit her at www.nanlundeen.com.

A Poem by Heather Corbally Bryant

The Easterly

           For CH



The easterly, you say, will be coming in today,

This afternoon—I like the way you say easterly

With such certainty—the way you know the


Tides—when they will rise and when they will

Fall—when they will come in and when they will

Go out—but it is the way you say easterly that


Touches me—the way you know this land, this

Sea, this shore with complete certainty—the

Currents of water are etched in your mind,


Time after time—the sands, the winds, the rain—

The moons, the dredges, the shipwrecks, the

Ocean lives in your mind for all time—today,


As we cross sandy cove you look seawards and

Say yes, yes, the easterly will be coming in today.



Heather Corbally Bryant (formerly Heather Bryant Jordan) teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She received her A.B. from Harvard, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. She has given academic papers and poetry readings in Ireland throughout the United States.

She published How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War,” (University of Michigan Press, 1992). She also has six books of poetry either published or forthcoming: Cheap Grace, The Finishing Line Press, (2011); Lottery Ticket, The Parallel Press Poetry Series of the University of Wisconsin Libraries (2013); Compass Rose, The Finishing Line Press (2016). My Wedding Dress, her first full-length volume of poetry was published in 2017, and Thunderstorm, her second full-length volume, was published from The Finishing Line Press in 2017; later in 2017, The Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Eve’s Lament. Her work of creative non-fiction, You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper, will be published in early 2018, as well as her new forward to the reissue of her grandmother’s autobiography, Assigned to Adventure, originally published in 1938.