Now and Then

The sky’s crisp blue curls through me,

Drawing these words

From the chaff of the world.


I’m tossing through my past’s what and when;

Trying to rejoin its parts;

Wondering whether this maple’s shade

Will ever cool me.


I breathe deeper, pause; try to patch

Past lives together; erase chance; but so much

Remains shapeless, strewn.


Perhaps it’s best not to reweave frayed skins.


But I’m trying to gauge the wealth of these days.

Is it high or low?


I’m also looking ahead,

Wondering which part of beyond, if any, I’ll share;

Or whether the shadow of this maple

Fits the tree.


by Joseph Murphy 




Joseph Murphy has had poetry published in a number of journals, including The Gray Sparrow, Third Wednesday and The Sugar House Review. He is also a poetry editor for an online publication, Halfway Down the Stairs.


Writer’s Handbook for the Non-Careerist (Abridged)

For my nephew, Absalom H., Jr.



First, I find, learn the effing clinical skill of saying no—

to others, to yourself; this is also the skill of self-editing,

which is nothing more than observing boundaries, or not.


Case Study #17:

Listen, Kingpin—I had a story accepted for publication in

an on-line “lit mag”; there, I encountered for the first time

the capriciousness of MFAs, as they vetted my story twice,

then, in galley proofs, questioned my “tense structure”

and asked me to insert a character—out of whole cloth—at the very last minute.

I said if their “concerns” constituted a deal-breaker

they could kiss my damn ass and give my story back.

Not a deal-breaker, they said.


However, for the stalwart, rejections will be ongoing,

so avoid hearing no unnecessarily. Por ejemplo, Junior,

don’t make the novice mistake of sending a story too soon

after first acceptance—it’s greedy, and you will be told no.



 What they told you about the three-part cover letter—

– hook
– body of work
– personal bio—

that was a lie propagated by business professors

who still think the split infinitive is a cardinal sin,

but typographical stunts are, passively, allowed.   



Of course, don’t be anyone’s martyr—your own or theirs.

Love isn’t a march to victory, so I’ve heard poets grouch,

and I want to believe them, although I’m ruined for religion.



Case Study #26:

At a party for writers, I meet this woman who’s recently

graduated with, yes, an MFA degree, and by way of introduction

she recites the names of all the hotshots she’s studied with at college.

Like I give a composting crap, I want to say,

but I don’t want to be rude, so I reply in kind

by naming the various people I’ve worked with

on construction sites, in warehouses, and in offices.

The woman nods her head knowingly, as if the names

mean something to her, when, clearly, they couldn’t

mean a flying shit whatsoever.  Then I say to her,


“Do you ever cry during the act of composition? I do.”


She is smarter than I: so she backs off to mingle elsewhere.

I enjoy lime-infused guacamole and blue organic corn chips

as I watch her exchange important names around the room.



 “Avoid adjectives of scale,” counsels the poet, et al,

handbook advice with which even the MBAs concur,

but try convincing them the concept of enjambment

might comport with profit—you’ll get nowhere quick.


Writers, though, must be contrary, swiping Rorschach-like across the grain;

therefore, I say that writing in perfect anonymity is a great vantage

best given up for any number of worthy, if not excellent, alternatives.



NEVER—as in Joan-Crawford-no-more-wire-hangers-

kind-of-NEVER—listen to the maudlin Gymnopédies

of Erik Satie as background music while you write.



 For writers, and only writers, going insane for the right

reason is preferable to remaining normal for the wrong

reason. Shake and stir until you achieve insouciance.


But even if you do go crazy, please don’t use phrases like

fictive universe or argot of the academy; for these vocal tics

there’s no medication or therapy, only regret delayed by ten years.


Case Study #50

Take note—merit trumps talent, unless you’re Melville,

and if you are Melville incarnate, then you will certainly

go unrecognized, work as a mindless clerk, and die

discounting eternity, just before some hack academic,

citing merit, makes tenure re-discovering your work.



Selah, wrote the psalmist eighty times, rounding up,

and three millennia hence, even the Elect will grant,

the cockeyed theologians can’t translate the word.  


by Martin Barkley



Martin Barkley lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and works as an independent writer and editor. Recently, his fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review. Martin also has stories available on-line for open viewing at ChamberFour, The Texas Observer, and the Good Men Project. 

Kobina Wright

We Are Burgeoning Like We Always Thought We Would For Our Individual Selves Seeking Truth As We Know It To Be, Surveying The Course We Surmise Each Should Go


Come here!

I’m not going over there!





Beneath The Dust And On The Shelves In A Warehouse In Wayne County Sits The Bitter Humiliation, Disconsolation, Nightmare and Violation of Thousands of Daughters; Dumped In Forgotten Boxes; Some Exposed To The Elements Of The Building


Folks were killed

while those men

ran free.





The Ritual Of Breakfast Steers Me To Coffee, Mostly For The Effect Of A Chemical; But Also To The Hunt Of A Singularly Wrapped And Seldom Stocked Chocolate Chip Cookie Held Together With Calories And Potato Starch


Why aren’t I

buying by the case?


by Kobina Wright


Kobina has written for publications such as LACMA Magazine, The Daily Titan, and CYH Magazine. In 2004 she wrote her third volume of poetry titled, “Say It! Say Gen-o-cide!!” − dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. In 2009 she co-authored a volume of nuler poetry titled “A Crime And A Simplification Of Something Sublime.” In 2010 she wrote a volume of nuler poetry titled, “50.”

Aphrodite’s Jealousy Lasted Three Lifetimes

Hazel colored Kolmården,
a marble cutter,
showed me one morning.


That’s what her eyes,

looked like against nightfall,

when she begged.


“Save me,” she whispered,

as feathers formed,

and drifted in the same breath.


I exhaled smoke,

And watched,
galaxies vanish between our lips.

What about my concrete,
and harbored self,

led her to ask?

Which vials possessed her

to prophesize,

a messiah in me?


by Romila Barryman


day after valentine’s

bummed a
cigarette from a man
with tattoos and Marlboros
he said I don’t need a quarter and I don’t smoke weed

                                                            and I felt ashamed

asked a lady at south
station for directions she thought
I was asking for change but sighed and said I’m looking for congress street too we walked together and she told me she ventured thirty miles into this
city on this sunny Friday afternoon
to do her taxes

and I wanted to hold my head under murky water until my ears rang with stillness

                                                                                                                                    I felt so ashamed

saw a woman in the public

gardens knee-deep in slush running like mad throwing

peanuts, searching for a he or she or it or them named pinky

saw her succumb to the snow as she started to wail

                                                                                                and I felt


by Emily Woods


Colin Dodds

The New Prayer


An American,

a woman dressed

for self expression,

rushes the line

and shouts


“Your holiness, your holiness,

I’ve made up a new prayer.”


Whether this is execrable

or this is good and important

depends entirely

on whether or not

the prayer works.


The Chicken-Egg Town Line


The downtown built on the railroad,

lies between the one built on the highway,

and the one on the river


The world was built upon a world

Indians atop dinosaurs atop boiling rock

atop the peripatetic habits of the excrement of a star


And I am one more thing the dirt has done,

among books and soda cans, squinting for a sliver of light

between the chicken and the egg


I try to tell the story

so that the beginning

is not obliterated by the middle


The Last Days of Comprehension


The custom of reality is too makeshift

to withstand very much, too entrenched to replace,

and too misbegotten to repair.


The sun is the color of the DON’T WALK sign.

The bridge loses its existence to its utility.


The sky is ultimately a metaphor.

Even the angels, especially the angels,

become obstacles.


This capital-letter Life

is like Chopin

played on a rape whistle.


And reality is like a line drawing of a man.

Remove one line, maybe two, and

there is no resemblance,

only a collection of scribbles.


by Colin Dodds


Colin Dodds grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education in New York City. He’s the author of several novels, including The Last Bad Job, which the late Norman Mailer touted as showing “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” Dodds’ screenplay, Refreshment – A Tragedy, was named a semi-finalist in 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. His poems have appeared in dozens of publications, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Samantha.

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