10 Nov

Review: Hearts Forged in Resistance

Chella Courington meditates on profound personal moments and on arresting news tragedies in her latest chapbook, Hearts Forged in Resistance (Finishing Line Press, 2023). Her evocative work illuminates themes of womanhood, violence, hope, sorrow, and, of course, resistance.

The poem, “Resilience,” which discusses cancer, resonated strongly with me, as I lost my father last year to cancer and a cousin has been battling it for years. The lines “I feel it//how it might   again   pull at my nipple//and slip through my ribs” provide me with insight on what it must feel like to not only live through cancer, but to survive it. The poem’s gutting depiction helped me reflect on the profound emotional and physical challenges that come with confronting this disease.

Her poem, “Strength,” about Ukraine, contains the title of the collection as the last line. In this poem, Courington writes about buying sunflowers. In the act of arranging them in a vase, she is reminded of Ukraine, a country closely associated with sunflowers. The normally bright flowers change to represent a nation embroiled in a harrowing and ongoing conflict. Her simple handling of them becomes a weighty rumination on surviving through our tumultuous times.

I fully recommend this short collection of poems. Courington navigates the intricacies of the personal experience of the zeitgeist, intertwining themes of perseverance and the indomitable nature of resistance. Her language evokes a visceral response to life’s struggles and the never-ending doom-cycle of the news. Her words are a testament to the power of poetry in conveying profound understanding and powerful resistance to violence.

Hearts Forged In Resistance is available from Finishing Line Press now: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/hearts-forged-in-resistance-by-chella-courington/

07 Nov

Poetry – 2 Poems by Jess Falkenhagen (pt 2)

Innocence Lost- part 1

the day
back in the back yard night
you told me things at the small yellow table

perversely proud of the near complete annihilation

reality was a tarp that up and billowed away

as your mouth cowboy kicked out these bewildering words
I felt the wind hit
out of nowhere
and reality – what one knows to be true-
flew away
all the way down the mountain and then out to sea
and what was left was distortion
which feels like madness to those who are weavers

Acre upon acre of pain
field upon field of grief

coherence lay down and died
certainty evaporated
time was a vast angry fog and lost all meaning
sleep became staring in the dark
waiting for daybreak
to a day already broken


a pony party

The final child is turning 6.
It is a pony party.
Up on the ridge, the mother leads the horse through the waist-high clumps of sage.
While, at that very moment,
he has his hand on the trigger.
His finger hovers over the detonator,
a maniacal gleam,
not only self immolation,
he is going to take them all down with him.
And the children will be forced to drag their lost limbs into adulthood with them.

But the pony walks steadily and the cake is frosted.
The mother swallows the knife.
The children continue,
blissfully unaware, which is, of course,
all that matters.


Jess Falkenhagen

Jess Falkenhagen lives with her husband and 4 children in an old adobe house at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. She has a background in Cultural Anthropology and reads an enormous quantity of memoir, travel literature, ethnography and poetry. She has been to 41 countries and has been proudly social media free since 1973.

10 Oct

Poetry – 2 Poems by Jess Falkenhagen


“A woman alone rows across the lake. Her life is intact, but what she thought could never be taken has been taken.”
From Blue Hour by Carolyn Forche

It is what
you do not expect
that ends up shattering you
The surprise,
more than anything else
The crush of broken trust
the small bird
silently nurtured
balanced in the palm of a hand suddenly strangled
the tiny broken bones
countless feathers
falling through fingers

A life built stone by stone
baby by baby
year by year
and then one innocent summer day,
a terrible fire
that is not an accident
but arson
and everything buried in ash

and years later, you still wake up with the smell
of smoke in your hair
impossible to get away from the stench of it still
no matter that all has been rebuilt
and better now than it ever was
the smoke still hovers and chokes
some days

you smile again
and laugh
but you cannot un-

A gash bone deep
never fully mends,
it becomes a scar that aches in the blue dawn
and flashes raining sorrow
while you pretend to listen at a dinner party

prairie girl

Quietly refusing to get wet or sandy,
she sits on the shore in the shade .
Not swimming in the Caribbean blue sea,
by choice.

A willowy, slender stalk
playing Celtic carols on viola by firelight.
Hiding under wide brimmed hat and book
by hand.
Intuiting what hand-

A curled sea shell
A bell
clear and solemn

not easily swayed by the bright lights

Preferring a simple cross,
the archaic ritual,
a small slice of pie.

Jess Falkenhagen

Jess Falkenhagen lives with her husband and 4 children in an old adobe house at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico. She has a background in Cultural Anthropology and reads an enormous quantity of memoir, travel literature, ethnography and poetry. She has been to 41 countries and has been proudly social media free since 1973.

03 Oct

Poetry – 2 Poems by Ricardo Moran

Two Poems by Ricardo Moran


One Note

This street has one note.

Its beat
taps on angry tongues.
Its tempo
thuds in cars of glue and tape.
Its chorus of blackbirds
propels overhead.

By day, it drives
tree branches to suicide,
where birds flee
to stunted vistas,
and poppies pull out
their roots
to seek sanctuary
in mediocrity.

By night,
unlit streets,
ugly liquor stores,
auto shops circled
in barbed wire
of gunfire.

Its churches praise it at 420,
with the body of Christ
in one hand,
and a Twinkie,
in the other.

This street is short on vision,
and long


I’ve Lost All My Tread

At the wheel,
the driver has fallen asleep
and I, melt against the passenger seat,
my hand reaching for the ignition key.

Your tongue, your cacophony
of how bad things are,
pushes on the accelerator.

I listen to your dirges grow louder,
whose songs and rhythms
of fear
have San Cristobal scrambling
off the dashboard.

The car swerves
to the far right,
to a cliff,

and this fuckin’ seat belt
won’t release.

The thinning hair
on my head,
these splinters
of tread,
cannot protect me
from the wall
before me.

I tug at the door
jammed, locked
with memories.

My arms cross over
my face.
I shut my eyes.


Ricardo Moran

Ricardo Moran was one of 12 finalists in the We Need Diverse Books picture book contest in 2017. In 2020, he received the Peter K. Hixson Memorial Award for Poetry. Additionally, he sits on the board of the San Diego Writers Ink, and is also a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild where he often communes with the spirit of Willa Cather at Red Cloud. You can find him at: www.ricardomoranwriter.com

20 Sep

Poetry – His New York by John Brantingham

His New York
by John Brantingham

My father chose
my first and middle names
because they were
the two most popular names
that year, and he never wanted
me to feel like an outsider,
a moment of kindness
from an American man
whose son was being born
in a hospital in the Netherlands.
These were the days
when fathers waited outside
while mothers gave birth inside,
and I imagine him
with the cup of coffee
that was always in his hands
staring out at the rain
and sea or the endless flat fields
that were so different
from his New York,
talking to people who spoke his language
because he couldn’t speak theirs,
and worrying that his son might feel
what he was feeling right then.
Now I’ve moved back to his New York
after having lived most of my life
east of Los Angeles,
and the snow is falling,
and the copse of trees down the road
are all birch, I think.
Maybe he walked these woods
when he was young.
Maybe he liked to wander
out into them and follow
the deer tracks as they wended
through the trees and off along the hills.
I like to do that too.

John Brantingham

John Brantingham was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press).

20 Sep

Poetry – 3 Poems by Ricardo Moran

Three Poems by Ricardo Moran


When Saturn Came Home

He knew I could no longer live in my skin. My feelings
for the body, for the soul of that boy
forced Saturn to descend from the heavens.

But when Saturn tried to come home
on that June night
he got detained at the border,
rescuing my heart from that boy
who had held it in a Loteria card,
and who, with his eyes closed, had lost it in a wager.

And seeing no other way, Saturn found an opening
in the fence, hid his brilliance,
and tumbled into my backyard.

In his embrace, my face
pressed against his warm chest,
quenching his loneliness
with my tears. He lifted my head,
tending to my broken rings, their ends
had seared the earth,
while his breath deflected the shrill voices
who claimed dominion over the holy cosmos.

His hand reached for my fingers
for he needed me just as much
as I needed him. He hurled parts of his rings
to dance, circle, and protect me
until I could ascend the heavens on my own,
until my skin was no longer alien to me.

And with that, Saturn sat with me in the darkness.
Not letting go, he held me as I sobbed,
so I would not collapse into the earth,
so that my world became mine again.



Trashy Saint

He approaches the altar
and swipes the chalice
because God has the day off
but miracles still need to happen.

Outside, smoking a joint,
he waits at the curb for his ride,
scowling at businessmen,
scratching his balls.

His stubble is thick,
and he counts the wrinkled bills
won in last night’s bet.
The shadow from his red cap
softens his eye to a muted purple.

His ride cruises up the street.
Cobalt Blue. Heavy rims.
With an airplane engine
thrusting the car up,
like a parishioner
pleading to God.

The scantily clad woman
painted on the hood
as a reminder
that even saints are human.

There are miracles to perform today
that only Freon
and a wrench
can do. What a chalice cannot,
what a prayer
can only pretend to touch.

His fingers release the empty cup,
like a lotto ticket
that no one can use.




Blue Light Special

This flat, heat-soaked town
has a blue light,
that spins in a store.

Perched on a silver pole,
fused to a silver cart,
It looks like it could take me
to the future,
but it just sits there.

And in 1981,
I knew of no one like me
who cringed
when he held hands with a girl.

And I didn’t know
I had the right to say no.

As this blue light turns, it draws shoppers
to trinkets in bins, to stacked bedsheets,
their eyes fixed on plastic utensils.

So, I pick up a pack of men’s briefs
because I was 10
and that’s all there was.

My hand traces the smiling white man.
“Does he like boys?”

Staring at his picture, I wonder,
“How long before
I can leave this place
and smile
in a photo like him?”
Or with him,
holding his hand.

Can I hang on?

Can this spinning blue light
save me until then?


Ricardo Moran

Ricardo Moran was one of 12 finalists in the We Need Diverse Books picture book contest in 2017. In 2020, he received the Peter K. Hixson Memorial Award for Poetry. Additionally, he sits on the board of the San Diego Writers Ink, and is also a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild where he often communes with the spirit of Willa Cather at Red Cloud. You can find him at: www.ricardomoranwriter.com

13 Sep

Poetry – “Oranges” by Susan Jensen Sweeting

by Susan Jensen Sweeting

I remember sitting with the girls at the store, waiting, waiting
like so much fresh fish
for the customers of the day to bring their demands.
The girls would sit
relaxed and non-chalant
leaning on one hip
right knee slung over left
arms crossed at the elbows.
They would lounge so
not unlike splendid iguanas
basking on rocks,
their slow lazy speech
recounting buoyant weekends.
Even their most mundane pursuits sounded animated

I remember that among us I was the thorn,
plain and unadorned in my
utilitarian khakis and sensible shoes.
No coordinated pantsuit or dress for me.
I stood out in my ordinariness
The simple patch of green grass
amidst the plots of roses and tulips

I remember those roses of women
each a finely groomed example
coiffed hair
gold earrings and contact lenses
painted lips and ropes of gold,
silk floral prints, pleated trousers,
strappy sandals
manicured toes
complete with decorative falsie on the big one.
Outer trappings said nothing of the insides.

I remember the nails.
Long claws attached with super glue
sanded to perfection
artfully painted with intricate fluorescent

I remember the nails rendering the hands useless,
disempowering their hosts to peel an orange.
Dolefully, the girls would eye the orange,
juicy, inviting
hopeless on the counter.
Their vanity overpowering their longing perhaps.

I remember peeling oranges so the disempowered hosts could eat.
My unencumbered fingers tearing skin from delicious fruit.


Susan Jensen Sweeting

Susan Jensen Sweeting is currently working on her first novel. She’s the wife of an aquaponic farmer and the mother of two bona fide adults, but she’s also a massage therapist, an artist, a Scottish fiddler, and an intrepid traveler living in Freeport, Bahamas. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Antioch University.

13 Sep

Poetry – “Thursday Night” by Zama Madinana

thursday night
by Zama Madinana

a tower of loneliness
stands still in front
of his heart
& only a cold quart of black label
remembers his plight at hideout bar
& its hungry ear ate
all his secrets
on a thursday night
drunk & upset
until he found himself
sunk & burnt
between the glory thighs
of a german tourist
her lips dripping mulberry juices
deeply dipping a poet in her poolside
after an extensive pata pata
to end a poet’s kalahari times


Zama Madinana

Zama Madinana is a South African poet, based in Johannesburg. His work has appeared in The Shallow Tales Review, Stanzas, Africanwriter, Poetry Potion and other literary publications. His poems have been published in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and USA. Zama’s work focuses mainly on love, politics and social issues. In 2021, he won the third prize of Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award. His poetry chapbook, Water & Lights was also published in June 2021. He has performed his poetry in places like Cape Town, Maputo, and Gaborone.

06 Sep

Poetry – Adam Deutsch

Four Poems by Adam Deutsch


You just want to be held
up, like a bullet a movie character
embraces between fingers
before dismissing it to the floor,

and want to remain nearby
when a hammer’s done driving.
That hollow slam can be a reason
for living—can be grief that

your life went on, until
a machine lights you up.
A burn through a pipe
and air, cloth and skin

and what’s covered. If
you must arrive, lodge
somewhere, love half your body
given up to a world

you can only compare
to your own radius. This
much deterioration you’d
hold anyone with you through.

And I do not want
a card in response
to this passing.
We’re always dancing

with speculation
in a street. Maybe
it’s blood. It’s lipstick,
a wine-dark crayon

in the sun, our hero
shaped from a candle’s
carcass, cold honey
that’s crystalized. It’s

a healing prism
in January’s frozen waters.
There’s an ornament
on the shelf we made

that will be taken
sooner or later
the way stars take
ice by melting it

and teaching it to run.
Maybe spilling away
feels good, and we should
be careless with our limbs.

Add Salt

Not for flavor
It’s put to pull
on the water

get a body
to a place
with room

for heat
that won’t
vapor off

On the side
of the box
are directions:

wait for a sizzle
that is a note
left on a nightstand

that says
I’ve left you

Baby Chicks

Because the coconut husk bedding
had to dry out for a few in daylight,
and the lamp was red and low
over an open box—I didn’t breathe
then the chicks inside tried,
stretching their days old bodies
toward any place away from the heat.

Each of you got so firm so fast,
and I screamed for my wife
to come in, see a cardboard casket
we made from carelessness
with small life, each one unnamed.

Then the sun set. I dozed in the sound
of replacement hatchling chirps
after we grieved on a drive
back to the feed store, where
the clerks recognized us, and we
told them that we’re not bad people.
He says that this can happen,
that there’s almost nothing to
them. He trusts us with another flock.

We get to know these new four.
We promise them a cool spot.
Each one, in my head, has
the spirit of two birds.

Maybe in these first two weeks
of small fluffy life
the sky isn’t just red bulbs
but a pile of broken glass
we are all able to digest.

Their little song is for what is
discovered under the bedding
and a gift they’re still
too young to do anything with.

They’re supposed to, at least,
hesitate at our still hands, but come close.
A little straw-colored one
burned out just before
today’s sky blued. Legs folded back
like she lounged in our own bed
dressed in clean sheets just last night.

She stays that way, elegant
and golden. She might
have been he, a cockscomb
way deep behind a tiny beak
and eyes that will
never get to erupt.

They’re soft, like a book
soaked in water,
and we’re all mostly fluid
and there’s stagnation.
The small film, the skin
on a surface that gets pulled at
by these baby beaks
to reveal the fresh water.

Man, just a month in,
and what I’m most afraid of
are that four of the chicks
living in my bathtub
are roosters, as feathers grow
from the saddle, their
general size and struts.

We’ve let this world read
our own plumages
all this time, their ways
to interpret a language
without ever looking
to the dictionary.

Occasions on Water

Respect that bass trout,
deep watered who pulled
at the lines in the lake,
got the whole bait,
left nothing of themself
behind, ducks out in the dead docks
in these still starred morning minutes.
Behind a shed. Know golden beds, grape
vine saplings who disguise
as maple leaves.
Believe they’ll be mighty
up a bonfired hill.
Meteors will shower
tonight. They will burn,
dissolve, dust a coat. A meat
sciences laboratory door
stopped open with collection,
the flurry in a so far snowless season.
A library will weather
the soak beyond the walls
around it.

Adam Deutsch

Photo Credit: © ALANNA AIRITAM

Adam Deutsch is the author of a full-length collection, Every Transmission, forthcoming from Fernwood Press in 2023. He has work recently in Poetry International, Thrush, Juked, AMP Magazine, Ping Pong, and Typo, and has a chapbook called Carry On (Elegies). He

teaches in the English Department at Grossmont College and is the publisher of Cooper Dillon Books. He lives with his spouse and child in San Diego, CA.

06 Sep

Fiction: “Blackout” by Zach Murphy

by Zach Murphy

My roommate took off right before I lost my job at the pizza place. The only thing he left behind was a note that read, “Moved back home.” If only the unpaid rent had been attached to it. 

I sit at the wobbly kitchen table, gazing at the floating dust particles that you can only see when the sunlight shines in at the perfect angle. Sometimes, you have to convince yourself that they aren’t old skin. 

The air conditioner moans, as if irritated that it has to work so hard. I haven’t left the apartment in four days, for fear that the hellish temperature might melt away my spirit even more. Is a heat wave really a heat wave if it doesn’t end? I gulp down the remainder of my orange juice. The pulp sticks to the side of the glass. It always bothers me when that happens. 

As I stand up to put my head in the freezer. The air conditioner suddenly goes on strike in silent protest, and the refrigerator releases a final gasp. I walk across the room and flip the light switch. Nothing.

There’s a knock at the door. I peer through the peephole. It’s the lady with the beehive hair from across the hall. I crack the door open. 

“Is your power out?” she asks.

“Yes,” I answer. 

“It must be the whole building,” she says.

“Maybe the whole city,” I say.

“The food in your fridge will go bad after four hours,” she says. 

I’d take that information to heart if I had any food in the refrigerator.

“Thanks,” I say as I close the door. 

When the power goes out, it’s amazing how all of your habits remind you that you’re nothing without it. The TV isn’t going to turn on, and your phone isn’t going to charge.

There’s another knock at the door. It’s the guy from downstairs who exclusively wears jorts. “Do you want a new roommate?” he asks.


He nods his head to the left. I glance down the hallway and see a scraggly, black cat with a patch of white fur on its chest.

“It was out lying in the sun,” the guy says. “Looked a bit overheated, so I let it inside.”

Before I can say anything, the cat walks through the doorway and rubs against my leg.

“Catch you later,” the guy says.

I fill up a bowl with some cold water and set it on the floor. The cat dashes over and drinks furiously.

At least water is free, I think to myself. Kind of

I head into my dingy bedroom and grab the coin jar off of my dresser. “This should be enough to get you some food,” I say.

I step out the apartment door and look back at the cat.

“I think I’ll call you Blackout.”

Zach Murphy

Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, The Coachella Review, Maudlin House, Still Point Arts Quarterly, B O D Y, Ruminate, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. His chapbook Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press) is available in paperback and ebook. He lives with his wonderful wife, Kelly, in St. Paul, Minnesota.