ablaze addiction air alarm andiron aroma arson asbestos ash ashtray backdraft backfire bake ban band barbacue bellows billow blacken blaze blend bloom blow blowtorch bomb bonfire bong bouquet brand breathe brimstone bud bunsen-burner burn butt campfire cancer candle candlestick canister cannabis carbon carbon-monoxide carburetor carcinogen carton "catch fire" cauldron ceasefire chainsmoker chalice char charcoal chimney "chipper" choke cigar cigarette cigarillo cinder "coffin nail" coal combust conflagrate consume convection contain cook Corona cough crack craving cremate crematorium Cuban cure cutter dank dependence detector detonator diesel ditchweed dog-iron dopamine drill drag dragon draw dynamite ember emission engine enkindle emphysema escape evacuation exhale exhaust exit explosive extinguish fag fatwood feed fiery filtered fire firebug firecracker firedog firefighter fireplace fireproof firetrap firetruck firework five-alarm flame flammable flare flashover flickering forge freebase fuel "full flavor" fume fumigate furnace fuse ganja gasoline gasp grate grenade grill gun gust habit hash Havana haze HAZMAT headshop heat hearth hell hellfire hellhole hemp herb hickory hit holder holding holocaust hookah hose hot huffing humidor hydrant ignite incense incendiary incinerate inferno inflammable inhale iron joint kiln kindle kindling kings ladder lamp lantern lava Lent light lighter lightning locoweed log lox lung mantel marijuana match matchbook matchbox menthol nicotine oil-lamp opium oven pack parch parejo patch panatela paper "peace pipe" perfecto phlogiston pipe plume pot powder presidente puff pump punk "put out" pyre pyromania pyrotechnic quit reefer retardant ring roach roast roll "roll your own" screen scorch sear second-hand shade-grown signal singe sizzle skywriting slag slim smelt smolder smoke "smoke-filled rooms" "smokes" smokescreen "smoking a cloud" "smoking gun" smother smudge "social smoker" spark spiff spit spread stain steam stifle stogie stove strike subdue suffocate sulfur squib tabacco tallow "take a hit" taper tar tinder tinderbox toast tobacco toke torch torpedo "touch off" trigger unfiltered "ultra lights" urge vapor vat vent ventless ventilation volcano votive wax weed withdrawal wheeze wick wildfire wind wrapper yellowed yulelog Zippo 100s 420


Poetry (any form or style) and Micro or Flash Fictions wanted for an anthology on SMOKE. Not just the black clouds rising from the five-alarm fire next door, or the billowing plumes of smoke warning us of a forest fire, or the emissions from factory smoke stacks, apartment house incinerators, and crematoriums, smoke rings rise from cigarettes, smoke pours out of headshops, pipe shops & cigar stores--see that purple haze rising over the fields of poppies and marijuana we just planted--we've used it to communicate via smoke signals and skywriting, to cover our tracks and disappear with and without mirrors, combat the enemy on and off the battlefield, kill bugs, flavor food, cure illness, declare peace treaties, and fragrance our homes. Got the idea? Release it onto the page.

Guidelines: Submit up to three poems/micro fictions or two flash fictions at a time with a fascinating bio of 35 words or less, not just limited to publication credits, copy/pasted in the body of an e-mail (no attachments, please) to roxy533 at yahoo dot com & . We will also entertain up to six one-liners or 2 short stand up routines at time. Previously published work is OK as long as authors have retained the copyright, which will be returned to them after publication. Simultaneous submissions are encouraged. If your work is accepted elsewhere, and you still have obtained rights to republish, just let us know where and we'll be happy to acknowledge the other publication.

If you do not receive a response from us within a month of your submission considered it rejected and feel free to submit again. Due to the volume of submissions we cannot respond to each and every individual submission. Selection for the on-line edition are made on a ongoing basis as we receive your submissions. However, final selections for the print edition will made after the October 31st deadline. (In otherwords not everything that made the cut for the online edition will appear in print.) Please do not query. When in doubt, send the submission to roxy533 at yahoo dot com &

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SMOKING by Thaddeus Rutkowski

I smoked a lot of cigarettes while I was in college. I liked the taste of burning tobacco—it was smooth, fresh and rich. I also liked the bite of tar and the scrape of fumes against my throat. When the nicotine entered my bloodstream, the kick was better than that of caffeine.

Often, I would light a fresh cigarette with the tip of the one I was finishing. I would smoke the new stick down, then light another without a pause.

At night, I liked to walk outside and play with a lit cigarette. I twirled my arm so the glowing end left a trail of sparks in the air. After I finished the cigarette, I flicked the butt into the air so I could watch the sparks arc across the sky.

If I were on a bridge when my cigarette was done, I would flick the butt over the railing and watch the red coal fall through the darkness.


I lived off campus in a house with another student. He was serious about cultivating marijuana. He had a plant growing in a clay pot in our closet. Above the plant, a bare lightbulb always glowed.

He nourished the plant with his own feces. He wanted to show me the manure one time, but I declined to inspect it.

Another time, he explained marijuana horticulture to me. “You want the plant to flower,” he said. “But when you see buds, you have to separate the male flowers from the female ones. You don't want the female blossoms to produce seeds, because you'll end up with a crop of stems and seeds. So you cover the first female flower with a plastic bag. The plant keeps putting out flowers. The flowers are full of pollen, waiting for the male stamens to do their job. But pollination can't happen because you've applied a prophylactic seal. You pinch off the male flowers as soon as you see them. Soon, you have a bush full of sticky buds.”

“How can you tell the female flowers from the male ones?” I asked.

“The males are tiny and spindly,” he said. He pointed to his plant to show what he meant.

His plant, I noticed, had only male flowers.

He broke off a couple of leaves and put them in a pipe bowl. The leaves sputtered when he held a match to them.

I sampled the herb and felt a stinging at the back of my throat . My brain, however, remained unscathed. I stayed on an earthly plane. I didn't see the god of THC.


In the morning, I listened to my roommate smoking his bong. I heard a crackle as he set flame to the powder, a gurgle as he inhaled, and a hiccup as he held his breath. Shortly, I heard a whistle, then a burp, then a scream of ecstasy. “Hoo whee!” he screeched. “That's harsh!”

“What are you, some kind of fiend?” I muttered as I walked out the door.

“Damn straight!” he bawled after me.


As soon as I got to class, I lit a cigarette. There were fifteen people in the room, and twelve of them were smoking. The lecture was about poetry, language and thought, with a focus on discourse.

“Language is filled with gaps,” the professor said. “The gaps let in light. We want to arrive at a gap-filled, light-filled discourse.”

When the professor paused, a student spoke up. “We've been talking about a lot of things,” he said. “Semantics, semiotics, hermeneutics, Herman Melville, Herman Hesse, even Herman Munster. But we haven't talked about truth or beauty. Isn't that the purpose of art—to find what's true and beautiful in the world?”

The professor thought for a moment, then said, “Whatever gets you through the night, it's all right. It's all right.”


After class, I walked down a grass slope with one of my classmates. I told her I wanted a cigarette.

“It's not good for you,” she said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“It will rot your lungs, then rot your brain.”

As we walked, she pointed to a building we were passing. “I saw a saucer fly over that roof last week,” she said.

“What did it look like?”

“A dish, of course. A silver dish.”

“Who was flying it?”

“A saucer man, from space.”

I looked up at the sky. “Why was he here?” I asked.

“He was coming to get me, but someone spotted him, so he had to leave. He's in orbit now, waiting to come back for me.”


I tried to quit smoking by hitting a tennis ball against the wall in my room with a plastic racket. I served the ball so that it flew straight to the wall. It bounced once off the floor on its way back to me.

I had no skill and missed often. But I practiced until I could sustain a volley. I perfected my footwork, my forehand and backhand. I was a demon in my tiny space. I learned to hit the ball dozens of times without missing.

While I was swatting, I wasn't smoking. But when I stopped, I felt a craving. I could either keep hitting the ball, or find a smoke.

I found a leftover cigarette but had no matches. So I went to the student union and asked for a light.

“We don't have matches,” an attendant said.

I saw shelves full of cigarettes behind the counter. “You mean, every place that sells cigarettes around here doesn't give matches? Or this is the only place that doesn't give matches?” I asked.

“We don't have matches here.”

I didn't know why the clerk wouldn't hand me a book of matches. Maybe I looked like a person who would set fire to something if given the opportunity.


On my way home, I saw a marijuana bush growing in front of a house. The bush was large—about four feet high—and had many leafy branches. It had obviously been part of someone's private garden of grass.

I grabbed the stem near the ground and uprooted the plant. It was too big to carry, so I held it by its stalk and dragged it behind me. It bounced like a broom as I ran. No one stopped me as I raced home.


When my roommate saw the plant I'd stolen, he decided to harvest his own plant. “We're going to have a feast,” he said.

He put a pot of water on the stove and brought the water to a boil. Then he extracted his plant from its dirt bucket and placed the roots in the scalding water.

The plant's twigs and leaves stiffened as sap shot to the tips. The leaves looked perfect, firm and green. Then the boiling water did its work, and they wilted for good.


Presently, my roommate and I set our apartment on fire. The flames appeared around a gas pipe while we were sampling our splif.

My first thought was to fetch water, but I didn't run water from a faucet. I grabbed a pot from the stove and threw its contents on the fire. The pot was filled with mud from the harvested marijuana plant.

“Man, are you crazy?” my roommate asked. “That was THC tea! We were going to drink that!"

The flames wavered around the pipe but didn't diminish.

Shortly, firefighters arrived. They told us to leave our apartment. They also evacuated a bar located below our place.

As we stood on the sidewalk with the unhappy drinkers, a reporter from the college radio station interviewed my roommate. I heard my roommate say, “We were cooking, preparing a feast, and things got out of hand.”

The firefighters found a gas valve and shut it off.

Our apartment was undamaged, except for a black carbon patch on a wall and a THC tea stain on the carpet.


At night, I heard a hum, like electricity traveling through power lines.

The saucer was beautiful. It looked like a huge snowflake, lit from within. I could see it through my window as it hovered in the night. A beam of light came from the vessel and swept back and forth, as if searching for me. But I wasn't afraid. I knew the saucer had come for my classmate, the one who was waiting to be taken away.

by Thaddeus Rutkoswki

Thaddeus Rutkowski

Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and The Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of the novels Tetched (Behler Publications) and Roughhouse (Kaya Press). Both books were finalists for an Asian American Literary Award; Tetched was chosen as one of the best books reviewed in 2006 by Chronogram magazine. His stories and poems have been nominated five times for a Pushcart Prize.

He teaches fiction writing at the Writer's Voice of the West Side YMCA in New York and has taught at Pace University, the Hudson Valley Writers Center and the Asian American Writers Workshop. His book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Daily News and other papers.

He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

Visit his website at www.thaddeusrutkowski.com

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