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 29, 2009

When He Quit Smoking

He wouldn’t lecture me.

I could see in his eyes—heavy,
finding sleep in reclining chairs
while his younger grandchildren bounced
from plastic covered couch
to carpet—that he heard, and ignored,
plenty of lectures about what the next cigarette would do.

When the doctor put a tube into his lungs,
drained decades of tar,
we all began to understand
the fragility of our family name.

I relished the act of sneaking a Camel
in the backyard where I didn’t know he saw me
crouched in the grass by the stone Virgin Mary,
forgetting that a year ago
his daughters prepared for a life without a father
while gathering in Christ Hospital
to see his olive skin made darker
by the contrasting hospital gown.

Even in the ICU we laughed
as he flirted with a nurse,
pretended that he had too much life to die,
recalled injuries loading plywood
onto a truck, smashing his fingers into
tree roots, maps of the Mediterranean pressed
on his dark face.

And when he had to take oxygen
we treated it like a quirk,
like an odd affectation.
When he got lost driving,
staying gone two days, we panicked
though some of us were convinced
that this was the way he had to die,
re-mapping the streets and neighborhoods
he knew like the Back of the Yards,
Englewood, Pilsen, Little Village,
Midway, Burbank,
Cicero, Central,
the streets that grew from under him
like the ivy back in Bari.

by Vincent Francone

Vincent Francone

Vincent Francone is a writer of minor note living in Chicago, working at jobs that would make the average person sick. He writes of his city and the wayward folk therein.

Forest Fire

Day after day
smoke shrouds the mountains,
turns the sun to blood.

Up there, flames crown in treetops,
roar down dry ravines to climb
new ridges, scorching undergrowth.

In their wake, still smoking dirt
holds the charred remains
of evergreens, twisted ghosts
rooted in ash.

As I grieve for spruce and fir
crackling in canyons of fire,
I think of funeral pyres
by the Ganges, of mourners
immersed in its ancient waters
while cremation smoke eddies
above them, and the ashes,
oily ashes, flutter down.

by Penny Harter

Reprinted with author's permission from Lizard Light: Poems from the Earth (Sherman Asher Publishers, 1998)

Penny Harter
Penny Harter lived in Santa Fe for 11 years. Fires often bloomed on the surrounding mountains. When she drove back to NJ, smoky haze lasted into Kansas. Her most recent book is The Night Marsh.

Visit the Ms. Harter on-line at http://www.2hweb.net

See the publisher's page for her new book at: http://www.wordtechweb.com/harter.html

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Smoke is wet grey ascension in a rain-filled sky, sand eddying up from the ocean floor, heat pouring up from our bodies as we join and part again and again, pungent taste of oaky metal, currents of white air dissipating from a grate in the city streets, the dark sluice of betrayal seen for the first time, dense spray of spore from a puffball mushroom, cloudy blush of constellations, ash’s faint sister, crystalline jet-trail through the blue, chimney-weep, fire-sorrow, tendrils unfolding weightlessly, bitterness rising, petroleum’s black ghost, granules of matter fading into ephemera, regret-scent that clings, soundless, all that’s left.

by Lindsay Knisely

Lindsay Knisely

Lindsay Knisely lives with her true love by the sea in Santa Cruz, CA. She is a writer and teacher at UC Santa Cruz who is originally from Virginia by way of Ohio and Oregon.

A Cremation

Fire steals from slow decay the frame
Of one who lets us claim
This small relief:

The words are said, the ashes flown.
What’s left? A weight, a shard of bone
Still sharp as grief.

by J.D. Smith

J.D. Smith

J.D. Smith has smoked cigars in five countries. His work has appeared in Alimentum, Gastronomica and The Bark among other journals. He is the recipient of a 2007 Fellowship in Poetry from the NEA, and has also published one children's book.

Follow his blog at: jdsmithwriter.blogspot.com


It was the end of the '70's and everywhere brown:
my Nicholas from Eight is Enough bowl cut;
the worn floor mats in mom's Camaro; Lucifer,
our German Shepherd, when I combed his white fur
cocoa with a box of Nestle Quick;
the chapped leather couch where dad's pals would squeeze
side by side,
their arms straight up the wall
whenever they'd stop jostling
for their strange tapered cigarettes.
They would suck, smile, pass, suck, smile, pass,
then blow smoke,
sometimes in rings to make my eyes light up.

I was often taunted with joints.
Snickering through trickles of beards,
my father's friends would hover tantalizing spliffs
as bait above my fingers
while I'd plead for just one puff.
Dad would size up mom
(at the kitchen sink or making supper).
Smug, he never heard her objections.
Instead he'd fetch the Zig-Zag box,
its tiny orange flap emblazoned
with the face of some mystical alchemist or gypsy.

From among the maze of dainty interfolded pages,
dad would pluck one thin sheet, craft a joint,
seal the seam with one long lick,
then make me promise not to let it drop.
Uninducted, I would cough, then race
the bathroom gauntlet, the hallway
longer than at bedtime,
my throat on fire,
the faucet stingy with cold water.

by Jason Steeves

Jason Steeves

Jason Steeves holds an MFA in Poetry from Lesley University . He works for the art department at Harvard, then spends his nights playing itsy-bitsy-spider with his triplet daughters and producing a documentary about drugs and poetry.


A large distant field of stubble has been set ablaze
to hold back the wind-driven wildfire
knights in flaming red armor with eyes so hot
they warm the hands they pass over them
hose into the gray smoke, pour oblations
a hill of dark houses leans into the heat
that feeds and quenches

night falls around the airfoils of the fire
blisters on its own breathing skin
the canyon fire is not sacrifice; it is about sacrifice
forfeiture, relinquishment
the ecclesiastical canons we live with, die from

the evacuated fill their cars and trucks
as much as they can in their urgent haste
screech down the roads, scream up their prayers
beg for mercy, damn everything almighty
the red knights retreat to the whoosh
of the slow pulse of helicopter blades
the blaze throws itself back
leaves all offerings unreceived.

by Eileen Malone

Eileen Malone
Eileen Malone founded and directs the Soul-Making Literary Competition and hosts an interview show on San Francisco Access Channel 29. She previously taught with California Poets in the Schools and local Community Colleges. She lives in the coastal fog of the San Francisco Bay Area and has published her poetry in over 400 literary journals and anthologies.


Ramon's yellow fingernails
speak for his lungs,
his voice shaky as an earthquake.
The cigarette ash falls
from a quivering gray hand,
the oxygen machine thumps
counting the days
like combat Morse code.
Breath struggles out
tight as a sailor's knot.

by Cheryl Caruolo

Cheryl Caruolo

Cheryl Caruolo is a published author, and teacher of the art of writing and the craft of editing. Her literary work has appeared in a multitude of venues including Reiki News, Thereby Hangs A Tale, Common Thought and Cezzane’s Carrot. Several of her pieces have been national literary contest winners and fine art exhibit contributions.

Visit Ms. Caruolo's website to learn more: http://www.cherylcaruolo.com/


The gusanas were from old Spanish families
Cifuentes, Mendez and Garcia.
They owned the plantations
and the slaves
who grew the tobacco
leaves like magic
in the rich red-sunset soil
of Vulta Abajo.

Leaves laid out on trays
in wall-less sheds
to dry slowly
in the scented air.
Baled and shipped to Havana
and the factoria
where the torcedores roll cigars
on wooden desks.

Old black men with shock white hair
fine-boned, long fingers
coaxing the leaves to curl
and compact into perfect cigars.

Listening to the soft, sweet voices
of the lectors
reading stories - real or imagined-
to make the crafted movement
forever rolling
seem less tedious and more the Art.

Mystery and romance
rolled in their names: Montecristo;
Partagas; Romeo y Julieta
and the fabled Cohiba
exported everywhere as the best.

In '62, Pierre Salinger was sent
by master Jack
to buy every cigar in Cuba
before he imposed the embargo.

But the rich Yankees still come to Habanos
and buy the contraband cigars
place their bids
for the precious humidor
and the autograph of the century.

Exiles and mafiosi in Florida
living lives conditionally
waiting until Castro dies
imagine thieves will be welcomed
exploiters encouraged to return
and crime syndicates will once again
skim the cream.

In their Fidel-free world
they'll make fortunes
profiteering and privatising
the peoples' wealth.

Viva La Revolution !
Viva la lucha !
Venceremos !

by M.L. Emmett

M.L. Emmett comes from Reading, Berkshire, England.
Living in a Victorian cottage in Norwood, South Australia, her ambition to become their first Poet Laureate.
Poodle tragic.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Drag: Joni

From Selected Works by Stephen Mead

Drag, lips, an inhalation
This lit candle is
Summoning a ritual
Lean closer
With closed lips, breathe
Such membraneous intimacy...
Pores, reponses open:
Hold on, hold on.

by Stephen Mead

Stephen Mead

Stephen Mead is a smoking poet and artist living in northeastern NY. Creativity reins in the voices in his head. “Drag,” his homage to women icons, a piece combining poetry and art, can be found in his book Selected Works, available through Amazon & Lulu.com.

Saturday, April 25, 2009



See yourself wrapped in soft paper tissue.
You are prepared to become ash,
to float into the sky in pieces.
Part of you may land in the open trap of a mouth,
rest on tongue, taut,
the only exposed muscle—free and writhing,
or lay in soil, in the shade of a tulip
to be fed upon by the green things
that grow toward the sun, that know no love.

Every time I see a fire,
I know something has died.


Open a book and rip each page.
Take The Wild Iris from your white bookshelf.
Smoke “Witchgrass.” Burn the poem
into your soft throat as you inhale,
brand the silk cord of your trachea.
Unfold “Lady Lazarus” and eat it line by line.
Every inner wall must be painted black
with famous words, with words.
Eat until acid fills your mouth, until you cough ink.

Every time I read a poem,
I know something has died.

by Ruth Spalding

Ruth Spalding

Ruth Spalding will be living in Ann Arbor come Summer, editing textbooks, then going to the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan. She hopes to learn to ride a bike.

Friday, April 24, 2009


“Since Roman times…ash has been recognized as a useful
amendment to the soil…it contains most of the…
essential nutrients...for growth…”—The Master Gardeners

The poet went outside
to get some air. Dense clouds
of ash filled eyes and nose and lungs.
“The poems are on fire,” he said
through tears, “and all the words
are turning into soot. I will go now
and watch them burn.” He turned
his steps to face the conflagration.
Head down, he plowed
against the blowing cloud of ash
till he reached at last the source of smoke,
a great pyre upon which Blake burned bright,
fueled by tongues of flame that lapped at Donne.
The greener poems of Olds and Collins
smoldered red around the edges
while Kerouac and Ginsberg
crackled instantly to flames.
The poet exhaled hard upon the glowing
words and watched as sparks rose in the sky
to fall as ash on fields and flocks and pens. And then
the poet went back home to write again.

by Gretchen Fletcher

One of Gretchen Fletcher's poems, “Two Giant Men in New York,” recently won the Poetry Society of America’s Bright Lights, Big Verse competition, and she was projected on the Jumbotron as she read it in Times Square. She frequently travels to attend poetry readings, awards, and book signings and leads writing workshops for Florida Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress, and her chapbook, That Severed Cord was published by Finishing Line Press.


I caught your eye across the dim café
where you were sitting with your dark-eyed wife,
together filling up the chipped ashtray—
her butts smeared red, yours long and still alight
with flickering ash. And smoldering in the dark
the brand between my thighs began that slow
burn which only fleeting glances seem to spark.
My lowered eyes and cheeks reflected shuddering glows
of candle flame and blood-stung flush—
your gaze surged toward me. Then as quickly froze,
for she had felt your heat and caught my answering blush.
You took her pretty hand in yours and quickly rose
Then choosing long love over singeing lust
left me, incendiary in the gloom, to self-combust.

by Christina Lovin

Christina Lovin

Christina Lovin is the author of What We Burned for Warmth and Little Fires. Widely published, Lovin has been funded by the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Kentucky Arts Council.

Visit the author's websites at http://www.christinalovin.com/

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

“second hand smoke”

retorted with husky voice
through puffed streams
of freshly used fumes
“just a rumor” rasping
an aroma of burnt tar
“not proven” as she
pops a breath mint
ahems her phlegm
flips the spent butt after
one last lung filled drag
refreshes her perfume
and reenters the bar
after enjoying a quick
breath of clean fresh air

by Carl Palmer

Carl Palmer

Carl Palmer, Micro Award and Pushcart Prize nominee, well known at open mikes around the Puget Sound area of the Pacific Northwest, lives in University Place, WA.


baby you know
i love you more than
warm biscuits and honey butter
i’ll be with you ‘til dirt turns to diamonds

so don’t get bent

when I say that today’s favorite fifteen
counted down while you were out getting diapers
i leaned over the ninth floor railing
smoked a joint beneath the tired winter sun

inhale hold

come on baby you know
you’re better than black beans with rice and ham
after eight long hours grinding for our room and board
but sometimes a man’s just got to step off and rest

sirens church bells brick
pigeon rustles on a ledge below me

you know I need you more
than a heart-shaped red velvet cake and
a big glass of milk but baby you know that what i
wanted was a quarter hour and a tight one

to be somewhere alone

by Jackson Lassiter

This poem has previously appeared on-line in Boiling River Online Poetry Journal.

Jackson Lassiter swears on a stack of hemp paper that he's never ever smoked a joint. Really. Seriously. Oh, believe what you will, then. Whatever; he needs to go out on the balcony now.


she got up in the shadows
standing smoking
a naked silhouette
with an ember for
an eye
blinking cyclopean fury—
I, drenched in her
lay over the edge
of the bed
watching her upside
trying to say what I
may later write
but can’t seem to get
tongue to tip and tap palate
forming only sounds
I nod and watch tumbling
end over end
smelling of god's sweat and cigarettes
wishing I didn’t have eyelids
so I couldn’t blink
and even miss a second of this fall.

by Juventino Manzano

Juventino Manzano

Juventino Manzano has returned to the states after a three and a half year haitus. He completed his Masters degree while working fulltime as an ESL Teacher's Aide at a middle school, and now works as on online intructor for University of Phoenix. When not busy trying to be creative and academic, he plays with his four-year old son and reads as much as time allows.

He has been published in various magazines including Celebrate the Self, Hustler Fantasies, EIDOS, Proper Gander, Bourgeoizine, Last Stop at Union Station, Armageddon Buffet, and Post Amerikan.

Check out Manzano's blog: Epiphany Point

Vulnerability (iii & iv)


A thick haze settled over Donora in late October ’48 as the DHS Dragons took the field. Fans said the game was all but invisible in the smog, that the only way they knew these stout boys had scored a touchdown or recaptured a fumble, was to listen for cheering from the front rows. No one could explain the loss. Donora was famous for tough football players and hearty steel workers, but by the beginning of the next week, funeral homes had run dry of caskets.

Women hid in their homes and locked their children in bathrooms. Men still waited in line to punch in at the Zinc Works, despite the toxic cloud at its shores. The rational commented on headlines that read, “Atmospheric Freak of Nature.” The terrified clutched to their chest the papers that read, “Act of God.”

Local veterans frantically tore through cellars, attics, and closets, searching for old rucks and mildewed gasmasks. They panted and trembled, waiting for the sound of mortars; for the order to come across the trench (over the top, boys!); for blisters in the lungs.


In 1952, London accidentally coined the term smog. For two weeks in the first part of December, coal fires burned to keep cold air at bay, and the fumes took residence in the streets and eventually the homes and lives of locals. The price of a warm home was high for some. Days worth of Singin’ in the Rain and High Noon showings were cancelled because of lack of visibility in the theatres. Hopeless romantics wandered the streets, grief-stricken when they discovered that florists had run dry of flowers, that funerals had taken precedence.

It was a bloody inconvenience for those who held tickets to the much sought after production of The Mousetrap. The stage was invisible, the roads even more so. Londoners declined outside hospitals, undetected by nurses who couldn’t even see the ends of their own wards. The daily death toll rose as high as 900.

To everyone’s great relief, Queen Mary was unaffected

by Ed Casey

Ed Casey is a Masters student at UNT. He spent many years working in the private sector, being beaten into a cold, hard state of denial until he returned to school. He lives with his three unruly ferrets, a rabbit, and his fiancee (though they try hard not to live in sin). He is currently working on his first collection of poetry.

catching fire

strike these poems together like
two flints. sparks will erupt.

hunt and gather small verbs of
debris, for it will catch first.
think like a caveman.
feel the cold and hunger.

pile word twigs together on top.
carry the stick weight of vowels
as they yearn for life.
ugh. ooh. aah.

dowel upon wood, turn the syllables
until they mean something. force
them to mean something. do
not relent.

with sacred delicate breath, blow.
again. blow.
the pulse from your chest, brings
life to meaning.

see how it combusts without
more effort. it knows what to do.

feel the heat rising from words.
let it puncture the cold.
then gather more language
to feed it.

now, rest easy as
you sleep this night.
in the embers, there are meanings.
in the burning, we are known.

by Richard Lighthouse

Thru the Looking Glass by Richard Lighthouse, 2003, Acrylic Painting, 36 x 24 x 1 inches

Richard Lighthouse is a contemporary writer and poet. He holds an M.S. from Stanford University. His work appears in The Penwood Review, West Hills Review, Mudfish, and many other places worldwide.

Richard has several e-books available for sale: The Age of Sound, Cactus Petting, Event Horizon, Evolution of a Poem, and more...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Garden

She’s a weed on a street of couples and can’t pass through those chains of held hands. A garden grows along the street – no weeds blemish its perfect landscape. Its fragrance pollutes her mind. She makes a wish for their hands to unclasp, but they don’t. Her cigarette drops and burns her thoughts instead. Her perfect plan disappears in smoke.

by Patricia Carragon

Patricia Carragon

Patricia Carragon is the author of Journey to the Center of My Mind (Rogue Scholars) and is a member of Brevitas. She curates the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets reading series and is the editor of its annual anthology.

Visit Patricia Carragon's website.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

MAY 2000

I sit in a bar looking at a calendar
With Buddha’s eyes painted on it.
The climbing season on Mt. Everest has ended.
In two weeks, eleven ascents
Were made, with three separate climbing teams
Reaching the summit in one day: a new record.
Five hundred empty oxygen tanks
And a thousand pounds of garbage
Was also taken off the mountain;
Another new record, but no body count was made.
The woman sitting next to me is smoking a joint
And asks, “Can sperm get stoned?”
I ask her to come home with me
But she says no and moves to another stool.
The Memorial Day Weekend has started.

by Erik La Prade

Erik La Prade

Erik La Prade has a B.A and an M.A. from City College. His first book, Things Maps Don't Show, was published in 1995, and his second, Figure Studies, was published in 1999. Some of his poems have appeared in Fish Drum, Night Magazine, The Hat, The Reading Room, The New York Times, and Artist and Influence. He also has articles and interviews in The Brooklyn Rail, Captured: A History of Film and Video On The Lower East Side, and The Outlaw Bible of American Essays.

His chapbook SWATCHES was published by POETS WEAR PRADA in 2008. To find out more about it visit:http://poetswearpradanj.home.att.net/ErikLaPrade.html

Burning House

The feet of our comrades are swaying
from branches veiled with dust.

Love, listen—love me anyway.
There is no need for words now
only this nectar glazed in our eyes.
This house is burning. Their torches rain
like the fragments of a shattered sun
their white pupils glisten through
the flame’s curved fingers.

Wooden beams sizzling
as the doors of our sanctum erode
curling like the singed edges of a leaf.
The pictures we hung now bursting
into ember blossoms of memory.

As their axes pierce through our paper walls
we expire like this—hands busy
with the faithful task of loving
skin, bodies triumphant in this throne
of arms interlocked—defiant
to the inferno blackening our ankles.

And I promise to preserve you
until my voice is no more than the crackling
of burning bones. I will lick each flame
igniting on your pores and catch
their blazing arrows with my mouth
shouting our names.

When these walls collapse—cascading in streams
of ash and cinder, they will find us here:
smoldered shells of a lifetime’s work
a masterpiece crystallized into obsidian.
They will record these fires leaping
in my eyes, my tongue crumbling
in my lover’s mouth.

by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong has been published in various journals including North Central Review, The Connecticut River Review, Convergence, Ganymede, the Raving Dove Review, WordRiot, Poetalk, and Barnwood among others. He emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1990 and now resides in NYC. He is also writes and edits for The Viet Nam Literature Project. "Burning House" is the title poem of his new chapbook.

Visit his blogspot: Ocean Vuong: The Momentum of Madness

Friday, April 10, 2009

Payback’s a Bitch

Smoke chokes. Dante would
invent a new circle
for us, blinded and coughing
from hundreds of fires.

Smoke strangles.
Home feels

unnerving—coerced to drive
with dialated
eyes—through the long
obscured valley.
Blotted out—lake,
traffic, and road
almost invisible.

Double misfocus.
Trees loom, ghostly
No bird flies.

Where are their refuges?
Do they find shelter
by migration instinct?
How do we honor them

and our perceptions?
How do we,
breathing, choking on painful
errors, navigate?

by Elizabeth I. Riseden

Elizabeth I. Riseden
Elizabeth I. Riseden's many addresses in varied places have obscured youth’s clarity. Out of desert sand storms, forest fires' smoke, and living, she has written through many shades of gray. She's also taught others how to write, and address uncertainty.


for Daniel Setzer

from one end of the bridge to the other
the charred bodies stacked like wood
smoking as the cinders fell away
and the horse standing under the struts
its head and flanks above deep water
the brown the black of sightless eyes

no wagon could cross unless a man pulled it
for the horses that were still alive
took fright at the dead and shrieked
rearing hooves which seemed to pound
at the rooftops and the clouds
rising from the blasted earth

that night after the bombardment
the city was set ablaze and shadows
of men were seen in the burning windows
and on the far hill beyond the gate
their jagged arms stretched out against the slopes
shrouding the ruby needles of the pines

June 21, 1988

by Eric Basso

From CATAFALQUES, Leaping Dog Press (Aug 1999).

Eric Basso

Eric Basso was born in Baltimore in 1947. His work has appeared in the Chicago Review, Central Park, Collages & Bricolages, Fiction International, Exquisite Corpse, and many other publications. His most recent books are Decompositions: Essays on Art & Literature 1973-1989 and Revagations: A Book of Dreams 1966-1974 (Asylum Arts Press). Six Gallery Press published Earthworks, his seventh collection of poems, last year.

From "Smoke, Dust, Fever"

A 30-foot mushroom-shaped column of smoke
towered in a blue sky while I climbed
and sunbathed on rocks in Yosemite, slim waterfalls
glinting down the cliffs—on my honeymoon.
We knew fire was taking acres of Wowana, but scale
made this a Park Announcement myth
(but for that hulk of smoke and the boas
of snarling orange glimpsed on either side
of the highway in the pre-dawn
as we evacuated, hugging each other,
tasting strangeness and comfort).

by Naomi Thiers

Naomi Thiers

Naomi Thiers lives in Virginia and misses the scale and drama of the west. She has published poetry in many journals. A national park really did catch on fire on her honeymoon.

Mothers Are Funny That Way

We wonder how it came to this,
smoking our cigarettes hard,
as if that inhale could shrivel the words
we know we'll say, as it does our lungs.

She hasn't seen her girl in three weeks,
thinks she fell in with a gang, drugs. I've had it.
I won't worry about her anymore she asserts,
hand shaking as she takes a drag. Detectives

have been to her home to look around, question.
She says they never asked if there was a father
in the house. Some things are a given. Most detectives
are men. Life is funny that way.

Our lips clasp the filtered ends like their mouths
did nipples long ago, before we understood
what hopeless really meant. My boy called me a bitch
last night. Sometimes I hate him, truly, I tell her,

as I blow smoke rings toward a tall man's balding head.
The rings get larger, circling his neck, tightening,
until his tongue bulges purple and my ex-husband lies dead,
last words forgive me. Imagination is funny that way.

We talk tough, hands on hips, jaws set in a jut. Smoke hangs
in the air between us, like our lies. I see her wet, frantic eyes
through it, and I know she sees mine. We crush butts under pumps
and go back to work, breathing.

by Lori A. Williams

Previously published in Avatar Review.

Lori A. Williams

Lori A. Williams lives in Brooklyn, NY and works at a NYC law firm.

Wild Fire

She carried the fire in her pockets
and tapped shards of magma
like cigarette ash onto the passing trees.

She was beautiful and courteous
to the other scholars of nature.
She’d make space for the squirrels,
twitching like tweakers, to pass unobstructed;
she’d lift the hedgehogs, doleful as skin-poppers,
over the screeching train tracks.

But her face was dark and mournful
even when she lifted her blazing palms
to rub her leaking eyes,
to caress the hissing trees.

Hair cropped by fire,
they stand black and naked now
damned sentinels wreathed in shame.

She has gone, dragging the sun down
beneath horizon’s brittle crust,
its final cry turning the cloud
into a sprawling bruise, as the
sunlight gently bleeds away
into night’s quilted pockets.

by Steven Nash

Steven Nash

Steve Nash should currently be doing research for his Ph.D he is a qualified teacher but despite this earns his keep (sort of) as a musician playing to anyone foolish enough to stay in the bar.

Steven's blog is Starlight to Casual Moths.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Running in the street
While the house is on fire &

Knowing that I was the one
Who left the oven on &

My grandad is asleep
Or will be until the smoke

Catches him by the throat &
Flings him around the room

Before he melts from
Beating back the flames,

I wonder what’s the deal
With all that noise &

That commotion.
Is the fire truck arrived already? Wow.

by Patrick Chapman

Patrick Chapman

Patrick Chapman is the author of four poetry collections, a book of stories, an award-winning film and an audio play. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. His next poetry collection will appear in 2010.

Visit Patrick Chapman online: www.patrickchapman.net.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ain't that just like Scarlett O?

Ain't that just like Scarlett O?

I rise from within
the miasma of me,
and the need for smokes
supersedes the ever burn
to strategize about him.

I splash my face,
grab things new and borrowed,
inspect the violet blur
under my eyes,
dab makeup,
change my mind,
take my mother's shades,
(she doesn't need them,
she hides from the sun
since my dad passed away,
she chases shadows and Papa Chu).

I walk in black and white,
full maned dissident child,
through last night's
Bardot sun dried sheets,
and stand in line,
shifting weight
from leg to leg
ponder on him,
he is no knight
in shining armor,
I'm no princess,
I'm a better rider,
and my horse
is black as the thoughts
of the woman rolling cigars
on her sex rounded thighs.

From the back of the store,
she throws dark glances
sharp as lances,
that speak of unbridled passion
in the belly of a shipwrecked cruiser,
grounded and rusted for years,
and I get the stench,
the rot of my father's
countless affairs.

I lift a cold beer,
wryly toast the sharp eyed wench,
she smiles,
and her smile is gapped
by close encounters with
a grim likeness of love,
and I am unhinged,
bruised by loss
and doorways slammed shut.

Cause this man
can take me or leave me,
often he leaves me,
at times he wants me urgently,
he is intrigued and afraid
of my intense in his face
barefoot debates,
and the way I forget words,
kiss him to distraction,
then run wild
when he doesn't get me,
when he doesn't steady me.

I must get over
his love branding,
he sears me and
I double over in anguish,
I must chase him
to exhaustion,
I have to have him.

I get on with morning,
Tantalus and his torments
are for late nights,
and I wear chase-me jeans,
and I pack smokes,
and swig beer labeled
Victoria all the way home.

Ain't that just like Scarlett O?

by Anna Donovan

Anna Donovan, a Nicaraguan in Texas is a survivor of the Sandinista revolution and has made a life for herself in the US. Donovan has always loved words and languages. AD says, "Writing is the way I align words with my inner compass."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

NO SMOKE by Bruce Weber

NO SMOKE by Bruce Weber
"NO SMOKE" by Bruce Weber

by Bruce Weber

Bruce Weber [Credit: Jackie Sheeler]
Credit: Jackie Sheeler

Bruce Weber is the author of four published books of poetry, including These Poems are Not Pretty (Miami: Palmetto Press, 1992), How the Poem Died (New York: Linear Arts, 1998), Poetic Justice (Icon Press, 2004), and The First Time I Had Sex with T. S. Eliot (Venom Press, 2004). His work has appeared in numerous magazines, including in recent issues of Long Shot, Chronogram, Lips, Saint Elizabeth, and A Gathering of the Tribes. His work was also featured in the Downtown Poets Anthology, The Second Word Thursdays Anthology, and, most recently, in the anthology Up is Up, But So Is Down; Downtown Writings, 1978-1992 (New York: New York University, 2006). Bruce has performed regularly in the New York area, both alone and with his group, Bruce Weber's No Chance Ensemble, which incorporates poetry, theatre, music and dance, and has produced the CD Let's Dine Like Jack Johnson Tonight. He is the organizer of SOS: Sunday Open Series at ABC NO RIO, the editor of the broadside Stained Sheets, and the producer of the 15 years running Alternative New Year's Day Spoken Word/Performance Extravaganza. Bruce is also Senior Curator, 19th Century Art at the National Academy Museum. His book Paintings of New York, 1800-1950 (San Francisco: Pomegranate Press) appeared in the fall of 2005.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

J A M E S - A - D I C K - T I O N by Big Mike

... It was LOVE , that drove me to Nicotine ... LOVE for a boy.

I was thirteen-years old, JIMMY ROBERTSON, was twelve. Jimmy had a fondness for removing his white "HANES" T-shirt, stuffing it inside the left back pocket of his Bermuda shorts, exposing his pale, pink boy-breasts, with their "silver-dollar" honey-colored nipples, while catching the afternoon's summer sun, and turning his muscular lad's back, to a golden-brown, switching his girlish hips, to-and-fro, as he paraded across the softball diamonds of my Bronx youth. My eyes fixated on the dimples of his sacroiliac, the crease of his gluteus folds, his ass-crack, visible just above, the skewed panty-lines, of his "Fruit-Of-The-Loom" tightie-whities.

"... ROBERTSON!!! You walk like a FUCKIN' - GIRL !!! A FUCKIN' - GIRL, who just wants to be FUCKED!!!"

"... Sit on it, and rotate, SONNY!!!" Jimmy "flipped" Sonny Fitzgibbon, The Finger, coquettishly glancing over his left shoulder, winking a "come-hither" look, at his cat-caller, accentuating his cissy lisp.

"... Sit on it, and rotate, MOTHER - FUCKER!!!"

Jimmy did walk just like a girl, a girl who wanted to be fucked! And I wanted him to be my girlfriend ... and to fuck him! As I stared at his teen buttocks, I was stunned by my first teen erection, pounding in my pants. Socially inept, awkward, I would never have a real girlfriend. But Jimmy, would provide a more than adequate substitute.

"... Hey, BIG MIKE, wanna know a secret?" that obscure object of my desire wanted to take me, into her confidence.

"... SURE!!!"

"... Well, me, and Kevin Trainer, and Kevin Schwartz, got us a clubhouse, up on the grounds of the Kingsbridge Veterans' hospital. You can join our club ... but, there's an initiation rite ... "

(... OOOH!!! I sure hope it involves Sodomy!!!)

"... And, you gotta swear, not to tell anybody what we do, up there--not even your brother. If my mother ever found out what we were doin' up there, she ' d kill me!!!"

(... OOOH , BABY!!! This sounds almost too good to be true!!!)

"... YEAH!!! YEAH!!! I swear!"

"... Okay, Friday night, eight o' clock, meet me on Bailey and Sedgwick Avenue ... "

My lust, could barely contain itself, for the next two days! That Friday, I palmed a purse-sized jar of "VASELINE," from my older sister's pocketbook, in anticipation of the new-found wonders of Pedophilia, which I was soon to be initiated into ...

Jimmy Robertson, Kevin Trainer, and Kevin Schwartz, were all present at the designated rendezvous point, behind the Fordham Hill Apartments. Kevin Trainer, was A "Faggot"; at eleven years old, he was the youngest of this "daisy-chain." Kevin Trainer, was obviously the femme "bottom-boy," for Kevin Schwartz, the Macho-Butch, star-athlete, the "Little-League" fire-ball pitcher. And, Jimmy Robertson, would soon be "MINE"!!! Jimmy the Sodomite leader, took "point," leading us through dirt trails, into the jungle of the Veterans' Hospital grounds.

" ... Watch Out ... !!! The guards patrol these gardens with K-9 attack police-dogs!!!"

( "... H O R R O R S!!! To be surprised mid-breach, by the agents of Justice!!!")

And there, beneath a bower of bent-over brush, brambles, and vines, covered with sheets of corrugated cardboard, and balsa-wood slats, ripped from packing-cases , was the "Club-House Of Iniquity"!!! The place reeked of pederasty, and pre-pubescent sex-games. Jimmy Robertson orchestrated the entire performance.

" ... OKAY !!! We gotta be fair, to the "new-comer." When I count to "THREE," everybody pull theirs' outta their pants!" Jimmy smirked, lasciviously.

" ... OKAY !!! ONE !!! TWO !!! THREE !!! PULL !!! "

OH ! The joys of that one, brief, fleeting Moment of Truth !

Jimmy Robertson, stood there, with a pack of "KOOL MENTHOL 100 ' S ," in his hand, which he stole, from his older sister's purse. Kevin Trainer, had a pack of "KENT III ' S," which he stole from his mother's handbag . Kevin Schwartz , had a pack of un-filtered "CHESTERFIELDS," which he stole from his father's NYC Sanitation Department overalls.

And ME ? I had my " C O C K ," in my hand, pre-lubed, twitching, in pre-orgasmic tension,"and a shit-eating" grin, plastered all over my face!

" ... HEY, B I G M I K E ... ? What are you showing me, your B O N E R , for ... ? "

( ... The little sarcastic " B I T C H " !!!)

One second stop .

" ... U H ? 'cuz I gotta take a 'leak'? YEAH! I gotta piss, so bad, I got me a ... ?
... a 'piss - hard - on' !!!"

" ... Those rose-bushes, back there, are for quick pisses, B I G M I K E !!! We don't want our club-house smellin' like a 'shit-house' !!!"

Kevin Schwartz , eyed me , suspiciously.

" ... Y ' Know, B I G M I K E ... ? I heard Jimmy Sullivan sayin' you wuz ... ?
... " QUEER " ... !!! "

I hurried off, over to the rose-bushes, to expel my foul bodily fluids, and bent my raging, semi-erect member, back inside my "SEARS" brand "jockey-shorts." When I returned to the club-house, the other three boys were smoking like the fiends of Hell.

"... Hey ? B I G M I K E ... You ever smoke, before? Be honest, now, don ' t lie . I bet you never did it."

Jimmy mocked me in his most seductive, feminine voice.

" ... Wanna try it, just this once?"

My will-power, was weakening ...

" ... It's not like you're gonna 'catch' somethin' from me ... like ... Cancer ... "

I could resist no longer! Jimmy slowly removed the stick from between pursed coral-pink lips, his saliva, still glistening on its end, and proffered it to me.

"... You WANT it ... I can see it in your eyes ... take it ... "

He pressed it up against my mouth ... a single thread of spit, still clinging from the filter, connected to his delicate mouth. I was his. He eased it between my trembling lips, thrusting inside, rubbing it against my all too willing tongue.

"... Suck on THIS, for a while, B I G M I K E ... !!!"

I was his, to command, and I sucked, and I sucked, and I sucked for all I was worth, drawing the smoke, deeper, and deeper down into my lugs; the musty taste of the loamy tobacco, accentuated with the piquant tang of menthol , mixed with Jimmy 's own man-juice, as he pressed the cigarette poised, between the graceful fingers of his dainty manicured hand, up against my face.

"... That's right, that's right! That's it, Baby! OH GOD! Open up your throat for more, you Little Nelly BITCH !"

The true addict, remembers the very first time, using a new drug of choice ... and confesses that he was "hooked," that very first time he ever tried it. That invisible line of addiction, crossed from the very start. I was addicted to cigarettes, from that very first experience ... but ... was it the Nicotine? Or, was it Jimmy's bedroom-eyes, that was the "monkey-on-my-back"? I spent that Summer, locked in the bathroom, ruminating over the ramifications of "Greek Love," paperback "PENGUIN CLASSIC" edition of Plato' s "Symposium," in one hand, COCK, in the other, the virtual image of Jimmy Robertson's sweet, sweet tight little bum, dancing in my mind's eye, "whacking-off," furiously, while huffing and puffing on pack, after pack of
"KOOL MENTOL 100 ' S."

[ B A M !!! B A M !!! B A M !!! ]

"... M I C H A E L !!! Stop that! Stop doing "That," inside there !!! You'll go blind !!!"

( "... Too late, too late ... !!! ")

"... You' ll Stunt your growth ... !!!"

( "W H O O P S !!!")

All good things, must eventually come to an end. The "salad-days" of Youth, are over, gone forever.

Jimmy Robertson graduated to "cruising" Van Courtlandt Park Lake, at night, looking
for older men, to support his two carton a week "KOOL MENTOL 100 ' S" habit. At age 17, my father signed me into the United States Coast Guard Boot Camp, as an alternative to drug rehab. There, I was introduced to the ritual of the "smoke break."

"... Smoke 'em, if ya got 'em , boys !!!"

My shipmates would whip out Polaroids of their girlfriends, in bikinis, and sexy, skimpy, revealing lingerie, as they puffed away on their "MARLBOROS." All I had in my wallet was a strip of stark black & white photos, from Woolworth's snapshot booth, of Jimmy Robertson, staring at the lens, working on a "KOOL MENTHOL 100."

I quit "cold-turkey."

by Big Mike

This story, in a slightly different, perhaps little lengthier format, originally appeared in Big Mike's 81 Pounds (Pretty Pollution Press).

Big Mike

BIG MIKE is Bronx-born Emergeny Room RN now residing in Bayside Queens. An unrivaled story teller he reveals just how gritty the underbelly of New York City can get in his critically acclaimed collections of emergency room and childhood recollections 81 Pounds and Sibling Rivalry both from Pretty Pollution Press.

Befriend BigMike Logan on FaceBook at http://http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1007153492

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