The Smoking Poet - Summer 2008
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"This portrait of the Chrylser Building in New York has always been one of my favorites. The shot was an accident in the making as I was totally lost in New York one day and just happened to see a shaft of light coming around the next block. As I approached I saw this image and grabbed it before the sun set behind the city. I loved the contrast of complete blackness on the bottom to the white light shining on top of the tower."
Ed Rode, photographer








Basanta Kumar Kar




The surge fastens the speed, flattens

a new way wave and tide

bed opens the button uncovers the cotton

to merge and submerge filling pores and holes

blue sky turns red

everything is for hungry treasury

cash and kind play hide and seek

a self content redirecting the libido

to save humankind parade


Floating plants struggle to settle

ask to know the lineage

surge separates again and again

soft and tinted touch

dalliance of a sweet heart

a care, companionship, living together

the bed misses the life time fulfillment.


Parading body bare at surge’s discretion

changing acts and postures

this ordeal a lifelong endeavor

learn betrayal is trust

gather conviction and courage

to display, discourse and discuss the truth

before the silt  washes to flow another bed.



(This is the story of Shikha a 26 years sex worker and mother of three children of Durg slum, Chhattisgarh, India)



Author of two collections of poetry, “The Na´ve Bird” and “The Silent Monsoon,” Mr. Basanta Kumar Kar hails from Orissa (India). A lawyer with a post graduate degree in rural management, Basanta Kumar Kar has more than 25 years of experience in the social development sector.  Basanta Kumar Kar is currently Operations Director for CARE, India, an international development organization.  Kar is writing his third collection of poems written on real life stories about women. The poems depict the vulnerability, predicament and unheard agonies of the most marginalized.



Sarah Sarai


My Various and Sloppy Forgiveness


If I am to be happy I must forgive you.
If I am to find peace I must forgive you.
If the palest sunray is to warm me I must
                forgive you.
If my dreams are to sift gently in the night air
                like a feather in moonlight
                towards my day
                I must forgive you.
If all the movements of my technical brain
                are to be greasy with indulgences
                of easygoing joy
                I must forgive you.
So here it is for you, friend of night,
                my forgiveness laid out like my body
                with shapely legs and mounding
                belly inviting your head to rest,
                gaze in all directions,
                astonished at nature's beauty. 
So, friend of night, here is my forgiveness
                waiting as I did for you
                to dive into my flesh and cradle
                my vital organs sobbing for touch. 
                So here is my various
                and sloppy forgiveness, reckless,
though I will need it this only last time, for you.


Six, Seven Strawberries

Oh to be a strawberry so smashed on a slice
of buttered bread that insides and outs are
children standing, arms wide and mouths
open in the dancing downpour of sugar
sprinkled.  We Swedes may be dumb as
smiles glossy from a nincompoop's joke
but try this and tell me life's bleak: 
strawberries, repeat, berries thumb-plump,
handfuls in your father's white handkerchief
sagging like a cot at summer camp with
five girls giggling feathers to the air. 
Spread butter on white bread.  Remember
both have histories, meadows green as
foliage imploding with dew and a thousand
lush dreams.  Your mother with blush pink
roses flowering through her cheeks and
smoky wisps of hair sweaty on her pulsing
temples.  You once fit two more happy girls
on the cot so now more strawberries, six,
seven strawberries on the butter, strawberries
rubbing strawberries, fleshy ladies joyous,
despite bellies bulges, striations life makes.


Which Door Closed


Begin with bantam spongy fishes dehydrated; willy nilly pitched

along with glo rocks the neons of a six-pack of cotton
panties anymore and magic culled from mushroom planet
books where—in classifieds—you see an ad—finally—
you want to respond to:

“WANTED (read the small notice, printed —
oddly — in green): small space ship, about
eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two
boys, between the ages of eight and

Some days we love the people the people quiet in their

fresh-faced Hello, Sun trot of sustenance, and doggies
offered one last pee before life and key turn inward
for an indeterminate spell.

Some days we balk at making cross with the sorcery of

a doorframe.

We summon the inspiration of personal catechism (has one

Arthurian blade a little tough to access, a faithful white-
foam geyser spouting like a tabby-whiskered preacher
towards Heaven, and seven peacock feathers beloved
of Terpsichore, the very muse herself, when the west
was wild with longing).

Some days fish rehydrate, swell with the surprise of dimension

and spirit, make a joyous pivot into traffic of the infinite



*Cameron, Eleanor. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. Little Brown.  New York: 1954



Sarah Sarai's poems have been published in Minnesota Review, Threepenny Review, Fine Madness, PANK, The Columbia Review and others; are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, Taiga,, Other Rooms and others.  She has had stories published in journals including Tampa Review, Weber Studies and South Dakota Review.


Cheryl Snell


Perfect Strangers


How easy it was then,
walking toward the lighthouse
through the shadow of ruptured walls
on sea-washed wooden pillars.
The starless night sprinkled salt
in your hair, and the light
seemed miles away. An empty tower
stood watch over water
that had only moved four hundred feet
in forty years,
but the sweep of beams
dragged it closer. An illusion, of course,
but we rushed forward into it,
eager to believe. The light
revealed our faces briefly,
and I remember we were laughing
as we slid in and out of the fog.
We didn’t know we were practicing absence.
We were still perfect strangers to loss.




Blind Date


This one takes me to a restaurant 
where we sit cross-legged on the floor
and eat with our hands. Long-line Spanx

sausages my flesh, and my eyelashes,
sooty with science, bat a thousand.
We go to a film afterward. He whispers
subtitles in the dark, even though English

is my first language, not his.

At Starbucks, he tells me
what his last three lovers did wrong,
how his mother suffocates him,
why the concept of marriage is so over.

It’s the lazy girl’s way of killing herself, I say.


I watch his pupils dilate, Adam’s apple moving

in his throat like an animal. Oh, this one’s

gonna love me like a cough drop, I think.

I uncross my legs, and smile real slow.



Cheryl Snell’s books include a novel, Shiva’s Arms, and four collections of poetry: Flower Half Blown, Epithalamion, Samsara, and the forthcoming Prisoner’s Dilemma. She serves as book reviews editor for Alsop Review, and blogs at and


David LaBounty



there were tumors and lies

and they had to carve up his wife


they had to


remove her left breast

and before it was removed

he tried to imagine

what she would look like

after, after she stepped out

of the shower tiptoeing naked

to the bedroom with drops

of water beading on her body

middle aged and full


and all he could see

was a black hole over her heart

obscuring the place


where their marriage used to be.




Something About True Nature




it's you and the dog

and you are both vaguely overweight

and the dog is pulling you down

the sidewalk as you

plod along in your discount-store

running shoes like an ancient Clydesdale

and coming towards you

is another jogger and she

is tall and slim and lithe

and she has a heart monitor

wrapped around her arm and her

stride is perfect and

disciplined and

this is how it's always been.


there has always been

someone smarter

and stronger and

more desirable

and this plodding

along has something

to do with desire,


with wanting to be some object of desire.


the lithe woman approaches.

you spy her pale

and unblemished face

as you both make room

on the sidewalk for each other

and it's at that point

you drop your gaze


and turn your face away.



David LaBounty lives in suburban Detroit and his poems have appeared in several print and online journals. He is the author of two novels, The Perfect Revolution and The Trinity with a third currently under consideration.


Paul McDonald




You told me you were fine when I phoned

but an image haunted me:

the withered you I struggled not to see.

Everyone had gone, leaving you

to search the polished floors,

the blank plaster walls

for fading hieroglyphics.

Or think. Or crouch inside

the belly of the afternoon

with my electric voice:

“Great. I’m pleased. Goodbye.”

While our backs were turned

something breached whatever

kept the worst at bay.

I should have joined the fight.

“That’s bad. I’m sad. How can I put it right?”




The Farmhouse Window


The farmhouse window glows with 

a buttery light; the silver moon 

swings high between the treetops. 

While she irons he cleans his gun.


He asks her for more oil; he asks 

for another piece of cloth. 

So many years they've dwelt here like 

a pair of doves, darkness smothering 


woods and the distant sea. 

Nothing comes between them and they 

sleep like stones at night beneath the 

quilt she made with careful fingers.


They smile at talk of seasons turned

to dust. They smile to see themselves 

repeated in the darkened panes:

no need to hide themselves with curtains.






In the streets that front

the sun beyond the iron gates

life’s crowds hurry.

He can see them

as he sits in silent thunder,

sucking current from the air.

Above the sky is

indigo and dubious.

He puts his forehead

to the window and feels

decision in his nostrils.

A flash of silver follows, then applause. 



Paul McDonald is Senior Lecturer in English and American studies at the University of Wolverhampton, England, where he runs the Creative and Professional Writing Programme. His most recent books are, Fiction from the Furnace: A Hundred Years of Black Country Writing (2002), The Student Guide to Philip Roth (2003), and the novels, Surviving Sting (2001), Kiss Me Softly, Amy Turtle (2004) and Do I Love You? His latest poetry collection is Catch a Falling Tortoise (2007).


Peter Declan Guy


Happiness Writes White

I realize, that at some point,
I may have said I loved you.
It was all a great misunderstanding.
Love is a commodity you’ll appreciate,
No more mysterious that a Freeman’s Catalogue.

I may have compared your eyes
To the icecaps of a wintered moon,
Your dreams to the poetry of wolves,
But love, ah, let us not delude ourselves.
Where do the words come from, what is their power?

Bodies sashay, holding scared against one another,
The younger couples do a slow two-step, snatches of a song,
You know I’ll always be your slave, till I’m buried, buried in my grave
Oh honey, bring it to me, bring your sweet loving, bring it on home to me.

Words mark such truth as we can bear to reveal,
A primal hurt, we dream of midevening, crossing the prairies,
An old hotel room or my hand on the door, discerning only
The languorous retractions of your body, like stars crashing into a sea
Drawn free with the crowns of anguished desire.



Peter Declan Guy is a senior researcher at the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies, Dublin. He is completing his PhD on psychoanalysis and the modern Irish text and has been publishing in a number of different periodicals from Ireland, the UK, Canada and the US; two books of his poetry have been published and he is currently working on a novel provisionally titled 'White Plains Crossing'.


Murray Shugars



Noughts & crosses, my tulpa, knots and losses.
Hold your fabricated and fine head high.
I say no one knows the price. No one knows
how long you've waited in the shadows of tall pines,
listening to the wind-trembling needles,
those thin-whispered secrets of long gone youth
and the lost dogs of innocence.

No wind, no blind breath touches your fallen beaus,
those deep-eyed and thin-cheeked lads
gathered at the crossroad. They open
their mouths in the silent sex of surprise,
the frozen O of death. They suck vacuums of night.
They suck dirt. They will always be true and sure and
under your boot soles.

Wait for them, if you must.
They wait for you.




Jasper County, Indiana  

There will be still water and then
a breeze strumming the surface,
and we will see scores of sandhill cranes
lifting and settling in the distance.

The swollen, springmelt creek
sways its girlish hips, you will say,
and caresses the stubble of last year's habitat.

Here, under a stand of pines,
you will ask to use the binoculars
so you can see their red crowns,
their gray plumage brushed with rust,
their bustle-feathered rumps.

You will feel the pinched wind
that ripples the water and catches
the shrill, tumbling crane-song.
You will watch the birds
wheeling in harmonies of three or more.

Those long-necked figures,
you will say,
dance beyond our knowing.
Their wings beat with music
we will never hear but only see
in the simple things of the spirit,
the last rites of snow
melting into the wetland.

There will be still water and then
a breeze.



Booby Traps

The whole platoon's drinking San Miguel and Red Horse
beer with bar girls in Olongapo. Doc Sloan says he's gonna marry
a pretty Filipina named Sheri. Lance Corporal Kukowski
slugs the Aussie sailor who paid Rhonda's bar-fine,
ten dollars to the mama-san for the evening. The girls think
I'm clairvoyant because I read their palms and tell them
what anyone can see. You've had a rough life and children.
You want a man who'll take care of you.

Earlier, patrolling the jungle, we found a punji pit on the trail,
bamboo spikes covered with feces.
Private Walsh emptied both barrels at a monkey,
swore he saw a Filipino with a blow gun,
felt a dart whisper past his ear.

Now, we sit at a back table in Johnny-O's
with girls whose brothers shine our boots today,
steal them tonight, and sell them tomorrow.
This isn't earth, Mooney says. It's fucking Mars.
The girls watch me with their tea-brown eyes,
lingering at my table, pressing their palms together like Madonnas.
You have a long life-line. And here's the line that smiles.
Your children will have a good father. You'll have a good husband.

They want to buy me drinks and give me pesos, but I won't let them
take me home. Last month a young Marine—
leaving his girlfriend's place—grinned down the barrel of a pistol.
Burnt gunpowder lingered in the air above his body.
The MPs killed a mongrel licking blood from his mouth.

In my dreams, the kid takes my hand and says,
The belly of the trail's under your nails.



Murray Shugars is an associate professor of English at Alcorn State University in southwest Mississippi. He lives in Vicksburg with his wife, Sandra, and daughters, Samantha and Miranda. He also serves in the Mississippi Army National Guard as an infantry company commander.


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