Poetry 2
Putting On the Dog: TSP Celebrates 5
Short Story and Poetry Contest
A Good Cause
Our Gift Shop
The Artist: Holly Friesen
Kalamazoo & Beyond
Talking to Stuart Dybek
Talking to Judith Fein
Talking to Marjory Wentworth
The Poetry of Marjory Wentworth
Fiction 2
Fiction 3
Poetry 2
Poetry 3
Cigar Lounge
Zinta Reviews
Andris' Blue Note
Links & Resources
Marketing & Donations
Submission Guidelines
The Editors

The Edge of the Island by Holly Friesen

R.T. Castleberry



A Failure of Light


A placid, looming moon

shapes the snare of common streets.

There is green in this darkness,

a scattered white of zinnias,

feathered light of apartment picture windows.

Returning empty as I left

my voice drops out,

like the jet descending in the distance.

A car slides through the lot,

music a low vapor.

Silver silk, a scarf winds around my neck.

Scents of creamy coffee,

baking bread, spilled beer

press upon me.

I bookmark a novel

with a letter I’ll never open.

Notes unread, notched for tearing

scatter the decades.

It’s a custom of disappointment,

a measure to arrange defeat,

as a pilot aligns wheel and wing

for unplanned impact.

As I approach the building stairs,

I stand mute, arrested at a silence hosted

by hedge and fenced lawn,

rooftop ribbon of row house and high rise,

an airplane’s banking turn below true horizon.




R.T. Castleberry’s work has been published in Comstock Review, Green Mountains Review, Rockhurst Review, Caveat Lector, Poet Lore and many other magazines, both nationally and internationally. His chapbook, Arriving at the Riverside, was published by Finishing Line Press in January 2010. An e-book, Dialogue and Appetite, is forthcoming by Right Hand Pointing in spring 2011.


Ena Djordjevic


Unnamed Language


The sky changing color at night; something I notice

in Vinca, my body less than one short trail

from that eternal river.  My mother once said

that when she met him, my father would swim across

from his country to hers, shaking his hair out when he reached her,

waiting by the river bank in Croatia.

There is some kind of violent purple in the distance

above centuries of trees. A wind carries the sound

of the dead language, exchanged by a couple

passing in the dark. Behind me, the house is full of relatives

I have met once, between us a faint path

of what should have happened, if.             Had I known

the words would want me back I would have learned

to read this language.  Now, it raises eyebrows in the markets. 

I say bread and they shake their heads.  I speak: tomorrow,

goodnight. Nothing.  Gone.  Coming back here

is like entering a house you know

through a basement window.  Relearning speech,

I am waiting to see a path through trees

when I touch my grandmother’s arm. Soft.

Blood, my mother once said, is the way

we recognize each other, we don’t need to understand.

The river is not motionless, as it appears.  The river

I am seeing is not the sky, the changing

of the light like a pendulum in one direction. 

I am one short trail from the river.

One short trail from if.        If is the violent country

I am living in when I speak.  The river can’t cross,

bridge.  The trees by the water, standing or uprooted,

are shadows sloping into the bank.




Between Sarajevo and Belgrade


Before anything started, the people

in our lives began coupling off with strangers

who had level ideas.  An aunt became pairs

with the Socialist down the street, the fortune

teller took up a kiosk and sold daily papers.

There was no place for us,

watching their fears make love in and out

of the homes at sundown.  We drove

from every city and saw rust powering the lampposts,

varnished in the red streets.  Every radio made threats

for a civil war, and said we didn’t have a choice.

There were no crows—vultures.

No definitive beast.  The pigeons ate everything

and scattered the papers.  The mice left the fields

for more daring stakes.  The choice was already gone

for those who looked.  Our soldiers opened the Zoos

to let the great elephants into the streets

and shot them, standing, with liquor at their feet.


A refugee of the Serbo-Croatian conflict, Ena Djordjevic is an MFA candidate at the University of Maryland.  She has work forthcoming in J Journal.


Christine Jessica Margaret Reilly




There is come on my birthday dress; you

were so nervous. Your soft palm, shaped

like an artichoke, unfurling, asking. Why can't you stop

apologizing? The sticky petals of your eyes rust

over me, naked. Me, wearing the territory


you've colored. I'm in a stained dress

and it's my birthday. I have never been happier,

knee deep in blue eyes. I often dream

about trains. In time, they've turned

from nightmares to cozened, soft films.


You didn't want to be the angry song that lived

in my elbows when I was sixteen. Now it has flown,

erased. I can only remember the slap

of two notes, re-mi. You must remember

most men aren't capable of that kind of ugly.



Christine Jessica Margaret Reilly is currently pursuing her MFA in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence University. Two of her poems will be featured in “The Clearing: Forty Years with Toni Morrison, 1970-2010”, a book by James Braxton Peterson and Carmen Gillespie. She has been published in the Anemone Sidecar, Asinine Poetry, Breadcrumb Scabs, Blood Lotus, Canopic Jar, the Bijou Poetry Review, CaKe, Blinking Cursor, Vox Poetica, Louffa Press, Eudaimonia, and Caper Literary Journal. She has also been published in Bucknell's publications, Fire and Ice and Mirth Grinder. One of her poems was featured in an African Blues Art Installation piece in Bucknell University's Bertrand Library. She lives in New York.


John Duck


A Mantra


In my dream you were ten feet tall

And the heat in our Houston apartment

Had curled the blinds. It’s funny what’s

Let in at dark. I’ve never been to Houston

And I haven’t known you in years. Asleep

And experiencing time. I thought your name

Was something—Javier. If the universe is truly

Expanded and contracting… let me start again.

If the spine of chronology cups each year’s breast,

And everything is really the entirety of it all, eternity,

Taking one single step… let me start again. In your name,

Three syllables of a giant standing up and exhaling

A breath before a fall, a mantra. The ether’s gift

Of crumbs for the golden roaches.


An MFA candidate at the University of Maryland, John Duck’s work has previously appeared in Kestrel and elsewhere. A lecturer now, he has also professionally washed dishes and answered phones.


ŠAll materials, print, artwork and photography on this site are copyrighted and not to be reprinted without written permission by The Smoking Poet.