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Kalamazoo is a city in the Midwest with a population of about 245,000 souls. We are in scenic southwest Michigan, 35 miles from Lake Michigan, and at a midpoint of about 140 miles between Detroit and Chicago. What makes this community truly special, however, is our connection to the arts.

Kalamazoo is internationally known for the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and the Stulberg International String Competition. We support the arts with the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, ballet, theatre, the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, monthly Art Hops, and more, much more. Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and other higher education institutions bring 40,000 students to our community, and with them, new ideas, new artistic expression.

Authors' and poetry readings abound. Our libraries and local newspaper sponsor annual literary competitions, reading programs and book clubs for all ages. With all that focus on literary arts, Kalamazoo has produced a long and seemingly infinite list of talented writers and poets. So many, in fact, that The Smoking Poet has dedicated a page, Kalamazoo and Beyond, to feature our artistic talent and those who sponsor and support our arts-rich community.


Say Thou to Me


by Amie Heasley



The caption read: "Economic downturn hasn’t overloaded area shelters." Merry found that hard to believe, considering the unemployment rate lingered at double digits. She scanned the article, distracted by thoughts of her husband’s affair. He’d been sleeping with his IT Liaison. Or was it his Web Developer? Merry couldn’t land on the correct job title of her husband’s lover or decide what kind of scone she’d like to order, cheddar-bacon herb or white-chocolate cherry?


“.... because homelessness is considered a lagging indicator in a bad economy, advocates say a storm could be brewing.”


Merry looked up from the newspaper scattered on the table, taking in the street through the window. A woman hurried past in high heels, her feet blurring white like a pair of magic doves. A BMW had been parked too far from the curb, its headlights casting tinges of blue. The weather report had indicated the possibility of yet another winter storm. It was April Fools’ Day, colder than it should have been. That was Michigan’s joke, the way the weather lulled you into spring, then yanked away the clear skies and the sunshine, blanketing your driveway, your rooftop—your heart—with ten inches of the heaviest of snows.


Not far beyond the café, the same coffee shop Merry visited every Wednesday morning, a man thrust out his hands, cupping them together in a makeshift bowl. “Say thou to me,” he said like a premonition. The man had rubber boots. No coat. Merry couldn’t tell the color of his eyes, but wondered if their milkness camouflaged despair or indifference.


“Say thou to me,” he said again.


There wasn’t a hint of please in his voice, which made her even sorrier for having to keep walking. “I’m sorry,” Merry said. “I don’t have anything.”


She had, however, done what he’d insisted. Merry had taken notice of him, and by anything, she had meant, spare change. She had plenty of things: new jogging shoes, tubes of red lipstick she didn’t wear, two flat-screen TVs, paintings labored over by a best friend, a thick diamond band on her left ring finger, microwavable entrees freezer-burned by a reliable freezer, sheets with a decent thread count, a paper bag containing a still-warm scone.


Merry stopped. She should have seen it coming. It wasn’t just that her husband hadn’t touched her in weeks. It was that he started calling her by her full name: Meredith. He quit surprising her with her favorite meal, orange and vanilla-battered French toast.


“Want something to eat?” Merry asked, and when the man scrunched up his nose, exposed his graying teeth, she removed her wedding band and dropped it in his bowl. The snow began to fall and a car sped by, honking in fast succession as if some blissful couple had just said, “I do.”




Amie Heasley is a 2006 MFA graduate in fiction from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in Prick of the Spindle's online and print editions. When she’s not writing fiction, she works as a freelance writer for the marketing and advertising industry, primarily serving health care clients. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


Marion Boyer


Tarzan learns the word home



These are her

leafslip feet,

her hands--

a leopard heat

licks my instep

to taste my calf,

up toward hip.


A shaman's

spell, she burns

through dreamways,

fevers me for

kapok places,

her feather neck,

and spaces. Like boa

vines itself around


I swallow Jane, her

sound. Her words

move through

night's furry heat,

and drumbeat

fills inside her eyes,

where the lost

barbets fly,


and drums beat on

against our trunk

until we fall,

one great Ceiba tree,

from the weight

of need

and fearfulness.




Radio Man



Mom said Dad didn’t want to be killed

on the ground so he trained for

the Royal Canadian Air Force as a radio man.

Our little two-story had a radio

in every room including the john.

Dad loved transistors, the smaller the better,

earplugs tuned to the Tigers, Al Kaline

with a two and one count, then the pitch

and Ernie Harwell calling that ball loooong gone. 


Dad’s loyalty shifted any time a downtown bank

offered a free radio for opening a new account.

“Look at this, Dorothy, leather case, and fits

in your pocket.”  The kitchen radio was on

all the time. “Company,” Mom called it.  Dad

shuffle-danced, a piece of toast in his hand,

to Sinatra, or Garland, his favorite. He mowed

the lawn, did the crossword, read the news,

shaved, drove the car, all with the radio on, faintly

aware we were nearby, maybe talking or asking

him a question, but always he was in

the stands looking at the green grass, smelling

dust swept from home plate,

leaning in for the pitch in the bottom half.




Marion Boyer is a professor emeritus of Communication courses at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.  Her poetry book, The Clock of the Long Now (2009) by Mayapple Press, was nominated for the Pushcart Award and the Lenore Marshall Award.  Green, Boyer's 2003 poetry collection was published by Finishing Line Press. Boyer's poem She Seemed So Quiet won first place in the 2008 international poetry competition sponsored by the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies.

Art by Brent Spink



The Marshes of Glynn

by Georgia Knapp


Vanishing, swerving, evermore curving again into sight,

Softly the sand-beach wavers away to a dim gray looping of light.

And what if behind me to westward the wall of the woods stands high?

The world lies east: how ample, the marsh and the sea and the sky!

      Sidney Lanier, “The Marshes of Glynn”

*   *   *

Crawl out of your hole and greet the new day. Shield your eyes with your massive claw; wait to adjust to the brilliant sunshine whose rays complement the tall yellow and green needlerush that towers over your home. Sift through the salty mud. Pick up only the best sediments and bring them to your mouth like a violinist with his bow. When you are finished, roll the unwanted mud between your claws. Place the tightly packed balls over your home to prevent flooding while you are away. It is now time to go.

*   *   *

I am not an ecologist. If I were to stand up in front of the Glynn County Board of Commissioners I would not be able to use fact-based knowledge to back up my arguments and make insightful, awe-inspiring points. Instead, English major that I am, I would stand in front of the rich white men who own beach “McMansions” along Georgia’s Atlantic coast and compare Sidney Lanier’s poem “The Marshes of Glynn” to T.S. Elliot’s “The Wasteland”. When my tirade was finished the commissioners would smile and nod, thank me, and move on. By the next morning my points, disputes, and witticisms would be all but forgotten. 

I am an islander. My skin feels most natural when it is pink from too much sun and encrusted with a dried layer of sea salt. My hair looks its best with bits of sand crystal strewn within it and slightly curled from the sea air. My feet feel best either in flip-flops or bare with sand underneath them. While attending college in Michigan my suitemates would often find me talking on the phone, sitting in the middle of the sand-filled volleyball court outside our residence hall, feet dug ankle-deep.

I am not the type of islander who slathers herself in baby oil and then lies out on the beach for hours with a fruity umbrella drink that is getting more shade than myself. I am the type of islander that stops traffic on Frederica Road to help a turtle cross; the type of islander who does not romp on what little dunes we have left; and the type of islander who walks barefoot along the edge of the shore where the waves lap, looking for discarded sand dollars and whelk shells that have been carelessly dug up by tourists and left to bake in the sweltering sun. I am the type of islander who sees her island as more than just a place to tan, relax, and stock up on a seashell collection.

When I look at my island – Saint Simons Island – I see an environment that has given up the will to survive; an island once covered with long stretches of cream-colored beaches, thick maritime forests, and luscious chartreuse marshes. Now, the beach is swiftly eroding into the Atlantic Ocean, the forests have been largely flattened for condominiums and shopping squares, and the marshes are being filled in to make room for more homes.

*   *   *

Scurry between the skyscraper stalks. Your hard shell, dark for now, protects you from their razor edges. Head East. Don’t worry, you’ll know the way. Watch out for herons, egrets, and raccoons and the curious hands of tourists. Stop suddenly if you see any of these and cautiously sidle behind the looming grass. When you get to a road – and you will come across many nowadays – stop and wait for cars and bicycles to go by. When the coast is clear, scuttle swiftly until you reach dirt again. If a car comes before you can reach the other side, freeze. Try to stay in the middle of the road. If others are with you, do not wait for them.

*   *   *

Like many of the animals that live within the marshes, the wetlands themselves are endangered, too. Under the Clean Water Act enacted in the early 1980s the United States government restricted commercial and independent companies from dumping hazardous amounts of toxic waste (not all toxic waste, just ‘hazardous’ amounts) into waters with a “significant nexus” to “navigable waters.” These “navigable waters” include rivers, oceans, streams, and lakes, most of which are found in or around marshlands. Therefore, the waterways of wetlands are protected, but only minimally. The grounds, unfortunately, are left to other devices.

I live in a neighborhood that borders one of the many marshes on St. Simons Island. During my junior year of high school my parents wanted to to add two new rooms to our house: an art studio for my mother and an art gallery for both of my parents. When contractors came out to look at our property they said we could either build up or into our backyard; not to the side of the house as my parents had hoped. The contractor’s reasoning was that directly to the side of our house was where the marshy ground began, even if it was not marked by the meadow grass. Knowing this, the decision was made and my parents decided to sacrifice more than half our backyard in order to build their new additions on non-wetland ground.

My parents are an anomaly on St. Simons Island. When most homeowners there are faced with the conundrum of wanting to build directly on wetland grounds, instead of changing their design plans, they hire people akin to poachers who will mow down and fill in the marsh until contractors will deem it passable. The new house will be built and the inhabitants will feel privileged not just in having marsh front property, but in being completely submerged in the wetland. Ironically, submersed is exactly what these expensive homes will be when a hurricane finally reaches landfall on the coast of Georgia.

Islanders such as myself do not want to protect the wetlands just because they are a gorgeous natural resource of our Barrier Island home, but because they are our one hope to keep our homes. Marshes are natural sponges. Unless there has been a severe drought, if you were to walk into a marsh you would immediately sink up to your ankles or worse (I have gone thigh-high once while trying to pull a kayak ashore). Marshland is what keeps low-lying areas from severe flooding during rainstorms and hurricanes.

*   *   *

A league and a league of marsh-grass, waist-high, broad in the blade,

Green, and all of a height, and unflecked with a light or a shade,

Stretch leisurely off, in a pleasant plain,

To the terminal blue of the main.

Oh, what is abroad in the marsh and the terminal sea?


*   *   *

Continue scampering in the direction that feels instinctive. If the terrain has changed or there are things in your way, keep going. Walk over, through, and around anything that you need to. Look for cracks under doors that you can crawl under. Remember to keep your big claw always up and ready, poised for attack. You don’t know what could be behind these doors and you’ll move a bit slower on carpet. Watch out for anything that may try to catch you. If you do find yourself scooped up in something with no bottom: fight. Run around, kick, claw, pinch and make as much raucous as possible until the offender puts you down. If you are lucky you may find yourself among grass, dirt, and pebbles once more. If you are unlucky you may find yourself among colorful rocks, plastic trees, and a round Tupperware of salt-sprinkled water.

*   *   *

Meteorologists say that hurricanes have a pattern. They will be light and barely make landfall for a few years and then all of a sudden it will be one category four or five after another making landfall in the same places as a century before. Rumor has it that the coast of Georgia was hit pretty hard in the late 1800s and our time is coming up once again.

Due to this apparent predestination, every summer since my sixth grade year islanders have experienced an all-too-familiar pattern: a hurricane forms in the Atlantic, rapidly gains strength and heads towards the East Coast of the United States. News Channels display red ticker tapes with constant status updates of Hurricane Whoever. Locals use the hurricane’s first name as if it were an old friend. “How’s Ike doin’?”, “Do you think Charlie’s gonna get here?”, “Maybe they’ll cancel school for Fay.” Local businesses and newcomers board up their windows with sheets of wood and place all uninsured items at least two feet off the floor. Those who haven’t learned any better place giant X’s of Duct tape on their windows so that the glass will not shatter when it breaks (those of us who have learned know it’s better to just let the damn things shatter rather than spend months scraping that tape off your windows). And then, just when even the most apathetic of islanders have decided to pack a few things because evacuation seems imminent, Hurricane Whoever catches the Gulf Stream right off of Georgia’s coast and rides it straight into the Carolinas. What amazes me the most is that every year without fail, North and South Carolina are surprised and unprepared.

Instead it is us, the islanders, who prepare for a possible catastrophe because we know it will come and we know our island will no longer save us. With each square foot of marshland that disappears another half inch of water can be added to the flood that will eventually consume St. Simons Island. My eighth grade science teacher once showed our class a chart that illustrated what sections of St. Simons would be destroyed by the floodwaters of which hurricane category. My section of the island (the middle) was shaded gray-blue for a category three. The only thing keeping us from a category two was the marsh – the marsh that a family recently filled in to build an extravagant cookie-cutter home.

*   *   *

If you have found yourself outside once more: good for you! Continue trailing eastward. You may see a few more like you now. Remember to always remain observant for cars, people, and raccoons. Do not let your guard down when you reach the woods. It’s getting dark now and your shell will begin to lighten. Camouflage will be harder. Tear quickly across strips of asphalt and the driveways of large homes that look alike. Keep going until you reach soft ground again. You will know you’re there when even your tiny legs leave tracks of pinpricks in the mud. Wait until you are once more surrounded by lofty blades of stiff grass. Watch for signs from the others. When they stop, you stop. Begin digging. Scoop as much and as hard as you can into the mud. It should give way easily. Once you have finished and your second home is complete, fold your torso into your legs so that you can easily slide down your front tunnel. Now you are safe. Now you can rest.

*   *   *

But who will reveal to our waking ken

The forms that swim and the shapes that creep

Under the waters of sleep?

And I would I could know what swimmeth below with the tide comes in

On the length and the breadth of the marvellous marshes of Glynn.



A recent graduate of Kalamazoo College, Georgia Knapp spends her time being a nomad between Michigan and St. Simons Island, Georgia. She hopes to pursue an MFA degree in playwriting in the near future and will be living on Mackinac Island in Michigan for the summer—working and writing!

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