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Photo by Dianne Roberson Hendrix

Murray Shugars



Into the White



Snow fell on the city

like a language we didn’t speak.


We stood alone on a bridge

watching ice knuckle the pylons.


This life is bound to happen, she said,

and I don’t want to know your name.


This life is bound to happen,

and there’s a hole, a hole,

a white hole in heaven.


She said.


She saw singed feathers

falling from heaven.


She said God’s an angry father

who won’t keep.

He won’t keep his hands.

He won’t keep his hands to himself.


She caught snowflakes on her tongue

and in her upturned palms.


She was praying.

Her hands were folded wings.


God’s a handsome debaser, she said.

He debases the finest nights with his grin.


This life is bound to happen,

and this monkey’s gone to heaven.




Besides previously appearing in The Smoking Poet, Murray Shugars’ poetry has appeared in Smartish Pace poetry journal and in a chapbook, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me (Dos Madres 2009). He is an associate professor of English at Alcorn State University in Mississippi and lives in Vicksburg with his wife, Sandra, and their two daughters, Samantha and Miranda. He is currently deployed to Iraq. Please see his story in the Cigar Lounge.


Joannie Kervran Stangeland


Sack of Prayers


This body becomes a metronome,

slow two-step, weight raised

to lento, adagio. Old strings

sigh under the long bow,

an epiphany drawn taut.


This, my body, redraws its lines,

hungers for layers

and phrases, fragmented

like Picasso’s women

fractured across canvas,

love and not love.


This is my body, a sack of prayers

sketched and bandaged,

anthems of phantom wounds.

Lacking the amnesty of sleep,

my mouth shapes words

in the thickening dark.








Coins pile up on the counter

along with rubber bands

from the daily paper she doesn’t read.


She doesn’t need to write another list,

buy a new map, its edges neatly creased

and the highways tangling


red or blue, the towns in different sizes

of type, the big city bold—a bull’s eye

with a snarl of roads—


or a small dot with a thin name,

a few stores, and fields rolling

between the occasional silo


or water tower. She has a drawer full

of travel plans—some old and folded

all wrong, others barely opened. No,


she doesn’t need another set of instructions.

Just one good compass point.

She would pay for that.





The Spine’s Minor Betrayals



Limbs move in a chorus of pain—

short solos, subtle crescendos,

a muscular music, a twinge

like a string around her finger, too tight.


What did she forget?


The symphony comes and plays

while autumn falls, notes from a staff,

arpeggios descending into darkness,


the lesser known modes: Phrygian,

Doric. A descant of dry leaves clatters

staccato in the road. Remember,

cold sings into her bones,


another skeletal song. Like the fugue,

the aching grace of the familiar.




Joannie Kervran Stangeland’s work has most recently appeared in San Pedro River Review, Raven Chronicles, Iota, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Her first chapbook, A Steady Longing for Flight, won the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Her second chapbook, Weathered Steps, was published by Rose Alley Press. Joannie also hosts the video series A Writer’s Guide to Microsoft Office. Joannie is the guest poetry editor for The Smoking Poet's upcoming spring 2010 issue.


Ivy Page


On My Way There


This frayed edge on the soft of my lips comes off

as disgust and distaste. It’s only the wind

beating the edges of this body.



My father’s eyes stare back at me in the mirror.

That drop to the corner is a slow train

to where I have been.


Baked with sarcasm, I bleed poetry,

I cry a song, and I love a man

with a face ten years too young.



Ivy Page is a poet whose poetry has been described by Ross Gay as, passionate, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious poems, (which) always have a deep and generous intelligence.She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She is the editor and founder of OVS Magazine. Her work has appeared in Cantarville, Snow Monkey, Oak Bend Review, The November 3rd Club, Night Train and forthcoming in The Houston Literary Review, the Boston Literary Magazine, and New Plains Review.


Shelby Stephenson


PD Couplets


When Aunt Edna mashed the grease out of me

I sprang from the pan to see


How I was not forewarned−

BH had shot me in my groin


And his “possum dog” sunk his teeth

Deep into my side−so deep


In fact I felt crucified:  Jesus, I knew:

I prayed, saying What have I done to be so blue?


Do not fail me now, Lord; may I rise

From this splattering skillet to a size


Neither shortening nor lard, tubfuls, even−

Hot−I mean, can melt or cause me to fall from the Crown of Stephen,


Though I operate peripheries−what can I do?  Some

Might leave me for dead in popping oil, my race run,


My basic wildlife a deadend for any hope toward release.

Well, I’ve got news for Rescue Services everywhere−cease


Worriment:  here are some real hot tips

For those whose hearts are heavy with remorse, lips


Dry from treating Little Feet rudely:

Feel distressed for what you have done, truly?


To one whose ancestors have been around for 60 million years,

Since the days of the dinosaurs!  Go on, rain tears


Over us as we travel alone night after night in search of food,

Eating just about everything:  worms, frogs, grass, corn:  why, once I stood


On a garbage-can in a backyard in the South and ate some grits

From Aunt Edna’s share of Sunday dinner:  they gave me the running shits


But I got over that and returned the next evening for some leftover dog food.

The night was dark, quiet:  I saw her in the window from a pile of wood.


She looked forlorn, standing in her widow’s frame, pulling down the Venetian blind.

I wanted to claim her crowded suburb for my own, find


Out if I could beat the most dangerous enemy opossums have ever had.

Oh what cruelty Man brings to territoriality:  cars, guns, traps, bad


Poisons−what redundancy!−I mean to make you listen:

We opossums are clean, non-aggressive, non-destructive−bootyfools!−we glisten


When we grin, on our backs−what a sight:  we carry our babies!

Immune to most diseases, we are not likely to carry rabies.


Quiet, reclusive, politic, beneficial to the environment because we eat insects:

Not only that, I, born Little Feet, help the poet come up with anapests.


Like Australia’s kangaroo and koala

The opossum is North America’s only marsupial.


Am I making my case?  If you find a newborn babe

You will probably find a roadkilled mom:  save


That infant, for the little one fell off the mother’s back or out of her pouch.

You do not have to wait and watch forever:  take the ouch


Out of the baby’s life by warming it in your hands (wear gloves)

And place it in a box on top of a towel-wrapped hot water bottle:  love’s


Sweet song will honor you, as your baby opossum sleeps

The time away in the semi-dark you have made:  feed-


Time will come soon enough:  remember:  quiet is the watchword for little ones:

Newborn opossums are about the size of kidney beans.




Shelby Stephensons Family Matters:  Homage to July, the Slave Girl received the Bellday Prize for Poetry in 2008, Allen Grossman, judge, and the Oscar Arnold Young Award, 2009, Jared Carter, judge.


Scot Siegel


Skeleton Says


stay up all night

don’t drink any water

fall asleep in a de-hydrator

go snowshoeing in a storm

follow the wrong star home

crawl on all fours

hunker down beside the wildfire

drink a little too much cabernet

glissade the saddle of your lover’s nylons

scratch the doorframe

let your tongue sail the honeyed room

unhinge her jaw

feel her marrow move


Scot Siegel lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where he serves on the board of the Friends of William Stafford. His first full-length poetry collection is Some Weather (Plain View Press 2008). In celebration of Oregon’s Sesquicentennial,  Poetry Northwest and the Oregon State Library selected Some Weather as one of 150 Outstanding Oregon Poetry Books, one for each year of statehood. Pudding House Publications released Scot’s most recent collection, a chapbook called Untitled Country, earlier in 2009.



Luke Morgan


The Model Ship


Sails drape from a gaunt structure.

I now watch as these skins of my childhood

 are bathed in flames,

                         And curl in retreat, burning.


Memories drift from its main mast,

“The big bone” as we called it,

And seep from the bowsprit,

Jutting like death above the waterline.


…I see my father with pride in his eyes

As he held it. I see my plaque also, that

Glossy wooden mantle with a golden crown;

An epitaph of victory, engraved on its sheen…


But I now watch as waves lick this deck,

A tempest of cries blaring from clinkered shaft –

“Abandon ship, crew! Quarterdeck down to nought!”

                         And hopeless, I watch it sink


In cackling fire, never moving,

Having never seen the sea. 






Bloodshot Blackberry


                                Imagine the nonsense scream

Of the red blackberry between my palms.


Imagine the juicy crimson liquid

Crawling its way to my wrist – sticky and itchy.


                                Just think of the flesh inside, the clumps

Of moist red meat, a sign of false ripeness.


Don’t you desire imagination, my friend?

Can’t you see why Mother Nature’s blood is on my hands?




Luke Morgan has loved poetry from a very young age—he is now 15 years old. Together with his English teacher, himself an established poet, he works at improving his writing ability with pleasure. He attends St. Edna’s College in Co. Galway, Ireland, and other than poetry, his interests include rugby, music and art.




Mick Parsons

We Happy Few


We’ve got everything we need:

pretty plastic and bright lights

to cover our imperfections.

Flashy bleached smiles

pre-packaged feminine wiles

and manhood in a pill.



in pockets, hidden deep

in forgotten mountains,

there are others

singing new songs,

writing new epic poetry,

and eating honey

right off the comb.


                             We buy ours

in quaint jars stacked

on riveted shelves

in organic markets

and let ourselves feel better

about our more natural

kind of life.



Mick is the author of two collections of poetry; his work has been featured on His work has been published in The Licking River Review and the American Mythville Review. Mick currently resides in Tempe, Arizona with his wife Melissa and their two cats, Blue and Gumbo. When he isn’t writing, he might be found in any number of local bars or coffee shops, at off-track betting sites, or at the track. He might need a haircut.


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