The Smoking Poet

Kalamazoo and Beyond

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Kalamazoo River flowing through downtown

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.

Colleen Little



For my father William



One day you called me

on the phone

and asked about the swallows-

you were angry at their

unending dialogue,

engaged in their own noise,

a reminder that life continues

when hers did not-

In the afternoon of certain summers

your heart broke

watching the careful building of each shelter,

of mud, twig, a stray straw


The moment she died-

an empty house

the ricochet of their flight

interrupting your melancholy.

You were ready to destroy those nests,

those birds-

the living.

When I told you

the swallows held a secret,

imperishable stars

hanging as stones,


but not gone,

a small mercy-

all those moments of naming

the loss,








This is How We Continue



There are quivers

of the body within-

there is a story

of soil

and despair

of every woman


Demeter in her longing-


happy endings might not exist.

There is still the autumn to consider


the falling noise

footsteps that crunch

the acorns gather

and winter will deaden

the coruscated land


It will be a hard season-

survive if you can

there is a broken country


She bends

toward the earth

holding up the sky

replants the world all over again.



Colleen Kolhoff Little is a writer and artist living in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She has won several writing awards, The Kalamazoo Gazette Community Literary Awards and the New Century Writer Awards. Her work has appeared in Red River Review, Aesthetica, Verbicide, Poems Niederngasse, BigCityLit, and Insolent Rudder. She has work forthcoming in Short, Fast, and Deadly.




Stefano Cagnato






I'll be a marmoset,





please don't talk to me

I          am          busy.

I will fly

and fall,




Do not talk to me now.

I cannot wait for the sunshine to melt my wings.


I'll be large and tall

gar      gan      tuan.


Feel my fur, razor-sharp,

it feeds on your eyes and mouth,

birthplace of Gossip.


I can be whatever I want.


I will be a marmoset,

large and with wings.






Thank You



My father once stopped me

in the kitchen.

I held a blue cup of orange


in my left hand

while I concealed a yawn

with my right.

He smacked the cup out of my hands

and it splashed on the white floor,

a large egg with a punctured yolk.

As he walked away he said:

You can't just believe in God,

you have to believe in the Devil

as well.


I found a kitchen towel near the stove,

turned on the faucet and wet the

towel a darker shade of blue.

I kneeled and cleaned the mess

before it reached the walls,

and later, when I walked in on him and

the newspaper,

all I could say was

Thank you.



Born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Stefano Cagnato is currently a student at Kalamazoo College in Michigan with an interest in music and theatre.


Kimberly Grabowski


Only the Skin Can Hold


I don’t watch, because if I do I might run.

The needle bites into my thigh, spitting ink,

too much ink for my skin to hold.

He pauses for a moment to wipe it away.

It whirs back to life, humming permanent

because that’s its job, the memory of pain.


I tell them nothing is as comparative as pain,

It’s one of those words whose intentions run

through a scale, from shivering to permanent.

It leaves behind a residue, charcoal ink

you can almost reach,  just far enough away

to remain something you carry, but never hold.


The first layer is shrinking, trying to hold

itself together, unwilling to let go of pain.

The darkest parts are beginning to peel away,

the parts they warned me might run,

slowly letting go of their share of the ink

to leave their shadow there, permanent.


I’m least afraid of the things that are permanent,

that wrap their arms around you and hold

onto the places you’ve marked with ink.

They sit with you at night, drinking pain

and wiping it up with napkins whose colors run.

I’m most afraid of things that get up and walk away.


You might come back different after being away.

We are fools to think that skin is permanent,

and it isn’t change from which we run.

We’re impatient to sit with the phone on hold,

any sign of constancy reminds us of pain.

We leave our blood, but it doesn’t stick like ink.


There’s a layer of me only touched by ink,

you can’t lick your thumb and wipe it away.

I want people to look at my skin and see pain,

know that I’ve claimed part of me as permanent.

I’ll admit, it’s nice to have a hand to hold,

but the more I let go, the faster I can run.


I’ve learned that the pain isn’t in the ink,

the stain that runs with and never away.

Permanent is a word only the skin can hold.




Kimberly Grabowski grew up in the middle of a cornfield in rural Schoolcraft, Michigan.  She is currently pursuing an English major with an emphasis in creative writing at Kalamazoo College.  She believes the world is best viewed from the back of a horse.




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