The Smoking Poet

The Poetry of Bonnie Jo Campbell
A Good Cause
Feature Author: Bonnie Jo Campbell
The Poetry of Bonnie Jo Campbell
Second Annual Short Story Contest Winners' Circle
A Chat with Poet Shaindel Beers
Feature Artist Viestarts Aistars
Novel Excerpt
Non Fiction
Poetry II
Poetry III
Cigar Lounge
Zinta's Reviews
Skye's Reviews
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Bonnie Jo Campbell and Jack, the donkey

When She Goes Out to Plow


She ties the boy in his crib,

though he’s too big

for the crib, after nursing,

though he is too big to nurse.

Her husband has gone out to trade

whatever men trade at the café.

It’s planting time on her dead father’s

farm, and she married

the handsomest man who made her hurt

the most. She still feels breathless

when he walks in and smiles.

It’s too cold for the boy to sit

on the tractor with her, no babysitter

in this godforsaken place. Her mama

didn’t live to teach her to fashion

solutions for the flesh

of her flesh. Her instinct for breast feeding

surprised her. She has known only

this fertile soil, the way this stretch                                                         

of the clay earth breaks into hard clumps

to allow absurd entry of seed, and the way                                                                                           

rain can soften or wash away.

She once watched a tornado turn a wooden barn

into a dance of planks and loose hay.

She used to wear her hair around her shoulders

and now her husband stays away all night.

Today she plows, and each time

the old one-story house                                         

comes into her sights, her breasts

ache, strands of hair tear free and whip her.





Planting Season for the Alcoholics



Rachel clears her asparagus patch,

yanks old brambles, digs out pokeweed,

burdock. Last year was not a good year,

hospital stays during the July heat wave,

bad liver tests. The garden was scorched,

neglected, wild. Rachel was exhausted.

If the damned children wanted to help

they could have shut up and weeded.

At least it's over with the dental work--

she should have given in to dentures years ago.

Lime is what this asparagus needs.


Billy got the house and the baby.

The judge noted his D.U.I.s

but the tracks on his wife's arms

impressed him more.  Billy peruses

the seed catalogue, tries to get this

golden-haired daughter to focus

on photos of fourteen-foot sunflowers. 

When he points to rutabaga, she hits

his hand with a plastic cup.  Listen, kid,

are the heat-resistant Brussels sprouts

better than the tasty nugget hybrids?


The wife realizes how much she's lost

since the settlement in November.

This spring she broods in her basement

apartment with her box of wine.

She's driven unlicensed, uninsured,

unregistered past garden beds,

flowered borders. When she visits

the baby, she can't believe how narrow

the sidewalk seems, how the posies

and herbs overwhelm, how exuberantly

they grow in her absence.


Emphysema hunches Ramsey’s shoulders.

He digs for two minutes, then rests

on the shovel.  Tomatoes, of course,

will be his mainstay, chilis come through

when all else fails.  He could put in peas

right now, lettuce too, radishes, spinach. 

He draws on his inhaler, studies tulips,

daffodils, imagines lilies, foxglove.

As a kid, he stole cigarettes, smoked

them in his grandmother's hollyhocks.  

He loves even the sound of hollyhocks.





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