Four Poems

Josh Smith

Photo Credit: Giles Watson/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Black Diamond

The easiest path,
through the most difficult woods
is still Black Diamond.


By The Knife

Everybody takes cuts in a knife fight.
Winning is about who sustains less damage.

Keep your arms in, except to strike or block,
always stay moving.

It’s what the Sharks and Jets knew.
It’s what our grandparents knew, on the old world streets.
Each fight—at least a scrape, which time adds up.
Each fight, building toward an eventual loss.

A moment’s pause:
an arm is dropped, a reflex too slow.
No one raises the victor’s hand;
the next challenger always steps forward to fight.


For Elise

Monsters make monsters.
I came to you—ball of clay.
What did you make me?


Poems About Me
(after Trace Adkins’s “Songs About Me”)

I met a woman at the café,
she spotted my notebook and asked,
what do you write?

I said, a little fiction, a lot of poems,
I’ll be reading them at the bar tonight.

She giggled, and hid her face behind her hand,
said, sorry, I thought you were in a band.
What made you want to write that sort of thing?

I told her, ‘cause they’re poems about me, and who I am.
Poems about learning and living,
and fairness to women, children and dogs.
Yeah, they’re all just poems about me.

So I gave her the address,
said, I promise, it’s not what you think,
when you hear the word ‘poetry.’
She said, I don’t expect to become a fan,
but I might swing by if I’m free.

Then that night when I got done with my poems
about the road, and home, and broken bones—
she caught me as I walked off stage,
and screamed, hey, you were right!

It was like you wrote those poems about me, and who I am.
Poems about learning and living,
and fairness to women, children and dogs.
Yeah, they’re all just poems about me.

So I’ll just keep on writing
until the whole world’s reading all those poems about me.
Yeah, they’re all just poems about me.


Josh Smith is to David Hasslehoff what David Hasslehoff is to Germany… which is to say he’s foreign to him, younger than him, and smaller than him. Josh lives and writes in Buffalo, New York. Email: joshsmithpoetry[at]

Four Poems

Timothy Robbins

Photo Credit: Jos van Wunnik/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)


I wish we’d kept in touch. I want to
tell you I’m rereading the Murakami
novel. I want to convince you of the affection
I feel for a minor character, the caretaker who
minds the power station and collects
musical instruments for their shapes as
I collect shapes for their pitch. I say “reread.”
Actually I’m listening to an audiobook.
I didn’t love the caretaker when he was mute.
I’ve fallen for him now for the narrator’s
voice like a wind from a world that has only
one wind.

I pray your kickboxing is still so
precise it’s not violent—pray you’re still
a percussionist not a pugilist in the ring.

I love the narrow forehead you try
to ignore, fearing your ancestors’
unkind love for the Mandarin’s
pale arching brow. In my nightmare once,
as you slept untouched beside me, you
took a knife to your hairline and thirstily
drank your blood till you drowned.

Imagine a pregnant girl who
doesn’t know what’s happening to her body
or how it came about. Your relation to your
beauty is that girl’s relation
to her gestating heir.


Blanket and Knife

There’s no blanket
we haven’t shared.

No hunger we didn’t
divide like bread.

There was a
game of expectations,
each a knife.

The first and last
act we committed with
the knife was to wash it.

Everything in between was
feint to get us from

the first to the
second cleaning.

Once it was clean, we
tested how long we
could stand to stare
at its shine
without speaking.


The Shape

It has only shape and light
like the form I see at head-
ache’s start. When data is

added it will be me pressed
to a wall, arms in a T—
and him, the prop. Then it

will be me fastening cloth
flowers to a spiked cross,
me driving it into parched

earth, right against the stone
which all visitors but him
will assume was there before.


Manmade Drifts

I whisper to myself. It’s
more effective than
talking. Stripping away
the vowels, reducing
verbal music to a fit of
breaths is often the only
hopeful choice. At 3:00
a.m. a snow clearer warns
me: not all voiceless
utterances are soft. In an
Oscar winner I saw last
Wednesday, a boy, with
violence surprising
from such skinny arms,
blocked his mother’s
hate-fueled screams
with a sliding glass door.
Boy and viewers—
though we weren’t lip-
readers—easily read
faggot! I wake and
see my husband’s mouth
doing, as usual, the work
of his nose. I doze and
rouse to his breath on my
eyes. It’s been so long,
the kiss surprises like
an expletive, scrapes
like a plough, exposes
where we are, clears the
way for where we’ll go.


Timothy Robbins has been teaching English as a Second Language for 28 years. He has been a regular contributor to Hanging Loose since 1978. His poems have appeared in Main Street Rag, Off The Coast, Bayou Magazine, Slant, Tipton Review, Cholla Needles and many others. He has published three volumes of poetry: Three New Poets (Hanging Loose Press), Denny’s Arbor Vitae (Adelaide Books) and Carrying Bodies (Main Street Rag Press). He lives in Wisconsin with his husband of 21 years. Email: robbinstimothy9[at]