Leave Smoke, by Jeff Walt

Posted Fri, 2/05/2016 - 4:47pm by  |  Category:

Jeff was selected by Hugo House to be featured on the blog for his response to the upcoming Hugo Literary Series theme, “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Here’s the poem he wrote — an energetic, sound-laden tale of revenge.

Leave Smoke

Fishtail a smoldering Z on the green, concrete yard
in his own Camaro, the one he saved
for every summer-licked day of ’78.

One foot feathering the throttle & the other jamming the brakes!
Remember him with a hand up the bridesmaid’s dress
at your cousin’s wedding. See him, still, tracing

the neighbor’s bra strap, tenderly, on the Fourth of July
after he thought you’d passed out.
Focus on the “Don’t Care”

bumper sticker peeling on the dash—
that’s what we’re really chasing tonight. Snap
the wishbone from your first holiday together

that dangles on the rearview & light fire
to the stupid fuzzy dice with his precious
skull & crossbones Bic. Night doesn’t care

what you’ve been. Your breathing was never in sync.
He siphoned a married whore’s breath.
His heart the backed-up toilet he couldn’t fix.

It’s time to choke this mother! Bleed the clutch!
Grind his Costco Michelins bald as him!
Douse the night

with gravel sputter & a confusion of sparks & stars!
Scream like the cats in Hell!
Scream his janky lies to the scars!

Imagine his face on each tin can target lined up in the backyard
as you steady the steering wheel on this dead end street: The him
who spent your tips on cigarettes. The him who left you

with his five snot-nosed kids while he free based
with his meth-head ex. The him who promised
he was hitting three AA meetings a week

but was hunkered behind the steering wheel
in the Wal-mart parking lot getting head from the blonde
whose husband beat her until she was blind in one eye.

There’s no song you can’t sing tonight!
You’re Ella, Bowie & Ice Cube all at once!
Grind the engine like darkest Blues

that can sing down a whole man on a bar stool
in one afternoon. Fuck you up ugly
pretty mirror hubcaps! Fuck you up blind headlights!

Now spin a gnarly donut!
Tar stink steam! Funnels of dead
anniversaries, baby names flushed.

Fumes of lipstick & rouge on his penis!
Fumes of I can’t get it up tonight honey!
until he’s finally just a wastrel lump on the road.

Breathe in the sweet back draft crackle
as if it’s his slick, tattooed skin burning
and the smoke churning in your lungs is the last

of him singed. On the side of the road you sit, warning lights
blinking as you watch pyro spires calm to listless filaments.
The terminal exhaust clears

as you light a Kool, and then another. Your hair damp,
face glistening with sweat.
His hands flap like wings of road-kill.


Jeff Walt recently won the 2014 Red Hen Poetry Prize selected by William Trowbridge, and the winning poem was published in the Los Angeles Review, 2015. Kevin Prufer selected a poem as runner-up in Fugue’s 2015 contest and will appear in the fall anniversary issue. A poem was selected by Broadside Press for a professionally designed broadside collaboration that will be available for vectorizing in August 2016. Jeff was born in 1967 and raised in rural Pennsylvania. His chapbook, Soot, was awarded co-winner of the Keystone Chapbook Prize and published in 2010 by Seven Kitchens Press. He’s been awarded writing residencies from The MacDowell Colony, The Djerassi Resident Artist Program, The Vermont Studio Center, and Kalani Eco-village on the Big Island of Hawaii. Poems have appeared in journals such as Alligator Juniper, The Sun, Connecticut Review, Inkwell, New Millennium Writings, The Good Men Project, Harpur Palate, Cream City Review, The Ledge, and Slipstream. Several poems from Soot were selected and scored by composer David Sisco and performed at Carnegie Hall on November 14, 2014. www.jeffwalt.com.