The Second Civil War started on a Friday afternoon in September, in a shopping mall outside Phoenix. We knew the Patriots were organizing in backyards and basements across all 50 states, but we had no idea where they might strike first. Of course, we’d been staying home most nights for months now, since the Wall went up. We weren’t hiding per se, just avoiding busy places like concerts and theaters, restaurants and offices and schools. No one said the word “bunker,” but grocery shelves had fewer and fewer canned goods. We started a garden.

Yesterday while I was watering the…

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

I had a knot tied
around my heart.

She untied and
removed it.

“That makes sense,”
I said, not knowing

anything. Fragmented,
floating, wondering

if maybe the knot
had been holding

my heart
together.

And if it was,
what does that mean

for the pieces of you
I was keeping there?

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

The harbor I loved
always smelled
of decaying fish &
freedom. And now,
coming to the end of things
it’s clear that sometimes
we get shown
early on, how to live —
then spend years
plotting charts,
scanning depths,
sailing away from it.
How else do I explain
sensing my own skin
for the first time,
not by touching it
or having it touched,
but by feeling its weight
pressing on what’s been
pulsing underneath
for so long — and so
soon after holding
your fragile hand
as you escaped the hook &
glided out of sight
with barely a ripple on the surface
to show us where you’d gone.

Photo by Richard Brutyo on Unsplash

Lying on the bed to flatten my stomach enough to zip my jeans, I heard the ping of a text message. Instinctively, I thought, He canceled.

I have a sixth sense about online dating. Two weeks earlier, I called a friend an hour before a scheduled date.

“I think this dickhead is fat.”

“Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute…” Sue sighed dramatically. “You showed me pics. He looks decent. Why is he a dickhead already?”

Suffice it to say I was right on both counts. …

Photo by Joe Gardner on Unsplash

He drove out to the woods to kill himself. He had considered doing it at home, but knew Julie would come looking for him after one-too-many unreturned messages and he couldn’t do that to her, even now. He may be suicidal but he was still considerate. In the woods, a forest ranger, or maybe a hunter, would find him. At any rate, someone not linked to him by blood or shared stories.

He decided to drive up to the clearing where he and Julie went snowshoeing one weekend last December. Snowshoeing. How he had stayed with a woman who doesn’t…

Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

When it’s simply too cold
to go outside, you recognize

the ghosts stirring in the next room —
opening a cupboard, clattering

a coffee cup, calling your name
in a voice long-ago memorized.

The radiator hisses and groans.
Aloneness is a blanket you cling to

like a lifeline pulled taut
across state lines.

Outside, the November wind
steals leaves and hats,

carries familiar visitors to your door.
It was you who let them in, after all —

without much of a struggle,
to be honest —

a breeze across lips,
a swallowed smile, a sigh.

Oh holy memory,
here I am. Come —

haunt me all you wish.
I promise you this: this time, I’ll stay.

Thanks for reading poetry. The world needs more people like you.

Photo by chiasheng tai on Unsplash

It was Day Thirteen of my juice cleanse. I was at work getting ready to teach a four o’clock yoga class when I snapped. I wasn’t accustomed to not eating actual food and honestly I hadn’t planned on starving longer than three days, but Day Three came to an end and I got all “Thelma” and suggested to Louise in the mirror, “Let’s keep going.”

“Are you sure?” Susan Sarandon asked staring back at me. I nodded and glanced around my bedroom for a dingy cowboy hat to throw in the air. …

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

My ex-husband’s new wife is taller than me, which doesn’t sound particularly newsworthy, I know, but he once informed me he wouldn’t want anyone taller than me because I was “big enough.” In the beginning, he told me I was the perfect height for him, but that was long before every word carried so much weight and long before Genevieve.

Even before I met her, she struck me as the kind of woman who was comfortable taking up space. My name is Jen and when I heard about her existence for the first time (when we were still married) I…

Jen Smat

poet & writer. yogi. wanderer boldly going nowhere.

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