Friday, June 18, 2010

Portrait of an East Coast Smokestack

This poem was inspired by a piece of creative non-fiction by Nick Belardes called "Take What You Can" The term 'East Coast smokestack' is his. You can find it here.

Her life wafts before her
in an aroma of Pall Mall
No clean coal BS for this

Eyes squinting
she heaves in the smoke
full force
puff after puff
a locomotive she keeps chugging
flicks ashes like opinions
never asks for a smoke
her silver case
always lined with white
keeps the chain going.

East coast accent
rasps over the rattle and hum
beyond closed windows
reels off tales about the days
or what that old fart Joe
used to say.
while her hand hovers
over his face
painted on ceramic
the tray a gift her kid made
in art class ages ago.

She knocks ashes to ashes
as the room fills
smoke rising like Spirit
to the ceiling.

Yellowed fingers shaking
she brings the shortened stick
back up to her lips
draws one last puff
closes her blue-lidded eyes
blows smoke
then crushes the butt
into his face.

©2010 Joanne Elliott


  1. I love this one! I'm so glad I get the chance to read it over after you read it last week. I love your imagery here. It's so sensuous and dirty. I feel like she's a frustrated gangster's moll, like she always wanted to be one, but was never quite attractive enough.

  2. I like your take on her. She's some strange amalgam of my imagination and the real life charcters I've known or met. The term "East Coast smokestack" just triggered her into existence.

  3. Awesome descriptions. I can smell it.

  4. I am honored every time I read this great poem. It's way better than that piece I wrote!

  5. Nick,


    I'm grateful for the inspiration. Something clicked in my brain regarding sound when I read your term East Coast smokestack. I really started to get the line ending thing.

  6. Ah, the amazing intensity of a habit that liked us. That came and stayed and never gave notice.(A Rilke sentiment) This is a very well constructed and perceptive poem with a real kick in the final line.

  7. Joanne! So very happy you joined us for the big link up! This is such a fantastic portrait, the imagery, capturing the essence of the smoke stack! Absolutely love the title...and the piece that followed, AWESOME!

  8. dang...vicious it...great imagery through out i could def see her...and nice set up too on his to hear it read...

  9. Thanks Natasha and thanks for turning me on to this group.

    Brian, thank you. I'd love to read it somewhere...may do that this weekend at an open reading. And thank you for conjuring up this group of poets with a great place to hang out.

  10. Lots of gritty imagery here Joanne. Great! // Peter.

  11. Joanne, this is wonderful. I don't know your poetry (yet) but the voice is just perfect for the write. Victoria

  12. This was a great character study--I really feel like I watched and listened to the character throughout. The ending was a solid punch, but I think my favorite is "...She knocks ashes to ashes/as the room fills/smoke rising like Spirit/to the ceiling..." That's poetry.

    I also enjoyed your link to your inspirational phrase--great little short piece about life in Hell(or Las Vegas--about the same to me. ) Great to meet you at dVerse.

  13. Thank you Hedgewitch. I appreciate your comments. Nick's a great writer isn't he? He's always a fun read.

    See you around d'Verse or Twitter.

  14. A delight for the senses! ;-) Well done.

  15. Nice I love that last stanza is a kicker but the whole piece flows nicely and with great description ....bkm