Joan Colby

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Public buildings station silver cylinders
To snuff out smoldering stubs in sand.
Every newsroom desk contains
Receptacles for wrinkled butts
Of Marlboros, Chesterfields, Viceroys,
Lucky Strikes, Pall Malls....

At home, decorative ceramic trays,
Some handmade as gifts.
Every room offers a place
Where cigarettes can be erased.

Burning tars, reddened coals,
Nicotine rich additives.
Piles of whitened corpses,
A dish of ash.

The stench of waste that stains
Fingers burnt sienna, claims
The leisure hours. How nerves insist
On need. Crumpled packs pocketed
Or golden cased in faux glamour,
Accessories of addiction.

Zippo snap incites a flame,
Inhalation soothes the breath,
The morning hack and spit.

After-sex reunion of
Lip and suck and smoke rings. Stub
Out upon the polished glass
That cups the evidence of love
And obsession. Remember, oh,
Remember how it was.


The zone of iniquity,
A place composed of zeros

Where the Zen koan is divined
To try the zeal of the righteous.

The Zika virus denies a child
A life of joyous zest.

One flying insect in a zoo of predators
Outweighs  the theory of zymotic disease.

As the zip-tied words confine the reader
Of Zola to the 19th century. J’accuse.

Enter the circuit of the Zodiac
To find your avatar, the zany archer

Or justice in the canton of Zurich.
Feast on zwieback spread with hummus

A zombie breakfast.
In Zimbabwe, you’ll ride

A zebra sidesaddle. You’ll journey to the
Land of Zion. Oh hero, you will reach

The zenith of ambition,
Fall headlong for Zenobia

Queen of Palmyra. Dream on zealot
It’s a perfect day for zebrafish.


Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 20 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Dailyand another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest book is Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review. Website:  Facebook: Joan Colby. Twitter: poetjm.