Lindsey Lewis Smithson


When I was a kid
I would go into my Dad’s
garage and tear apart
anything I could grab
I never wanted to know
how it worked
to destroy
to see the insides
bare on the table
to name each piece
see it’s function
The Ninja Turtles
The phone’s bell
The wheel in the VCR

The baby cries
on the changing table
my peach flesh fuzz
the sperm and egg
cocktail spun inside
and worked out through
my vagina
What are you really
beautiful creature
Stardust and sex
blue eyed product
Unsolvable puzzle


Columbia, Maryland

Green arms pulled down
blue sky blankets, drowned out
sunshine to help me sleep

Be calm here the gray sky
buildings whisper

you are nothing, nothing
in measure to what lived

follow this civil war bike path
to the mall where another
disaffected teen killed,
the Michael Kors store is having a sale

you are not one of us
the cul-de-sac knows it
wash away in the river
this path isn’t for you.

don’t fight sleep anymore



On Mountain St.
a white ambulance
holds his empty body.

The onlookers knew him
by sight. I thought I knew
him better.

Wind pulls my hair
as the ambulance passes.

The gravel road calls
out at each corner.


The Day After Billy Died

Remember the earthen stairs
wrapping around the redwoods—
misnamed the Trees of Mystery?

You’d never carved
our names into any other
trees with a kitchen knife.

That day no sounds, save our own,
had existed. Other imprints
were glossed over by rain.


Lindsey Lewis Smithson is the editor of Straight Forward Poetry. Sometimes she writes some stuff and sometimes some people like it. @lindseysmithson; @straight_poetry

James Downs


In an online discussion about donating to the homeless, I waited to see if any other people who had been homeless in their life responded. I find it fascinating that we as a species make judgements without even asking what that person’s experience has been. I like the person who separates their giving from the person’s use of it.
So now I will say that due to circumstances out of my control, I ended up on the street for ten months of my life. I didn’t want nor did I try to get there. But my mentality did change once I did. Your mind ratchets down until your entire focus is surviving. Large thoughts of philosophy fly out the window. A roof or a cardboard box over your head and donated food become who you are. Any little donated amenity just helps you get through the day. I never asked for money of anyone, but it was fascinating in retrospect how many people would pass you when you are, say, sitting on a building dock and actually turn their heads so they would not have to look at you.
If you have any activity, it is just in your mind…or you may go canning (I did not). But you remain shallow…depth implies safety…and it is not safe out on those streets. In those 10 months I saw more drug deals and prostitution deals go down around me then the rest of my life combined.
If you were lucky to find a mission for a night’s sleep (I did part of the time), it was not necessarily safe. You slept “with one eye open.” And for logistical reasons, the rules were demeaning…kind of like you are a number, not an individual. And the sermon a day was meant as a good thing, but it really didn’t help.
There are so many more out there these days that did not ask to get there. Yes, there are those that cannot handle the regular society and hold on to staying there. But I bet you, most of them did not ask to get there. Consider also the mother and kids now on the street to avoid the danger of an abusive husband/father. So many different examples and reasons you can find out there.
I was luckier, way luckier, than most. My family had been looking for me the whole ten months. Once I got my head in a more lucid planning type mode, I had a sister I could call…who jumped in her car and came to get me. I stayed with her and her husband. But even then, it took months to decompress…you can immediately take a person out of the street if you are compassionate enough to do so, but it is much harder to take the street out of the person.
Here I am 15 years later, with a wife and a home and step kids and grandkids…I am one of the lucky ones. But I am sure that I am a much more compassionate person than I was before and have an understanding, just a little, of what my fellow human goes through. I will never wish what I went through on anyone. But I learned a lot from having done so.
~~James Downs


Go ahead dive down

It is alright   something beautiful is in there
You’ll see
More beautiful then even you’re sadness
It will take your sorrow and turn
It cloudy and bright
Like the shine on that red amber place
You’ve seen once or twice
Just before everything was lost or
Just before found
A gentle sax line on a street of the lost
Either waiting or consoling
Who can say
It can be a mood indigo
That will arrive again
At a perfect moment
When love is eternal
Is in all of us
Is in everything
Is one without second

Ariel Gore

“That kind of thinking [that writers must alleviate their guilt for leading a creative life] is based on the idea that the creative life is somehow self-indulgent. Artists and writers have to understand and live the truth that what we are doing is nourishing the world. William Carlos Williams said, “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” You can’t eat a book, right, but books have saved my life more often than sandwiches. And they’ve saved your life… But we don’t say, oh, Maya Angelou should have silenced herself because other people have other destinies. It’s interesting, because artists are always encouraged to feel guilty about their work. Why? Why don’t we ask predatory bankers how they alleviate their guilt? ”
― Ariel Gore