j u s t i n    b u r n s i d e

The Origins of Smoke



A Crow’s foot rests on a cracked paint sill,
snapped clean at the hip.
The faint light of evening consumed with its own dying—
lays itself over the foot, whose claws point into the room.


In this room words are consumed by fire.
By fork and knife.

In this room heads teeter on necks
far to slight—
and jaws work the graveyard shift
tearing apart birds.

They blow those feathers down the hallway of language.
They chant until all is overcome
until the words succumb to fire—
boiled tender in a pot of chicken shit.

In my dream I watch these penniless words claw their way
out through throats parched from a lack of language,
finding a home in ears wet
and ripe for the sound of speech.


These words no longer need us to speak them.
 Instead they speak themselves
to us
like rushes at a ponds edge.
With no wind available to rattle our skins.

A candle between us.

A cloaked figure, unmistakably desire, busies himself all around us.
We see neither hand nor foot, only motions photogenic tracers shadowing the
flitting candlewicks...
up the wall—about the ceiling tiles.

The satin smoke searches our features,
our nooks and niches.
Like the new born puppy’s tongue
neurotically divining out an existence
in the half-light of our nakedness.

During that space of night—
and un-night; where
under the table, desire lit the tongue that lashed
between our legs.

And we, the mannequins.

We the reeds,
who with no lips to blow themselves
are inclined to yellow down in the river mud.

We incline an ear to listen.

The table squeaks, and the sound is
consumed upon conception.  Consumed right there on the carpet.
Right where you’re standing
The two of us, our skin flushed—
cheeks in hands—
legs spread wide—all regions satiated—
unable to smile.
Unable to move...

in the candlelight, her nipples appear a taut canvas pulled—
ready for pigments supple wrist.

You must understand that light obeys every motion—
of any table—
and every table becomes
a silent vessel
anchored on a violent ocean
 where the sound of the tide
patterns play a gentler silent movie across the lids of eyes rolled back
across parted viscous mouths
finding their way into ears
and ripe for the baring...


We are like sacred stories suffering for our appetites.
Or lack of appetite.

We are two Gods who prowl the border country,
secure with the knowledge that this same light will one day play
on faces that smoke like ours,

On faces that share a common origin in smoke.


A weathered windowsill.
A Crow’s foot snapped clean at the hip,
rests among paint chips.
Through the frosted glass
light builds the day,

Shapes take shape,
across the Crow's foot;
where all claws now point out the window,
singing down the dawn.


J.B. lives in Southern Oregon at the moment, where he eagerly anticipates the next adventure and the places it may take him.  When he isn't writing, he can be found painting, studying Iaido or simply staring into space.  Any questions or comments about the work may be directed to the editors at the moment.