by R.G. Evans

Published in Issue No. 180 ~ May, 2012

What is smoke? my daughter asks

beside a campfire I can’t quite get to flame.


I know it’s not a liquid, she says.

Is it a gas? Is it a solid?


Simple. Straightforward. Something

I should know, I’m sure.


I start to say it’s what’s left

when the wood gives up the ghost,


but then I think of ash—

I always think of ash,


how it’s something but nothing,

what’s left when something’s gone.


There was a woman, then there was ash

her husband and the men she loved


scattered on the beach. The wind

wouldn’t let her stay there where she wanted.


My mother, seeding cancer, more ash

than paper dangling from her Lucky Strike.


What is it? my daughter says.

Nothing, I respond.


No, she says, what is smoke? I say

It’s what I make instead of fire.

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R.G. Evans's poems, fiction and reviews have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, MARGIE, The Literary Review, and Weird Tales among other publications. His original music will be featured in an upcoming documentary on the poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Evans holds an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University and is proud to be serving in his 27th year as a public school teacher in New Jersey.
  • Rob Vannella

    Evan’s has an understanding of how people look at loss in their life.  He is able to to explain these thoughts in a way that most people can’t express.  I appreciate the way he makes me think.

  • Mariagillan2

    i lvoe the poem, bob. so moving and powerful. love,maria

  • This is a great example of Bob’s wonderful work — there should be more of his work out in the world! Thanks, PIF editors!

  • Tom L.

    Wonderful existential moment. “Wood giving up the ghost” marvelous. I love the use of “ash” throughout.

  • Mhillringhouse

    I love the play on ash and smoke and how the lines trail each other like smoke rising.  


  • Pat G.

    Great work, as usual.  How I admire your talent

  • Walls

    Wonderful as always – such a way with words!

  • dg

    simple, straightforward… perfect.

  • Elisabeth

    Lovely poem.  And 27 years teaching?!?

  • Betsy

    Well done, a very talented writer. 

  • Megan Manogue

    I read this two days ago and again today.  I like it more each time I read it.  Thank you.