Self-Portrait as the Moon Smoking a Cigarette by Jessie Lynn McMains

Punk Noir Magazine

So the moon walks into a bar. All the women

begin bleeding, all the men howl, and those who are both, or

neither, scream from the seams of their pants as blood

spurts from their throats.

It ain’t pretty, but the moon is.

So the moon walks into a bar and the neon signs flicker

out, so shown up by her glow that they don’t

even wanna show their faces.

So the moon winks—anyone got a light?

Everyone, even the non-smokers, produces lighters

or matchbooks from their pockets—Bics and Zippos,

Diamonds and Three Stars. The moon accepts

each proffered flame, lights a whole pack’s worth

of cigarettes, all different kinds. Kools, Fantasias,

Nat Sherman Black & Golds, Camels, Marlboros,

Winstons, Djarums, 555s, GPCs, and filterless Lucky Strikes.

She places them, one at a time, between her lipsticked lips.

The moon looks gorgeous through a haze of menthol,

clove, and tobacco, just like she does when you’re standing on a train

platform in some big American city and you see her rising,

huge and luminous, streaked with purple in the polluted smoke of the sky.

The door guy coughs at her, pointedly, and points

to the NO SMOKING sign, says but you can vape if you wanna.

The moon says fuck you, I’m the moon.

The moon refuses to vape. The moon can do whatever she wants

but she doesn’t wanna get kicked out. She finds

a half-empty pitcher of beer and drops all her cigarettes

in—she likes the sizzle when the ember meets

the liquid, likes the final small smoke signal

that puffs up from their tips just before they fizzle out.

So the moon sits down at the bar, places a swizzle stick

between her lips in lieu of a cigarette. The moon

has an oral fixation. Some guy sidles up to her

thinking he might get in the moon’s good graces,

but instead of flirting he starts right in with mansplaining.

You should quit smoking anyway, he says. It causes cancer and premature aging.

The moon rolls her eyes and says: fuck you, I’m the moon.

Let me moonsplain some things to you. Like, yeah,

smoking causes cancer. But so do microwaves.

And factories. And some guy making one small step,

sticking a flag in your face and claiming you

in the name of his country. And what the hell do I care

about premature aging? I’ve been here longer than you have

and I’ll be here long after you’re gone.

The moon is an ancient glamour babe, a ruined beauty

with a pockmarked face. Still, people write odes to her.

Odes to the distant light she gives on the long, cold nights,

her pale slivered silver, wreathed by an aurora of ice

and stars. Or the times she’s orange and swollen, looming

close like a sci-fi planet ready to collide with ours.

Or the rare nights she sweeps too much blush across her cheeks,

calls herself Super Blood Moon, dances like a harlot into the evening sky

and fans herself with earth’s umbra.

Tonight the moon has her hair teased to high heaven.

She’s all bouffant and chiffon and cat’s eye-liner,

like her name is Ronnie Spector and she’s about to belt out

“Baby, I Love You.” But she’d rather belt this guy—

who’s still talking at her—in the face. Rather sing:

when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s fuck you, I’m the moon.

Some other facts about the moon:

1. The moon is she / her, but the moon is non-binary.

The moon devours pronouns. The moon is also he

and they and every pronoun that ever existed

plus the ones that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.

The moon is a many-gendered queen and you,

worrying about the moon’s gender—you are a drag.

2. The moon doesn’t really have a dark side. The part

you think is darkness is just the part you can’t see.

(Though if you ask her, the moon prefers to say she’s all dark side.)

3. The moon isn’t made of cheese. Not limburger or brie

or white cheddar, and certainly not Kraft singles

or any other processed cheese-food product.

She is made of pillows, hoary bats, and hirquitickes (mostly those).

So the moon’s tired of hearing this guy talk

and he’s not worth breaking a nail over, so she gets up

from her stool, goes to shove some dollar bills into the jukebox.

It’s one of those newfangled digital ones which the moon hates,

she misses the warmth of vinyl and neon, even CDs

were better than digital. The only plus side to this kind

is that she can find pretty much whatever song she’s in the mood to hear

on any given night. Tonight the moon plays The Ronettes,

then a bunch of songs about herself—Bowie freaking out in a moonage daydream,

oh yeah, Neil Young dancing in the light of the harvest moon,

Elvis standing alone under the blue moon. She ends with her favorite—

Audrey Hepburn’s lonesome serenade about crossing that moon river in style. One day.

After that the moon’s about to cry and she needs another cigarette,

so she takes her whiskey out to the screened-in smoking porch.

Her rabbit pal, Harvey, is there, and something about the two of them

together brings the rest of the patrons flocking, ready to tell them all

about their biggest hopes, biggest regrets, biggest plans, biggest fears—

because nobody brings anything small into a bar around here.

The moon is used to it, hearing everyone’s laments,

blessing them with her soft light, but her heart’s not in it tonight.

She knows she should care about their divorces and unemployment,

their doomsday predictions and existential dread. She knows she should care

about all the sorrows of the world she looks down on, and she does, but tonight

she doesn’t want to think about bombs falling on Syria, she wants a bomb shot.

She doesn’t want to talk about melting sea ice, she only wants to watch the ice melt

in her rocks glass, then go and get another drink.

So the moon goes to take a piss in the Sailor’s Room,

then goes to take a selfie in the little Mermaids’ Room.

As she checks her makeup in the mirror she notices she’s seeing double.

She’s become two moons blurring into one reflection, a total eclipse of herself,

and she knows she’s drunk and should leave. She wobbles

her way out the door, and everyone says so long

the bartender, the old punks on their wobbly stools

near the dartboard, the young couple making out in the back

corner, the folks playing pool—

they all stop what they’re doing to say goodnight, moon.

So the moon sits down on the curb. She watches the neon lights

(which have blinked back on now that she’s gone)

bleeding through the bar windows, giving a purple tint

to the remaining chunks of dirty snow. She thinks about

calling her on-again, off-again lover, the Miller High Life Girl,

and meeting her at the diner down the street, she could use some diner food,

something with enough grease that if she squeezed it out it would fill the Sea of Crises.

But then she remembers—there’s no smoking section there anymore, either

(no smoking anywhere), and it closed at ten (no longer Open All Nite).

So the moon lights one last cigarette and smokes it while she waits for her Uber

to arrive and take her home, to her little house on the dark edge of town,

where she will tilt toward bed and try not to wake the disapproving sun.

Jessie Lynn McMains (they/she) is a punk poet, beat zinester, and small press publisher. They are the author of numerous books and chapbooks, most recently The Loneliest Show on Earth and Wisconsin Death Trip, and are the owner and editor of Bone & Ink Press. You can find more on their website, or follow them on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie

3 Amy Winehouse poems from Courtney LeBlanc

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

Abecedarian for Amy Winehouse       

Amy, how many poems do I have to write? How many times were you

branded drunk, disorderly, fool? You were only lovestruck,

colliding with the man who made things worse.

Drugs of course, but his love was the habit you couldn’t

evade. You tried. He went to jail and you served him divorce papers.

Finally severed the attachment. But he’d already sold your story to

Globe and Enquirer and anyone who’d pay. Already

hawked every juicy detail to whoever flashed money.

I know what it’s like to love something destructive –

just look at my past, the ex I was better off without.

Kindred spirits, you and I – you wrote songs, I write poems. But I

learned to stay away, forced my hand to put down the phone,

make plans, strike his name from my heart.

No one said it was easy but Amy, you could have done it.

Oh, I know you were alone when you took your last breath, I can’t

put all the blame on him but maybe without him you would have

quit the drugs and the drinking, maybe you would have gone to

rehab. Maybe the next album would be filled with intense

songs about a new love, a new life, a new emotion that didn’t border on

tragic. But I can’t bring back the dead, can’t

undo the past. You’re gone and your music lives, your

voice still provides the outlet my heart needs.

Without your words it would have been hard to sign my name on the

X of my divorce papers. I would have drowned myself in a bottle of wine,

yelled into the night, hoped for a quiet end. Instead, I found a new

zeal for life. I still listen to your album; it just doesn’t make me cry anymore.

23 July 2011

It’s the kind of weather we wish

for in January but curse when

it arrives, when it blooms hot

enough the honeysuckle rots

violently in the noon sun,

our stomachs turning

and tempers rising

with the mercury. Across

the Atlantic the news was breaking,

the crowds gathering – some

in congregation, others in morbid

hope of catching a glimpse

as they wheeled you out, your

gazelle body still inside the body

bag. I don’t remember what

I was doing when I heard

the news. But I know the day

was wet with humidity, sweat

rolling down between

my breasts, slicking my skin.

The day brilliant, still

unmarked by tragedy.  

*“the honeysuckle rots violently in [the] noon” is from Filé by Aurielle Marie


I think back on my wild days – that bonfire

party where I had a bottle of Boone’s Farm

in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.

And later, after the divorce I danced till closing,

kissed three strangers and went home with

a fourth, my shoes in the middle of her

kitchen for her roommate to stumble over

the next morning. When I learned your antics

earned you a rejected visa, that you couldn’t

attend the Grammy’s when you were nominated

for seven awards, I realized my wild days paled

in comparison. You went home with five

though really, you never left home, banned

from the country that celebrated

your talent but not your feral ways.

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of the full length collections Exquisite Bloody, Beating Heart (Riot in Your Throat) and Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79