i’ve loved smoke my entire life; even though smoking is
a nasty habit, i know, bad for you
and all that rot.
it’s not that lung cancer and raspy voices aren’t all
very unpleasant. addiction, too. and bad breath,
mustn’t forget that.
(see, you wise grown-ups? i listen to you.)
but in every form i am allured by it;
from an old wood pipe, raisin-scented like winter
between my dad’s lips, seeping into the pages of a well-worn
tolkien novel as we sit on his soft, green couch,
or a campfire in the summer, reeking of pine and dirt
and kissing my hair that i will avoid washing
for as long as possible.
it’s not the act itself that has always transfixed me,
but the images, black-and-white photographs
of heavy-lidded movie stars and
puffs of smoke spilling between the lips of
ordinary men, seeming to me magical for years,
like they were fire-breathing dragons.
no less enthralling in a driveway late at night,
neighbors and their friends on the curb
with a beer and cigarette or seven each.
my neighbor’s kid told me once,
one summer when i was nine and he seemed, at nearly
thirteen years old, to be infinitely wiser,
that if you can smell the smoke,
you’re already breathing it and you’ll die soon.
i believed him, of course (he was thirteen, after all),
but i paused to watch a moment, anyway.
it was beautiful.
clouds drifted from their lips up to the stars in
such a tranquil way.
i wanted to take a picture in my mind,
smoky-sweet smell of their breath rising
in a languid, lazy moment of stillness