Friday, January 25, 2008

No fumar

So I had dinner with a friend of mine tonight and he mentioned that he hasn't smoked in over a year. He no longer considers himself someone who quit smoking, he considers himself a non-smoker. I'm proud of him. So I thought in his honor I would post a couple poems about smoking -- not to glorify or promote it, of course, but to illustrate what a tenacious and compelling habit it is.

by W. S. Di Piero

We loiter in the cobblestone alley,
Beans, Clams, Yom-Yom and me,
smoking punk. Snip the wiry stem,
trim the nubby end, scratch fire
from a zipper then pass the stink around.
William Penn designed these blocks
squared off, brick, crosshatched by alleys
to prevent the spread of fire. So fire
runs down my throat, reed
turning to iron inside my lungs.

Yom-Yom has an uncle in Bucks County.
Country boys sneak behind barns and puff
on cedar bark. Smoke’s the only thing
we have in common. Smoke when our breath
meets cold moist air, though no smoke rings
in winter, while sullen cars drag gray on gray
down city streets or country roads.
Someday I’ll smoke Camels, my father’s brand,
then Gauloises to prove I’m stronger than him
in burning whatever’s inside that won’t sleep.

(From Chinese Apples: New and Selected Poems, 2007 Knopf)

Hans Reading, Hans Smoking
by Liam Rector

My mother, poised around behavior, would say

You are sitting there reading and smoking, Hans,

And this would describe for her, to her utter

Satisfaction, what it is you are doing.

Knowing you I guess you are stationed there

In grief, reverie, worry--your car broken

Down, the mechanic wanting money, and you without,

For the moment, what it takes--and you thinking

Of love lost as you read that impossible book

Your father last gave you....I see you smoking

And as an addict myself I know this is something

You are barely doing....The habit smokes itself

And you, you are turning the page where the woman

From New Orleans, like your woman, goes to Manhattan.

I suppose my mother, in her mania, could never afford

To think there was anything hovering around, anything

Behind behavior. Unable to sit, to go into that sorrow

Where what failed to happen presses against what did,

She would get up, go out looking for "Something

Different," do anything to keep moving, behaving...

Going. But you, Hans, you are a sitter, and I know

You will not be getting up until you have put this time

Behind you. And so your friends pass by waiting,

Wanting to know what you will come up with when you rise

From your stationary chair, our Hans reading and smoking.

(From American Prodigal, 1994 Story Line Press)

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