Smoke

Do you want to visit
your father?
she said.
And we did. He was wan

but jovial in the bed cranked
up to receiving position;
his friends played cards

on the cotton sheet and reached
for shot glasses on the side table.
This was back in the day

when no one said No Smoking
or You can’t bring such things
in here
. The balcony doors

overlooked the parking lot,
where you’d think the air was still
pristine despite the spew

of diesel from trucks and jeeps.
You’d think it was some cheap
hotel, checkerboard tile

floors, something like on the set
of Casablanca; or grainy around
the edges in that Polaroid way

as Mrs. Robinson turns to Benjamin
in The Graduate, still holding
aloft her cigarette. I wonder what

the good sisters at Notre Dame
de Lourdes Hospital would say
if they knew he’d taken me

to these films? In 1968,
I was 7. Close your eyes,
he ordered, just before

the salacious scenes.
Obedience, curiosity’s boring
older sibling. I can almost hear

his defense: no one ever died
from learning how to live
in the world. The good

sisters made clucking noises
but also brought in ash trays.
His friends tore off

the silver tab on a box
of Salem Menthol Lights
and tapped smartly on one end.

No, no, he smiled
and shook his head. This is it,
he declared. I’m quitting.

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