First Smoke

man smoking cigarette through a four-foot-long holder
Photo by Yale Joel for Life magazine

Little smoky thumb, how
I’ve missed sucking on you!
My head floats on its stem
like a flower that’s just been pollinated.
In the seven years
since I broke the habit,
every cell in my body has been
replaced at least once, but
my fingers still remember
exactly what to do, juggling
the huggermuggery of matchbook
& rolling paper, ashtray & ash.
What other parts of my new/old body
have inherited secret flaws?
With growing detachment
I watch the thing go gray
as I draw the glowing life out of it,
picturing the road in Japan
where I’d stood 21 years ago,
having just placed the very first one
between my lips & wondering what
the hell to do next.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. “What other parts of my new/old body
    have inherited secret flaws?”

    Yes. Fantastic line. I love the image, too.


  2. Glad y’all liked it. I was literally jotting down the words and phrases that became the poem in between puffs, though I’d thought the poem would be about something else entirely.

    I should explain that the tobacco I was smoking is from an ornamental species I grew in my garden a few years back. It tastes much less disgusting to the (very) occasional smoker than a “real” cigarette would.


  3. Great, but also a little uncomfortable — I’m a 20-year smoker, who’s distinctly ambivalent about it. But I LOL’d at “little smoky thumb”!


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