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.

5 Replies to “First Smoke”

  1. 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.

  2. 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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