I never could smell smoke,
olfactory alerts come only
in some extremity, like the nearly deaf
cringing at a rifle crack,
unless that's just Johnny Belinda.
I don't know, never smelled it;
was more concerned with what your fingers did
than that they yellowed.
Two packs, three? You hid it from me,
not well, but I wasn't trying.
You'd slip from your mother's house,
and come back shivering to a where've you been,
and a glib Orion's rising, or a got the mail
swagger, down pat, and I believed.
My father will die soon
of the smoke I cursed from the backseat
family truckster, hanging my head
from the window, gasping green
He dies of smoke I couldn't smell on you,
I who reveled in the acrid burn
of skunk crying you're alive, you're alive
and those five are still with you
like poking pins in numb spots,
hoping for the pain.
I was paying attention then, to the gurgle
of pipe tamp in the darkness,
in the bad reception a.m.
distorting Herb Score into squeals
like the ball's still coming at his head
and the glow of the single match sucked down
then bright, bright.
I had to notice, too many Christmases,
small box, new pipe, and he'd lose it
or break it bang on the steeltoe boot sole.
But he says it's dandy. Just dandy.
You stopped, suddenly,
but I'd known long since, and shrugged
at my fuzzy ideals, sounding just like
us standing in the downpour when a raindrop
caught the hot tip and snuff, sizzle, out.
Three years since, while my father's child
erases herself from that yelping brat
and watches in passive silence as he
smokes rings around you both.
You dream still of smoking, you told me
as we giggled of armageddon and our plans,
with two days left, how you'd smoke
and I'd eat nothing but ice cream and marvel
how the end of the world looks great
from behind a spoon or haze.