Poem for My First Cigarette
In junior high health videos all the emphysemics
bemoaned their first cigarettessome vomited,
most couldnt wait to wash the taste of tar and ash
from their mouths, only to find themselves hooked
from the start on something insidious in their veins
that was what it meant to be cool. My first cigarette
came from the drag queen who taught me
to wear my vices like sequins. Whose mouth was full
of crass adagesHoney, if it aint eight inches or longer,
then it aint worth your time, shed say. Who knew better
than I the fear of being sent down river
in a peach basket to whatever family or current
would have her. We were young, brilliant eyed,
lashes elongated by her stolen mascara.
We huddled behind the MSU cadaver lab,
skipping high school marching band camp.
I admit I was trying to be cool, pretended
Id been smoking since I popped from the womb.
I did not vomit or even feel like vomiting.
This was relieving. It tasted like Grandma's house,
like hours of euchre and KFC and gossip.
I wanted to keep the dirtied taste in my mouth
because it turned consequences into feather boas
and made words flow more easily. I still wouldn't say
I need a cigarette any more than I need a late walk
through a thunderstorm, but if words fail,
if theres a poem I cant end, if theres a poem
thats a man who I suspect is worth my time,
if there's a man whos got time and a bent
umbrella or hand-rolled cigarettes, if
theres a man whos a poem I dont know
where to end, then I just might take one.