Wednesday, September 24, 2003

A recent poem: Don’t smoke too many cigars, son

Don’t smoke too many cigars, son.
There’s a few times when a good smoke
is a necessity, but those times come along
only every once in a while. You might go
a year or two between smokes.

The night
I met your mother, I lit up, standing under
the trees, the bay stretched out before me,
summer stars hovering in the sky. I imagine
that from the water, I’d have been a dark
shadow amongst all the shades of black,
yet orange ember glowing, waxing and waning
with each breath.

When we brought you home from being born,
I took a long walk around the block, the cigar
in my mouth keeping me warm from the winter
breeze. Felt good, crisp wind on my cheeks,
the bitter sting of the smoke in my mouth,
and dusk closing in around me, a darkness enveloping.
Felt alive, knowing you were in this world.

When it finally sunk in your mother and I
weren’t gonna stay married, I smoked two.
Long drive, and I stopped along a country
road near on midnight. Crystal clear night
like when she and I met, our future together
only imagined, the whole of space and time
laid out in front like a deck of cards, face
up. Only this time, it was retrospective.
I burned one to rid my heart of the pain
(it didn’t work); burned the second one to give
thanks for what we had and to pray for the future,
then unseen. In that autumn air, I could see
only the outline of the car in the moon’s gaze
and the orange amber of first one, then
the other. My lungs burned that night.

I’ve saved ’em for meaningful times:
the night your brother
was conceived;
a long trip home
from an old friend’s funeral;
a sunset underway, water
like glass.

Yes, my son, mark the moments: friendship
family, and love.

I take the wrapper off, crinkling it in my hand;
I roll the fat, brown cigar between my fingers;
sweet and bitter, the scent drifts. I draw in
deeply. I moisten the outer leaf, tongue aflame
with anticipation, and then with the first puff
I relive the past, a line of moments
drawn backward through my life. And then,
I come up forward to the instant,
and I reflect. Sometimes the smoke
gets in my eyes, and a tear rolls down my cheek.

Don’t smoke too many, my son.
Save ’em for a time of meaning.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this lovely poem on my 50th birthday.