The Lark I lit to show a girl
I wasn’t the boy she’d known,
but the tanned, bearded, work-worn
man she wanted to light her Larks forever.
The Camels & Lucky Strikes & Chesterfields & Old Golds
everyone in black-&-white movies leans back with half-shut
eyes to draw on, especially Gregory Peck in Pork Chop Hill
& Lauren Bacall in anything.
The commissary Winstons my friend C.J. bought
after his breakdown at a set of coordinates
known only to Army Intelligence.
Any Dunhill. Any Player. Any Picayune.
Every single Export A ever lit.
The Salem my father lit
each time he slid behind the wheel.
Every Gaulois Frank O’Hara
brandished at the Cedar.
The Doral my girlfriend ground into the ashtray
on my chest the night we found I wouldn’t fly
to Da Nang after all.
The last one: a Winston Light tapped from a fresh pack,
devoured down to the filter & snuffed out
at the stroke of midnight, March 2, 1982.
One June evening, friends gather on a screened-in porch.
After chasing the last morsel of blue-claw crab with dregs
of the decade’s driest Pinot Grigio, we each unknot
a goatskin pouch of Virginia tobacco & roll with one hand
the best cigarette of our lives.
As talk dwindles to companionable silence,
we breathe blue-white smoke in a world
free of consequence.