fall 2018 / Poetry 2018 / volume 49

Smoke Breaks Facing East—Nicholas Hodges

I burnt my face today, thinking of you
I was drunk, wiping snot from my lip
And forgot I had a cigarette in hand.
My mouth tasted of pistachios
And you were my prize
Our last goodbye was
Bumming two smokes
And me drunk over a wooden railing;
Hide your shame! you said.
To that I say,
tell the dog to stop licking his balls!
Tell the cat to leave the mice alone
Tell the goldfish to take second for a change
Keep on believing your belief will change the trajectory
Of a world you can’t help but watch burn.
Swan dive your beak into the fat of my tummy
and taste blood for the first time in forever.

I scratched my face today, thinking of you.
I was stoned and forgot I habitually chew my fingernails
Into anxious weapons;
We were playing a game of drinking cards;
I couldn’t help but insist you play,
To see you drunk for the first time.
You laughed and stared at the table because
My eyes wouldn’t leave your legs alone.
The bottle of wine refused to open itself—
It took a pair of scissors and a cracked-up cork but it
Convinced me to stay longer than I should have and
We wouldn’t want it any other way, I tell myself.
Watching the sun set outside because
It’s not the same from any window facing west.
Facing down a burning star; flash-frying our
Irises made of edible gold leaf, false starts,
And the memory of seeing you for the first time in August,
Asking if I’d rather dance to walk or sing to talk.

I ate goat meat today, thinking of you
Chewy little bones and milky fat grub.
Like a virus in my memory where
Every link leads to a 404 Error near
The 808s bumping through our heart-brains.

That’s a banger, you said, about the
Red bandana boppin’ his head
Next to us on our way to the goat meat.
That’s racist, I thought, but let it go,
Because you’re Chinese so you know more
About these things than me.
It took me stumbling home freely,
Past all those white cops to realize it.
You said, a thing with purpose must be done without purpose.
I’ll read that in your self-help book someday;
Which is fine, because I’ll long have forgotten you ever
Meant it. Like other elysian bits I’ve learned and forgotten,
Most problems are solved by paying attention.
Where did I put my keys? Have you seen my keys?

I read a poem today, thinking of you.
A sonnet about beach bums and politicians;
Flip-flops and Suzanne Buffam’s.
The White House is so white we should call
Republicans the Cocaine Party. God bless America
And cocaine parties. You remind me to count
The change when I pay with cash because
I always pay with cash and that’s all I could
Think about when cancer grabbed Matt by
The balls and you reminded me I’m only being
Sentimental because I’m a Cancer. As Cancerous
As a king crab smoking a menthol, you said.
Great poetry is found underground like oil-
Based perfumes. You remind me of my habit
Of fishing for information and my obsession
With catching absolutely nothing. Probably
Because I fish in the city— in mailboxes and at
The mall. Banks, bookstores and
I wrote a poem today, thinking of you.
It started with your face and ended with me apologizing to your
Mother for leaving burnt hamburger meat on her grill.
For leaving streaks of peanut butter on all her
Non-peanut butter knives. For using all her toilet paper
Because I poop too much. Sometimes I feel as though
Space was an entirely human creation; like time was never enough.
Just like we made swords and needed guns and made coke but
Needed Pepsi. People are a wanting son of a bitch. Our wants
Diminish our tastes in literature and replace them with a profound,

Unfounded love of architecture. Geographically speaking,
We’re all insane. Cosmetically, we’ll be okay
Until the sun says enough is enough!
And spontaneously combusts.
The Word floats like a turd
atop my tin cup o’ red, but the truth is—
I’m always thinking of you.

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