Breaking the Habit


Under a marmalade sunset

you defy public decency

and a clumsy religious childhood

by lighting your first cigarette

in a non-smoking outdoor café.


I lean so far backwards the sky

plasters my face with a glare

that politely conceals a snarl.

The young waitress weeps aloud

and drops a mocha latte


in a burst of chocolate shards.

The Prudential Tower leans

as far back as I do, avoiding

the act of bearing witness

that could doom a civilization.


You puff so mightily your lungs

balloon like two dirigibles.

The raw taste apparently pleases.

You smile in various flavors,

all tinted pink. Cinematic,


you snuff the butt in your coffee

and lavish a large tip to assuage

the tears of the fuddled waitress,

who is busy wielding a dustpan.

Why take up smoking in old age?


You want to suffer everything,

you claim, even the ill health

that plagues the self-abusers

you in your innocence ignored.

The slab of skyscraper has settled,


and I lean forward again to catch

your Lauren Bacall impression

rasping like files on prison bars,

a hopeless but organic sound

I often mistake for music.

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