Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cigarette Break by Essie McKiernan

I could smoke all night with them,
Manuel of the clean pressed pants
who thinks I’m from the INS, Manuel
of the earned paranoia; and Billy,
who tells me of the house he owned
two mortgages ago, the repossessed truck
he believes a bankruptcy lawyer
could help him get back. I hand Mike one,
then Lamont, and they’re amazed I smoke
at all, much less two brands. I tell them
my story about hedging bets with death,
how when I turned 30 I bought Camel Lights
and tried to alternate with Marlboros,
how I really didn’t use the word death
to myself but mortality instead
because it felt a little vaguer. I light one
more because we all have time on our hands,
because my ten year-old is at his dad’s
tonight where he is building a house
under the blanket for his cat, tucking her in
snug; where he will fall asleep holding
what he loves, knowing, even deep in childhood,
there is no greater shelter.

by Essie McKiernan