Last Smoke


When the crickets have slowed to a crawl, the evening
having lost its heat at last, when the neighbors’ houses turn
chiaroscuro as you take the dog for his last walk, the moon
rising before you return, sending your shadows up ahead—
this is when the day loosens and unlimbers, when all
the photosynthesis factories go dark, when oak trees
let down their hair awhile, leave off being symbols
of all that is stalwart and steadfast, slouching, instead,
against our backyard fences, sipping hard cider from flasks.
Jerry, next door, who has made his way down to half
a pack a day, who has been forced nearly into the street,
if he wants to have his last smoke in peace, says, as you turn
the corner up your walk, come take a drag with me, would it
kill you? though he knows you haven’t smoked for twenty years,
that brief post-divorce period when you thought the new you
might take on the bourbon-and-tobacco voice of a jazz singer,
though it never took. But it’s like riding a bike, this passing
of the butt, the deep pulls, the feeling of surprised alveoli
popping open. The smoke hangs around your heads
in the humid air, as the red cherry glows, passes silently
hand to hand, brightens, dims, brightens, goes black.