"Smokers on Break" first appeared in Alehouse Review (2007, #1).

Smokers on Break


Reeking of nicotine, coatless

in the cold, we lounge

in a doorway,


a few scant minutes

of kinship and bitching. 

Nooses loosen and halos dissolve—


smoke shaking its hips

from tips of cigarettes

like a genie escaping


her bottle.  We wish

for tanned, tropical lives,

but get the office


carpet, frayed and stained, tired

Muzak droning down

the halls.  Between puffs and sighs,


we fantasize

of sitting eight hours in bodies

that won’t weep


for codeine, scheme excuses

to call in sick, rehearse

scratchy voices


as we choke down hits

of swirling, conspiring joy.

Soon we’ll go back


to our cubicles, framed faces

of kids, lovers we seldom see;

back to glaring


computers screens and the demanding

ring of telephones where we’ll clamp down

with headsets, longing


for our discarded loves

lying on the hard pavement,

each bright eye slowly fading.


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