Friday, January 4, 2013

Why Stop?


He smoked camel unfiltered.
His teeth and fingers the color
of the sticky tobacco juice that would
bake into our skin when we worked
the tobacco fields
in Tennessee. She smoked, too,

but in secrecy. 
She would sneak cigarettes
from the cartons he’d leave
in their bedroom...enough to last her
until he got back in a week
or two, or three.  He was

a cross-country trucker,
she was a woman who thought
booze and cigarettes were from
the devil – so she hid her
addiction.  It calmed her nerves
she said when we found out,
she needed her nerves

calmed.  He died of lung cancer
at the age of fifty-seven – gave
up the smokes when he was hooked
up to oxygen and cancer drugs.
She still chain smokes at the age
of eighty-six and says
she could quit if she wanted to.

The smoke gathers round her head
as she blows into the air through
nostrils yellowed now and her lips
shrivel around another
puff seconds later.  She looks

over at me as she spits
a fleck of brown onto her finger
and slings it over the rail, then spits
a period to the side. At her age
she states
Why would she want to?

8 comments:

Sherrie said...

You leave me with a strong sense of character, Judy. I can picture her, relate her to people I have known, and even smell her breath. Wow!

Mary said...

This is a favorite of your recent poems, Judy, as it was such a vivid portrait and you made 'her' come alive in the descriptions you used. Through your words, I could picture her looks & personality. And, I think she may be right...at 86, why should she??

Tess Kincaid said...

Oh this is nice...I could see them...well done, Judy...

Jack said...

You've created someone any of us could meet...fantastic realism...

Glenda C. Beall said...

I think I knew that woman. Great imagery.

Poet Laundry said...

Great job in this character building. Definitely felt as if I met her...in fact I'm sure I have.

aprille said...

Engaging, and Yes, indeed, I could see them too. Feisty lady. Well written.

Peggy said...

My goodness Judy, a tough old gal. This one really packs a punch to me and I am not sure I like this woman. You painted her vividly.