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When life finally slips
from feeble clutches
I’ll depart longing
a final breath
of ashen air,
to pierce the shrinking black
with embered eye
though responsibility
smothered vice
in decades far
from mind.

A fitting contrast
to the snow blind air
sinking icy teeth
into tender lungs
while frosted smoke
ascending into innocent skies.

A fitting symbol
for adolescent insolence
when I puffed
shifty eyed
under the draft
of a bathroom window,
stifling the rattle and cough
so as not to expose
my naiveté.

How sweet the memory,
flesh shimmering
in motel light,
sending halos
into mashed potato ceilings
naked but for our
cocksure smiles.

With a small taste of death,
familiar to the tongue
each meal sings more sweetly,
When the liquid strength of creation
is balanced with the slow
searing smoke of mortality.

Death in my front pocket
sharpened the edges of life.

Smile if you're stupid,
laugh if you understand.

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The following comments are for "Front Pocket"
by bartleby

not quite sure
how I should take that. One the one hand it seems like high praise, and on the other I can say that while I certainly miss the habit, I feel a lot better. And smell better too, at least my wife thinks so.

Thanks for rescuing my poem Pen. It's appreciated.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: January 26, 2004 )

it works...for sure
Congrats Bart for your poem (and for quiting smoking, of course).
i could imagine you as a young boy "puffing/ shifty eyed/ under the draft/ of a bathroom window".


PS : your poem could be used for an antitobacco campaign

( Posted by: inmost [Member] On: January 26, 2004 )

front pocket
ah, sweet misery, and such an eloquent way of summing up our terrible love affair with death. wonderful.

( Posted by: poesandpoetry [Member] On: January 26, 2004 )

terrible love affair
Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment on this piece, and to Penelope for promoting me more shamelessly than I would have done myself.

poesandpoetry: I love the phrasing of "our terrible love affair with death" just love it. Wish it were mine.

Until next time.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: January 27, 2004 )

Liked it
Well, I liked it. Glad it wasn't preachy.

Please don't become a militant ex-smoker. !!! But congrats to what you've accomplished.

( Posted by: Elphaba [Member] On: January 27, 2004 )

Miltant... perish the thought

It's funny that people seem to be taking this poem the wrong way. Perhaps I need to revisit it, or maybe the ambiguity is a good thing.

I meant this as a fond bit of nostalgia for the good old days of vice and addiction. Maybe I missed the mark, I'm certainly no William Tell.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: January 27, 2004 )

Amazing what a little gripe on Blogs can do for attention. Let me introduce myself, if you've been gone sixty days, I've come onboard in that time. I know my bio makes me look vain, but editing it now would be even more so.
Now...smoking, I've given up too...a few times. Plan to give it up again soon as people stop nagging me about it 'cause it just makes me rebelious. I could use the extra dough, $13 a pack of 40's, that's about $24 U.S.
I don't know what it's like where you are, but it is almost a crime here. Prohibited in all indoor areas including offices, pubs/bars, casinos, restaurants, taxis/cabs, undercover rail stations. Even tried to stop in the open air at rail stations, but I think they realised what it was going to do to Public Transport revenues. Doctors have even threatened to withdraw treatment for smoking related conditions if the patient doesn't quit!

( Posted by: ozpink [Member] On: January 27, 2004 )

Tribute to a paper tube
...packed with plant matter, sweet as breath, strong as death. If orgasm is called the little death, and as smokers we take in a bit of death with each puff...well, you see where I'm heading with this.

Congratultions on quitting, and also on providing an explaination of why this dirty habit is so attractive, so seductive, and so difficult to shake.

( Posted by: Cybele [Member] On: January 28, 2004 )

ah, publicity
Having followed back through the brouhaha to this piece, I got it onscreen, rolled myself a cigarette, and proceeded to read.

The first stanza inspired a deep, thoughful inhalation, a pause with a lungfull, then a slow, white-plumed exhalation, for Auld Ang Signe.

The "innocent skies" of the second stanza brought a short, harsh cough, for comic relief.

The third stanza's adolescent timidity inspired a short, strong, adolescent puff of defiance, brightening the coal of my cigarette in the dim glow cast across my keyboard by my monitor. No one says I'm not grown up! Not while I've got this thing in my hand, not while my inhalation is so graceful, not while my gestures with the cigarette point out the realities so well. Let them give their fake little coughs, let them pretend their eyes are burning!

To die? Tis but a little thing. But til then, I'm cool. I even do it when there's no one else around.


( Posted by: johnlibertus [Member] On: February 29, 2004 )


this is Truly Fabulous. all the gleaming praise you've heaped on me over my months here now officially bounces back to you. i'm flabbergasted. this is stunning. if i ever hear you complain that you're jealous of me again i'll cyber-sock you.

makes me want to run out and buy a pack, really. and inspires me to scribble a musing of my own about the sweet deathly lure of the cigarette.

well done, my friend.


( Posted by: ark [Member] On: February 29, 2004 )

Just stumbled across this, Bart, while rummaging through some back logs of old work on the site, pertinently killing time.

I like it quite a bit, especially the final two lines.

Makes me a bit sad that you haven't been posting any new poetry since you've begun work on "Parliament of Thorns". I miss your unique voice and gift with words on the other side of the front page of Lit.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: March 30, 2004 )

hazel and the other side

Thanks for stopping by for my ode to cancer. Everytime I read this one, I end up craving a smoke while adrift in nicotine memory. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

I plan on working a bit of poetry soon. Since you mentioned my little fantasy serial, does that mean that you are actually reading it?

Just had to ask.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: April 7, 2004 )

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