Quitting by Greg Emilio

We smoked. We smoked. We smoked one, then another, then another. Our smokes held hands, daisy-chained like lemmings into the abyss. We smoked because of that third drink. We smoked because our conversation was just getting good, because our words needed silver flesh. We waved our smokes like wands, cast love-spells over each other. The gossamer architecture of spiders. We made our packs lucky by flipping a single smoke upside down. Saved these for last. We smoked because the body goes on and on and, let’s face it, gets bored. We smoked because of the movies. We smoked even though old people smoked: exasperated kayakers drifting toward the waterfall’s lip; my grandpa churning lung-cinders in a hospital bed. We smoked until, pissed off, I said, Do you really need another fucking smoke? We smoked after sex. We smoked before. During. Ember-holes in the sheets. We jaundiced our fingertips with smoke. Inspected the pale yellow, crescents: How much did you smoke last night? We smoked while cooking, half-in, half-out the kitchen. One foot dripping the river Styx. You get the idea. We smoked when Sam Cooke came on. Because he was murdered by a Madame in an hourly motel. We smoked because death was just another disappointed parent, a high school principal. We smoked because we were friends, then lovers, then brittle, sexy exes. We smoked because we were already forgiven. We smoked until we couldn’t stop. We smoked. We stopped. No. Wait—

Greg Emilio’s poetry and essays have appeared in Midwestern Gothic, Miramar, Permafrost, Pleiades, Spoon River Poetry Review, and World Literature Today. In 2015 he won the Pangaea Prize from The Poet’s Billow. He bartends while pursuing his PhD in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta.