Smoking Is Glamorous {{{cough, cough}}}

I watch AMC.
I hate Joan Crawford every time I see her light a cigarette.
I despise Bette Davis for each satisfying drag on a fag.

My name is K----, and I am a recovering smoker.

I was 16 when I started,
little miss tough girl leaning against her hot '66 Mustang
in the high school parking lot. "Don't mess with me."

A hippie chick on my 70's college campus,
I was liberated with a flower-painted filter
on my long skinny cig.

A pause for p.g., then on to smelly ashtrays
piled high in that back-office hi-pay/lo-work
state worker scam job. By the time the work got real,
smoking was relegated to areas marked social pariah.
But I still hung out with my rebel compadres
whenever I couldn't stand it any longer -
sucking it in and loving it.

"I'll stop when I'm 30."
"I'll stop when I'm 35."
"I'll stop when I'm 40."
Extending always that magical deadline called:
"When I can stop and still be safe."

At 44, my hand twitches,
still reaching for that fantasy smoke.
There is no nicotine left in my blood,
but I have muscle memory of the smooth feel
of a paper cylinder between my fingers.

I dream of my cousin Talullah
chaining her way through The Little Foxes
at the Alabama Theatre,
and I have my picture made
sitting beside her sidewalk star
and a stamped-out butt.

I am hopeless in my craving
For long red fingernails,
For scarlet lipstick,
For a gold lamé dress,
For long wavy hair brushed out full,
For candlelit dining,
For the chink of one crystal goblet
against another,
For the flash of an engraved lighter,
For just one more cigarette.

Copyright 2001 by Karen Thompson
previously published in Wish Women Poetry Forum

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