portion of the artwork for Stevie Edwards' poetry

Poem for My First Cigarette
Stevie Edwards

In junior high health videos all the emphysemics
bemoaned their first cigarettes—some vomited,
most couldn’t wait to wash the taste of tar and ash
from their mouths, only to find themselves hooked
from the start on something insidious in their veins
that was what it meant to be cool. My first cigarette
came from the drag queen who taught me
to wear my vices like sequins. Whose mouth was full
of crass adages—Honey, if it ain’t eight inches or longer,
then it ain’t worth your time
, she’d say. Who knew better
than I the fear of being sent down river
in a peach basket to whatever family or current
would have her. We were young, brilliant eyed,
lashes elongated by her stolen mascara.
We huddled behind the MSU cadaver lab,
skipping high school marching band camp.
I admit I was trying to be cool, pretended
I’d been smoking since I popped from the womb.
I did not vomit or even feel like vomiting.
This was relieving. It tasted like Grandma's house,
like hours of euchre and KFC and gossip.
I wanted to keep the dirtied taste in my mouth
because it turned consequences into feather boas
and made words flow more easily. I still wouldn't say
I need a cigarette any more than I need a late walk
through a thunderstorm, but if words fail,
if there’s a poem I can’t end, if there’s a poem
that’s a man who I suspect is worth my time,
if there's a man who’s got time and a bent
umbrella or hand-rolled cigarettes, if
there’s a man who’s a poem I don’t know
where to end, then I just might take one.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 31 | Winter 2011