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Smoking, by Elton Glaser

September 07, 1997

I like the cool and heft of it, dull metal on the palm,

And the click, the hiss, the spark fuming into flame,

Boldface of fire, the rage and sway of it, raw blue at the base

And a slope of gold, a touch to the packed tobacco, the tip

Turned red as a warning light, blown brighter by the breath,

The pull and the pump of it, and the paper's white

Smoothed now to ash as the smoke draws back, drawn down

To the black crust of lungs, tar and poisons in the pink,

And the blood sorting it out, veins tight and the heart slow,

The push and wheeze of it, a sweep of plumes in the air

Like a shako of horses dragging a hearse

through the late centennium,

London, at the end of December, in the dark and fog.

From "The Best American Poetry 1997" edited by James Tate (Scribner: 268 pp., $30) Copyright 1997 Reprinted by permission.

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