Oregon 1988


We stood on the porch,
night sounds around us,
the darkness comfortable,
letting us be together
without the impulse to talk
electric light would bring.


He held a cigarette in one hand
as if holding it was a pleasure.
After a while he asked me to find a match.
I brought one from the wood stove
and again he just stood there,
cigarette in one hand, match in the other,
as if they were old friends with no reason to hurry.


One of my daughters came out on the porch,
then the other, like moths to his flame.
The younger noticed the cigarette
like everything within her range.
“Grandpa, you shouldn’t smoke.”


For a while he didn’t say anything
though the irony was sharp,
the cancer having eaten so much of his body
but there was no mocking in his eyes.


He didn’t seem to be thinking, just waiting.
Then he said, “Why not?”
“Because they’re not good for you,”
the older one now, so direct,
with no prejudice for his age or condition.


He stood there a while longer,
the cigarette and the match,
holding them fondly,
as if the moment mattered,
as if something would arrive if he’d wait.


After a while he said, “Well, you’re probably right,”
and put the match in his pocket,
still holding the cigarette as they nuzzled up to him,
that rough hand drawing them both in,
brushing the hair back across their foreheads,
the crickets scratching and spring frogs croaking
in the warm darkness.





10 Responses to “Cigarette”

  1. David Banner says:

    What a poignant and,yes, sad moment.

  2. Powerful as a standalone poem, even more potent in the context of the family story told in The Irish Girl. Great work, Don.

  3. Stan Grindstaff says:


  4. Maria Jimenez Frid says:

    Both my parents smoked, heck, I did too when young. In those days, there was no warning, only advertisement with a funny camel urging us to enjoy. Once you tried, your addiction began. It was tough to give it up. No judgment required, just tough moments. Thank you for these evoking moments.

  5. Athena Coleman says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful.

  6. Eleanor GillMilner says:

    Special insight. Thank you Don.

  7. Chaz says:

    I love the wisdom of heeding the message of The Child!

  8. Jude says:

    Don, your gaze/witness of a heart throbbing tense back then glance to your dad’s tender blessing for your daughter’s health and future.

  9. Kim says:

    How heartwarming this is through the generations, sharing patience, listening, caring and loving each other.

  10. Eilish says:

    This just filled me with tears, thinking about grandpa. He got to be his softness with me and sister, what a gift.

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