Seattle Smokers

You can't walk down a street in Seattle

with a cigarette in your mouth

and expect to have a pack left

by the time you get home.


It doesn’t happen like that.


Your cigarette

while a hazard light to non-smokers,

is a candle in a dark cave of tension

to the rest


and they will ask you

if you can spare one


they will ask you

if you’ve got a light


“Can I get one off you, man?”


It’s been a hard night.

They pat their pockets—

all out.

Run their hands through their hair—

They’ve got the craving

That you obviously understand.

They form one hand

into a gentle claw;

ready to grasp panic-relief.


By the time you reach your destination

you’ve talked to more strangers

and smoked fewer cigarettes

that you ever wanted to

on a dark city street.


The unwritten code

that if you smoke, you understand

and if you understand, you commiserate

and if you commiserate, you share

and share

and share


after all,

they’d give you one, too

if they had it.


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