run, if you see smoke

the first time i tried tobacco
was after drinking a fifth of scotch
at an ex-girlfriend’s birthday
i was looking for another way
to poison myself
since the whisky wasn’t doing it

the next morning
after scrubbing the taste of vomit
and red indian
out of my teeth
i smoked my first cigar
it tasted
like hope
and i daubed the ashes
on my forehead.

i smoked camels unfiltered until i could taste the flame
and tossed them under rose bushes
leaving random acts of arson
in my wake.
the first time i fell asleep with one in my hand
i burned a hole in my favorite shirt
and my left nipple and
if you dip them in vodka first
they taste better
but singe your moustache.

tule never understood what i was trying to do
when i kept stuffing my socks with saltpeter
and lighting matches between my toes.

meeting her
was just another day
in my life as an arsonist.

she would ask tiredly if it was necessary to spend hundreds of dollars
purchasing second hand heirlooms at estate sales
for firewood.
i told her it was
because i didn’t have any of my own.

when i burned hers
on an altar anointed with petrol
she said
that being her present
gave me no right to her past
but i could never fathom
why anyone would keep the winters of their discontent
when the flames offered so much
warmth.

(originally published in The Gap-toothed Madness June 2013)

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