For Carl Marcum's Lungs
by Peter Zelchenko June 12, 2009

blue jeans, hair slicked back, tamping down the thousandth pack
sliding off that cellophane, proud fingertip henna stain
exude a nonchalant inhale; young, wistful eyes, a wispy trail
roll them in a T-shirt sleeve: bum me one before you leave.

of smoky caul obscured a baby face. o filthy artifact of our pale white race,
it's ironic you, unholy tendency, were once the red man's ascendancy
to a plane of male co-awareness. yet, in all historic fairness,
they abused themselves more carefully. would "WARNING: I Cor. 6:19" read more prayerfully?

motives pile cartons storewards like a sky-high, fuming house of cards
while preschoolers follow us, hands on hips, stick of chalk between their lips,
reverent in their admiration, as capitalist domination
stacks us up as towering heroes, xeroxing camels and robert deniros

stains your insides blacken, while on the outsides, hacking
conjures up mild menthol lies. soon enough, you'll hear the "why's":
"why do you cough so much, dad?" "merely a cold, my precious lad."
what age will he see you go? a confirmed, resigned 60 or so?

bum me one before you leave. i know too well the webs we weave
that let us cheat breath, and say we'll try to quit another day
but, but... crush it once, right now, forever: fling it fro, throw the lever.
never too soon to stop, to give: his lungs, at least, whisper:

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