Jake passes his lit cigarette into my fingers,
careful of the burning end. I take it, gingerly
holding the filter to my lips. inhaling deep
and slow. It’s two in the morning and we’re drunk
on the front porch swing. Jake only lets me smoke
with him when we’ve been drinking. I pass it back.
I wouldn’t want to – smoke, I mean, except that back
in our hometown I’d spent summer watching Jacob wrap his fingers
around cigars, practiced, nonchalant about having a smoke
even though he’d told his girl he quit. I’ve come to, somehow, gingerly
equate smoking with our friendship. Now we’re drunk
on his front porch and deep
in thoughtful conversation, the kind that only happens in deep
friendships, those with a closeness that formed years back,
in childhood. Neither of us was old enough to be drunk
when we met, and back then I never saw Jake’s fingers
curved around cigarettes or cigars – only footballs, and never gingerly.
Jake’s cocky-calm confidence still shows in the way he exhales smoke.
Later, Jake will light a new cigarette, handing it to me to smoke
all by myself for the first time. I will let him show me how to breathe deep
and hold the smoke in my lungs. I’ll blow two fiery columns gingerly
out my nose and the burning will make me wish to take them back.
Jake will laugh, not unkindly, and he’ll swipe the butt from my fingers
when I put a hand up to my watering eyes. We are drunk,
two friends outside in the warm night air, drunk
on whiskey and old, comfortable friendship and smoke.
Jake will pour two more fingers
of bourbon in a pair of low-ball glasses, though my newly deep
and scratchy voice will protest back
at him, good-natured and slurring. Jake will gingerly
hand one to me and I will take it, also gingerly,
because by then I’ll know I’m really drunk
and swaying back
and forth, just a little bit, in the smoke
that had clouded the deep
darkness of the night air. Later still Jake’s fingers
will reach for my glass and, gingerly, my fingers
will return it to him. After all, I’m drunk and our deep
conversations have floated in ribbons to the backs of our minds, like smoke.
This is what I’ve been working on for the past couple of days. It’s a sestina, a formal poem, and I need some kind of formal piece for my poetry class. Somehow this idea turned into one. I’m not really sure how.
I’ve been debating about throwing it up here since I got the first rough draft down, simply because I’m thinking that some people who read this won’t be too happy with the setting. Tonight, I finally decided I didn’t care. It’s not all autobiographical, anyway; after the first bit got started it sort of took on a life of it’s own. Anyway, it’s art, or it’s trying to be art. I know it isn’t finished yet, but let me know what you think!