Smoke

By Paul Vermeersch

As small as I was, before my hair ever darkened,
when I was still a flash of white, my platinum locks,
my baby teeth, the perfect sclera that had never shown
blood vessels already burrowing like pinworms
into some distant morning’s hangover, some rage
at grown-up failures, when I was still that flawless,
that twenty-four carat pure, I knew it was you
who came into our house and weakened my father’s heart,
who choked my mother’s laugh into a cracked and arid rasp.
I saw you loitering in our kitchen, clinging to our windows,
wearing your cheap perfume, when in my nightmares
you were always hiding in the closet, or under the bed,
or curled up like a polyp in the dog’s nostril, waiting
to explode. You lived with us. You touched everything.

We met again when I was sweet sixteen, you so neat
and slim in your white slip, and me sliding, glass by glass,
into my first drunk. At night in a friend’s backyard
fifteen years ago, the fire-lit trees spread their branches
into darkness. The stars above them seemed a little nervous
when they twinkled. The chatter was coming unravelled;
voices walked across the lawn without their mouths
saying words like “punk” and “fuck” and “faggot,”
words without targets, exempt from meaning, so that
the edges peeled away from every sound, every memory.
When someone refused to kiss you, you came to me,   
surprised at how much I’d grown – taller, darker –
and though you hadn’t changed, I wasn’t frightened.
I brought you to my mouth and breathed you in all night.

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Pick Me Up Poetry seeks to be an agent of change in society by fostering cross-cultural dialogue and providing much-needed information and representation for writers and performers. We offer our followers insightful glimpses into cultures around the globe through various mediums including our online articles, poetry collections, spoken-word videos and more. 

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