Cigarette

Clear as Spring dawn

I remember Miss Nance’s

Second grade classroom,

When she yanked me by the arm

Out of my little hardwood desk

And dragged me to the cloak room to

Beat me within earshot of all.

Tight-lipped and stoic in her labor she

Added nothing to the racket. Nor did I.

Just took it.

 

That afternoon we

Huddled under our desks,

Warned to look away from

The tall widows that opened over the

Roof tops fanned out below our hill

Toward the river.

Warned that the flash from the

Bomb that the Russians would surely

Drop on our mills

Would blind us.

 

Under the desk, still sore,

I wished they’d come.

Come and drop their damned bomb.

Catch her looking-

Blind her in front of the room

Burn her into a pillar of dust

Which they said we would all be

On that day.

Which the priest says you are now

If you listened to him.

 

I lay there and promised myself

My first cigarette after school;

Not connecting till later that I wanted to

Put it out in Miss Nance’s eye

The way my old man had done to the

Mill foreman who called him a little Dago

That time at the union picnic.

No, just then I only wanted the cigarette.

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