Patrick Phillips
Elegy for Smoking

It’s not the drug I miss

but all those minutes

we used to steal

outside the library,

under restaurant awnings,

out on porches, by the quiet fields.


And how kind it used to make us

when we’d laugh

and throw our heads back

and watch the dragon’s breath

float from our mouths,

all ravenous and doomed.


Which is why I quit, of course,

like almost everyone,

and stay inside these days

staring at my phone,

chewing toothpicks

and figuring the bill,


while out the window,

the smokers gather

in their same old constellations,

like memories of ourselves.


Or like the remnants

of some decimated tribe,

come down out of the hills

to tell their stories

in the lightly-falling rain—


to be, for a moment, simply there

and nowhere else,

their faces glowing

each time someone lifts,

like a gift, the little flame.

Found In Volume 41, No. 04
Read Issue
  • patrickphillips
Patrick Phillips
About the Author

Patrick Phillips is the author of Elegy for a Broken Machine  (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). A recent Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellow in poetry, he is the author of two earlier collections, Boy and Chattahoochee, and translator of When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems of Henrik Nordbrandt