Puff

You hold it between the index and the middle.
A god you worship with the deliberate purse of your lips.
A spoken sacrament of belonging that you affirm without speaking a single word.
You inhale the calming smoke into your darkened lungs,
and watch your years puff away with each release you make.
I see your death written in the way you wheeze when you breathe,
It is all but set in a future of veins hooked to IV lines
and weekly visits to a specialist clinic.
The same way you paid for the god with your sweat,
and you pay for each inhale with a cough,
you'll pay for every cigarette with a lost year.
I watch you toss your full dark head back, in abandon.
Your laughter so infectious, it makes me grapple not to smile.
I struggle to hold back my grin,
it threatens to spill in lieu of your bracing mirth.
As I look at you, heart full, sympathy strong,
I am moved to compassion to pray for you.
I pray that your smile be preserved,
that the coming years of sickness not steal it from you;
And that it remains forever bright, forever free, forever young.
I pray for your tinkling laughter,
it's a cheerful infection we all wish to contract;
May it always remain with you, to fill the sad realities with hope.
Again, I watch you raise the long white stick to your lips,
an action so conditioned, it has become almost natural.
As you draw the smoke into your lungs once again,
my eyes tear up behind my sunglasses.
I say my last prayer- one for your family,
And then, I watch you release the smoke through your nostrils,
an action you repeat again and again
as the remainder of your life puffs away,
like the smoke that escapes from your cigarette.

by Lotte Ahmad

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