I need a smoke, I say,
in my pajama pants,
gray zombie flesh exposed
by a hole in the inner thigh.
With bone-crackling fingers
I slip on my fleece-lined winter boots,
let untied laces writhe against my movement,
host-less horsehair worms eager to bore through exoskeleton,
for knot-tying and mind control. My body passes
through the front door, like vapor, like smog,
I fold my knees over a front-stoop step.
The wind bites blood back into my cheeks. I check my pulse,
a muted shiver under onionskin. I reach for a lighter and a pack
but when my hand hits the silk of an empty pocket,
with a flickering bedsheet shock,
that I’ve never smoked a cigarette,
never, not once in my life.
A red light turns green and with a rush of traffic
I decide to press on anyway,
I hold the gap between my first and middle finger,
press the negative space to lava-rock lips,
Black soot burns down my throat, drips
into my lungs like candle wax, they bloat three sizes with heat.
I blow my clouds at passersby,
but they are busy blowing their own, dodging the acid rain.
The nicotine burrows into the pink-meat folds of my brain,
sends a rosy glow through my body like a pulsing cartoon heart.
I flash back and forth between
monster and human-again.
I sit and smoke until the sky breaks open and bleeds,
until my last neighbor tumbles over,
the last car sinks into the concrete,
the last building crumbles into ash,
rejoins the dead night mist.
I grind the remains
of my ghost-cigarette into the sidewalk
with a twisted ballerina toe
before turning inside,
Emma Lagno is a writer from upstate New York. She currently studies the literature and religions of the ancient Mediterranean at Harvard Divinity School.