Terry Collett


Smoking Lesson.


Searching in the gutters
of Meadow Row
and up along by the back
of the coal wharf

Benedict picked out
and up
dog ends
or cigarette butts

as his old man
called them
and picking them up
he tore open the paper

and tipped the tobacco
into a white paper
sweet bag
how can you do that?

Ingrid said
all those people’s
spit and dribble
on them

she pulled a face
he smiled
she looked serious
germs on them

she said
she wiped her hands
on her stained
green dress

he bent down
and picked out
another cigarette butt
and opened it up

between fingers
and thumbs
and emptied it
into the bag

you’re too young
to smoke
she said
if my dad saw me smoking

he’d smack me silly
she said
he does anyway
he said

she bit her lip
and looked away
sorry
he said

didn’t mean
to be like that
he touched her hand
she stared at him

through wire
framed glasses
she liked it when
his hand touched hers

no one else
touched her tenderly
she looked
at his cowboy hat

placed to the back
of his head
the six shooter gun
stuffed in the belt

of his jeans
the borrowed blue waistcoat
(his grandfather’s given
a month or so back)

she put her other hand
on top of his
he took his hand out slowly
in case other boys

from school may see
and walked to the shelter
of a wall
of a bombed out house

and they both sat down
he took out a packet
of cigarette papers
(liberated from

his old man)
and pulled out
a paper and shoved
the packet of papers

back in the pocket
of his jeans
and taking a pinch
of tobacco from the bag

he fingered it
in a straight line
into the cigarette paper
then rolled it

as he’d seen
his old man do
then licked the end
to form a thin cigarette

Ingrid watched in silence
as his fingers moved
and his tongue licked
you’re not going to

smoke it are you?
she asked
he put the cigarette
between his lips

sure am
he said John Wayne like
but you’re only 9
she said

you’re only 9
and you’re watching
he replied
he took out a box

of Swan Vesta
(borrowed from
the cupboard at home)
and lit the cigarette

and puffed slowly
she waved a hand
as smoke came near
her face

my dad will smell that
on me
she said
and think it was me

smoking and tell me off
she said
beat you black and blue
Benedict thought

not said
he coughed and spluttered
and took out
the cigarette

and blew smoke
from his mouth
and spat out phlegm
brownish yellow

if your old man hits you again
I’ll shoot him
full of cap smoke
he said

she laughed
and hit his arm
he flicked the cigarette
onto the bombsite

with a finger
and watched
as the smoke
he’d blown out

like a pale ghost
seemed to linger.

Submitted: Monday, September 23, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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