A Series of Poems about Smoking by Tristan Moss

An interview with a Cigarette

How do you cope?

Sometimes, I watch old movies
where I am a symbol
of rebellion and bike-sheds
of good times had,
or a moment
of pensive freedom,
or a last request.

Or I recall when you would call me
Gauloises or Gitanes
and I was the height
of left-bank existential angst,
nearly everyone
wanting to be seen with me.

And I ask myself,
Could I really have changed so much?

Which of your smokers
do you like the most now?

Those who buy my tobacco in pouches,
like vagrants, revolutionaries
and young romantics.

I feel the roll
of their gentle fingers, thumbs,
the lick of their tongues
on my skin –
not just plucked from a pack
by a stranger.

I know I’m still a product
of their desire to have me,
but at least we share some history,
and however imperfect
my newly formed skin,
they always savour me.

What do you think caused
your fall from grace?

People like you
starting to believe
you’d found within me
an obsessive need to be liked.
How could this be
when the heavier your drag
the more quickly I turned
into ash.

But wasn’t burning bright a part
of that success you so enjoyed?

But it’s strange,
because in my dreams,
I am not this searing cylinder,
cured and oversold.
I am a leaf.


Is there anything you miss 
about your previous life?

Sometimes, I miss the street corners,
the companiable shelter of trees
where I was cupped and offered up
so chivalrously.

It’s not the same 
lighting hobs or barbecues –
the dreary utility of it.

With what style my lid would flip
back and forth for no reason at all.
And where’s the rub 
of that thumb against my brass 
deep in denim or sheepskin?

No one carries me around anymore. 

I miss the leather of those desk tops, 
being made of onyx, jade
or as a spitfire.
Now I’m just a bit 
of disposable plastic.

Yes, I’m reformed;
reformed but just the same.
I’ve still got flint in me.


All I wanted was a steady job, but I got tarred, forced out 
into the cold – consigned 
to cupboards, drawers 
and charity shops. Now, 
I often can’t 
even gather dust. 

But what,
did I do wrong?
Is it a crime, not to know?
If anything, 
I helped
to put an end to them.

Not to say, 
I’m callous though,
as some would claim.
I truly loved
those who rolled 
their tips on me, 
leaving gifts 
of finely formed
cones of ash.

So yes, I’ve had my moments.
Been marble, crystal, gold
and baser stuff, too:
gutters, cans, bottle tops 
and concrete 
beneath a boot.
But do not think 
I did not feel
that warmth 
of life
go out on me.

Forgiving Times

I used to hang about the bars and cafes,
where people had got used to me.

They only really noticed 
when a picture was removed
and a light-box bright patch
shone out at them; 
or on those mornings when 
I overstayed my welcome,
lingering in their scarves, coats 
and jumpers; or when I was gone
and had become nostalgia, 
masking sweat and halitosis, 
blurring baggy eyes
and lined-faces.

The Book of Backronyms

They do not mention me 
at first. And when they do
on the back of packs, I 

am mistaken for 
a thick black toxic liquid 
that nobody wants
on their lungs. So 
my name is put
in quotation marks 
to show that I am different. Then,
they say the letters of my name 
stand for: ‘total aerosol residue’,
and I wonder
that if the letters in these words, 
stood for other words, 
and the letters of those words 
stood for others, and so on,
would I eventually disappear.

Bio: Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two youngish children. He has been published in many online and paper poetry magazines over the past 14 years. Most recently, he has appeared in London Grip, Snakeskin and Fevers Of The Mind. He will also appear in Poems in the Waiting Room this summer. 

feature photo by Anastasia Vityukova

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1


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