Now that the pressure’s gone, I wake up,
reach for my phone and push pause
before my eyes open.
Can’t be sure what time or day it is.
I’m in between worlds.
Vaguely, there is a sense of somewhere to go
but not urgently.
I fall back in the wispy strands of the dream:
You and Carmen and Rick stood in a circle
at the end of the street
breathing in the thick of the night.
The air around you was smoke
dotted with tiny red flares,
a mixture of fog and tobacco fumes.
I thought you quit years ago.
I remember the sound of the scraped butt
smashed to the ground
under your cowboy booted heels,
sizzle to a stop.
“I’m finished,” you said.
And then it was as if you had never smoked
those last fifteen years.
I never could keep a forever mind like that.
Everything is conditional and environmental
like a chameleon, something I called you.
But when Carmen, who smoked a pack a day then,
stole your glances and eventually your heart,
you never resumed the habit.
And there you were standing with them
at the corner of my block.
Maybe you weren’t smoking.
It was hard to tell in the nighttime mist.
I wanted to say something to you,
Something about how it has been
since you left,
not a complaint,
just to make you understand something,
a notion about passing time
and diminished threats.
But the block was too long
and it kept getting longer
each step bringing me farther from the circle,
closed circle you made in a ring of fire.