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Stench of the ashtray
Stench of every
consumed and discarded
cigarette.

Country dress, country porch
in the middle of a sleepy city
slick streets, streetlights,
gunshots in the news
and the tireless trill
of crickets,
passing cars.

If I could do it over again,
we’d order a subscription
for weekly boxes of vegetables from a farm.

You’d still be a smoker,
our kitchen would still be filthy,
however much I try to clean,
and there would still be
the gunshots
and the insects.

Either way I’d be left
with this ashtray.

Maybe we’d have saved on groceries.
Maybe we could have
figured out compost
and recycling.

A little less filth,
a little less
packaging
and advertising
and garbage.

That’s what I would do
if I could do it over.

I know that asking if you could have loved me
would be the same
as asking you
to stop
craving
cigarettes.

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This is the house she didn’t belong to: Art on the walls, wooden floors, high ceilings, a garden alongside, hazy humid heat infused with work sweat and pungent vegan cooking.

The hippies all sense something in her – something taut and bleak and anxious. She’s never been accepted in a hippie house.

She tells herself she could never live with vegans, anyway.

She’s lived with troubled teenagers.

She’s lived with a troubled single mother.

She’s lived with prim and proper and highly organized family friends.

She’s lived in a house full of international twenty-somethings who alternately kept to their rooms or went out drinking all night, were sports fanatics, hosted backyard dance parties. Despite being absorbed into their circle of camaraderie she had almost nothing in common with them. She remained quiet and somber, her sense of humor askew. She stood at the edges. Tethered to him in spite of him, but when it got very bad, sometimes, she would take off alone.

Top down, driving along the levee beneath darkly underlit nighttime clouds, she luxuriates in the heavy, balmy breeze. Only when she stops to sit by the water and listen to the cicadas hum in concert, chorusing abstract patterns like the voice of the universe, like electricity, then the mosquitoes swarm and she gets eaten alive.

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