First Smoke in North Carolina
by Cheryl Stiles


Laughing, drunk in his stupor,
in a midnight poker game,
my uncle won a diner.

Corner of Peachtree and Sun Up.
My aunt served eggs, grits, bacon, and
coffee by the chipped cup.

My cousins had the key, broke in.
We raided the cigarette machine.
Camel, Marlboro, and Winston,

Parliament, Pall Mall, Salem, Kool.
We headed to the tobacco barn
with every brand, matches too.

On the loft I smoked one of each—
brand after brand, no break between—
dropped cinders on the hay beneath.

I set the whole damn barn aflame
was sick for days, turned thin and green.
Punishment enough, my Dad claimed.






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