I’d had quit smoking almost 4 years
when 9/11 happened. Broad Street
turned night though it was day, and debris descended
like snow when the first tower fell. Oh God, that rumble.
We huddled in the stairwell, assuring we were all
accounted for, and that the exit door would open
before we trusted allowing the upper door to slam shut
behind us, for fear of being stuck with no way out.
On the street we were near-ankle-deep in white ash,
a collection of steel, concrete, paper, human destruction.

We broke off into many separate groups of two and three and four,
making our way into the city, to find our respective ways home.
Someone in my group lit a cigarette and I asked for one.

I quit again in June of 2005. It took that long to collect my bearings
after that day.

Tonight, in the steady rain that is falling around me,
in my isolation, in the warm breeze that blows through the porch,
I find myself desiring a cigarette, a pack, some refuge
in a handheld tiny fire, the acrid smoke that fills the lungs,
a few minutes of soulful departure, selfish moments really
of indulgence, enabling contemplation, facilitating introspection.

But I don’t give in. I need to know that my lungs are working with
15 years of cleanliness, my mind and bloodstream clear of toxins.
I don’t want to have to quit again.

I don’t want to die staring into the eyes of a nurse,
so young as to have been in elementary school when the towers fell.
I want to live to be able to hug her, to applaud her and her colleagues, to embrace their collective sacrifice and never let go, for doing their best to keep us all alive. Once this is all over.

Chagall 2020