Smoke Screen

for every hard-working father who ever worked
at HC&S, especially mine.

Was he a green, long sleeve jacket
and god-fearing man?
On the job, bloodshot.
Marrying metal in his heavy
gloves, bringing justice to his father,
who was also a smoking man.
No bathroom breaks, no helmets, no safe words.
He whistled sugarcane through his neck,
through his unventilated wife,
his chronic black ash daughters.
This is what a burn schedule looks like.
And if believing in god was a respiratory issue,
he was like his father.
Marrying metal to make a family.
At home he smoked before he slept,
in the corner with the door
ajar, cigarette poised like a firstborn:
well-behaved, rehearsed.
Curtains drawn, bedrooms medicated.
He was always burning into something.
Part-dark, part pupils.
For my father, the night was best alone.
When only he could see through
the world and forgive it.

“Smoke Screen” was used with permission of the author, and comes from the book When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, Copyright © 2020.