The way you’ll see his smoke before
him, coming around a corner, eddying out
into thin winter air, and the way eddies
automatically associate with backwater and dust
and lives that just backwater and settle.
He smokes, “knows it will kill him,” as they say.
I like to pronounce it accurately, kill him,
to emphasize the specificity of it. I like to remember
the time we were driving separate vehicles cross-country.
We stopped for lunch and I saw him light up
and turn the wrong way coming out of the station.
I continued south out of Cheyenne through a hailstorm
and then east of Denver into the long night,
every voice on AM saying distance, distance.
But this is supposed to be about living with it.
The way a young girl you work with looks concerned, saying
don’t take it so seriously on a Friday afternoon
then closes the office door and you’re crying
on a Friday afternoon for no reason.
It’s sunny. The world is indifferent, even blithe
with melting and all the predictable affect of seasonality.
In the car on the way home, you listen
to talk stations, where the squalor, the loss,
the cheap psychology of hosts — it ransacks you.
You make your stops and forget what you stopped for.
You hitch and hesitate like an embodied sob
echoing in the aisles of Safeway. The way it’s
this and that and then you’re talking about yourself as if
you weren’t your father exactly as if you’d never met
the strange man driving and crying toward Nebraska.