"Smoke," by Eric Rivera

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Poetry by Eric Rivera from our Fall 2016 issue.


I hide my cigarettes
under abandoned bricks
in the tall grass past
where I don’t cut,
between the siding
and the downspout
where my kids can’t reach,
under potted plants
their mother no longer waters.
I’m still midsmoke
when they step down from the bus,
run past the house,
and across the back yard.
I step on the lit butt as they scream, “Daddy! Daddy!”
and let it melt a small dent
into the rubber bottom of my work boot.
Not even a whisper of smoke escapes.
I hug them
so I don’t see their faces.
They squeeze into me
so tight it would hurt
if their thin arms weren’t so fragile.
The space between a lie
and a leaving out
is so vast
you could live your life in it.


Purchase MQR 55:4 (Fall 2016) for $7, or consider taking out a one-year subscription for $25.

Image: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Backyard of 12 Little West 12th Street.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. 

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