You weren’t a man

unless you smoked

my mother claimed—

back in the old days,

back in the old country.

Sixth grade lessons taught us

the dangers of smoking. Of course

we went home from school

encouraging our parents to quit.

My father finally tried

many years later

when his heart began to fail—

too addicted to nicotine and additives

by then.

Cleaning out, we found a candy-like

red-and-white pack hidden

in the rafters of his basement workshop.

It looked crisp, untouched,

the cellophane wrapper in place,

but my father had slit a small hole

to extract and sneak a smoke—another

to take his life away.

Christel Maass

Christel Maass lives in southeastern Wisconsin.  She enjoys gardening, hiking, and exploring her beautiful home state.  Christel frequently writes about nature and has been widely published in print and online.

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