And filled to the brim with cigarette butts.
All lipsticked.
Even the one designed like a shell,
a souvenir of Mermaid Beach.

I work my way backwards.
The Kool growing out of the yellow stub.
A red sizzle halfway up its paper wrap.
Coils of smoke.
The smell of tobacco mixed with menthol.
And then a mouth,
like two archer’s bows,
and the hint of teeth and tongue.

Then a face emerges. And a body.
A year, a month, a day.
Right down to the second
when there was a life
seated opposite me,
only an ashtray between us.

there isn’t an ashtray in the house.
If someone needs to stub
out a cigarette,
it will have to be long ago.

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