So Then

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So Then

by Murray B. Shugars
Southern Cultures, Vol. 16, No. 2: Southern Lives

"So, you get up and pilfer a cigarette from your lover's pack, smoke it in blue moonlight pushing through the bare kitchen window. Someone is listening."

So, you lie awake beside a lover of many years,
and the tabby cat kneads the blanket.
You have only three days’ leave.
The furnace kicks on, a cold front
descending from Ultima Thula,
somewhere so far north your mother
couldn’t name the frost. She couldn’t
sing more quietly than those cold
fingers you feel touch your thigh.

So, you get up and pilfer a cigarette
from your lover’s pack, smoke it in blue
moonlight pushing through the bare
kitchen window. Someone is listening.
Someone knows the distances
you keep in the dark folds of linen
you don’t bother to unpack. Someone
saw the smoke and ash.

So, you put on a record
just for kicks, Sgt Pepper’s, place the needle
in the groove. When you were 16,
you saw Neil Young & Crazy Horse
at Cobo Hall, Detroit. Your parents thought
you had gone to church camp that week.
The smoke hurts your throat and lungs,
but the nicotine tastes like your lover.

So, you listen to the Beatles and smoke.
You think about the first horse
you ever rode, the first dog
you ever shot. You think about three
dead buddies. You think about the time
you left five new-mint quarters on the stone
tongue of an angel, her chipped wings
eclipsing the Mississippi sun.

So, you stay up late, though you must
get up early. You stay up late
because you know your heart
will explode if you stay
in that goddamn bed
any longer.

You know this.

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