Conversational Distance

Gloria Heffernan

I concentrate on the cigarettes you flicked
out the window
when you refused the dish I handed you
in lieu of an ashtray.
You seemed to think I would prefer
the blast of cold night air
to the possibility of simply washing the dish,
just as you thought I would prefer
the truth to lovely illusion.

I imagine the cigarette butts landing on a stack of
discarded newspapers
in the alleyway six stories below,
the glowing orange tips
boring holes through yesterday’s news,
and smoldering for hours before bursting
into a blaze that seems more bearable
than the resentment I see smoldering
at the corners of your eyes.

“Next time,” I promise,
“I’ll have a real ashtray waiting for you,
the kind with little round indentations
to cradle the cigarettes securely
while the smoke curls up like
a cobra emerging from a snake charmer’s basket.”
You nod appreciatively
and we catch each other in the lie,
knowing there won’t be a next time,
and it’s high time you quit smoking anyway.

GLORIA HEFFERNAN is a proud native of Jersey City, New Jersey. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Icarus, Pleiades, Radiance Magazine, The Comstock Review, Stone Canoe, The Healing Muse, Parody, Grey Sparrow Journal and the New York Times Metropolitan Diary. She has also had articles and essays published in numerous magazines and journals including The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Eugene O’Neill Review, Dramatist’s Guild Quarterly, and The Syracuse Post-Standard. She holds a Master’s Degree in English from New York University and teaches critical writing at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.

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