Glass Poetry Press

Volume Six Issue Two

Jamie Bruce

Seven Years of Smoke

My father burned holes into every piece of furniture, always dropping ash on the carpets and over every inch of our house, the floor tiles collecting years of his defeats, trying to remember what it had been like seven years before, back when we all could breathe. My mother spent hours on her knees scrubbing away the grey dust that settled on every surface, an act of repent on behalf of his sins, a begging of the Lord to forgive. I spent much of my time on my knees, too, first to please them, and later to please you; my two hands folded in prayer, my two eyes set inside the pages in front of me, reciting Holy verses for them to hear. When their ears did not listen I would fold my hands over you instead, my eyes set on every inch of your body, mouth wrapping around soft skin. I would pray that you might save me, your name falling from my lips like itself were a prayer, moving through me, out from that hollow space inside me and into the empty air, stale from seven years of smoke, the walls around me yellowing like my father's teeth; it all rotting. On the coldest nights I would light a fire on top of candle wax, would do so seven times over, wrapping my arms around my body and pretending they were yours. Those were the nights that I felt the most empty; the nights during which I had wanted most to stop breathing forever. I have always worn you like tattered shoes, well-weathered, and you've always fit me well whether you've wished to or not — but I can feel your body tire with each step, weary from the weight of me. I have only slowed you.