In cooler months

He liked to sit in the living room
By the pot-bellied stove
The house was made an oven
Meant to warm his bones
He would sit close
To absorb the penetrating heat
Because, at his age, he had 
Poor circulation and little meat 
He had gray, close-cropped hair
Horned-rimmed framed eyes
Tanned, work-worn skin
And was always clad 
In bib overalls because 
He needed his pants to stay up 
He “couldn’t be foolin’ with ’em”
When he had to do stuff 
I can see him reaching
Into his bib pockets for his pack
And into another pocket for his lighter
He’d press a cig between his lips
Light up one end
A glowing little fire 
He’d inhale slowly
Savoring his fine crops –
Luscious burley leaves
Produced by his own brow sweat
And exhaled puffs of exertion
It was in this moment
Like many before
He inhaled pride, a jolt, flavor
It left him always wanting more 
After the immediate fix
He’d rise and say
“Come out to the coal pile with me”
We’d all follow
Opening the door to an icebox –
The cold country air
Stood in stark contrast 
To the intense warmth of the little house
And we’d watch our breath 
Linger like tiny clouds 
We’d laugh and pretend that
The clouds were smoke
While we loaded the wheelbarrow
With crunchy black nuggets
Meant to feed the potbellied stove
While the men had another smoke, or two
We’d climb on the pile
The guys would feed their addiction
And chat for a while 
When we came back inside
To be warmed and welcomed
Mamaw poured us all a round 
Of sweet tea
I watched and listened
While my family
Laughed and smiled
And worked over
The puzzle of the world
With expressed consternations
With Clyde’s coughs and wheezes
In all conversation 
And much like the embers 
At the end of a cigarette
That pot-bellied stove 
Would glow
Making the room an oven
Baking in images and memories
Indelibly marking me –
You are loved
Family is important
Hard work produces character
Hospitality is sharing
And don’t ever forget –
What you don’t know 
May end up hurting you 
And never, ever, pick up a cigarette