mom stood
before the stove, cooking,
cigarette in hand,
clouds of smoke circling her head.

tobacco seasoned the pork chops.
smoke seeped into the mashed potatoes.
my little sister and I long ago noticed
even the dinner plates smelled like cigarettes.

smoke seeped into
my dresses, my hair, my toys. 
my skin smelled

My yellowed baby teeth gave way
to yellowed permanent teeth.

dad went straight to his downstairs den 
when he arrived home from teaching.
we knew he was there because of
the smoke, rising up the stairs.

some kids at school said they didn’t
want to smell like cigarettes.

tobacco smoke, though, always 
wanted to be near me, pressing me
like an insistent ghost, 
yearning to meld with my
smoke-filled soul.