Uncle Leo's Cloud of Smoke

at my grandfather's wake,
Uncle Leo & i
smoked cigarettes
together
in the Croswell Funeral Home
basement,

Leo's face;drawn out,
blank,quiet
& listless
as he inhaled
Lucky Strike
after Lucky Strike
into his bony
&narrow face,

Leo must've smoked
15 non filtered
cigarettes
to every one of mine,

& it did not phase him,
in fact,he never once
coughed,or uttered
a single word to me,

until,i asked,
"Uncle Leo,
what was my grandfather
like when he was younger?"

Leo leaned forward
from the chair,
& let the slits
of his blue eyes
cut through
the smoke cloud,

"he was the toughest
son-of-a-bitch
i ever knew!" he shouted
"there was not one
person
who could've out drank,
out worked,
out punched,
or out lived Francis!"

& as quickly as he
appeared
to me,
he vanished,

back to his
safe & secure cloud
of smoke,

where each one
of his inhales
sent him
back to his youth
so he could have
at least
one more beer
with his brothers
in South Boston
& Dorchester,

& his cloud of smoke
continued to grow
bigger
& bigger
around our heads,

because,
he had to keep
lighting
more & more
cigarettes,

because,
with each exhale
came the agonizing
reminder
that he was truly
the last one
left.