A burning wand wafts in plumes to be exhaled
in volcanic rush, smoke erupting from nostrils,
as if out of vents in the earth, only a devil’s dream.

Unrepentant, gathered down alleys to blow smoke
each other’s way: each cigarette marks time, ground
out like a coffin nail hammered to a coffin lid.

Each is weighty, a stoned idol, smoke issuing
from the mouth as swirls cast forth, containing
curative properties, powers to raise the dead.

Light my fire, give me a puff, and then burn
down the main drag: for the space of a smoke,
he was wheeling his helix towards eternity.

He smoked the Book of Genesis through prison,
page by page, and aimed a forefinger and thumb,
bang, bang, at the guards the length of his days.

He resembled a blackened smokestack city,
gritty of speech, burning tobacco at midnight,
in gardens of pleasure, till old with taste of ashes.

His smile crooked as a broke-down castle, he smoked
at warnings, the blighted gums and teeth on the pack,
his lower inside lip forever tattooed with Ake! Ake!


David Eggleton is a poet and writer and critic based in Dunedin Ōtepoti. His most recent poetry collection is The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, published by Otago University Press in May 2021. He is the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2019 – 2022.