Once, when I respected my elders
a tobacconist was really someone
I could look up to.
Parting with my hair ruffled,
one fist clenched about my change,
a fragrant foil-wrapped block
or a sweet-smelling pouch
in my other hand, forfeiting
an Airfix kit for a duty performed.
Years passed, my gifts grew more
elaborate, English cigarettes
ferried home from France:
HM Customs let it pass,
their one concern, their failure,
that I smoke them myself.
Here, now a respirator breathes
through the dog end
of my still smouldering mother.
She speaks with egg-white eyes
and impermanent marks on a dry-wipe slate.
‘I’m frightened,’ she scratches out;
I know, I tell her, I know.
Her passing is unexceptional, though,
no need for public enquiry.
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