“Poison in Every Puff” by Thomas Mixon

Thomas Mixon


You can quit.
We can help.
Times are bad,
but what else
is new? You
clue us in,
with each breath,
to what more
we must do.
We failed you.
We want you
strong and full
of vim. Life
gasps, and veers
off the road
when you suck
in the smoke.
We suck, we
have let you
down, got you
hooked, raised tax
on your vice,
blew the dough
on false threats,
big flags, grabbed
land and now
stand with signs,
small, to stamp
on your grave
stones, your soot
sticks, your kind,
while you die.
Who was it
who said fate
is the same
as a hill
built by ants?
Was hope part
of the quote?
That’s one more
thing that goes,
your mind. Some
types of fumes
are wrong, some
less so. Firms
pay a fine
to shoot gas
way up high.
We must be
stern with you.
We gave you
goals you lit
with a match.
If you choose
to kiss flames,
we will boost
the font, words
so big no
one will see
your gaunt face,
your cheeks stuck
next to text.
We will taunt
you to raise
your mood. There
is no phrase
we won’t use.
Why waste time
and ask whose
fault this is?
We aimed too
high, grand schemes
that dropped out
of the sky,
like fire ants
at the peak
of a vent
that coughed, burst
from fixed screens
while the clock
tick tocked. Shame
is the last
chance we have.
Your charred lungs
are not clean.
We don’t aim
to be mean,
but it is
all the same.
If it works.

from Poets Respond
June 4, 2023


Thomas Mixon: “The title and first two lines of this poem come from the warnings that Canada will soon be printing not only on boxes, but on individual cigarettes. I lost a set a grandparents to Big Tobacco and am in favor of anything that can help people quit. But I don’t think anything could’ve made them stop. When I was in 3rd grade, I wrote that what I wanted most for Christmas was for everyone in the world to stop smoking, and if they didn’t I would make them. My younger self would have loved these warnings, but now it just makes me sad.” (web)

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