Brief History of Ashtrays


Don’t you miss them,
plopped on every end table,
coffee table, kitchen table,
tossed like plates of nourishment
in front of every famished smoker?

Smoke up! Smoke ‘em
if you got ‘em. 
Swirled random ashes, 
lipsticked butts, accordioned butts.


My mother switched from Kools
to Trues with the plastic filter
that somehow prevented cancer
or at least provided comfort
in the absence of TV commercials.
Perhaps I misread the warning.


The stolen souvenir from Vegas
after you’ve lost nearly


Cub scout project, gluing stamps
from around the world onto clear glass
because none of us would be going anywhere.

Because everybody smoked.
Because we were dying second-hand.


Flick. Flick. Tap. Tap.


Cigarette burning out,
collapsing into a snake of ash.

Because: kiss on the couch.
Another kiss.


Dumping the soft dirt after a long night,
like sand from the imagined beach.


Stackable. Beanbag. 

In the car between seats.
Spilled out. Side of the road. 
Flashers on. Somebody puking.
Waiting it out. Smoke against metal. 


Butt pots on porches.

Toilet ashtray with ash pun.

Empty skull.

In the office stuck at your desk.
In the office stuck at your desk.
In the office stuck at your desk.


All the clever jokes
migrated to coffee mugs.


In a bar, oh lord, in a bar
smoke and drink,  
twins separated at birth
reunited in fire and water,
water and fire.


Empty-pack crinkle.
Ashtray evidence.

The teacher’s lounge.

Sizzle in toilet, urinal,
flat beer, melted ice.

The waiting.
The bad news.
The good news.
No news.

Light another one.

Sit in the car
in front of her house.
Alone. Smoking.

Maybe she can see the glow.
Maybe she cares.


Orange coiled glow.
Night, vent window
cracked. Sizzle
of making contact.

Comfort of the orange eye.
Ashes. The soft sound
of going out, of being
abandoned, and then
no sound at all.