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FEATURED PIECE:  Cigarettes in the Volkswagen (poem)

As published in the 2013 Santa Fe Literary Review
Reprinted with permission

She found them between the front seats
of her mother’s old VW bug:
two dry husks of cigarettes, long forgotten,

discovered as she dutifully detailed the car –
a teenager’s task – cramming the vacuum
crevice tool into that awkward abyss,

sucking up tarnished pennies and old French fries,
the Volkswagen an accidental time capsule,
the Viceroys evidence of the free spirit

her mother was once, before she became wife,
Mom, perfectionist, tyrant –
maybe even before she became unhappy.

Back then she was just a kid selling records
at the music store on Fourth Street,
listening to Janis Joplin wail and sob on LP,

staying up late, talking and smoking,
making plans as if her ideals could never
be bruised with the blunt force of disappointment,

as if she would never assume
the heavy veil of responsibility,
as if the day would never come when she could love

her unborn daughter enough
to quit for good the carefree nicotine habit,
as if that daughter would never grow up to write

reminiscent poetry labeling her mother tyrannical, unhappy;
the same daughter who took a moment’s pause
from her cleaning chore to pick up those cigarettes –

those tattered testimonials to a long-forgotten innocence –
touching them briefly to her lips in a kiss
before reluctantly letting them go.

© 2013 by Jennifer Phelps

Jennifer Phelps


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