Wednesday, 31 May 2017


She has no-one, no kith or kin,
just these four walls that close her in,
in this little space she once called home.

She is all alone waiting for the ring of silent phone
knowing there is no-one at all to call her.  
She pours out a drink and sips at it,
smoke rolled and lit she draws at it, thinks:
These are the only comforts that I have.

She relives the past of times before in letters read,
old photographs and memento's’ tucked in secret draws. 
This is her each and every day. 

She longs for warmth of company,
of laughs and love and idle chat,
of all things that used to be, before emptiness befell her.

She had the pub of course and once night drew near
she would wander there, buy half-a-pint, pull up a chair
and sit amongst the lost and lonely people gathered there. 
And in that noisy smoke-filled air she would become alive again
and belong and share, fill the emptiness of her days.

But now the pub is long demised,
its door long closed to all that once had gathered there,
its smoke-free air as silent as this life of hers. 
She (demonised) had tried of course to smoke outside,
her frail body shivering in the frigid cold. 
But she to old to brave this storm began to stay at home
and all alone she gradually wilted there.

She pours out a drink and sips at it,
smoke rolled and lit she draws at it, thinks:
These are the only comforts that I have.

Anna :o]

Susan at Toads challenges us to write a new poem in which we address our experience (or thoughts) about smoking tobacco.

I had my first cigarette about the age of thirteen.  In reality it was not a cigarette at all, rather my friend Carole and I tightly rolled up strips of newspaper, lit them on a coal fire, inhaled and coughed our guts out.

I am not entirely sure when I had my first real cigarette, I was either sixteen or early seventeen and I do recall it made me dizzy.  However it was considered cool to smoke and I persevered and a smoker I became.  Apart from ceasing when pregnant, I have smoked ever since, some forty-seven to forty-eight years.

Although smokers are now demonised, I am not a demon.  I consider myself a good person and hopefully I am.

I tend to think smoking was banned on public transport several years before the smoking ban in workplaces & public indoor areas in 2007, but this bothered me not, I had no problem with it.

After 2007 I had no problem not smoking in my workplace or restaurants, and if hospitalised could go without smoking for weeks.  Even before then, if a visitor in someone’s house and they were non-smokers; I would excuse myself and go outside to smoke.  I considered and continue to consider other people.

Where I do miss smoking is on a rare visit to a pub.  I admit it; I am not a social animal rather a happy introvert.  But on the rare occasions I meet chums and we go pubbing, which is a social thing, I do object to being demonised and having to go outside for a welcome puff.  I don’t know what it is, but smokers like to smoke when they drink.  I don’t understand why there cannot be smokers’ rooms in pubs or indeed smokers’ pubs.  But of course this cannot be allowed as smokers’ are horrible people and denied basic rights.

What I do remember of these early days, probably 2007-8, (some) non-smokers felt empowered to abuse those of us who did, and to be tut-tutted or verbally abused by those who passed by was not uncommon as we puffed outside pub doors.  Luckily that is long gone.

Pubs, clubs and other (indoor) places of social gathering have suffered since the smoking ban, thousands of these places (especially pubs) have closed their doors, resulting in the loss of jobs of those who worked there and loss of livelihood of those who owned and ran  them. This has had a knock on effect on those for whom pubs were their only social outlet.

An extract from Freedom2choose (pdf);

On the other hand, smokers have complained bitterly about the so-called ‘smoking shelters’ allowed, as they have to be 50% open to the elements. This of course means that, being basically useless as shelters, the elderly and the infirm (smokers) cannot visit the pubs/clubs in colder times. 
The smoking ban has led to a dramatic increase in drinking in the home. Obviously it is impossible to arrive at a definite figure but looking at the decline in customer pub usage against the rapidly rising beer sales at supermarkets it would seem that pre-ban concerns were well placed. One northern police force has indicated that this has resulted in a rapid increase in domestic violence cases – yet another unintended consequence of an overly zealous ban.
Whole communities are now denied a focal point for meeting and socialising as village pub after village pub closes down through lack of custom. Many council estate pubs have closed for similar reasons. Thousands of elderly and infirm members of our society have been isolated throughout the winter months due to the ban. In short, the ban has divided communities nationwide.”

And so it is that communities have suffered from this ban and will continue to do so…  But as said, it impacts on me little, and I will continue to smoke as I like it.

My (across the road) neighbour, although a nice man, is not nice when it comes to smoking, he vehemently opposed to it.  Yet he is quite happy (and conscience free) as he drives his diesel car, fully knowing its exhaust is a Group 1 carcinogen…

Further reading (if you are interested):

Image:  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Author:  Keith Edkins


Susan said...

"emptiness befell her" wow.

I remember telling a shrink that quitting smoking would be losing my last best friend. But when I needed to find $60 more a month to retire, I gave them up. Retirement and poetry are new best friends. But, oh, such Good points in both poem and essay! I'd like smokers to have safe space. But not only as a free speech issue. Since I quit, it bothers me to be surrounded by it which means walking in Center City Philadelphia is almost impossible. Smokers have no place to go. And therefore they are subjected to scorn and abuse and inner violence and, as you point out, violence at home. Now that I am 3 years without smoke and have new vitality, etc, I realize smoking was also violence done to myself, but perhaps that is not true for everyone.

Anonymous said...

I started smoking when I was 23, because it was the thing to do to be socially acceptable. I stopped 7 years ago.

Thotpurge said...

There are still separate spaces in pubs here for smokers...

Sumana Roy said...

I like your perspective that leads to a wonderful poem. The emptiness is extremely palpable.

gillena cox said...

I am not a smoker, but in the No smoking zone of today's prompt, I have to admit your poem is a brash gem

Much love...

gillena cox said...

I am not a smoker, but in the No smoking zone of today's prompt, I have to admit your poem is a brash gem

Much love...

Jae Rose said...

A thought provoking post Hyper - I can relate to her sadness and emptiness..

rallentanda said...

I am an x smoker (20 years now) and am anti smoking.I think you painted the picture of the lonely woman very well.A reinforcement that everyone needs an interior and creative life. Introverts and recluses are very fortunate in being able to sustain their needs through creative activity.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I feel for the lonely woman inyour poem and well understand "these are the only comforts that i have." My son has always smoked like a chimney AND he has cancer. But he also has mental illness and depends on smoking for both nerves and pleasure. I accept that. You have written an interesting piece on smoking, Anna. It is good for non smokers to hear and consider the smoker's point of view. Thank you.

Marja said...

Well written the picture of loneliness A reason to turn to drinking and smoking. I stopped when I was 29 as I wanted children. A good motivation to stop

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

I liked hearing your side of the smoking story. Thank you.

Bekkie Sanchez said...

My mother smoked every day of her life and in her old age would get very bossy about it. My brother and I have never tried to smoke because of her and our father. Growing up they picked us up and we'd get burnt by cigarettes they wouldn't put down first. That, and the constant smoke in our faces was enough to make us hate it and never start. I just think it's sad that a drug can take us over so thoroughly.

Jenny Woolf said...

I never wanted to smoke but I once shared an office with a woman who apparently never stopped. I still remember how stressful it was and actually quite hard to breathe. I was glad to leave that place.

Martin said...

Vaping solves it all! Although there are people who cannot get used to it for reasons unknown to me. But I agree, the anti-smoking policy has become too strict in Europe. Here in Germany each Bundesland has its own regulations concerning pubs; at least some of them allow smoker pubs : )