Claudia Rankine


My grandmother tells me that since the doctor told
her to stay away from cigarettes she now smokes
the longest ones she can find. Actually she
continues to smoke a pack of Marlboro a day. I tell
her Philip Morris is thinking of changing their
name to Altria. From behind a screen of smoke my
grandmother says, We should all change our names
when we don’t like what we see in the mirror. It’s
an easy way to distance the self from the self, I say
for the conversation’s sake. She and I sit outside in
the sun during the dead of winter smoking
cigarettes, chewing gum and watching the cars go
by. Sitting here, chewing Juicy Fruit until the taste
evaporates, makes me think of the last line of the
movie Secrets and Lies: “This is the life.”

On the bus two women argue...
A friend tells me this story...
When I remember this story...
My grandmother is in a nursing home...

© 2005 Electronic Poetry Review