Fumes

by Jeffrey Beck Issue: Spring 2015
He clopped chore-boots through desert
forty years, smoking Camels, butting

dead ones in tin foil and jar lids,
choking the ashes’ smoldering,

scowling at dunes, scanting the sun,
spitting and coughing with a snarl,

but the day the old man died he took
up his pipe and became a steamship,

stoking his cherry furnace, black
fringed and black tipped, poised

in a ringed stand beside another,
walnut brown, and a crush of tins

and pouches: Prince Albert, John Bull,
Sir Walter Raleigh, all admirals

scudding fume oceans, charting
for the Old World: the cherry smoke

chugging, puffing, hazing the room
with its incense, the rings billowing,

lifting, bending, lingering like wreathes,
drifting like cloud wisps, breaking slow.


Jeffrey Beck is the recent winner of the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award, honorable mention winner of the Frank O'Hara Poetry Prize, and finalist in the Naugatuck River Review poetry award. His poetry has been published or will be published in Miramar, Worcester Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, I-70 Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and other journals. The author of four books of prose, he is at work on his first book of poetry, Travel Kit for Odyssey.