Lyrics on Cyanide

By Alex Bragg

My bread sits unused and stale on the kitchen counter. There’s one cheap beer left in the fridge. A pile of cigarette butts cast in the far left corner of my yard resembles a hundred tiny broken bird bones, bent and crumpled, smelling only the way that a burned object can. I add to the pile daily. The ashes underneath the pile of bones decompose much faster, abandoning their partners; they drift aimlessly into the air. Cigarettes are destined to be exploited.

As predecessors, the tobacco plants grow sensibly from seeds and sit in neat rows in a greenhouse somewhere south of here. They reach achingly towards the windows, desiring the photosynthetic life they absorb each day. Each seed is grown to be cut and dried and burned into nothing. No greater purpose, their lives led to be destroyed. Once they are matured and dried we build them into cigarettes. We add the cat piss. And the tar. And the cyanide. Your neighbor, your father, your barber, your dog groomer; they all smoke. I smoke to quell the nausea, to soften the blows we each have coming today, the gradual drying out of our insides, the hits that infuse our organs and our minds and our hearts with a slow-acting dose hemlock. We’re all burning alive somehow, faster and faster and faster from the first breath of air we breathe up to the last cup of coffee we suck down as addicts. Then the local bus will run a few of us down like bleary-eyed jackrabbits on an empty stretch of asphalt. Our bones will break and they will fold and stink of smoke. Our skin will stretch into messy pleats like a defective Origami swan, and our livers will reek of Jack Daniels when they peel us in pieces off the road.

American Spirits, Marlboro Seventy-Twos, Ultra-lights and Virginian Slims, Camel Crushes, Newport Reds, and Black and Mild Cigars line the shelves of gas stations across the country. Our self-induced comas lead us through life, laced with the same cat piss, made to help us escape our surroundings and to break our bodies in an instant. I gave up on my lucky one. Inverting the first, single cigarette in a new pack takes about four seconds, and all for the sake of superstition. The one ‘lucky’ doesn’t do anything but waste time. I could have been at least four seconds closer every day to that pile of ash and bones, closer to the escape from here and the step towards the edge. I’d be much, much closer if I hadn’t tried to be so lucky all these years.

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Categories: Essay, Issue 4 | Leave a comment

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