top of page


When the last smoker
has smoked
the last cigarette
I’m going to miss
that deft,
loose-wristed wave,
the two or three 
quick snaps
they put out their match.
How it flared and died
into a smoky elegy.

the young woman

over there,
lighting up,
just did that
magician’s trick
to conjure my father
from fifty years away.
He takes a deep,
glorious drag, then
looks back down 
at his newspaper
and vanishes
into whatever it is
the dead 
are reading about these days.

—from the Rattle Chapbook Prize winner, Cheap Motels of My Youth

Robert Oppenheimer

“The matchbook, that essential feature of old-style film noir movies, is nearly gone. The newspaper is nearly gone. And my father is long gone. But the gestures, the ancient physical vocabulary of smoking (something to do with your hands!) lives on, just barely, and now and then flares up, igniting a host of memories. Like this one.”

Share this poem to your social media page:

  • Matchbook
bottom of page