By Hannah Lowe

My parents taught me smoking. The midnight nip
to the Esso garage for twenty Players,
the kitchen-table vigil, lighting one tip
from another, then another. No matches or lighter?
They bent to the cooker’s flame. No credit, no cash?
My dad would search the bin to twist tobacco
from dog-ends, squeeze it, suck it in. Or flush?
They’d pile nine, ten black boxes on the bureau –

small coffins in a stack. Stained walls, grey fug,
the constant tweezering of fags, that plug
between the lips. It took me years to stop.
Though still some lonely nights I spark one up
and that red light in the darkness leads me back
to where they’re waiting, holding out the pack.


Hannah Lowe, from The Kids (Bloodaxe Books, 2021).