At least it keeps me slim, aye hun.
Don’t feel like eating much when
everything tastes like boiled potato.
She watches Mama through the window.
She knows from their visits to the hospital that the death smog
Mama sucks in has already scythed the taste buds on her tongue.
The glass blocks the vapour coiling out of Mama’s nostrils from stinging her eyes
but it doesn’t barrier the sound of Mama’s coughing fits
that rattle as dry as shed snakeskin.
She wonders if the inside of Mama’s nasal canals is as bald as her head.
She drags her eyes from the cobra dance of wispy smoke
to the blue and green magnet on the fridge door.
Tomorrow, Mama will ring the number stamped on it.
She will observe Mama’s shoulders sag as murmurs
of regret and frustration are cried into the phone.
Then will come the ten slow breaths,
prayers to cast out Pestilence and her pale horse.
Mama will strain a crooked smile under the
dried streaks of tears on skin like sallow wallpaper
then crush a dry kiss on her cheek
and announce in forced optimism,
This time, I promise, aye hun.
I won’t stop trying to quit.
After all, no one likes a quitter.