Eating Our Words

They ought to float
Away like cigarette smoke
To contaminate someone else’s curtains.
But they don’t.
They hover over our heads
Like filthy haloes.
Everything we think
Comes under their cloud.

How can we disperse them?
They suffuse our clothes
Like tobacco odors. Turn our fingers
The color of dying chrysanthemums.

We shout them even louder
To speed them away
Out of our mouths.
But they fly back
Insistently as silver planes
Disgorging their terrible cargo
Just when we are feeling happy
And carefree as civilians.

They know their rightful place
Spreading into our lungs like cancer
Infiltrating every future conversation,
Causing our hearts to fail.

If we try to write them off
The paper chars and smokes
Before we can seal the envelope
And mail them back
To the land we emigrated from.


Joan Colby is an award-winning author with over 900 poems published in journals including Poetry, Atlanta Review, GSU Review, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Karamu, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, Mid-American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Kansas Quarterly, The Hollins Critic, Minnesota Review, Western Humanities Review, College English, Another Chicago Magazine and others.

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