by Panos Panagiotopoulos
Don’t bring me cigarettes in prison;
each time I smoke, your face will burst in spirals,
your face will travel through the corridors of Block E,
under dim light and broken eyes, dispersing.
Like your face in spirals, I will disperse under dim lights and broken eyes,
filling the lungs and resting in the veins of all the Block E inmates.
I’ll never be able to keep up with my dreams.
My calves are burning hot as if from running and I wake up
with a twitch in my spine. Don’t bring me cigarettes in prison
because I’ll never be able to keep up with my dreams,
I’ll end up wheezing at the side of an imaginary road, in my sleep,
panting while watching my galloping dreams fading in the distance,
dust and fractals sent flying from their hooves;
my calves will be burning hot as if from running and I’ll wake up,
a twitch in my spine, as my dreams are fading further in the distance.
Your cigarettes in prison, smoke rises, it forms a second ceiling in my cell,
and there I see the same recurring theme, the same mirage or premonition,
a reflection of a dream I used to hold within my arms before that too began to
speed into a fractal vortex. It is the end of the world and everyone knows it.
Television lies no more, politicians lie no more, the world’s greatest concert
since 1985 Live Aid, the end of the world, Queen is on stage,
Freddie’s back from the dead, the end of the world,
singing ‘The Show Must Go On’ minutes before an asteroid collision,
a single voice eight billion souls loud, a fireball splitting the clouds open.
A single voice screaming ‘on with the show’ before incineration.
It’s just an illusion, everything is, the end of the world, but
don’t bring me cigarettes in prison.
Sophia K, cell E12, was a banker thirty years and a Wednesday evening anarchist;
Wednesday night they caught her chalking poetry on
ATMs across Madison Avenue, they caught her chalking alchemy on
billboards and bus stops, charcoal suit and red glasses, looking all serious,
hair in a bun, her hands were white powder and her mouth was
‘girls don’t play with nitroglycerin’.
Ellen S, cell E15, was a supreme court justice and a theorist on divorce,
Saturday they caught her slipping doomsday verses, printed onto cards,
slipping doomsday verses onto cards and into books chosen at random in a
bookstore, ‘girls don’t play with nitroglycerin’ on blank business cards;
we’re irreformable and you should never bring me cigarettes in prison.
The corridors are grey and slippery with hope and lard,
the princesses from fairytales are inmates of Block E and
princes in white horses roam the land of illustrated books,
pointlessly wandering, high towers empty,
Rapunzel and Snow White are playing Liar’s Dice in the yard,
nobody’s winning, nobody cares,
we are a deck of cards composed of queens of spades alone,
we are irreformable, we are alone, the warden shuffles the deck,
each night we sleep in different cells, we find variety in each other’s
personal belongings, exotic combs and different brands of cigarettes,
don’t bring me your cigarettes in prison, your taste will be shared in lips
that went from red to bitter, your smoke will be shaped in princessly tongues
of varied texture and moisture, forming a second ceiling in the cells
that’s what the end of time feels like;
rose petals, red wine and candles leaking onto our palms,
elevated body heat and a lifetime of making love to Billy Idol posters,
the end of time is a Billy Idol slideshow and a prayer that
Billy will come ringing on my bell but it’s always men with pink sweaters.
Don’t bring me cigarettes in prison, they remind me of the moments ‘after’,
the moments ‘after’ when ‘it’s all a mistake, I’m sorry’, those moments ‘after’
when it’s all about blowing smoke to Billy Idol posters.
The lights are dead, the echoes are dead, the corridors are grey and slippery
with lard and trails of ‘no regrets’, it’s impossible to write under a lighter’s flame,
don’t bring me cigarettes in prison, my lighters are dead too, dead by dawn.
There is erotic, romantic, mellow poetry that wants to be written under lighter’s flame but
it’s impossible to write, every word slips into doomsday verse, obscure
metaphors and backwards clocks. Girls who play with nitroglycerin, violent remnants of
a century past, don’t bring me cigarettes in prison,
fill your bags with photographs instead, candid
shots of people having lunch in the park,
faces I have never seen before, women smiling and a man in a suit,
crying, the city lights
and the highway sirens, bring me
the fossilized remains of what lies
beyond the bars that keep the irreformable inside.
The world we imagined and the world you live in,
the world disperses like smoke, spiraling out of polaroids,
under dim light and broken eyes, forming second ceilings,
oracular ceilings, in our cells.