When I smoke of my own volition,
my grandfather stands behind me—
his brittle palms on my shoulders,
birthing a scene I will never witness.
Through each rasp he swings his arms,
cutting air in dry arcs, with his poison so tender
that I can’t grasp how my father
could resist such a performance.
And how I, at the ripe age
of carefree, manage a sighing surrender
under the weight of our history.
I have half my father’s years,
but twice my father’s fears in my follicles.
His first job he cut his hand for three dollars and sixty jiffies,
still his boss wouldn’t sweat the damage.
Heal with it, he said.
In New York, Dad couldn’t read
but spoke a sentence the length
of his strides across the desert highway.
“Window seat, no-smoking.”
Even then, on a plane with no money
nicotine had its price.
Yet I’ve the entire English language at my disposal
and still no vocal chords.
Porcelain I’s dotted neat spill from my teeth,
I speak white
—beneath, my R’s are rolled,
my thighs are pulled pork; I can’t coagulate.
Only smoke puts my Indian knees at ease; I’m short of death,
Searching for words in this foreign tongue and ancestral breath.
Jenzo Fernando DuQue is an undergraduate majoring in English with a specialization in graphic narratives and minoring in Cinema Studies. Born and raised in Chicago, DuQue is currently writing his BA thesis, a fictional piece about the parallels between national history and personal history through the experiences of a Colombian family before and after they immigrate to the United States. He intends to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing after getting his undergraduate degree. Read more of his work at jenzoduque.weebly.com.