I’d light a cigarette,
cup my hand around it. The cool sound
of the match strike, the dying traffic.
My father and I sat on our stoop in Queens
and talked and smoked.
Sometimes we said nothing. We stared out
at the blue and yellow stars, our arms bare.
Sometimes, elbows on our knees, we swatted
fireflies drawn by our slight ash and fire. For hours,
we listened to the croon of the buzzing street light, as the flowers,
pink umbrellas of our mimosa, bowed and closed.
Our smoke puffs rose, circling the amber moon. We flicked
embers out on our lawn. His history. My tomorrows.
Paula Brancato is a filmmaker and poet on faculty at University of Southern California and
Stonybrook Southampton. Her films have won the Karlovy Vary and Angelcity film festivals and the
Organization of Black Screenwriters, SCIFF Family Focus and WINFEMME awards. She has twice
been a Sundance finalist. Paula is the recipient of the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Prize for Poetry,
the Brushfire Poet Award, and first prize from the Chester H. Jones Foundation. She has been
published by Mudfish, Bomb Magazine, and Harvard Press, among others. She earned her MBA from
Harvard Business School and is a graduate of Los Angeles Film School and Hunter College.
by Paula C. Brancato