Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate June 2001

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"Smoking" a poem by Elton Glaser, is an explicit illustration of words describing every aspect of smoking. The poem has an ironic twist, beginning with the pleasures of smoking and then subtly downsliding to a fate of grueling death.

The poet uses lines such as "the cool heft of it, dull metal on the palm," and "the click, the hiss, the spark, fuming into flame," to describe a fascination with lighting up a cigarette. "Boldface of fire, the rage and sway of it, raw blue at the base" gives details of the luring, burning cigarette. His senses come alive and a feeling of sheer pleasure overcomes him as he draws the smoke deep into his lungs.

All too soon the pleasing light becomes the light of darkness. The smoker's lungs once pink and healthy are now filled with poison and coated with a black crust. The heartbeat has slowed its pace and breathing is a difficult wheezing effort.

The last two lines are morbid and bleak. The agony and suffering of a smoker's slow death has finally come to an end and he now rides still in a hearse drawn through the streets of London on a dark and foggy winter day.

This poem would be an excellent reading for "Smoke Out Day" but it is not one I would choose to read for enjoyment. Although it does shed light on the hazards of smoking, I would much rather read poetry that creates a cheerful feeling.