Smoking poetry

Friday 29th June 2012

SOON be off to Ledbury for the annual Poetry Festival: three gigs, including one early on Sunday morning, under the Market House. As this will be in the open air, I wonder if I dare light up before reading this:

Nothing captures the relationship between death and tax
Quite like these fascinating, best-selling packs,
To which, I’ll admit, I am terribly addicted
Although, when I started, nobody could have predicted
The lengths to which the government would go
To warn us of the consequences, painful and slow
And send us outside to smoke in the rain
Which is fine by me, though they never quite explain
The need for the absolutism of the phrase Smoking Kills
When you can just as easily die from a handful of pills
And while I’d agree that smoking damages one’s health
Just as many smokers die from something else.

I think therefore these warnings are in need of revising
Unless of course it’s nothing more than advertising
Which leads me to conclude with unquestioning conviction
That these labels may fall foul of the Trade Descriptions Act
Because smoking cigarettes does not in fact
Guarantee my death today or tomorrow
Making the Smoking Kills claim sound somewhat hollow.

I shall therefore exercise my consumer rights
By popping into Tesco, buying 20 Marlboro Lights
And if I’m still alive when I’ve smoked the whole pack
I’ll complain to the manager and get my money back.

Which leads me on to this short poem
From the era of Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen
It was written by the Unknown Soldier
A lad of seventeen or a little bit older
Looking out from his cell in some remote French chateau
On the unreal scene in the courtyard below:

Left right left right boots crunch snow
Man in chains is moving slow
Up to post of solid wood
Has declined to wear a hood
Has been granted last request
Smokes a final cigarette
Orders given rifles cocked
He smokes; they fire; body drops
Corp’ral checks for signs of life
Needing not the stand-by knife
“He’s dead, Sarge; he’s gone; he’s coughed
That last fag must have finished him off.”







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One Response to Smoking poetry

  1. Tom Pride says:


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