I loved her once.

Through cigarette smoke she licked,
tonguing cuts and pricks;
"it's dry out," she whispered
but I remember shouts
of figments climbing fences behind us—
she advised me not to turn around
and I found it almost too easy.

Then her mouth split,
lapping up the seams of my bones
to reverberate away the loneliness
that had seeped inside when she was
absently philandering,
and flecks of blue were born
until a sea grew up to swallow down
the walls of fall (she called it autumn)
and spring and wintertime,
but left the summer standing
at our backs.

"Relax," she breathed,
still heaving with the effort
of living lungless after smoke burned them up,
pink flesh decaying, graying
with experience—
I'd long forgotten the taste
of clean kisses,
but I didn't care when she was there,
beckoning my affections haphazardly
between flickers of a butane flame.

Through it all I wondered
how encumbered she must be inside
that cloudy shroud of nicotine
eating up her impulses with the promise
of hands that wouldn't shake
if she took another drag.

And then one day she vanished;
empty sheets sterilized,
bed remade before she faded
because we always knew what would happen
eventually,
her vice would set a price we couldn't' meet
and she would die.

But I loved her once, regardless.