When you were there, did you happen to notice if the hospital still had those cigarette lighters (with heating coils) attached to the walls?
Jennifer, of Cherokee State Hospital


by Karl Plank

Out in the hall you will see a cigarette lighter,
flame-free,  mounted on the wall in a small
rectangle, with a coil that gets hot.

This is an improvement and we feel
a necessary accommodation.

Surely you will agree.

Here they come, in single file, or in groups
of two or three. They must be patient, wait
their turn.

You will notice how the nose scabs
and bubbles, blisters red or blackens
after the coil’s constant use.

As one case said, smokes are smokes,
but what impresses is the need,
how urgently, yes urgently, they draw

near for a light.



Karl Plank teaches and writes at Davidson College where he is the Cannon Professor of Religion. His chapbook Boss is forthcoming from Red Bird Press (2017). Recent poems have appeared in Notre Dame Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, New Madrid, Zone 3, and Spiritus, among other publications.

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