Cancer Sticks and Party Tricks

When I turned eight years old,
My mother hired a magician
Because the clown from years before
Had died of lung cancer.

My friends and I saw card tricks
And were amazed for a time,
But the “ooh’s and ahh’s” didn’t compare
to the echo of laughter from years before.

Before I knew it, the show was over.
I celebrated the rest of my birthdays
with friends and families, over cake,
Ice cream, and the occasional giggle.

My parents had smoked, and so did I.
Over the years I felt it coat my lungs,
Like how a clown’s spit coats the inside
Of a freshly made balloon animal.

At thirty-seven I got lung cancer.

I can see my wife lecturing me
On the awful effects of smoking.
I, ever-nodding in my own little world,
Plan my daughter’s next birthday.

I look at my wife and ask,
“Who’s a good clown these days?”
From my hospital bed, I ask myself,
“Who’s the clown now?”

by Josh Glasson

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