ちさ by Stephen J. Golds

ちさ

Since that time,

I’ve been using a lot of disposable lighters. 

The colorful, cheap kind 

you can pick up easily almost anywhere.

They burn bright and hot but gas out quick.

That’s okay because they weren’t meant to last.  

Things like that never really are. 

But today, for the first time in a long time 

I refilled the sterling silver Zippo 

she gifted me on my birthday. 

Running my thumb over the inscription 

etched across its dulled surface 

those fragments of words 

I always said to her. 

Sparking a flame, 

triggering those old movie reels — 

those burning images tattooed 

into the dulled surface of myself —

I’d been avoiding using the Zippo 

for those very reasons. 

Every time I lit up a cigarette — a reminder 

someone beautiful

had loved me brightly once 

but no longer did. 

Extinguished. Smothered out. 

A Memento Mori that 

I was a 

piece of shit. 

But on my lunch break, 

standing in a parking garage, 

watching November rain fall grey and black, 

lighting a cigarette, 

my thumb against those cursive letters again 

I realized those were my 

words etched on the Zippo. 

Not hers. 

She’d never uttered them. 

It was as though awoken at 3:35 a.m. 

holding something in my hands 

that my fractured mind had 

glued together and 

painted over the broken, uglier parts of. 

But knowing that truth 

and knowing still

no matter who I’m with or 

no matter where I am or how old, 

every time 

I hear a door slammed shut 

I will whisper her name in my head. 

And accepting that, finally, 

I gave this poem 

her name because 

these are the very last words 

I will ever give to her 

that will go 

unrequited.