WHISTLING SHADE

'Lancelot and Guinevere' by Herbert Draper

Vice

by Matthew P. Gallant
  
There are no cigar cutters in St. Paul, MN.
I know this because I scoured
the downtown that week looking
to replace the one airport security
confiscated before flying there.

What a wondrous city! I heard it
compared that week to Boston,
Epcot and to the models of upstart
architecture firms that sour general
contractors with blueprints too dreamy
for their hard-hats.

The first cigar I smoked here,
I borrowed scissors from the concierge
to clip the tip, and was left
with piece-leaf on lips
that rapidly unraveled as it burned,
a gritty flower.

So for the second, I sawed off the end
with a white plastic baby-teeth
serrated butter knife, truly meant
only for soggy vegetables.

Desperate now, I lopped off the end
of the third with my teeth and learned
the reason why that only works on TV.

St. Paul is an old fashioned city
of elegance and selfless reserve.
I have never known lovelier wind,
but their downtown shop-keeps
need to learn that a cigar cutter
is the mechanism that cuts
the cigar and not the cigar itself!

It is opposed razor blades held
in a finger-looped sleeve that
guillotines tight-rolled tobacco leaves
from both ends.

St. Paul, I was just a man seeking
circumcision for a vice.
I wanted to make a dirty habit
as neat as it could be.

Keep the smoke white and the ashes
grey and smell it more on the hand
that held it than the mouth that
invited it in and then kicked it out,
that week's most indecisive party,
my one-man cipher that kept falling apart.

St. Paul, when I first saw your skywalks,
I felt a twinge in my step.
Evening cigar meditations were not even
on my mind. Just movieplex notions
of traversing the soil without ever
touching it.