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Day 17

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Back in the Day by PAUL LOJESKI   Back in the day I smoked Pall Malls, unfiltered in the cool red package, when you could still smoke anywhere: on planes, in offices, in supermarkets, even in hospitals. Which I was doing that time of my father’s dying in the cancer hospital, in that bleak world […]

Three Poems by Paul Lojeski


Back in the Day



Back in the day

I smoked Pall Malls,

unfiltered in the cool

red package, when

you could still smoke

anywhere: on

planes, in offices,

in supermarkets,

even in hospitals.

Which I was doing

that time of my father’s

dying in the cancer

hospital, in that bleak

world of last breaths

and deadly waiting

rooms.  I lit one

and inhaled deeply,

sucking in the heat,

the poison, the high

I thought was real

as the organ player

out in the hall began

working the keys

and some cheerfully

annoying tune floated

into the sadness

and suffering, a music

so insultingly wrong

and out of place I felt

like going out there

and busting the thing

up, when he said,

You smoke too much.

I looked over at him,

my father, hooked

up to iv’s and machines,

his yellow skin a pasty

glow in the bright

fluorescent light,

staring straight up

at the ceiling, rigid,

his hands in fists,

looking like he was

trying to hold on

to something.

I said, You’re right.

But I kept on puffing

and puffing, trying

to hold on, too.






And the fields

were laid bare;

that ample,

golden harvest


in moonlight,


of bright flames


a white sky.


broken by

an inexplicable


and madness


in those



crying out

in the gathering




Night Flight



In dream in a battered subway

packed with the beaten

and insane, rattling along


under a burning city like

a refugee train in the Great

War, I was alone and lost.


I wanted a certain destination,

I was sure, but I’d forgotten its name

as the train screamed down


the tracks, roaring past

stations, never stopping until there

were no more platforms,


just the dark, glistening walls

of that dead stone.  Months passed

into years and I grew razor thin


and twisted and my clothes turned

to tatters and I no longer spoke

but grunted guttural sounds


like the others slumped about

on hard benches in that seething

blindness.  And the train sped


on and on through the black,

black tunnel.  And I didn’t care

where it was going.  I didn’t care.


Paul Lojeski’s poetry has appeared in journals and online, including at Counterpunch. He’s also the author of the satiric novel, The Reverend Jimmy Pup.  He lives with his wife and daughter in Port Jefferson, NY.


Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

Poets Basement is now on Facebook. Find us as

To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx or odt files to “.doc”).  Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit Thanks!