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"Too Much Smoke" by Pauli Dutton

Too Much Smoke

on our street.

Sound of elephants outside the window.

A brontosaurus steps on the neighbor’s car.

Red flames consume trees.

Inside our house

my husband and I crave air.

The Kindle speaks –

Are you nuts?

Get out of here now!

We run,

abandon the ice cream birthday cake

with its strawberry meringue.

It’s 11 o’ clock Friday night.

I speed 7.2 miles

to the library where I work,

bust open the door with my key.

We boil water for cocoa to heat our hands,

attack cans of chicken soup, past date,

scarf oatmeal cookies leftover

from Tuesday’s party.

My husband snores on the staffroom couch.

I yawn on the floor in front of my computer.

We leave before anyone else turns up.

On the way home smoldering flakes

as large as oak leaves land on the windshield,

a rubber tire rolls by, and a tattooed man

skates backwards down our hill.

We escape to McDonald’s

where we lick chocolate dipped cones

and do summersaults in the parking lot.

I could eat a pony.


Pauli Dutton worked as a librarian for Altadena Library for 30 years, where one of her assignments included the freedom to develop new ideas for programs. One patron’s question, Do you ever have poetry readings? began 12 years of Poetry and Cookies readings and an annual anthology for which she was responsible. She also set up writers’ workshops and a poet laureate program. None of this would have happened without the continued support of the Friends of the Altadena Library. Now retired, she continues to write and has been published in Altadena Literary Review, Altadena Poetry Review, Spectrum, Verse Virtual, Skylark, The Pangolin Review, The Cherita Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Better Than Starbucks, and elsewhere.

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