Teal Takayama (2012 Poem In Your Pocket)


by Sue Cowing

more lions
fewer lies

less news
more nudes

fewer stores
more stories

less real estate
more real grassland, woodland, farmland
not for sale

more adagios
fewer finales

fewer celebrities
more wild bees


Sue Cowing writes poetry and fiction for adults and children. She is the author of MY DOG HAS FLIES:POETRY FOR HAWAII'S KIDS, the novel YOU WILL CALL ME DROG, and an anthology of poetry and art, FIRE IN THE SEA. For some more poems, see her website.



by Teal Takayama

The night after his death
I went to bed in silence,
more aware of my body,
aware of every step and movement.
I could feel the action in every
solemn joint. It continued that way
for a while, I felt everything
and it was exhausting.
I’d think of that one time when
we were on the back steps,
another cold night. We were
smoking and watching the smoke
drift away above the bushes,
breathing and watching our breath fade.
Then we’d watch it all, the transient white
separating until it disappeared out
of the range of the weak streetlight.
“The way you can tell the difference,” he said,
“is that breath disappears in two seconds.”
He was right, and so for the rest of the time
I would exhale the condensation
and count it, one, two,
gone. Meanwhile he watched,
the smoke from his cigarette carried
high. Now I think about you every time
I see my breath.
I never felt as strongly as you did,
never understood what you were thinking about
when you just watched.
Years later I still don’t know, I’m still
counting breaths while you watch, somewhere,
smoking. I can see your smoke still rising
into the night, past the bushes,
past the trees, higher. Until
it has disappeared out of the light,
out of the range of my vision.
Until it is just the smoke,
separating from my breath,
rising higher, higher,
one, two, gone.

Teal Takayama is from Pearl City, Hawaiʻi. She studied writing under Lois Ann Yamanaka and attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She currently works on federal policy as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C.

  • Jen

    “Smoke” by Teal Takayama strikes a cord deep within–such truth and such beauty in the simplicity of  a moment observed. I look forward to reading more from this fine poet.

Currently Reading