We loiter in the cobblestone alley, Beans, Clams, Yom-Yom and me, smoking punk. Snip the wiry stem, trim the nubby end, scratch fire from a zipper then pass the stink around. William Penn designed these blocks squared off, brick, crosshatched by alleys to prevent the spread of fire. So fire runs down my throat, reed turning to iron inside my lungs. Yom-Yom has an uncle in Bucks County. Country boys sneak behind barns and puff on cedar bark. Smoke’s the only thing we have in common. Smoke when our breath meets cold moist air, though no smoke rings in winter, while sullen cars drag gray on gray down city streets or country roads. Someday I’ll smoke Camels, my father’s brand, then Gauloises to prove I’m stronger than him in burning whatever’s inside that won’t sleep.
Excerpted from Chinese Apples by W. S. Di Piero Copyright © 2007 by W. S. DiPiero. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.