I saw a man walk past today
a man in a long black coat
looking dignified,
the way he did when I saw him about a year ago.

I stood outside a building, smoking as I waited
for the time to come to step inside for class

He slowed as he approached me,
it looked as though he might need directions.
When I asked if I could help,
he was slow to respond.

He told me in a soft, thickly-accented voice,
in a way that made me think he wanted to touch me,
that smoking causes emphysema
and is very bad for the heart.
He had been able to quit after twenty years, so it should be easy for me.

I was bothered by the lecture,
but more annoyed that he said nothing to answer my question
about whether or not he was lost.

I’ve seen him around from time to time since then.
Each time I fought the urge to stop him, tell him
I quit smoking.

Today, when he passed, I saw in his hand
the flimsy burning stub
a thin trail of smoke floating up from his path.

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