Picture/Poem: Smoking

"Rita" Collage by Sara Caswell Pearce

“Rita” – A collage created by Sara Caswell-Pearce in response to the poem “Smoking” by Joanne Greenway.


I cannot help but smile
at the memory of my mother
standing at the bathroom mirror,
ripe with red lipstick,
as she smoked a cigarette.
The head tilt, the sidelong glance –
she was flirting with her reflection
as she practiced looking sultry.
Silver screen beauty
framed in graceful plumes.

My cigarettes came in candy form
in a faux Lucky Strike box:
sweet, slender little sticks,
red-tipped at one end.
I wanted to smolder like my mother,
wear open-toed high heels
that made a tock-tock on the sidewalk.
I sneaked real cigarettes in our orchard,
channeling Rita Hayworth, until
my throat closed and my eyes watered.

On the Classic Movies channel
Hayworth still heats up the screen,
exhaling curls of smoke as thick
and sexy as her auburn mane.
Her elegant handling of a cigarette
unmatched to this day.

I gave up smoking long ago,
settling for wholesome over glamorous,
wear only sensible shoes,
noiseless on the pavement.


Poem / Joanne Greenway retired from a 30-year social services career in 2003 and has been writing poetry ever since. She holds a master’s degree in French literature from Indiana University and has been active in the Greater Cincinnati Writers League since 2006. Much of her poetry draws on recent and recovered memories of small-town life. This poem appears in her first chapbook, “Limited Engagement” (Finishing Line Press 2016).

Picture / Sara Caswell-Pearce, “Rita,” 2016. Mixed-media collage with vintage advertisements from the 1940s and ’50s, and recycled paper samples, on cradled hardwood panel. Pearce is a Cincinnati-based journalist, fine artist, graphic designer and printer.

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