The Way That Glass is Made

by Layn Palmer (Univ. of Mount Union)

Honorable Mention

The original cigarette was not my own.

Night air stung my eyes as

nicotine burnt and smoked from a single glowing point

down my throat

like a testament of just how fragile I am.


Fragile like the murky, mirrored windows on Sixth Street’s tobacco-store front where I go to buy more.

Inside there are large boxes

for the do-it-yourselfers

and new age e-cigs

and of course the old-fashioned packs

that sit behind a counter display of colorful lighters,

arranged enticingly like peacock feathers.



A woman wearing a gray shirt,

sporting a gray ponytail,

showcasing pale spotted skin,

stands behind the counter

where there is a half-eaten Crunchwrap beside the register and asks

if she can help me

and I shake my head no.


She asks if I have my I.D.

and I reach for the plastic card,

of course I have it, do I look like a fool,

and hand it to her.


She smiles as she hands it back

because I’m six three, haven’t shaved in weeks

and she knew damn well I am at least eighteen,

and her smile is like how my dad laughs at

that one time he accidentally killed two

groundhogs with one shot while out hunting.  


The door behind me opens and dings

as a man in dark blue clothes with frayed black hair

and leathery skin comes in.

His eyes from behind wide rimmed glasses flicker over to mine

and I look down at the floor.


He orders six packs of Dorals.


He stands at the register so near to me

but it is as though we are on different sides of those murky glass windows.

Through that imagined barrier I see him flash—

like tail lights on a car I’m following too closely—

so I turn and leave the store,

because even though the world outside is eye-stinging cold,

I know that fragile glass

will never harden

until it leaves its flame behind.