Over Coffee,

coughing up hot steam into the winter breeze,
a coroner tells me that living in this valley, breathing in
all this toxic air, does the same damage to a body as chain smoking.

That after forty years of dying, lungs wheezing out years
like a pocket leaks spare change,
when you cut them open, two bodies will look exactly the same.

5 a.m.
three years earlier,
the sunrise painting the room into a crime scene,
my favorite teacher told me, over lukewarm coffee and 69 cent donuts
bought with roadside change,

that people come from hundreds of miles away
to this valley blanketed in poison fog,
this small town in a suicide pact with itself,
to photograph the sunrise and set,
filtered through iron, chlorine and gasoline haze,
because here the horizon burns
so brilliantly.

Maybe together they were trying to tell me in too many words
that the most beautiful things are those
that will kill you
in the end.