Not a candy cigarette she smokes,
young girl holding between tokes,
at shaded playground park defending
the right to tobacco puff, not intending
to be caught , underage against the rage
of smoke filled adults, education sage,
that preaches bad habits, but teaches
by bad example, gives her lessons, reaches
for the soul to keep her in position,
and out of integrity, implying omission
from hot fire inhalation, thinking others degrade,
why can’t she?
She’s been smoking for months,
under bushes and trees, with flies and moths,
away from hated adult supervision,
to test her skills against their old superstition
and beliefs about “innocent” kids behavior,
she’s not waiting for some kind of savior.
Scary adult manipulation threatened
her foundation, creating a world weakened
by lies and truths gone awry,
hiding from trouble lurking, dark help exemplify…..
This amazing photo titled “Candy Cigarette” was taken by Sally Mann in 1989. When I first saw this photograph, a few months ago, I was moved by the pure emotion and intensity of the girl. She seemed defiant and entrenched in feelings about herself and her right to smoke a single cigarette during some free time in a park or playground. The carefree atmosphere of the playground is pronounced by a close playmate near her and another on a ladder. She stands out among her friends, so it seems, as she smokes away, staring down the photographer as if her peaceful retreat had been disturbed. I was moved to write a poem about the photo and titled it, “Not a Candy Cigarette”.
Sally Mann is an award winning American photographer. Time Magazine named her “America’s Best Photographer” in 2001. She has permanent collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and many others. Check out her many other photos in online galleries showing her work.