I’ve heard tell of those who rolled cigars
in Havana and how they would choose one
to read each day, the others making up his
share of the quota so they could hear stories
that took them beyond the little rooms where
they rolled leaves for the pleasure of others.
I live in a town built on the stories of those
same leaves. Tonight, in one of the rooms
where they stacked and sold tobacco, I cooked
dinner for those who had stories of their own
to share with one another. And I brought
leaves of my own—basil, fresh and verdant.
I gently pinched to stem off each leaf, and,
as I was taught by those who told me kitchen
stories, I stacked the leaves and rolled them,
much like the Cubans, I suppose, and then
sliced across my herb cigar, letting the leaves
fall in tender strips as the blade rocked
back and forth, releasing the fresh smell of
sunshine and friendship. Even on the drive
home, my hands carried the aroma, the
smell almost indelibly infused into the
crevasses of my fingerprints. I breathed
the story in once more, and then exhaled.