Small Pleasures

A pinch nestles
in the chamber
air between leaves

A light tamp
another pinch
thumb seals aroma

A little murmur
fingers fumble
the match strikes

the flame dances
tobacco crackles

Lips pleasured
the senior draws
pipe long as arm

A mouthful taste
before release;
she builds clouds

Another puff, stare
unblinking into the
Indian Ocean

note: The poem is in response to the Midweek Motif at Poets United. Pipe smoking ritual in Xhosa culture is practiced by elders of both sexes. The practice is deemed a way of communicating with the ancestors, and less about addiction to smoking.


  1. The ancient rituals around smoking are interesting. I remember a Native American telling me that many of the important things in life are invisible, and the pipe smoke makes prayers manifest. I never forget that. Lovely poem, Khaya.

  2. A lovely sense of anticipation slowly builds throughout the poem as the ritual of the pipe are lit and shared. This reads so well – a mini-poem story which I didn’t want to end.

  3. We lived in Zimbabwe for five years and underwent a crash course in Ndebele. In that class, we were told about the Xhosa tribe (the pipe smoking people who are also known for their face painting and “click language”, like Ndebele.
    Very interesting poem, Khaya! Glad I didn’t miss it. Thank you…

    1. How interesting that you lived in Zimbabwe, Panchali! I bet you have lots of stories to tell about the experience. Thank you to you too for reading. You put a smile on my face because that “click language” is my language and the Xhosa tribe are my people. 🙂

  4. Perhaps the old ones smoked in moderation as an ancient ritual rather than as an obsessive habit? It is a pity it was commercialised and exploited for profit.

  5. It is interesting how many cultures include tobacco in their cultural and traditional practices, especially as a means of communicating with spirits, or ancestors. I loved this poem!

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