so here’s a kind of eulogy to my days of smoking. a dreamy boy and a perfect sky. some billy collins brilliance (thought i’d post this again, since it’s kind of the perfect farewell to this love affair), and a few more (deceptively) glam images …
There are many that I miss having sent my last one out a car window sparking along the road one night, years ago.
The heralded one, of course: after sex, the two glowing tips now the lights of a single ship; at the end of a long dinner with more wine to come and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier; or on a white beach, holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.
How bittersweet these punctuations of flame and gesture; but the best were on those mornings when I would have a little something going in the typewriter, the sun bright in the windows, maybe some Berlioz on in the background. I would go into the kitchen for coffee and on the way back to the page, curled in its roller, I would light one up and feel its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.
Then I would be my own locomotive, trailing behind me as I returned to work little puffs of smoke, indicators of progress, signs of industry and thought, the signal that told the nineteenth century it was moving forward. That was the best cigarette, when I would steam into the study full of vaporous hope and stand there, the big headlamp of my face pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.
You are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine. You are the dew on the morning grass and the burning wheel of the sun. You are the white apron of the baker, and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard, the plums on the counter, or the house of cards. And you are certainly not the pine-scented air. There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge, maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head, but you are not even close to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show that you are neither the boots in the corner nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know, speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world, that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star, the evening paper blowing down an alley and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees and the blind woman’s tea cup. But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife. You are still the bread and the knife. You will always be the bread and the knife, not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.
what kills me is the way you lie there in the morning, eyes closed, curled into a sweet ball of sleep and that innocent look on your face when you tell me over coffee and oranges that really you were right there all night next to me in bed and then expect me to believe you were lost in your own dreamworld, some ridiculous alibi involving swimming through clouds to the pealing of bells, a transparent white lie about leaping from a high window ledge…
i am also the moon in the trees and the blind woman’s teacup. but don’t worry, i am not the bread and the knife. you are still the bread and the knife. you will always be the bread and the knife, not to mention the crystal goblet and- somehow- the wine.
if ever there were a spring day so perfect, so uplifted by warm intermittent breeze that made you want to throw open all the windows in the house and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage, indeed, rip the little door from its jamb, a day when the cool brick paths and the garden bursting with peonies seemed so etched in sunlight that you felt like taking a hammer to the glass paperweight on the living room end table, releasing the inhabitants from their snow-covered cottage so they could walk out, holding hands and squinting into this larger dome of blue and white, well, today is just that kind of day.
This morning as I walked along the lakeshore, I fell in love with a wren and later in the day with a mouse the cat had dropped under the dining room table. In the shadows of an autumn evening, I fell for a seamstress still at her machine in the tailor’s window, and later for a bowl of broth, steam rising like smoke from a naval battle. This is the best kind of love, I thought, without recompense, without gifts, or unkind words, without suspicion, or silence on the telephone. The love of the chestnut, the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel. No lust, no slam of the door – the love of the miniature orange tree, the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower, the highway that cuts across Florida. No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor – just a twinge every now and then for the wren who had built her nest on a low branch overhanging the water and for the dead mouse, still dressed in its light brown suit. But my heart is always propped up in a field on its tripod, ready for the next arrow. After I carried the mouse by the tail to a pile of leaves in the woods, I found myself standing at the bathroom sink gazing down affectionately at the soap, so patient and soluble, so at home in its pale green soap dish. I could feel myself falling again as I felt its turning in my wet hands and caught the scent of lavender and stone.
in the middle of the formal gardens, laid out with fastidious symmetry behind the gray stone chateau, right at the center where all the gravel paths lead the eye, at the point where all the hedges and the vivid flower beds converge, is a small rectangular pond with a flagstone edge, and in the center of that pond is a statue of a naked boy holding a jar on one shoulder, and from the mouth of that jar a fine stream of water issues forth night and day. i never for a minute wanted to be nightingale or a skylark or a figure immobilized on the slope of an urn, but when the dogs of trouble have me running down a dark winding alley, i would not mind being that boy- or, if that is not possible, i would choose, like the great Walter Pater, to be one of the large, orange carp that live under the surface of that pond, swimming back and forth all summer long in the watery glitter of sinking coins, resting all winter, barely moving under a smooth, translucent sheet of ice.