There were some comments made about the Diane Arbus photo
I posted titled Two Women at the Automat and the fact that they
both had cigarettes in their hands, a rare thing today. Fortunately,
smoking is not the fashion rage it once was. I loved "smoking"
candy cigarettes when I was about five. They came in those cute
little real cigarette style boxes. I had all the sexy, glamorous hand
motions down to a tee, which made my grandmother extremely
mad. I'll have to confess I did smoke my first cigar last year, one
of those cute little Irish Cream numbers, just for fun, of course.
Some of the most romantic movie scenes are built around the
lighting of cigarettes. Two that immediately come to mind are Bette
Davis and Paul Henreid in Now Voyager and Roger Livesey and
Wendy Hiller in I Know Where I'm Going. I love when Livesey and
Hiller stretch out the windows for a light and their hands accidentally
touch. Sigh. How fun is Gloria Swanson's quirky finger cigarette
holder in Sunset Boulevard? ((Max!!)) And I adore the easy going
Joseph Cotten puffing his enchanting trade mark smoke rings in each
of his films. But, putting all the glamor aside, it is quite sad that many
of these stars, as well as those we knew who were smokers of that
generation, had their lives diminished by so many years as a result.
I am very happy to say that I never picked up the habit, glamor or not.
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 ones, 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.
"The Best Cigarette"
Sailing Alone Around the Room