Of all the love poems I have read, there’s none like this — about a cigarette. A cigarette glowing in the ashtray makes the poet think of his lover, who left it there. Watching the smoke rising from the smouldering cigarette, the poet visualizes his lover: “You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips.”
Smoking used to be considered a pleasure once upon a time, even sophisticated and sexy. Hollywood stars like Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall and Ava Gardner could be seen smoking in films. Here’s Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s with a long cigarette holder.
Back to the poem.
By Edwin Morgan
No smoke without you, my fire.
After you left,
your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray
and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey
I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal
of so much love. One cigarette
in the non-smoker’s tray.
As the last spire
trembles up, a sudden draught
blows it winding into my face.
Is it smell, is it taste?
You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips,
Out with the light.
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I’ll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss.
This is the first poem I have read by the Scottish poet Edwin Morgan (April 27, 1920 – August 17, 2010). It appears in Penguin’s Poems For Love, published in 2009, a year before his death.