HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

Karen Ocana

                                                                                                                                                                            Dear one, 

Have you ever wondered which came first,

the poem or the letter? 

                                                                                                                                                                            I cycle to the canal to meet you —

you, who still smoke half a packet a day;

(We met at a poetry reading five years ago

among books and fine speakers with so much to say.)

                                                                                                                                                                            We saunter and speak but rarely in iambics

more rarely still in swishy hexameters

at best in blank verse, citing common parame-

ters, our aches and our nagging pains emblems 

of the strained life we lead in a metropolis,

with deaths in the thousands from

this novel coronavirus;

How the people we love we don’t see anymore

How friends have left and we’re tempted to flee

How chain-smoking was only recently banished

When ‘twas once the source of grace notes such as 

            these:

                                                                                                                                                                             Du feu s’il-vous-plait

             Haben Sie Feuer, bitte

                        Baby won’t you light my, um, cigarette?

                                                                                                                                                                             A writer we both admire once wrote

A poem called How to Quit Smoking

Where Felicity, smitten with Fred

Punches Bob in the gob, I’m just joking.

                                                                                                                                                                            It’s a poem wherein, as you know, the rhythm flows along quite unencumbered by rhyme scheme, in no way or shape bending to preconceived pattern, balanced on the triple knife edge of pathos, irony and delirium, along which it tiptoes acrobatically, following lyric chords strung invisibly like tight-ropes within our cerebral cortex, upon which stories of love and loss leap and pirouette…

                                                                                                                                                                            leaving me breathless,

              speechless

with visions of a simile

                          (Go ahead and blame the pox of romantic cigarette advertisements if you will)

                                                                                                                                                                          “… like the smoky whorls issuing from the rosebud of your dreamy lips…” 

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