Smoke

By Mahon, Derek | Chicago Review, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

Smoke


Mahon, Derek, Chicago Review


Bone-idle, I lie listening to the rain, not tragic now nor yet 'to frenzy bold' - must I stand out in thunder yet again who have thrice come in from the cold? Sold on sobriety, I turn to the idea of nicotine, my opium, hashish, morphine and cocaine, 'Turkish on the left, Virginia on the right', my cigarette a lighthouse in the night. Autumn in Dublin; safe home from New York, I climb as directed to our proper dark, five flights without a lift up to the old gloom we used to love, and the old cold. Head in the clouds but tired of verse, I fold away my wind-harp and my dejection odes and mute the volume on the familiar phone ('... leave your number; speak after the tone') to concentrate on pipe-dreams and smoke-clouds. Skywards smoke from my last Camel rises as elsewhere from our natural resources and the contagious bonfire of the vanities like pillars of cloud. I was with Xenophon in Persia, I was with the conquistadors when first they landed on American shores in search of a trade-route to the Orient and found instead, to their bewilderment, a sot-weed continent in the western ocean.

Now closing-time and the usual commotion, crowds and cars as if to a revolution... Blue in the face behind my veils of smoke I try to recapture pool dreams or evoke aesthetic rapture, images of felicity, the mist on Monet's nebulous nenuphars or the dawn vision of a subsiding city 'rising like water-columns from the sea', everyone crowding to the rail to see the Tiepolo frescoes in the Gesuati, clouds of glory, Elysian yellows and blues. …

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