Thursday, July 22, 2010

Naming The Undeniable

some need is in me
struggling to roar through my
mouth into a name...
Lucille Clifton

She beckons every few hours --
an urge, a whirl of smoke
scenting the terrace.

Lightly pencilled in, her languid shape
evokes the ghost
of Carmen swirling her skirts
from one side to the other,
smoker to quitter
and round again.

Her smile flares, each corner
stealing its red allure
from the toreador's cape.

You cannot resist
her song of pleasure
as she turns
and throws a blossom of embers,
this hot bird-of paradise
flying from her hand
to your showered feet
gleaming on the door sill.

If you step down
reaching for that token,
her menthol hem
snagged on your tongue,
I will not blame
or love you less
as a man --
but understand how
I am drawn to you.

It's not flirtation
rolled up in bedsheets
or Roman shades
when the sun arrives;
but a desire inhaled
and matured to a passion
I do not wish to curb
or watch dissipate
like the ache
of prayer bells
numbing slowly into twilight.

This poem, based on Marie-France's beautiful picture, " Carmen à la rose ", studies temptation and addiction. The female speaker addresses her husband's cigarette habit and its haunting effects. She personifies the temptation to smoke as Bizet's Carmen, the gypsy girl who seduced men with her wanton charm and dangerous smile.

The wife knows her partner has tried to quit but is always lured back by the seductive scent of tobacco. She envisions this temptress dancing on the terrace, calling her husband outside to indulge in the splendor, to become stimulated by a token tossed at his feet, that "blossom of embers", that treasured flower of menthol and nicotine.

And as she reflects on this influence, she realizes no blame should be issued toward the man or no love lessened because of his need to smoke. It's intense, addictive and very much like the need she has for him. Her own affection is rooted in a sacred passion to belong to him, to feel the hunger and dependency that deep emotion can command. In fact, she concludes that she has inhaled this desire for him and never wishes for its ache or joy to dissipate like the poignant echo of prayer bells fading in the twilight.

To see more of Marie-France's beautiful artwork, please visit her gallery at

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