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The Smoke


Snow still sheaths the streets in their mountains,
and the spring trees shudder in the wind off their lakes,
until night’s smoke frames them and fades them
and  finally finally fades them forever and they’re gone…
gone into the smoke of the world.

Smell of her long hair hot in the sun through the windshield,
the rattle of dried corn sheaves shaken by dusk’s breeze,
soft heft of breasts small and sweet as winter oranges,
the breath rising in the dry heat parching her body.
And the fire rose up in me and I stretched her out, O lovely,
across the pale cloth and reached out
and holding held and held until gone
gone into the smoke of the world.

Gone.
Gone fifty years.
The day, the lips, the hair — gone,
gone forever, forever gone,
gone into the gone world…
gone into the smoke of the world.

Above Berkeley’s Old Moe’s bookstore
she loomed over me in the lamplight
as morning seemed forever delayed.
An eastern school took her at dawn,
her name forgotten, her scent and her flesh
remembered so that even now,
on an unknown street here in the west,
I sometimes pass
a woman with that scent and turn
wondering, all these past gone years later,
could that one, that one, that one have been her
in that night when the dawn delayed,
and I woke to find her scent on the pillow
but her body forever gone, gone forever…
gone into the smoke of the world.

They arrive dancing along the blade of night.
They leave fading into the smoke of dawn.
The mists of memory swirl and fold,
and remove their distinct details:
the haiku left behind in old boxes:
“I scrunched up the moon
into my water bucket…”

Did someone say she became a singer
somewhere in California? Judy? Was that,
last innocent love of my youth, her name?

The Christian roommate with tawny hair,
stroking the breasts near the kennels of the barkless dogs.
That musk, that hot breath in the cherry orchards,
the dwarf cattle, that hand closing upon me
so fleetingly and then gone…
gone into the smoke of the world.

The Italian with the moped.
The cowgirl with the blues.
The lapsed Catholic.
The painter with the horse’s face and too-tight jeans.
The chintz shack. The quilt covered table.
The kiss upon my body — Ah and Ah and Ah —
The whispered love in the attic of the San Francisco Mansion —
The poet’s garret on the side street, gray corridors —
The one named after the little deer… Bambi

And then the forest takes a spark
And all the woods are blazing
And ash drifts down over the days
And they are all gone … all gone…
gone into the smoke of the world.

Then the years of the cities and the slim women
wafting out of the night and into the smoky clubs.
The models and the painters and the posers.
Hairdressers, shop girls, debutantes…
and those that loved the literary life.

The mockers and the shockers who kept
mostly cats but sometimes chittering marmots.
The ones who were sneaking around way downtown.
The socialites at the Black and White Ball
who needed their foreheads held as they hurled
into the shrubbery and then headed back to the bar
for another large double of oblivion.

And then in the room next to the roses in Big Sur,
Holding the one who became the long wife.
Now off to her aging and gone, long gone…
gone into the smoke of the world.

The brief wife calls from her place in the smoke,
hiding her need at the center of her speech,
and achieving assurance can’t wait to fade back
to the rooms that she’s chosen to have and to hold.

“How am I?
I’m good.
I’m doing quite well.”

“That’s good.
Glad to hear it.
Stay well.”

Missed connections.
Harsh static.
The cellphone breaks up and fades and she’s gone…
gone into the smoke of the world.

Snow still sheaths the streets
in their mountains and rivers,
and the spring trees shudder
in the wind off their lakes,
and the streetlights flicker
in their towns and their cities,
until winter banks their fires,
and night fades them finally,
and forever they’re gone,
gone into the gone world,
gone, gone, long gone,
gone into the smoke of the world.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Phil in Englewood February 14, 2019, 4:19 AM
  • Roy Lofquist February 14, 2019, 4:40 AM

    Saudade – it comes and goes over the years. Sometimes it makes you cry.

  • ghostsniper February 14, 2019, 4:44 AM

    “Gone fifty years.”

    Amazing, idn’t it?
    To look back on half a decade.
    Last night after supper my wife and I were talking about it.
    Yesterday she got birthday cards from 2 of her life long girlfriends that she rarely sees any more.
    One now has 10 grandchildren, and the other has to have aorta surgery.
    We’re trying to get used to “old people” talk, and not liking it one dam bit.
    I told her, wanna hear something scary?
    (hesitantly) What?
    Either or both of us could be harboring something right now that could kill us this year, and not know anything about it.
    She didn’t reply.

    This morning I sent her an animated gif Valentine Day’s card to go with the BIG bag of M&M’s I put on the dining table just for her. (4 weeks and 4 days ago I stopped eating chocolate for good)

  • jd February 14, 2019, 6:27 AM

    What a gift you have, Gerard. I am grateful to have found your site.

  • GoneWithTheWind February 14, 2019, 6:34 AM

    Two years ago one of the many Christmas cards I send got a response from my friend’s grand daughter that he had passed away. I felt the need to respond to say something. To tell her of her grandfather that I knew some 58 years ago. I did write that letter, told stories of things we did. How we got drunk for a week before he went off to Air Force basic training. How he tried to lay rubber in his 53 Ford but dropped his drive shaft in the street instead. About her grandmother when she was only his girlfriend. I wrote it but never sent it.

  • JiminAlaska February 14, 2019, 8:52 AM

    The gone(s) leave memories & that’s enough.

    The missed; the girl with the green Morgan 3 wheeler, the octoroon glimpsed on Broad street, the gold skinned girl on the beach in Manly across Sydney Harbor, the almost(s), the what ifs. you always wonder…

  • Sam L. February 14, 2019, 9:26 AM

    DAMN, Girard, you’ve done it again. That was lovely, and lovelornly.

  • John Venlet February 14, 2019, 10:34 AM

    Gerard, a re-occurring theme of things gone/lost seems to be at work here, lately. I reference the posts “The Witness,” a very short story by Jorge Luis Borges,” “Something Wonderful: Photographer Sets Up Camera Traps To Photograph The Black Leopard In Africa For The First Time In 100 Years, (though the leopard was not gone/lost, it was just doing what leopard’s do, secretively), and “Smoke.” I would not classify the posts as being maudlin, but they do evoke a certain sense of mourning. And while things/people/events may be forgotten, or gone, in this earthly world, nothing is forgotten or gone from His eyes.

    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

    I pray all is well with you.

  • Vanderleun February 14, 2019, 10:41 AM

    Thank you, John.

    Is all well with me?

    I’d have to say that all is as well with me as my current circumstances allow.

    That said, “the attitude is always gratitude.”

  • Howard Nelson February 14, 2019, 12:17 PM

    Who can complain since the Sandy School massacre, or since the 100’s of other atrocities? Better to have loved and lost …
    Tho I expressed some kindness and received some too, still, not enough. And so in my gratitude I grieve for opportunities rejected. Were I not a fool, I’d be nothing much at all.

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