Three Cigarettes for Bruce and Carola

by Kenneth Rosen

Somewhere there’s a little Italy, where sunrise precedes its ruby,
Clouds pink as flamingos, soon white as paper, a fool’s foolproof
Proof of self — a poof of proof — and somewhere,
Between a rock and a pine tree, a tomboy stands on legs like an oak
From which staves get hacked, hewn and hooped for vino rosso tuns
To leak and seal themselves into lines of dark truth,
Dawn’s ox – blood poetry.  Watch your step !
She says, from Milano, which I’ve never seen, though maybe all
Earlier from Puglia, Sicily or Sardinia.  Why
Is this your business ? she’d inquire, annoyed, bored, having waited
A month for mourning to subside
To tell us her father had died, the longtime widower who would daily
Allot himself three cigarettes he’d align,
First of all, on a nearby table, shelf or sill,
With the amused patience of a devotee, and deliberately, unpredictably

Light and enter therewith tobacco’s incipient séance of stationary
Yet portable, harsh but companionable, incomparably vacant space
Of contemplation, deadly, subtle, distinctive,
Velvet, blinding, soothing and intense, vindicating ghost of its own
Ignition, host of its own initiation, day after day every decade of her life,
Every rose – red, slowly narrowing, flicked cone at its tip its own source
Of mute, self – evident eloquence, inhaled
To ravage an itch, a rigor of elaborate austerity
In the service of a primitive, nowadays repressed,
Even outlawed pleasure, which I, to salute the girl’s father by a stretch
Of analogy, will call poetry.  Don’t press
                      Your luck, she says, and reminds me she’s
Already fifty, engraving my galloping nowhere antiquity — chaos
Is motion that is not in motion, and dotage a see – saw, its fulcrum creaky,
Its ratio what keeps her a girl doted upon

For our sliver of shared eternity.  Three cigarettes aligned, unlit,
Equivalent five cent cigars.  His vaguely angry
Nonsense songs, Di dee dee dee dee.  His cane,
His patriarchal baton and scepter of regal crankiness, on the back of
his chair,
Tapping the table under which I’d crawl as he waited for Bohbie to
bring him
Some breakfast, rubbing his stubble on my face
So I’d go play and he could think, whatever that was, thinking,
     playing, his teeth
Beside a saucer, crusted challa marinating in sweet
Coffee he’d chew with his gums.  His starched iceberg shirt, the gold
Of manliness, but likewise repellent, childproof.  His boozy, coal
furnace aroma,
Coffee in the basements spiked to help with his daily
Four a.m. errands, checking the fires.  No words were required.
Seizes a wonder, calls it a sign and fashions thought’s
Origins from circumstance and chance.  Then it falters, fades, fails.
     Es brent,
                      Say the Jews, for everything loved, es brent !