The Smoky Room: A Love Poem
I come to find you in the smoky room
where you’re sitting with the guys,
smoking cigarettes and playing cards
off a tattered deck with the smell of ashes
and cheap beer and sweat in the air.
And the guy at the piano is playing
the opening lines of Für Elise
over and over again. He’s drunk.
I can tell by the redness of his cheeks.
You offer me what’s left of your beer,
but I don’t want it; it’s only foam, like
the very thin line at the end of your
cigarette when you draw it back from
your lips. I wonder what you taste like.
Like ashes? Like dust? Like cheap
cigarettes mingled with cheap beer,
likely enough. We leave the smoky room
together. You jostle the guys
on your way out and if with a knowing
glance you’re trying to embarrass me,
I don’t know. I don’t care. I am not
a whore. I am not your whore. I am
only a girl addicted to the color of
your eyes and the taste of your tongue
and the way the sunlight slants
in window-paned patterns down
the walls of your place, your clean place
that is not smoky at all. The photos
on the wall where you stand ages young
and years unsung. And the wiry
hairs of the Moroccan rug where we
lie after we’ve made love and the
softness of the chaise (the electric shock
of the chase) and your arm beneath
my head when we read poetry aloud
after hours in your bed, bathed
in evening glow, when the smoky room
is far away. Then you get up,
run a hand through my hair, head for
the balcony to smoke. Watching you,
my heart grows wings (maybe,
maybe), but I don’t let them show.
You know me — I write a lot of poetry about love. Love is a strong emotion, what can I say? A large part of this poem was inspired by that stunning image above of the room with the sunlight slanting through the windows and smattering on the walls. I love the look of light like that. It evokes a certain feeling inside of me.
I also love the look of smoke, though I don’t love smoke itself! It makes me cough. Though I wouldn’t want to do the same in real life, I don’t mind sexualizing smoking in poetry. I meant to give this poem an old-timey feel, and all the smoking references definitely help. After all, not too long ago nearly everyone smoked!
If you liked this poem, you will almost definitely also like “Curtain of Desire,” so I highly recommend that you check that poem out. And certainly check out my modern love poem (written to contrast with this one), “Kinetic.”
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