Original poem reprinted online here: "One Cigarette" by Edwin Morgan
Originally read: May 6, 2013
More information about the Poet: Edwin Morgan
Confession. I used to smoke cigarettes for years, and that probably biased me to this poem. So when I read the poem the first time, there's a lot of jargon that focuses on the addiction or "thoughts of an addict" where the "speaker is appropriating the cigarette to love. Speaker is setting it up for disbelief."
However, rereading this poem, I'm not entirely sure about the "hidden symbolism" or "psychology" of the poem. Not that I don't think these things exist in this poem, but rather I was thinking of what can a speaker get away with in a love poem versus other types of poems.
Direct image with a direct meaning. I think love poems can get away with this. The more understood the image and sentiment, the more the message comes across. It's not flashy or technically complex, but there's something refreshing reading the line as is.
For example, "No smoke without you, my fire." Yes, the fire is a metaphor for the lover, but that's pretty obvious. What makes the first line interesting is the syntax mostly how the focus is first on the smoke, and then the fire as though to set up the definition of one and then the other.
Then the direct story. "After you left, / your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray / and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey." Interesting direct image. I'm not really too concerned of the deeper metaphor, but simple descriptions "quiet gray" "cigarette glowed" which adds to the ambiance of the poem.
The direct saying, "I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal / of so much love." The thought is what counts -- well in multiple ways here (but lead to the same conclusion) who -- the speaker, the audience, the lover."
The poem then focuses on the lingering smell and taste of the smoke, and then the quick comparison to, "You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips." The verb "drunk" is interesting in the context to the poem focusing on the smoke, but at this point I feel the emotional pull of the poem -- that lingering want -- both described as a metaphor and the real come through first that the language (for me at least) falls to the wayside.
The last lines are very, well:
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I'll breath, and long past midnight, your last kiss.
The attention to sound brings all the senses to the poem and immerses the reader in what the speaker is experiencing and feeling. And the last lines "flowers of brass" could turn the poem towards more of an elegy than a love poem. Regardless, a love poem is sometimes an elegy and vice versa.
I understand the feeling, mood, and language of the poem -- simple, direct, but with memorable images.