Tuesday, 18 December 2007

A last cigarette with Edna at Christmas Time

A friend sent me a link to an American poetry theatre site ( see link on right) and there I stumble upon ‘Only until this cigarette is ended’ by Edna St Vincent Millay read beautifully by Tyne Daley. Actors often over egg the poetic pudding when they ‘recite verse’, the words can be lost in the search for performance but I think she judges this beautifully. Why did I dwell on this poem for so long last night? I have always liked it and I do think Millay’s poems don’t receive the attention they deserve outside of the States. She was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and she made no secret of her bi-sexuality and her ‘open’ marriage in an era when such things were still kept in the closet except amongst the artistic Greenwich Village circles.

I have always liked this poem but importantly some poems have the ability to sneak upon you during quiet moments and make you think that the poet has crawled inside your skull and for a brief while has taken up residence there, so perfectly does a poem fit your thoughts and mood.

I sit here by the fire in the scattered light from fairy lights and read letters and cards from people who once loomed large in my life but are now shrunk to the size of an annual Christmas card. If I still smoked it would indeed be a cigarette moment. I do tend to get nostalgic and sentimental at Christmas. I weep along with James Stewart running through the snow covered town yelling ‘I’m alive’ in A Wonderful Life . I want Lassie to come home or those two dogs and a cat to complete their journey in the customary re-runs on Boxing day. I want all those young soldiers playing football in No-man’s land on Christmas Eve to live to see a grand old age.

Some people just slip from your life gradually, inching away down a long corridor towards the door in soft slippers. Other disappear with a flurry of bells, whistles and hob-nail boots, intent on new beginnings having been a brief whirlwind in your life ( have I mixed my metaphors there, can whirlwinds wear hob-nail boots, would a whirlwind in hob-nail boots also whistle and ring bells? They could, indeed they could, on Planet Blogger). There are always those who, as Millay says in the poem, are difficult to recall in physical detail and yet you know their presence in your life was important and the sense of them stays with you forever (Alzheimer’s permitting).

The reverse is also true I know that I have crept quietly further and further away from some, as is the natural way of the world and also been a brief hob-nail flurry in the lives of others. I hope they may as they open my card recall some positive sense of me.

I feel only the steely hearted amongst you will be able to resist thinking of someone in particular with a little crease to the heart as you listen to this poem but then I am far from crease resistant, particularly at Christmas, others of you may be less easily crumpled.

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