Saturday, March 3, 2007

Sweetest Downfall?


I have been smoking a cigarette. The Café Poet’s friend left some in the back of my friend’s car and they found their way to me. Let’s not be coy about this: I took them. I am a non-smoker and have been for ten months, but there were seven cigarettes in the packet when it came to me and there are now two. As penance I will cut short the long, deliciously confessional rant I might have indulged in.

I have been listening to Regina Spektor, her strange and whimsically melodious “Samson”. This does connect in some way to the smoking of cigarettes and how one is drawn to things, people, situations that bring downfall and disaster. Spektor’s song is a re-telling of the old testament story in the sense that it refers to the cutting of Samson’s hair and subsequent loss of strength, and it is Delilah singing, or possibly the woman who came before, can't make up my mind. You are my sweetest downfall, she says, I loved you first. This is one of the great pleasures of a re-telling; re-inventing and going into the consciousness of one of the characters in a story. I am drawn to the idea that Delilah’s betrayal of Samson may have broken her heart. Songs like this, and Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, draw their power from the dark side of passionate love.

One of the people I was workshopping with last week left me an exercise which I haven’t yet done: write fourteen words about sex, then write a sonnet about death and include one of the sex words in each line. Almost too much of a good thing, you could say. When asked what I wrote about, I used to say “sex and death,” which was a joke but actually came pretty close to truth – not literally, but in essence, and nothing particularly unusual about this. Who doesn’t have a favourite writer who is grounded in this? Mine is Angela Carter, in particular her collection of short stories, “The Bloody Chamber.”

A cigarette is sex and death rolled into one. Doom and disaster with each sweet inhalation that keeps you wanting more, and actually the taste is a bit - I must admit - nasty. So why don’t I chuck them out? And why is the thought of them still so seductive?

15 comments:

Ms Melancholy said...

Sex and death. I am positively swooning. Cigarettes are a bastard. Hardest thing I ever did was not giving up smoking properly.

Reading the Signs said...

Ms M, I have just been looking out of the window at the lunar eclipse! I like swoon. Keats used that word in relation to sex and death too.

"not giving up properly": yes, if I really had I wouldn't have thought twice about chucking them, would I? But I won't be buying any. This is just a hiccup. Yes.

nmj said...

ah, signs, i used to smoke occasionally (mostly menthol) cigs at uni, but never developed a habit . . .i suppose i am a bit anti-smoking, but not rabidly so, it's more i just dread the consequences, my mother still smokes (ten a day), it is probably the main thing we argue about,& i do shudder everytime i see her light up, she is in fact shivering with a silk cut in her own garden right now, she stopped smoking indoors years ago..the thing is, it is so seductive, there are times, i think, god, i want a cigarette & i don't even smoke & have never really done so.

Reading the Signs said...

Exactly, nmj, it's the thought rather than the actual thing that has the real power. I have smoked since 15 and that's a looong habit. But I don't now. No.

What is with the comment moderation? Seems a bit hit and miss whether they come through to email.

Gael said...

Marina Warner is lecturing to us on the Bloody Chamber next week : )

Reading the Signs said...

O lucky you, gael, wish I were a fly on the wall. I remember when I first read the stories - no-one else seemed to have and I felt as though I alone had discovered her. For me, they haven't lost their freshness.

Reading the Signs said...

btw I think I may have inadvertently deleted someone's comment - if so, apologies, it's the comment moderation thing. Not sure I'll stick with it.

nmj said...

hey signs, the best way to moderate comments is through blogger dashboard, that way you get them almost immediately, if you wait for the email alerts, they come in all over the place, & often not chronologically.

Reading the Signs said...

yes, or they don't come through email at all. And the ones that do get repeated etc.

Another thing I'd like to know is how to put up a picture in the post without the font getting squashed - because I've seen others do it by I can't seem to.

nmj said...

hey again, you will always get an email to alert you to a comment and then a second one to tell you it has been published, it's a pain in the neck. & then you get triplicates sometimes...but i think you can switch that email feature off. i know nothing about posting visuals..

Reading the Signs said...

ta nmj, it's a learning curve. Time was I didn't know how to send an email.

Leesa said...

Just wanted to stop by to tell you that Battle of the Blogs: Round 2 has started, and your blog is one of the ones still in the competition.

Leesa (http://dsmoya31410.blogspot.com)

Lyzz said...

I would like to send my congrats on round 2. I would also like to say that the romeo and juliet song is one of my favouries but I prefer the indigo girls version, even sexier, and what I've been listening to in my car all week. Signs, we really are destined to meet.

Reading the Signs said...

well funny you should say that lyzz, it almost feels as though we have! I've never heard the indigo girls singing R & J - can't believe I'll like their version more than Dire Straits, but I'll keep an open mind.

Reading the Signs said...

By the way, Leesa, if you're looking in: hello.