“She isn’t quite what I’d expected.” She lifted
a sleeve, a cigarette: and staring out,
low window-light cascaded in the smoke.
“Old flame,” he said. “Nothing to worry about.”
Languorous, she raised the glass, her arm
amphora handle; sipped the shiver, in,
and smoking-smiled: “I know, my dear. I jest.”
All the while, her lip was quivering.
He kissed her porcelain, her china brow,
walking out. She drew a final breath,
held it in a moment like regret;
and let old smoke suffuse like sleeping death.
This was partially inspired by an art deco portrait I recently saw, of a solemn lady holding a cigarette. The smoke which partially occluded her seemed, oddly, not to be her own, despite being the only sitter: and I was inspired by the notion that an “Old Flame” can suffocate a room, even in their absence. I cannot recall the artist, regrettably.