The Cigarette Issue.

I’d been thinking all day what I’d write about tonight.

I woke a moment before my alarm this morning at precisely 4:58am.

A promising start.

I poured myself a glass of mineral water and sat down to write my Morning Pages.

I wrote randomly and messily for 30 minutes. Mainly about a sequence of dreams I’d just before waking about a man a once bedded who now lives in Spain. A man whom I am perfectly astrologically aligned with– whatever that means– and a man whom I find myself often dreaming of lately.

He and I, in this dream, were apartment hunting somewhere that felt like Spain, smelt like Spain, even sounded like Spain, though I’ve never been.

In this dream he continued to remind me that the apartment has to be suitable to both our tastes, though I would not be living there with him, I was merely helping him find something we’d both like. It seemed an odd arrangement, and I was uncharacteristically fine with all of this. We spent days and days looking at prospective properties until we found something ideal. And then, of course, I woke up.

The dream left me hungry and confused.

My pen couldn’t write fast enough.

I dressed and headed out the door at exactly 5:40am. The sun was just coming up over Darlinghurst and I felt compelled to keep my iPod in my bag and just listen to the sounds of the city as it rose.

I’m currently reading Julia Cameron’s second installment in The Artist’s Way chronicles– Finding Water: The Art of Perserverance and as per request, have signed a contract with myself promising to walk in total silence for at least a half hour a day. I used to do this often, but the addition of an iPod in to my life, some months ago now, has meant I usually walk to work listening to Iron and Clay or Laura Marling. Or myself. Depending on my mood.

Today, however, was different.

I didn’t want a soundtrack.

I didn’t need one.

There were birds and traffic and the sound of joggers hitting the pavement to keep me company as I walked in to work in Strawberry Hills.

I got to thinking a great number of things as I walked and felt relatively positive about the day ahead.

I wondered where the strawberries were supposed to have once been, and the hill.

I wondered if I’d been drinking too much coffee of late, which I have.

I wondered about the man in Spain and what his life was like now.

I also wondered if the dress I’d chosen to wear, rather hurriedly, mind you, to work was a little too busty.

Too late now.

Praise baby Jesus for scarves and over-zealous air-con., I thought as I arrived earlier than usual and began my day.

Of course I’ve skipped a bit.

A few bits actually.

I’ve skipped the part about saying good morning to the guy that runs the juice cafe on Oxford St. and the part about spotting a wonderful succession of parked Vespa’s on Wentworth Ave. Stopping briefly to examine them, fantasising about which would be a perfect fit for me.

I also skipped the part where I debated wildly with myself as to whether or not I’d purchase a soy milk flat white from the cafe on Chalmers St. as I had the time, and the inclination, but I mainly skipped the part where I’d decided I’d listen to just one song before hitting the corner of Chalmers and Cleveland Sts.

Just one song.

My theme song in recent weeks, for obvious reasons has been Laura Marling’s ‘Tap At My Window’ and with a perfect three minutes remaining of my journey I reached in to my bag, pulled out my iPod and listened to as much as the first two lines when… a man… a man I know… spilled out of a bar and gushed across the road to greet me.

An ex-.
My ex-.
The ex-.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, and suffice to say, our brief conversation coupled with the start to my morning got me seriously thinking, all day long, about the meaning and shape and sound of the word: discipline.

How do you get what you truly, really, really want when other people keep getting in the way?

How do you shut yourself in and block all the noise out?

How do you get from dreaming in bed to work– unscathed?

Later this afternoon, and the thought was still with me.

I believe it was mid-salabhasana (locust-bloody-motha-fuckin’-pose) half-way through my Bikram yoga class that the sound of the word ‘discipline’ seemed to mean less and matter more.

There I was, sweating my ass off, straining to breathe, kinda wanting to die, trying not to focus on the fact my backside was quite possibly making a fairly unflattering shape right in front of the face of the man behind me– when it struck me.

Maybe it’s not supposed to get any easier.

Maybe it’s not supposed to feel anymore automated.

Maybe you’re just supposed to force yourself to do it, day in, day out.

Every day.

Every single fucking day.

And maybe for the rest of your life.

And maybe the feeling you get, if only for 10 seconds of savasana (dead body pose) after the fact is the only bliss you get, for however long that lasts. 10 seconds ain’t bad. Really.

And with that in mind I have happened upon this:

Leonard Cohen has always written quite honestly and extensively really about his relationship with cigarettes.

I first read this poem a couple of years ago when my darling friend Sarah mailed me a copy of his ‘Book of Longing’ while I was undergoing some pretty shitty treatment and while my life had turned to… well… shitty shit shit.

She’s a good friend and she knows me well and knowing how much fun I was not having at the time she posted me this book from wherever she was in the world with the following inscription, which I continue to read every single time I open the book:



I know this book will always supply what you need at the time.

Like you.


(One day I will learn another word.)

Love, peace, time and understanding.

Sarah. x.


And this little gem, located on page 71 of that very book, is today’s offering.

Apologies in advance if it compels you to smoke.

Oh and just briefly,

the Japanese term, ‘jikan’ refers to time or the passing there of. A word I’ve grown quite found of over the years, and I word I am delighted to observe Cohen uses from time to time in his own writing.


The Cigarette Issue.

This is beginning again
and like the first time
the girls name is Claire
and she’s French
But this time
the boys name is Jikan
and he’s an old man

it’s not Greece any more
it’s India
the new place for unhappiness
but this time
the boy is not unhappy
with his unhappiness
and Claire has also noticed
that the boy
is sixty-five years old

But what is exactly the same
is the promise, the beauty
and the salvation
of cigarettes
the little Parthenon
of an opened pack of cigarettes

and Mumbai, like the Athens
of forty years ago
is a city to smoke in

Well, that’s enough for now
I will be able to love her
and also love the rest of my life
from my experience with books.

– Leonard Cohen.

One Response to “The Cigarette Issue.”
  1. sarah says:

    I am so glad you have commenced ‘hook in’ with this blog. I am also glad the book is still giving.
    desu x

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