There are many that I miss
having sent my last one out a car window
sparking along the road one night, years ago.

The heralded one, of course:
after sex, the two glowing tips
now the lights of a single ship;
at the end of a long dinner
with more wine to come
and a smoke ring coasting into the chandelier;
or on a white beach,
holding one with fingers still wet from a swim.

How bittersweet these punctuations
of flame and gesture;
but the best were on those mornings
when I would have a little something going
in the typewriter,
the sun bright in the windows,
maybe some Berlioz on in the background.
I would go into the kitchen for coffee
and on the way back to the page,
curled in its roller,
I would light one up and feel
its dry rush mix with the dark taste of coffee.

Then I would be my own locomotive,
trailing behind me as I returned to work
little puffs of smoke,
indicators of progress,
signs of industry and thought,
the signal that told the nineteenth century
it was moving forward.
That was the best cigarette,
when I would steam into the study
full of vaporous hope
and stand there,
the big headlamp of my face
pointed down at all the words in parallel lines.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Billy Collins's poem The Best Cigarette

2 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    I think this poem most certainly IS about smoking. I recently quit smoking and the worst part about it is you feel like you have lost an old friend. Smoking is sublime and I will forever be a smoker at heart.

  2. Becky Bayer says:

    You don’t have to smoke to have an appreciation for this poem, because that’s not what it’s about. I think smoking is a vile habit, but after reading this poem, I had to take a look at it from Billy Collins’ perspective. Every writer can relate to the feeling you have when you have “something going on the typewriter.” It’s an exhilaration that you get from nothing else. Life is a series of good things- And the best are the ones you have to create for yourself. Taking the time to enjoy the little things makes all the difference. I love this poem and I love how Billy Collins makes me look at little things and realize how great they are.

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