Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Don't Smoke in Bed & A Poem About the Assassination of a Heart

One of my favourite songs is "Don't Smoke in Bed." I'm not sure why this song resonates with me, because I do not smoke and am unlikely to be romantically involved with someone that does smoke. Nevertheless, there is something wonderfully touching about the lyrics of this song. Even as the narrator is leaving her husband, she still cares for him, she still reminds him not to smoke in bed.

My favourite version is of course the one by Nina Simone, whom I've mentioned on this blog before (see here and here).

Apart from Nina Simone, the other person with whom the song is probably usually associated is Peggy Lee. I especially like the instrumentation in this version.

Patti Smith, the musician partly responsible for the punk rock genre, also does a riviting performance of this old jazz classic.

A more upbeat version in a lounge jazz style is performed by the Eddie Higgins Trio. You might be excused for getting up and dancing to this tune. The trio consists of piano, guitar and bass.

k.d. lang with her beautiful voice provides a beautiful full sounding version, but I do miss the rawness that one hear in Simone and Smith.

In around 2008 my then girlfriend and I broke up after somewhat of a tumultuous emotional period in our relationship. Shortly before we broke up I wrote her the poem below. In the poem the narrator speaks of his lover as an assassin of hearts that will soon come to murder (i.e. break) his heart and in so doing be the cause of his death. At the end of the poem I realised that I needed there to be a personal touch--a loving "don't smoke in bed". After sometime I added the line: "Don't forget to water the flowers"--the idea being that flowers are a symbol of romantic love and by caring for the flowers she will keep his remembrance and symbolically keep their love alive after his passing. In a strange way this poem I wrote was influenced by this song "Don't Smoke in Bed". Basically they have the same themes and tell the same story of broken hearts and separation. Soon afterwards I moved to Korea.

Throughout the night I battle sleep
(my fists broken       my temples bleeding
my knees and elbows chafed from fighting)
lest, like a calamity, the morning breaks
open like an egg       a skull       a heart stuffed
to the brim with love (that undaunted
heartless threatening damned type of love).
And now, as the day comes crawling
(my heart’s assassination on the agenda;
it will, I’m sure, be done with a knife)
and I have little fighting spirit left, I beg you
my love, be swift. I have already
both my stubborn shirt and chest
ripped open (I trust you’ll appreciate it).
My love, both my heart and I am ready
on this day (please don’t torture me further!)
to die enthusiastically an enormous death.
The angels (my guardian angel and yours)
are standing on their marks for a farewell number
(a necro-duet) to call me to the Big Slumber.
Don’t forget to water the flowers.

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