This is a love letter. It’s not to my grandmother, although it could be. My favorite memories of her: sitting together on her front porch in the morning, sharing a cup of coffee and a cigarette, talking about nothing–or just not talking at all.
This is a love letter. It’s not to Jacques Prévert, although it could be. I’m usually up at daybreak, and sometimes as the sun peeks over the horizon I’ll go outside to have a smoke and read his Encore une fois sur le fleuve. I’ve read some of his poems so often that they form a sort of soundtrack in my head as I walk the streets. In his photographs, he looks like the uncle you always wanted–a face that you can tell is just barely hiding a smile, a cigarette in his hand–or just hanging from his lips.
This is a love letter. It’s not to my grandmother, although it could be. When she died, I found her long white evening gloves and her cigarette holder.
This is a love letter. It’s not to my grandfather, but it could be. One of my mother’s friends told me this about him: his apartment was nothing but books and cigarette smoke.
This is a love letter to cigarettes. Yeah, I know: they’re gonna kill me. Hell–if I didn’t smoke, I might live two years longer! Two years against some connection, any connection, with the French grandfather who had my mother when he was as old as I am now (very), and died before I was born. Two years against Jacque Prévert in my head when I walk the streets in Paris, or anywhere in the world, really. Two years against that memory of my grandmother, the warm Florida mornings, the ashtray that my father made for her in summer camp. Seems like I come out ahead on this one.
The picture at the top of this page is not my grandmother, but the American actress Carol Landis, photographed in 1946 for a Kislav glove ad. Photographer: unknown.
To walk the streets: be careful with this one. It can mean walking nowhere in particular–not flâner, as it connotes a certain intensity and solitariness that is lacking in flâner. It can also mean living by prostitution–compare the noun streetwalker, a prostitute qui fait le trottoir. Yet another meaning: to be free after a time in prison.
- How I used it in the post: I’ve read some of his poems so often that they form a sort of soundtrack in my head as I walk the streets.
- With the “out of prison” meaning: Many are outraged that the convicted killer will be walking the streets after spending just two years in prison. (Source: the Farlex Free Dictionary.)
- With the “prostitution” meaning, in a slightly different construction: 52 and still working the streets.
le billet-doux: an old term for a love letter. I understand that you can use it for comic effect. But, compared to la lettre d’amour, I like the sound of billet-doux much more. Doux: it just sounds…right. (Phil dAnge, can you comment?)