That I smoked hash with tobacco was critical during this phase of my project, although I was resolved never to smoke a cigarette again after leaving Spain, and so smoked with particular abandon, critical because the cigarette or spliff was an indispensable technology, a substitute for speech in social situations, a way to occupy the mouth and hands when alone, a deep breathing technique that rendered exhalation material, a way to measure and/or pass the time.
–Ben Lerner, from Leaving the Atocha Station


Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
This sentence captures the narrator’s state of mind while on a Fulbright grant in Spain, in a cloud of psychotropic legal and illegal drugs. The spliff not only alters his mood, it also serves as a crutch and accessory for hand and mouth. In the meantime, the sibilants “s” and “ci” of Spain, spliff, smoke, cigarette, substitute, speech, social and situations fill the reader’s mouth. It’s also a very funny sentence, as the smoker’s inhale and exhale are compared to the deep breathing meant to calm nerves. Smoking becomes a metaphor for time passing and for marking narrative time. As Lerner writes in the sentence that follows: it provides “motivation and transition… a way to enter or exit a room… conjoin or punctuate a sentence.”
–Catherine Texier’s most recent novel is Russian Lessons