Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Mother's Perfume

Strange how her perfume used to arrive long before she did,
       a jade cloud that sent me hurrying
first to the loo, then to an upstairs window to watch for her taxi.
       I’d prepare myself
by trying to remember her face, without feeling afraid. As she drew
      nearer I’d get braver
until her scent got so strong I could taste the coins in the bottom
       of her handbag.
And here I am forty years on, still half-expecting her. Though now
       I just have to open
the stopper of an expensive French bottle, daring only a whiff of
which Jacques Guerlain created from the vanilla orchid vine.
       Her ghostly face
might shiver like Christ’s on Veronica's veil – a green-gold blossom
       that sends me back
to the first day of the school holidays, the way I used to practise
       kissing her cheek
by kissing the glass. My eyes scanned the long road for a speck
       while the air turned amber.
Even now, the scent of vanilla stings like a cane. But I can also smell
       roses and jasmine
in the bottle’s top notes, my legs wading through the fragrant path,
       to the gloved hand emerging
from a black taxi at the gate of Grandmother’s garden. And for a
       moment I think I am safe.
Then Maman turns to me with a smile like a dropped
       perfume bottle, her essence spilt. 
By: Pascale Petit

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