For My Grandmother's Perfume, Norell

Nickole Brown

 
Because your generation didn’t wear perfume
           but chose a scent—a signature—every day
                      you spritzed a powerhouse floral with top
                                 notes of lavender and mandarin, a loud
smell one part Doris Day, that girl-next-door
           who used Technicolor to find a way to laugh about
                      husbands screwing their secretaries over lunch,
                                 the rest all Faye Dunaway, all high drama
extensions of nails and lashes, your hair a
           a breezy fall of bangs, a stiletto entrance
                      that knew to walk sideways, hip first:
                                 now watch a real lady descend the stairs.

Launched in 1968, Norell
           was the 1950s tingling with the beginning
                      of Disco; Norell was a housewife tired of gospel,
                                 mopping her house to Stevie Wonder instead.

You wore so much of it, tiny pockets
           of your ghost lingered hours after you
                      were gone, and last month, I stalked
                                 a woman wearing your scent through
the grocery so long I abandoned
           my cart and went home. Fanny, tell me:
                      How can manufactured particles carry you
                                 through the air? I always express what I see,
but it was no photo that
           stopped and queased me to my knees.

After all these years, you were an invisible
           trace, and in front of a tower of soup cans
                      I was a simple animal craving the deep memory
                                 worn by a stranger oblivious of me. If I had courage,
the kind of fool I’d like to be,
           I would have pressed my face to her small
                      shoulder, and with the sheer work of
                                 two pink lungs, I would have breathed
enough to
           conjure
                      you back
                                 to me.
 
Copyright © 2013 by Nickole Brown. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 18, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

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Further Reading

Poems about Memories
A group of girls from Minnesota or black mascara
by Maureen Owen
A Violin at Dusk
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
Beasts
by Carmen Giménez Smith
Father Listens to the Artists
by David Petruzelli
forgetting something
by Nick Flynn
Help Me to Salt, Help Me to Sorrow
by Judy Jordan
I shall forget you presently, my dear (Sonnet XI)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
In the Back Seat of History
by Mary Biddinger
Mississippi: Origins
by Anna Journey
Mnemonic
by Li-Young Lee
Mnemosyne
by Trumbull Stickney
Mural with HUD Housing & School Bus (1980)
by Adrian Matejka
My Grandmother's Love Letters
by Hart Crane
No Ticket
by Jonathan Wells
Piano
by D. H. Lawrence
Remembered Light
by Clark Ashton Smith
Rock Me to Sleep
by Elizabeth Akers Allen
The Parallel Cathedral
by Tom Sleigh
To My Best Friend's Big Sister
by Ross Gay
Poems about Mourning
Bardo
by Dana Levin
Basket of Figs
by Ellen Bass
In Memory of Sigmund Freud
by W. H. Auden
Interlude: Still Still
by Robin Behn
jasper texas 1998
by Lucille Clifton
The Earth Opens and Welcomes You
by Abdellatif Laâbi
To Keep the Memory of Charlotte Forten Grimké
by Angelina Weld Grimké
Unfollowed Figment
by Lyn Hejinian
What the Living Do
by Marie Howe
White Apples
by Donald Hall