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About this Poem 

"'For My Grandmother's Perfume, Norell' is a poem from Fanny Says, a book to be published by BOA Editions in the spring of 2015. All of the poems in this collection circle around my grandmother, Frances Lee Cox, an unforgettable woman from Kentucky with her hair piled high who helped raise me best as she knew how. We lost her in 2004, but I swear sometimes I get a good haunting from her perfume. When I smell those potent, high-note florals, I know it's her; I know she just walked though."
—Nickole Brown

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.

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.

Nickole Brown

by this poet

poem
So this is where the last year 
of the Mayan calendar begins—
5,000 birds falling on Beebe, 
Arkansas, a state that could smooth 
out with the sway of the plains 
but instead sputters the silence 
of the first syllable like a pothole 
that hits before you're off the 
on ramp—say it—
ar-    
           -can-