For My Grandmother's Perfume, Norell
by 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
|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."
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.