The Scent of Blue, final version

For anyone who can't (or doesn't want to!) get hold of the poetry pamphlet, here's the last draft of the title poem, which seems to strike a chord with a number of people, particularly women. There's an earlier version of this somewhere on here - but this is the one that was published.


A concert in Edinburgh, years ago.
She manages to find a single seat,
sees a famous conductor,
silver haired, sharp featured like some
bird of prey, but smaller than you would
expect in evening dress.
On his arm a thin woman,
taller than he is, strides with
striking face and hair, a cloud of
grey blonde curls around her head.
Not a young woman but a
diva surely, inhabiting her clothes,
inhabiting her skin with such confidence.
She wants to be like that some day,
longs for self possession
and she remembers the scent of her,
musky, mysterious, a heavy, night time
scent, like flowers after dark.
The scent of passion.
The scent of money.
The scent of blue.

She searches for the scent for years.
Her mother wore Tweed.
Now she wishes she could
open a wardrobe door, and
smell the scent of Tweed, her
mother’s plain sweet scent,
almost as much as she
wishes she could tell her mother so.

As a girl, she wears Bluebell,
fresh and full of hope, or
Diorissimo, like the lilac she once
carried through the streets,
on her way from meeting a man
she desired and admired, thinking
Girl with Lilac, still so young,
self conscious, not possessed.
Later, she tries luscious l’Air du Temps and
Je Reviens and Fleurs de Rocaille
but they are none of them the scent of blue.
She wears Chanel, briefly, with
dreams of Marilyn,
loves to watch her, loves to hear her voice,
soothing as chocolate but
Number Five is not her scent,
never suits her, never will.

She discovers Mitsouko.
Some tester in some chemist’s shop somewhere.
An old, old fashioned scent,
syncopated, unexpected, not to every taste.
Whenever she wears it,
women ask her what it is,
I love your scent they say.
How strange the way scent lingers in the mind.
How strange the way scent
changes on warm skin.
On her it ripens to something peachy,
mossy, rich and singular.
But it is not the scent of blue.

She loses her heart.
It is an affair of telephone lines
more profound, more sweet and
bitter even than Mitsouko,
a sad song in the dark,
and the colour of that time is blue.

Afterwards, she searches through
Bellodgia, Apres L’Ondee,
Nuit de Noel, Mon Peche, Apercu
until drawn by nostalgia
she finds Joy,
dearly bought roses and jasmine,
a summer garden in one small bottle.
She marries in Joy.
But she wears Mitsouko
and she forgets the scent of blue.

Older, she discovers Arpege,
not just rose and jasmine but
bergamot, orange blossom, peach,
vanilla, ylang ylang,
one essence piled on another like the
notes on the piano she
used to, sometimes still does, play:
love songs mostly.
Oh this is not a scent for the very young.
It is too dark for that
a memory of something lost,
an unfinished story.
This scent has a past.

She sees him across a room.
Another woman ushers him,
this way and that, makes introductions,
a little charmed the way women
always did flutter irresistably around this man.
It used to make her smile the way
women flocked around this
wolf who walked alone who
belonged to nobody but himself.

She is wearing Arpege.
Not a scent for the very young,
vertiginous as the layers of time between.
With age comes wisdom,
but as when mud is
stirred at the bottom of a pool,
memories bubble to the surface.
Not wisely but too well they loved.
Now, they are waving across the
chasm of the years.
They speak, in measured tones,
they speak and walk away,
they speak again in careful words, that
every now and then
recall the scent of

It will not do.
Only in dreams
can one innocently recapture that
first fine careless

So much more is forgotten
than is ever remembered.
And the clock insists
let it be let it be.

One summer evening
a young man observes the way
twilight closes the flowers,
whose scent lingers on the last heat of the day,
the way the light goes out of the sky,
painting it dark blue, how
soon the war will tear this place apart.
How soon all things resort to sadness.

In a new century,
She finds among jasmine and rose,
vanilla and violet,
a dark twist of anise, like the
twist of a knife.
First last always.
The scent of the diva.
The scent of passion.
Fine beyond imagining.
She sees it is essentially
sad, sad, sad, a
sad scent:
L’Heure Bleue.
The beautiful bitter perilous scent of blue.


Bill Kirton said…
God, Catherine, the more I read of this, the more I knew I needed to re-read it and savour it. It's so complex, such a journey through ages, experiences and, of course, perfumes. It's all the more striking because I'm not a great fan of perfumes on women. I find so many of them too sweet, too insistent, too brash altogether. And yet there are some which do the Proustian jog. But the world of this poem's an enchanting place.
Thank-you so much, Bill!