The Scent of Blue


I remembered this poem when I posted on a Facebook thread about vintage scents. I love them, and have a small collection. The better the scent, the longer it lasts. You can sometimes find bargains on eBay, and these old perfumes last a long time. I have a very old (and very large) bottle of Mitsouko, that still smells wonderful, given a little while to settle on the skin, My favourite, though, is Guerlain's l'Heure Bleue. 

I wrote this poem years ago, published it in an anthology, and put it on an old blog too, but when I went in search of it online it had disappeared. So here it is again. 

THE SCENT OF BLUE

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, her hair a cloud of

grey blonde curls.

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, 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 wore 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 l’Air du Temps and

Je Reviens (always unlucky for her)

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 rare.

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 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, neroli, 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 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.

And never will.

 

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.

 

1911

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.

All things come to sadness in the end.

The beautiful bitter foolish scent of blue.

Catherine Czerkawska

 

                                                           

 

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