The Scent of Blue

 



I wrote this poem about perfumes, and one scent in particular, a number of years ago. It has been published in a pamphlet and elsewhere online, but given the subject of my two previous posts, it seems like a good time to resurrect it. 

THE SCENT OF BLUE

 

A concert in Edinburgh, years ago.

She manages to find a single seat.

Two people sweep past, ushered by the

front of house manager in his dark suit.

She 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 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 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,

satisfying as chocolate or olives 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.

When 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, Apercu

Until drawn by nostalgia

She finds Joy,

dearly bought  roses and jasmine,

a summer garden in one small bottle.

She loves Joy.

She marries in Joy.

She wears Mitsouko

and she forgets the scent of blue.

 

Older, she glances in her mirror and only

sometimes likes what she sees.

She finds 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.

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 were charmed by this man.

It used to make her smile the way

women flocked around this

man who belonged to

nobody but himself.

 

She is wearing Arp├Ęge.

Not a scent for the very young,

vertiginous as the layers of time between.

With age comes wisdom,

but like mud stirred at the bottom of a  pool,

memories bubble to the surface.

Not wisely but too well they loved.

Now, they are waving across a

chasm of 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

 

No.

It will not do.

Only innocently in dreams

can one 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

 

 PS All my content is free, but if you like what I write, then maybe you would enjoy one of my books. There are links to most of them on here. You are welcome to share content but only if you attribute it to me, and link to my blog. Thank-you!

 

Perfumes I've Loved - Part Two

 Continuing my trawl back through perfumes I've loved  - I flirted with various floral perfumes as well as my favourite chypres:  Diorissimo and Champs Elysees (my Guerlain habit again) to name a couple. Champs Elysees is, like so many lovely scents, hard to find now, but it used to be readily and not too expensively available in those cut price toiletry chains. 

Another Guerlain favourite, until they stopped producing it, was one of their Aqua Allegoria range (gorgeous bottles too!) - Ylang and Vanille - a lovely, light scent with something of the hippy sixties about it. 

For a while, I wore Lanvin's Arpege - first produced in 1927. I still love it but it has to be the vintage version: flowery, powdery, green, a very classy scent that sits well on my skin and that comes in a beautiful black bottle.

That's another thing you need to know about scents. Something that suits one person may not suit you at all. You need to wear it and give it time. Don't be in too much of a hurry.

More recently, Aldi's Jo Malone Dupes have given me a lot of fun. I have them, and sometimes wear them, but they're not my favourites, although their room fragrances are lovely. I love neroli and M & S did a number of genuine Italian orange blossom scents for a while, but they've cut back on their range. Very fortuitously I discovered that their Neroli Riviera - still available and not too expensive - not only smells lovely, but keeps the Scottish midgies away too! 

My current day to day favourite is Calandre by Paco Rabanne. Launched in 1969, it's like nothing else. Fragrantica , my go-to site for perfumes, describes it as a 'floral aldehyde'  and goes on to describe it:  'Top notes are Aldehydes, Green Notes and Bergamot; middle notes are Rose, Lily-of-the-Valley, Orris Root, Hyacinth, Geranium and Jasmine; base notes are Oakmoss, Vetiver, Musk, Sandalwood and Amber' which sounds like a complex mish mash but is, essentially, quite heavenly! 

It's an evocative scent for me because it was given to me many years ago by the mother of a lovely Catalan lad who stayed us for a couple of summers while he improved his English and learned about the family business. She send a parcel of gifts afterwards, among which was a bottle of Calandre - I recently rediscovered it and was taken right back to what was a very happy time. 

That's what scent does. It can take you back in time, or sometimes, magically, into somebody else's life. 

Useful for a writer.

Finally - my all-time favourite is Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue. The Blue Hour. 

I first smelled this at a concert when I was in my early 20s. An older woman, stylish, elegant, drifted past me on the arm of a famous conductor, and left behind a faint trace of the most wonderful, exotic perfume I had ever smelled. I had no idea what it was. Many years later, I found it. Guerlain's own website calls it the 'fragrance of suspended time' and so it is. Dating from 1912, it is evocative of 'that time of day when day embraces night and silence fully envelopes the world ... a moment of stillness and grace tinted with deep blue.'

If I could afford it, I'd wear it all the time. Instead, I hoard my vintage bottles and use it sparingly. We had a friend, no longer with us, who - whenever he visited us - would ask me to fetch down a bottle of this scent so that he could smell it! I love it so much that I wrote a poem about it. I've posted the poem online before, but I'll post it again. Watch this space.
 
                             



PS All my content is free, but if you like what I write, then maybe you would enjoy one of my books! There are links to most of them on here.