The old oak printing press trays holding perfume bottles
on living room shelves sit like a set of diaries
Each tiny bottle a page exuding a time from the past
When other girls collected storybook dolls
and stuffed animals, I obsessed with perfumes
Aunt Mamieís $1 for birthday gifts
that every year bought a bottle of Blue Waltz
Trips to Woolworths with Uncle Hank for paper dolls
and whatever fragrance I would dab on their and my wrists
Jungle Gardenia on Tarzanís Jane
Evening in Paris on Elizabeth Taylor
Forbidden for Jane Russell
I was the only 6 year old who went to school
smelling like a harlot
In high school while other girls thrilled to turtlenecks
autographs on yearbooks and boysí rings
I became promiscuous with olfactory affairs
Thirty cents an hour for babysitting didnít buy †
tie-dye, Polaroid film or Spider-Man comics
But ArpŤge, Ambush, Miss Dior, Emeraude, Shalimar
and White Shoulders for the proms
Whose dramas now play like 16 mm home movies
though projector bottles with loose stoppers
Friends and strangers who enable my
addiction find immortality in my living room
These patrons of the Perfume Cult rise from bottles
in bodies that sing notes of jasmine, patchouli, hyacinth
rose, myrrh, oak moss, bergamot, violet, vanilla, amber
Anyone who watched I Dream of Jeannie knows it can happen
Coco Chanel knew too when she said
A woman who doesnít wear perfume has no future
Aunt Bertieís future lurks in her turn-of-the-century
Líheure Bleue bottle that will pass down to my daughter †
Who remembers the earthy iris root scent
that surrounded Montanaís first woman square dance caller
accordion player and solo car tripper
A mannequin in the backseat dressed
in her dead husbandís clothes long before womenís lib
Inspiration for her niece who at five rode a stick horse
Dressed as Roy Rogers and reeking of Tabu
This poem first appeared in Ibbetson Street.
Used here with permission.
Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher
Ellaraine Lockie is widely published and awarded as a poet, nonfiction book author, and essayist. Her work has found its way onto broadsides, buses, rented cars, bicycles, cabins, greeting cards, key chains, bookmarks, mugs, coffee sack labels, church bulletins, radio shows and cable TV. Ellaraine teaches writing workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh. She is also a professional papermaker and creates “pollages”, which reflect her loves of papermaking, poetry, and collage. Ellaraine's latest book of poetry is Trio, which she co-authored with Connie Post and Karla Huston; her kitchen companion/cookbook for the lactose intolerant is forthcoming from St. Johann Press.
My mom adored Tabu! Shalimar was her favorite until Tabu came along. Then she splurged and bought herself a bottle of Opium when it debuted, and that was her fragrance for the rest of her life. She let me wear any of her fragrances I wanted, so while my junior high friends were dousing themselves with Love's Baby Soft, I was wearing Tabu and feeling oh-so-sophisticated.
Thank you for the fun memories!
Posted 08/16/2021 09:23 PM
Wow! An ode to Joy :)
Posted 03/22/2021 01:36 AM
Loved this! I saved my allowance for weeks to buy Jungle Gardenia for my mother for her birthday. I thought it was heavenly. I think she hated it - but I would sneak it myself anyway. I sure wish I had saved those old bottles. I do still have Stephen B. given by a summer flame with that name. I sneak that every now and then. I have found myself wearing perfume more during quarantine. What the heck - I'm not bothering anyone else and I love it!
Posted 03/21/2021 06:21 PM
I can smell all that perfume. Great!
Posted 03/21/2021 06:03 PM
Did you used to wear perfume? My husband inquired this morning as we were companionably enjoying coffee and emails. Oh yes, I said, so he sent me this and I just love it! Nowadays its almost shocking to smell perfume on anyoneso many people have sensitivitiesbut oh, I miss my Shalimar. And White Shoulders. And my first love, TabuI have a poem somewhere that mentions that ad with the piano and the violinist. Thanks for the memories...Chanel #19...Ma Griffe...but always returning to Shalimar.
Posted 03/21/2021 02:09 PM
Heaven Scent remains my all-time favorite perfume from the 70s!! Love this poem!
Posted 03/21/2021 12:33 PM
Ellaraine, If you haven't read it, I recommend Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. This poem opens up a new world to me. Thank you.
Posted 03/21/2021 07:36 AM