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Flashbacks in a Bottle
Ellaraine Lockie


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 Mamie’s $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 Tarzan’s 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 boys’ rings
I became promiscuous with olfactory affairs
Thirty cents an hour for babysitting didn’t buy  
tie-dye, Polaroid film or Spider-Man comics
But Arpège, 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 doesn’t wear perfume has no future

Aunt Bertie’s future lurks in her turn-of-the-century
L’heure Bleue bottle that will pass down to my daughter  
Who remembers the earthy iris root scent
that surrounded Montana’s first woman square dance caller
accordion player and solo car tripper
A mannequin in the backseat dressed
in her dead husband’s clothes long before women’s 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 grew up in a Montana farm town and writes at her local Starbucks every morning because it feels like one of the friendly coffee shops where she grew up, a place where everyone knew everyone else who came for coffee and camaraderie. Along with publications in the standard journals, Ellaraine's poems have appeared on broadsides, buses, rented cars, bicycles, cabins, greeting cards, key chains, bookmarks, mugs, coffee sack labels, church bulletins, radio shows and cable TV.
Ellaraine serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH.


Post New Comment:
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
Lori Levy:
I can smell all that perfume. Great!
Posted 03/21/2021 06:03 PM
Heaven Scent remains my all-time favorite perfume from the 70s!! Love this poem!
Posted 03/21/2021 12:33 PM

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