March 27, 2019

PERFUME: A POEM

Photo: Toan Klein


SUSAN GLICKMAN
Perfume


A dab on the left wrist conjures
a Russian birch-wood in summer,
green leaves filtering the sweet green light.
Two children – one girl, one boy –
help their grandmother search for mushrooms.
In the city a revolution is happening
but it hasn’t reached them yet
so their scuffed brown boots avoid only
the berjozovik
shrouded in leaf mulch and rotting wood;
precious mushrooms to carry home
unbruised for Baba’s soup.

The right wafts jasmine
jangling with bracelets of gold,
the palm a languorous scrawl of henna.
Wedding music plays
so a blue vein throbs
billowing fragrance into air
freighted with rosewater, turmeric, sandalwood
and an undercurrent – not unpleasant –
of healthy sweat.
It’s the groom with eyes outlined in kohl,
fine eyes that glance shyly at us
then away.

Next to the neck, mushroom stalk of reverie,
where atoms of scent disperse like mist
from a cataract that falls and falls
and never reaches bottom
and I’m at the library of Alexandria
arms full of imperiled books,
books I will never read in languages
I will never speak:
wood smoke, tang of parchment,
leather, mildew, gilt,
filling my hungry lungs
with their lost knowledge.

Susan Glickman is a lapsed academic and full-time dog-walker. She works as a freelance editor and goes to art school in Toronto. Her 7th collection of poetry with Signal Editions of Vehicule Press, What We Carry, appears in April 2019; it will be her 15th book overall. She apologizes sincerely to all the trees who sacrificed their lives for her writing.

from What We Carry (Signal, 2019). By permission of the author.