Scents That Linger

lilacThere is no competition:
no freshly mown grass,
not even bread resting oven-hot.

For two intoxicating weeks
all the streets in our neighbourhood
become saturated with the drama
of spring ripening into summer:
sultry yet virginal,
adolescent meanders in the park behind school,
stolen handheld moments,
clumsy kiss.

All my journeys doubled for,
no matter how late I am,
I can never resist stopping
for a sniff.

The dVerse Poets Pub is open after its seasonal break, and Kelly is inviting us to write poems invoking the sense of smell and all the memories we associate with a particular scent.

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Lilac Passing

It was the first summer she was allowed to go to the seaside by herself. She was working as a guide, so there were still rules and timetables to conform to, supervision and rebukes to endure. But the clothes were uncensored, the lipstick was hers to wield. She could laugh loudly and often, she could dance as if no one was looking. Her light no longer concealed by the well-meaning protective shade of her parents’ bushel.

One dazzling older man painted her portrait. He sprinkled praise as liberally as his colours.

‘You’re not quite ripe yet. Not yet at the peak of your beauty. Give it another two or three years and you will be truly unforgettable.’

So she waited for her irresistibility to commence. All year she lived in preparation for that delicious delirium, like the lilac bush in her parents’ garden at home. The green leaves so bland to casual onlookers, but she knew it was expectant, ready to burst one day into intoxicating flower.

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By the end of the summer, she’d met the sensible young man with a future ahead of him, the kind of man her parents had always craved. By the following summer she’d persuaded herself that this was her dream too. They got married, setting up a tiny home in a capital city that was much too expensive for them. She worked three jobs at once and still their money ran out mid-month, while he pursued studies which would carve out that promising, tantalising future. In her rush from night-time proofreading to early morning classes, from private lessons to the vegetable stalls at the marketplace, from cooking to cleaning to washing to bill paying and housewife-playing, she forgot to check for her bloom in the mirror.

She made a modest name for herself, a tiny bud in a scholastic tree of excellence. Invited to study abroad, she worked even harder: to fit in, to catch up, to keep up, to maintain the respect of those who funded her. There was no more room for housewifely contortions. Her marriage withered on the stalk. She sought refuge in the life of the intellect. She scraped, she scrabbled, scoured and swept, till she rebuilt a small nest fo herself in that new country, new language, new group of friends.

Then, one day, she looked up. She paused just long enough to catch a glimpse of the person in the mirror. The lilac bush had grown blowsy, the flowers curled up with frayed brown edges. The scent was now tinged with the onset of rot.

She’d blinked and the flowering was over.

This was written as an exercise at the Geneva Writers’ Group on Saturday morning. We were discussing metaphors taken from the natural world. Did I tell you what a wonderful bookish Saturday I had? Literary workshop in the morning, going to the theatre with my younger son in the afternoon and then a poetry reading in the evening. Days don’t get much more inspirational than that.

Now for something completely different…

It seems that no sooner have I finished with one bunch of administrative tasks that I have been putting off for weeks, then it’s time for the next lot to arrive.  I would also like someone to tell me why they always arrive in bunches, like grapes, rather than in single digestible fruits?

However, I still managed to find time to stop and smell the flowers.

The cherry tree in our garden is nearly done with its blossoms, but my favourite flowers are out now:

Yes, lilacs.  I love them in all shapes, colours and forms.  Although I do have a preference for white lilac.

There is something about their scent that no synthetic perfume can capture.  I could set up tent under their canopy for two weeks every year.

And perhaps that is the reason for their magic and attraction: their transcience.  Like camellias or cherry blossoms, blink (or go away on holiday) and you miss them!

So enjoy them while you can. In spite of the rain and clouds.

Writing can wait.  No, I don’t mean that!  But admin tasks perhaps…

Here’s a last one, for luck.

I’ve found my dream location for thinking about writing as well.  Now, if that swing were surrounded by lilac bushes, you know where you could find me for the next couple of weeks!