Her only perfume
by Marge Piercy

My mother had one bottle of perfume,
Mille Fleurs, in a squat bottle on her vanity
for two decades beside the powder
called Rachel and the brush with bristles
too short for my torrent of hair.

A little girl touches her mother’s things
with a mix of awe and lust, wanting
to smear herself with what makes
her glamorous.  Women touch their
mothers’ things with a mix of sorrow

and pity.  So little she had to make
her feel desired.  So little that
wasn’t worn, broken, mended again
and again.  Rummage sale victories
filled her closet and drawers.

When she dabbed that perfume
on wrists and behind her ears
I knew she would put on her good
red sequined dress with the deep
V and the patent shoes that hurt

her feet.  Where are you going,
Mother?  No place special.  To
the families of men who worked
with my father, to a movie, but never
to dance again on her swollen feet.

by Marge Piercy

I come home in a blizzard of flutes
thinking I have neglected your knees.
I will worship them an hour
apiece.  I return from traveling
holding my breath like a candle
before me.  My love is greedy
and grateful and I have missed
you all the way to the ends
of my fingers and hair.

Now we curl up and I have
swallowed a small sun.  Can
you bear to look in my eyes?
My wanting roars.  Don’t
burn yourself on my thighs.
My small body intends
to envelope yours.  Home,
you are my home.  I roost
in you like a hawk in a tree.


Marge Piercy is the author of seventeen poetry collections including
Colors Passing Through Us, The Art of Blessing the Day, and most
The Crooked Inheritance, all from Knopf.  She has written
seventeen novels, most recently
Sex Wars from Morrow/Harper Collins,
who published her memoir,
Sleeping with Cats.     

On “Her only perfume”:
On the anniversary of my mother’s death, her yahrzeit, last year,
I suddenly smelled a perfume she used to wear.  It was one of
those sensual memories that seem to come from nowhere.

On “Home, coming home”:
Travel is more and more hellish by plane, that large tin can in
which you are packed in bad air.  It took me 23 hours to get from
St. Louis to Boston last spring after 3 gigs in that area.  As you
can read I was very happy to get home.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 4, Number 2
(Fall 2009)

Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.

Home, coming home