Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Never But Once Such Sweetness (Poem)

Never But Once Such Sweetness

If you can imagine your garage
        filling with carbon dioxide

while you sit content in your car
        breathing in the mountain-fresh pine

-scented odor-eater your wife, too
        alert to your pipe tobacco, insists

you hang from the rear-view mirror,
        you will get the picture. You will

always keep the door to the outside
        open and take pains to light up on

your own time. You will consider
        asking your wife, now that she's showered

her skin loose of its clingy perfumed bathroom
        cleaners and laundry whiteners,

to put a fingertip of woolly white lavender
        behind each ear, inside the soft creases

where her arm bones join,
        along those tiny wrists you will raise

to your nose and then kiss ever
        so lightly she will barely have time

to resist your calloused hand
        as it slides to the small

of her back and gently moves her
        forward, out of harsh light, stopping

where the waxy yellow of a candle
        provides all the atmosphere

you will need this once to recall being
        that afternoon in the south of France

where you tested your senses
        against the reach of the galling sea

and the smells of bodies lotioned
        and turning with the freckled sun's changing

direction. You will remember, later,
        the hints of bright citrus and melons

as you sipped La Belle Vie and broke
        a long arm of warmed bread and spread

a clot of creamy churned butter
        and, later still, made much of the taste

of lips (their red like fresh strawberries),
        crushing quietly between teeth before

slipping along a tongue that never
        but once has known such sweetness.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired by a prompt, Marie-Elizabeth Mali's "Second Year of Marriage" from Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2011), in the most recent issue of poet Diane Lockward's newsletter. The instructions were to "[w]rite down the names of some sensuous food items, ones with fabulous aromas. Write down some other items with strong, distinctive smells. Let one or more of these trigger a memory. Go back to another time and place. Is there another person in your present scene or in the past scene? Let this be a love poem, though it doesn't have to be a romantic love poem. Now see how you might pull your material into a draft that shifts back and forth between past and present. Try just free-writing at first. Give yourself 10 minutes. Shape your material into a poem, maybe eventually using two-line stanzas as Marie-Elizabeth has."


Louise Gallagher said...

We're both, in ways,writing about time this morning.

Yours is fascinating. Beautiful poem.

The scent of lavender wafts throughout it -- one of my favourites.

Kathleen said...

I so loved all the scents here!

Victoria said...

OMG, Maureen, before I read your process notes I thought...this is an ode to the sense of smell. I'm not sure I remember another scent poem as strong as this one. Bravo.

S. Etole said...

this whets the senses well ...

[yes, the flowers are in my flower beds]

Anonymous said...

perhaps he shall go on dreaming...

Annie Boreson said...

Beautiful and deserving of praise. Like Victoria and others said, you have captured the beauty of scent. Bravo!

Brian Miller said...

goodness maureen this is just gorgeous...fromt he garage and all its texture to the wife to a holiday to...but it all played so well together...love the detail...it sets the feel...

Anonymous said...

At first read I thought that the second line said "carbon monoxide" (probably because I was reading Anne Sexton last night) -- which gave a decidedly different drift to the entire poem. On a second read, my, what a sexy poem. I thought of my wife's tiny wrist, among other things. Really a lovely poem.


Elizabeth Young said...

This poem just blows me away Maureen, the detail and form are exquisite, telling a full story within its lines.

Joyce Wycoff said...

What a sensory feast ... truly remarkable.

hedgewitch said...

Almost in a dream state just reading. You took this prompt and made it your own. the fragrances really do some heavy lifting here, bringing past images into and out of focus like a cinematic montage. Enjoyed this very skillful(invisibly so) and liquid poem very much.

Pat Hatt said...

Wow this one was filled with beauty and vivid detail, great job!

ayala said...

The details and images here just great.

Jenne' R. Andrews said...

I hadn't seen this-- I wrote to this prompt as well, my green chiles poem which I think you've seen, and used it in Triggered Muse. It is stunning. xxxj

The Poet said...

Simply wonderful.
Thank goodness for smell!

Diane Walker said...

Wow. I love everything about this poem -- most especially the way the line breaks help pull you through the memories...

signed...bkm said...

Just a wonderful write Maureen it captures the senses and thoughts linger long after reading....very nice...bkm

Jerry said...

This was so good that I forgot it started in the garage. Wonderful...

Unknown said...

beauty is in the nose of the beholder and you certainly conveyed this with your beautiful poem ...thank you

Anonymous said...

Vivid and dark! Great poem.

Beachanny said...

Not only was this delicious in its sensory poetics, it was the best use of contrast as a poetic device I think I've ever read. From the beginning carbon monoxide camouflage to the image of a couple changed by time but so in love that any sensory trigger brought back those magical early memories that carried them through the rocky times. Excellent!