Perfumes Left Behind

October 17, 2012

Forget that the dead grass was once
a moss so luminous on the rocks
it formed a double rainbow
of complicated white light and sinister,
ambrosial shadows—perfumes left behind
you might not think to breathe. Forget the songs
you want to sing; the hunter’s moon will steal
them off your lips. Forget the poems you might recite;
they won’t suffice for a fresh breeze, much less
to salute the stale air and morbid fantasies around you.
Forget that autumn is a kind of baroque senescence,
and that the dawn as it rises from the great sea
is about to breathe this same autumn air.
Forget that the sky is so pale. Forget it’s so serene.

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3 Responses to “Perfumes Left Behind”

  1. Thomas Davis Says:

    The poetry I have been reading, as I make a futile stab at catching up, has a power that is stunning, Jim. The whole point of this poem is that the perfume left behind still exists, but in contemplation the poet is saying, forget that and all the other things as life ends. Whether the speaker is the dying person, the dying day, or the dying year does not matter. There is a passage, and in the passage there is the passion of remembering that denies remembering–that in the denial is bringing back all that is about to be lost.

  2. extrasimile Says:

    Thanks, Anna, for reading this. Despite the companion reference to the sky, your poem and mine are not similar. I disagree, though, about the meaninglessness. You don’t mourn the loss of emptiness. I see this poem as aching with loss; the issue is really who is speaking and to whom is he speaking. More specifically, is it one person talking to another or one person talking to himself? I hope it’s obvious the latter is the case.
    But who is speaking this poem? Is it a dying day, a dying year, a dying person? Or all of the above? I’d have to choose (c), but it is someone who is able to identify with the dying of the day and season: and identify so much that he project himself into that loss—someone who is able to understand and smell and breathe the perfumes, someone who has not left them behind.

  3. Anna Mark Says:

    Another poem with chords of meaninglessness throughout and truthfulness, too. Why remember all the beauty when autumn or decay or morbidity is ever present, alongside us? This poem expresses that tension for me and I enjoyed reading it. The line “the hunter’s moon will steal them off your lips” is quite sinister in its beauty.


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