Nice perfume, I said. Yes, you said, the last time I saw you.
What is it about it? I said. The House of Worth, you said,
1932. My mother would have been seventeen.
It's the scent GIs in Paris would buy for their girl-friends
as a promise that they would return when demobilized.
That some did not goes without saying. I come again,
Je reviens. The overall effect is difficult to describe,
since it seems to develop separately
but simultaneously on two distinct levels, wavelengths
of suggestion and risk as well as definite statement.
One factor is mysterious and woody, with piquant
flashes of herbs, the other a heady rush of flowers.
It is based on narcissus poeticus, a native
of the underworld attractive to ghostly reflections.
Iris root is an essential, ingredient, Iris
a sister of the Harpies, and messenger of the gods,
who ferries the souls of dead women to the underworld,
who personifies the rainbow, the iris of the eye.
How we got from the scent to the Afghan rug I don't know,
but as we sprawled carelessly on its ground of red madder
we began to enter its arabesques of indigo
and purpurin flecked with yellow larkspur of the desert.
At first the pattern seemed to be a Tree of Life,
but then the warp and weft began to shift and shimmer under us,
becoming now a dragon and phoenix in combat, now
a snarl of vines or snakes. Ensnarled and thinking to escape,
we plunged down through the ages till we landed on a field
of Afghan war rug bright with helicopters, guns and tanks.