Perfume Of The Soul


Long ago,

under California’s summer sun,

I came to love you.


I was too young,

you were too old,

and though I knew

I was a decoration,

I felt strength in your arms

and history in your heart,

whose rhythms murmured

under my head at midnight in

that remote, ramshackle ranch in

the valley.


Three days, maybe four

I knew peace and presence

in my twenties because of you,

the one who knew when to let go,

so that I could follow my heart

as you went free into your sunset.


I asked you for the tee-shirt you wore

the two days and two nights before I left for New York.

“I want to smell you until I return,”

I whispered in your ear, our heads on the pillow,

believing in my too young confidence

that returning was possible.


You gave me the shirt knowing

that I would not return,

would never again be the ornament whom

you had come to love more than

your judgement cautioned,

watched in resignation

as I grew beyond

any life we could inhabit together.


You knew what I did not:

your scent could not last,

because tee-shirts

have no regard for memory.


I arrived in Manhattan alone,

five hundred dollars in my wallet,

two suitcases in my arms,

and a man’s large tee

packed on top my life.


For weeks

I smelled your sweat and musk

in the cotton fibers,

until the dissolve

between scent and the memory of the scent

was imperceptible, as was

the dissolve between

when you quit calling long distance

and I knew that going back

was impossible

became certain.


I remembered you this week, for

I smelled the traces of love, innocence

and tenderness wrapped in longing, remembered those

few peaceful days in a decade

devoted to self-annihilation  of

epic proportions.


I remembered smelling your tee,

trying not to lose you

as I pressed my nose into the cotton,

remembered the inconsolable pain

of a disappearing scent,

and with it a life I knew

no longer waited for me.


This week, I smelled

the traces of love,

and I remembered you.

I finally understood that everything was

as it was meant to be.

We loved as best we could,

thinking ourselves two souls

inhabiting different lives.


But now I know we

are one Soul, that Love

is its own fragrance,

and in my inexperience

I mistook

the perfume of the Soul

for the sweat and musk on

a tee-shirt long ago





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