Tuesday, 23 February 2010


“The past not merely is not fugitive, it remains present.” - Marcel Proust

The sense of smell is one that characterises more than any other of our senses, our animal origins. Smell is ever-present and can be associated with any situation, person, place or event in our life, stamping indelibly in our memory that peculiar smell with that time, place but more importantly emotions we were feeling then. Our olfactory memories have strong emotional associations and are linked with the experiences we lived through. The sense of smell is processed by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions so it is not surprising that smell and sentiment feed off one another.

We find that we can immediately recognise and respond to smells from childhood such as the smell of Mum’s clean sheets, the cake baking in the oven, the smell of new books in grade one, or a musty cellar in Grandpa’s house. We remember the smell of the skin of our lover, the perfume that our high school teacher wore (and who we had a crush on!) or the smell of a street that we walked on during our first overseas holiday. Even if these smells cannot be specifically identified, their re-encounter later in life sparks off a shower of memories that trigger off a domino effect of strong emotional experiences.

This poem I wrote when I found a bottle of perfume belonging to an old flame, whose smell triggered off a cascade of sentimental reactions and feelings…

The Scent Bottle

A mislaid, forgotten bottle of your scent
I found today and opened to inhale;
A flood of memory spun a rich tale,
With costly perfumes from Tashkent
Souvenirs of whispers hidden by a veil.

Your pale demeanour, golden hair
Enveloped in a cloud of fragrance,
Enhancing so your silky elegance;
Reminded now by the scent so rare,
Again our parting making me despair.

The citrus, civet and the earthy musk
Are mixed with the delights of rose
That delicately caress the nose.
The summery afternoon, the violet dusk
What marvels for a scent bottle to enclose!

My wandering fingers on your skin
I recollect, absorbing with each touch
An aromatic kiss – in love so much!
Heady ambergris like sounds of violin,
Fading recall, as snowflake, I try to clutch.

A bottle of scent, and your memory I seek,
In billows of vetiver, nard and myrrh.
My loss, a perfume smelt, will now aver
Times past, of happiness gone to speak,
As echoes of long-lost love I stir.

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday!


  1. beautiful work.
    the spicy orientals are the best perfumes - Chanel's black-label COCO the acme, YSL Opium is up there.
    Our memory of scent is actually hard-wired in our brains.
    It's how ewes know which lamb is theirs, and vive versa.
    *goes off to find some madeleines*

  2. The fragrances in my memory are endless I believe.
    I just came from another blog, who posted about the same!

  3. The sense of smell is very important to me and I have very strong emotional reactions to it. Your poem is beautiful but sad also as it evokes a sense of loss, remembered.
    My favourite perfume is Madame Rochas, which is now considered old-fashioned, but it really suits me. This is something that a lot of women don't appreciate: that not only must a perfume smell good in a bottle or on someone else, it must suit your skin chemistry, otherwise you may as well douse yourself with flyspray!

  4. I wear Red Door at the mo, but I have several other favorites including CK One, New West and Opium.
    Nice poem!!!!

  5. i like the poem
    smells can be very personal and what stinks to one person the other person finds attractive
    interesting how many components of perfumes when concentrated stink but when diluted smell heavenly