Thursday, March 2, 2017

Flannel Perfume

Flannel Perfume

Some weeks after
you left me, panhandling
into the chile parched Mexican dust,

I unwrinkled your shirt
from the closet floor,
accused its clumsy plaid

white for weddings,
red for the factory moon,
black for lies.

It defended itself
with your incense--
old glue, old books, fresh blood.

Too much of you came to testify,
sandalwood hair hung long, flying
brows, the sawblade of

your crosscut smile
rusty but sharp enough.
I could smell the verdict

blowing off on the
highway's blistered back
windy-wild and away, 

feel the unsteady fall
of petal-pink walls, 
each day's rubbled brick 

lichened over in patchouli shadows,
hanging stale in the cell of
a convict's years to come. 

~March 2017

Note: this poem has been edited since originally posted.

for Susie's Perfume    at real toads

Images: Red flannel plaid, manipulated, via the internet
The Roses Of Heliogabalus, 1888, Detail,  by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Public domain via  


  1. Your description of his smile is devastating. I love that the shirt is almost animate, is accused and defends itself with unexpected zeal. "red for the factory moon (!), black for lies"...gee I love that.

  2. My goodness this is good!! Love the way you describe his smile! Inspired ❤️

  3. Oh, I love this. "It defended itself with your incense--old glue, old books, fresh blood." What a defense. :) Awesome as always! Thanks so much for taking part in the prompt!!

  4. Oh my goodness, this is just killer! So much of the person revealed through the plaid flannel.

  5. oh geez. why does he have to smell so good? he's a dead beat. sigh

  6. What a wonderful fragrant poem! Love it!

  7. A gripping vision drifting through an imagination

  8. Oh my goodness! I love this! The smell of clothes and bed linen, whether it's of a child, a parent or a lover, is so familiar. Especially when you miss them. I love the idea of unwrinkling the shirt, the phrase 'accused its clumsy plaid' and the way
    'It defended itself
    with your incense--
    old glue, old books, fresh blood.'
    I could see the 'crosscut smile / rusty but sharp enough'.
    But how poignant those last lines:
    'staled with the musk of
    dead years to come.'

  9. There's a secular tang to this, agnostic of the old spells. Maybe scent needs no cross to resurrect the old curses. This is heady enough--my, so tight and taut and on target. If flannel a pun on Chanel? the male equivalent? Coyote's tang? So much history, road, hurt unbundles in these whiffs. Great stuff.

  10. Your poem reminded me quite sharply of my own experience with a person's scent clinging to clothes which had to be thrown away. In my case, it was my mother's wardrobe to be cleared out after she passed away. It is a memory I deliberately bury out of sight but your poem brought it to the fore.
    Such is the art of the poet who is able to tap into common experience in a way both personal and universal.

  11. Oh, this is good. I can practically smell that flannel. The closing stanza is outstanding.

  12. I love the sad way of parting... I still recall how my grandmother couldn't part with my grandfather's clothes... the scent is clearly the one that stay the longest...

    The loneliness to come in company of that musk is devastating

  13. (sits silently and reads and re-reads. closes own blog browser tab.) ~

    1. I'm back to read it. Again and again.

    2. yes. this is luminous work, Joy ~

  14. I feel like I just witnessed an entire life in one poem. An entire movie. A film. A life. Two. Crazy good

  15. I love that the fabric doesn't only contain the story, but that the story keeps on growing after the subject is out of the picture. It reminds me of the relationship between writings and readers... how stories is not finished after the writer types the last word, since they keep happening with every reading. Your metaphor also describes loss and endings in ways so vivid, that one can smell the heartbreak (and the power of the memories) in every line.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats