I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Friday 28 June 2013

Poetry & Perfume VII – ‘True Love’ by Sharon Olds & ‘Amaranthine’ by Penhaligon’s & ‘Vanille Absolument’ by L’Artisan Parfumeur

True Love
By Sharon Olds
In the middle of the night, when we get up

after making love, we look at each other in

complete friendship, we know so fully

what the other has been doing. Bound to each other

like mountaineers coming down from a mountain,

bound with the tie of the delivery-room,

we wander down the hall to the bathroom, I can

hardly walk, I hobble through the granular

shadowless air, I know where you are

with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other

with huge invisible threads, our sexes

muted, exhausted, crushed, the whole

body a sex—surely this

is the most blessed time of my life,

our children asleep in their beds, each fate

like a vein of abiding mineral

not discovered yet. I sit

on the toilet in the night, you are somewhere in the room,

I open the window and snow has fallen in a

steep drift, against the pane, I

look up, into it,

a wall of cold crystals, silent

and glistening, I quietly call to you

and you come and hold my hand and
I say
I cannot see beyond it. I cannot see beyond it.

This is the only poem where I wanted, or more truthfully, the poem demanded two fragrances.

True Love is one of my most precious poems; I am quite overcome by Sharon Olds when I read her sensual and open work. Her words read like intimate confessions, yet strike our hearts and minds with real physical force. She is brutally honest, yet a tactile and emotive writer, her work is anchored in all of our physical realities. She dissects the body, heart and mind with almost unbearable precision.

Her most recent collection Stag’s Leap was extraordinary. An intimate and shared journey through the slow and painful disintegration of Old’s marriage.  The poems were written over fourteen years and Old’s has allowed us to glimpse into a sacred house of intimacy and witness the wars and love the rooms have witnessed. I struggled with the intensity of them, and will need to return to them as an ongoing commitment, like talking to a friend after trauma. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Stag’s Leap, a strangely public prize for such private work. But this in many ways is poetry, the sharing of scars and intimacies, the transmissions of love and pain that lay down messages for us to pick up and imbibe.

True Love is taken from Wellspring, a moist and intimate collection, dealing awash with sex, death, birth and the ties that bind us at so many times of our fraught lives. Invisible or not, some ties hold, some strangle. I return to this group of poems again and again. They are nighttime words, sex words. I have read them to strangers in hotel rooms, read them in flickering bedroom light, feeling each word like a needle or a caress depending on my mood.

….I know where you are,
with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other
with huge invisible threads, our sexes
muted, exhausted, crushed, the whole
body a sex..

When I read these lines. I knew I had to have Amaranthine by Penhaligon’s. Created by Bertrand Duchaufour in 2009, this carnal, corrupted floral changed many people’s perceptions of the classic English house. Bertrand was given carte blanche to create something shocking. It was his first commission for Penhaligon’s and is in my opinion the best fragrance the house has ever done.  Loaded with two huge beating heart notes of jasmine and ylang-ylang absolutes, Amaranthine assaults the senses.  Ylang has to be controlled in fragrance. Early mods of Amaranthine were rejected for failing to comply with IFRA guidelines. Ylang has a reputation as aphrodisiac oil; high doses cause dizziness, rapid heartbeat and nausea. Love, hate and desire essentially.

I said the poem demanded two fragrances. Two bodies, one mix. So to echo the comfort and physical recognition of the couple in True Love, I chose Vanille Absolument by L’Artisan Parfumeur also created by Bertrand. It was important to me to have two perfumes by the same nose. They would meld, echo, subvert and obsess each other.

This has been my signature scent since it launch in 2009. Sadly it has been discontinued, so I have been forced to buy up bottles wherever I can.  A fabulously sexed-up vanilla, soaked in rum and smoked with the sweet caramel tones of Cuban tobacco. Piracy, cane sugar, sweat and heat. Things are wrapped in one of the most buttery burnt twisted vanilla ever made.

It almost overwhelms you where you first spray it on; dizzying in its intensity, pungent with a whiff of what seems like burnt butter. This butyric twist is lit through with plumes of smoky tobacco and rounded off with tonka bean, the licorice lick of immortelle and narcissus absolutes. This heart of smoke and mirrors precedes the final dazzling act of vanilla absolutes, smoked woods, musk, benzoin, Tolu balsam and mosses. These base elements sway slowly across the skin like an ancient ritualistic dance in a room walled in amber, the air liquid with love. Everything is honeyed, sweet, smoked and warm.

Wearing or smearing these fragrances together seems almost obscene. So much sex, the rolling of skin, the heat of post-coital tenderness… Old’s ‘shadowless air’, the oxygen and light burned up by such committed intensity. Yet both scents have kernels of intimacy that remain separate from the other. The porny corrupted milk and shattered flora of Amaranthine gives way to a languorous unfurling of scented fingers and limbs. Vanille Absolument drops into a half-remembered movie moment of shared cigarettes and bruised skin, the air humid with desire.

Bertrand Duchaufour has imagined the vanilla pod as skin, wrapped around the most delicious rum and raisin internals, underpinned with radiant balsamics and the most exquisite amber and woods. His trademark atmospherics vibrate, shimmer and open out on the skin, widening Vanille Absolument into a panoramic wonder.

This skin facet, the effect of comfortable post-coital scent resonates with the poem, the ease of one other, and the intimacy of shared spaces. The physical act of love, still so tender and meaningful. The kids doze, the couple treasure a moment in a bathroom, so full of familiarity, the drama of sudden awareness, of oncoming fragility, looms large as snow against the glass. The view is blocked. For a moment, they cannot see beyond it.

Or beyond each other, beyond their lives or just the simple piles of white crystals drifting up against the glass. There is a telescoping of emotion at the end. I would like to imagine them, skins cross-scented with vanilla, ylang and tobacco, listening to snow fall, reaching for each others fingers in the dark.

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