POETRY SEPTEMBER 4, 2013
I never opened the spare bottle of Joy
she bought at a duty-free shop in Paris
that, for years, lorded it over her Chanel No 5
& Je Reviens. One whiff of those eaux
de cologne on my wrist evokes her world,
but Joy was my mother’s signature scent
long before I packed my Jersey accent
& bell bottoms for my summer joy-
ride’s hippie grand tour of the world—
the quintessential American in Paris
reading Hemingway & nursing a café au
lait. It was different then, back in ’75,
when you could actually do Europe on Five
Dollars A Day, pre-euro, give or take a cent,
using a Student Eurail Pass & the Métro,
& if “Born to Run” was your “Ode to Joy.”
My parents & I rendezvoused in Paris.
Au revoir, hostel (toilet down the hall). World
my oyster, I unfolded the roll-away & whirled
in their jumbo tub, treated like royalty at the 5-
star Hôtel Ritz (1st arrondissement, Paris)
where Princess Di began her final descent
the night she died. Death’s an awful killjoy.
What killed my mother also killed Jackie O.
Though I lost my dear one two decades ago,
I held on to her souvenir of “the world’s
most expensive perfume”: an ounce of Joy
= 28 dozen roses & 10,000 jasmine blooms. If I’ve
forgotten her every so often, I’m innocent—
my grief’s bottled up, vintage Evening in Paris.
If only Joy’s glass bottle were plaster of Paris.
I twisted the stopper, the bottle slipped, & oh!,
it broke in the sink & her absence, a present,
rose from the shards. Precious gold essence whorled
through my fingers & down the drain in five
seconds flat like the dishsoap, liquid Joy.
We’ll always have Paris, but that lost world
I owe her—her Saks Fifth Avenue & my five
& dime—exists in a present too late to enjoy.