Dropping The Bottle Of Perfume My Mother Always Wore
on the anniversary of her dying, the 
candle for her flickering down 
stairs, an eerie light like the 
arms of someone drowning. In the 
mirror my body seems to be trying 

to catch up with her, as if 
stripped to the bone it would be 
sweeter, close. I’m in a house 
that doesn’t seem like mine, though 
my clothes are in a closet. I want 

the smell of her, as Napoleon carried 
in a locket the violets that Josephine 
always wore, taken from her grave. I 
take the Joy out of the drawer where 
it’s nestled in flannel, and it slips

from my hands, as she did, smashes 
on white tile, an explosion of glass. 
I try to soak up the gold juice like 
someone at a murder trying to sop 
up blood. “Shit,” I yelp, but only once, 

as if I’m in a church or synagogue. 
Or because of the day. The bottle 
could be me, ragged, in sharp pieces,
 empty, holding on to what is gone. 
The pale chemise reeks of jasmine 

and roses. I take it to my old house, 
where once, when we fought and she 
said my clothes were slutty, I held 
my breath, wondered when things 
wouldn’t always be this way.