EVENING IN PARIS
(Titles of Edith Piaf songs in italics)
Every morning you unscrewed the tear-shaped
silver top of the cobalt bottle, plus bleu que tes yeux—
bluer than your eyes, and dabbed your neck, clavicle,
and wrists with Evening in Paris—
your scent tattoo—top notes of violet and bergamot,
heart notes of jasmine and roses
that warbled through our rooms
like Edith Piaf’s voice on the hi-fi.
You, born in Syracuse, dreamt
of being sous le ciel de Paris, smoked
Gauloises when you could find them
and wore your brown hair up in a French twist.
You gave me my French name—Rochelle.
For your birthdays, I’d save my pennies,
nickels, and dimes, and go to Woolworth
to buy you a tiny bottle of Evening in Paris
that didn’t come in a blue-satin-lined box
like the two-ounce bottle Father bought for you,
but still you held mine to your heart.
Evening in Paris was written in blue script
on the silver label like the names,
settings, and dates you fountain-penned,
your mots d’amour, in Waterman’s blue
ink on the scalloped edges of sepia photos
that you mucilaged into the black pages of albums.
Your scent wafts up to me as you lean toward me
to kiss my forehead in late evening
when the drawn shades shut out the streetlights,
your face shining, starlit, with Pond’s Cold Cream.
Tu est partout—you
Your foot, smaller than my index finger,
nose no wider than my thumb knuckle, fuzzy head,
heady as honeysuckle. The soft spot on your crown
rises and falls with your whispery breath. What bit
of me, bit of my son, of my husband, is in you, Bitsy Boy?
Our past, our future is swaddled with you.
Your eyelids flutter. Your bottom lip curls down.
With your fist at your cheek, you begin to root.
My breasts tingle as if
I’m nursing again.
Soon, you will outgrow my arms.
You startle. Fingers spring straight out.
I hand you to your mother. Your profile
sinks into the pillow of her breast. You, Isaac,
are the light the shades let in.
I trace my finger
over your lashes
that quiver like
on my wrist.
your bristly cheeks,
of your long neck,
Now my palms rest
on yours. May