Today’s poem is “Summer Person” by Glenna Johnson Smith. She was born in 1920 and grew up in the small coastal village of Ashville. Among her books is Old Maine Woman: Stories from the Coast to the County.
In 1989 she wrote about her work in the Maine Speaks An Anthology of Maine Literature: “I still feel akin to the Maine countryside, whether it be the wide rolling potato fields of Aroostook County or the shores of Frenchman’s Bay, and I write for nearly the same old reasons: to try to understand the perplexities of my world and the changing seasons of my life.”
by Glenna Johnson Smith
When Mrs. Ashley walks across a room
she leaves an almost-fragrance
so quickly blown away
it may be just a trick of memory,
a dream perfume
(White sheets blowing on a clothesline—
the crumpled death of roses—)
Her tennis dress new-fallen on the bed
the saffron satin robe
shrugged off before her bath
hint the same bouquet.
The local high school girl,
lady’s maid by summer,
breathes in the haunting message.
She longs to hold it
for a moment in her hands.
Eagerly and fearfully
while Mrs. Ashley’s out to tea
the girl opens cut glass jars
to find the secret source.
But no bottle, tube or vial
contains the subtle essence.
The women of the village
smell of fried potatoes, onions,
Fels-Maptha soap and sometimes sweat
from scrubbing floors and making jam
(Cashmere Bouquet and Coty’s Talc
are saved for Saturday night.)
Perhaps only summer ladies
perspire sun and wind
and dying roses.
Poem copyright © 1989 Glenna Johnson Smith.
Reprinted from Aldenville, Hummingbird Press, 1989
by permission of Glenna Johnson Smith.