Because I was going to be left in Maryland (feeling sorry for myself and dejected) while my spouse drove out to New Mexico, the usual agreement was quickly reached: there would be many presents. My husband is a very good buyer of presents. I have earring from Cyprus, a silk carpet from Bahrain. And, last week, he returned with a pair of turquoise necklaces and some dangling, silver earrings found at one of the pueblos outside of Santa Fe. He brought with him a cooler of frozen green chile, red chile, and tamales.
He was given a destination for his return trip, one that took him seven hours (!) out of his way to Boulder, CO, to the studio of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, an American niche perfumer. I had read good things about her work but had never smelled any of it. So, my husband arrived at the store with a list of gourmands and ambers and orientals whose descriptions intrigued me. And, he came home with small bottles, little testers, and travel vials, so that his first few hours back in Maryland were perfumed, all of our wrists, ankles, the backs of our hands dabbed with half a dozen different scents.
My favorite of the bunch turned out to one of the more edible fragrances, Mahjoun, which according to the website's ad copy is "based on a Moroccan delicacy of exotic spices, flower buds, desert fruits, sensuous honey and precious woods." Some perfumes make for good bedtime scents, because they relax the wearer or are evocative of some emotion, some memory, some place. Mahjoun is soft and sweet, but it is also an introspective scent, bringing with it the lush, layered aromas of the bazaar as well. I like to curl up on my side, one hand resting under my cheek. I can smell the spices and fruits as nudge myself into sleep.
If I hadn't already paired Wallace Stevens with another scent in the "perfumes & poems" series, I would use one of his poems now, because Mahjoun has the same kind of Westernized representation of the exotic that we see in Stevens. Instead, I'll link Mahjoun to something sad and dreamy and sharp, as only Lucille Clifton can be:
by Lucille Clifton
who would believe them winged
who would believe they could be
beautiful who would believe
they could fall so in love with mortals
that they would attach themselves
as scars attach and ride the skin
sometimes we hear them in our dreams
rattling their skulls clicking their bony fingers
envying our crackling hair
our spice filled flesh
they have heard me beseeching
as I whispered into my own
cupped hands enough not me again
enough but who can distinguish
one human voice
amid such choruses of desire