Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I know what violets look like now

I wrote this poem the other day and, at the urging of a friend whose own pellucid honesty I deeply respect, I will share it here along with the explanation behind it.

I know what violets look like now. 
Josephine, to keep her Napoleon, wore the scent of  violets, which once inhaled were soon forgotten and never to be recalled until the wearer pressed again the little petals to her skin. He must come back for he could not rest in the limbic grey where most sense is kept.  
I know what violets look like now for I have seen them sleep in winter snow;
I have seen the purple whir beneath the soil, heard them speak of yellow toil. 

A long time ago I read a small anecdote that Josephine (Napoleon Bonaparte's wife) only wore the scent of violets because it is the only scent the brain cannot "remember" until one smells it again. I am not sure how true that fact is but nevertheless it piqued my interest enough to stay with me all of these years. The romantic in me wondered  if Josephine did it as a way to always bring him back from war and from conquering distant lands. I am also fascinated by the connection between memory and scent as the two are intimately tied together perhaps since they happen to "live" next to each other in neighboring sections of the human brain. 

The memory of this little story came back to me as I was googling wedding bouquets (because, why not?) and I wondered what a bouquet of violets would look like. The verdict? They are so tiny! More research revealed that they are one of the first spring flowers to bloom thus making them essentially winter-steady flowers. To me, the flowers that survive winter and bloom first in spring are the most steadfast, just like the love needed between Josephine and Napoleon to keep their often long-distance relationship alive.

The "limbic grey where most sense is kept" is a play on words since sense (and scent) are located in the "limbic" part of the brain otherwise known colloquially as "grey matter." The word sense is a homonym for "scents" (and cents! ha!) The reference to the limbic grey area of sense can also be a nod to the limbo of traveling for work or the limbo grey area of logic. We cannot just stay in the logical, "sensible" grey area of life all of the time. Sometimes we have to rely on something deeper than our minds, something more intuitive and emotional in order to find our ways back to what (and who) we truly love. 

And so, there it is. 

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