“Chanel No. 5” by Katharine Henderson

Katharine Henderson (age 14)


Eyes flutter open to a veil of fog.
Not the natural kind,
But the kind that costs you
Hundreds of dollars.
Whose bottle once read:
Chanel No. 5,
Before it was thrown across the room
And shattered.
It is a musk of dying
Flowers and spices
On the bank of England.

Lungs suffocate.
Not because of old age,
But because the cloud of perfume
Is tinted with the smoke
From last night’s many cigarettes
That you shared with the
Woman you know in the mirror.

Embodied in a velvet robe,
Initials sewn on the front.
Your pillows can’t support you as well
As the faux-fur scarf tied
Like a noose around your neck.
Nothing can weigh you down as much,
As the sapphire ring on your left hand,
The permanent red nail polish on your fingers,
The serpent brooch over your heart.

You can’t breathe right,
With your lungs clogged and brain fogged.
You reach for the crystal scotch glass
On your bedside table,
In front of the picture of your grandchildren last Christmas.
You didn’t spend Christmas with them last year,
Or the year before.

Decades ago you wouldn’t have filled
That scotch glass with wine,
Trivial details aren’t seen by you
Decades ago you would have tasted the difference
Between water and wine,
Trivial details aren’t tasted by you
You feel better when you drink wine.
It washes away the pain
Better than water could.

You can’t get up,
So you lie in bed.
Shades are drawn,
Natural light tries to seep through,
But that light isn’t as warm and welcoming
As the blue bitten into your glowing cigarette bud.

Eyes close to a veil of fog.
Instead of I love you or I’m sorry
As last things on your lips,
Old wine and pink Dior lipstick are.
The shattered perfume bottle
And the prick of the brooch
Are what draw blood
And eventually drain you.

from 2016 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Katharine Henderson: “I like to write poetry because it helps me group thoughts I have about the world or people I know into one. I am not an extremely articulate speaker and poetry helps me show what I want to say on a topic or about the world.”

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