Kate Garrett – Two Poems


The Perfumier

She divines the dance of scent
on my skin, can tell my fortune
in the common names of chemical
compounds: the past is bergamot;
my present, benzoin; future, rose.
She is a shapeshifter, a wise
woman, a conjuror of painted
scenes. My eyes close on the in-breath,
her visions spring alive from the vial:
curling jasmine vines climb
a wicker table set for tea—
a carrot cake, lemons, crystal
bowls of vanilla sugar—I hear
the butterflies in flight, a fox
lurking between the trees.

To know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent

He asked if I was a witch, if he’d see
me dancing naked through the trees,

and if I’d meet him at midnight so we
could build a fire. He said I was proper
bonny, a dark faery, just what he wanted.

I said I am, though not that kind of witch,
but he was away with his own faeries—
they brought him needles, lighters, spoons.

So the boy with the clouds
in his eyes said it was fine.

I didn’t say my magic simmered slowly;
I didn’t say a spell isn’t such a quick fix.

I didn’t say that behind closed doors each
night a man searched me for devil marks,

tried to squeeze admissions from my throat,
and threw my words on a fire to warm
his ale-drunk hands, to bind me to him.

I didn’t say that even as we spoke, nettle
roots pushed down through cryptic notes
I’d planted in the garden, and I’d soon be free.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

For me, beauty is usually found between flaws and surprises. Beauty isn’t an ideal for me to chase, or an aspiration. It’s something you find by chance, or in an unexpected place, not by searching or questing for it. For example, in one of my poems the beauty is synaesthetic—it comes from a spontaneous blending of senses, which is something I experience every day. It’s especially strong when I smell perfume (one of my favourite things). In the other poem, beauty is in a serendipitous but unromantic connection the narrator finds she has with a drug addict. The narrator and the addict have serious issues in their lives, but they manage to see the world as full of magic. A lot of people do manage that and it’s beautiful to me—the human equivalent of flowers growing through concrete.


Kate Garrett writes and edits. She is the founding editor of Three Drops from a Cauldron and Picaroon Poetry, and her own work has been widely published, most recently in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Prole, and Rust + Moth, among others. Her pamphlet The Density of Salt (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016) was longlisted for best pamphlet in the 2016 Saboteur Awards, and her next pamphlet, You’ve never seen a doomsday like it, will also be published by Indigo Dreams later in 2017. She lives in Sheffield, UK with her husband, four children, and a cat named Mimi. More at: kategarrettwrites.co.uk.