L’eau d’Issey

by Audrey El-Osta

I smell it before I see it, when I kiss you on the cheek
I know this scent, that I smelled on your chest,
when you fed me by your breast.
I know this scent, when you held me into the night,
when I fought my body and my mind with all my might.

Here it lies, in a moon-topped bottle on your dresser, an Odyssey
of a perfume, and these days you tell me to wear it, try it, enjoy it.
But it is not mine. Not yet.

This smell of courage, of bravery, of decision and knowledge
that decides women’s choices and powers
of knowing when it is time to let go, of something dying, or died long ago
of knowing how to love someone who hurt themselves,and knowing exactly how to fix what ails them
This, the smell of motherhood.

of unlimited knowledge:
like knowing how to deal with grownups,
handle house hunts, budgets and taxes, mortgages and rent.
knowing innately how long
you should put something in the microwave for
knowing the courage to forget
your own fears for the sake of someone else,
to take a spider in a tissue armoured hand.

to swallow your own panic and emit pulses of calm
in the face of open-torn skin, seeping blood and popping bones
of intoxicating happiness in situational melancholy
holding on to unlimited determination in an unknown quest
of unending stamina after the hours of labour
of doing something yourself, from plumbing to childbirth.

Mama, when you offer me ‘l’eau d’issey,

you promote me prematurely.

Let me decide when it is time to wear it,

when I’m ready

to be more than a big girl.

In the meantime,
let me be,


in the face of summer nights out,
playing cool and wearing lace,
dancing on a winter beach at dusk,
the ocean glowing pink warmth,
biting baby blue sweetness on my naked toes.
Let me be,

a girl,
a child,
a teenager,

blooming as I
flower in wrong decisions and poor choices
made in public parks and private bars
masquerading as a woman.
Let me be,
safe in the knowledge that I’m still
your little girl and still will be in the morning,
playing dress-ups in your kitten heels,
going on dates to the theatre and the symphony
in your handmade dresses.
Let me be,
pretending in this costume, playing
without the authenticity of responsibility.

You will know, that when I wear l’eau d’Issey,
I will buy a bottle for myself, owning this decision
and we will both know that I have grown up, for real.
Not twenty, but twenty-one.



just not today.

Audrey El-Osta is a Melbourne based emerging writer. She studies a BA in linguistics at Monash University, is the Vice President of the Creative Writers Club, and has loved language passionately since childhood. She recently won the Youth Incentive Award for her poem Persephone, in the Poetry D’Amour Competition run by WA Poets, and has had two other poems published in their annual anthology. She aims to soon publish a collection of poetry, exploring sexuality, femininity, memories, and mental illness.

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