My mother’s old handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother’s handbag: mints
and lipstick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
and worn at the edges, opened,
read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odor
of leather and powder, which
ever since then has meant womanliness,
and love, and anguish, and war.
Ruth Fainlight, born 1931, American poet