A Scented Contrapuntal

In 1555, an antique alchemist distilled

A young raven in a pulp

Of myrtle leaves, talc, and almond oil

To render a perfume

Meant to plant a memory

A stark and violet scent

In the exhibit

“Abstract and Unexplainable Smells”

Find a distillation of surrender

A mélange—a frisson of ions

The discharge herbal and sweet

The first waft of decay

Plants have an olfactory after-life

A lily, long extinct

A mist of cloud and dust, but

Finally, the smell of gray

Smoke and stale air

A bruised and tangled binding


A leathered scent

Of sleeping sweat

Old Spice

Embedded in his cardigan

I carried home

The musk of my father

My mother’s breath blankets

            Tatted pillow cases

Parsed into tight squares

I hoard—store away

For quiet unfoldings

Of buried moments

Azalea and gardenia

Will release and penetrate

Then become

A vine of honeysuckle

That once choked the spring lilac

That cannot be slipped

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