Scent story

Over at Watermark, Sharon has been walking around with her nose in high sensitivity mode in response to read-write-poem’s prompt to write about smells. She came up with a kaleidoscope of amazing and vivid images, and some great phrases to express them in, but she wasn’t sure what sort of poem they made.

As I read her post, poems were jumping out at me, so I impertinently offered to see if I could play around with her images. She kindly said yes, and this is the result:

She puts vanilla on her pulse-points to sell herself
Like her mother baked cookies to sell their house.
She checks all other odours – belly-button, under-arm, vagina –
Are deodorised and masked. Dogs may sniff the crotch
To say “who are you?”. But she is no bitch in heat,
For she is scented with lily-of-the-valley, lavender and lilacs.

He has an old pickup smell, animal and metallic.
The smell of muscle and suppressed rage.
Stale beer, stale cigarettes, chips cooked in stale oil.
His unhealthy diet leaking from his skin.
Yet he reeks of male animal, and deep in her brain
Something ancient and female quivers and surrenders.

When she comes out later to bring in their laundry,
She brings each garment to her face to sniff the day.
She smells of garlic and tomatoes. He, of another woman.
Sometimes she sobs into his faithless shirt. Telling herself
That as long as she can smell him, he is still hers.
But their shared dreams have no scent, and taste of sawdust.

Thanks Sharon, for such excellent images and for generously allowing me to play around with them!


5 responses to “Scent story

  1. Oh, these smells are wonderfully evocative… the vanilla, the pickup smell. Wonderful link between the vanilla and the “sales pitch.” Indeed!

  2. I popped over from Watermark. I love what you have done with Sharon’s images and the story you tell. Wonderful!

  3. “Sometimes she sobs into his faithless shirt” – brilliant turn of phrase.
    “But their shared dreams have no scent, and taste of sawdust.”
    This is a wonderful way of exploring the importance of sense of smell to male/female relationships. i love this poem’s rich links. G

  4. It’s been fascinating taking these vivid images and turning them into a poem. It feels much richer than my normal work.

    I think I tend to start organising my ideas too quickly into structures rather than gathering new and varied ideas… next time I’ll try to leave my sniffer open longer to allow new images and phrases to accumulate.

    There’s so much to be learnt from collaboration!

  5. Collaboration is indeed a great way of writing richer stuff. I love these lines here and am taking away some of the images with me.

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