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  #1  
Unread 06-04-2019, 03:47 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Default Olfactory

Perfume

Nameless again, she navigates the walkway
of the bus, scans faces, postures, finds
an empty space, sits three rows from the back.
At rest, she disentangles smells: a girl
with chips in greasy paper, perfume, fresh-
spun sweat, a trace of diesel, city air.

The man three seats ahead gets up to go.
She watches dust fall from his sandaled feet,
but knows it can’t be him. The smell is wrong,
impure. Her hand combs through her hair, catches
on scents of cinnamon and myrrh as old
as sin. She salts away her tears. He’ll come.



-------------------------------------------------------
I'd quite like "she salts her tears" in the last line, as in "she salts away (preserves, stores) her tears". Would that meaning come across? Or would it just read like she added salt? (I'm happy if it reads as both).

S2L5/6: "as faint / as memory. She saves" -> "as old as sin / she salts away"

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-09-2019 at 03:52 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 06-04-2019, 04:36 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
Just passing through for the moment and got a whiff of this...
I think "salts" is definitely what you want in the last line, for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because of the more compelling way to say "saves".

Really nice enjambments in S1L5-6 and S2L5-6

I like the ethereal, slow-hand sense of this brought on by wonderful phrases like "disentangles smells" and "watches dust fall from his sandaled feet" and "faint as memory". This is indeed a poem abou trying to retrieve a memory using sensory faculties (they are intertwined as well).

You have something of a signature feel for balancing opposing emotions. In this one: despair and hope.

Will be back around soon.


*
Back again to say the title could capture more.


x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 06-04-2019 at 09:36 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 06-05-2019, 02:48 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Matt,

I like the idea of a poem about someone with hyperosmia. The first stanza establishes her as such. The second introduces backstory, as I understand it.

There is synesthesia (to be expected in a poem like this) near the end (her fingers catch on scents--tactile/olfactory) but the poem could use even more of that. I also would like a clearer sense of why cinnamon and myrrh evoke the "He" who "will come." Is there some religious meaning? Are they simply the scents of a perfume she put on a for a man? Too many questions; not enough substance.
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  #4  
Unread 06-05-2019, 03:40 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Jim and Aaron, thanks for reading and commenting.

Jim, I would like the title not to be a word in the poem. Maybe I should find something else for 'perfume' in L5, or as you say, find another title. It's also the title of a novel about someone with a very well-developed sense of smell, which might be another reason to change it.

Aaron, it's useful to know that what I'd intended here isn't coming across. I was aiming to provide just enough by way of clues, and hadn't wanted to overdo it. That said I hadn't intended to create a riddle either. I'll see what others make of it, and then try to work out what I can do to make things clearer.

Thanks again both,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-05-2019 at 03:47 PM.
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  #5  
Unread 06-05-2019, 08:13 PM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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I got a strong sense that the hoped-for man is Jesus; the sandals, the cinnamon and myrrh, the expectation of return.

I like the poem a lot. Regarding the last line, I don't really like "as faint / as memory"—it's a bit cliché. I'm not sure I'd get "she salts her tears", but depending on how (if) you replace "memory", you could free up space for "she salts away her tears", which I think would do nicely in that line.
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Unread 06-06-2019, 07:02 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Aaron,

Thanks for commenting. Yes, I was intending to suggest Jesus, and his promised return. I'm pleased that came across.

There's a specific gospel story I was hoping to evoke. I'm thinking it might be less well-known than I'd thought.

I take your point on "as faint as memory", I'll see what I can come up with.

best,

Matt
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Unread 06-06-2019, 07:07 PM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Well, I didn't grow up Christian, so the gospel stories aren't something I know well. I'm not a good test audience for that.
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Unread 06-07-2019, 12:22 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Matt,

I'm clearly Googling in the wrong place for the gospel story; all I'm getting is Paul taking about the smell of death vs. the smell of life. Perhaps fitting, but not technically gospel. Even then, that's a bit of a stretch from "impure."

On the whole, the piece is fine, but it's different than what you normally do, and I like it less, though I can't quite put my finger on why.
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  #9  
Unread 06-07-2019, 12:54 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
I would guess it is the washing of Jesus' feet by Mary Magdalene (or Mary of Bethany -- there are conflicting versions.) Though I did not get that from reading it until you referenced the gospel story.

I think it stands alone fine without the bible reference. In it I sense love lost and how it heightens all sensations and turns them raw.
x
x
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  #10  
Unread 06-07-2019, 01:01 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Andrew,

Thanks for your thoughts and for trying to locate the story.

I guess four people not getting the reference suggests that it's too obscure. Plus I'm not sure that knowing improves the poem significantly, either. So maybe it's one to forget about.

The story is from Luke (7:35-50), the woman is not named (and often referred to as e.g. "the unnamed woman of Luke 7") and hence, "nameless again" in the poem.

37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Jesus forgives her sins, and speaks of her "great love". I'd assumed this was a fairly well-known story, but then again, I had a Catholic childhood and schooling. Actually, I've slightly mis-remembered it, because in my mind she'd wiped the perfume with her hair, not just the tears.

Thanks again,

-Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-07-2019 at 01:08 PM.
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