Tina Kelley



                              An Adoration of Stenches


Come closer, breath of elderly dog, exactly
the road-killed possum from a hot week ago.

Impale my nostrils with your stink,
vomit of hankies Nanny embroidered,

left in a bag in the attic too long,
a searing, high smell lacking words.

Enter me, o mudwater of cemetery
bouquet, a month after Angelina left.

Skank of unwashed fleece, you lingered
during sad weeks, single with shingles.

Later, when I was with child, opening the fridge
punctured my calm with metallic toxin. And then!

Poo of nursing baby, pretzels hot from a food cart rack,
his later baby scent, white vinegar. Sick baby scent: rolled
in Roquefort. Heavy hair oil and something else of babysitter,
vile husk of soccer jersey pried from the bottom of the bag,
American deception of air freshener in nursing home.

The morning sweat of menopause
compares with nothing olfactory,
familiar, though, and brown and ugly.
Think of a bat face, a soggy toadstool.

No fresh paint and toast of childhood,
no delicious laundry of the family of eight
in the white painted brick house.

No high school sweetheart who smelled
of his basement, scented by silver polish.
No black Lab behind the ear, after a rainforest hike.

Where’s a word for the fust of daisies and dried peaches,
or, after the divorce, a term for the previous week’s fish bones --
it had never been my job to take out the trash --
or for day-old-crotch air let out of a bike tire?

Somehow Dad’s cigar smelled delightful,
always lit after expensive dinners away. Not
stronger than New Orleans streets -- that breath
of an aunt who drinks herself sick, talks too close.

Thank you, beloved reekers, for always startling
the oldest part of my brain, for reminding
me of existence, with every breath.


Tina Kelley, UCity Review, Issue 21.