breathe in

time has cultivated me into a purveyor of scents and memories.
over the years i have collected fragrances
from townhouses and towering apartment buildings,
flats and third-story spaces designed to resemble italian villas;

we moved a lot.

at one time there was a house that filtered sunshine
in ways church windows would weep to witness,
and at another, a house where i learned how quickly “upside down”
would come to define more than the position on the sofa
that my mother told me would give me a headache if i held too long.

i remember
my granddaddy’s house smelled of Jovan musk and Burberry–
of church services and stern smiles,
raucous gatherings where generations paraded through the kitchen
while my mom and grandfather composed edible concertos with spices and sausage
that squeezed tears from our eyes
and tickled our noses with Creole fingertips.

i remember
we lived in a single room, mommy, brittani, brittani’s daddy and i
and every night i curled up on my Navy-issue cot wrapped in a blanket
and the lingering aroma of four-cheese lasagna-flavored Hamburger Helper.
(we washed dishes in the bathroom sink.)

and i remember, best of all,
the smell of a yellow house in brunswick, maine:
blizzards that taught me how hard frost bites.
creaking leather around my face
as my mother held me close to her jacket;
strawberries and cream oatmeal,
the gingerbread house i never got to demolish,
croissants with peanut butter and my mother joking
about my stepfather’s nickname in the Navy: Pillsbury Doughboy.

i loved that house more than any other.

my mother’s new apartment smells of pizza spices and bread,
of Texas humidity and sprinklers that fool hapless teenagers
into rejoicing over rain.

time has cultivated me into a purveyor of scents and memories,
crafter of a childhood packaged in a glass bottle with (repression) flutes for presentation;
i keep these olfactory post-its in a box somewhere in my mind
and hope for the day when i discover the perfume known as eau de finally home.


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