Scent of a Place She Did Not Want to Go

for Michelle

The brand new Ford Escort I rented
to drive her to Seattle, Washington.

Seattle, Washington, the restaurant
at Pikes Place Market, fish scales

and oysters on the half shell, slipped
down her throat, scent enough to gag.

Queasy at the top of the Space Needle,
she didn’t want to talk about it

or get back in the Escort to return
to the Bayshore Inn. She wanted

to run, wanted only to run,
not away, she said, but to.

To what? I asked. She threw her
perfumed hair back and laughed

bull-headed, as I packed her bags.
I thought a long hike in the Cascades

with Outward Bound could free her
from the spiked stakes

picadores plunged in her
while she was still a child. I thought

she would heal in the scent of earth
mulch and cedar boughs, could learn

to bend away from fatal thrusts.
She called the second day, wanting

to talk about the rental car.
She hated it, she said,

it reminded her of moving
from one foster home to another

with nothing to stake her future on,
just the smell of the State car

and a garbage bag of belongings
to accompany her. The place

at the top of the Space Needle
was too cramped, she said, men

leaned against her. She could smell
booze coming through their pores,

stale tobacco, dried cum on their
skin. It made hers crawl.

Her arms and legs tried to follow
some dozen years later, after

the odor of industrial ammonia
in Rosemont Girls Home,

after the smell of her own
breath, chalky from medications

they made her take, after her
daughter was born, her tears

and sweat as her body tore
open. She could smell her own blood

and urine, the antiseptic, and
baby Karissa’s damp curls

coming out of the place where
hers had been shorn. Even

the soft smell of the baby’s head
after her first bath, the warm milk

letting down, didn’t clear
the scents she carried with her

from childhood: adult men
pressing against her bare skin.

First lilac, now horseshit, now
stale beer, now Lemon Pledge,

the series of homes she moved through,
pressed to be Christian,

Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness,
till she didn’t know what to believe

except what she had been taught
to play, the skin flute; and take,

methamphetamines; to dull senses
she wanted to forget, and they did

too, dull them, on the day her car
left the road at a slight curve

plunging down an embankment, where
she lay trapped in the stench of her own

shit, ribbons of handprints
blossoming into a blood-red cape,

la plaza de toros final.

 

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply