CHRISTOPHER MCKITTERICK

4 scents of youth


Fish
fish is one, when
Dad and I stood side by side
in an old cleaning shack
at the heart of a community of cabins
where screen walls only imprisoned
the Northern Minnesota mosquitoes.
Filet knife in his freckled hand
flashed like a perch, or walleye
opening those scaly swimmers
with a slash, a spill of pink
maybe steam in the spring evening cold
and the scent of fish.

Grass
the dusty grass
that grew wild near our house
where my first motorcycle smoked
as it circled round and round the
mud-packed path, and the abandoned house
beneath years-ravaged elms and a lone father oak
where, inside, we'd sit on the couch and its invisible
upholstery and read Playboys from years ago
while the wind breathed the house like a lung
through broken-glass window, torn drapes
and the scent of grass.

Woman
heady woman passion
with my first girlfriend
inside my first car, old and brown
where driving led to parking
near a dry autumn cornfield
and its wood-tinkling leaves that masked
our sounds as lips touching tongues
led to hands rubbing skin beneath a blouse
and soft rises beneath a bra, small
as youth, and the car was too hot
for clothes, and my skin needed to brush hers
and, oh, the scent that lifted my head, a balloon
full of her and that high school moment
the scent of woman.

Paper
the scent of paper
spells my life now. It is crisp.
It is sharp, sometimes sweet, faintly salty.
Stacks of paper smell empty somehow, white.
That's it: the scent of white spells my life.
Sometimes I can't smell it at all. Paper, sheets
reams, boxes of the stuff. Brittle
when old, almost fluid when fresh, tractable
yielding. There are crinkled fistfuls of paper
in my trash basket. Most are no longer blank.
Black hieroglyphs mar their planes.
And I think of those first few sheets
my pen scrawled across like a fish, or a slug:
They smelled like I thought I did. And I
think of fish, of dusty grass, of my first
lover's soft lips pressing mine near a pool
with ducks in the water. I think of the scents
of youth, and spell them with the scents of paper.

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