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Notes on Regaining My Sense of Smell

31 Poems for Post Card Poetry Fest August 2015

To see poems with related images, go here.

1.

BIRDLAND JAZZ AND BBQ

We were at Waxy Clinton’s on a Saturday night,
and everything was falling in place.
Jimmy the Spider had already shuffled
a cherry smash into a tri- town waffle
and we were well on our way to a Watson Special.
The croon was on the rise.

2.

ALAMEDA COUNTY FAIR DISPLAY OF PEZ DISPENSER COLLECTION

The rigid minions among us were always
Sniffing the wind, stern-eyed, plasticized,
cross-eyed, and even a little goofy. I don’t know,
but I always longed for cotton candy
when I was near any of their kind,
cotton candy and deep-fried Snickers, and
maybe some kettle corn, maybe some kettle corn.

3.

SPEISEKAMMER RESTAURANT LARGE BEER ORDER

The stein she brought me was the size of my head,
and tasted like those Black Forest
memories that me and Sylvia would feast on
when her grandfather came to visit,
and we’d hunker down in the darkened stairwell,
hiding our glee at every guffaw and garrump.

4.

AT&T PARK (SAN FRANCISCO)

I’d live here in a heartbeat: My favorite view
of San Francisco Bay. Free wifi. Clean restrooms.
My favorite food: Popcorn, peanuts, and Crackerjacks.
And oh my god there are baseball games, too!
And after all that, the seagulls swoop down and
Inhabit the field one feather at a time.

5.

POMPEY PARK POOL | DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA

The same shade of green as the local parrots,
the gators at the Pompey Park Pool
were never much of a threat.
I think of them often, though, whenever
I get a whiff of chlorine, or realize that what’s
missing from my picnic is the surprised scream
of a gullible or myopic swimmer, going too
deep in the deep end for the very first time.

6.

SALEM, NEW HAMPSHIRE | HOT SUMMER DAY

Come simmer in the summer sun.
Come summer, get your simmer on.
Yes, you can go topless and why not?
We’re all about getting toasted here.
Toasted and coated and condimented,
complemented and complimented.
We are the best.
Hot dog!

7.

CONEY ISLAND CIRCUS

At my first circus, I was all agog,
knee high to Momma, in curls and
ribbons, skipping to keep up,
my gaze at the ground.
I’m sure even now I really did
I know I did face a giraffe poking
its head out under a tent.
And how did it, that ancient
big striped top smell?Wonderful. Magical. Promising. Exotic.
And by the time we left for home,
I’d already fallen in love forever
with the human cannonball.

8.

HAVANA

Inside the Morro Castle, we inhaled Cuba
as only ignorant  touristas can do.
snatching every bit of cigar history,
tar black rum mystery, and
savory citrus breezes,
folding them all like paper ships into magical
glass bottles to adorn the mantle pieces
of memory in silent  winter nights
yet to come.

9.

COSTA RICA RESTAURANT

The gourmet fish of Costa Rica never lasted long
with hungry yogis on the prowl for something
more tasty, flaky, and capitalistic than what we
found back at the Ranch of the Downward Dog.

10.

THE FABULOUS FLORIDA DERBY AT GULFSTEAM RACE TRACK

Florida horses on Derby Day charge past the
promise of quenching juleps and imagined payoffs. Tickets are torn up and tossed away, but we don’t
care. We’re really just there for the beer and
the hotdogs, the sun and the crowd, the sound
of the hooves in the mud, and the slightest hint of
what makes even a champion sweat.

11.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!

Is it cold enough to catch Christmas in the wind?
Not here in Alameda. We have to rely on the
Folks who live on Christmas tree lane to fill the
air with flashing lights, holiday tunes, cinnamon,
peppermints, sugar plums, and fantasy. By the
way, what does a sugar plum smell like, really?

12.

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY

In Uruguay, we ordered parrilla parrilla parrilla,
grilled vegetables on the side, and the waiters
brought trays and trays and trays of food.
And the wine was always tannat tannat tannat.
I go back there often in my mind, catching the
tastes that I know now were there all the time.

13.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH UMBRELLAS

“Let’s go get a slice and a grape,” Sherry would say,
and we’d head to the beach for cheese pizza and
grape Nehi, a city treat on the Atlantic shore, or
maybe in Old Orchard we might choose instead
to fill up on patates frites and white vinegar.
Catsup, you know, would cost you extra,
and never smelled one half as good.

14.

NEW YORK! NEW YORK!

Outside The Today Show, we shivered but smiled
waiting to see who would enjoy a moment of
simple fame, a chance to offer a piece of pie—
apple? lemon? mince? quince? peach? meringue?—
to someone primed to beam with joy, someone
paid to make our day as good as our pies.

15.

SUPERBOWL SUNDAY

Super Bowl extremities, biggest sandwich possible
stretching first from Sam to Christine
reaching easily from Bill past the couch to Rafael
and surely back again,
in many ways far more tasty, engaging,
and surely more memorable
than any football game
I’ve ever seen.

16.

PALM BEACH COUNTY: DRESSED UP BULL DOG

It must be Spring Time in Palm Beach County:
Chihuahua Races have come and gone but
party season just will not end
although some of us know
it’s time to leave town
and pay someone else
to clean up the last
bottles of stale
flat beer and
cigarette
butts.

17.

FLOWERS

Did I miss the sweetness of flowers when
I couldn’t smell?
You’d be surprised how rare it is that someone
exclaims over a beautiful aroma,
compared to how often I’ve seen a wrinkled nose
foretelling of an awful stink.
So did I miss the special scents of blossoms?
Hardly ever.
And my favorite flowers are still made of paper.

18.

SHANGHAI BOAT SHOW

Shanghai Boat Show girls spritz promises
into the air.
All day they stand and atomize at passersby:
Businessmen, engineers, the yachting crowd, and folks
like me.
We all taste an iota of their glamor and boredom as
each miniscule drop of perfume flits past our noses,
our faces, our hair.

19.

MACAU

Fish in a pile, well dried, not fried:
not yet anyway. Drying to a crisp
with barely a hint of the great
China sea remaining, retaining a
blind eye, masking a memory that
even the finest of soups will
never fully release.

20.

RACING PIGS

Who hasn’t wanted to run like that?
First one to the trough will surely win
the best of the best, imagination alone pulling
you along, nose held high, eyes agleam. Yes indeed.
something must smell pretty damn good to slice
through everything else in the fairground air
and call these trotters home.

21.

CHEADLE HULME ENGLAND SHAGGY PONY

An English meadow? No that’s not the right word.
Oh, Emma, help me out here. What is it called? And
who is this critter standing her ground against the
low-skyed sun, eyeing us on our way, wrapped in
layers and scarves, seeking an afternoon cup
of something fragrant, warm, and sweet.

22.

DENVER, COLORADO

A museum display about chocolate proves somewhat
disappointing, although extremely interesting to be sure.
And I for one do surely love history,
but not so much when I’m hungry,
not so much when my thoughts are
flavored by all the shapes,  shadows,
images, and possibilities there ever
could be for …  chocolate.

23.

COCONUT GROVE, FLORIDA

There’s something about the smell of boat
paint and sweat, singly or together, something
about a job well done, or even just a job done
together. I’ve always liked that phrase, too,
“If something’s worth doing well, it’s worth
doing half way.” Well, better than not at all.

24.

FLORIDA: THE SUNSHINE STATE

As Sherry & I drove deeper into Florida, the
more our brainwaves were controlled
by the ever-present orange blossoms.
In the end, we cranked down the car windows
and just let them in. At a roadside stand,
we drank our fill of juice, and bought each other
matching scarves with the Sunshine State’s
finest attractions printed gaily all over them.
Forty years later, I still have mine, and memories
of Sherry, forever chiffon in the orange groves.

25.

CANOPIE PARK SHARK KIOSK

With teeth like this, what could you eat? What
would you eat? Would sense of smell even
come into the equation? I mean really why not
after all just go ahead and swallow whole a souvenir
stand and worry about taking your change
much, much later on.

26.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND, STREET VENDORS

I see this stand on a Manchester street corner,
and I know there must be a jacketed potato stand
nearby: hot, steaming, ready to eat, toppings of
every possible cream, sauce, beans, gravy, cheese,
and so much more, and now I know for sure that
I certainly still had my sense of smell when I
was living in England!

27.

URUGUAY RESTAURANT

Waiting for my  parrilla in Uruguay, I recall
a conversation about the appalling lack
of napkins and place mats in bars these
days and omigod how are people with
brilliant ideas supposed to remember them
all the way home if no one provides those simple
means to scratch out a thought, a scheme,
or a poem? A smart phone is just not the same.

28.

STAR ISLAND, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Wet salt-water soaked sea weed is to me the
essence of home, the foggy taste of a late
summer morning, when it’s  just a little too cold
to head out with no sweater, even knowing I’ll
be carrying it, grudgingly, the rest of day, stopping
to brush off the nostalgic crumbs of blueberry muffins
from time to timeless time.

29.

EMMA’S STUFFED MONKEY

Seriously? Tea time again? I can hardly deal with
this whiney monkey anymore, cannot imagine
what goes on inside his sorrowful head except an
dreary litany of more, more, more, but isn’t it
lovely how his crocheted  hat matches the
cornflower blue blossom  on
his endlessly empty begging cup?
Surely some joy is there.

30.

NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

My idea of a good wine-tasting experience:
It should really include more food!
As it turns out, tasting wine involves a lot of
sniffing and savoring, all of assumes that the
sniffer or savorer does in fact have a working
sniffer. Or savorer. Imagine that.
As for me, the conversation was
all too often about nothing at all.
What did I know? Nothing at all.

31.

REDEMPTION SIGN

Amusement park, on the way out, turn
in your tickets, and collect your prize.
See? Didn’t I tell you this before that someone
really always is keeping score? Or at the
very least keeping track of returnable bottles
or how often you did or didn’t do the right
thing at the right time?. So please do this,
take care and  always always always
redeem yourself.