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The other morning I stepped outside to let the dog out and was hit with the scent of freshly-fallen snow. Crisp and clean, vanilla and peppermint, fresh linen and ice. That smell kind of made my holidays complete, we didn’t have a white Christmas this year and I had been missing that favorite fragrance. I’d already been savoring the other aromas of Christmas, pine and spruce, sugar cookies, cloved oranges, paperwhite narcissus, and I couldn’t help but smile at this new addition.

And then I started thinking about how to describe it. Of course, if you’ve experienced it, then you know, but what if you’ve never opened a door to a world of white and a nose full of winter’s perfume? It’s almost impossible to describe a smell without using other smells as descriptors, isn’t it? (I won’t pose that as today’s challenge, although it might be fun to try.)

They say that smell is the sense linked closest to memory, and I’d have to say I agree. My maternal grandmother died when I was fairly young, but almost all my memories of her involve smell: the best molasses cookies ever, the starch she used on her nursing hats, and the wintergreen lotion she’d pay us 25 cents for if we’d rub some on her tired nurse feet. Even now, 45 years later, I can’t smell wintergreen without thinking of her happy sighs and calloused toes.

So for today’s Poetics, let’s write about scent, or, more specifically, let’s write a poem about a memory evoked by scent.

Here is an example by Hugo Williams that I like:


The smell of ammonia in the entrance hall.

The racing bike.
The junk mail.

The timer switch whose single naked bulb
allowed us as far as the first floor.

The backs of your legs
as you went ahead of me up the stairs.

The landing where we paused for breath
and impatient key searching.

The locks which would never open quickly enough
to let us in.

The green of the paintwork we slid down
as if we had nowhere else to go.

~Hugo Williams

Looking forward to seeing (and smelling) what you come up with!


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