Bottle of Cologne

Here I trap your scent,
thirteen years too long
to linger. Your blood mixing
your south with your north
islands until your skin
is the color of people somewhere
in between, you said. What I know
of other lands in words
that attempt to locate
but mean nothing alone: tropic,
rico, heat, Gaelic, cold, wind.
And entire spectrums of food
and beverage. The weight of you in gallons
of regrets and spicy rich fantasies
like stars: Unreachable. You in a baseball cap,
pitchers of beer, fast driving, automatic
smiles, squeezing my knee, vice iron
grip of dependence, the metal waft of cents
you owe me, me without the copper sense
to be my own independent, thirteen different
wood highlights for the years
since I declared it. You
in the backyard without your shirt
on within reach of my distant fingers.
The screw cap on top, a promise
I’ll only spritz once
in a while from now
on, so others can take a whiff
and use you up before
my own scent (all our blood
is mixed in some complicated haze of
history) returns and the only breath
I take is of old pine.

#NaPoWriMo 2017 Day 6

Discussion:

On Day 4, I mentioned how I lost a poem I felt in the morning by delaying writing it until evening. This morning while jogging, a feeling came over me and then several images and line fragments, and even though my half hour wasn’t up, I stopped immediately to start writing. When it was out of my system, I went back to jogging (and added an additional half hour!) confident I had captured enough words to evoke the feeling again for a rewrite later in the day. Sure enough, I had.

I mean, unrequited love, am I right? And still pining for a figment of memory after all these years? Ridiculous. Other poets have attempted to trap their objects of affection forever in amber poetry; it’s my turn, and why not in a figurative bottle of cologne? I don’t actually know anything about cologne other than some colognes smell nice and I haven’t worn any in years.

I played with associations in this poem, trying to follow one association to the next, image by image. Perhaps I got a little too cute with “baseball cap” to “pitchers of beer,” “fast driving” to “automatic smiles”, etc., but it was fun. I also love lists in poem and, better yet, parataxis (lists without relationships spelling out between the individual items.) This is a list poem and some of the items are more lists. I also played with a little rhyme and slant rhyme, sounds, and enjambment. For example, “[Y]our north with your south islands” became “your north with your south / islands,” and I purposely grouped “and beverage. The weight of you in gallons.”

In the last line of the poem there is a pun, irony, and really a dark turn. Crazy thing is, I didn’t see it at first, not when I wrote it. It hit me later when I was doing something else. I don’t know if it will be evident enough to other readers, but I really, really love it. Moments of surprise, twisting the knife, unexpectedness are what I most want to see in my poems, but they are still all too rare.

Serendipity, I am forever your humble servant.

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a fiction writer and poet, with his first published poem forthcoming later in 2017 from Impossible Archetype. His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), his Micro.blog (@richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).