Notes On Smell


William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?
What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
beneath them. With what deep thirst
we quicken our desires
to that rank odor of a passing springtime!
Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors
for something less unlovely? What girl will care
for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
Must you have a part in everything?

And she asked me, what words come to mind, when you stick that snozola of yours into the basil, as you just did?

But darling (which sounds so much better than it reads, darlin’), no words come to mind.

If pressed I might say peppery, piquant, herbaceous. But really what basil smells like is Caprese salad, is the sight of you in june at the market sticking your head in a bunch of green leaves, is even the way it yellows and sadly scraggled as I pick off the last leaves from our plant in November.

One might as well ask a dog what the ass of his doggy friend smells like; he might give as Williams might: An answer in a grin.

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