Concerning Incense, Suffumigations, Perfumes, and Odors

by Carine Topal

We buried memory in the fragrant spices we grew.
What will we do with the aloe, the musk, over which we pray?
Drench ourselves in the fog of their scent, in the smoke of the sweet myrrh,
our body passing through some world we once knew?

The children are shedding their skin.
Do we place them in fields and say cleanse the meadow?
If we do, will they live like a tree split by lightning,
halved and hardly thriving?

They will live as bodies reliant upon our asking,
and seeing what we’ve done, follow, knowing nothing,
the taste of nutmeg on their tongue.

If stretched out to the future, will their seeing eyes, and the cold
melting downriver, suggest they carry on? What of the birds released
into the fields, can they lead the way? If we saw them, will they be

leaving or fleeing in fright? Will the smell of musk
be enough to defend them — the children. The birds ?
Is what we believe in, enough?

Carine Topal is a transplanted New Yorker living in the southern California desert. Her work has appeared in The Best of the Prose Poem, Greensboro Review, Spoon River Poetry Anthology, and many other journals and anthologies. Her 2nd collection of poetry, “Bed of Want,” won the 2007 Robert G. Cohen Prose Poetry Award. Topal’s 3rd collection, “In the Heaven of Never Before,” was published in 2008 by Moon Tide Press. She is the recipient of the 2015 Briar Cliff Review Award for Poetry. Her prize-winning book, Tattooed, won the 4th Biennial Chapbook Contest from Palettes and Quills, recently released in July, 2015.