smells like…

   I chase the odor from fridge to garbage, garbage to drain, drain to pantry, pantry to beneath and beyond cabinets. My diligence only results in expanding the miasma’s awareness of me. Once It becomes aware, It stalks me in earnest. No amount of showering, scrubbing, or sanitizing, will deter it. Escape is impossible. Even outside, the breeze brings sudden wisps of…what is it? The redolence of Dismay? The Stench of Disappointment, Betrayal?
   It’s not innocent like the odor of pubescent children in a fourth grade classroom, or the miasma of wet dog.
   It’s not contrived like the odor of tar or burning rubber.
   This is a darker funk. It begins in nightmares, circumstances beyond my kitchen.
   Recent worldly concerns seep into awareness, despite my withdrawl, and are foul indeed. But are they intense enough to disturb vital senses?
   “Today is Stephanie’s birthday,” my computer announces. But Stephanie died years ago.
   “Warning: the following pictures are disturbing.” I’m already disturbed.
   “Have you no empathy for one who lashes out in anger, one who gives orders to destroy?” NO! I do not.
   I prefer the smell of cinnamon, lemon. A bathed and powdered baby.
   Chocolate.
   Coffee.
   Freshly steeped tea.

   I will not be overcome!

   What’s a person to do?
   Forgive and forget. Cultivate compassion. Blow softly on your thumbnail. Press on the point above your lip. Walk away. Walk as far as you’re able. Stay upright. Move forward. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t fret the future.

   Still, something smells wrong.

Hair Today

    Howie says it’s time to cut my hair and, as much as I hate to break protocol and admit my husband is right, I think he may have a point. Much of my hair has fallen out clogging hairbrushes and drains or wafting into corners. Despite that, even my pitifully thin ponytail is beginning to give me headaches. My hair can only be described as “white-trash” hair. Waking up to someone my age with thinning grey hair halfway down her back can’t be a pretty sight for my long-suffering husband and may frighten the grandchildren..
I’m cultivating ferocity to counteract dotage but as much as I try, I’m more hag than goddess. I’m not Patti Smith or Judi Dench.
I’ve let my hair grow throughout the pandemic in the hope that I might miraculously turn into a lesser, homier version of Emmylou Harris or Diane Keaton…wellllll, the truth is, I’m just not comfortable going into a salon filled with potentially contagious air.
One problem is that the fellow who used to cut my hair knows me too well. That is, he knows I’m neither ferocious nor cool, and tends to give me a cut that doesn’t match my inner brilliance—which may be, in some measure, imaginative. But who is he to say? I need someone new who’s willing to assume that underneath that bland, aging exterior, there are quirky tattoos, multiple piercings, a shocking past, and a rakish present.
The other stumbling block is that I’m totally inept at stying my hair. I do not now, nor have I ever, owned or used a curling iron, spray, or gel. My hair is stubborn; it refuses to hold curl or stay in place when engineered, even by skilled hands. I’m strictly a “wash and run” kind of person. For this reason, a good cut is crucial—at an equitable price, of course.
It’s a dilemma, both within and upon my head. I’ve read about people being poisoned by their own body chemistry, strangled by their clothing. Is my hair out to get me?

Insect Apocalypse

In the second year of the pandemic, in the depths of a blistering mutant summer, amid the throes of planetary climate change, we began to hear talk of an Insect Apocalypse. Certainly, they’d multiplied beyond nightmare. Humans limited their time outside while animals endured and suffered.
We kept our windows closed but, alas, a fly found its way into the house. It was extraordinary because of its meager, even less than traditional, size; in a time when bees had grown to the size of adult thumbs, mosquitos the size of an open hand, and spiders constructed webs that spanned rivers. This tiny throwback to picnics of bygone eras had managed to find sanctuary in our midst, a near impossible feat as we are twenty-one stories up and never open the windows.
At first we took pity, beguiled by the wonder of it.
But the fly was a pest. It loitered on our food, buzzed about our heads when we tried to sleep. took irritating treks on our skin. We waved it off in the hope that it would conform to our ways. But it was defiant in its right to infringe on our lives and prove its superiority.
It was faster than us.
It teased.
It contaminated.
It tortured.
It was confident in its primacy.
We began to believe that this was the thrum of evolution, the New Normal in the form of a revised ascendancy of species.
We acquiesced and the fly accepted our capitulation.
Time passed and we began to accept our amended status. An alternative place in the universe had imposed itself upon us.
One evening as my spouse watched the news and I scanned the newspaper for some evidence of scruple, the fly lingered on the table before me.
Slowly I rolled the paper and adjusted my body to a more forward but unthreatening posture. I raised the ploy.
WHAM!
The experiment in coexistence ended, the insect a smear on the glass, my karma defiled (alas, not the only occasion). A life canceled, the evidence wiped clean with Windex and paper towel. But I’m repentant and will work to stave off further rash instinctive reactions in an effort to improve my standing in the karmic system of a precarious cosmos.

The Peace of Melancholy


It started with a saxophone, someone on the street who was guided by the pensiveness of the afternoon and the ruby sun which was just settling behind shadowy buildings. The saxophone player was dark and ragged but his sound was pure. Then bells, coming from a window below, I could barely hear them. They came and went, babbled with a shyness borne of regret. They might have been the kind of bells that mother’s put on baby’s shoes, but the musician was no child. I sat at my open window, and quietly hummed a bridge between the two. There were other people on the street, but there were only the three of us in the music: the saxophonist, the bell ringer, and me.
Then the wind drifted into the tune, awkwardly at first, it tickled the dry leaves on the tree but didn’t dare abuse its power and take over the music. An ambulance crept down the street in silence, its passenger beyond help. The saxophonist paused, and was gone. Only low bells marked the passing. And then they disappeared.
I closed my window and addressed the evening.