I just want everybody to know all about it…
Big Mama Thornton

A man studies the trail of smoke in the sky—
in this swelling city a cluster of mountain
settlements—he has learned how to sniff the air
in search of the things he has lost. Deep
in the underbelly of the nation, the swamp
air is thick, carries scents sluggishly, and after
a while, after pushing your nose into the wind,
you learn how to separate a chicken stew
dinner from the gummy sweetness of bubbling
grits, or the green mugginess of steamed greens.
You know your own stink, can tell when
rain is coming and how soon. You grow
alert like a hound dog slinking against a peeling
fence. This is what is lost when you travel,
every place smells different, and the grass
and trees speak a different language. Further
north, the air is clean of all remembering,
and the man carries in his sack the worn,
brown frock of his woman, the one
he imagines still smells of her, the one
he has bundled as his pillow night
after night until their sweat has mingled,
and now they are one thick scent. At night
he gathers it to his face and smells her
to remember her, as weeks turn to months,
and months to a year, and if he were honest
he would say, she is fading, and all he smells
is the funk of his desire and bitterness
on those miles of miles of sky they have walked
looking for her. He waits until morning,
lifts his face, prays for a right wind
to blow her onion and thyme scent to him.