Cave Canem: A Special Section
At Broadway and Market, buses kneel at the curb like Indian elephants and I wait where everything is pick up and move; where merchants
have erected sidewalk shops on folding tables. There is the bootleg video salesman, there are sunglasses, urban fashions,
incense and fragrant oils. A voice, words simmer and flow like smoke and fume, saying “these oils mix with your own,
last longer than a Corolla in a chop shop yard, longer than it takes to turn powder into rock.” And this history fascinates me:
Black Love, Paco Rabanne, Vanilla Fields, China Doll, Nubian or Mecca Musk. I am handed a stained piece of paper Like a greasy napkin, pedal thumb
and forefinger beneath my nose. An estranged instinct rises from my fingertips like dust blown from the grooves of a gospel 78. I’m asked what I think. Why argue the naming
of clouds? Olfaction is a stationary camera, it captures whatever may come into view: The man who laid a wet rug of cigarette breath on my shoulder, the strawberry [End Page 1024]
schoolgirl mindful of lip gloss kisses and the careful negotiations between taste and smell. These memories preserved like people of Pompeii, speaking with air as heavy
and dim as that great gray sky, the falling ash of it. Each brow marked with a dusty thumb. But I am unholy and academic and wish these moments fleeting like the feeling
on your fingers after handling candles. So I, I’ll getcha on the way back, fam. For real, for real. My eyes water with the wonder of annointment and what vulnerability precedes a sneeze.
Gregory Pardlo is an associate editor of poetry for Painted Bride Quarterly and is currently working on the MFA in poetry at New York University as the New York Times Fellow.