published in Volume 3, Issue 3 on July 8th, 1996
If through whisper and caress we sense them, if the yellow light sneaking out at the splitting of their bones betrays them, why not notice the dead through smell? Grandfathers, those smokers, are subtle, dismissing an aroma of breath penetrated by the lit match, or of that final suck--the faint burning up of the filter's edge as if in quiet protest for having been buried in clean coats. Old women take their old women smells and insist on keeping them clasped to their clothes like spare bobby pins; but their graves will radiate like warm glass, the air made heavy-- the odor of burnt sugar escaping the pot. The dead don't always have idle smells, like those that linger at the tips of gloves, or those that rise from the mouths of shoes, from the chair just emptied; there is also the discharhe of passions. In lovers, the older the corpse, the stronger the letting go. Secrets finally resurface, the skin submits to its own decay. Hands set free their collection of sticky oils; necks and thighs give up the touch in other hands, the scent of money; tongues release their love of liquor, of tongues. The rest are also gluttons; they smell of basil and clove. Their bodies exhume the spices that in death consume the flesh. Yet frequently the dead remain undetectible-- we believe they no longer smell like us. At night, these smells don't wake us, but we still absorb them, then breathe them out. Through us they settle on the moss like sweat.