Five Scent Poems by Joan Mazza

The Scent of Memory 12

You might think of mint as gum flavoring
or what makes Polident tolerable.
Sometimes it’s a scent made for savoring—
candy canes on Christmas trees, delectable
in cookies. Boxes full of peppermints
take you back to the deep South’s mint juleps
in tall glasses on your honeymoon trip.
You imagined yourself with servants,
not slaves, a belle in hooped skirts, eloquent
and beautiful, your loving so fervent
you’d never worry about breath mint.
How odd the scent of crème de menthe
causes recoil in you and your sister.
You leaned heads together, forced to whisper.


Scents in the Morning Dark

Coffee burbling through the filter,
prune juice warmed in the microwave,
red grapefruit sliced open and squeezed.
Sourdough starter bubbles in a Pyrex bowl.
In the crock-pot, fifteen-bean mix slow cooks.

I chop carrots, celery, onions for the soup
I’ll pressure cook and pressure can
while dough rises in round loaves,
for a dinner that matches photographs

in cookbooks spread out on oak tables,
each with farm or baking in the title.
Color pictures depict baskets of bread,
lattice crusts on pies, homemade bagels,
pretzels, banana muffins, and preserves.

A festival of grains adds sweetness
to simple self-reliance and true home.
Inhaling the mix of fragrances, I consider
the effort of a Christmas cookie tree
hung with iced stars and hearts.


Scent at Dawn

On the screened porch with pets, we sniff,
heads up to catch this fragrance of June
in rural Virginia. Odors a unique mix,
a zone of mixed, deciduous, faithful
forest of oak, beech, tupelo, pine,
and sycamore. Frill of mosses, lichens,
leaf litter pounded in last night’s downpour.
Algae grows on wooden steps, between stones
on paths. On the air, as the sun comes up,
a scent I want to bottle, swallow whole
like an addict. To sit in morning quiet,
coffee mug in hand, to hold this moment
like the jewel it is. Values that brought me here,
what keeps me nearly sane year after year.


Silent Weave™ with Scent-Lok™

Some insects and plants make chemicals
to change their scent to lure prey and repel
predators. Ground squirrels are known to chew

molted rattlesnake skins to mask their scent.
Seizing on this principle, hunting innovators
write snappy copy to sell products to the marks.
Here come sprays, wipes, roll-on antiperspirants,

shampoo and body wash with promises to hide
the stink of humans waiting in a blind, a clothing
line of socks, shirts, pants, jackets, hats

with ingredients for a disappearing act while
in plain sight. Or so they make the claim. Wipe on
the gel in rut or pre-rut seasons and bucks will come
your way, invite your best shot. The courts said yes,

it’s a great deception, but not the one you want,
just another immoral ruse to take money from
the gullible. We’ll never be as smart as fish
who’ve learned the art to smell like coral.


Scent of Wood Smoke

           Someone has a great fire in his soul… and passers-by see nothing
           but a little smoke at the top of the chimney. — Vincent van Gogh

My poet friends write novels, keep daily journals.
Some used to paint and had exhibitions in galleries
that sold their work. They are not faint of heart,
take on what life thrusts into their hands. When
you see their photos or pass them at the grocery
or Farmer’s Market, you see a wrinkled woman,
a man stooped, using a cane. Can you see him
when he sailed six months alone in the Pacific?
That woman squinting at the list of ingredients?
Teen dancer who won twist contests, sang opera.
Attorney known in television, scriptwriter for movies.
Photographer who lugged cameras to weddings
and parties before the world went digital. Look
closely and you’ll see their history, hear the music
of their back stories, see their spirits like white
smoke rising from their small, brick chimneys.
Inside, our fires still burn.


—About the Author—

Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist, and has taught workshops nationally with a focus on dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam), and her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The MacGuffin, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia.