The reek of ape or pig suggests the pall
That we disguise with sweetly scented oil.
Recall that great aunt’s lavender embrace,
The bitter undertones, the musty lace
And how the child imagined he could taste
Tobacco, pear-drops, rotting flesh and waste.
We dream of duchesses and courtesans
With beauty-spots and hyperactive fans,
Elaborate wigs; each widely bustled skirt
Malodorous, rank and damply trailing dirt
From corners of palatial passageways
Outfuming scattered herbs and sweet nosegays.
There is a language, subtle yet sincere
That intimates our anger, lust or fear
Beyond contention, honest and profound
Well-known to rooting pig and hunting hound
But largely lost to man. The pheromone’s
‘Come on!’is drowned by perfume’s louder tones;
The sharp shriek of adrenalin gives way
To the quietening 'Shush' of deodorant spray.
So sniff! And celebrate the codes of scent:
Can you imagine what those young stags meant
When, hot, they charged the atmosphere with musk?
And have you breathed the drowsy fumes of dusk
When night-stock pump their essence into air
Intoxicating insects? Be aware –
Those ancient pathways to the brain can still
Command the power to revolt, or thrill.