a sad stretch on chromosome 11

blind from birth, she
could tell the difference
between the odor of chrysanthemums and tulips,
and remember her first whiff of both

she could identify
the scent of her brother
in a groping group
of sweaty brutes

she knew
her nose was her biographer
collecting memories, visions
her eyes could not

she studied biology
only to discover her compendium
of smells originated in a space infinitely
smaller than a fly's eye

a few molecules
devoted to identifying ham,
the rich smoky meat
of her first Easter

another clump to help her hold
the faint smell of perfume which lingered
in the room hours after
her mother passed

and who knew what atoms, what cells, what curse
of chemistry forced her to recall, most of all, the sweet scent
of her newborn's hair, the few seconds she held him,
after his tiny heart stopped.

by Jim Cunningham


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