Matthew Falk

“Scientists Identify Ten Basic Odors”

(Baltimore Sun headline, September 2013)

1: Sleep

Sleep smells like an abandoned hardware store. Like fennel. Like static electricity. And it is full of reasons. Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

2: Cities

Eastern cities smell deep indigo. As you move west the smell becomes more like math. Cities rarely smell like their names. The smell of a city includes crows, both feral and domestic; chrome and glass; empty rooms; lost lovers.

3: Teeth

Guitars, eyelashes, and shekels. Joshu’s oak in the garden.

4: Water

I think we’re in over our heads here.

5: Trees

The odor of trees is completely different from sweaters, boots, sages, mushrooms, or Scandinavia. Think of a rhombus with fewer or more than four sides. That is not a tree. The plural of rhombus is rhombi. O come, o come, Emmanuel.

6: Music

Muscatel with mussels, mescaline on a bed of mesclun. Go to bed, muscleman.

7: Films


“As soon as we started
Shooting the neighbor
Decided to get in on it.”

8: Skin

You might think skin would smell like water, or trees. You would be half right.

9: Semioticians

You’re on a train stalled somewhere in West Virginia during a thunderstorm. It is either very late at night or very early in the morning. The power has gone out. The doors won’t open. Everyone is drunk and the washroom is always occupied because there’s nowhere else to smoke.

10: Walkie-Talkies

They smell like spiders. No one knows why. The dream of a universal language.

Matthew Falk is a teacher, graduate student, musician, editor, cat person, and former Midwesterner. He always seems to need new shoes. He rides the #35 bus.

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