Tuesday, January 5, 2016


satirical image from galleryhip.com


“ You have been fooled by a simple olfactory misdirection,
like ventriloquism of the nose--elementary in certain parts
of the galaxy.”--the tenth Doctor Who.

The inception of scent memory
              begins with your mother, her thick milky
                               odor cues create our first conscious
                                             memory of something/one, helping us
                               to recognize our mother amongst others,
              & at that infantile moment we become aware
that not just any pair of breasts will suffice;
that comes later after prolonged exposure.

               Scent memory creates data that will influence
               taste, setting into motion love of food, living to
                           eat, not eating to live--sad that for smokers
               taste is dulled & bludgeoned & sustenance becomes
                           a banal exercise in pasty blandness, robotic
                           mastication without pleasure or a happy ending.

                                                We learn that the olfactory bulb is
                                   located in the frontal lobe, as counterpoint
                               to vision located in the cortical back rooms, &
                            the bulb contains the glomeruli and mitral cells,
                    allowing smells to become encoded. One’s odor rec-
            ognition can be manifested by the left hemisphere when 
  implicit memories are triggered by verbal discussions, or
            they can rise out of the right hemisphere as explicit, need-
                    ing the presence of the actual odor to trigger the non-
                              verbal retrieval. Lots of emotional baggage is
                                           included amongst the cataloged smells,

& sexual arousal perpetuated by
pixel pheromones or genital juices
can catapult us to the absolute apex
of colossally pleasurable coitus.

For each of us, what imagery a scent memory leads to can differ, &
thank the lords of smell that the olfactory triggers vary per person.
For me, walking into a barn or corral, smelling horse shit & fresh
hay takes me back to 1955 when I shoveled out stables--humid
dripping tropical plants transport me to the South Pacific, to my
first morning on the Hilo side of the big island of Hawaii--sagebrush
kicks in my fear of rattlesnakes & ticks & my love for the desert--
cow shit slides memory to diary farms & feed lots--chicken
scat makes me crave the colonel’s secret recipe & be wary
of the dust-borne parasites that can lead to blindness--kelp
& dead crabs & clams, their broken shells picked over by
gulls & crows, conjures up oceanside ions & pounding waves
--grease & used oil smells puts me in that garage in Burien
where my stepfather & I rebuilt the motor of a 1947 Buick--
wet pavement after a rain projects me to the Fall of 1953 
during my walks to elementary school, all red rubber boots
& piles of maple leaves--& damn, the odor of cooking meat
activates my carnivorous instincts, making my canine teeth
pulsate & my juggler veins throb. 

Perhaps one’s history
could all be written by the
recall of odors.

Glenn Buttkus


brudberg said...

That's a lot of memories you pull us through - not all smells are delightful, but yet the memories can be the sweetest.. Just like lilies might bring memories of death and sorrow...

Grace said...

Clever title by the way ~ I admire the memories of those scents in the barn, rain, walks and piles of leaves ~ Its been sometime though since I smelled horseshit and what not ~ Enjoyed this one Glenn ~ Happy New Year to you ~

mrs mediocrity said...

Yes, I think that it's true that our histories could be written just that way... and you did a fine job of it here. You packed so many scents into this, and I could picture them all.

Toni Spencer said...

I think many times our memories of scents is more the telling of the history of us than verbal stories. If only we could share those scents instead of words sometimes. Good telling of the different scents and memories. happy New Year to you!

Mary said...

Oh yes, so often I smell a scent that reminds me of something else. Foods, lotions, perfumes, flowers, hospitals, etc. I think we would all mess our sense of smell if we didn't have it...as it gives us so much enjoyment and triggers memories!

Bryan Ens said...

Scent can certainly be a powerful trigger of memory. I find the same with sound too...I often find that when I hear a familiar soung, I find myself transported to the place where I first heard it, or to a place where some significant thing happened while that song played.

Pleasant Street said...

"we become aware
that not just any pair of breasts will suffice;
that comes later after prolonged exposure."
I almost spit coffee on the screen! Delightful trip through the scents in our lives. I also got a kick out of the jagged left margin- I might borrow (steal) that idea some day

Happy New Year Glenn

lynn__ said...

I knew we could depend on you to reminisce on such primal and earthy scents...the smell of baby lets down mother's milk and manure smells fulfilling, like work :)

Polly Stretton said...

Lots going on here...sensory overload, in a good way.

Matthew Henningsen said...

I really like that opening stanza, about the mother. Just really made me think, especially the idea that this birth of scent keeps us on the look out for the mothers amongst us.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Such an exquisite write :D no doubt there are certain things which evoke the faintest of memories.

Bodhirose said...

I really enjoyed your list of smells and what memories are evoked by each. And I have no doubt that our histories could be told pretty accurately through how scents have shaped us.

Kathy Reed said...

Happy New Year, Glen,
I have to say I resonate with these scents: a corral and horses, stable, horse shit,stepping off the plane in Mexico, the rain, sea, crab, clams, oysters (Pacific NW) I could go on and on about my own associations. I liked the way you took us through the workings of the senses of the brain. It seems there is still a lot of data to be gleaned from research on the brain, the 'map' if you will...fascinating ..and you tell it so well, too!

Kate Mia said...

i hate to sound
no.. actuAlly
i love to smell
from a bloody
steak on a grill
until i smell
a living calf
a farming
i shall
but hell
no!.. my eYes
stiLL roLL bacK
iN my head witH
thAT first juicy
bite from the

Marina Sofia said...

Ha, a fascinating jumble of smells both good and bad - although who are we to define them as such, perhaps pleasant and unpleasant is more accurate? I love your effortless blend of the factual and the personal, the juxtaposition of the expected and unexpected.

Anonymous said...

I learned something and enjoyed the read --and those memories triggered by scents. Thanks!

vivinfrance said...

Wow! A science lesson, a memory jerker and a discussion trigger. This poem is all-encompassing.

sreeja harikrishnan said...

A very creative write... yes how we sometimes lose that pristine scent of everything in wilderness. And your memories are so vibrant and full...loved it. It brought to me images from many old English films I watched. Happy New Year!