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Denise Alden

The Way of Being, Eau de vie

This Way of Being
after Jamaal May

This way of being
This drunk and disorderly Dionysus

crowning our heads with night-
blooming bacchanals of sticky stamens

and tiny unsheathed blades of thistle,
scent of earth and earthworms

climbing in moonlight, hidden,
hard to see with just our eyes:

we need to brush our fingers against
glossy black-green leaves, touching

God knows what, God knows everything,
God knows how much you want

to elevate desire to the highest art.
God knows. God invented dallying,

the sigh, the come hither glance askance:
look, look away, then look back again.

The black hole of our mouth opens
for everything tonight: nectar of red clover,

menthol, wet blades of grass, cold stones.
All are nourishing. All are delectable.

Eau de vie

I was an early, errant chemist, a child making perfume
by crushing dandelions, wishing the yellow into perfume.

My whole family shrieked in the car but my nose rose and strained
to inhale what they bewailed: the skunk’s peerless perfume.

Floating in my original bathwater, I smelled mother’s
hopes and fears wrapped in smoke and Chanel No. 5 perfume.

My father’s middle name and my birthday saint is Valentine,
and I am a honeymoon baby, born of May’s lewd perfume.

One lover rarely called me by name, instead loved to breathe No
in my ear. I came like a rainstorm of oud and rose perfume.

The chemotherapy nauseated me, fucked up my sense
of smell. My only salvation was a disc of wax perfume,

a cameo embossed with Josephine’s head. Napoleon’s
missive from the battlefield: Don’t bathe. He pined for her perfume.

When I midwived, I quaffed pheromones like Dionysus,
my namesake, hungover for hours on amniotic perfume.

Bio: Denise Alden is a poet. Some of her work can be found at Full House Literary Review; in Dear Vaccine: Global Voices Speak to the Pandemic; and forthcoming at The Sunlight Press. She lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota on unceded Dakota territory.

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