NaPoWriMo Day #27: Taste and Smell

Amy Grier
2 min readApr 27, 2020
Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

About a year and a half ago, I lost almost all of my sense of taste and smell during a sinus infection. It happened overnight; I could literally taste and smell things normally when I went to bed and lost it by the next morning.

Several months and tests later, I received a default diagnosis of nerve damage. I’ve never recovered those senses. One strange artifact of this loss is the memory of these senses. I’ll make something I used to love — roasted salmon, perhaps, or mashed potatoes — thinking how good it will be. Then, the first bite. Then, I remember, and it hits me all over again.

Today, write a poem that grapples with the sense of taste and/or smell. It can be about how something literally strikes the senses — that first sip of coffee in the morning; your first memory of birthday cake; the time your nose detected a gas leak on your block.

Your poem can explore taste or smell in a larger way, too. Consider William Carlos William’s poem “Smell!” in which he complains about how intrusive this sense can be:

Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?
What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
beneath them…

Here, smell becomes ever-present and cumbersome, not always welcome, but always discerning.

Toni Morrison’s “Eve Remembering” imagines Eve biting taste into the apple in Eden:

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call…

In this poem, Eve bites “sweet power” into the fruit and then tastes it, a taste that “undid her eyes” and freed her to grow into womanhood.

How can a sense free you? How can it trap you? How do taste and smell connect you to your memories? What would happen if you lost them?

--

--

Amy Grier

Writer & editor. MFA Lesley Uni. Singer/pianist. Blogger @Brevitymag. Published Streetlight Mag, Poetry East & more. Current project: memoir, Terrible Daughter