the damn smell…

i am a back street poet
pied piper of little harlem
using my pen for a wood flute
calling out society’s rats
hoping to write their epitaph
     smell the burning rags
     endless odors of death
people blow their minds
over things they can’t define
so they light a fire or two
in hopes they might forget
     endless odors of the dead
     which creep into their souls
so they drink and waste all
relief line soldiers is their trade
passing my door – off to the camp
the camp of the great white father
      who gives them no hope
      to forget the damn smell
some fools say move away from here
but how
who’ll lend you the money
ain’t no one i know got one cent
so that ends that in a hurry
     but the smell, the damn smell
     it remains in the air
children playing barefoot in the streets
among the maze of broken bottles
laugh and cry and don’t know why
their lives seem different than yours
     but the smell, the damn smell
     lets them know all too soon
come walk with me to the grave
in which they’ve lain your city’s child
whose unmarked and small grave
is covered in weeds
     but there in peace is rest
     away from the smell
     the damn smell

14 thoughts on “the damn smell…

  1. I usually hate winters with a passion. If it could be summer all year round, I’d be the happiest girl on earth. But there is this one thing I love about winters. The way all that snow covers up everything. From the rats to the ones who breed, feed and nurture them. Great, great, great poem Charles!

    PS Have a marvelous time in Tunisia!

  2. what a great poem! challenging to write.thought-provoking and I love the ” smell element” which is reccurent and which gives to the poem a lovely cohesion.well done Martin.

  3. Your poem made me think how even nice parts of cities often smell really bad. Even the rich have to put up with the same smells. Smell is a great leveler in some ways. As always your poems make me think! 🙂

  4. This was pretty intense! Such vivid imagery brought to mind. Your poems are always of such a high quality! This one especially. Really makes me think. 🙂

  5. A hopelessness that can only find resolution in death is a hopelessness indeed! The feeling is crushing. Thanks for your insight.

  6. The strength of the sense of smell interwoven through this vivid imagery really made me think and will linger (like a smell) long after I click from this blog. Great poem.

  7. Remember the car-burnings in Paris? Muriel Barbery in “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” talks about this and about why people would burn cars. She writes, “it’s a gesture of frustration and anger, and maybe the greatest anger and frustration come not from unemployment or poverty or the lack of a future but from the feeling that you have no culture, because you’ve been torn between cultures, between incompatible symbols.”
    This poem reminds me of that.

  8. This was so full of imagery, I struggled to keep myself from falling straight into it.

    I couldn’t help but see all the different meanings behind “smell”. How presistant it was, keeps coming back like a dark cloud you can’t shake off.

    This is pure soul. Thank YOU for posting this.

  9. I like the way you spaced it with the indentations of the lines about smell. It made for a greater impact, reinforcing the pervasiveness of the smell with your repetition.

  10. I enjoyed this poem. i got some Kerouac rhythms, some beat reverbs in it, i’m not sure if you were influenced by them? but i feel a similarity. I really fucking like your blog. and your poetry. do you mind if i put you on my blogroll so i can get to your page easier?

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