All the perfume in the world
will not destroy him.
We burn oils of geranium and camomile
in quaint ceramic bowls,
try to smother him with beauty.
But he waits
in the dark, with the things
that have no home:
ironing boards, broom handles,
hammers, empty suitcases.
It was a night out on the playing fields
when we met him, my friends and I.
Invisible as he was, he was beautiful.
We welcomed him into our circle
and he made us look cool.
When he was around, we felt like
cowboys against red rocks,
femme fatales lounging by the piano
with mysterious eyelashes.
Everything should be fine, we say now.
We have sealed the walls and floors,
poured self-expanding foam into the cracks.
Still, in he creeps -
the smell of a funeral pyre days after burning.
He steals into our noses, lungs,
our eyeballs, even.
He delights in mists and blindings.
He seemed wiser than any of us, though silent,
always there at the important moments:
that last exam, the end of school,
the first train ride to France.
Later he was there for break-ups,
at three in the morning,
there for the tears and trembling hands.
But now we think ourselves the wise ones,
open all the windows, try to coax him out.
You will never be rid of me, he says.
I am outlawed in the cafes and the bars
and so I fall into the air.
You think I will go away.
But all the charcoal, all the citrus,
all the incense in the world
cannot destroy me.
We sense him close by before we fall asleep.
We are always searching it out,
that stale smell behind the flowers,
making sure it is still there -
a reminder of our betrayal.