The odor strangles sometimes,
merely distracts at others, always sets
my teeth to grinding.
I walk into a discussion where it flavors the air,
try to join in and I’m soon choking so much
the others can’t understand me.
I turn to art for solace and it rises from between
pages, stings my eyes till paintings blur;
even music reeks. That job interview
stank with it; this online forum — how is this
even possible — I cannot see its words
through the miasma.
The halls of Congress,
the trading floor of Wall Street, every tower
where a titan of industry schemes: all
are thick with it; they might be tombs —
one whiff of the air in there recalls
dead generations piled upon dead generations.
Now and then I even pick it up on
a breeze through a forest, a breeze
that must have passed over a pipeline.
Sometimes I can tell it is coming
directly from me — mouth,
clothes, being. Half of me wants
to flee myself; the other half
holds my breath,
pinches off my nose,
makes me duck,
get close to the ground,
look into myself for better air.