A Kind of Dying

Written after reading Patrick Süskind’s novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

I see a bright white light at

the place where

the doors of dark pine

fail to meet.

There is movement on the other side.

I have learned that

love is cheap here,

and something is important

about the idea of

a nice girl.

I meet her everywhere

in his diary

with its broken pages.

I don’t understand it.

She can’t be


My hands are covered in dust.

I smell a kind of dying.

It’s here. He’s here, too.

This cipher of a man,

this scentless apprentice,

he keeps his secrets close.

So I rifled his pages.

He’s working on

something big—

a collection of specimens

whom he thinks perfect.

Briefly, his gaze fell on me.

And I wanted to be


stretched out

in a glass casket

arms open wide.

As if to say:

here I am,

I am yours.

I would be

kept and treasured,

the surface of my glass

marred only by

his single fingerprint.

Or so I thought.

My glass was filled with

a dark liquid,

occult medicine.

I sipped and glanced around me

in the blackness of the mortuary,

my eyes finding him

in the crowd,

walking toward me.

I closed my eyes as

he ran his fingers

through my red hair.

His lips

travelled over my skin,

sticky with the scent

of apricots

that I had just

finished slicing.

I wanted

to be lost

in the cold night

of his eyes

as my breaths


I opened my eyes.

He was no more than

a bad ghost.

You and I are so alike, I said.

His face darkened

as he turned away—

a sudden dance step.

He kept moving,

kept looking,

kept spinning.

His hands

reaching out

to other women,

whose bodies

were drawn to his,

gray moths to a black light,

birds chattering with a joy

unknown to either of us.

I stood still. Waited.

Dressed in black silk,

back arched,

pale hand falling

out of a reach,

watching the movement

in the light at the space

between the doors.

I am not free, like you.

I called out,

broken open like a shot bird.

In one swift motion,

he returned,

slamming me

in the back of the skull

with an object

which flashed

like a hungry fish rising

from the murky depths

of a pond.

I had no time to feel


only how irrevocably

in love I was.

My sight dimmed,

the dark doors opened.

Then he wrapped my body

in fat-soaked silks

to leech away the desire

that poured from my being.

Through means known

to him only,

he bottled it

and carries the cut-glass thing

in the pocket on his chest—

a trophy of sorts

as he walks on farther shores.

What I have learned:

The person who

broke you

cannot put you

back together.

And on the other side of the doors

there is movement still.

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