His Perfume

It wicked from his meat
in the thick of bedroom
gloom, a sweet and sour

sauce of breath and sweat;
of Scotch malt steamed
through all the pores, or

bourbon, a dozen jiggers,
fumes floating out all
the fissures, the flues

until air grew complicit,
redolent of pitch pine,
resins—and groggy

enough a child of six
could pass out cold;
sometimes vodka,

so clean, almost a lemon
scent, funneling in, but
a rancid stink coming out:

the body’s long exhale;
lobes and ventricles,
capillaries making good

use of available exits
like passengers on a plane
going down in the Pacific.

Ahead: the crash: the cold-fish
flesh on its sober bed, stripped
of any life preservers.

− appeared in Poetry Northwest Fall-Winter 2008-09 v3.n2

"Stargazer" by Susan Kelly-DeWitt