Lindsey Webb

from Perfumer’s Organ


I’ll send you some oakmoss absolute in the mail and it will arrive after the rains have turned to snow.
Posting on the leaves.
The monks are chanting in upstate New York and I am looking ahead to November, when maybe I’ll have time to perform the changing of the seasons.
In the light of the parking garage I am avoiding posting on the leaves, I am undoing grammar but keeping the sentence.
It hays wild yesterday, bench wanting, waiting one year.
I am using every tool at my disposal—the internet, perfumes, the English language—to induce a vision. Door slamming. In the background of the Te Deum the door slams and it sounds like someone has fallen on stone. Despite the emergency the Latin unrolls like a scroll.
I don’t know anything about conduits to God but I do know that linalool is a component of freshness—I am here trying to share this emergency with you.
A smell comes off my skin and hair. Everyone in this room with me—my dog, wooden chair, the spider behind the shelf—takes this into them, and in that way we have something to say to one another. It’s like being embalmed in time. Silent, distant from the concept of world as world.
Does it feel completely abstract, like a jasmine voice?
Streak of tanning fluid.
It’s not like I’m trying to become a bodiless voice, but certain people do go on chanting and it remains difficult to transmit smell across great distances.
(Though wind does it all the time.)

(Haying wild.)

In the light of the parking garage I wonder if you are indeed sending me a message all the way from Friday. As if you were putting on a show, posting on the leaves like that, reaching for my attention.
Cleansing myself, anointing myself, touching the tip of my index finger to my bottom lip.


I imagine building a perfume like a row of peonies stacked blossom to blossom up my trachea, to not be choking on a flower but transmuting air into flower, so that I die in the process.
(“I used to think when I died— I could see you— so I died as fast as I could—”)
And anyway, I was saying about the wool rug. I was saying that lanolin remains difficult to use as an antenna.
A dog who just remembered, leaping up, to lick the plates from dinner. Undoing grammar, but keeping the sentence.
When you’re in town next, will you come and see me? The chamber orchestra will open their curtain for us, and we will have a beautiful time wandering around the open-air mall. Go on, come. And because this is an opera buffa we will be strangers to any minor modes, transmuting air to flower, flower to flower, flower to air.


It’s like a two-headed horse approaching me from behind, silent, on fish feet, mouth full of jasmine sambac and fresh meat.
In this case the vision is punctuated by ads, poorly targeted for Los Angeles when I am several hundred miles north and east. And the violins would be a little quiet in the mix. Picking at wool rugs in the dark, conversing with their smell.
Did you know bagpipes can be heard ten miles away?
Collarbone to jaw in pearls and onycha. Its long fingernails, its fish feet, meat breath, undoing the recitative as if it were a set of stitches.
Every tool. When the two-headed angel visits me in the dark, will I be away from home? Will it knock at all my windows before turning away empty-handed?


I am trying to send you a message but I am conflicted on the issue of messianic abstraction—clean meat. God, please; my fresh sweat.


And then I didn’t think about myself all day. Sucking the ends of my hair.

 
 
 
 
**
 
 
 


Later I turned my head side to side in the car, from collarbone to collarbone, as if my shoulders smoked purple—as if I could go on nothing more than scent—as I am dealing with disappointment in my own way—by sailing to the center of the forest on a gust of dry wind.
Sex with plants; abstinence of the spirit. I might solve death if I can find the right process.
Smearing chalky orris butter on the wrist, it melts from the heat of the skin.

Go on, chant.

And you, God? Can’t you see I’m a solid body passing through a vapor?
Despite myself I am an organ of one kind or another, and I pass.
I wear my longing suspended in oil and alcohol, and though I hope to encounter my double in the world by happy accident and so merge with everything else into the alchemical sunrise—I do not really believe in the chain of metaphor that leads to God. I am simply a gosh, who has long lost her ability to read “the unmistakable sign of an encounter.”
Green sacra dangerously close to the brain.
A young man interprets, looks sweetly, touches my shoulder.
Whether one sends messages, or something that rumbles and filters beneath—by
language or scent, music, giant pictorial gestures, digital messages, even fucking, I no longer
know.
It is the basic characteristic of the snake that he goes on bruising my heel and I go on crushing his head into a really interesting essence that, once it is mixed with coumarin and a little impure ethylvanillin, one could almost think the universe would, upon encounter, shear its hair in recognition.

 
 
 
 

**

LINDSEY WEBB is the author of a chapbook, ‘House’ (Ghost Proposal, 2020). Her writings have appeared in Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, and Lana Turner, among others. She was named a 2021 National Poetry Series finalist and received a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Salt Lake City, where she is poetry editor for Quarterly West and a Steffensen Cannon fellow in the PhD program in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Utah.

Leave a Reply