Author Topic: Pungent Memory  (Read 25884 times)

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Pungent Memory
« on: June 02, 2013, 09:45:19 AM »
Grandpa’s pub in the morning
reeked of kegged beer and bleach
mixed with stale smoke and Brasso
until he lit the fire and hungry flames
ate the stench and gave way to scented peat.

We’d pop in to say hello
ask if he needed any messages,
and when he said no, we go on our way
past other premises with individual aromas,
the yeasty bakery, the frying oil chippy,
the fruit and veg stalls with oranges and cabbages,
the cattle market – not so sweet –
florists, butchers and fishmongers.

Saturdays meant hot cashews
in a paper bag from Woolworths,
sweet, salty, nutty warm,
finished on the walk home
and after the shopping treat
the main event, a chance
to pop the coffee lid
and release the smell,
unlike anything else.

I’d hover my nose close to the punctured paper
careful not to sniff too deep
and inhale the bitter powder,
or granules, later when freeze-dried
beans, Kenyan I believe it said on the  label,
captured the essence of Africa
in dark, rich, intense unique flavour.

Kettle boiled, water poured
milk added, drink stirred.
Cigarette smoke wafted round her head
and through the cloud
a denture smile as she sipped,
checked off her list
 . . . icing sugar, fruit and eggs.
for the afternoon’s baking
buns, scones and wheaten bread.

And best of all
a coffee cake, encrusted with walnuts,
which burst with buttercream filling,
each mixture worthy of licking
off wooden spoons, spatulas
and large brown bowls.

I cleared several scent bottles from her dressing table,
Shocking Schiaparelli, Joy, Blue Grass,
Ma Griffe – never eau de toilette, but parfum
dabbed on pulse points from chamfered stoppers
sparingly on special occasions.
I recognised their shape and colour
but their smell didn’t hold the Mum I remember.






Offline Tom 10

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8850
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2013, 10:55:01 AM »

From the smells of grampa’s pub past the other neighborhood businesses this poem traces remembrances of childhood through aromas, back to the home kitchen.  The sense is that N. and a sibling or two are downtown shopping with Mum on a Saturday, doing errands, buying groceries and supplies.  N. recalls the smells of the trip – from the fruit stalls to the cashews, to the fresh coffee. Then, back home in the kitchen N. recalls the coffee cake, buttercream, and licking the spoons and bowls.  Then there is the strong suggestion in S.7 that N. is settling the house after the death of “Mum”.  The perfumes being cleared by N. are presumably the scents that Mum chose for herself, and the irony of the poem is that the strong and distinctive scents described by N. actually turn out to be the scents associated with her. 
My suggestion would be to consider making Mum more prominent early in the poem to more firmly associate her with the scents.   As written, Mum doesn’t overtly appear until S.5, and the earlier suggestion is that “we’d pop in” unattended.  All of the pungent aromas seem associated in N.’s mind with memories of her/his childhood rather than Mum specifically.  In re-reading I can see that Mum is present throughout the poem.  But it may make the conclusion more effective if Mum is tied tightly to the scents long before S.7.  Just my opinion.

I hope this didn’t sound too negative because I really like the poem, it triggers similar memories for me, and in that regard works very well. 8)

T
 

Offline Mark H

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19722
  • Middleclass Machismo now available.
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2013, 11:02:03 AM »
My suggestion would be to consider making Mum more prominent early in the poem to more firmly associate her with the scents.   As written, Mum doesn’t overtly appear until S.5, and the earlier suggestion is that “we’d pop in” unattended.

I was just about to type that  :)

It's pretty good but occasionally the adjectives appear like sharks and start circling a terrified noun which frantically treads water hoping the sharks can't smell the fear.

Roasted cashews?! How posh is that!! We were lucky to get chestnuts.
Buy Bristle Side Down, The Man Who Wore Brown Shoes and Middleclass Machismo here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=570142

If poetry is not your thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PueM04F0Qz8 or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Zm8cj9MGg

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2013, 11:15:26 AM »
Cheers hon' -- that S originally appeared as S2, but it seemed out of place. I agree Mum ought to make an earlier introduction though the content of the S with her name relies on 'perfumes' which as you noted, didn't really mean anything to child [probably in bed when the grown-ups went out on special occasions].

I'd need to ponder to see how I can fit her in better so the transition is smoother. Any suggestions welcome.

Thank you. :-*

Mark -- you know NI . . . would we have roasted chestnuts?! ::) Woollies in Ballymena, hot cashews were the thing, very glam and exotic, a big deal indeed. I guess I included the adjectives to justify the establishments as producing smells . . . not sure how to convey that, unless I just leave it up to the reader to match the smell to the place. :-[

Cheers. :-*

Twiddle :-[ :-[ :-[ :-[ :-[

Grandpa’s pub in the morning
reeked of kegged beer and bleach
mixed with stale smoke and Brasso
until he lit the fire and hungry flames
ate the stench and gave way to scented peat.

With my hand in Mum's, we’d pop in to say hello
ask if he needed any messages,
and when he said no, we go on our way
past other premises with individual aromas,
the yeasty bakery, the frying oil chippy,
the fruit and veg stalls with oranges and cabbages,
the cattle market – not so sweet –
florists, butchers and fishmongers.

Saturdays meant hot cashews
in a paper bag from Woolworths,
sweet, salty, nutty warm,
finished on the walk home
and after the shopping treat
the main event, a chance
to pop the coffee lid
and release the smell,
unlike anything else.

I’d hover my nose close to the punctured paper
careful not to sniff too deep
and inhale the bitter powder,
or granules, later when freeze-dried
beans, Kenyan beans I believe it said on the label,
captured the essence of Africa
in its dark, rich, intense unique flavour.

Kettle boiled, water poured
milk added, drink stirred.
Cigarette smoke wafted round her circled Mum's head
and through the cloud
a denture smile as she sipped,
checked off her list
 . . . icing sugar, fruit and eggs.
for the afternoon’s baking
buns, scones and wheaten bread.

And best of all
a coffee cake, encrusted with walnuts,
which burst with buttercream filling,
each mixture worthy of licking
off wooden spoons, spatulas
and large brown bowls.

I cleared several scent bottles from her dressing table,
Shocking Schiaparelli, Joy, Blue Grass,
Ma Griffe – never eau de toilette, but parfum
dabbed on pulse points from chamfered stoppers
sparingly on special occasions.
I recognised their shape and colour
but their smell didn’t hold the Mum I remember.

Offline Mark H

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19722
  • Middleclass Machismo now available.
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2013, 11:20:11 AM »
And of course you are using nutty to modify a ... well ... nut.  :)

I'm not saying they all need to go, just make sure you can at least justify them to yourself.
Buy Bristle Side Down, The Man Who Wore Brown Shoes and Middleclass Machismo here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=570142

If poetry is not your thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PueM04F0Qz8 or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Zm8cj9MGg

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2013, 11:31:44 AM »
 :D really? ::) Fancy that! What a dork. ;D

I believe the ones I've cut don't do the poem any harm . . .I've kept ones which I think are essential to the 'story' of the recollection.

Erm . . .


Saturdays meant hot cashews
in a paper bag from Woolworths,
salty-sweet, crunchy, warm,
finished on the walk home
and after the shopping treat
the main event, a chance
to pop the coffee lid
and release the smell,
unlike anything else.

Offline Mark H

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19722
  • Middleclass Machismo now available.
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2013, 11:36:07 AM »
salty-sweet and crunchy. We don't need warm because they are hot cashews.  ;)
Buy Bristle Side Down, The Man Who Wore Brown Shoes and Middleclass Machismo here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=570142

If poetry is not your thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PueM04F0Qz8 or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Zm8cj9MGg

Offline Tom 10

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8850
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2013, 11:40:16 AM »
Nice addition to S.2, I was going to suggest opening S.1 with Mum taking you to the pub. 8)

The other thing I failed to mention, is the S.4 cigarette-- there's some strong smell that on the pleasantness scale does not match everything else you describe, but that's probably good (?). 

Keep going, I really like this poem. 8)

T

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2013, 11:42:09 AM »
I had considered that but the 'warm' was important and I like the rhythm it helps create as well as the half rhyme with home  . . .  maybe if I change 'hot' to 'roasted' I could keep 'warm' . . . as opposed to the packets of cold roasted cashews you buy now? Or 'salted'.

Saturdays meant salted cashews
in a paper bag from Woolworths,
savoury-sweet, crunchy, warm,
finished on the walk home
and after the shopping treat
the main event, a chance
to pop the coffee lid
and release the smell,
unlike anything else.

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #9 on: June 02, 2013, 11:44:31 AM »
Nice addition to S.2, I was going to suggest opening S.1 with Mum taking you to the pub. 8)

The other thing I failed to mention, is the S.4 cigarette-- there's some strong smell that on the pleasantness scale does not match everything else you describe, but that's probably good (?). 

Keep going, I really like this poem. 8)

T

Fags were Mum [and Dad] ;D Fresh smoke has a different smell to stale smoke. :D Some kids turn their noses up at coffee and think it's yucky . . . just associations I suppose. :)

Offline jkaram

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 847
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #10 on: June 02, 2013, 06:53:32 PM »
It was easy to become engaged in this poem with all the changing aromas- a fun and savory read.

For me, this was the first cresendo:

Saturdays meant hot cashews
in a paper bag from Woolworths,
sweet, salty, nutty warm,

so sensual and alive, I felt was there.

The line for the afternoon's baking read a little less smoothly than the rest, and wondered why eggs. was followed by the lower-cased for?:
. . . icing sugar, fruit and eggs.
for the afternoon’s baking
buns, scones and wheaten bread

also:
a coffee cake, encrusted with walnuts,
which burst with buttercream filling,  For me, "which burst" detracts from buttercream, something to consider but truly a minor pick.

Really enjoyed this poem a lot, inspiring as usual  :)


« Last Edit: June 02, 2013, 10:06:19 PM by jkaram »

Offline Mark T

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4097
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2013, 02:19:40 AM »
The sensory tastes and smells of bittersweet nostalgia come through strongly in this well-wriiten piece. 

Offline indar

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3849
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2013, 12:44:17 PM »
http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/smell3.htm

I've heard, and had the eveidence of my own nose to back it up, that the olefactory sense will trigger the most intense memories.

There are many memories of my own tied up in several you've mentioned (Woolworths in Ireland eh?) I still get a cheap thrill out of opening a can of Kirkland Signature 100% Columbian coffee.

But what does burning peat smell like I wonder? Is it a nice clean earthen smell? Although this poem is about the memories from smell--I would like to hear about some other of the related sensory experience as you have done with the warm crunchy nuts. e.g. my hand sticky with sweat in mom's; the fishmonger whose yell will forever mix with sea-smell.

Poignant ending--I wonder why the perfume doesn't call up the memory of N's mom as do the other things.

Lots of fun memories for me in this one as well.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 12:50:24 PM by indar »

Offline 510bhan

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 63305
  • So many jobs to do . . .
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2013, 12:59:04 PM »
Thanks folks . . . Mum wasn't really a perfume person, it was an accessory for a glam night out, not an everyday thing but she did have some nice bottles. Kiddies weren't allowed in parents' bedrooms in my day and when small, when this is set, we'd be sent to bed by 7 [can't imagine that of 10-year-olds nowadays!]-- well before Mum and Dad went out to a cocktail party or a function in the mess.

I can see what you're saying indar about expanding on the experience but I wanted this to stay with the nose much.

Mark T -- the full stop should have been a comma. :-[ I did wonder about which burst and had burst by itself but then that suggested the walnuts were doing the bursting! ::) Anything else I could think of had to many 'ing'. :-\ Maybe if I changed the phrase positions and had . . .  And best of all, a walnut encrusted coffee cake, bursting with buttercream filling :-\

Coffee popping has to be ranked highly among great memory triggers. ;)

Offline Mark H

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 19722
  • Middleclass Machismo now available.
Re: Pungent Memory
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2013, 04:38:22 PM »
You could try a metaphor for your filling.
Buy Bristle Side Down, The Man Who Wore Brown Shoes and Middleclass Machismo here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=570142

If poetry is not your thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PueM04F0Qz8 or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0Zm8cj9MGg