Being forced through the automatic doors of a Walmart one evening last winter with my family, I decided to deconstruct the experience of the torture that is globalized shopping by paying close attention to the most potent, yet misunderstood of the five senses.
I hope you enjoy this post, as a break from my usual three- or four page-long ruminations on books and history. Sorry, if you find that the sterile colour scheme in the above photo clashes with my parchment paper background, which suggests the wonderful vanilla smell of old books … but I do this for the sake of poetry. After all, a few verses can help you notice things you’ve ignored before. All good art should renew one’s perspective of the mundane.
“What Walmart Smells Like” appeared in a McGill University campus journal The Veg last April. I am very proud of it, my first published poem.
I wrote most of the images, including others that did not make the cut, on a piece of packing cardboard I found lying in an aisle under a shelf at a Walmart store. I loved playing with the conflict inherent in trying to actually smell anything distinct in the vacuous space of the warehouse that Walmart really is. Vacuous in many senses, though here I focus on smell. Scents triggers memories and memories are our identity. What that could imply, I leave for you to figure out.
“What Walmart Smells Like”
A lonely coldness,
an empty chill.
Your aunt’s strawberry scented candles. Your mom’s cookie dough.
Freezer coolant. Sweet bread, pastries, cinnamon buns
in the bakery, with carrot raisin
croissants. McDonalds’ frying lipids cross
with carcinogenic smoke,
converging and stale
Like when solid candies melt together,
or you spill a dead Sprite,
and one week later
your boots are still sticky
smelling like bathrooms, baskets,
and cotton mats,
homely enough to carry some memory
beneath their fibre
out of bubble papered cardboard boxes.
Unwrapping acetate-cased silicon chips,
perfume of static
and cologne. Or dampness
under jackets, when they cross you
in the aisle.
Then a sharp soapy attack
in the cleansing section
sterilizes the senses
of the one who senses the sterilized.