by Liz Robbins

The couple in the rooms above me smoke. The smell
drifts down into their floor and through the cracks in my ceiling.
When I pass by them in the hall, they nod, Hello, hello, smile,
their arms bloomed with packages. He goes in daily
to an office. She travels to Paris with the airlines.
Once she came home with a sack overflowing with brie,
Gauloises, red wine. She smiled, shy, sideways. Down came
smoke, good silence, for days.

I lie in the dark. Dried roses, sage, scentless in a vase.
I inhale. The smell, the smell.

The man below me smokes also. The smell ascends
through his ceiling into the cracks in my floor. When I pass by,
he cries, How are you? shows his teeth, leaves bowls of chicken
stew outside my door. He never seems to leave, has money
all his own, mysteriously. Once he painted his rooms a beautiful
whorehouse red. Blonde men with long lashes come to his place
to say the weekend. They play Moroccan music, sitars. Cook
with cumin and garlic. Stars shine beyond the windows, two
or three in bright clusters, and the occasional one, alone.


  1. Smells are hauntingly strong. This poem lets the smell travel with the story line, in a sinewy way, through walls and floors, smells mixed with light and shadow.

  2. This was gorgeous. I drank every word and felt better for it.

  3. What a haunting poem - there are so many layers of meaning. The photo you chose to illustrate it is perfect. The poem is a reflection - the window reflects...

  4. This is wonderful. So rich and layered.


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