August Night*

August palmetto moon

Heavy air
hangs in darkness
surrounds
the sleeping world.

Unconscious,
they miss the smells
carried in the womb
of the night.

Gardenia and magnolia
wax myrtle and ginger lily
pluff mud and marsh.
Native and import.

Fetid smells;
ripening garbage
horse piss and dog piles
mingle with the sweet.

Charleston at night
sultry and quiet
creates a landscape
on the edge of morning
in the density of night.

*I wrote this impressionistic poem many years ago after walking in the historic district in the hour before dawn. The still, humid air amplifies all the scents. Wax myrtle has a wonderful spicy aroma. It was used by colonists to create bayberry scent. The ginger lily is incredibly sweet; some would say cloying, but I love it. Same for gardenias and magnolias. Mix the “bottom notes” of the scents of decay and feces and urine and you have the scent of Charleston in the heat of summer. I took this photo one recent August morning while out for a pre-dawn bicycle ride.

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