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Free Verse: Sara Burge

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 15, 2011 - Even blind poets tend to work primarily with visual images, and the best poems indulge other images as well -- especially auditory and tactile ones. This month's poem, by Sara Burge, deals with scent and its ability to evoke memory, except perhaps in February when so many noses are congested.

The Failure of Smell-O-Vision

[T]he critics dismissed it as an unpleasant gimmick, and it was never repeated in a feature-length film.

From the obituary of Mike Todd Jr., producer of the 1960 Smell-O-Vision film Scent of a Mystery.

Of course it never took off. Perfecting
the intricacies of coffee brewing, waves breaking,
a city bus rolling away in a puff of clutch and rubber.
Too much to overcome. Liz unrolling herself before Caesar,
unbathed barbarians hacking through the muck of blood and limbs,
great white vessels battling in space. A culture sick
from the formula for romantic comedies. And besides,
it's not all Julie Andrews on a mountain top. Torture, really,
all those scents embedded in memory, carefully locked away
and waiting for us to stumble across their triggers...
his favorite cologne, leaves burning the day she left,
the dinner cooking when mother, phone in hand,
slid mutely to the floor. The stink of war
secreted into theater seats. Too much best left in forgetfulness
lurches back. The victims of our private tragedies,
setting us up for the kiss, their arms around us in the dark.

Sara Burge received her MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and her first book, Apocalypse Ranch, won C&R Press' 2009 De Novo Award and was published by C&R Press in the fall of 2010. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Virginia Quarterly Review, River Styx, MARGIE, Court Green, The Los Angeles Review, Dogwood, and other journals. She teaches poetry writing at Missouri State University.

To learn more about River Styx, click here. Richard Newman, River Styx editor for 15 years, is the author of two full-length poetry collections, "Borrowed Towns" and "Domestic Fugues." He also co-directs the River Styx at Duff's reading series.