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"Ode to Dia, Designer Perfume, and Making It Out of the Sticks Alive" by Rita Mookerjee

we meet on a double date with boyfriends in the applebee’s that would later wind up as the site of a shooting [crime of passion] how cliché but we sure as hell aren’t. we earn our degrees and cut our hair like flappers and get our lips filled [did you wince as they did yours?] I know I did the first time but that’s the cost of us wiping the pennsylvania dutch from our mouths, washing off the red clay from our ankle boots, and learning how to open a straw without bashing it vertically against a diner table. we are not ashamed of where we come from but we know what happens to pretty girls who linger too long in that haze of exhaust & opioids & coal fire smoke & I’ll admit it: smoke any smoke [most smoke] smells good to me. when I enter a new city I check for smoke to now if it’s real or not, wild or not, tame or not. tell me your favorite cigarettes the ones you smoke while we talk about french perfume: diptyque & guerlain & serge lutens & l’artisan. [could they even clock country in paris? in milan?] and so what if they did? it’s a flex that we made it out of the smog & soy & sewage & tucked ourselves into pockets of possibility with plenty of sashimi and gelato along the way. I gotta compliment your poodle that silken acolyte of anubis the ideal dog to signal self-reinvention the canine equivalent of my siamese with her large round eyes shiny like your engagement ring and now the house comes next I hope it’s an old treasure with modern amenities outside philly with a spiral staircase and a jacuzzi tub with more settings than you know what to do with and while soaking in eucalyptus after a marathon with cedar candles all around don’t forget about the strawberries & butter sugar corn & pumpkins at the farmer’s stand right off route 11 unmanned save for a coffee can of bills [and I got cash for once so let’s leave $20 as an offering on that little shrine for the god of dead end towns]

Rita Mookerjee is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Worcester State University. She is the author of False Offering (JackLeg Press 2023). Her poems can be found in the Baltimore Review, Copper Nickel, Poet Lore, New Orleans Review, and the Offing.

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