Style (Er)rant

I like olfactory. I like that it's almost old factory, but it means smells. I like smells, the inside of the coat my mother bought in London in 1972, and the after-brine of a washed-out pickle jar. I like old factories where such preciousness is stored. I like recuperating precious, stealing it from the mouth of whomever dares say it first and setting fire to it and then blowing it out and smudging its ashes all over my forehead like a rite, like a penitence, like a stamen or a stick of vermillion. I like ash and smudge and etch and all of those other precious little baubles, ethnic, religious, mnemonic. I like them so much that I hunt them, I smear peanut butter all over the bushes until they come out and sniff, and then I shoot them full of holes and string them from the ceiling, or shoot once and carefully so I can stuff and mount them. I string them with em dashes hewn from the finest wink-winks and nudges and post-scripts, or I stuff 'em--oh! 'em and em! giggle, blush!--with plush velvet heartbreak and some sap from my bitch tree, so it doesn't get too alkaline in there and start to decompose. I like the em dash for how it can expertly hold a crowd hostage, threatening to lance the first poor sot who moves, the one who tries to play the hero by getting all in front of the rest, guarding them like a young widow guards her photographs and cufflinks, enduring the dash's sharp tip against her wombless womb. Sometimes there need be two widows, since em dashes do enjoy, rather famously, a little Bonnie and Clyde role-play. I like little and tiny. I like words, cured and pounded into jerky. I like sad smells and the sad people who smell them. I like smelling my sleeve. I like being the last one out of a sentence, the one in the bedroom rummaging through the host's drawers, or in the bathroom reading prescription labels and sniffing things and hearing from the main room the only laugh that's ever made me want to cover my ears, the laugh I tried to hide from in the first place, and the unfortunate sound of someone's diffidence that even the stupendously loud toilet can't flush. On the other hand I like to go to bed early. I know the alphabet by heart but not all the what-comes-before-whats--stop right there lady--it takes me a long time to find something in the stacks and I'm not what one might call an "efficient filer." I like to imagine how I would explain to a Kurd how a filer is a person who files and also a small wooden or metal stick with two grades of roughness, one on each side, used to pare and smooth fingernails--you too, you useless preposition--in the end the two things are not so very different as sour is not so different from dour and acrid is not so different from acid and love is not so different from clover (both litter fields, get munched into green foam by animals). I like similes, those little rag-pickers, and I like metaphors when they don't see me coming and I can grab their ugly purses and punch them before they even remember about their key-chain mace. It's only the purse I want, see. I could care less what's in their empty heads, and I think the way they dress, quite frankly, is cheap and not for children. Once a metawhore, always a metawhore, goes the saying. So it might seem a bit vigilante, who the hell do I think I am and all of that noise, but I'm just trying to do my part as a concerned citizen--that is to say, and yes, this is a hold-up!--once I have their knock-off bags, I empty everything inside them--one move and you're dead!--mints, money, condoms, batteries, IDs, lipsticks, pre-moistened towelettes--face down and count to ten--into a gigantic roiling cauldron of vinegar and compunction, and I stew the whole mess for days. And I mean, days. When it becomes hard but pliable, I pour it onto a floured board and let it cool for several minutes; then I commence with the kneading and rolling and pinching. Some is set aside and frozen for Christmas cookies. But most of it goes into a greased pan and emerges from the 400 degree oven the "lightest, flakiest crust!" you can imagine. I'd cool it on the windowsill but I don't want the ventilation. The smell is my favorite part, and it near chokes me.

About the author:

Kristen Iskandrian lives in Crawford, Georgia, and is working toward her PhD in English and Creative Writing at University of Georgia. She has fiction in "Action Yes" and forthcoming in "Spork." Her site is at