I’m not a reader of

I’m not a reader of poetry. But this poem was presented to me at my wedding by my grade-school teacher, Rob Huchingson, now dearly departed. I have treasured it ever since. If all you’ve ever smelled is cologne or that thin alcohol-laced stuff they sell to ladies at Marshall Fields, you can hardly appreciate the mystery and wonder of true ‘attar, scented oil, that Cavafy is evoking. It is ancient and magical, like pure gold, or fresh snow. The first bottle of musk I was given was a nearly empty vial, thick and black, barely able to drip out the mouth. It was purchased on a perfumists’ street near the Jama Masjid in Delhi, nearly 20 years before it was given to me. I received it like it was buried treasure, just unearthed. I still have it, mixed with a few drops of sweet almond oil to resuscitate it. Moving in Muslim circles, there is always the opportunity to come across new and sublime scents that Calvin Klein will just never know. Some I’ve rationed out because I don’t know where to ever find them again. Others, happily, are easily obtained.


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