The other day, I smelled diesel exhaust and was instantly reminded of my time in East Africa. This also happens with fire smoke and sometimes, depending on the season, with rain. I’ll be physically present in one place and mentally across the globe all because of a smell, an invisible tug on my memory.
With the curling tail of smoke
or the exhaust of a diesel engine
I am removed,
transported to the phantom middle land
where sensory and memory convene.
A middle land where I walk on two streets
the physical street of my reality
and the streets of
Makutano, Kimana, or Mto wa Mbu
of my memories.
Shadowy visages of thorny acacias,
boys and their goats,
school children in matching uniforms,
overlaid on the upright maples,
dogs on leashes,
women pushing strollers,
rumbling flow of traffic.
That vapor, tangible and all at once
impossible to hold
explodes from the nooks in my chest
where the memories have been
nestled and hibernating