Outhouse scent

A scent of outhouse brings me back
to leisured days of youth,
to sunwarm gneiss as smooth as ice
beneath my bare feet running for seclusion.

Its sense is not perfumed but smells of comic books
I read alone while watching streaks of sunlight
playing with my toes.

It’s seagulls calling at a fishing-boat
returning with a morning catch of mackerel,
it’s dinghy days, and sting of salt on skin,
it’s sunburn and the thunderstorm
we watched in shelter of our home.

So fumes of outhouse that mingle
with a stranded jellyfish and elder bloom
is almost recreating childhood lost.

This is not an outhouse but a piece of art in Normandy

This is not an outhouse but a piece of art in Normandy

Today Grace wants us to write about scent and smells at dVerse Poetics. For some reason the smell of outhouse (no it’s not pleasant) bring back memories of my childhood’s summer house. I remember sitting in this outhouse and listening while reading comic books.

June 28, 2016

35 responses to “Outhouse scent

  1. Don’t head into the outhouse with bare feet!
    To me this describes outdoor shower (love that) more than outhouse (not so much). Love it though.

  2. not many people could conjure happy memories from an outhouse stench, but you managed to do it! Love the description of sunlight playing with your toes.

  3. A good place for reading, Bjorn, that was where I also read. It was the “Wish Books,” the Sears’ and the Ward’s catalogs. I grew up on a farm, we got indoor plumbing in when I was five but Mom was the only one who could use it. Dad didn’t want the cesspool to need cleaning too often.

  4. I love how you took me to a place I’ve never been, somehow the sights & smells seeming familiar. Can’t say that I have any childhood memories of outhouses (other than port-a-potties and gas station doors locked from the outside–but that’s a bit different)! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love the smell from sea, gulls, sting of salt on skin. And that smell from reading comic books, I have forgotten this,but yes, it brings back my childhood days too.

  6. This is so cool! Wonderfully developed and sensitively detailed … a fresh-as-childhood throwing off of adult refined contrivances and back to bare feet basics. What a picture you have painted! Evocative and true. I really enjoyed this piece!

  7. I dreaded going to the outhouse at my grandmother’s house – could never bear that smell. But if anyone can bring me round to it, and associate it with happy childhood memories, you can, Bjorn!

  8. The grandmother on my father’s side had an outhouse. I still remember that smell but always got in and out quickly. This foray into comic book reading while watching the sunlight is truly engaging. Smells in this that I would not associate with good memories but you pluck them right out and make them happy, peaceful. Certainly you would not have been disturbed in there and could read in peace.

  9. Some scents are so much part of basic experience that they tie memory to a simpler time, perhaps.

  10. ‘Its sense is not perfumed but smells of comic books
    I read alone while watching streaks of sunlight
    playing with my toes.’
    You did that too!

  11. We had an outhouse when I was growing up in Chaguanas. Never liked the smell. Luv your image of ” sunlight playing with your toes” and the smell of your salty sea

    Thanks for dropping in at my blog today

    Much love…

  12. I can’t imagine there is a whole lot of poetry written about outhouses–but you know, as soon as I read the title, I conjured up a few memories of my own. For most of us, outhouses were associated with fun times, like camping. But my North Dakota husband tells me tales of winter on his grandparents farm. I can’t imagine.

  13. The poet begins the experience; the reader fills in the gaps with personal context. I had to overcome the title of your poem, Bjorn, because the little wooden building on my grandparents’ farm in Northern Wisconsin (they could have had indoor plumbing; they had the money!) was nowhere as idyllic as the one you describe. That said, you overcame my prejudices… and most of my personal context — the exception being the monstrous spider that reigned over the crown of the door. Evil beast, he… or she. I did enjoy your poem once I overcame all that. You have worked the words to advantage, Bjorn!

  14. Was not at all fond of my grandparents’ outhouse – but it didn’t have such a setting as this one, which does indeed conjure up carefree childhood.

  15. “recreating childhood lost”–that is exactly what some scents will do….transporting us right back there!

  16. You are the first person I’ve heard say that the scent of an outhouse is not an unpleasant one! I, too, loved this piece and how you wove all those memories back together for us. You almost made me think of an outhouse not being so bad!

  17. It’s amazing ho memories of youth can be painted so vividly, and yesterday’s phone conversation sometimes comes with great difficulty, Bjorn. Again, those trigger scents do their job!

  18. is almost recreating childhood lost

    Scents, aromatic or otherwise will certainly be retained in memory especially engrossed with comic books in hand!


  19. I have some similar camping memories! But even more, I relate to the smells of the ocean, where I spent most of my summers and even some of my winter days. Wonderful!

  20. LOL! No camping times in my childhood but a real two holer with a catalogue for cleaning….. and no running water in the house.

  21. Pingback: Scents – Inspire More Creativity·

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