Jeff Phillips: Components of a Moon’s Musk

The moon itself doesn’t have a smell, is the general consensus, at least we can’t smell it from down here. The vacuum sprawl between us is the inhalation of a giant. All pressure flows through flared nostrils, so deep that starlight can’t illuminate where the skin and cartilage outline the boundary. The inhalation never stops, at least throughout any duration that we’re watching. This monstrous nose may only be catching a quick whiff, but it nonetheless snatches the waft we are curious about.

We know that enough nips of whiskey may relax our own inhalations. Our attentions then turn toward smells more immediate. There’s the light on the other side of the room, sheltered from the reaches of that previously mentioned vacuum, by thick dust bunnies earlier kicked up. These floaters mute the faint scent of a leak in the flickering gaslight, as well as enhance it. Dust clusters act as an absorbent barge, carrying closer the smell of fracked gas, offering an easy journey so it may step off upon arrival, wrap itself around you and claim new territory.

As you grow accustomed to the leaky linger, you refocus your attention on your drink. You press your nose hard between the rim, the glass dents your skin. You examine the peaty notes, and can almost conjure up the encompassing incense of a cooling barley mash in a nearby distillery.

You adjust your position in the arm chair, pull your right foot up to hang across your left knee. It’s obvious your sweat soaked socks have been cooped up inside tattered leather shoes all day, shoes that have long walked the salted winter streets. The odor is foul and distracting, you wish to return to the intimacy you had with the beverage in your hand. You do for a moment, but it’s as if someone has slid the dimmer switch up a notch on the lunar intensity outside. The thin clouds that shaded the moon have drifted away, making the black vacuum around it naked once again. You feel like you’re also on display. That golden face up there is watching. It may even be God himself. You wonder if the ancients felt this way as well, and if this is what stirred the original sense of an omniscient God that knows of everything we do. Do the dwellers of planets with multiple moons have a tendency then toward polytheism? A team of Gods all dedicated to the lookout.

You think about the precise craftsmanship of the glass, of the small batch of whiskey itself. Then you consider for a moment that maybe the moon isn’t the deity but the resulting hard labor of one. God had the decency to hang a massive night light in the sky. And you really do appreciate it. Your eyes don’t do as well in the dark as they used to. You’ve been drinking whiskey often. You’re also well aware the impurities in cheaper varieties can make a man go blind.

If you did lose your vision and your brain focused its resources on olfaction, then maybe you could finally smell the moon. Or you may finally realize the gas leak, the dust, the scotch swig sting, a pair of stinky feet – these are all reflections of the moon’s particular odor – and these objects, like the cluttered array of mirrors in a funhouse, scatter and confuse, mask the stench of the moon that is much closer to us than you think. The pungent presence is intoxicating, you only need to huff a bit of matter, whatever is closest to you, to be affected by what’s drifting through the smallest of cracks, bubbling up inside anything and everything. Smell is a reminder that something seemingly foreign is filling up inside you.

Moon Musk 2


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