Anna Journey

I Have a Problem with the Erotic History of Musk

Those red, jellied secretions from the guts
of East Asian deer

make the base notes in many
perfumes labeled musk. What I learned next

shivered from a scent
to a bleat as I read that ancient

shepherds first discovered the scent
of musk from sheep-fucking,

from the pungent fragrance
released by the animals’

anal glands. And this
is a problem for me. This

bothers me, even though the vials
of musk in my medicine

cabinet were brewed
from synthetic recipes. I don’t want

even these bruised
approximations or the way

a dab of musk under each
pulsing earlobe calls near

a cornered or kicking animal
and a cry in which I find myself

on which side of this struggle?
What did you say

last night when you
bent near my ear? What

were you coming here for
if not to dissolve

one time into another, this
brick house into a Bronze

Age field. The scent of
that body—ancient—as it yields.

first published in FIELD


Anna Journey is the author of the poetry collections Vulgar Remedies (Louisiana State University Press, 2013) and If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), which was selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, FIELD, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Her creative nonfiction appears in AGNI, The Antioch Review, and The Southern Review, among other journals. She’s received fellowships in poetry from the Academy of American Poets, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the National Endowment for the Arts.