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Why I Burn Incense

why I burn incense


the seller of scents

in the Mysore market

assured me:

only the best

sandalwood sawdust

mixed with honey

hand rolled onto

a sliver of bamboo


when I strike

a match

to make an

ember glow

on the tip

the smoke

goes straight

to my nose


inspiration is



a poem, a song

a solution to a puzzle

a prayer

breathed out

soaring over circumstance

now can I doubt

heaven will hear


and then I inhale


only deeper

the seller of scents

his sad eyes

meet mine

only the best

smoke rising

in roundabout rings


into the invisible


sooner or later

the ember is spent

the scent lingers

like hope

after a kiss



Franklin Abbott

22,23 February 2008

Stone Mountain


The market in the south Indian city of Mysore is one

of the country’s most famous.  Mysore itself is famous

for sandalwood and produces the best sandalwood

products in the world.  The market is vast and I was

looking for a spice shop owned by the family of a friend.

He told me it was across from a perfume shop.  It was

but not the one where I met the man in the picture below.

He gave me chai and told me stories, filled my nose

with one scent and another describing each as “only

the best.”  I bought a few vials of oil and he gave me a

bundle of incense, “only the best,” he said explaining

how it was made.  I took his photograph.  You can see

both his charm and something melancholy in his face.



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