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Poetry and Medicine
June 20, 2017

Under Our Noses

JAMA. 2017;317(23):2454. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.1115

Right under our noses,
in the breath-swept vestibules
crowd the olfactory neurons,
individual, in their invisible millions—
fetishists, in wait for the volatile odorants
to arrive, like a fix on the breeze.

Their dangling dendrites invest
moist nasal membranes,
each choosing, from an all-sorts repertoire
a single sensor, hoisted like a totem
and tuned for its aromatic partners in the scented world,
with their high, middle, and low notes.