Poetry: “I Used to Wear Too Much Deodorant” by Roshni Riar

I Used to Wear Too Much Deodorant

When I sweat, I smell my past. We joke
now that I could start good, hearty meals
in my armpits, home cooked dishes
that would make my grandma proud.
I haven’t been nauseous in a long time.

Asafoetida—Hing in Punjabi—can replace
alliums if you don’t have them,
it helps with digestion too. Outside
Indian kitchens and shops, it is nowhere
to be found, but it’s what makes things
taste like home. The familiar pungency,
like unwashed socks and ripe, sweaty
brown bodies is multi-faceted and awful.

When I was seven, grandma showed me how
to make dal makhani. While standing there
beside her in the kitchen, she told me
to trust my nose. To really inhale.
I wash off memory like dried, flaking
henna, wringing my bleach blotted
towel dry, stand naked in the kitchen.
The scent settles back in, finds the groove
of its form against my fresh skin, welcomes
back that layered funk of home.

About Roshni Riar

Author photo of Roshni Riar smiling at the camera. The photograph is a circle and there is a lens flare on the bottom right.

Roshni Riar (she/her) is an emerging writer and Creative Writing BFA student at UBC Vancouver. Her work has appeared in Room Magazine, CV2, and Antigonish Review with forthcoming work in Parentheses Journal and Canthius, respectively. As a queer, Punjabi woman, she primarily writes poetry which explores the relationships between culture, language, trauma, body, and identity. South Asian representation and challenging whiteness are focal points in her work.