58. Ornamental Deciduous Tree: Scratch’n’Sniff Not Included – Light Verse Magazines Vol. I

Edition of 30 copies
7.5” x  .75” test tube
6” x  .5”  book closed
6” x  .5” x  4”  book open
2” x 2” x 2” stand
2” x  2.2” x  8.5”  crate

For years in Bologna I noted the stink in Largo Respighi by Bologna’s city theater. Underneath the tree with fan-shaped yellow leaves the city created a place for people to let their dogs relieve themselves. There was a little sign: W.C. CANI. One day, two young women were walking ahead of me in that street when one turned to the other and said, “This tree is so smelly!” I thought to myself what an idiot this woman is – didn’t she notice it’s a designated dog bathroom here?  How strange to cast blame on the tree. Well, several years later, near the Post Office, I recognized the same smell under the same variety of tree, the Chinese ginkgo tree, which has a Japanese name. Thus I realized, even as people around me kept stopping to look at the bottom of their shoes for dog excrement, I was the ignorant one.

In October, in New York City, walking along a ginkgo-tree-lined section of 57th street, I noticed many people checking their feet. I watched the same thing happening in Bologna several days later, and realized the shape of the leaf could easily be evoked in a paper binding. The poem folloed soon after. The first person I shared it with, a neighbor across the street, said her uncle, Koji Nakanishi, professor emeritus at Columbia University, New York City, discovered the medicinal properties of the ginkgo 30 years ago, launching the movement to find the medicinal properties of many plants. He also loves to do magic tricks in front of his colleagues. This work is dedicated to him, and inspired the chemistry packaging from which the magical form may be extracted.

Photocopy text transfered by bone-folder onto saffron-dyed Japanese mulberry paper and cardstock label with magic marker blender pen. Bound with early 19th century yellow linen Barbour drug twine. Test tube and stopper from Di Giovanni chemistry supplies, Bologna, formerly located opposite the Teatro Communale, and the large ginkgo tree from which germinated this poem and project. When the owner saw the paper ginkgo leaf, he informed me that his shop used to be opposite a great ginkgo tree, causing him to laugh all the time at the pedestrians checking to see they hadn’t stepped in something, which he adeptly mimed from behind the counter.


Ornamental Deciduous Tree:
Scratch’n’Sniff  Not Included

Is it the leaf
Which mimics a fan
To foster belief
It comes from Japan?

Students of sinology
Might take umbrage
That the tree
Just in name
Is Japanese.

Hardly out of
Due respect
Passersby do
Pausing first
Upon the street
Serves to check
Beneath their feet.
With a turning
Of the shoulder,
The fallen seek origins
Of the ersatz odor.

Despite the stink
The Ginkgo entails,
Olfactions concur:
Ornament prevails.

For Koji Nakanishi,
scientist and magician

Angela Lorenz
Bologna, Italy 2007

%d bloggers like this: