top of page

The Perception Prize Winner:

Debra Daniel

Honorable Mentions:

Richard Taylor, Brian Slusher

The Exterminator Knows by Odor Alone

what creature has died under our house.

He sniffs our kitchen, den, dining room,

tells us it’s most likely more than one,

a family of critters, he says. Possum,

a passel of possums, he says. Mama

with young clasping her back. Joeys,

that’s what they’re called, he says and smiles.

My nose has been smelling this business

for decades. Nothing compares to possum.


We watch him clamber into his overalls

and hood, strap his flashlight onto his head,

tighten his mask, tug on gloves, and, on all fours,

crawl into the underbelly of our house

where he’ll burrow around our foundation.

In the kitchen we grimace again at the stench

that has overcome our breaths and appetites.

Beneath us, we hear him bumping, hear him

whistling as he clears death from our nostrils.

Judge’s Comment:

Such vivid images and attention to sounds - just the title is a melody, then the assonance of "sniffs our kitchen," "burrow around our foundation," "In the kitchen we grimace."

bottom of page