scent: a poem by yrsa daley-ward

Writer and actress Yrsa Daley-Ward chanced upon a spoken word poetry night in South Africa and turned her world around.

Yrsa Daley-Ward is the Lancashire born writer and actress whose childhood passion for expressing herself through the written word was ignited once again following a not uncommon adolescent standstill: stifled city living, uninspired, body chemistry all over the shop. With £200 in her pocket and a longing for ventures new, she headed to South Africa, a leap of faith that proved to be more than fruitful in Yrsa (pronounced yer-sah) unearthing her natural talent once again and placing her firmly back onto the path of her heart. A chance happening on a spoken word poetry evening where she became a local, and a three year stint later, now she’s at the realm of a new wave of contemporary poets who inspire an unprecedented level of empathy and accessibility through their honest and raw approach.

Currently based between Los Angeles and London, Yrsa continues to use the medium of writing to dissipate the weight and heaviness of her innermost thoughts and feelings, sharing is her form of survival. Just read her poetry and prose anthology Bone and you’ll find this to be true;  Yrsa’s Jamaican and Nigerian heritage, femininity, sexuality and mental health are just some of the themes explored within this powerful collection of a woman facing tumultuous inner and external battles head on, delivered with a hard-hitting directness (Danger. Danger. Bad habits that feel like home), yet with inflections of optimism throughout (Seize that loveliness, it has always been yours) that are bound to touch readers to their core.

Written for the The Fifth Sense, Yrsa's poem Scent touches on “The memory of a lover. Scent is the thing that follows, the thing that is there throughout. The thing that lingers."


In theory

I have written you out of my memory.

Still, the middle of my face

refuses to be told.

I’m undone. Perhaps it is the air in my head.

Three years. And I did too much work on our love.

Three years

and I can't undo the problem of your scent.

It is a horrid and complicated fact.

My fifth sense an ambush. I walk by the bakery, chip shop,

flower stall, shopping centre,

leather goods store

all the Mornings in Lancashire still smell like you.

Last week I was caught in a storm overseas.

When the rain smell drove me silly

all I could see were your eyes.

Now home, I light the stove. I cook new food these days

from recipe books. Now that you’re gone I can fry meat.

I buy a perfume I know you hate

and spread it on your side of the bed.


you greet me in waves I can not decipher.

Last night I smelled you in a dream.

It is a thumbprint now

but I can't forget the loss.

I dreamed you beautiful.

You are

nothing beautiful. But

three years

and I can’t clean you off my skin.

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