The Take

The Take: Vincent Corsaro

Ever wonder how journal editors make decisions about work to feature? The Take gives you a glimpse behind the scenes at Mud Season Review. Here, we feature one single poem or flash fiction piece that caught the attention of the editorial team, apart from the signature poetry portfolio or fiction piece in our bi-monthly issues. We hear from the author about the inspiration for his or her work, and we hear from a co-editor about why the poem or flash fiction story stood out.

Vincent Corsaro

The Smell Vault

A city believes that smell can make a thing clean again. Cue London
and its cholera, hanging lemon paper in the statehouse windows,
hoping the government won’t drown in the stink of the river
Thames. Cue Europeans stuffing pockets full of flowers,
hiding the fact that death plagues the ground with lovers’
bodies, legs and arms and human waste. Cue the smell vault
in the alley between Indianapolis gay bars, an underground
contraption, tubes and fans that work overtime, pumping
pine, mint, and rose into the air, a thin mask to cover
the cigarettes and vomit, something to stand over,
eyes closed to pretend that you’re somewhere
else. Cue that one night when you wore too
much cologne for a date, and your parents
asked what’s his name and you played
along with the joke and laughed and
lied to seem cleaner in their eyes,
it’s with a girl, I’m totally straight,
if you blindfold yourself and hear
my voice, you’ll believe me. Cue
later that same night when
you held a cigarette in one
hand, his in the other,
standing over the smell
vault and momentarily
forgetting the Tito’s
and smoke and
really feeling.


Author’s Statement

The Smell Vault is a real place and one of my favorite public art installations in Indianapolis. The history of scent being a cover for sickness, or death, or anything really is fascinating to me. I tried to capture a little bit of that story and have fun with the concrete shape while also tying it in with the uncertainty that comes with being a closeted and straight-passing bisexual man.

From the Editors

Corsaro captures the theme of hidden identity through use of such rich and surprising language. The line “I’m totally straight, if you blindfold yourself and hear my voice, you’ll believe me” demonstrates the speaker’s inability to share with himself and his parents his true self. Corsaro also captures a sense of self struggle in a world of “cleanliness” through his intrinsic form. The initial wide-lens the reader sees is the city of London “filled” with the scents of flowers and lemon, but is then redirected to a more specific scene of alleys near gay bars, and finally the date night.

By Elaine Pentaleri

Elaine Pentaleri is co-editor-in-chief for Mud Season Review. She lives on 23 acres of field, woodland and stream in Starksboro, Vermont. Elaine holds advanced degrees from both Alfred University and the University of Vermont. A poet and teacher, she is currently board co-chair of the Burlington Writers Workshop and president of the board of directors of the Willowell Foundation. Elaine’s work has appeared in small press publications, including Off Channel,, New Milennium Writings, ZigZagLit, Cold Lake Anthology, The Black Mountain Press, and elsewhere.