“River Mud Smell” By E. C. Kelly

River mud smells like movement. Losing constrictions. It’s rich and mythic, fresh and rotting. The smell is the surrender that can occur when I stop resisting the intuitive swells tucked in the folds above my pelvic bone.

I first met that smell when I was lying in my parents’ backyard at 3 a.m., naked, my skin pricked by water drops that’d been ice moments before and I felt an expansion inside me. It was a building connection to water hitting the ground, stretching molecules into something more flexible.

I smelled this smell in the rain on the roof of my primary school while kissing a boy for the first time. I was sixteen, and I remember how odd it was feeling someone else’s teeth with my tongue. I felt fierce, right, and buzzy around my pelvic bone.

Watch women for this. We put our hands there to connect with and protect something vital about who we are. It’s where my hand goes when I ugly cry. It’s where my hand goes when I experience joy. It’s where emotional ferocity lives and breathes. And it’s lit up by river smell.

Years ago, I became a certified yoga instructor. When I stretched into wheel pose, the space above my pelvic bone filled with an uncomfortable intensity. I asked my teacher if that was normal. “If you’ve had a hysterectomy, yeah,” she said. “When those muscles are scarred, you need to stretch them gently.”

Wounds are tucked in my folds there. Stretching releases them and allows them to fade into my breasts and bones.


E. C. Kelly has an MA in liberal arts, which is a fancy way of saying she’s studied teaching, acting, and creative writing a lot. What motivates her writing is the queer kid born to an unaccepting family. She wants to reach that kid.

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