Do You See?
Michael Ondaatje came up couple of times in recent conversations with folks here. Not sure what the trigger was. But once it was about this poem of his that I paste below, and the second time, about the fact that I met him last summer at NYS Summer Writers Workshop, shook his hand, and yet did not take his photograph. Bummer, I agree.
“THE CINNAMON PEELER” is a beautiful poem, sensuous-sensual in every way. Worth reading over and over again, from a writer whose prose I admire. And it’s just not the subtle erotica that appeals to me, rather, the quiet exactitude of it all. As if he is speaking in a murmur. It’s really not a declaration, this poem. More of a reflection, a speculated happiness, one that comes from things said-unsaid. The way I often speak to myself!
Read it below:
THE CINNAMON PEELER by Michael Ondaatje
If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.
Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.
Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.
I could hardly glance at you
never touch you
— your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…
When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.
Here’s a lovely video that’s been made on this poem. And Ondaatje himself is reading the poem! Click and view:
I had posted the poem elsewhere and a cheeky wannabe poet had quipped thus, when I mentioned about having held Ondaatje’s hand: “So, did the fragrance linger on, Nabina?” I couldn’t help but say, “Well, I searched my arms for the missing perfume…” I mean, come one.
May is here. I completed exactly one month of my Charles Wallace fellowship time at University of Stirling. Arrived on April 1 and did my reading on May 1. Will be in London this weekend.
Did I put “Etc.” in the heading? Well, I guess small random thoughts wanted to spill out, but can’t remember them now. Wait, one of them is this — how do the bunnies manage to stay on the lawn behind my flat all day and all night long? They’re like little brown-grey installations! Always there and multiplying. That reminds me, I need to post some “flora-fauna” pics of Stirling. Soon.