Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the cinnamon peeler's wife

for those who have never read ondaatje....read him. i love him. especially his early stuff. one of my fave poems of his.

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 approaced
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.
here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. this ankle.
you will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peelers wife.

i could hardly glance at you
before marriage
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 climed on the bank and said
this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
and you searched your arms
for the missing perfume
and knew
what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.
you touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
i am the cinnnamon
peeler's wife. smell me.

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