Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje

I've always had a nose for scents---quite like a bloodhound I've been told.  I could smell beer on my mother's breath the second she walked in the door...from the time I was born until I was 15...She quit drinking (and smoking, temporarily) when she got pregnant with my little brother when I was 15 years old. (To this day I wonder why she could get herself sober for him, but not for me and my sisters...) I was horrified to have a pregnant mother at that age.  Ah, those teen years.

I also grew up in a chronic fog/cloud of Pall Mall filterless and Virginia Slim cigarettes.  I guess there is no such thing as a perfect childhood, right?  For sure.  We all do the best we can... But I'm way off track now...  

Back to scents:  this amazingly fragrant poem always delights my senses supremely.  Can't you just smell the cinnamon?  Enjoy!

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
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 climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter'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 an act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.


Kelly said...

I think my sister was one of the few teens that wasn't embarrassed to have a pregnant mother. My SIL was 15 when my husband's little brother was born and she told me she was mortified to have a pregnant mother.

I grew up in a haze of smoke, as well. I can't really remember, but I think there were Pall Malls involved at my house, too.

Marion said...

Ha! That's a hoot, Kelly...of course, they could plead ignorance, but no more. One PC thing I'm happy about is the No Smoking bans in buildings and restaurants. I love clean air!! Thanks for stopping by. Still raining here. We only flooded one night in back, so far, thank goodness...Hope it misses y'all!! xo