Okay, here’s something to ‘chew’ on :-)

I first saw this poem by Michael Ondaatje on the Fragrance board. Maybe because I’m scent obsessed it appeals…but really, its so evocative and sensual, I don’t know how a person could NOT like it. Surprisingly, if you google this poem, you will find several sites where there is heated discussion about what it means, the roles of women and men, etc. I spent some time reading that than just walked away…enjoy it for what it is:

The Cinnamon PeelerIf 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 the 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 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 the 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 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 cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.

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One Response to Okay, here’s something to ‘chew’ on :-)

  1. Kyahgirl says:

    Fred said,
    January 16, 2006 @ 2:29 pm · Edit

    Well, to the back yard I go to do more manly things. I guess I’ll build a shed this time.

    risa said,
    January 16, 2006 @ 2:30 pm · Edit

    that’s really glorious. i can’t imagine using the beauty and tenderness in this poem to make vast generic statements about gender roles… these are two people wedded by the scent of their being, and i think that’s marvelous.

    Amber said,
    January 16, 2006 @ 2:37 pm · Edit

    Freaky, a little bit. I kind of get the sense that the man who wrote it is intent on possessing his wife — letting everyone know that she is his and to stay away. Like an abusive husband who always apologizes and says sweet things after he flips out.

    That’s just me though. It’s a really cool poem.

    mig bardsley said,
    January 16, 2006 @ 4:30 pm · Edit

    Mmmm! Lush.

    He says ‘if I were a cinnamon peeler’. Is this a tale of adultery? Because when she says ‘I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Smell me.’ I feel that the cinnamon peeler is a third person.

    Mmmm! all the same.

    logo said,
    January 17, 2006 @ 12:48 am · Edit

    I can understand why there is some discussion but I like it, a beautiful lyrical display of sound to scent to sensation.
    Love it

    Kyahgirl said,
    January 17, 2006 @ 9:47 am · Edit

    Fred, you’re always welcome

    risa-I had a similar first reaction

    amber- I know what you mean but I have come to see it more as she is as passionate about having his mark on her as he is about leaving it!

    mig-I never saw it that way before but you may have something there.

    logo-we’ll make a perfumista out of you!!

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