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The Cinnamon Peeler -- Michael Ondaatje

Guest poem submitted by Joyce Heon:
(Poem #1516) The Cinnamon Peeler
 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 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.
-- Michael Ondaatje
Here is my favorite by Ondaatje.  Love the sensual nature of the poem, the
playfulness.  How nicely it expresses the way love lingers on the body, even
away from the loved one.  Certainly this is one of my favorite love poems.
And yes, wouldn't it be marvelous to go about smelling like apple pie.

R. Joyce Heon.

20 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Anonymous said...

What a stunning poem. I found you on twitter, someone said it was their favorite love poem, which is saying a lot so I had to investigate. Beautiful, beautiful. Where did you find this piece? I would like to reprint it with permission on my literary blog. Email me:

Thank you!
T.L. Stokes, Editor

Anonymous said...


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Jon said...

This is such a beautiful piece. 'Her House' is also a fantastic piece from the same collection.

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