rain washed histories

The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife

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.

– Michael Ondaatje

when i was young, i loved a man whose smell captivated me. most things about him captivated me, and because i was young i didn’t yet appreciate that to be captured does not correlate with anything love or life sustaining. his smell though… a haunting and seductive aroma, rich with oil, grease, and inaccessibility owned me for a long time…  i found this poem when he was my love, and the words of being marked,  stories told by the aroma of a man got me deep.

i thought of myself as some kind of a mermaid then, for reasons i can’t relate to now, and i used to think that the sexiest thing was that even water could not erase our acquaintance without effort. truth be known, the reality of time eventually could erase anything that did once connect us, including his smell on my skin, and even in my heart, but the poem remained a favorite, and still grabs at my romantic self and asks me to answer who it is that i am marked by.

but i don’t have to think about it. i have no questions about whose smell i am associated with, or will be for moons. the traces themselves are not always present, but i am reminded in seasons where his story is more pronounced then others, like when the summer brings us plenty and we are blessed with wealth in resources and he and his family work hard to provide for us. or in the winter, when i prepare warm food for our family that his hands made ready for use and our whole home tells the story of him being from the west coast.

it’s the rich smell of salt and sea… and when the direct evidence is gone, there is another smell that lingers. it’s the aroma of a healthy love. it’s the smell of a good man. it’s the smell of my man, and in the shadows, of his family, and his roots.

it’s the smell of me. i am the west coaster’s wife.

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One Comment to “rain washed histories”

  1. Wow! Beautiful and deep.

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