25 March 2012

The Cinnamon Peeler

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
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 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.

18 March 2012

True Confessions

Angie Estes

If I'd been a ranch, they would've called me the Bar Nothing.
Gilda, 1946

I can never get a zipper
to close. Maybe that stands
for something, what do you think?

I think glamour is its own
allure, thrashing and
flashing, a lure, a spoon
as in spooning, as in
in Scotland, where I once watched
the gorse-twisted hills unzip
to let a cold blue lake
between them. St. Augustine says
the reason why humans behave
as they do is because they are
not living in their true
In Rita Hayworth's
first film, for example,
Dante's Inferno
is a failing Coney Island
concession, and Margarita Cansino
plays the part of Rita
Cansino playing herself. And the true
home of glamour, by which
I mean of course the grammar
of glamour, is Scotland
glamour is a Scottish variant
grammar with its rustle of moods
and desires. Which brings us back to
the zipper and why we want it
to close, each hook climbing another
the way words ascend a sentence, trying on
the silver suture like clothes. In a satin
strapless gown, Gilda slowly peeled of
her black arm-length gloves, showed
how to strip down, diagram a sentence:
the blame on Mame, boys
. In 1946, a pin-up
of Rita Hayworth and the name
rode on the side of the atomic bomb
tested at Bikini Atoll; it was summer
and you could buy a record, hear the sound
of her beating heart. By her last
The Wrath of God, her hair was a burning
bush; she couldn't remember
her lines, whether it's memory or loss
we're in need of most: to remember
the way home or forget
who we are when we get there.
Every man I have known has fallen
in love with Gilda and wakened
with me.
St. Augustine asked, But when I love you,
what do I love?
He asked the earth
and the breeze, perfume, song,
flesh, the sun, the moon
and stars: My question was the attention
I gave to them, and their response
was their beauty.

11 March 2012


Brigit Pegeen Kelly

It was not a scorpion I asked for, I asked for a fish, but
maybe God misheard my request, maybe God thought
I said not “some sort of fish,” but a “scorpion fish,” a
request he would surely have granted, being a goodly
God, but then he forgot the “fish” attached to the
“scorpion” (because God, too, forgets, everything
forgets); so instead of an edible fish, any small fish,
sweet or sour, or even the grotesque buffoonery of the
striped scorpion fish, crowned with spines and
followed by many tails, a veritable sideshow of a fish;
instead of these, I was given an insect, a peculiar
prehistoric creature, part lobster, part spider, part
bell-ringer, part son of a fallen star, something like a
disfigured armored dog, not a thing you can eat, or
even take on a meaningful walk, so ugly is it, so stiffly
does it step, as if on ice, freezing again and again in
mid-air like a listening ear, and then scuttling
backwards or leaping madly forward, its deadly tail
doing a St. Vitus jig. God gave me a scorpion, a
venomous creature, to be sure, a bug with the bite of
Cleopatra’s asp, but not, as I soon found out, despite
the dark gossip, a lover of violence or a hater of men.
In truth, it is shy, the scorpion, a creature with eight
eyes and almost no sight, who shuns the daylight, and
is driven mad by fire, who favors the lonely spot, and
feeds on nothing much, and only throws out its poison
barb when backed against a wall — a thing like me,
but not the thing I asked for, a thing, by accident or
design, I am now attached to. And so I draw the
curtains, and so I lay out strange dishes, and so I step
softly, and so I do not speak, and only twice, in many
years, have I been stung, both times because,
unthinking, I let in the terrible light. And sometimes
now, when I watch the scorpion sleep, I see how fine he
is, how rare, this creature called Lung Book or Mortal
Book because of his strange organs of breath. His
lungs are holes in his body, which open and close. And
inside the holes are stiffened membranes, arranged
like the pages of a book — imagine that! And when the
holes open, the pages rise up and unfold, and the blood
that circles through them touches the air, and by this
bath of air the blood is made pure . . . He is a house of
books, my shy scorpion, carrying in his belly all the
perishable manuscripts — a little mirror of the library
at Alexandria, which burned.