Since I am so loathe to leave April, I am leaving you with three poems by a favorite writer of mine: Michael Ondaatje. Ondaatje is Ceylonese, born and raised in Sri Lanka. Moved to England to attend school, currently lives in Toronto, ON, Canada. Most will know of him from his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient.
Sweet Like a Crow
"The Sinhalese are beyond a doubt one of the least musical
people in the world. It would be quite impossible to have
less sense of pitch, line, or rhythm."
- Paul Bowles
Your voice sounds like a scorpion being pushed
through a glass tube
like someone has just trod on a peacock
like wind howling in a coconut
like a rusty bible, like someone pulling barbed wire
across a stone courtyard, like a pig drowning,
a vattacka being fried
a bone shaking hands
a frog singing at Carnegie Hall.
Like a crow swimming in milk,
like a nose being hit by a mango
like the crowd at the Royal-Thornian match,
a womb full of twins, a pariah dog
with a magpie in its mouth
like the midnight jet from Casablanca
like Air Pakistan curry,
a typewriter on fire, like a spirit in the gas
which cooks your dinner, like a hundred
pappadans being crunched, like someone
uselessly trying to light 3 Roses matches in a dark room,
the clicking sound of a reef when you put your head into the sea,
a dolphin reciting epic poetry to a sleepy audience,
the sound of a fan when someone throws brinjals at it,
like pineapples being sliced in the Pettah market
like betel juice hitting a butterfly in mid-air
like a whole village running naked onto the street
and tearing their sarongs, like an angry family
pushing a jeep out of the mud, like dirt on the needle,
like 8 sharks being carried on the back of a bicycle
like 3 old ladies locked in the lavatory
like the sound I heard when having an afternoon sleep
and someone walked through my room in ankle bracelets.
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 rain gutters, monsoon.
Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you 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
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
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.
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler's wife. Smell me.
"Nothing I'd read had prepared me for a body this unfair"
"Till we are roten, kan we not be rypen"
Those who are allergic to the sea
Those who have resisted depravity
Men who shave off beards in stages, pausing to take photographs
American rock stars who wear Toronto Maple Leaf hockey sweaters
Those who (while visiting a foreign country) have lost the end of a Q tip in their ear and have been unable to explain their problem
Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked woman's stomach after lunch and later, after slowing down the sound considerably, have sold these noises on the open market as whale songs
All actors and poets who spit into the first row while they perform
Men who fear to use an electric lawn-mower feeling they could drowse off and be dragged by it into a swimming pool
Any dinner guest who has consumed the host's missing contact lens along with the dessert
Any person who has had the following dream. You are in a subway station of a major city. At the far end you see a coffee machine. You put in two coins. The Holy Grail drops down. Then blood pours into the chalice
Any person who has lost a urine sample in the mail
All those belle-lettrists who feel that should have been 'an urine sample'
Anyone who has had to step into an elevator with all of the Irish Rovers
Those who have filled in a bilingual and confidential pig survey from Statistics Canada. (Une enquete sur les porcs, strictement confidentielle)
Those who have written to the age old brotherhood of Rosicrucians for a free copy of their book The Mastery of Life in order to release the inner conciousness and to experience (in the privacy of the home) momentary flights of the soul
Those who have accidentally stapled themselves
Anyone who has been penetrated by a mountie
Any university professor who has danced with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jean Genet
Those who have unintentionally locked themselves within a sleeping bag at a camping goods store
Any woman whose i.u.d. has set off an alarm system at the airport
Those who, after a swim, find the sensation of water dribbling out of their ears erotic
Men who have never touched a whippet
Women who gave up the accordion because of pinched breasts
Those who have pissed out of the back of moving trucks
Those who have woken to find the wet footprints of a peacock across their kitchen floor
Anyone whose knees have been ruined as a result of performing sexual acts in elevators
Those who have so much as contemplated the possibility of creeping up to one's enemy with two Bic lighters, pressing simultaneously the butane switches - one into each nostril - and so gassing him to death
Literary critics who have swum the Hellespont
Anyone who has been hired as a 'professional beater' and frightened grouse in the direction of the Queen Mother
Any lover who has gone into a flower shop on Valentine's day and asked for clitoris when he meant clematis
Those who have come across their own telephone numbers underneath terse insults or compliments in the washroom of the Bay Street Bus Terminal
Those who have used the following techniques of seduction:
-small talk at a falconry convention
-entering a spa town disguised as Ford Madox Ford
-making erotic rotations of the pelvis, backstage, during the storm scene of King Lear
-underlining suggestive phrases in the prefaces of Joseph Conrad
Anyone who has testified as a character witness for a dog in a court of law
Any writer who has been photographed for the jacket of a book in one of the following poses: sitting in the back of a 1956 Dodge with two roosters; in a tuxedo with the Sydney Opera House in the distance; studying the vanishing point on a jar of Dutch Cleanser; against a gravestone with dramatic back lighting; with a false nose on; in the vicinity of Macchu Pichu; or sitting in a study and looking intensely at one's own book
The person who borrowed my Martin Beck thriller, read it in a sauna which melted the glue off the spine so the pages drifted to the floor, stapled them together and returned the book, thinking I wouldn't notice
Any person who has burst into tears at the Liquor Control Board
Anyone with pain
More on Ondaatje.