Sensory Poetry

Cinnamon Peeler OndaatjeMichael Ondaatje is one of my favorite authors. While attending Ondaatje’s alma mater, Queen’s University, I read his first novel Coming Through Slaughter (published 1976) that depicts the life of a jazz musician in early 1900s Louisiana. It was love at first read. I was still a teenager and the sensuousness of Ondaatje’s prose delighted and tickled my senses, felt a tiny bit wicked. It was unlike anything I’d read before – beautiful, literary and arousing.

Later, thanks to my boyfriend at the time, a brilliant Fine Arts major, I would be exposed to his poetry. It likewise often aroused me, but it was the playfulness displayed with metaphor and the exotic qualities of so many of his subjects that took hold of me.

Here is one of my favorites.

The Cinnamon Peeler

by 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 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.

Wandering stranger


Wandering stranger
than fiction
thru this small
Canadian town



Wavering fiction
poised on my tongue
waiting for the next line
that never comes.

The Seed of You

Lately, I’ve become increasingly aware of an ongoing mental struggle I’ve been experiencing. It’s something many of us struggle with, something I’ve written of here before – Discipline, Organization, Productivity with the goal of producing something of broad, if not universal, value. Discipline and organization are clearly the parts needed to produce the whole of productivity. They are not however things I am well-known for (yet). I am in awe of anyone who is capable of them and is producing something that touches people, enhances their lives in some way – whether by feeding their bodies or their souls.

Yesterday, the Universe sent me a troop of messengers with answers to my dilemma. These messengers wore bloggers’ and poets’ clothing. They had much to say about how to live with heart, fulfill our purpose in life and limit our time surfing the net, reading blog posts, getting pulled down the rabbit hole of endless information consumption. The internet has much to offer, but in the course of offering us answers to almost any and every question, it can also be a huge black hole that can pull us away from our quest to produce something meaningful every day.

The answers suggested ways, both complicated and simple, to streamline my web browsing and have made me acutely aware (where I was formerly only, sorta, kinda, in a denial kind of way, aware) of how much time I waste each day reading “stuff” on the internet which does not further my goal of becoming a published author. They also hinted at how to lead a life of purpose and meaning…something a bit more intangible, but for which we can also exercise discipline and organization.

To wit,

What to Remember When Waking

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

~ David Whyte ~