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the cinnamon peeler's wife

9.29.2004 at 10:20:00 PM


Duke Ellington wished for:

freedom from hatred (absolute hatred)

freedom from self-pity

freedom from fear (that you will do something for someone that will make them better off)

freedom from pride (that makes you believe you are better than your brother)

at 11:32:00 AM

rape as a tool of disempowerment

"If equality means entitlement to an equal share of the profits of economic tyranny, it is irreconcilable with liberation. Freedom in an unfree world is merely license to exploit."
(Greer, The Whole Woman)

rape is a topic which women often think about but rarely discuss. i was a bit surprised once when in a discussion with a good friend, she revealed that her biggest fear was to be sexually assaulted. i guess i should not have been surprised, maybe the fear is one we often push to the far recesses of our minds. but in further discussion, the utter disempowerment and total violation more than the just the physical assault are what we could not bear to face. she had had more experience in dealing with victims of such assaults and thus felt some sort of vivid specter of fear. i can't say that this is my ultimate fear. however, after listening to stories of victims of gender violence in conflict areas, i could not sleep for many nights. the pictures and stories were of course horrible, but it was the stoic faces of the women talking about their tragedies that would not stop streaming through my mind.

the pogroms carried out in gujarat are an entire topic in and of themselves. however, the use of systematic rape in gujarat is just one example of using women's bodies as means of gaining control over a people. univ of chicago prof, martha nussbaum discusses the implications in the current boston review issue. just a quote from her article: "Control over women’s bodies was thus substituted for control over other aspects of daily life." Definitely worth a read.

though not directly connected, her words reminded me of Dr. Ingrid Mattson (hartford seminary) discussing the control over women in post-caliphate muslim societies. once muslim men felt that they had lost power in other spheres (politically, etc.) they could exert control in their lives by controlling women and the private sphere. thus emerged a paradigm of man as amir of the home, she argued, deviating from the traditional contractual partnership. thus now we see a common theme of outwardly exerting power over women as means to prove religiosity in some warped sense.

9.28.2004 at 10:28:00 PM

autumn's arrival

as i was walking to the gym today, i took my normal shortcut across a grassy clearing. it was an amazing autumn evening. the breeze was getting cooler as the sun fell in the sky. i love fall. today was one of those beautiful sunny days where the brisk breeze is perfect and the leaves crunch perfectly under your feet. the autumn smells and the crisp air are what make me love this season.

i have a whole week of vacation coming up, i have so much to do. i should catch up on school work. i am probably going to chicago for a few days and maybe boston. i have to work out all the details. but it will definitely be nice to get out of ohio and routine for a while.

this year is the centenary of salvador dali's birth. he is by far my favorite 20th century artist, and of course the most eccentric of the surrealists. the first dali print i received was a framed 'Swans Reflecting Elephants' which was painted in 1937. Other than that i also have prints of Meditative Rose and Paysage aux Papillons. An interesting article about Dali's life in today's new york times entitled 'unmasking a surreal egotist'. give it a read.

at 1:33:00 AM


the chill of indifference
envelopes our lives
the foreign, the other, the distant
not my problem, not my cares
my wants and my comfort are paramount
the enemy can go to hell
our selfishness and intolerance
cloud our minds and hearts
so caught up in me
no time for you or your cares
even winter blushes in front of our coldness
even when we reach out there is
no warmth in our touch.

9.27.2004 at 1:46:00 PM

ondaatje's words

When I was working in Sri Lanka, i stumbled upon Ondaatje's (of English Patient fame) poetry. This one is amazing and inspiring, so a fitting first entry.

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