October 19, 2006 · filed under love, wedding

I’ll peel your cinnamon!

We’ve been lucky that throughout the wedding planning process, Andrew and I have agreed on all of the big things (destination location, small guest list, Mexican buffet), and most of the little things too. However, we’ve reached an impasse on what is arguably the most important part — the wedding ceremony itself. We have the pleasure, but also the pain, of writing it ourselves.

We’re on the same page about the vows and the opening and closing parts. But we’re in disagreement on the readings. One of us, and I won’t say which one, wants to have a poem read that is a little, um, s-e-x-u-a-l. The other one of us, worried about blushing in front of her new mother-in-law (oops, did I just give away who was who there?), does not think this particular reading is appropriate. I have other reasons for not wanting it, but this is the juiciest one.

(Andrew’s word-for-word lawyerly argument: “It’s one of my favorite poems and probably the most moving love poem I have ever read so I feel it’s eminently appropriate to express the passion I have for the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. While it is a little racy, it’s our wedding and I am okay with that. Moreover, I think it will fit well with the flow of our ceremony and complement our other reading, which is rather subtle.)

Being democratic as we are, we agreed to put it up to the test of the blog! Tell me, dear readers, and BE HONEST (I will still be your friend if you vote against me, but my mother-in-law will not): Should the following poem be read at our wedding?

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
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.


36 Comments

  1. Audrey
    October 19, 2006 11:05 pm

    I like the poem, but I’m not sure I would have it read at a wedding. Maybe he could very romantically read it to you in private on your wedding night? Then it would still be part of the whole wedding event and you could both enjoy it fully without having to worry about what certain mothers-in-law were thinking.

  2. Jenn Bo
    October 19, 2006 11:35 pm

    I would have been bright, bright red. Oh my… save it for the wedding night.

  3. Mom
    October 19, 2006 11:47 pm

    Can your mom vote? I would definitely save it for post-wedding.

  4. rachel
    October 20, 2006 12:38 am

    Very HOT, the elderly and those with pacemakers may have to be removed from the room!

  5. elise
    October 20, 2006 1:20 am

    On the one hand, yes, a little racy. Especially when stanzas begin with “Here on the upper thigh”. I could certainly see it making some guests uncomfortable.

    HOWEVER! Not to be too cliche, but it is YOUR (as in you and your fiancee’s) wedding. So, if by having the poem read aloud the wedding will become that much more special, then who cares if it causes a little blushing amongst the spectators.

    However again! It sounds as if YOU do not exactly love the idea of this being broadcasted to the masses. If there is anything worse than being the bride at a wedding and having to focus on anything other than loving the moment at hand, I do not know what it is.

    That is to say, reading that poem might be like wearing a sheer dress. It seems super sexy at first, but if you’re having to worry about “who is seeing my panties, do I have any visible cellulite, oh my gosh, is Uncle Ted looking at me like THAT? I’m getting married!…oh wait, are we at the vows now? Oh man, I am having a hard time following this” well, you can see that the wedding has now lost some of its intimacy for you.

    Don’t do anything that will distract you from loving every second of the wedding.

  6. M
    October 20, 2006 1:37 am

    Well, being the giggler that I am (and still stuck in junior high, obviously) I wouldn’t help but giggle during that poem. As the bride or as a guest..

    How exciting that you’re planning the ceremony. A good friend of mine is getting married on Nov. 4th, so I know just how SOON it is!

  7. alyndabear
    October 20, 2006 4:40 am

    That is a very sexy poem! But as lovely as it is (especially that HE wants it included, what a dear!) I probably wouldn’t include it in the ceremony.

    Most importantly? You’ve got to be comfortable. And if you can’t look people in the eyes afterwards, it’s not worth it!

    Definitely save it for later, though! ;)

  8. Sarah
    October 20, 2006 6:53 am

    I have to join in and agree that while I think it’s very sexy & romantic that Andrew wants this poem and that it makes him think of you, it just seems too intimate to have read aloud in a wedding ceremony.

    You don’t want people to lose sight of the ceremony as a whole because of one reading. You don’t want to be “the wedding with the sex poem,” you know? I have been to the wedding with the “guitar playing preacher” and “the drunk stumbling mother-in-law.”

    At the same time, Michael agreed with me through all of the wedding planning, he only asked for 2 wedding planning things that I wasn’t crazy about and I gave him both. I undertstand your dilemma, you guys will decide, don’t worry.

  9. Erika
    October 20, 2006 8:07 am

    Man, I can’t say that I would be comfortable standing in front of our f&f while that was being read (which would involve my FATHER hearing the word BREAST) but it is very romantic. You aren’t getting married in a church (apparently that makes a distinction in my book) so I wouldn’t say it’s inappropriate. Why don’t you ask a few people who are going to be there, and your officiant? If it means a lot to Andrew I think you should celebrate that. I was going to say print it in the program instead but I don’t know if that would make anyone more or less comfortable.

  10. Lindsey
    October 20, 2006 8:19 am

    Too sexy for a wedding!!! I was like “hell no” by the third stanza. I definitely think he could read it to you after the ceremony. You could even frame the poem for him to have in your home for all eternity, but I wouldn’t read it at the wedding. I love poetry and I think it’s a great expression of his feelings for you, but no. Veto.

  11. Cassie
    October 20, 2006 8:45 am

    I’m with M — I couldn’t help but giggle a little bit while I was reading the poem, but I’m immature like that.

    It’s a beautiful poem. But does it actually belong in a wedding ceremony? I think it’s sweet that it reminds your fiance of you, but maybe it would be best left for a “private ceremony” between the two of you.

    This probably isn’t much help to you…I guess the bottom line is, you need to do whatever makes YOU happy since it is, after all, your wedding.

  12. Jennifer
    October 20, 2006 8:56 am

    I think it is unbelievably romantic that Andrew likes that poem and it makes him think of you. In fact, I think it is unbelievably romantic that he feels strongly about reading ANY poem at your wedding.

    If he really wants it, then I say go for it. As long as he promises not to make any hand gestures to go along with the words “breast” and “thigh. And maybe he could leave out the last two words. Smell me? Would that not make EVERYONE crack up into embarassed laughter?

  13. RA
    October 20, 2006 9:36 am

    I think it’s admirable that Andrew feels so strongly about a poem. It’s sweet that he is standing up for something for your wedding, especially when it doesn’t involve food/beer.

    On the other, bigger, more realistic hand… given this situation myself, I would feel strongly against having this read at my wedding ceremony. I blushed even reading it alone at work! I am in complete agreement that there would be awkwardness with in-laws and parents and respectability in general, but on a practical level – who is doing this reading? If anyone BUT Andrew was reading it, wouldn’t that be so weird? I’m pretty sure I don’t want anyone hearing about my thighs and cinnamon dust, but I certainly wouldn’t want anyone reading it aloud. And I wouldn’t want to be standing there, in front of people, during the reading, thinking, “Oh my goodness, make it stop. When will it be over?” because it’s likely that that’s what would be going through my head.

    Despite the fact that I don’t quite align with my sister in the claim that “everyone’s thinking about sex at a wedding”, I don’t think it’s necessary to, um, put it all out there. A wedding is a great celebration, but the marriage itself is personal, and I think this poem, however romantic, goes into that latter category. For what it’s worth, anyway.

    Good luck!

  14. jessica
    October 20, 2006 9:45 am

    Sorry Andrew but I’m going to have to go with No on this one. I agree with others and say save it for the wedding night.

    It is a beautiful poem though, so if you do end up using it in the ceremony, I think you should forget all the things said here, and just enjoy the moment. If thats possible, you know, with the “smell me” at the end.

  15. Alison
    October 20, 2006 10:21 am

    I feel very strongly that this is a no no for the wedding ceremony. While it’s very romantic – it just ain’t wedding material. I was already nervous and jittery enough just having to say personal vows and stand up in front of everyone at my wedding. I might have passed out if this was read. Sorry Andrew – I recommend a private reading on your wedding night :)

  16. CPA Mom
    October 20, 2006 11:24 am

    Here’s my 2 cents, because you asked, not because I’m nosy or anything…

    Not wedding material. Very sweet that he wants to read it, I mean, poetry and my husband, never in the same sentence (until now…where was I?). But not for a wedding. Not in front of the parents and in-laws. That is a bit white trash IMHO.

    The end. Good night.

  17. Gwen
    October 20, 2006 11:32 am

    I like the poem, but agree it’s a little too much for wedding. HOWEVER what if, since you are in Mexico, you had someone read it in Spanish? That way you two would know the meaning, it would still be part of the ceremony, but there is a good chance most of the wedding guests (including Motherinlaw) will not know its meaning!

    If you chose not to use it, maybe make it part of a gift or note that you give him the night before? That could be really sweet and show that you acknowledge its importance to him?

    Ohhhh you’re going to have so much fun!

  18. Bebe
    October 20, 2006 11:56 am

    Honestly, if that were read at one of my weddings, I would probably be writing about it.

    It is a beautiful poem, but for wedding guests, some things are best left to the imagination. It would be a nice poem to put in a card to you on the day of your wedding, though.

    While his intentions are in the right place, you know you will not be comfortable in front of all of your guests hearing those words so his message will be lost. Yes, it is your wedding ceremony and you should say what you want to say to each other, you also don’t want to be standing there cringing knowing that your father is hearing about your sex life.

    The hand ceremony (NOT handfasting) is becoming very popular, and there are a couple of versions, but it is nice, and often leaves people asking for a copy if it’s not in the program. Let me know if you want other ideas or resources.

  19. sandra
    October 20, 2006 11:57 am

    I’m with Sarah – I love the poem, but I think it could turn your wedding into “the wedding with the sex poem.”

    That being said, you are incredibly lucky to have such a passionate, thoughtful fiance. But I’m sure you know that. :) I like Gwen’s suggestion of reading it in Spanish.

  20. Laurie
    October 20, 2006 12:08 pm

    I have to agree with most – I loved the poem, but I think more romantic and suitable to read it on the wedding night – maybe you guys could read it to each other while you take a break from the festivities and walk along the beach that evening…that would be wonderful! Good luck!

  21. janet
    October 20, 2006 12:16 pm

    The people have spoken!!! Aside from perhaps crushing Andrew’s spirit (which Sarah suggested might have happened), I think you ladies have given some very constructive ideas on how to still incorporate the poem but in a more appropriate away. Consider the decision to NOT read it made. Thanks for your advice :)

  22. Andrew
    October 20, 2006 12:20 pm

    OK OK I surrender, I surrender.

    NO MAS!

  23. Chocolate Bear
    October 20, 2006 12:55 pm

    Hang on, Andrew!!!

    Some may say I am biased, but I am trying to look at this as subjectively as I can. So here goes:

    I don’t think its that risque, for a couple of reasons. First, the people at your wedding hopefully know one or both of you pretty well. As such, I would say this is one of the tamer statements that could ever come from Andrew. While it is passionate (thighs, and breasts, and hair…oh my), I would also think that the people who made the trip to Cabo San Lucas (quite far from the Bible Belt) would have an open mind about the arts and be able to appreciate the poem for what it is: a beautiful profession of love from a unique point of view. Also, people take wedding ceremonies so seriously lately that they almost forget to have fun. This wedding is your (the both of you’s guys’s) ceremony, designed and carried out by yourselves. It is a very important day, but it is YOUR day. Don’t spend $250 on a fried chicken dinner, and ruin it by not eating with your fingers because someone seated at the next table might scoff. If you are spending $250 on fried chicken, you should be able to not only use your fingers…but lick your fingers…forget that…lick the plate!

    Do not let what you THINK others MIGHT think alter the way you want your day to be.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the poem being read at the wedding.

    The one problem I see with reading it is that both the bride and groom can’t agree on it. I would get together, clear your minds, and figure out if it is something you want…and forget about if it is something at which your parents would giggle.

  24. Chocolate Bear
    October 20, 2006 12:57 pm

    objectively…”as objectively as I can”…

    i’ll never figure out this new English everyone is using ;)

  25. amieable
    October 20, 2006 1:20 pm

    Sorry I’m late – chiming in from the West Coast (represent!).

    I think it is a beautiful poem and not “racy” at all. It is subtle; just because a poem uses the word “thigh” or “breast” does not make it inappropriate. I believe it is more the intent and tone of the poem that would make it racy or inappropriate. In this case, the tone is about love and the special sense of “belonging” to one person. In addition, it is a celebration of the senses, and since the wedding will be outdoors in Cabo, I think it fits well.

    I think Chocolate Bear has a really good point that the people who you invited (even more so for the people who will attend) are a small sample of people who know you both as a couple and understand you both as a couple and who appreciate what you appreciate.

    The poem is not just about sex and people who are at your wedding will be able to listen to the intent of the poem without getting stuck at the word “thigh.”

    Let’s not forget that much, MUCH racier songs get played all the time at receptions. Similar songs get danced to as the “first dance” and are considered “romantic.” This is an event (the ONLY event) where it’s all about romantic love and that can be celebrated!

    I applaud you for thinking about your guest’s comfort, but it is your day. That said, if the issue is that you (Janet) will really be uncomfortable then it should probably remain out. If YOU don’t want it becuase it will stress you out, then that’s your answer. Don’t be afraid, however, of what other people think.

    I think it’s beautiful. I’ll read it!

  26. Meepers
    October 20, 2006 7:31 pm

    Just picture the different shades of red/pink you could turn. I’m voting “don’t do it, Andrew” – its like really ‘diving under’ the skirt to get the garter- with your TEETH. Mmmmnnnnnoper. Sorry. But I do love the poem. You could do the reading en espanol, or maybe print it on vellum and wrap it around the favors or napkins, etc? So that way it’s around, but 90 % of the guests won’t actually read it.

  27. Lizzy
    October 20, 2006 8:44 pm

    As lovely the sentiment, I’d save it for the wedding night.
    ‘Cuz Grannie and Poppy might have themselves a pair of coronaries. Right?

  28. CrankMama
    October 20, 2006 8:53 pm

    I say rock on, sissie! This is a fabulous poem… but part of the ceremony.. the public part is real .. and what about poor Grannie? I’m with Lizzie…

  29. Kelli
    October 20, 2006 11:05 pm

    Oh no, he is not serious!!! While it is a very lovely poem, I would turn I bright shade of magenta were it to be read at my wedding. Though, I am currently planning my own wedding and looking for a way to rebel against my very opinionated mother……. hmmm….this could prove to be an interesting idea….

  30. megan
    October 21, 2006 1:27 am

    I can’t belive this. Andrew’s putting his heart on the line. His love and this poem are being trivialized, discarded, and thrown in his face. He offers this delicate verse; he shares with us his innocuous passion; he promises us an extraordinary vow. It certainly isn’t from the King James Bible, or Oprah’s O Magazine, but it’s from his heart, and I think that should be enough.

  31. alexa
    October 21, 2006 10:04 am

    I hate it.

  32. Zandria
    October 23, 2006 10:07 am

    I have to agree with you here. I blush easily too, and you have a valid argument for not wanting to be put on the spot like that (even more so than you already WILL be, just by wearing that white wedding dress!).

  33. Ella
    October 23, 2006 10:47 am

    I’m with almost everyone else – too racy for the wedding. If it will make you uncomfortable up at the alter while everyone stares at you – then I vote no. Sorry Andrew.

  34. CatWise99
    October 23, 2006 11:04 am

    Too racy for the wedding..but who am I to say what should or should not be read at YOUR wedding!!! The final decision lies with you two.

  35. Jenni
    October 25, 2006 12:18 pm

    Janet, if you would be embarassed by having this poem read at your wedding, then I defintely don’t think you should. It’s wonderful that Andrew feels that way, but if it would make you uncomfortable to have him recite it in front of all of your friends & family, then I wouldn’t do it.

    I would be embarassed too. :)

  36. Isabel
    October 27, 2006 12:41 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments (wow, you got a lot of them). But just reading it to myself here at work made me blush. Hum-good luck deciding if it will be read or not.

    But how awesome that Peter (as I’m calling him today, because I THINK I’M FUNNY) thinks this way about you. That’s hott.