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Kissing the stomach

May 10, 2016

By Michael Ondaatje

Ondaatje’s themes, embracing the whole of the other, moving beyond jealousy, are grown up emotions. In her autobiographical memoir, The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson, who had not yet reached that exalted state, described sending this to her much tattooed lover Harry Dodge, in the hope that it might help her one day accept his previous lovers. She had a lot to get over, but it probably did.

Fragment 24, in the series Rock Bottom, from The Cinnamon PeelerSelected Poems (Bloomsbury 1989). “Skin boat” is also the title of a series of more substantial poems, including the famous title poem (click here), in the same collection.

Kissing the stomach
kissing your scarred
skin boat. History
is what you’ve travelled on
and take with you

We’ve each had our stomachs
kissed by strangers
to the other

and as for me
I bless everyone
who kissed you here

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