Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sweet Like a Crow

Pink Beach, 2012

I am reading Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family.  This is my second time.  He's an author I like to revisit. 

I don't know if I can even begin to describe this book to you.  And this is one of the many things I like about it.

An excerpt from pages 76 and 77:


for Hetti Corea, 8 years old

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"


Your voice sounds like a scorpian 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-Thomian 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 of a needle,
like 8 sharks being carried on the back of a bicycle
like 3 old ladies locked in a lavatory
like the sound I heard when having an afternoon sleep
and someone walked through my room in ankle bracelets.


  1. These are wonderful; thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh, I bet he had fun writing this! The "3 old ladies locked in a lavatory" got me thinking; were they each locked in their individual stalls,oblivious to each other or were they really locked in, standing at the door, screaming and hitting it, trying to get out?

    I can see why you return to Ondaatje's work so often.

    By the way, what is the red in your photo? Cranberries? It's breathtaking.

    1. It certainly is something to ponder.

      The red/pink is many tiny succulent type plants growing in the sand. They were so beautiful.

  3. These descriptions create just vivid pictures.

  4. I think the most interesting juxtaposition is between the pitch, line and rhythm of this poem and the dearth of musicality in Mr. Bowles observation.

  5. Like a nose being hit by a mango!?!? That has to be the best description.... Your photograph is extraordinary Denise - such a beautiful pink...

    1. The nose being hit by a mango caught my attention too, Annie. Ouch.

  6. Pink Beach, I did not know that it could exist. Beautiful, the image and your words, need to find more about this book.

    Have a good weekend dear you!

  7. "a typewriter on fire", that's my favorite one. and congrats to you for your piece in taproot magazine! so lovely to see you there. xoxo.

    1. Thank you, Katrina. It was a pleasure working with Taproot.

  8. I am stunned- I have to read it many times-3 old ladies stuck in a lavatory, and Air Pakistan curry- I really wonder about those two more than the rest- oh brilliant!

  9. Replies
    1. It seems it is meant to stun, Annamaria. It demands to be read more than once. I'd like to try the Air Pakistan curry, I think...

  10. Thank you for the passage. I have such a difficult time finishing his books but his writing is so amazing. Sorry I did not get back to you sooner. I have been away....again....and life is a bit stressed right now. I need to take a big breath somewhere along the way here. Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs.

    1. I have another friend who couldn't finish one of his books, Raina. Reading is so subjective. I hope you are taking a deep breath and relaxing.

  11. brilliant incredible hilarious

    thank you for sharing this.
    I think I had that book of useless matches

    1. You are welcome, Nancy.

      I know I had a box of useless matches this summer. They really made lighting the charcoal for our grill an ordeal.

  12. if you were a journal I would totally subscribe. You keep me thinking, sighing and pausing...

    1. Oh, this is such a nice note. Thank you, Amelia. I'm smiling.

  13. So excellent! I would like to re-post this! Lovely blog, beautiful stillness in your photographs. Thanks!