Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Object Lesson

Sometimes I find it useful to look at a common object, meditate on it, and let it take me into a language and history and life of its own. It doesn't always lead to a "poem," but it's all part of getting out into the field to spread fertilizer, to till ground, to make attempts. Here's something that's obviously not a finished poem, but it has taken me somewhere interesting this morning. Something I may revisit.



In the common dark of my kitchen,
I cut into an orange with my thumbnail.
It is what it is: orange.
A simple fruit, small globe of juice
that sends a light spray when I rip it.
A tangy scent I'll wear on my hands all morning.

I'd like to believe the sticker
that claims the fruit is sun-kissed,
as if it hasn't known the dark Florida nights,
the gators and highway bars, the satellite dishes and blue
light of the TV in the sleepless orchard keeper's trailer.

Snow falls here like the petals there in May
from the flowering branches, where he prays
for no killing frosts. In December, they shake the limbs
in a riot of color.  The green unready ones
will mature in the mute black cold
of the refrigerated truck somewhere in Ohio
on their way to market, kissed more surely
by fluorescent bulbs above the produce department

where I pushed my wobbly cart, searching 
for what I don’t remember. I once loved
a woman with breasts like two winter oranges.
How we wore each other's scent into the day
after eggs and coffee, the paper, and a bowl of citrus.

Ten summers and warm winters pass
from pip to fruiting tree. This orange
in my hands, plucked by a man, 
whose history I cannot guess
except that he, like the orange,
may have ridden in the back of a truck
across borders through a darkness. 
How many brothers and sisters
grew on this same tree, were plucked
in the harvesting time?
Where are they now?

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