Between Oranges


Today I peel a blood orange,
which reminds me of you—not the fruit
itself, though your beauty is the same:
at once of and not of man’s earth.

As my thumbs cleave the flesh from the pith,
I think of the women we knew, their ritual
when you read that poem about a blood orange.
Their backs suddenly straight, their fine

slim fingers tucked, stiff into their laps.
And when I told you this, once, that the women
clung to something in your lines about
hidden folds never fully unfolding

as you pored through them, the orange a you,
through her perfectly framed entrance
to more mystery, you laughed. Your strong
shoulders shrugged in resignation,

in amusement, in some other thought
you would not reveal to me. Which is how
I think of you know, like the prism
which casts light back in its base form—

which is to say, both you and I knew more
than we let on, and less than we assumed.
Even now, as my thumb slides out of my mouth
I can't say with honesty what you tasted like

because you shift in the presence of too much heat,
which is what the world could call me,
if nothing else. Even this chalk pith on black flesh
doesn't get it right, how the search

turns sour when the blood does not match
the map: red replacing black, the zest pale
compared to your glossy hair. Remember me
stiff on the couch in your unheated apartment

the last week we were in orbit. So cold
I rose to the window, to watch the sleet fall
in its merciless rainbow, I could not leave,
even for my own heated isolation.

Your bedroom door was locked. You were not there
when I awoke. You were not there for what
you awakened in other women, or at least, that is
your illusion I believed then. Before

I cleft from the image you had assigned me,
a shade more resigned than reality. Our separate
inertias splitting us free from the limbo
of whatever us we did not want to be. Into the trash

goes the yellow-orange peel, which
means nothing to me. Pale wrapper
of a sour memory. I want you to know,
I have become myself, released from our mystery.

Artwork: Mariana Palova