Monday, October 06, 2008


Some Poems with Assorted Fruit


Peaches, pears, oranges,
strawberries, cherries, figs,
apples, melon, honey dew,
oh, music of my senses,
pure pleasure of the tongue;
let me speak now
of fruit that fascinate,
with the flavor, with the hues,
with the fragrance of their syllables:
oh tangerine, oh tangerine.

-- Eugenio de Andrade
translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin

* * *

"Three Red Pears"

Slicing across the pear with the largest bruise,
I imagine an Oregon orchard by the sea
Where there three hung, bright with roseate dew,
Before the packing crate and rumbling boxcar
Brought them to my hometown grocery store.
I liked their speckled skin and tapered shape
So I bought them, though they felt unyielding
When I squeezed them.  Now when I eat a chunk
I'm surprised at the sweet taste of the flesh
For I thought they'd rotted past ripening
While I was busy with my books and papers,
Trying to finish dull mounds of work
I hated, reports, dissections of people
Spread out on committee tables like frogs,
My forehead furrowed, and my pulse too fast.

But today the pears are perfect in my mouth.
As I swallow the last piece and wash the knife
I hope that underneath my human skin
Chemicals are turning bile to sugar,
That after weeks of saying "Yes" to "No,"
Trying to Right the implacable armored Wrong
That rules and swaggers, I won't have rotted,
My heart veined and pitted with disease
Like the hearts of the old men, my colleagues,
Bathed in the ichor of forty long years
Of struggle over an anthill for ant spoils,
Who now enter hospitals for by-pass surgery
Or collapse red-faced in the elevator.
Please heart, slow down, remember long ago
You were a baby's heart, you were my own,
And long before you were anybody's heart
There was just an orchard under the sun,
Pear trees in bloom, radiance from the boughs
Blinding, transparent, like an angel's wing.

-- Maura Stauton.

* * *

"Lots of Grapes"

Lots of grapes this year,
But no peace in my heart.  I eat them
Like a crazy bird among scarecrows.

The smell of last fruit turned into  smell of wine
Not to drink.  Now to bless
Even the last ones.  That you made us live and exist and reach
This last time.  Grapes,
Big and black, turned my mouth into the inside of a woman.
Your lips discovered an overripe fig and will remain so
Even in winter.  People explained bright landscapes
Of summer's end, but I thought of my love
That's not enough to cover this big land.

It was a long year, full of fruit and corpses.
More than ever, we await the rain.
Lots of grapes this year, the last ones yellow
Like wasps carrying their own death inside.

-- Yehuda Amichai
translated from the Hebrew by Benjamin and Barbara Harsav

* * *


Cobblers, pies, preserves, salads, peaches
and cream -- even a pulpy ice
since a spring without a freeze
turned early blossoms into this surfeit
of fruit, we have eaten peaches
every way we know, not forgetting
right from the branch, fuzz barely washed
under the faucet.  
Take one, now
from the bowl, a world ripe
with the continents of summer's color.

Long, unwrinkled days lead to evenings
nearly as long, and cooler, when phoebes
describe arcs around the trellises,
and rising flycatchers belie the stillness
of the air.  Today we picked some more,
filling old-fashioned jars
with juice and golden flesh -- gathering too
a little weariness, but sweet,
as after playing with a child
or singing late to friendship's music.

After the immoderate midday sun,
my father was shade, measure,
and perspective.  If one pail of peaches
was brought in on a summer's afternoon,
it was enough for him, knotting
the different threads of need and pleasure.
This fruit preserved is husbanding happiness
for future weeks; something of autumn
is already in their ripening,
the reconciliation of reason and love.

The clean and candid light of Spanish rooms,
a simple love affair in summer clothes --
both quick and beautiful,
these call for ceremonial, like fruit
served on a blue-willow plate.  Is this not
funereal, finally -- the unnamed seed
of dying in even the freshest peach,
and all our rituals the savoring
of ourselves, most perishable,
but delighting in what resembles us?

-- Catharine Savage Brosman

* * *

"The Plum on the Sill"

The cold at its poles and blush
Of blue at its equator
Does not equal a planet.
Composed as an example,

As object, this inspired shadow,
This timorous flourishing, 
This dimpled orb, does not move.
Violet and gold, the whole

Spectrum of a grackle's wing,
A static arpeggio,
The plum in its plumness sits.
The linear and mythic

In its presence veer and curve.
Put anywhere it stays put.

-- Eric Pankey

* * *

"that it is not a dream, this"

that it is not a dream, this
bowl of crimson strawberries, glass
of Champagne, this new sun
preening itself on all the leaves
the green dominion around
stroked by breezes:  the amours
of morning, renditions
of some long forgotten opera

and it is not a stage, this
veranda with wrought iron
chairs, this table that holds
blueberries off bushes below
and a cedar railing that stands
around us like a guard of honor
not a drama someone wrote
or singers practiced for

just us, you and me, breakfast
over the open sea, white
curtained sailboats glide out
soundless under ivory wings of gulls
and we hold stems of glasses
to touch lips, touch mornings
a beautiful story set to the screams
of warblers on branches

-- Krisjana Gunnars

* * *


Three things are too wonderful for me,
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a maiden.
-- Proverbs 20:18 - 19

The day hot, the air wet felt,
each thought a runnel of sweat,
I take this champagne mango,
entering the monastery
of its plump flesh peel by peel,
crescent by crescent sliding
lush gold into my mouth,
savoring each warm shiver
of mango so utterly
the juice drips down my chin,
between my breasts, essence
of mango my barest wish.

Surely now the Beloved
will enter the humid void that I am,
and in a long cascade of desire
lick me clean.

Consider the sharp blade of the seed
within the bound solidity of silk --
how can we trust
such succulence, so mortal?
And yet I'd kneel at your feet,
each bare toe a tiny mango
to suckle.  I'd tongue each one by one,
climbing slowly the trellis of entwined
clematis fragrant about your thighs,
just to the cusp of the orchid that roosts
in the aura of the body's ripe perfume
nibbling me way there, nuzzling . . . .

I am offering myself to you.  This is practice
for the shift in the mind that makes real
what can be glimpsed of God.
Far from the acute thrust and mutual solace
of such meeting, I say mango
as if it were prayer and orchard,
sheltering the fruit of my longing in a bowl
whose crystal facets refract and reflect
the white light that floods this table --
laying the mango aside, until you are here with me
to enter its tawny vow of incandescence.

It may be that words come together
but we do not.  There is a pain, so utter . . .

it neither floats off, nor falls away,
is not embraced, denied, transcended --
unless in the equipoise of light

some call sobriety, others grace.

Add mango to the list of all that is
too wonderful for me.

I put my hand on my mouth and bow down.

-- Margaret Gibson

* * *

"The Lemons"

Listen to me, the poets laureate
walk only among plants
with rare names:  boxwood, privet and acanthus.
But I like roads that lead to grassy
ditches where boys
scoop up a few starved
eels out of half-dry puddles:
paths that run along the banks,
come down among the tufted canes
and end in orchards, among the lemon trees.

Better if the hubbub of the birds
dies out, swallowed by the blue:
we can hear more of the whispering
of friendly branches in not-quite-quiet air,
and the sensations of this smell
that can't divorce itself from earth
and rains a restless sweetness on the heart.
Here,by some miracle, the war
of troubled passions calls a truce ;
here we poor, too, receive our share of riches,
which is the fragrance of the lemons.

See, in these silences where things
give over and seem on the verge of betraying
their final secret,
sometimes we feel we're about
to uncover an error in Nature,
the still point of the world, the link that won't hold,
the thread to untangle that will finally lead
to the heart of a truth.
The eye scans its surroundings,
the mind inquires aligns divides
in the perfume that gets diffused
at the day's most languid.
It's in these silences you see
in every fleeting human 
shadow so disturbed Divinity.

But the illusion fails, and time returns us
to noisy cities where the blue
is seen in patches, up between the roofs.
The rain exhausts the earth then;
winter's tedium weighs the houses down,
the light turns miserly -- the soul bitter.
Till one day through a half-shut gate
in a courtyard, there among the trees,
we can see the yellow of the lemons;
and the chill in the heart
melts, and deep in us
the golden horns of sunlight
pelt their songs.

-- Eugenio Montale
translated from the Italian by Jonathan Galassi

* * *

"A Border Incident"

Gleaning olives, hard and black as droppings,
green as lizards, leathery or sodden,
where they lay hidden under faded grass
or lodged between the roots of thorny bushes
on the stony ground --
an old Provencal peasant woman, gaunt-faced
as a gypsy sibyl, with sun-stained skin
and work-warped hands, clutched
her back, straightened up, smiled a greeting.

Ignorant, I fantasised
this border territory as archaic,
classical -- and wished I could answer
in Etruscan or Roman Latin, muttered
'Buon giorno'.
I still recall that look of furious insult
as her gap-toothed mouth spat out, 'Bonjour'.
Lucky not to start a local war!  (I wonder
if, in forty years, I've learned much more.)

-- Ruth Fainlight

* * *


purple is the color
between desire and bougainvillea
hanging over a trestle

at the funeral of an aunt
whose face i can't remember
hearing snatches of her life
that leave me wondering why
she worked herself to death

but star-apple is altogether
a different matter
as your tongue licks at
its milk-like-juice
dribbling down you chin and hands

it's knowing what you want
and not being afraid to go after him
it's the flirtatious tease before sex
at negril beach
your arms wrapped around his neck
your legs straddling his waist
and the salty sea acting as a barricade

-- Opal Palmer Adisa

* * *

"The Apple Shrine"

Last week you gathered armfuls of apple blossoms
from trees along the roadway, and a few
from the bent Cortland down the street
to place beneath our nameless apple tree
for pollination, you said, so we'd have fruit
next winter.  Looking out the window at those rags
and shreds of blossoms beneath the tree,
it could have been a makeshift shrine I saw
in one of those unlikely places where mircles
are said to happen, sightings of angels
or the Virgin, where later ordinary people
places gifts of dolls and colored handkerchiefs.
How fitting,I thought, as if we worshiped
the garden itself, or spring.  Just one day later
and equally strange, but fearful

you seemed to lose your vision, went half blind
after work in the garden, for a transgression
not even you with your Science understand.
Healing too is mysterious, the way the seasons
heal each other, one month at a time;
or what can happen in a week in a darkened room
where we both sat thinking about how quickly 
everything can change, how thin the crust
of ice we walk on -- such thoughts themselves perhaps
a kind of prayer.  Today you start to see again,
and I wonder how long we'll remember to be grateful
before we lose ourselves complicitously
in the everyday, waking up surprised one morning
next autumn when for the first time
our tree will be strung with a rosary of apples.

-- Linda Pastan

* * *

"Wild Blackberries"
-- In memory of my brother

In mid-July the blackberries were tart
and firm within their sweet surrounding flesh.
The full day's sun had just begun to mark
itself on the hidden red as a wish
for time, one week more at most, and warm nights
without rain.  Thorns, leaves simple and lobed, dew
poised on dark branch tips framing the last white
flowers:  everything reminded me of you
at the end, in a thicket of tubes, blood
spun clean in a fan around your head.

The solstice brought a drenching rain as light
left summer behind.  Berries draped with mold
shriveled to their stems and vines seemed to fold
in on themselves like dreams under the weight
of swarming yellowjackets.  Here and there,
especially if my eyes were closed, I caught
a whiff of missing sweetness in the air.

-- Floyd Skloot

* * *

"Tapuz:  An Orange"

When women were beginning to be ordained as rabbis, Susannah Heschel
was speaking at a synagogue in Florida.  A man rose in anger.  "A woman
belongs on the bimah as much as an orange belongs on the seder plate!"

Round you are and bright as a newly risen moon.
You are sweet and acid, dessert and medicine.
You carry within your curves the future
of your kind, those pale seeds winking
from the sections, each an embryo tree.

Come into your own and shine,
where the only roundness was the almost
hidden plate bearing up the ritual items.
Be subject as well as object.  Sing
in your orangeness of female strength.

Clash if you need to.  Roll if you must.
Center the plate about your glow.
We are, we will be, we become:  rabbis,
yes, cantors, shapers, prophets, creating
a new Judaism that is yours and ours.

-- Marge Piercy

* * *

"Putting Up Damson Preserves"

You were right.  I've never seen
such fruit, knobs the size of a man's thumb
clustered blue on every branch.
That old scrawny-necked tree shawled
in lichen lace I thought dead
you brought back, spread manure under
every spring till you died.  Each year
it yields a few more pints.  Your daughters
are grown, your sons have taken your place.

That's Marie at the sink seeding plums,
splitting each one along the crease.
You watched me watching the fruit,
taking it down to its sweetness.
You like to lick foam from the spoon,
recalling the color of the dance dress
I wore in those cleaned out rooms.
But I'm not the girl you knew, nor
the woman either, here in the kitchen
with you gone off like steam.

Where your hands went I'm still smooth.
When you first came to me in the dark
I was scared, then you brought me close,
I thought I would fall, but where
you took me I could not fall enough --
split, unseeded, beyond blue to purple,
black, back to white, fruit to flower,
bee, beginning of the world.

Now I keep summer in jars, shelved
for pales winter tongues.
Sometimes I take one down, taste
the blue sweet all over again.

-- Becky Gould Gibson

* * *

"Nanking Cherry Jam"

The robins squabbled over the berries
late in the summer
when they began to ferment -- slick bruised

pulp intoxicating the birds into
a raucous frenzy.
Sometimes one would break into crooked flight,

become confused and crash into the clear,
shining expanse of
the porch-room window.  Knocked out cold, toothpick

legs stabbing the air, its orange paunch was
incongruous among
the slender limbs of iris, who unfurled

their yellow-striped tongues and lifted their frilled
wrists up to  assume
the statuesque poses of flamenco

dancers.  Each time a robin was fallen,
my mother sat guard
on the back porch, poised with a garden hose,

waiting to spray any cat who came by
looking to snatch up
a non-confrontational meal.  But wait.

I'd almost forgotten all about
the cherry blossoms.
How they began as tight green buds the size

of glass pinheads, then erupted almost
overnight like strings
of popcorn -- puffy and white, with a faint

pink blush.  A tiny bird, not a sparrow,
would come to nibble
at the petals.  After a while, they'd begin to loosen

themselves from their moorings of stem, bud, branch,
carried by the breeze
so tht it was almost a winter blizzard

again outside the dining-room windows,
except for the heat,
the lazy, sweet pink haze of fragrance that

hypnotized the bumblebees, fat and furred,
who came to rumble
their deep-throated purr into the sticky waxed

ears of flowers.  I thought my mother seemed
happier in the
company of cherry blossoms.  She used

that once you leave a place, it's best
not to be always
looking over your own shoulder, but I

don't see how this could be true.  I remember
the taste of the jam
she used to make from the Nanking cherries.

Underneath the milky paraffin cap,
not quite the color
of garnets, but more pink, like rhodolites,

we spread it in sticky clumps over warm
yellow squares of corn-
bread, or across wedges of morning toast --

and though the jam was always bittersweet
against my tongue,
I still could taste the fragrant blood-red fruit.

-- Lee Ann Roripaugh

* * *

"just the other day i ate up the last bowlful of"

just the other day i ate up the last bowlful of

your preserved pears and wasn't it just the day before
'yesterday' we stood in the back-alley looking up
at its array of white blossoms and under our breath say
how lucky we are to find such a splendid clapboard
house with its own tall pear tree  .  eight brimfilled years
spoke to me as i put the last sliver in my mouth and
suckt up all the sweet pear juice  .  from here on in i'll
go it alone if i'm to compost another spring  .
i'll miss your preserved pears your paring knife and son  .

p/s there's a dozen pears rotting on top of the camper

-- Roy K. Kiyooka


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