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A poem from the poet laureate: “Commentary on Orange” • Brooklyn Paper

A poem from the poet laureate: “Commentary on Orange”

Brooklyn’s new poet laureate is Tina Chang, seen here in her Park Slope pad.
The Brooklyn Paper / Gersh Kuntzman

You wrote a poem where you compared separation
to cleaving an orange with a knife. Sometimes
life does not fit into a poetic metaphor. Because
the knife is really just a knife, there were no oranges
around when you parted except that you lived in California
and there must have been oranges growing close by.
If the knife had cut something, it could have been you.
If your body were a fruit, you would spill open.
If only the orange in your apartment now
were still good enough to eat; that when you held
its weight in your hands and breathed in, you could
smell your childhood in gleaming rounds, oranges
tumbling off the kitchen counter in summer, when
you thought your mother was a movie screen siren.
You wonder why you could have ever compared
oranges to the love you lost. One is just a fruit,
the other is a universe where a cello is playing
in a man’s hollow chest. You can’t help but think
of last year when you were holding your ripped
suitcase at the airport, the contents of your life spilling
to the floor: an embarrassment of garments,
toiletries, books scarred with yellow pages. People
passed with such real lives of coming, going, escaping.
How will everyone get to their destinations in one piece?
I imagine them stepping off of planes to find themselves
with the same hairdo, same pair of pants, pointing
to a road map and struggling to breathe in another language.
Next to them baskets of sweet oranges are being sold
by a woman with large and capable hands.
In Brooklyn now your roommate calls to tell you to look
outside and to not miss the sunset behind the clock tower.
A boy turns on the hose to water his mother’s garden
of honeysuckle and cement. I walk away from the window
hating the uselessness of metaphors. I clean and rinse
my knife, put it in its proper place, now yearning a sweetness
that has no name, no shape, my craving for some invisible sugar.

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