Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Red and Yellow Day

Once I open the orange with both thumbs pressed into the center
a fine smoky spray lifts around my seven year old head.
I begin to peel little bits of the pimply orange skin away.
My fingers are sticky but when I put them in my mouth
the bitterness stings my taste buds, I slowly peel some more.

One little girl with freckles on her nose and red hair caught up in pigtails
approaches and asks me what I’m doing.  It’s an orange for my lunch,
but I don’t think I like it.  She wants it, reaches out her hand but I shrink
back for I believe that inside that white pulpy layer lies something
wondrous and I want to be the one to discover it.  I’m not sure

 whether to take the white skin off  or not so I bite
into it and get a mouth full of pith that isn’t what I expect or what I want.
I begin to peel the white away, laboriously.  I feel like I’m coming down with
Something, for every movement I make is in slow motion.  Nancy with the red
hair finally disappears behind the leafless tree and I hear her yelling and playing
with others behind me. I keep to my task.  I long for something sweet and good

on my tongue and in my stomach for sustenance even though I don’t feel hungry.
The lack of food has me weak and my stomach growls in response to my slow
progress. Johnny, the meanest boy in class comes screeching up before the wood bench,
grabs for my orange still covered by a thinner layer of white.  His friends
stare at him then look at me and say, come on Johnny, leave her and her stupid orange

alone.  Johnny pulls my hair and tells me he hates oranges and he hates me.
I feel the presence now of my friends behind me and I hear my best friend, Lonna,
tell Johnny to get lost.  They start arguing but it sounds as if they are in a tunnel.
They walk out to the play ground, I continue to peel my orange. The white film sticks
 to my fingers now and it’s harder to peel.  I can wait. I’m not really hungry anyway.

The next layer nets an orange the color of the brightest part of sunset last night.
I turn the orange in my hands wonder how to tackle these glorious segments of flesh.
I nudge and wiggle a wedge until it pops free and I can’t help but smile even though
every muscle movement seems to cause me some pain. The smell of that pulpy orange
takes over my head and body.  I feel sunshine on my back when I take the first bite,

feel that sweet, tart juice on my tongue and as it drips down my throat.  One drop
along with the nirvana of orange fragrence escape out the side of my mouth. I lick the juice
back in quickly and savor every morsel, every pop of the sweet orbs  in my mouth, every
squish I  feel with every bite lets loose another burst of taste and fragrance
that  fills my insides with the sunshine feeling of last summer.  The cold closes in

as I finish my orange and the teacher blows her whistle. Time to go in.  I scrunch myself
down further into my heavy jacket that feels inferior to the task of warming me this
afternoon.  All day I smell the orange on my fingers and feel the warmth of it inside.
I never will forget the day I had the orange on the bench at Simmons Elementary.


Mary said...

I love the detail you used when you described the importance of / the peeling of / the eating of the orange. And oh how wonderful it was that the smell lingered on your fingers all afternoon! I just bought oranges today. The next one I eat I will think of this story.

Ann said...

Even though this is an actual event, which you captured so lovingly, I think of an orange as a great metaphor with its layers and different flavors, the bitter skin, the strange white stuff, before the sweetness almost beyond belief. This is yet another example of a poem starting out as one story and taking us in many directions. Good job, Judy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Judy! I don't think I've ever enjoyed an orange as much as I did just reading your lovely poem!

Lynne said...

ah shoot! Anonymous is me, Lynne, Judy.

Peggy said...

What a wonderful detailed description of a simple event like peeling an orange. Excellent.