He didn't look at me when I knelt beside him.
His hands were clenched around an orange.
He dug his thumbnail into the thick,
rough skin. Slowly, his fingers worked a piece of
rind off. Then another. He did it impatiently,
unskillfully. He pulled off crooked pieces of orange flesh,
dissimilar, each one fresh and exhaling thick breath
sweet and hot and syrupy on my cheeks.
Like groves in India River—the powerful
scent of citrus overwhelming in our lungs:
tangerine, grapefruit, lemon.
Downtown, the orange winery,
we laugh at bubbly liquids in hand-blown glass,
set in booths of clear lacquered conks and bleached sand dollars
(my sister and I would dive for these,
at sand bars far too close to the buoys.
Our long toes probed the liquid sand.
Small feet sliding, stingray shuffle.)
White beaches like clouds crystallized.
His skin is hot and balmy and slick next to mine,
sun block melting down our spines,
ice cream shops with perfect
sugared candies and
handmaid orange and vanilla swirled cones.
I eat the icy fruit first,
poking a hole in the bottom,
and sucking it out.
It's so cold—it freezes curls in my tongue,
but the water is warm like salty baths.
We dunked our faces beneath the waves
to soothe our headaches.
All we know is heat.
Today, as I watch him pull the skin off.
he deftly pulls the fruit in halves,
and gives me one.
We're quiet; seagulls sing lullabies in our ears,
my fingers cover the cool fire in his hands.
We bite into them, whole,
like ripened apples;
skinned, cored, and halved.
Is there anything here but his
summertime eyes? His
citrus rind skin fingers.
(my lips are heated,
but the oranges are chill)
Together, we planned a lifetime of oranges:
Orange juice, thick and sour,
in early morning suns.
Orange peels dusted with sugar,
holding hands at the pier.
Oranges stolen from budding trees,
kissing under white blooms and dusty pollen.
Orange wine, his and mine,
tart and so, so saccharine.