American Life in Poetry: Tangerine

This Saturday is in Ames, Iowa … but every day is day as far as I’m concerned. With that in mind, here’s the latest from his series of columns that celebrates and highlights poetry’s importance in everyday life. From time to time we like to share the reprinted columns here, and provide you a chance to add your comments.

American Life in Poetry: Column 054

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Poet Ruth L. Schwartz writes of the glimpse of possibility, of something sweeter than we already have that comes to us, grows in us. The unrealizable part of it causes bitterness; the other opens outward, the cycle complete. This is both a poem about a tangerine and about more than that.

Tangerine

It was a flower once, it was one of a billion flowers
whose perfume broke through closed car windows,
forced a blessing on their drivers.
Then what stayed behind grew swollen, as we do;
grew juice instead of tears, and small hard sour seeds,
each one bitter, as we are, and filled with possibility.
Now a hole opens up in its skin, where it was torn from the
branch; ripeness can’t stop itself, breathes out;
we can’t stop it either. We breathe in.

From “Dear Good Naked Morning,” (c) 2005 by Ruth L. Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of the author and Autumn House Press. First printed in “Crab Orchard Review,” Vol. 8, No. 2. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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