549 Readings | 1 Rating

Packing Grapefruits

He tore the rind every evening.
Juice spurted through the cracks of his
knuckles into the bowl, a soup
of acid, his symphony of love.
We ate without sugar, bringing
the fruit to our mouths,
the pulp stinging my hands
like alcohol. He buried his knuckles deep
in the meat, a greedy pirate digging
sand for treasure.
On yard sale Sundays,
he went to the market by
the library where Jaworski’s music shop
radiated hurtin’ love blues. I learned
tambourine by tapping my palms
against citric peels for a thump.
If they were sour or limp,
they would thwack like a basketball
airing out on asphalt.
I wanted plums, or cherries, or kiwis,
but he bought the firm ones with a faint red
blush, sometimes ten for a dollar,
but never without talking
down the owner first. My father grinned
when a worker put his prize in
the interior of his car. It’s leather,
he would tell him.
We drove past ballerina
shoes and Babysitter Club
books, but all I needed, he reminded,
were the fruits resting in my lap. In the trunk,
he directed me, they might bake,
shrivel and prune. Under the seat,
they would surely gather dust.
I dug my nails in their tough
skin, their scaly surface engraved
by crescent lines. Burning tears left
my eyes and pooled onto my shirt.
Damp hair writhed from barrettes
like a fish on a hook.
It’s only sweat, I told him.
Nodding, he handed me
the produce, the ruby reds for himself.
Only the seeds remained.

Posted 01/06/12
This poem was originally published in the North American Review's Fall 2011 issue. www.northamericanreview.org
Comments (0)