The New Orange

In the dead of August,

A few leaves yellow-scuttled yards

Unready for rakes, autumn’s casual brush by—

A 68-degree flirt with sweater weather after a fine rain.

In a deeper South, the Amazon burned;

The slideshow played, a frame or two,

On a small screen, swiped by android thumbs

Tracking the finer points of the Dow

Jagging fire-engine red.

In a pre-charred dawn,

Rainforest palms fanned their last

Against dusky pumpkin skies,

“Smelling of barbecue,”

Phrase-fumbled journalists—

Which kind?

I dumb-wondered,

The whole hog

Pit-roasted over hickory

And thin-drizzled with tangy vinegar?

Or mustard and paprika-heated dry rub

Powdered with garlic, brown sugar, and allspice?

Or smoked chicken sweating peppery vinegar-laced mayonnaise?

Soon yellow-brown will flatten lawns,

I thought,

As bone-white ceramic tile chilled my feet,

And I groped for a supermarket orange

Shrinking in the refrigerator bin.

It felt tired in my hand.

Memory peeled back

To frosty mornings when I rode with my father

To the farmers market in Birmingham’s West End.

Fires burned in rusting drums

And we huddled in the dark,

Waiting for trucks hauling citrus

From distant groves,

Where winter went green year-round.

Blast furnaces cast a tangerine glow

Until dawn streaked,

And the sun flashed on big rigs

Bearing Florida nectar—

Exotics to eat out of hand,

With names to dream on:

Valencia, Indian River, Satsuma, and Seville

Took the choke out of those sulfur days,

The never-letup of iron-smelting.

Ambrosial. I tasted the word this morning—

While the Amazon rainforest died another day.


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