My first love was the lightning tree
split down the middle, a gnarled beauty
of bark and leaf and bird. It sheltered
my growing self, this wood, my first.
The mandarin came next, I recall
pungent spice rising when I crushed
its skin, a sliver of orange left
beneath my finger nail—I can still
smell it now—and I loved it on sight,
the delicate feathered ears, fat
and full of juice, even though one
slice had a dark kernel of mould
in its centre. I ate around the spoil.
My grandmother, earthy & older
even than the tree forking in our yard
always devoured the rotten heart
of harvest, but I didn’t know her
oldest love—hunger—like she did
and so let decay go to waste. Love
in this instance is simply what you have
known longest. For this reason, it is best
to edit what you remember. Leave
out the bruises, the men, the bruises,
leave all the aborted attempts at flying,
the bones shattered like tender lightning,
burst into new shapes. Keep the tree—
it was real, green—split in the middle;
keep my grandmother cradled within
like the ripe wrinkled flesh of mandarin
and everywhere, its addictive scent
staggering up to sky.
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