Rue

I.
Upside down the lemon sits on the counter,
its pointed tip perfectly perpendicular to the
cutting board below it, sticking two inches
straight up into toward the ceiling. I rest my
hand on its other half, cupping it lightly
and running a thumb over the edge absent-mindedly,
resting the knife blade gently on its porous skin,
resting it gently under my gentle fingertips,
which press down on the lemon, slightly damp from the
juice within. The knife waits to cut into its flesh,
to devour it whole, to pour its juice out onto
its blade, onto the cutting board surface. Then,
with one fell swoop, the blade presses into the skin,
cuts into the flesh, releasing the fluid, cleaving
the lemon again and again, repeatedly slicing
at its supple white flesh, until all that is left
is a puddle of lemon juice on the cutting board,
the sweet nectar from the whole citrus.

II.
The wandering lemon rests forlornly on the counter, the wayward citrus of the fruit basket,
which leapt out one day, feeling adventurous, rebellious, untouched, unloved
by the other fruit, who failed to see the sweet beyond its bitter reputation,
denying themselves the carnal knowledge of imbibing in its citrus juice.
No casual fruit biter could dare break the skin, only to find underneath it
a taste entirely different from the sweet, pleasant fruit she was expecting,
a taste rarely accustomed to that burns the tongue and purses the lips.
So the lemon rests, unused, growing dark yellow in spite of itself — while
the other oblivious fruit clamor on in their basket, sending out their ethylene
to the lemon, which grows riper every day, darker every day, madder every day.
Now and then it gets displaced, a hand picking it up, moving it, inspecting it,
setting it down again, but it always ends up in the same place at the end of the day,
after it rolls away from the bowl ever more each time, days passing without
any other notice. Soon its citrus scent begins to permeate the room, emptied of
other fruit in a hurry, and the lemon emits a faint smell of freshness through the kitchen,
wafting down the hall into the bedroom, out into the living room, sending out
a final cry for attention, a plea to be sliced and dissected before it’s too late,
before the flesh rots and the yellow skin has gone soft and dark forever,
leaving no other option but to be tossed aside, ignored, like the lemons before it,
bought only for an ambitious cooking scheme never realized.

III.
The way my hands feel, smooth, sweet,
with a scent purely yours, an essence,
is how they always felt, touching you,
time after time, covered with your incense,
the thing that makes you you, what makes
you so goddamn impenetrable to anything
but the sharpest of knives, impenetrable
only to fools who fall in love with the way
you are on the outside, forgetting the bitterness
of the woman within. Try hard as I do, I cannot
escape the presence of you that lingers
in the bathroom, your first stop every morning,
adorning your black curls and dark eyes in
morning glow; it lingers in the kitchen,
where your energy awakened through the
sweet songs you sung under your breath
while I watched, naked, from the bedroom,
my eyes laughing at you, my mouth saying
nothing; it lingers still in the bedroom, where
your fingers and mine entwined too
many times to count and the sweet smell
of you took hold over me and we tumbled,
one over another, in ecstasy, in the sheets,
only emerging after the throes of a love
too bitter for me to understand that you and I,
like all living things, would one day
cease to ripen, would cross the threshold of
mortality, never again to dance in the
lemon smells that lightened your hair
and your life. They ended that day, that
fucking October day, when autumn gales
pounded on the windows, knocked on the door
as if to beckon you and remind me that
all things die, life, love and happiness.
As I stand in the kitchen now, gazing out
the window that you stood in front of so
many times, silhouetted against the sun,
your taste lingers on my tongue,
your loving touch rests on my lips, as if
your lips were still there attached to mine, that
they weren’t kissing someone else, that
they weren’t bitter with who you really are,
who you turned out to be; before they were
permanently pursed in the recollection of you
and the actions that stung like a paper cut
on the tongue of your strong, seductive tang.
Even now, weeks later, I yearn for you; I
yearn to caress your supple flesh beneath my
fingertips, under my tongue, to cut you open
and understand the seeds inside were
never for me to sow, to dissect your brain,
in the analytical way you treated all we had
known the morning you left, to find out why
I got caught in the bitterness, the acerbic
taste that eventually ran sweet on my tongue
and in the back of my throat, into the
very depths of my stomach where I
swallowed you and your lies whole.

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