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.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. From Dear Good Naked Morning, © 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. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.