Acquainting an Orange

by Anna Westwig

after Edward E. Simmons’s painting ‘Old Woman Peeling an Orange’

The art of peeling an orange
gets harder each passing season.
Still, her thumbnail presses under the rind
like it’s an envelope, a love note from
long-gone seasons, ones where the shadows
bleed out at noon, and the rain is delicate
as a chandelier. It cracks like a riddle,
sloughing off its pockmarked skin
like the sun’s many-tongued surface.
She peels it, section by section,
biting into it like a smile. Acid
stings at her lips, cracked and missing
youth’s gentle flowers: white and spring-
like. Her eyes flutter and she dreams
of sharing half with a long-dead lover.
But it is Sunday and she is hungry,
so she eats all the sections. Piece-
by-piece. The sky is mute and slab-like
marble, so she sinks into her
shawl, black as an Orion-born storm.
Her stool holds back a door. She had
gone out to smell the clear air and watch
the street cats twitch their tails like rudders.
But now, she is engrossed in the rind
clinging to the undersides of her nails —
yellowed cracking things at the end
of wrists dissolving into age. Her
love died, and so she spilled out all
leftovers into the orange. A bright
spot. She learns its name in the dark,
in the sun, in pain, and in joy.
She learns its name inside, by the
river, in summer, and in spring. And now,
as pith sprinkles around like a wedding veil
she learns it, leaning against the door.
And it tastes good.