The Tangerine Years

36 years ago, was it that long?
We married the year before and lived the blue.
Apartment, that is.
The long shag carpet, countertops, and walls,
All royal blue.
We were happy there, on our own.

So I potted plants, hung them in the light source,
The one big window facing the courtyard.
I lined them along the window sill
Or hung them from hooks in the ceiling
Where long fronds of spider plants
Would vine the window view.

But you, being you, peeled a tangerine,
Sat down at the blue couch under the window,
And ate that piece of fruit while reading the paper.
Only too lazy to dispose of the seeds in the trash,
You reached your arm behind your head,
And threw the seeds in one of the plants.

Mystified at the new shoots one day,
I saw the rich green forming jagged leaves,
Among the pale green rounded ones.
I watched it til it outgrew the little pot.
So, I gave it its own, and then another,
And then you confessed what you’d done.

When we moved to the house, the standing pot
Rested under the second landing window,
A long vertical rectangle to the roof.
Clearly, it was a tangerine tree—sans fruit.
Eventually, we knew we’d stay, even if
We had to pay the mortgage with roommates.

We were 23 when we planted her in terra firma,
Against the block wall we shared with the Germans.
There she grew, filling the wall and beyond,
Keeping the drunken parties and naked jacuzziers
Stripped from view as she rounded out her branches.
She stood tall, encircled by cement along cinder block.

Barren for 15 years, then one day they appeared
The forest green balls grew tipped with delicate buds,
Tiny white petals framing deep green mini golf balls
That turned orange in the late fall, the first in October.
The harvest was small but so sweet and juicy, pit free.
And her roiling roots under the cement rebelled.

They rose up, buckled the cement, cracked open.
We’d been married for 27 years by then,
And though our marriage was rocky, the tree stood,
Ready to weigh in, bend the cinder block wall,
Uproot the cement yard square foot at a time.
We had no choice, back then, but to accede.

We put down the boxing gloves, took up the rototiller
And tore up the cement, repaired the cinder block buckle
So the tangerine tree could grow up and meet them,
The daughters we’d birth and nurture strong and tall,
For picking tangerines, and oranges, and tomatoes
Takes many arms and long, long, long patience.


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