To steal away three oranges for love he was
instructed by long-ago’s cackling voices, but over time
words once sharply plucked and sealed in the wide mouth
of his boyish memory have grown up vague and bushy.
So, this night he picks to stalk the storybook rows
of stubby trees that squat smack in the middle of a maze
unknown but tender hands have pulled straight to hide
riddles in their patchwork of endlessly seamed sameness.
Aided by a sickle moon’s pointed glances, he hastily
harvests the wages of three waxy fruit and plops
his juicy hopes sweetly into a leather pouch, as loosed
the feather-leafed branches snap back skyward.
Home on the next morning’s edge, first love he sights.
She has a narrow white face and blush-dabbed features
below a tall swab of swirled scarlet hair that wags
a bobbed tongue’s tale as she comes bouncing into view.
Striped dawn glows, and tickled he, perhaps too eagerly,
reaches into his bag with the lust of hurried hands.
An orange, yet under-ripe and unready, he blurts out to her
as a wholly careless, green-topped, and unpeeled gift.
She takes it and rolls it through her nest of slender tips.
The thumbs inspecting its sadly misshaped bits find
the bumps and crevices around a knobby stem are proof
of a worthless fruit. Dropping it, she walks on, nose up-turned.
Twelve days left to his less-than-virtuous devices,
he fusses over the second orange. His nails dig in
to screw-cut peel its thick rind. He picks off odd
pieces of pith and smooths its newly gleaming surface.
These would-be idol hours spent preening could
pay off when another amour falls as an acid-yellow
figment. She floats down to him from the distant hilltops
with a floppy mop of golden curls and a broad pink brow.
Pristine fruit on palm extended, he waits his worth,
while the citrusy flesh, exposed to a mid-day sun,
shrivels brown and collapses into a pulpy mess. When
she passes, it draws a mere wave and topples easily.
As the shadows of a jagged-tooth fencepost lengthen
a sudden and thoughtless appetite grows in him.
He grabs the third orange and gobbles it all down
but a lone slick seed that sticks in his deflated cheek.
Bewitched from the seemed break in magic’s promise,
he makes this kernel an offering to devouring soils
and lays his hard head upon the single-seeded bed
where he’ll drowse rocked by soft-chirped serenades.
Then, a quake and a tree sprout. Spreading branches
lift him up among the strangely branded fruit
that an orange-tongued fairy nibbles as she tosses
green locks and smiles at him with her hazelly gaze.