Meditation on an Orange

Last week I did a poetry workshop with Katherine Durham Oldmixon based on the Dos Gatos Press book of poetry exercises called Wingbeats. The workshop was called “Lyrical Bees,” and it was based on using biology as inspiration for poetry.

Most poets write from nature at least some of the time, but Katherine’s ideas went further: studying and exploring the actual science of natural objects and then developing poems from what we see and learn. She brought various objects for us to describe in writing, and later in the workshop we could develop them into poems.

The first object I chose was an orange. The assignment was to describe a whole, uncut orange from the inside out. I wrote

pithy center ribs

navel instead of seeds

each membrane a tiny cell

each cell full of tangy juice

thousands of cells comprise a segment

segments packed together to form each half, if it’s sliced

or section it into eight or 10 mouth-sized pieces

a final inner membrane

then the bright dimpled brilliant sunlit skin

After the workshop I decided to develop these ideas into a poem, and researched a little more about the structure of an orange. I have loved oranges all my life—in post-war England about the only time we got oranges was in our Christmas stockings, and it was a very special treat—but I had never really studied oranges or thought about all the parts that made up this delicious and beautiful fruit.

Once I had written the poem I drew some pastel sketches to go with the poem.

Eating an Orange*

Use your teeth to get it started:

break through the flavedo―the outer orange rind.

Smell its oily essence.

Then the bitter albedo―the pithy white part.

Peel the rind away to reveal the carpels

segments containing vesicles―sacs filled with tangy juice.

Pulled apart, each segment is a mouthful to bite into.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Or leave the rind.

Slice the orange in half across its waist,

then slice again into sections.

Bite and suck luscious flesh

off rind.

Now is your mouth watering?


I’m also going to do a poem about lichen, and about the horned lark, Texas’ only native lark.

*Revised version of poem published 2/16/12 after workshopping with my Writers’ League of Texas poetry group.

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