PART OF THE Summer Reading ISSUE
‘Well, did you buy it, / the painting in Javéa, / of close to a dozen / oranges tipping / from a straw basket / onto a table, a glass jug / of water close by?’
Extracts taken from Naranjas
By Tom Pow
Published by Galileo Publishing
A DREAM OF RETURN
I stumbled through a landscape whose short grass
was all angled one way, as if it held
to the earth and had no life of its own.
And the grass was grey as stone. There came
a breeze; it too hugged the earth, but it found
some purchase on the grass, so that the grass
rose as if the sap itself was rising
within it. As the grass rose, so colour
infused the landscape – the grass was green breath,
the stone was red, the sky lifted my head
so intoxicating was its blue. But,
in the old house at the foot of the brae,
below which ran the sparkling burn, the world
was as it had been before – the flowers
on the windowsill, drained of colour,
washed out as the little hung on the line.
An old woman, who has lived here so long
her veins run with salt, pushes herself
up from her fireside chair and peeks through
a gauze curtain. She shuffles to the door.
I know now that what has raised the grass-heads
and what has given life to the landscape
is light: light or what use memory makes
of light. Open the door, old woman –
you’ll find me waiting many years before.
Open the door and let me flood your house
with light. Let me tip golden heels of sand
onto the sunlit wooden floor. Careless,
I wait for you to chastise me and for
this memory to burn into me, as you
sweep up the grains of sand and scatter them
wherever the radiant hens are feeding.
As a boy, I stopped
discarding apple cores –
I ate everything but the stalk.
I’d even pick seeds
from my jersey to crack
their bitterness between my teeth.
I came to think of it
as an interesting, if wafer thin,
part of who I was: The Boy
Who Eats The Core. It was
a performance piece
for friends or for
to be watching. Did you just…?
they said or surely thought.
I saw myself as a magician
who’d swallowed a mouse,
and flicked away its tail.
In only one way
has my habit changed.
Lately, I’ve begun pocketing
the stalks. I find them,
brittle bird-bones in my pockets,
in deep nests
of loose threads, receipts
and paper clips. I roll them
between my fingertips.
I break them where they are.
Each stalk is an anonymous
portion of time.
I tell time by apple stalks.
I stretch it out in my pocket
like a little god.
Well, did you buy it,
the painting in Javéa,
of close to a dozen
from a straw basket
onto a table, a glass jug
of water close by?
The shop being shut
I had to squint
through the light
on the window
to see it. Hardly bigger
than a postcard it held –
in the darkness
of a wooden frame –
close to a dozen
over a table
like small suns.
a storm has come
and I write to you
have been blown
from the trees,
falling onto pavements,
plazas and roads
where tyres press them
into the cobbles – each one
a perfection crushed.
after rain, I took
such a cobbled road
by a small plaza
and the smell of oranges
both sharp and sweet
perfumed the air
as if their last gift
was to make it
blossom time again.
Oh, I hope
you’ve bought it! – even
though for thirty Euros
I think its varnish
might intend to deceive.
But close to a dozen
from a basket
falling like suns…
I can see you still
as I can imagine
your invisible hands
tipping the basket.
Oh, I do hope
you went back for it!
I know we’ll find a place for it.
I think I already have.
Naranjas by Tom Pow is published by Galileo Publishing, priced £9.99.
Mary Paulson-Ellis was born in Glasgow and studied Politics and Sociology at Edinburgh University. She worked for several years in arts administration before giving it all up to become a writer. She began with an evening class as part of the Edinburgh …
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