Spring/Summer 2021 Issue

Tangerines

Jessica Zhang

 

Yesterday I held out a tangerine for you to eat,

you said you were hungry, and it was the only thing I had,

but I didn’t tell you that, instead I reached into my lint-filled pocket of my Abercrombie jacket

and it fit snugly into my palm, like a warm bulb of breath, like it was meant for giving to you.

 

You smiled but you shook your head, and I remember the way the sun shone on your skin that day,

like it formed a crown around your head, and I thought

maybe you didn’t want the tangerine, the pulp a little smushed from rolling in my pocket,

and you seemed to grow an inch taller when I walked away.

 

How could I have known that the memory of tangerines was still bitter on your tongue,

like sharp peppercorn cutting into flesh, squeezing,

and I realized the sun wasn’t trying to make you queen, 

but rather telling me that you were afraid too.

 

If you had told me, I would’ve found something else for you to eat.

If you had told me, I would’ve told you that tangerines were bitter to me too, and it’s true!

We’ll boycott them together,

we’ll bury the stinging memory and replace it with new ones.

 

Yesterday, when I held out a tangerine for you to eat,

I forgot you were human as well, too absorbed in my insecurity,

and when I had walked away yesterday, I didn’t tell you 

how afraid I was, the tangerine held in my firm grip.

“Oranges!”
Sam King