I love love as much as anyone, but it’s not a hearts and flowers and chocolates emotion. It’s peels. It’s peels from a tangerine that makes your pocket sticky long after you’ve eaten the fruit:
Paradise of Fools
Rob puts the peels from his tangerine in my pocket. That day he’d just come from delivering a colt. We met by a dried-out riverbed and walked it until we found water. Three months pregnant, I felt safe from his charms.
A lone water lily in a wash of pond stops us. He puts his arms around me from behind like he did when we were eighteen and stood at the end of Huntington Pier. I lean into him and a killdeer screeches. I think, “I should be impervious.” I am twenty-eight and married, but not to Rob.
I avoid the still blue slough of his eyes. I talk about why I’m in California, the Milton conference, the paper about Eve and the serpent. How Eve fell for the serpent’s flattery after he licked her shadow. Adam’s uxoriousness the real reason for the punishment since every god hates a cuckold.
I am married, I am pregnant, but I am not happy. I leave Rob amid cottonwood and cacti. And I end all contact with him, even though I’m pretty sure I loved him for a long time after. It takes 5 years of eating slivers of glass and rock before I finally leave my husband.
That last day with Rob, hours later, I reached into my pocket and found the tangerine peels he’d placed there. Scraps of light shed from a too-bright star.
Originally published in Leaf by Leaf
This year’s love poem offering “Blizzard in Berlin” is up on Poetry Crush’s 2016 Valentine’s issue, Vol. 2