Orange Grove

Beenish Ahmed

I want to tear a page from the book of alliterations.

To get lost in an orange grove where blossoms

abound but bear no fruit. Here, they are losing

their language, but remember enough

to know what’s been forgotten. Still the women speak it

to dishtowels and bathwater. Sweep bits of it off the floors

and call it dust. There is never anywhere that isn’t here.

I’ve learned that more times than I can count before now.

Before now became then. Before then

became us. Before us ever was. I’m told

there was a tree, back when time was still suckling

at forever’s breast, when exile became existence.

The first invention was not a wheel, but a wall to make here, here

and there, there — someday we’ll go back, I promise, Dear.

My father told me every plane was bound for a home we

hardly ever saw. We lived in his memory. He built it from

splintered wood and the resilience of regret mixed with refusal.

But the winds have borne it down now. Every edge

softens in time — we become ourselves, diffuse.

Ingest accents and let them fill us up. Drink deep

from bad habits in the dark of ourselves,

hum whatever is in the air.

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