Size / / /

how does a lemon mean

now that I've painted them in class
imitating them in oily pigments
that themselves
are imitations of the fruit's spectral physics
I see them more as subjects than objects

they achieve a mystic aura
become violent stabs
incantations of light
the primal utterances of yellow

shopping for lemons

before, I would paw them let them tumble rudely
like loose gravel
rejecting those stippled with the white powder
of internal softness and decay

before, they were a bitter necessity
or a perky accent on the perimeter of my drunk

before, I thought of them bleeding milky juices
that rivered along the flesh of sea bass
or just as something that leaves sticky pulp
down the squeezer's glass-ribbed post

let's face it
before, I barely thought of them at all

now I hold up shoppers
inspecting each one for pleasing shapes
deep hues
a lack of blemishes
a certain citricness

they're thinking
or maybe lemon snob
I'm proud to be all that

the motion of light on substance

a skin of a lemon embodies color
the yellow of dying suns
the yolk yellow of a farm-fresh egg
the shocking yellow of jaundice
the pungent yellow of sulfur
the yellow flash of finches
the yellow at the heart of Georgia O'Keeffe's lilies
the yellow that ringed Monet's failing eyesight
the amber yellow that entraps life


in the darkness they hold to their richness
like tethered boat lanterns swinging in a blanketing fog
they haunt me larger than life
large as the skins over sports arenas
hanging like starships above me in the night
bleeding weather
and the acrid oils that bead from their pulp

my head floods with the purity of lemons
the trumpeted hues that grow more luminous
with exposure to the day

they are the fruity absolute whose essences
can dissolve the black residues
of life that ended millions of years ago
just as a truth when simplified and spoken plainly
can circumvent all the crud that accumulates
around the stem of our mortalities

the permanent value of lemons

now the thought of a good lemon can
cut like a solvent through any of my moods


Copyright © 2001 Robert Frazier

Reader Comments

Author of over fifty published SF stories and eight collections of poetry, and a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for SF poetry, Robert Frazier's most recent book is The Daily Chernobyl, winner of the 1999 Anamnesis Press Chapbook Award, published in August 2000 from Anamnesis Press, Palo Alto, CA. Recent writings have appeared in Nebula Awards 32 (Harcourt Brace), the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan. 2001, and Nantucket: a Collection (White Fish Press).

Robert Frazier is the author of eight previous books of poetry, and a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry. He has won an Asimov's Reader Award and been on the final ballot for a Nebula Award for fiction. His books include Perception BarriersThe Daily Chernobyl, and Phantom Navigation (2012). His 2002 poem "A Crash Course in Lemon Physics" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Recent works have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dreams & Nightmares, and Strange Horizons. His long poem "Wreck-Diving the Starship" was a runner-up for a 2011 Rhysling Award. He can be reached by email at
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