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Buying a dozen lemons on the way to heaven.

Of course it's sunny, the road thronged with men and women, some carry quilts, some carry string bags with ingredients for the evening stew, the carrots, the onions, the potatoes, the lamb's heart dripping through the paper. I, too, am carrying provisions. I have chosen these lemons from beautiful yellow pyramids built on platters of straw. It is not a sensible purchase. But their aroma is sweet, stronger than sweat, their nipples still green, the pocked skin tight, the navels remembering their connection, remembering the heaviness of the branch hanging down. I gave my coins into a hand as weathered as earth. He brushed flies from his face. His teeth were white. He sat there all day. He sometimes smiled. He sometimes slept. The road is paved with his weariness. I walk slowly. The way to heaven is a slow way. Vendors cry, offering glass of tea from their carts. Donkey bray. Sometimes the road passes fields empty and hard-baked, growing only stones and small eddies of dust. Dark birds burst from the ditches and careen as if they carried desperation on one wing, exultation on the other. I think they are driven by passion. I think I remember what that feels like. I think their hunger is another name for purgatory, that constant not knowing, that agony of waiting. I am remembering you, my love, whoever you are,and I wave goodbye, because I think I finally understand the difference between love and thievery. I have turned my back on fear and pain, which I have named hell, but I assume nothing. I wear a scarf. My shoes are dusty. I do not know about the others. Each of us must name this journey. Others walk or ride vehicles held together by rusty wires and gum mixed with feathers. The way to heaven is a long way. There are detours into memory. The road needs repair. Convicts with pointed shovels are roped together and sing in unison about lost love and the cages of desire. Loaded rifles surround them. I should buy bread, but I have spent my money for beauty and no reason, walking toward the hope of tenderness which I have named heaven. At the gates, if there are gates, a barefoot juggler in pink trousers, his hair long and shiny with grease, tosses dozens of lemons one by one into the air. He has worked his whole life for this. Children in torn shirts dance with each other. The juggler laughs until he weeps. A woman with grey hair sings about love. I give her the words, asking her to please say it is not too late. Two lemons fit perfectly in my palms. I will begin with two, until I do not drop them. And when I need to cut them and eat them, the slices will bare the crevices of my teeth and make my lips kiss everything, even the bloody ground I walk on, even the juggler's dirty face.
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Author:Pace, Rosalind
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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