Wednesday, February 27, 2013
ORANGES and POEMS
There is no such thing in nature as a sweet orange. They were developed about 2500 years ago by the Chinese through cultivation. The word orange is from Arabic, naranji. Arabs were the traders who brought the orange to the west. Now there is a disease eating the oranges in the groves of Florida. The disease is from China.
Orange trees suck a lot of moisture out of the ground and apparently dessicated the Middle East as a result of their cultivation.
Oranges are lovely things. They are apparently related quite closely to many other citrus fruits. There are an amazing number of varieties now. In addition to the blood orange, there are any number of other varieties. My grocery store usually just has the regular kind.
We sometimes get pommelos. They are huge, and inside the leathery cover is almost a half inch of fluffy white stuff. I guess it keeps the insects out, like insulation? The pommelo tastes like a grapefruit but is the size of a small beachball.
Kenneth Clark said the aesthetic moment lasts about as long as the mist that rises from a peeled orange.
In addition to oranges, I also enjoy kumquats, watermelons (they are messy), tangelos, apples, lemons, limes, kiwis, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. I love lemonade. Fruits are rather expensive but if you shop carefully and look for sales, there is usually at least one fruit that is affordable. Some claim that fruits have been ruined by agrobusiness. It's quite burdensome to pick them. This is one of the main reasons for illegal immigration. We need cheap labor to harvest fruits. It's backbreaking to pluck strawberries for instance. Plus they have to use a lot of pesticides to keep the bugs off.
Some say that almost 4% of our society are illegal immigrants. They're driving me buggy, but they are also an important source of labor. These are mainly Mexican Americans, but you also get El Salvadorans, and Hondurans, and some others. Our prison population is now almost 30% illegals. With the families that come to pick fruits, you also have gangs pouring over the border. MS-13 is an El Salvadoran gang. They have almost 10,000 members in Los Angeles alone, and they kill blacks to push them out of their neighborhoods to take over. The face of illegal immigration for the left is the face of a starving Mexican child. For the right it is the face of MS-13. I'm reading a book by Father Bascio, a Catholic priest who doesn't like illegal immigration because he thinks it's immoral. Bascio just died, but his book has legs and is being widely read and reviewed in the conservative press. The Immorality of Illegal Immigration (Author House, 2009), was reviewed in a conservative journal from England called Quarterly Review. This sentence from one review is by Edwin Dyga:
"The volume was filled with examples and case studies illustrating the negative impact of illegal cross-border traffic to the domestic economy, the retarding effect current government policies have on the development of the Third World, the growth of local crime rates, the unsustainability of current welfare systems and the real victims of these trends: the native citizens of the United States, the immigrants themselves and the countries from which they emigrate."
Quarterly Review, Autumn 2012, p. 9.
My poem "Reading Adam Smith at Halloween," appears at the end of this journal along with a poem by Catherine Savage Brosman, who taught French at Tulane for a generation (she's now retired and is on a cruise to Antarctica among other places with her husband). Ours are the only two poems. Hers is about a horrible politician from New York who is the president of Rice University. She disliked him. Mine is about the horror and delight of Halloween, and how the norms are consciously abrogated so that anyone can be anything so long as it's ugly but not painful. The aesthetics and the economics of Halloween are treated from a Smithian viewpoint.
I think a poem should be like a fruit. It should have a neat casing, and inside should be something delicious: ideas, and images, that explode on the tongue, and awaken the heart.
But poets should work these up themselves, not relying on others. The traffic in poetry should try to get back out into the mainstream journals. I suspect big journals, perhaps even citrus journals, and pet journals, and daily newspapers, might be ready to accept poems again, so long as they are not too abstruse. Poems should be strange and yet assert norms. We've lived too long without these fruits in the daily papers. But poets have to learn to write for America again, as the movies are for America. They must assert norms, but also allow for those who gently challenge the norms. Poems must be American, even if we find the images all over the world. We need new fruits all the time. New tastes. People are hungry for poems.