The New Orange: August 2019

In the dead of August, yellowing leaves scuttled Alabama yards unready for rakes—autumn’s casual brush-by, a 68-degree flirt with sweater weather after a fine rain. In a deeper south, the Amazon burned; the slideshow played a frame or two on a small screen until swiped by android thumbs tracking the finer points of the Dow jagging fire-engine red.

Rainforest palms fanned their last against dusky pumpkin skies—”smelling like barbecue,” said journalists, fumbling a phrase. What? The whole hog pit-roasted over hickory and thin-drizzled with tangy vinegar? Mustard and paprika-heated dry rib rub powdered with garlic, brown sugar, and allspice? Smoked chicken sweating peppery, vinegar-laced mayonnaise?

Ceramic tile chilled my feet, and I groped for an orange shrinking in the refrigerator bin. It felt tired in my hand. Memory peeled back to frosty mornings when I rode with my father to the farmers market in Birmingham’s West End. Fires burned in rusting drums, and we huddled, waiting for citrus hauled from groves where winter went green year-round.

Blast furnaces cast a tangerine glow until dawn streaked, and the sun flashed on big rigs bearing Florida nectar—exotics to eat out of hand, with names to dream on. Valencia, Indian River, Satsuma, and Seville took the choke out of those sulfur days, the never-letup of iron-smelting. Ambrosial. I tasted the word while the Amazon rainforest died another day.

Catherine Hamrick is a copywriter in the greater Atlanta area. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Blue Mountain Review, storySouth, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel: Appalachian Witness, The Ekphrastic Review, Sparks of Calliope, Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine, Willows Wept Review, and elsewhere. Find her online at https://randomstoryteller.com.

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