* four years of the influence

This week marks the four year anniversary of The Friday Influence. So, as is customary:

Yay!

Sharing poems here continues to be a source of delight and honesty. I say honesty because putting into words some of the journey in understanding a poem, of considering and living with a poem, requires reflection and persistence. Poems are as alive as the poets that write them; this implies change. What I feel one week about a lyric will change given a week, a month, a year away from it. Reaching one week’s point of sharing, finding a particular articulation and current insight, is the happy work I put myself to Friday to Friday. Thanks to all of you who come and share in this work!

This week’s poem – Gary Soto’s “Oranges” – is a poem I have come back to often over the years. Over ten years ago, during a summer in which I carried Soto’s selected poems around with me always, I read and reread those poems, followed his early work’s short lines and vivid imagery. Reading it now, I am still impressed with the ease with which narrative and lyric imagery are combined. There’s one moment in particular that remains captivating:

Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.

I’m moved by the way these lines come midway, the image helping to transition between the scenes of the poem, but also by the way the lines could be a poem on their own. The implication is there of things being hard to see, as they are for the speaker in the poem, but there’s also the persistence to see life through moment by glimpsed moment.

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Oranges – Gary Soto

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted –
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickle in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickle from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all
About.

Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

*

Happy making!

José

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4 thoughts on “* four years of the influence

  1. Yay! Absolutely – yay for The Friday Influence and yay for this wondrous poem by Gary Soto. It’s great to see it — and re-live it — again.

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