Gustave Caillebotte, “Game Birds and Lemons,” 1883
I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader could cut or squeeze or taste—a real lemon like a newspaper in a collage is a real newspaper. I would like the moon in my poems to be a real moon, one which could be suddenly covered with a cloud that has nothing to do with the poem—
—Jack Spicer, out of After Lorca (1957)
Poems are bullshit unless they are
teeth or trees or lemons piled
on a step. Or black ladies dying
of men leaving nickel hearts
beating them down. . . .
—Amiri Baraka, out of “Black Art” (Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka / LeRoi Jones, 1979)
The mean moon is like a nasty
little lemon above the ubiquitous
snivelling fir trees, and if there’s
a swan within a radius of
twelve square miles let’s
throttle it. We, too, are worried.
—Frank O’Hara, out of “The Lover” (The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, 1971)
Lo, from the outside a poem is with us, of another composition.
Travelled from an antique place.
Writing, narrow and sparse, pungent as the lemon tree.
—Barbara Guest, out of “Composition” (The Red Gaze, 2005)
Where the scenery is finer, and life is a thesis
Blue equals blue and lemon equals lemon
Here at my desk or under the umbrella
There where the waiters spread tablecloths
Markless as the sails blooming on the bay . . .
—Ange Mlinko, out of “Imaginary Standard Distance” (Starred Wire, 2005)
At four in the morning
the art demonstrations begin, psalteries jingle, the whole damn ocean
is there, up for review, for us. It’s just
that we don’t understand. It’s my negative capability acting up
again. Well, I’m within my rights.
It’s like apples and pears, or oranges and lemons,
what I always say.
—John Ashbery, out of “From Such Commotion” (Wakefulness, 1998)
boat crosses by. There is no monkey in me
leftt: sleep. There is something
sold, lemons. Corn is whizzing from the
ground. You are sleeping
and day starts its lipstick.
Where do we go from here?
—Joseph Ceravolo, out of “Passion for the Sky”
(The Green Lake Is Awake: Selected Poems, 1994)
Self-oblivion, sacred information, God’s nudge—
I think I’ll piddle around by the lemon tree, thorns
Sharp as angel’s teeth.
I’ll lie down in the dandelions, the purple and white violets.
I think I’ll keep on lying there, one eye cocked toward heaven.
—Charles Wright, out of “Basic Dialogue” (Appalachia, 1998)
In the land of the lemon trees, yellow and yellow were
Yellow-blue, yellow-green, pungent with citron-sap,
Dangling and spangling, the mic-mac of mocking birds.
—Wallace Stevens, out of “An Ordinary Evening in New Haven”
(The Palm at the End of the Mind, 1971)
The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.
—James Joyce, out of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
into the evening.
But you are known
for your voluptuous retreat,
on the air,
—Rae Armantrout, out of “Second Person” (Money Shot, 2011)
The washing hanging from the lemon tree
in the rain
and the grass long and coarse.
Sequence broken, tension
of sunlight broken.
So light a rain
pending above the rigid leaves.
Wear scarlet! Tear the green lemons
off the tree! I don’t want
to forget who I am, what has burned in me
and hang limp and clean, an empty dress—
—Denise Levertov, “The Five-Day Rain” (Collected Earlier Poems, 1940-1960, 1979)
You being readers who have long since lost hold on the rocky terrains. Wake and sigh, weep and ache. This world has lost its last wasp. This world has not the chance of display in a lemon-glass window. No scratched frames in the Film of Vain Design.
—Clark Coolidge, out of Mine: The One That Enters the Stories (1982)
Then one day a completely by-the-way and nonobligatory
sound occurs, a mumbling as of wasps or sheep
Sincere amazement—there are real holes in the wall
reflecting light so that they appear lemon ocher
In one there are two men, in that rigid state of sociability
wherein conditions common to the lives of both of them
have militarized them momentarily—Americans
And they feel themselves, or some particle of themselves, to be
a formidable force against the world, not denying reality
but on the contrary facing it
And there is only reality
—Lyn Hejinian, out of Oxota: A Short Russian Novel (1991)
O Europe, sting of the dull sad Atlantic!
In Tuscany, the cypress like dark fangs, in Greece,
Poppies blaring like horns on the roadsides &
Lemons orbing like constellations in the orchard fog.
In Paris, speaking French,
Hampering the pure vowel with a dipthongal sigh, my longing
To earn a place among the “ranks of men” seemed
Retchingly earnest in a tawdry
Sort of way.
—John Latta, out of “Poem Beginning with a Line by John Latta” (Rubbing Torsos, 1979)
I’m not sure the garden-fresh broccoli was helped much by a hollandaise into which I put enough lemon juice to prevent an entire den of Cub Scouts from getting scurvy.
—James Schuyler, out of a 3 October 1963 letter to John Ashbery
(Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-1991, 2004)
Hitchhiked here, long valley of the Skagit. Old cars parked in the weeds, little houses in fields of bracken. A few cows, in stumpland.
Ate at the “parkway café” real lemon in the pie
“—why don’t you get a jukebox in here”
“—the man said we weren’t important enough”
—Gary Snyder, out of “Lookout’s Journal”
(Earth House Hold: Technical Notes & Queries to Fellow Dharma Revolutionaries, 1969)
Such that one, being what was left,
blew up, an eye before that a blind
blue lemon, teardrop adjournment,
salt . . . So that everything it took took
wing, newly adduced or indifferent, no
one to say which, well-paved outskirts
of Nudge notwithstanding . . .
—Nathaniel Mackey, out of “Song of the Andoumboulou: 58” (Splay Anthem, 2006)
. . . hear
those three lemons go “Hm” . . .
—Charles Olson, out of “A Toss, for John Cage”
(The Collected Poems of Charles Olson: Excluding the Maximus Poems, 1987)
The very kindness there is in all lemons oranges apples pears and potatoes.
—Gertrude Stein, out of “What Happened” (Geography and Plays, 1922)
. . . a priestly plume rises, a signal, smoke
like flies intermediating between orange peel
]and buzzing blur: is a poem about garbage garbage
or will this abstract, hollow junk seem beautiful
and necessary as just another offering to the
high assimilations: (that means up on top where
the smoke is; the incinerations of sin,
corruption, misconstruction pass through the
purification of flame:) old deck chairs,
crippled aluminum lawn chairs, lemon crates
with busted slats or hinges, strollers with
whacking or spinningly idle wheels: stub ends
of hotdogs . . .
—A. R. Ammons, out of Garbage (1993)
And he did teach them Luther, who undone
the sacramental system & taught evil
is ingrained. Why,
that was a sexy summer, with Mrs Thomas
sitting under her hair on a chair-form
& Mrs Harris & Mrs Neevel
who I may hope for Mr Harris & Mr Neevel
do giant shrimp in olive oil & lemon
taking no notes.
—John Berryman, out of “Dream Song 254” (His Toy, His Dream, His Rest, 1968)
A crate of lemons discharges light like a battery.
—Galway Kinnell, out of “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World”
(What a Kingdom It Was, 1960)
The Balancings Of The Clouds—their breeze
& darknesses. Wheaten emanations
of earth. A man come piping
over the hills—an interpenetration of
moth-wing & seed-case & burr, of tremulous grasses
& ripening apples.
I saw that at Shoreham.
In the ‘yellow spot’ of clear vision,
the apples grew & reddened—
the trunk of their tree come suddenly out
of a slope, as Arcimboldo’s lemons from a throat.
—Ronald Johnson, out of “Of Certaine White Nights Wherein the Darkes Doe Seem
to Gette Up & Walk & How Wee Saw Divers Wonders in Bothe Earth & Element”
(The Book of the Green Man, 1967)
Surely the poet is monarch of the clouds.
He hovers, like a lemon-colored kite,
over spring afternoons in the nineteenth century
while Marx in the library gloom
studies the birth rate of the weavers of Tilsit
and that gentle man Bakunin,
home after fingerfucking the countess,
applies his numb hands
to the making of bombs.
—Robert Hass, out of “The Nineteenth Century as a Song” (Field Guide, 1973)
Letters of the world. Bright orange poppy next to white rose next to blue spike of larkspur and so on. Artichoke crowding garlic and sage. Hyssop, marjoram, orange mint, winter and summer savory, oregano, trailing rosemary, fuchsia, Dutch iris, day lily, lamb’s tongue, lamb’s ears, blackberry, feverfew, lemon verbena, sorrel, costmary, never reads it as it is, “poet living tomb of his / games.”
—Michael Palmer, out of “Notes for Echo Lake 3” (Notes for Echo Lake, 1981)
Ah, trickery, you sassy lark, withered black pearl,
unfetter me from these latches, make me
the Director at every meatball’s burial,
lacerate this too, too static air
I’ve been eating my way through.
I lunch on eels and larks in lemonade, Lord,
I’m so happy I woke up in my right mind today.
—James Tate, out of “Constant Defender” (Constant Defender, 1983)