Ode to Lemons Michelle Courtney Berry

the sun-glazed
bag of lemons
adorning the white counter
in my imagination,
not a bag
grabbed hastily
from supermarket bins
with fruit, pepper, and melon
that each lemon
a limestone grove
on the Coast of Amalfi,
where the salt-tinged air
is ripe with birdsong
and each
is a fist-sized
in my hands,
a cradle of wicker and twine.

I pull
the mesh bag’s
netting loose,
as though everything
now requires reverence,
as though
I could honor the journey
of  hands –not my own—
that brought
fruit to market
the slightest recognition.

My own hands twist
the golden orbs,
at their scented beauty.

My hands
were honored
in this way

as I sighed
in front of the kitchen window.

Ode to Lemons

Having just returned home with a bag of Meyer lemons last February, I read this poem more closely than I might otherwise have. It seemed directed at me then and now that our produce is so abundant, it came to me again.

Could it be that these lemons actually came from a limestone grove / on the Coast of Amalfi, / where the salt-tinged air / is ripe with birdsong? Already they hold a scent, even a sound that is beyond my kitchen.

How often do we honor the journey / of  hands even for a short moment of wonder, hands that have brought us this golden fruit? What might it be like to give reverence to the produce that we bring into our homes?

The poet speaks again of hands when she holds a lemon in her own, marveling / at their scented beauty and says her hands were honored by these lemons. I too have held these small Meyer lemons rolling them around on my skin to awaken their heavenly scent and feeling blessed by these tiny gifts.

Whatever sun-glazed fruit you hold in your hands in your kitchen this summer, take a moment to honor its journey to you and swoon at the scent. Already I’m thinking of peaches!


14 thoughts on “Ode to Lemons Michelle Courtney Berry

  1. Thanks so much for this, Jan. Two summers ago, we spent 3 weeks on the Amalfi Coast with lemon tree neighbours. This poem has brought back very happy memories. I love the idea of honouring the produce that travels to us – nourishing us even more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a child I lived in Italy for three years. This Ode puts me in mind of the scented fruits on the trees in various groves in the country side, where we walked on Sunday visits. The heat of the sun releasing the smells that filled the air. Olive groves. and gnarly branches too. My earliest experiences of more direct contact with foods that came to our table. Thank you, Sue

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  3. Jan,
    Thank you for this delightful poem. A wonderful reminder to cherish the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter – full of such bounty – the journey – so often taken for granted – we are so fortunate.
    My mind wanders to working on a kibbutz in Israel in 1973. All day under the hot sun in the melon fields at harvest time. Picking beautifully ripened melons with my hands and throwing each one to the waiting hands of Arab men up on a flat bed truck – each filling large containers above us. From vine to our hands to their strong hands catching this luscious fruit while they sang songs of such beauty – exquisite really – all through the day. It felt like a prayer their strong voices, their strong hands – my hands to their hands and my soul touched by it all.
    Thank you Jan for this poem.


  4. I am working with what I call the punch line in Ellen Bass’s Relax poem. When things go bad, I can still “taste how sweet and tart the red juice is, how the tiny seeds crunch between my teeth.” I think the point in both poems is there is beauty in the dark. Sometimes, I am happy and sad in my same breath. I am breathing. Lots of love and gratitude, Donna

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Jan, for this wonderfully evocative poem with its message of reverence and connection. And also to everyone who commented with stories and reflections – a nourishing way to begin my day! I will gaze at the lemons basking on my kitchen counter with a new appreciation. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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