Lisa Kelly

Lisa Kelly

Clove and Orange

Clove is full of love
as orange is out of range
with a juicy little o
for target practice –
a bullseye is a good score
but at its core is 360 degrees,
a full angle to begin
like an angel and end,
more devil, in the same spot.

A clove is only four-fifths
filled with love. Such segments
suffice in our mathesis
against a medieval mindset,
a splitting off of language
from the world,
but what meaning
can be squeezed from
this would-be pomander?

There’s a certain brutality
to cloves in an orange,
the aromatic flower buds
poked into holes in the peel
for a medieval-spiked-mace
metamorphosis, as we insert
an incomplete idea
of love to create
a creepy studded smile.

We try to blink back
at the evil eye, although
we feel hollow, scraped out
from within, like a pumpkin
with flames flickering
through triangular eyes
and a jagged mouth,
but wait! Our pomander
is just a little lookie-likie.

On a scale of superstition,
pomanders, once worn
around the neck, loomed
large in lives lacking largesse
when the plague
poked holes in faces –
balls of cloth were filled
with pungent spices
to ward off miasmas.

Queen Elizabeth 1,
in a portrait sports
a gold filigree pomander
on a red ribbon hanging
from her fingers,
like the globe she waved,
in front of Drake’s seadog eyes –
a ball to be chewed
on colonial adventures.

In Palestine, where once
oranges hung heavy
in groves, and cloves
were sold in spice markets,
bombs fall, and the stench
cannot be masked
by une pomme d’ambre –
ambergris from a sperm whale’s gut,
clove’s unfulfilled legacy of love.

LISA KELLY’s second collection, The House of the Interpreter (Carcanet) is a Poetry Book Society 2023 Recommendation. She is the co-editor of What Meets the Eye?: The Deaf Perspective (Arachne Press).