Persona June, 3rd 2024 by

What the Fruit Trees Knew — a Legend Disarming Vengeance By Mara Lemanis


What the Fruit Trees Knew — a Legend Disarming Vengeance

I looked at my enemy, once my friend
like meteors my eyes shot to his face
and scoured the land beyond,
the wellspring that he stole from me
The orange groves and orchards
rich with apricots and plums
he seized with bogus warrant
that gouged a hollow in my bones
I fed poison to restore them;
my words exploded round his turf
and rang a promise: “I will crush you”

Instantly I saw his eyes like tinder
no moist remorse, an open dare
the sun froze in my eyes, flares turned to icicles
cold knives edged in flame pierced my lens
and I struck hard the tinder in his gaze
the smile a beveled grate
I struck…with what? rod, dagger, club…?
I didn’t know, I only saw his aura of contempt
the eyes rolled white, stunned;
I saw him fall, a welt of iron opening his throat
running rills down the lax white shirt

My teeth edged forward
as if to chew the iron from the welt;
I could taste a hungry pride
bestowed by some archaic age
honored through religious texts
sanctioning the righteousness of my retaliation
I savored an exultant rush — poison
that felt like manna nourishing my bones
I held myself a rational being, pride
flush with fellow feeling
But the poison taste was lush
it whet my tongue
swore words my teeth had bitten
off a hoary testament, pre-biblical
like a truth ordained, it hoisted me
up like a Lord of the Firmament
cast in an alloy of platinum, iron, steel

A hard-boned mastiff bounded, my enemy’s shepherd dog
He will exact his master’s justice, he will not see mine;
I feared the moment
But the hard-boned dog hunched down
like a giant aegis across the fallen thief
and raised his heavy head at me
with eyes that held me insignificant…

I was free then to wander
in the land that now was mine again
I called out to my groves and orchards
breathed in the scent of oranges
round, tangy, heavy pulped
the apricots delicately vibrant in their golden skins
surrounding bushes swelled with foliage, plums layered
purple, deep clefts like feline smiles
and guarding all rose shrubs
of yarrow, fennel, sage
their nutrients protecting the stately trees
grown fruitful and multiplied beneath my enemy’s hands

I reached out for the fruits to feel again their heft
to know their succulence
I filled my arms with oranges;
they puckered, shrank their glossy skins, turned brown
my hands plucked apricots — wrinkling in my palms
the plums I touched withdrew
their luster, sagged into prunes;
black gall crept over branches my hands tapped;
But plants I had not broached still thrived
sun-sucked, brimming health…

Like elements collapsing into waves
The dying plants exhaled a substance
like a feeble contrail …
The thief I slew had been their gardener
they flourished beneath his care
ripened out of gratitude
And now he was no more, they grieved and rotted
at the touch of hands still stained from venom
A scrawny beetle, coal-black anger, scratched my throat
I craved to crush the fruits in all the orchards
with the hands that cut their brigand gardener,
watch the juice drain like embalming fluid,
watch the plumpness shrivel like the carcass of a crone.

The unsoiled oranges glowed as from a realm in
Bardo, that boundary ‘tween life and death
where everything is mulch
Their glow condemned me:
You would destroy what you created
because another created more
You left us half-created
and cut down him who made us whole…
They gleamed full buxom pride
rippling bough-to-bough, creating drafts
that shook the trees; they foiled my will
they fell and rolled
their spite upon the ground
The force of their descent tore at the web
where common life springs into being…
Some ambient pulse streaked shadowy rays
The orange grove fanned out a gust of citrus
The man I murdered rose
like a revenant
the welt around his neck braced full with fruits
Sorrow locked, his eyes searched mine
disrupting wrath, discharging, shaming me;
Defeated I knelt low to the pulse
of nature’s victory
Truth truth truth
against denatured drives

A waning glint like sunset
spread through the fallen fruit
my throat was dry, my eyes brimmed stinging
I looked across the field of grounded
apricots, oranges, plums
and sensed the shadow of Ashoka sweeping through
as stung with sorrow he gazed upon Kalinga field
where enemies lay felled by his command;
I craved to bite into a fallow apricot, swallow the pit
and make it grow inside the industrial valve
that worked my blood,
I longed to dredge the dry gulch in my throat
to plant a fruited plain
I scooped up pulpy remnants by the armful
They did not recoil
did not wither at my touch;
I stretched my shirt and made a bowl to hold them
then slowly carried them
to the place where rage had found its satisfaction
to the body splotched with my revenge
to the mastiff shielding the dead man’s chest
cold eyes inspecting my arrival
the fruits still firm, sunlit and convex
I placed gently round their master gardener
I placed them like the groundwork of a fruited plain
to outline the perimeter of his cold flesh
then lay beside him bathed in
exhalations from the grieving plants
and stuck my finger in the iron welt still moist
and painted it like an arrow across my throat.

Blood will tell
when they come to collect him
They will see my mea culpa
But they will see it as a relic
from some primeval age
or a symbol from some religious codex
They will not guess how
it’s a straight avowal
The unhappy fault I practiced
and renounce
and fill my hollows now
with the lifeblood of nature’s manna.
Mara Lemanis  





Mara Lemanis

Mara Lemanis

Biography: Mara Lemanis is a literary scholar. Her essays have been selected for 20th CENTURY LITERARY CRITICISM and are included in undergraduate student textbooks in the U.S.

She has worked as an archivist for Historical Preservation and with the IRC, assisting refugees in Oakland, California.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest article are those of the author alone and do not represent those of the Marbella Marbella website. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with the author.


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