This is how lemon feels between your thumbs, like a hard raindrop or a soft star. Pulsing, silent, actual. A stone with its moss on the inside, a counter-earth of spat champagne. A decorative statement about the future. If thought is the eroticization of consciousness then lemons are the eroticization of sunlight, hardwater babies growing wiser with each nap. Their pips scour the dark like owls.
from NEW POETRIES 7: an anthology edited by Michael Schmidt (Carcanet 2020)

FRAME OF REFERENCE There is never an absolutely complete presence. There is a presence but the intimate sensuousness of its making manifest is such that it can never be exhausted. It can never be exhausted because it can never exhaust what it seeks to make present in the image. The imitation undermines its own claim to completion, and must do so to remain itself. Were it to complete itself, it would no longer be an imitation. Its complete presentation of the universal would make it be simply the universal, and there would be no abiding otherness. WILLIAM DESMOND, The Intimate Universal, 71.

Among other things, Luke Allan is managing editor of Carcanet Press, which published this anthology. He writes in many styles: style is everything and nothing here, which is disarming.

You could say, “Lemons” is a prose poem. So it foregoes several forms of determination, those classified as metrical. Which only foregrounds other forms of determination, like those swiveling on the axis of is/as. Each sentence is a bouquet of figures between being and likeness.

It would be fair to say this poem communicates a bunch of nested betweens. Lemons are A decorative statement about the future. Well, come to think of it, on the face of it they are decorative in an aesthetic sense and about the future in THAT sense, but then so are many things.

To catch another wave of poetic energy appears the eroticization piece. If/then maximalizes the is/as current. If you’ve been swimming in the poem’s ongoingness (choppy waters sentence by sentence), this figure about sunlight feels like a breakthrough of some kind.

Just what kind we know from the last several bits. Hard water babies, pips, and owls. The owls open up the gap in the between, the dark against all that lemony light. As Desmond might say, there is an abiding otherness.

I love this poem because it throws all the switches in my mind at, almost, once. Yet it flows toward the fertile void. It may be a small, self-conscious arty lyric but squeeze it and you get lemon juice.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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