January 07

The Orange Came First

Ruth Knafo Setton

The orange came first-
was there ever a doubt?
Not to us, who worked
the pardess. 4 a.m., riding
to the grove on the tender—
open-backed, tented car,
huddled as we watched
the kibbutz stream past,
a river of bodies emerging
from houses.

In our hooded raincoats,
armed with clippers,
we advanced: dusky army.
Oranges gleamed in the black trees.
I reached and plucked, one after another,
filling my canvas bag, hearing the rain
but lost in the light: fire glinting
through leaves. A stubborn one.
I tore the white-fleshed branch, tendrils
of skin, until she dropped into my palm:

diamond-wet nubs rolling
across my heartline.
I carved her open with my clippers,
broke her skin into four.
Someone yelled, The sun is rising!
Hooded shadows moved to the clearing.
I stood there, wreathed
by orange blossoms,
juice licking down chin and throat,
arms, belly, thighs,



Ruth Knafo Setton is the writer-in-residence of the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh University. She is the author of the novel The Road to Fez.