The clove orange sits forgotten beside a keyboard, a bookshelf, in a dish, a woven reed basket for holding small pencils, odd coins. Unnoticed, it came to be last Christmas, a tradition that is for no forebears, no offsprings. A tradition without ties to anything. Will you speak? Will you declare your purpose?
I have no purpose, just compact existence. I reek of course, reek of clove, but even my fumes go unnoticed. I could be an anesthetic I could be part of cake, I could be added to a Mexican mole, drunk in, consumed and forgotten. But that did not happen. Instead I sit as a reminder of Christmas, but whose?
I was an orange with cloves pressed into my flesh, but the orange is a dead memory, veiled, only a vehicle for something else. It must still be there, but it’s orange DNA is now replaced with dust, a waterless existence. The cloves have impacted as the orange lost its flesh, so now the cloves are perfect for the orange’s sacrifice.
Let’s say it’s new today – then the clove orange is a perfect embodiment of cloves. No sacrifice. In straight lines, nestled together without spaces, a teeming mass, all clinging together. I could give it a purpose, but I know it has no purpose – just a leftover existence now that the orange has transited.
At the two ends are small signs – the naval and the stem joiner. Not cloves, but as brown and dusty as the cloves themselves. Like the seams of a baseball, at first glance inherent but after examining they are a mysterious clue.
Peg raised one child, though she could have raised two or three. Raising that child in country after country and ambivalent to Christmas, she was happy to shed any martinet approach to traditions. But the first winter away from home, where the markets offered only leeks and cabbages and unexportable lamb, Peg found whole cloves in tiny spice bottles. Pretending to inherit a Victorian Christmas with fire-burning candles aloft on a tree, red velvet ribbons, wooden toys to last a childhood, she brought home the cloves and the oranges, and spent Christmas day as the presents unwrapped and the relatives called, jabbing cloves into one orange, another orange.
I am a gift so you must give me! Give me. Send me in a box. Leave me on a doorstep, let me hope for a better existence.
If I send you, you will be forgotten on another shelf, another piano, No one will left you to her nose, smell you in, and dream of tiny islands beyond India, wooden ships, mutiny, scabbard, ship holds full of barrels of spices. A long sail home.
Long ago, an orange was an impossible luxury – a taste of tart and sweet that could not be grown, only imported. An orange at Christmas meant a hope that fruits would grow again, though all we could see was rain and grey, a futile sun that pretended to warm as it tramped through the sky, unexuberant. The orange glows alone, gives up its smells as I puncture the flesh with the cloves. Bursts of micro juices explode as the cloves populate it. The clove orange is a dead memory of orange, and only cloves to anesthetize us if we chance to pick it up.