How to Peel an Orange

by Jeremy Paden

My Puerto Rican
grandmother
had
a contraption
a peeler
a clamp that held
the orange
in place with rods

an axis
on which the orb
turned

while a blade
etched
a grove
around the globe
& a long fine ribbon
would unravel
its way
to the floor

We
pretended
the ribbons
were streamers

would tie
them into bows
turn them into winding
roads
necklaces
bracelets
hair bobbles

would litter
the kitchen
with bits
of broken
peel

My Texan
grandfather
schooled
in the ways
of pocket-knives
used his large
blade & thumb
to score
the fruit
then pull
the peel away

always keeping
a napkin
or handkerchief
between
fruit & palm
to keep the oils
from mixing
with the dirt & grease
of his mechanic’s
hands

He would toss
the peel
on the ground
wipe his hands
& mouth
& walk away
as he whistled
some gospel tune

My father
impatient
uses his teeth
though they are set
on edge
to puncture
the rind
though he cannot taste
the sweetness
of the first few
slices
for the bitter oils
that linger
on his tongue

Sometimes
he bites too deeply
& his mouth
fills
with juice & oil
& he eats
that orange like an apple
peel, pith & pulp

I use my nails
though they have always
been thin
like my mother’s

though the peel lodges
between nail plate
& bed
though the oils
always leave
my hands stained