Carrie Green: "Selecting Oranges in Lue Gim Gong's Grove"




          —from a photograph, 1894


It’s plain you were meant to see

the Chinese man—he alone

sits on a cart packed high with crates,

the mule’s reins loose in his palms.

His beard—untrimmed,

gray-flecked—hides young skin.

His white shirt contrasts

with the mule’s dark hide

and with the line of orange trees

stretched clear back

to a stand of lacy pines.


The others are here

because of him: the old woman

in checked apron and black bonnet,

the men in vests and derby hats,

the boys on the ladder,

even the black man and woman,

both of them pushed

to either side of the photo’s edge.

They are still as held breath,

waiting to be told what to do.


Imagine the careful arrangement:

the photographer filling empty hands

with baskets of oranges, a pocketknife.

He tells the boys to climb higher,

so high they can peer above the trees.

He does not notice

how the ladder leads you

out of the frame,

the twig-thin poles

breaking into clean white sky.




Carrie Green's poems have appeared in Gulf Stream, Kestrel, ABZ, Georgetown Review, and Saw Palm. She received a 2005-2006 Artist Fellowship from the Louisiana Division of the Arts and has received professional development funding through the Kentucky Arts Council.