This morning I have bunches of pale yellow roses that are the last of the season from a bush I just pruned-a month late.
My rosebush was transplanted, to my backyard fifteen years ago, from someone who tore up their garden to put in kid friendly landscaping.
I also have a dwarf lemon tree.
Which made me think of that platitude, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That cliché sucks-big time.
Lemons = Lemonade
This phrase makes a euphemism for disappointment, a sorrow, or a hurt seem so cheerily remedied.
Life doesn’t give you lemonade.
Life gives you lemons. You give you lemonade.
Making the lemonade is not an easy process. There is a knife involved. Cutting, twisting, squeezing, and getting a sting from the lemon juice that found the microscopic cut on the side of your fingernail.
After that, you strain the pulp and seeds and pour the result into a pitcher. You’re still not done. Some people don’t want to go through these steps. You have to stick with it, be strong.
You have to stay with the process, feel the pain, deal with the sting, the squeezing, the separating, look for the honey, the sugar, something to sweeten the tart acidic taste.
It’s a series of steps, it’s not a Lemon=Lemonade instant drink.
And when you stick with it, you have fantastic lemonade which you garnish, with berries or mint.
I was mulling over all this when I came upon an email from a friend, Michelle Wing.
Michelle is the inaugural featured writer of a new website, Off The Margins, dedicated to women writers.
Her artist statement captivated me. Her poetry, this one in particular, blew me away.
Body on the Wall
They send me a slip of paper
Anger Management – Certificate of Completion
And his name.
As if twelve weeks of one-hour sessions,
of talking about his feelings,
of tips on counting to ten,
could make him into a new man –
could undo the damage.
I know too well he can con anyone:
Police. Lawyers. Landlords.
And this piece of paper is the last slap
I am ever going to feel.
I walk to my closet, and get my dancing dress,
the little black one that twirls when I move,
that reminds me of freedom and the time before.
Do you want to know what he is like?
I’ll need some tools.
Scissors to slash the hemline.
Blades to rip open sleeves.
A lighter to torch the fluttering strips.
Dirty boots to grind out the flames.
Then a razor, to nick my forearm
so I can smear blood across his name
and pin that piece of paper to my ruined dress.
I bandage my arm, find a hanger –
It is my body on the wall, bruised and battered,
and nobody, nobody, can say they don’t see.
After reading, my lips formed the word “Wow,” my head nodded. I thought of the lemons in my past.
Lemons didn’t only make lemonade, they made poetry.
Go and visit off the margins. Read more excerpts from Michelle’s new book of poetry, “Body On The Wall.“ It debuts May 15, 2014.
8 thoughts on “When Lemons Make Poetry”
That was some undeniably tough, deep and meaty poetry! Yeah, life’s lemons can drive us to destruction, and in this case a empowering reckoning. I get it. In a similar experience I remember standing in my clothes closet screaming, so nobody could hear my pain.
And your lovely lead-in about your last lemons and yellow roses made me a perfect follower down a path to your powerful conclusion. A good lesson, I thought…lemonade does not make itself! wow!
Dear Suzi, thank you for your comment. I hope your experiences find themselves translated into your writing and art.
Mona, I am so honored that my poetry inspired you to do exactly what I always hope – find connections, look into our own wells of words. What a beautiful metaphor, with the lemons and lemonade. Thank you so much for sharing. You’re right – it takes a strong woman to get through all those steps. Here’s to strong women – and strong poetry! Love, Michelle
You are so welcomed Michelle. Thank you for bringing poetry to the women you work with, to me, and to everyone who I hope reads your book.
What an amazing poem!
I also like your idea that we have to do the work of making lemonade. (By the way, I really liked the photograph of the lemons.) It’s true that the rough work will sting us and tire us out.
I’m glad you liked the photo: Meyer lemons in a bowl from Costa Rica. iPhone photos aren’t professional grade but they do the job 🙂
I too like the poem. Wow, I also say. And I say your prose is wow! So much truth in your piece, as in Michelle’s poem. I can taste the lemonade and feel the sting.
Such kind words made my day. i’m glad you enjoyed the poem and prose.