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Food is a basic human need. In our Food for Thought series, James Beard Award–winning journalist, scholar, and writer Cynthia Greenlee hosts a gathering of historians, food journalists, poets, chefs, and farmers and invites them to riff on food-related works of art in our permanent collection.

Emlen Etting, Flying Fruit, c. 1936c. 1936

Emlen Etting, Flying Fruit, c. 1936, screenprint, Reba and Dave Williams Collection, Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 2008.115.1650

Flying Fruit
After the print by Emien Etting
Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Of all the citrus flavors in my amusement park mouth,
of course it’s the lemon that leaps farthest. It makes my face

squinch and squint even when I know what’s coming. Behind
that, the bite of an orange surges such a surf-line, I half expect
to see a Hawaii Five-0 wave crush just behind my tongue. After

that comes the lime, and it’s not hard to remember our first kiss—
the zest and rest I finally felt with you. The rind is twisted

and torn into my glass of gin (and yours too) and soon we
are laughing too loud in the middle of the afternoon. Even if
we shuffle home, arm in arm, I promise to make moments

like these feel like flying. We’re winners. We get to bring the goldfish
in a bowl home. We get to snack on funnel cakes and a sackful

of kettle corn. At home I’ll serve us up a dish with a dollop
of lime pickle on the edge of our plate. Ring the bell. I will bring
the heat, the heart—you’ll never want to get off this carousel.

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Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of the
New York Times bestselling essay collection World of Wonders and four collections of poetry. Her work has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a poetry grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is poetry editor of Sierra, the Sierra Club’s magazine, and is professor of English in the University of Mississippi’s master of fine arts program. 

December 07, 2022