In a Fog

Philip Levine

This winter the frost came early spoiling the oranges
now lying in dull clumps under the trees
which feel no shame or remorse. Are the trees 
mumbling to each other in the dawn fog,

“The weather’s to blame”? No, they’re trees,
a dozen or more orange trees I inherited
in ’73 when I bought the place. I’m no grower.
I’m a city boy who goes away for months at a time.

If anyone’s to blame, I’m the one.
When I came home in December, the oranges
—soft and pudgy—huddled in the grass, asleep.
Can you imagine the sleep of all these oranges?

I can’t, but then I didn’t blossom last spring,
I didn’t perfume the air. I sat under the arbor
dozing, later had dinner, watched TV.
You’re thinking I don’t deserve this life,

you’re imagining an aging man who wears 
his years of uselessness like a badge of pride
as he walks among his trees, hands clasped
behind his back. You’ve seen men like this

in second-rate Italian films. They’re noblemen,
hatchet-faced, in black tights bulging at the crotch.
The peasant women hate them but are afraid
to turn away. Of course we love the peasants,

we forgive them their passivity, their flirtations,
just as we forgive the orange trees that soon
will bask in unearned sunlight when the fog lifts.
Let light rain down on the silent world!

The trees are old. The fruit is tasteless, the Italians 
never existed. You and I, though worlds apart,
are actual and more alike than we admit,
with names to prove it and licenses as well.