Poetry by James Hoch

Small Orange

Someone harried must’ve dropped it,
quietly lost it from bag to sidewalk
where it lolled to a still like mid-day.
Some passer-by must’ve thought:
Cool. Small Sun. I got this.
Then placed it, just so, on the curb
as if he was Yoko Ono or some other
artist with lots of Os in her name.
No wonder the photographer from
Orlando took time with the orange
alchemically debulking all context
so only orange floating in an orange
filmic bath and the eye orange
peers back in. That’s a lot of orange,
urgent like a knock at an odd hour,
a woman disheveled on the porch,
perhaps car trouble or fleeing a rage.
Wait, wait: one voice says. Another:
Bow down. You’ve got this…
Where there’s story, there’s craving­–
You can’t get that out of your head:
an equation, a rattle made from the shell
of a turtle. It wakes you, this simple
orange set before you in your dream
slowly making its way out of sleep.
What does it want? What will want do?
You’ve been taking it apart all day
wedge after wedge on a park bench,
feeding sparrows what you won’t have.
Everything living says stays with you,
the way a body carries old light.
And you, bucket of worry and good,
will tender, will let the moment go,
until your tinkered machine picks up:
This is where we are. Love the cold.


Prior to joining the faculty at Ramapo College of New Jersey, James Hoch taught at Lynchburg and Franklin and Marshall. He has worked as a dishwasher, cook, dockworker, social worker and shepherd. His poems have appeared in POETRY, Washington Post, American Poetry Review, Slate, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and many others. His book, A Parade of Hands, won the Gerald Cable Award and was published in March 2003 by Silverfish Review Press. His second book, Miscreants, appeared in 2007 from WW Norton. He has received fellowships from the NEA(2007), Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers conferences, St Albans School for Boys, Summer Literary Seminars, and was the 2008 Resident Poet at The Frost Place and the 2008 Steinhardt Visiting Writer at Rutgers-Newark and is Guest Faculty at Sarah Lawrence.  He resides with his wife and sons in Garrison, NY and Seattle, WA. This poem originally appeared in Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art

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