Today my mother said that she liked the smell of oranges.
She said, look how good this sounds:
my hair smells like oranges,
my father grows oranges in California,
my mother eats oranges in the afternoon. But I knew
that my mother would never eat oranges in the afternoon,
would never eat an orange while
there was a grapefruit. Knew she would never
call her father in California if he lived there
because California is fake.
She knows herself she doesn’t smell her own hair,
and she doesn’t care what she puts in it.
She knows it’s not about the brand,
it’s about the purpose behind the brand.
She knows that oranges aren’t as healthy, that if
you have diabetes, you’ll die sooner than someone
else. She knows that the cookies
at Walmart are chalky and filled with sugar.
That there is protein in cheese, that
one daughter is tired, and the other
won’t settle down.
She has anxiety, but refuses to admit it,
says that counting to yourself
is normal. She complains all the time how teens are
stuck and can’t think right. Says I am a teenager.
Knows that I work ambitiously,
knows that when I think wrongly, I know that I am wrong.
She knows that I don’t listen. She knows that I’m a faker
at home, that I like Dad more. That I will
one day leave the house and drink
from a keg at three in the morning.
She looks at my body and knows that A-line dresses
look better on me because I am short.
She tells me that I have an oval
face, tells me to eat Greek yogurt and exercise more. Says I
look greedy for attention when I wear those clothes. She tells
me You smile nice. Tells me that I don’t smile enough.
Taught me to smile while I sing, taught me to cross my legs,
taught me to be scared, taught me that being anxious
is part of living. Told me that I better listen to her, because she’s been around.
Tells me that I might die one day from being fat
if I don’t move, tells me that I’m not ladylike,
to stop putting on makeup. Tells me that if I
moisturized I wouldn’t have wrinkles. Tells me don’t settle, fight.
She tells me oranges are for the sweet kind
of people who pretend to love their mothers. Oranges
won’t tell you what’s wrong.
—from 2020 Rattle Young Poets Anthology