Were this the seventeenth century,
Antwerp or Haarlem, this would be
a painting, this table, earthenware
cup and silver strainer,
black-handled knife, pewter plate, this
tangerine. A wedge of light
from a windowless edge would slice
the chestnut wood, closing around
each object like calyxes of flowers
in a vase removed from this table.
In fact, it was a warm day
in December late
in the twentieth century, a day
I stood in a market looking
at tangerines that called up tile roofs
and cobble streets in any Flemish town.
And Florida or California
had been warmer still the day
a brown-skinned Mexican girl picked
this tangerine that I had picked out
and carried back to lie on this plate,
which could be pewter, next to this
knife, which could be black-handled,
and so on.
The orange of it is perfect
orange collapsed into a scar
that tattles of generality.
On this plate or in this painting
this tangerine is absolutely
what it is, select
as though it were meant to be.
And as the light
through the window shifts to reflect
the coming snow, a nimbus
of tangerine illuminates the table,
cup, strainer, knife and plate, selected
for still life by an Old Master.