How to Savour a Favourite Memory
by Graham Wood

Mandarins bring my grandmother back every time,
standing with her by the old house in winter sunlight
sharing the first fruit I can remember. Four years old,
I’d wrestled it moments before from the huge tree
in the chook yard as she held me up towards it,
one of many plump tangerine disks
bobbing overhead against a sea of green.

She rolled the peel off deftly with her fingers, turning it on the point
of one thumb into large orange scoops of rind, stripping each pod
free of its pulpy strings. Then it was there! A burst of sweetness
on my tongue, elemental, never before anything like this.

Half a century dead my grandmother now,
inhabiting the long sweet breath of memory.
In spite of the decades that have vanished,
every time I peel and savour this favoured fruit
my grandmother is with me, talking softly
and sharing the same mandarin.

© Graham Wood.

ART: Citrus, Wren (Woodblock print, 1890) by Imao Keinen.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem that attempts to capture the essence of a recurring, happy memory of my grandmother, who introduced me to the fruit mandarins (full name “mandarin orange”) when I was a young child. While at least one alternative spelling (“mandarine”) is possible, I’ve always spelt the word without the final “e” but pronounced it “man-da-reen,” as many Australians do.  Undoubtedly, my pronunciation came that day from my grandmother too. A “chook” in Australian colloquial lingo is a domestic chicken or fowl, hence “chook yard.”

Wood copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Graham Wood lives in the northern suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and has worked in a variety of occupations. These include secondary school teacher, film classifier, and public servant, the latter mainly in the field of higher education policy and planning. His poems have been published in a range of Australian and international journals and anthologies. He is a member of the North Shore Poetry Project in Sydney.